Gardner’s Annual Christmas Party Returns to the Brown Palace Tonight

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Cory Gardner has been hard to find in Colorado this year. This evening, however, he and his family will be at Denver’s historic Brown Palace for his annual Christmas Open Home party.

According to the invitation, Gardner says he’s looking forward to seeing his fellow Coloradans come out to show support for our Western Values and get into the holiday spirit.

The holiday gathering is officially hosted by Gardner’s political action committee, Project West PAC. The committee spent over $1.2 million during the last election, including $430,000 in direct contributions to federal candidates. Recipients included the other three Republican members of the Colorado delegation, and 44 of Gardner’s GOP colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

The PAC is managed by the Starboard Group, the fundraising firm of choice for Colorado Republicans. The Starboard Group team tweeted a picture of themselves from the party last year.

The photo included their intern at the time, right-wing social media personality, Ashley St. Clair, who earlier this year was dropped by Turning Point USA for partying with white nationalists.



Get More Smarter on Friday (December 6)

Saturday is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day; Gov. Jared Polis has ordered flags to be lowered to half staff from sunrise to sunset tomorrow. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► Will President Trump and/or his attorneys participate in impeachment hearings in front of the House Judiciary Committee? As The Washington Post reports, Trump has until 5:00 today to make that decision…but might choose to wait until the issue reaches the U.S. Senate:

A White House spokesman said Friday that Trump “welcomes” a trial in the Republican-led Senate and plans to bring forward “serious witnesses,” including the anonymous whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), and Joe and Hunter Biden.

“If it goes there, he wants a trial,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said during an appearance on Fox News. “He welcomes it. He wants the American people to see the truth. . . . He absolutely wants to bring forward serious witnesses, like the whistleblower, like Adam Schiff, like Hunter and Joe Biden. It they’re going to do this, if the Democrats want this fight, it’s something the president is willing to have.”

“He welcomes it.” That seems like a bit of a stretch.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she had instructed her Democratic colleagues to begin preparing articles of impeachment. Justin Wingerter of The Denver Post wrote up one of those “here’s what officials on each side have to say” stories that doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know.


 Former New York City Mayor and newly-minted Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg was in Aurora on Thursday to discuss his plans for addressing gun violence in the United States. As the Associated Press reports, Bloomberg is “calling for a ban on all assault weapons, mandatory permits for gun purchasers and a new position in the White House to coordinate gun violence prevention.”


► At least four people are dead after a shooting at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Silly Ethics Complaint Reaches New Level of Ridiculousness

Tweet via Denver Post reporter Justin Wingerter.

As we noted last month, a still-pending ethics complaint targeting former Gov. John Hickenlooper is a complete and total nothingburger. But don’t take our word for it…and don’t rely on the opinion of the The Denver Post’s editorial board, either. Just take a look at what happened today when the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission gathered once more to discuss the matter.

As Alex Burness writes for The Denver Post, today was another meeting about possibly scheduling another meeting:

A hearing on the pending ethics complaint concerning former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel on private planes might not take place until after Democrats’ caucus to select candidates for the U.S. Senate race.

Hickenlooper, who’s running for the seat, has filed motions to dismiss the allegations, as he and his team continue to characterize them as politically motivated. Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission, however, didn’t rule on those motions at Thursday’s meeting — the first since the group’s November release of a report on the complaint.

Instead, members tentatively set the hearing for March 17, though staff promised to try to find an earlier date that works…

…Hickenlooper’s attorney, Mark Grueskin, pushed for an earlier resolution, but the commission’s staffer advised that January is too soon for a hearing and that he has been unable to find an available conference room for the commission’s scheduled February meeting. [Pols emphasis]

“As we’ve said before, the most sensational accusations [in this complaint] are easy to dismiss.”

— Denver Post editorial (November 9, 2019)

This ethics complaint against Hickenlooper was filed in October 2018 by a newly-formed group called the Public Trust Institute, which is helmed by former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty. The crux of McNulty’s argument surrounds a handful of trips that Hickenlooper took before he finished his second term as Colorado’s Governor in January 2019. As The Denver Post has previously pointed out, there’s not much here that would be of any concern to, well, anyone.

Today’s hearing of the Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) all but confirmed that belief. If this complaint was really about a serious ethics violation, as Republicans would have you believe, then surely someone would be able to locate an available conference room before March 2020.

Of course, the entire point of this complaint was never about addressing serious ethical concerns. The goal here was always to harm Hickenlooper’s political fortunes, whether that entailed his brief run for President or his current campaign for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

With that in mind, McNulty’s “Public Trust Institute” probably doesn’t mind that this case faces another 3-4 months of limbo for Hickenlooper. McNulty’s plan was to throw a bunch of crap at the wall in hopes of generating some sort of news headline that could fit into a negative advertisement against Hickenlooper — which is precisely what happened earlier this week. Whatever else happens from this point forward — and we’re not holding our breath that anything will happen — is just gravy for Republicans.

This story has gone on for too long already. Now, about that conference room shortage…


33% Approval: Another Poll Shows Gardner Circling Drain

Sen. Cory Gardner literally standing behind President Donald Trump.

Healthcare advocacy nonprofit Healthier Colorado released a new poll yesterday conducted by Keating Research, principally focused on concerns voters have related to the group’s eponymous mission:

A majority of Coloradans are concerned about the rising costs of healthcare and prescription drugs, and prefer a public option to enroll in Medicare or Medicare for All over the current system, according to a statewide survey by Healthier Colorado, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of all residents throughout our state’s diverse communities.

The poll was conducted November 6-9, 2019, among a sample of 650 active voters, with an oversample in West Slope counties. Roughly half of voters surveyed (45%) said the cost of healthcare is unaffordable, while an overwhelming majority (82%) believe the cost of prescription drugs and medication is too high. When presented with the option to keep the current system in which health insurance is purchased through one’s employer or privately, or move to a public option or Medicare for All, only one-third of voters prefer to keep the current system. The other two-thirds were evenly split between wanting a public option and Medicare for All.

Useful information for the upcoming debate in the Colorado legislature beginning next month on a proposed public option coverage plan. But at the bottom of the release announcing this poll, right before the link to the full results at Keating, our readers will find the question we’re most interested in today, with all due respect to Healthier Colorado:

Overall, a majority of Coloradans (52%) believe Colorado is headed in the right direction. When asked about elected officials running for election in 2020, only 37% have a favorable view of President Donald Trump, while 60% view him unfavorably. Senator Cory Gardner, currently running for his second term fares less favorably, with 33% favorable, 45% unfavorable. [Pols emphasis]

If this poll is accurate, Sen. Cory Gardner is not just America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™. Gardner is in a downward spiral that there may well be no coming back from. This is the second poll this fall showing Gardner’s approval rating below 35%, several percentage points short of President Donald Trump’s own dismal 37% approval in Colorado and 12 points south of Gardner’s 45% unfavorable rating, clearly reflecting Gardner’s weakness among base Republicans–in addition to the state’s compounding wholesale rejection of Republican candidates that accelerated in last year’s historic Colorado Democratic landslide.

It’s hard to imagine Gardner losing the general election next November by the margin a 33% approval rating suggests, not least because many of those disaffected Republican voters are sure to hold their noses and vote–but to call these numbers bad news for Gardner’s re-election prospects is a considerable understatement.

While we can’t pronounce Cory Gardner a political dead man walking on the strength of one poll, these numbers are undeniably what that looks like.


Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 4)

Today is “National Cookie Day.” Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► The House Judiciary Committee today began its role in impeachment hearings by hearing testimony from prominent legal experts as to whether evidence unearthed thus far constitutes impeachable conduct by President Trump. Today’s hearings come one day after the House Intelligence Committee released a thorough report on findings from weeks of impeachment hearings and investigations. From The Washington Post:

“Ultimately the reason the Constitution provided for impeachment was to anticipate a situation like the one that is before you today,” Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman testified. “If we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy, we live in a monarchy or a dictatorship.”

The questioning had the air of an introductory constitutional law class focused on impeachment – including a featured chart listing the A, the B, and the C of high crimes and misdemeanors: Abuse of Power, Betrayal of National Interest, and Corruption of Elections.

House Democrats’ committee counsel Norm Eisen asked the law professors to explain whether it was necessary for Trump to have committed a statutory crime to be impeached. University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt said no. The scale of Trump’s obstruction was an abuse, he stressed, because it “torpedoes” the separation of powers in the Constitution.

“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” he said.

One of the more dramatic moments in early testimony came after Republican Rep. Doug Collins questioned the knowledge and preparation of the legal experts testifying today. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan was incensed at the suggestion:

“That everything I know about our Constitution and its values and my review of the evidentiary record and here, Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) are both members of the House Judiciary Committee and were in attendance this morning…though Buck must have had something more important to do later:

It was revealed last week that Buck, who also serves as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, blew off most of the prior impeachment hearings that he was invited to attend as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.


President Trump is making a fool of himself and the United States at the NATO summit in London, and foreign leaders are having a hard time ignoring the circus. As CNN explains:

After President Donald Trump called him “two-faced,” Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, admitted Wednesday that he and other world leaders were talking about the US President when they were caught on camera at a Buckingham Palace event the night before.

The video, which has gone viral, shows British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, Trudeau and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appearing to have a laugh about Trump’s behavior during the summit. But none of the leaders explicitly named Trump.

“Last night I made reference to the fact that there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with President Trump. I was happy to be part of it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau said during a Wednesday press conference.

As The Washington Post adds, Trump was clearly stung by the reaction of his counterparts:

Trump was later caught on an audio recording bragging to an unidentified summit attendee, “That was funny when I said that guy was two-faced.”

CLICK HERE to watch the video of foreign leaders expressing exasperation with Trump during a conversation at Buckingham Palace.


► North Korea is making vague threats toward the United States about expecting a “Christmas Gift” in the upcoming weeks. From CNN:

The ominous comments, which some have interpreted as a sign that North Korea could resume long-distance missile tests, comes as the clock ticks closer to the country’s self-imposed end-of-year deadline for nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
Talks between the two sides have appeared to be in a rut in recent months, with North Korea conducting several shorter-range missile tests.

In a statement translated on the state news agency, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, accused US policy makers of leveraging talks with Kim Jong Un for domestic political gain.

“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US,” Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” added Ri.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), the self-professed “leader in the Senate” on North Korea, STILL hasn’t said a public word about this or anything related to strained U.S. relations with South Korea.

Gardner also won’t comment on Trump’s claims of election interference by Ukraine, but he will still say that Russia should be labeled a “state sponsor of terror.”


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Cory Gardner Jokes He’s Mad at his Ancestors For Settling in Yuma Rather Than Aspen

(Trading in that Carhartt for Columbia – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A favorite Republican meme, “the war on rural Colorado,” was jokingly stoked by an unlikely source today: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO).

For as long as he’s been in politics, Gardner has cultivated his image as a farm boy from the plains. In speeches and ads, he paints himself as a champion of rural Coloradans, fighting against the elite liberals flocking to the state’s cities and mountain towns.

Yet on an informal podcast with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which he chaired from 2016-18), Gardner said he was “a little mad at his ancestors” for settling in Yuma rather than pushing on to the Rockies.

“Look I’m a little mad at my ancestors. I mean, we live out by the Kansas border, you know, three more weeks in a covered wagon and they could’ve been in Aspen. I mean, I don’t know happened.”


The comment was clearly lighthearted, as was the rest of the interview, with the NRSC hosts asking him about casual topics ranging from Star Wars movies to Gardner’s impressive Mitch McConnell impression.

That said, Gardner raised the issue of preferring swanky Aspen to humble Yuma. His comment is notable precisely because Republicans have pushed this “war on rural Colorado” frame for years without a trace of humor. Gardner himself has talked about it extensively, from lamenting the divide in a 2017 interview with The Denver Post to attacking “big-city politicians” who “want to leave rural America behind” in his speech to this year’s Western Conservative Summit.

They take it so seriously in fact, that in 2013, when several counties, including Yuma, voted on whether or not to secede from the state of Colorado, Gardner refused to say how he voted on the issue.

Was he joking today? Sure. But thanks to years of relentlessly pushing a message of rural-urban division in his own state, he should be surprised if some of his constituents think this is no laughing matter.


National Republicans Empty Couch Cushions for Gardner

The NRSC making it rain…sort of.

You may have missed this story in The Denver Post last week about the half-assed re-election campaign efforts underway on behalf of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who is widely considered to be the most endangered incumbent Republican Senator in the country in 2020. As Justin Wingerter wrote for the Post just before Thanksgiving, there is a conspicuous lack of resources being expended for Gardner in Colorado:

As special interests and dark-money groups spend millions of dollars to criticize him on several fronts — guns, health care, impeachment, climate — a year before his re-election, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s campaign and Republican allies in Washington have responded with an unusual tactic: near-total silence…

…One year out, the Gardner campaign is content to bide its time and stash its cash for what promises to be a contentious 2020 endeavor.

Wingerter’s angle on the lack of support for Gardner is that it is a strategic decision to lay low at the moment, which may very well be true. But it’s also possible that things are quiet for Gardner because national Republicans aren’t convinced that Gardner’s seat can be saved in 2020. Gardner’s poll numbers are absolutely brutal – Republicans don’t even like him – and early indications are that Coloradans will not be receptive to the re-election pitch from President Trump at the top of the ticket.

On Monday, we got another hint that Gardner’s hide may not be particularly important to national Republican groups. As Marianne Goodland writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) this week launched a rather anemic paid media effort for Gardner that might literally be worth thousands of dollars:

The campaign, which begins Monday evening, includes a digital ad and a mock travel agency brochure for the “Joyride John Travel Agency,” poking fun at Hickenlooper’s use of private jets for travel, which is at the heart of the ethics complaint currently awaiting action from the state Independent Ethics Commission.

The four-figure digital ad buy will run on Facebook in Denver throughout the week, according to NRSC spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez. The NRSC declined to identify the specific amount for the ad buy. [Pols emphasis]

A “four-figure” ad buy? The NRSC can’t even wrangle $10k to help Gardner? This is peanuts in a U.S. Senate race, even for a digital ad buy. For comparison’s sake, consider that Rocky Mountain Gun Owners spent $2,150 in May on a radio ad buy for a recall campaign that they never actually commenced.

Big spenders

Perhaps the NRSC played it stingy with its “four-figure” ad buy because it isn’t completely comfortable with the message (see “SIDE NOTE” below), or perhaps it decided that its money was better spent in states like Arizona, Iowa, and Maine. Whatever the reason, spending a couple thousand bucks on a digital ad when Gardner is getting hammered by $4 million in opposition spending shouldn’t make any Colorado Republican feel particularly hopeful about 2020.


SIDE NOTE: Last month we took note of an odd bit of phrasing in a story about an ethics complaint against former Gov. John Hickenlooper, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, that was subsequently picked up by 9News. The complaint was filed long ago by an organization created by former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, and it is substantially light on substance — the editorial board of The Denver Post essentially dismissed the merits in early November — which is why groups like the NRSC pitched Wingerter on a different angle just before the Thanksgiving holiday. This new approach was to claim that Hickenlooper’s legal defense is being paid out of “a federal fund meant to help the state after 9/11,” which is a remarkable revision of actual history. As we wrote on November 21:

You haven’t heard of this “post-9/11 recovery fund” because nobody ever called it that. What Wingerter is referring to is the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, otherwise known as the “Bush Tax Cuts.”

Of course, the 2003 Bush Tax Cuts did pass through Congress “post-9/11.” In that regard, every piece of legislation that has been approved since September 11, 2001 could also be called “post-9/11.” This executive order from Gov. Bill Owens in 2003 — which is linked in the Post story — makes no mention whatsoever of “9/11.” The money allocated in the Bush Tax Cuts went to all sorts of purposes, including immunization programs and charter school construction. Nobody would characterize the 2003 Bush tax cuts as “9/11 relief” because that’s not how they were sold even at the time.

In this case, the Bush Tax Cuts were categorized as a “post-9/11” fund by Republican operatives in hope that it might generate a news clip that could be used in a negative advertisement against Hickenlooper…which is exactly what happened. “Money for Hickenlooper’s attorney is from federal fund meant to help Colorado economy post-9/11” was the headline of the Denver Post story that the NRSC cites prominently in its digital advertising. This isn’t accurate, but once the headline was printed, the NRSC had everything it needed to move ahead with its ad production. Media outlets love to “fact check” political advertisements; they’re less excited to admit when misleading ads are born from misleading news stories in the first place.  




Get More Smarter on Tuesday (December 3)

There are 21 shopping days left until Christmas; you may officially begin to panic. In the meantime, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


President Trump was talking to reporters in London today alongside French President Emmanuel Macron when he announced that there is no end in sight to his trade war with China. You could literally watch the Dow Jones tick downward as Trump was speaking. From CNBC:

U.S. equities sank on Tuesday after President Donald Trump suggested he may want to delay a trade deal with China until after the 2020 presidential election.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 400 points in morning trading, led lower by trade-vulnerable Apple, Caterpillar and Boeing. The S&P 500 slid 1% amid losses in chip stocks like Nvidia, Micron and Advanced Micro Devices. The Nasdaq Composite lost more than 1%…

…“In some ways, I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal, but they want to make a deal now and we will see whether or not the deal is going to be right,” Trump told reporters earlier on Tuesday.

When asked if he had a deal deadline, he added: “I have no deadline, no … In some ways, I think it is better to wait until after the election if you want to know the truth.”

When informed about the damage inflicted by his comments, Trump later told reporters that he “doesn’t watch the stock market,” which is pretty silly.

► As The Washington Post reports, President Trump made sure to hurt American diplomacy as much as he was harming the stock market today:

President Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by his French counterpart about the diminished state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance.

Referring to comments President Emmanuel Macron made last month in an interview with the Economist magazine — in which Macron described the “brain death” of NATO resulting from America’s failure to consult with its allies — Trump attacked Macron on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London, calling the comments “very insulting.”

“You just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO,” Trump said, sitting next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders Tuesday morning. Though Trump himself has long been a vocal critic of NATO — a combative stance that has alarmed Western allies and seemed to prompt Macron’s comments — Trump took umbrage at the French assessment of the alliance, and he depicted France as the beneficiary of American largesse.

Macron, for his part, was fact-checking Trump in real time as the discussion unfolded in front of reporters.


► The House Intelligence Committee will likely vote today to move its impeachment inquiry report to the House Judiciary Committee as the latter prepares to begin drawing up articles of impeachment.


► “Nuh-uh!” That’s essentially what House Republicans are saying in their latest defense of President Trump. As Politico reports:

According to a draft copy of the GOP’s formal rebuttal, Republicans will assert that Democrats failed to unearth evidence that Trump committed impeachable offenses when he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Republicans’ 123-page report largely reiterates their previous defenses of the president and blasts House Democrats for pursuing impeachment, painting the effort as an attempt to reverse the results of the 2016 presidential election. The report forms the basis of their response to allegations that Trump abused his power to solicit foreign assistance in the 2020 election…

…House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) dismissed the GOP report’s conclusions as “intended for an audience of one,” and said it “ignores the voluminous evidence” against the president.

In response to Schiff’s comments, House Republicans declared, “I know you are, but what am I?”

The Denver Post, meanwhile, has more on how two Colorado Congressmen are about to take a center stage in the impeachment inquiry.


► Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast, with Alan Franklin filling in for Ian Silverii and Jason Bane filling in for dead air.

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


The Get More Smarter Podcast: No Defense? Just Make Stuff Up!

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, ProgressNow Colorado Political Director Alan Franklin joins Jason Bane to talk about a new phase in impeachment proceedings that includes a Colorado connection; legislative plans to push forward on gun safety measures; and how Sen. Cory Gardner’s big BLM deal just keeps looking worse. Later, Alan performs well in “Duke or Donald,” the game that nobody can really win.

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at


Bennet Shows What Accountability Looks Like, Warts and All

Sen. Michael Bennet at a 2017 town hall meeting.

Colorado Public Radio’s Natalia Navarro reports on a town hall held by Colorado’s senior U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in Denver last Friday–harkening back to the days when Colorado’s Senators routinely advertised in advance for anyone who wants to show up and lay on the hard questions in a public forum:

Sen. Bennet was in Colorado for his first constituent event in months Friday at the Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver. He said the only way to make meaningful progress on issues from climate change to immigration is to boot Trump from office.

“We can’t act on climate as long as we have a climate denier in the White House,” he told the crowd of about 200 people.

Much of the town hall focused on his presidential campaign, but Bennet said it’s not affecting his ability to serve Colorado as its senior senator.

“I follow what’s going on in Colorado when I’m here and when I’m not here,” Bennet said. “I think that I’ve continued to represent the state well and that will always be my first priority.”

The Denver Post’s Conrad Swanson:

He also offered his endorsement of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is now vying for the Democratic nomination in the race against the state’s vulnerable Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Bennet said the country should provide a public health care option, a route with more public support than the plans of several of his Democratic opponents, namely Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“What I don’t want to do is spend the next 10 years fighting a losing battle for Medicare for all,” he said.

From missed votes in the Senate to Bennet’s controversial disparagement of leading Democratic presidential candidates while pursuing his own longshot run, base Democratic voters had plenty to take issue with, and by all accounts they did–holding Bennet’s feet to the fire for over an hour in Friday’s town hall. Despite fielding hard questions from the mostly left-leaning Denver audience, Bennet impressed the crowd with strong answers on impeachment, stating he is a “likely vote to convict,” and unequivocally making the case for robust action on climate that can only begin once Donald Trump is out of office.

Although Sen. Bennet has arguably been spending lots of time with voters as a presidential candidate, we’re very glad to see him hold a town hall back home, even if not all of his answers were likely to satisfy the audience. Bennet’s willingness to be held accountable by the voters he represents throws the refusal of Sen. Cory Gardner to afford Coloradans the same courtesy into harsh relief. If Bennet can stand and deliver even the unpopular answers as a 2020 candidate, there’s absolutely no reason why Cory Gardner can’t.

In so doing, Bennet’s example hurts Gardner more than anything Bennet himself could say.


Cory Gardner’s BLM Bad Deal Gets Even Badder

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The Hill reports, with a hat tip to Michael Karlik of the Colorado Springs Gazette:

A new internal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website designed to answer employees’ questions about the agency’s upcoming relocation out West says staffers should expect a drop in their overall pay.

The information was included in an internal page available to staff seen by The Hill that contained questions and answers about the controversial plan to move most D.C.-based BLM employees and establish a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo…

Locality pay in Washington boosts base salaries by nearly 30 percent. Locality pay in many other parts of the country increases pay by about 15 percent. [Pols emphasis]

A question about whether employees can keep the locality pay that contributes to their current salary, the answer is a simple, “No, this is not an option.”

For something that vulnerable incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner has staked high-profile claim to as a big success justifying his re-election against the prevailing political trends in Colorado, the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to Grand Junction has in practice rewarded Gardner with one negative headline after another.

First, the small number of positions relocating to Grand Junction shrank the perceived economic benefit. Then public lands experts condemned the move as a brazen right-wing engineered plan for weakening the BLM’s power. Then employees rebelled to the extent they were able. Then came lawsuits and the selection of office space in Grand Junction literally in the same building as oil and gas producers.

Now, affected BLM employees can look forward to a pay cut for their trouble too. While it’s certainly true that the cost of living in the Washington, D.C. area is higher than Grand Junction, a pay cut is a pay cut–and for employees who we assume are not living hand to mouth today, the loss of income could easily exceed the benefit of Grand Junction’s lower cost of living. There’s nothing here to improve employee morale here either way, which at this point most people understand is a feature not a bug in the plan.

Congratulations all around, especially Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator.


Angela Williams Drops U.S. Senate Bid

State Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver)

The day before Thanksgiving is one of the better days of the entire year to announce news that is less-than-flattering. State Sen. Angela Williams took advantage of the slow news week to announce that she is suspending her U.S. Senate bid in order to focus on running for re-election to the State Senate.

As Justin Wingerter reports for The Denver Post, Williams cast blame for her weak U.S. Senate campaign in a rather vague direction:

Williams, a northeast Denver Democrat, was the only current elected official in the Senate race, in which she emphasized her experience in the legislature but failed to gain significant traction in a nine-candidate primary led by John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff.

“Unfortunately, even now, as female candidates enjoy a historic level of support from voters, there are still elements of the Democratic Party seeking to promote male candidates at the expense of talented and smart progressive women,” Williams said in a news release.

“Fighting to give women, people of color and the underserved a voice isn’t always easy, especially when faced with strong headwinds from Washington, D.C.,” she added, a reference to the decision by Democrats in the nation’s capital to recruit and endorse Hickenlooper in the race against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Was John Hickenlooper recruited by national and local groups to run for the U.S. Senate because he is a man…or because he is a former two-term Governor with the best statewide name recognition of any Colorado politician and a proven ability to raise campaign cash? Hickenlooper no doubt benefits (in general) from being a white dude, but the field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate already had plenty of those when Hickenlooper joined the fray in August.

We wrote last week that Williams may have gambled and lost by putting a long shot U.S. Senate bid ahead of a favorable re-election scenario in SD-33, which led to the decision by State Rep. James Coleman to announce his candidacy for Williams’ State Senate seat. Williams said at the time that she thought she had until March 2020 to make a decision on U.S. Senate or State Senate, but that was obviously unrealistic.

There are still eight Democrats running for U.S. Senate in 2020.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: Jim Jordan’s Jibber Jabber

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Republicans turn to “The Chewbacca Defense” on behalf of President Trump; Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) doesn’t bother to show up to impeachment hearings; Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) still hasn’t said anything about either Korea; Andrew Romanoff weaves a complicated narrative in the U.S. Senate race; and Indivisible leader Katie Farnan plays America’s worst favorite game, “Duke or Donald.”

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at


Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 26)

Happy Snowmageddon; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


►  A federal judge ruled late Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn cannot be shielded from Congressional testimony by the Trump administration. As The Washington Post explains, Monday’s ruling touches on a broader subject of executive power in the United States:

In her ruling that Don McGahn must comply with a congressional subpoena, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington goes to great lengths to illustrate how far out on a constitutional limb President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have crawled with their absolutist claims of executive power.

Jackson invokes “Animal Farm” as she dismisses the Justice Department’s position that the president alone has the authority to make unilateral determinations regarding whether he and his senior aides, current and former, will respond to, or defy, subpoenas from House committees during investigations of potential wrongdoing by his own administration.

“For a similar vantagepoint, see the circumstances described by George Orwell,” the judge writes in her 118-page decision. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

House Democrats want the former White House counsel, who left his position in October 2018, to testify about the episodes of possible obstruction of justice that former special counsel Bob Mueller outlined in his report. They are debating whether to proceed with articles of impeachment related to the president’s alleged efforts to undermine that investigation. Jackson said McGahn can assert executive privilege when asked specific questions, but Trump cannot issue a blanket order to stop his former aide from showing up to testify.

“Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” she concludes. [Pols emphasis]

The Justice Department plans to appeal the ruling, because Trump minions clearly do believe that some people are “above the law.”

Chris Cillizza of CNN has more on the significance on Monday’s ruling:

Obviously, if you are McGahn, you have to now prepare yourself for at least the possibility that you will be asked — under oath — about your role in the potential obstruction of justice by Trump in Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into Russian obstruction in the 2016 election. (McGahn is requesting a week-long stay so he can appeal the ruling.)

But if you are, say Guiliani or Mulvaney, this ruling has to give you pause. Yes, McGahn is a former White House employee while Mulvaney and Giuliani currently work for Trump. (Former national security adviser John Bolton, it’s worth noting, is also a former administration official who has not been subpoenaed, but who House investigators *really* want to talk to.)

Giuliani and Mulvaney could possibly hang their hats on the idea that Trump’s broad claim of executive privilege could well apply to them as active employees in a way that courts have ruled it doesn’t apply to McGahn. Maybe! But that line of reasoning took a hit on Monday — and will force anyone with an outstanding subpoena from Congress to reconsider their position at least somewhat in the coming days.

Predictably, President Trump took to his Twitter machine on Tuesday morning to declare that he actually wants more people to testify. Riiigghht.


A majority of Americans believe that President Trump should not only be impeached but removed from office by the U.S. Senate. Compare these numbers to public support for the impeachment and removal of Bill Clinton in 1998, which never even reached 30%.


Slade Gorton, a former Republican Senator from Washington, argues in a New York Times Op-Ed that there is more than enough information for the GOP to act on the impeachment of President Trump:

To my fellow Republicans, I give this grave and genuine warning: It’s not enough merely to dismiss the Ukraine investigation as a partisan witch hunt or to hide behind attacks against the “deep state,” or to try to find some reason to denounce every witness who steps forward, from decorated veterans to Trump megadonors.

History demands that we all wrestle with the facts at hand. They are unavoidable. Fifty years from now, history will not accept the position that impeachment was a referendum on the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. It must be a verdict reached on the facts…

…Here’s what I know: Neither the country nor the Constitution is served by a partisan shouting match divorced from the facts, a process boycotted by one side refusing to engage on the merits. John Adams is still right 250 years later: Facts are stubborn things. Facts are what should determine whether a stubborn president stays in office. Republicans, don’t fight the process, follow the facts wherever they lead, and put country above party.


► The Denver City Council has approved a minimum wage increase, as Conrad Swanson reports for The Denver Post:

The new law requires employers to bump hourly employees to at least $12.85 on Jan. 1, with a second raise to $14.77 following at the start of 2021, and a third to $15.87 in 2022. After that, the new law mandates that it will then be adjusted annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index.

Public comment was overwhelmingly, if not entirely, in favor of the law, which places Denver as the first Colorado city to raise the local minimum wage. Ultimately, the council voted 11-0…

…Initially, the ordinance proposed to mandate the raises in two tiers, reaching $15.87 by 2021, though that plan was mellowed after some criticized it as too aggressive or quick. Mayor Michael Hancock’s office later announced the three-tiered approach and the bill was introduced by Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who called it history in the making Monday night.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


“No You Don’t” Have to Vote for “Weenie” Gardner, Says Talk Radio Host Boyles

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

To fully understand the squeeze U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) faces in Colorado, you need to tune to one of the many conservative talk radio shows in the state.

Here’s what you would have heard on KNUS’ Peter Boyles yesterday.

Caller: “What makes me the most angry is, I hear some of the other Republicans on the radio and everywhere else telling me that, when it comes to Cory Gardner, I need to swallow that pill and vote for him.”

Boyles: “No you don’t.”

Caller: “But yet at the same time, these guys will not support President Trump. And I’m like, ‘How am I supposed to swallow the pill to vote for somebody who is basically a sellout, and yet you guys won’t stand behind Donald Trump because you know what the alternative is. It’s a Catch 22. It’s a double standard that they set for me, but they don’t want to follow it for themselves when it comes to supporting Trump.”

Boyles: “That’s the gimmick that they say to me all the time. I say no. You could turn Cory Gardner into a candidate…. Right now, he’s a weenie. He really is a weenie. He can just stand there and be a pretty little boy too, but guess what. That’s not Trumpian.”

What to do about this kind of thinking, if you’re Gardner?

He’s got to win over independent voters in Colorado, who account for over a third of the electorate. Overall, they hate Trump, who has a “less than zero” chance of winning here next year, according to failed Rep. Coffman’s campaign spokesman, who’s credible on this.

Independent voters don’t want to hear Gardner praising Trump like he’s been doing, by voting with him 90% of the time, inviting him to campaign here, wanting you to just get to know the president, and refusing to criticize Trump’s Trumpian behavior (Ukraine, obstruction of justice, attacks on the press, women, civil servants, intelligence services).

But Gardner’s overarching but sometimes muted praise of Trump, and his restraint in denouncing the president’s extremism, sounds like weeniness to the talk radio crowd, like Boyles, who reach a small audience but represent the Republican base.

They want Gardner to go Full Fox News, thumping his chest, and talking witch hunt, hoax, perfect phone call, Hillary, shit hole countries, invasion from Mexico.

If Gardner does what his base wants, he loses the independents. If he criticizes Trump, then he loses the boots, if not the votes, of his activists.

So what does Gardner do. Mostly these days, he’s silent on the issues that matter most.


Andrew Romanoff’s Troubled Immigration Record Revisited

Andrew Romanoff.

The 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Colorado has been spun as a two-way battle between political veterans, former Gov. John Hickenlooper versus former Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, but also between two competing ideologies: Hickenlooper being characterized (pejoratively) as a “moderate” Democrat, while Romanoff has fashioned himself in this race as the “progressive champion” campaigning on progressive policy planks such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

The reality beneath the spin of this race is very different from popular perceptions, as we have pointed out in this space to some consternation from Romanoff’s supporters. Hickenlooper’s record as governor was more progressive than even his own presidential candidacy cared to admit, strongly supporting gun safety measures, the Affordable Care Act, and LGBT rights among many other causes. And the hard truth is that Andrew Romanoff has taken both sides on most of his signature issues like universal health care and oil and gas drilling throughout his long career, often in response to the perceived needs of the race he was running.

This is not a conclusion we come to based on any bias or preference in this race. Like Romanoff’s fundraising, managing only a small fraction of Hickenlooper’s number in a race considered the nation’s most competitive, this is reality–and observers on all sides ignore it at their peril.

Today, the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul dived into another issue Romanoff has a long record on, immigration–and it’s a story that every Democratic primary voters who thinks they know Andrew Romanoff needs to read.

As Colorado’s House speaker from 2005 to 2009, he oversaw the passage of what at the time were considered among the most restrictive policies in the nation when it comes to people living in the U.S. illegally…

“What is extraordinarily frustrating is that he’s never acknowledged the actual harm he helped create for the immigrant community –– legislation that’s still impacting those communities,” said state Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat and longtime immigrant advocate. “I want to work alongside people to build the world that we all want to see. It’s hard to believe them when they were actively involved in building policies that harmed members of our community but who now say, ‘Trust me.’’’

Romanoff says the measures were a “serious mistake” that produced unintended consequences that he deeply regrets. But at the time he maintained that the measures didn’t compromise his beliefs and told The Los Angeles Times that at least some of the policies were “tough, effective, enforceable and practical.” [Pols emphasis]

This isn’t the first time that Romanoff’s compromised record on immigration has back to bite him. During Romanoff’s 2014 run for Congress against Mike Coffman, Romanoff’s votes on immigration in 2006 became a critical liability as Coffman used it to shame Romanoff before the district’s Latino voters while hypocritically burnishing Coffman’s own “pro-immigrant” credentials. Likewise during Romanoff’s losing 2010 U.S. Senate primary bid, when the 2006 immigration bills undermined Romanoff’s then run to the left against Michael Bennet.

At the time, the 2006 immigration bills were praised by pundits and moderates as a way of flanking hard-line Republicans like Tom Tancredo on the issue, who had proposed a ballot measure with even harsher sanctions against undocumented people in Colorado. That year Bob Beauprez relied heavily on lowbrow anti-immigrant demagoguery to attack Bill Ritter, an attack that backfired and contributed to Beauprez’s crushing defeat. In retrospect it has become obvious that the 2006 immigration bills did far more harm than good to the Democratic coalition in Colorado, at best an opportunistic betrayal of Latino voters and at worst evidence of enmity against immigrants on both sides of the aisle.

In 2013 the worst of 2006 immigration legislation, Senate Bill 90, was repealed. By Gov. Hickenlooper. The facts of this history are simple and incontrovertible. Hickenlooper literally was the governor who undid Speaker Romanoff’s cardinal error.

It is telling that Romanoff never apologized for the 2006 immigration special session publicly until just days after Hickenlooper entered the race. But in 2014 in particular, Romanoff ran a very different campaign against Mike Coffman, casting himself as a balanced-budget championing moderate instead of the “progressive champion” he’s running as today. In the 2020 primary, on the other hand, the only way that Romanoff can possibly overcome Hickenlooper’s lopsided support in polls and overmatched fundraising performance is to essentially run as the second coming of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Romanoff’s record, and immigration won’t be the last issue for which it’s the case, does not back that up. 


“Post-9/11 Recovery Funds?” You Mean the “Bush Tax Cuts?”

The ethics complaint filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty against former Gov. John Hickenlooper has been generally discounted by knowledgeable observers looking at what appear to be the innocuous facts of some travel Hickenlooper took as governor–including in large part by Hickenlooper’s primary opponents. Despite this, the process of such a complaint against either a sitting or a former elected official provides political opponents numerous opportunities to pitch negative stories along the way to reporters, sometimes with success and sometimes not.

One of those fairly predictable negative pitches involves the fact that the legal defense for public officials in ethics proceedings in Colorado is paid for by the state. Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, for example, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully defending himself against an ethics complaint stemming from his use of discretionary funds for partisan political event travel. In the case of the complaint against Hickenlooper, the Denver Post and 9NEWS both reported yesterday that the public has picked up a little north of $40,000 of the tab for defending Hickenlooper from McNulty.

There’s nothing unusual in reporting on a detail like this, and we’re happy to recount news reports of Gessler’s legal tab for that particular case. But the Denver Post led its story with a bizarre detail that we’ve been puzzling about all day:

John Hickenlooper’s attorney has been paid $43,390 — at a rate of $525 per hour — in taxpayer money to defend him before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission as part of an arrangement that dates back to the former governor’s time in office.

It’s common for Colorado elected officials to be represented by government lawyers, or by private attorneys enlisted by the government, but in this case, the recipient of the money was hidden and the money came from a federal fund meant to help the state after 9/11. [Pols emphasis]

Wait, what? Post 9/11 economic recovery fund? What in the hell is that?

Here’s what the Post’s Justin Wingerter writes to back up his sensational allegation:

According to the transparency database, money paid by the state to Grueskin comes from the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, a bundle of federal dollars allocated as part of a President George W. Bush-era plan to jump-start the post-9/11 economy. [Pols emphasis]

You haven’t heard of this “post-9/11 recovery fund” because nobody ever called it that. What Wingerter is referring to is the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, otherwise known as the “Bush Tax Cuts.”

Of course, the 2003 Bush Tax Cuts did pass through Congress “post-9/11.” In that regard, every piece of legislation that has been approved since September 11, 2001 could also be called “post-9/11.” This executive order from Gov. Bill Owens in 2003 — which is linked in the Post story — makes no mention whatsoever of “9/11.” The money allocated in the Bush Tax Cuts went to all sorts of purposes, including immunization programs and charter school construction. Nobody would characterize the 2003 Bush tax cuts as “9/11 relief” because that’s not how they were sold even at the time.

The group that filed this ethics complaint in the first place, which is run by former State House Speaker Frank McNulty, is trying to re-name decades-old legislation in order to give their flailing argument a boost. Today, two Republican lawmakers are speaking out in an effort to boost this “9/11 relief” nonsense. As Marianne Goodland writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, R-Watkins, sent a letter to chair and vice-chair of the Legislative Audit Committee on Thursday, seeking an investigation into “the inappropriate, perhaps illegal” use of federal dollars for Hickenlooper’s legal bills. Bockenfeld and Lundeen are both members of the audit committee…

…That letter, which was obtained by Colorado Politics, said those federal dollars were intended to “jump start” Colorado’s post-9/11 economy. According to an executive order from then-Gov. Bill Owens, the dollars were to provide “essential government services or to cover the costs of certain unfunded federal mandates.”

The letter said the executive order does not say anything about being used to cover legal bills for Hickenlooper’s private lawyers. Since it does not allow for those kinds of expenses, no argument can be made that paying Hickenlooper’s legal bills “is an essential government service or unfunded federal mandate,” the letter said. [Pols emphasis]

Great work, detectives. It would be very odd indeed if the 2003 executive order said something about the money being used to cover Governor Hickenlooper’s legal bills, since Hickenlooper was at that point in time beginning his first term as MAYOR OF DENVER. 

There will inevitably be negative stories that present themselves in the process of an ethics complaint. Whether it’s Scott Gessler or John Hickenlooper, nobody enjoys reading about taxpayer dollars spent on legal defense. But taxpayer money is often used for the legal defense of elected officials who were serving in publicly-funded jobs at the time. The real absurdity here is the “9/11 relief funds” angle on the original Post story, which no doubt helped generate clicks to the Post website but has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

If there’s something we’re missing here, the comment section is open.


Conservative Radio Host Wants To Hear From Gardner on Impeachment

(Him and everybody else – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is dodging his conservative talk radio allies as the impeachment hearings move forward.

KNUS 710-AM’s Steffan Tubbs explained to his listeners Wednesday that he texted Gardner’s press office Tuesday morning to request an interview with Gardner on Thursday or Friday to discuss “impeachment inquiry, campaign, and Thanksgiving plans.”

Tubbs sent his text again to Gardner’s office on Wednesday morning and got a response saying, “Hey Steffan, taking a look at schedule and will circle back.”

Gardner’s office eventually texted Tubbs, “Unfortunately at this point the schedule is packed Thursday and Friday at that time. Sorry about that, and thanks for the invitation!”

Tubbs read Gardner’s response on air and then played audio of cricket noises.

Tubbs then said, “I’ve known Cory a long time. He is my friend.”

But that didn’t stop Tubbs from mocking Gardner’s recent news release–about multiple topics (mental health, China, renewable energy).

“You would not even have an internet story about what these press releases are talking about,” said Tubbs. “They might as well be saying, ‘Senator Cory Gardner woke up this morning and put first his left shoe on, tied it, and here comes the right shoe, it was followed closely after the left show, and in fact he did tie the right show as well.'”

“We are at a very critical time in this administration,” said an agitated Tubbs. “He is a Republican senator from Colorado.”

“There is nothing, nothing, on his Twitter account that has to do with impeachment,” said Tubbs. “…Where is his voice?”



It Doesn’t Matter What Cory Gardner Thinks About Weed

Mitch McConnell, Cory Gardner.

As Westword’s Thomas Mitchell reports, legislation to end the federal blanket prohibition on marijuana and legitimize states like Colorado who have legalized cannabis is moving through the Democratic-controlled House:

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, better known as the MORE Act, would end federal marijuana prohibition while allowing states to regulate the plant as they see fit, as well as set up funding and programs that allow expungement for cannabis offenders and social equity within any potential federally legal pot industry.

Introduced by New York Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, the MORE Act passed 24-10 out of the House Judiciary Committee, setting up a future vote on the House floor. However, Nadler’s role as Judiciary Committee chairman enabled the bill’s quick markup, and Republican representatives don’t seem to think the bill would receive Senate approval if it passes the House. [Pols emphasis] Before the vote, several brought up the States Act, a Senate bill that would leave marijuana legalization to states.

Colorado Congressman Ken Buck unsuccessfully tried attaching the States Act as an amendment to the MORE Act, claiming the Senate isn’t likely to touch the latter.

The States Act, as our toker-friendly readers know, is legislation in the U.S. Senate that would similarly leave the regulation of cannabis up to individual states. A key difference between the States Act, which has bipartisan support in the Senate including both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators, and the MORE Act is that federal law enforcement would still be able to bring federal charges under the States Act over marijuana violations in states where the drug remains illegal.

The biggest problem with the passage of either bill, however, remains Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–who has remained a steadfast opponent of THC-bearing cannabis even while loosening his position on industrial non-narcotic hemp cultivation. McConnell claims that hemp and cannabis grown for consumption are “two entirely separate plants,” deeming marijuana to be hemp’s “illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.” McConnell’s opposition to marijuana legalization is effectively a roadblock to any legislation to end federal prohibition–and the legislative fight in the Senate may center on the more limited SAFE Banking Act, to free up banking services for legal marijuana businesses in legalized states who are dangerously forced to do their business in cash.

The point in all this, which we’ve made previously about other issues on which local Republicans feint to the center like healthcare and immigration, is that Sen. Cory Gardner’s longstanding lip service to supporting the end of federal prohibition of marijuana is hobbled by the Republican Senate leadership Gardner voted into power. Gardner can tell Colorado’s marijuana stakeholders whatever he wants, but if he’s not willing to force a showdown over the issue with his own Republican leadership, Gardner’s platitudes on this and every other subject are meaningless.

At the end of the day, you dance with the one who brung you.


Cory Gardner Says He Needs Money to Fight “Radical Liberal Hoard [sic]”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) recent fundraising letter attempts to scare Coloradans into donating to his reelection campaign by using extremely partisan language at odds with his claims of being a moderate, bipartisan dealmaker.

Toward the end of a four-page letter mailed to prospective donors, Gardner explains his need for money in extreme (though poorly copy-edited) language:

“To help me fight back the radical liberal hoard [sic] that is descending on Colorado to try to defeat me, please make a commitment to my campaign today…” writes Gardner.

It’s unclear which Coloradans specifically Gardner is referring to as part of the “radical liberal [horde] descending on Colorado,” but at the very least he includes his potential challengers, the two most prominent of whom (Hickenlooper and Romanoff) have lived in Colorado for decades. His language also invokes a longtime conservative complaint about liberal Coloradans who moved here from other states and shifting the political demographics.

An email to the Gardner campaign requesting clarification of whom he considers to be part of the “radical liberal [horde]” was not immediately returned.

In the postscript, Gardner continues to warn of “radical liberals” and of Democrats’ desire to institute socialism.

“They want to destroy me and elect a radical liberal to work with Schumer and Pelosi in Washington, D.C.,” Gardner writes.



Conservative Group Hands an Award to Gardner

(Foxes for Henhouse Security – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) received a “Congressional Champion” award last week from ConservAmerica, a group formerly called “Republicans for Environmental Protection.”

“We recognized Sen. Gardner for his strong commitment to protecting the environment while also promoting the economy of Colorado, as well as for his role in founding and co-chairing the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus in the Senate,” spokesman Robert Dillon emailed the Colorado Times Recorder.

The Roosevelt Caucus is a group of Republican Senators who look at environmental problems “through a conservative, limited government lens.

That’s also the perspective of ConservAmerica, whose motto is, “Conservation Is Conservative.”

The “About” page on ConservAmerica’s website is broken, but on a previous “About” page, found on the Way Back Machine, the organization states its “mission is to educate the public and elected officials on conservative approaches to today’s environmental, energy, and conservation challenges.”

Gardner was selected for the award by ConservAmerica’s staff and board members, said Dillon.

Democrats say Gardner is trying to greenwash himself in advance of his 2020 election. They label Gardner as an enemy of the environment who sides with Trump on rollbacks in Obama-era policies protecting air, wetlands, public lands, and more.

Progressive environmental activists are pressuring Gardner to join Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in pushing the CORE Act, which is the first bill in a decade to set aside new wilderness in Colorado.

It cleared the U.S. House last month but faces a difficult road in the U.S. Senate without the “full-throated support” of Gardner, reported Colorado Public Radio.

Yet, Dillon says, “Gardner is trusted and works with members on both sides of the aisle, characteristics that are essential when you’re trying to advance policies and negotiate legislative text. The Senate should be about finding common ground and developing solutions that work for the majority of Americans. Sen. Gardner exemplifies the kind of policy-maker committed to good governance that is becoming increasingly difficult to find these days.”

Multiple awards Gardner has received in recent months have come under scrutiny as being either products of conservative groups like ConservAmerica or as being given on the basis of such a narrow analysis as to diminish their meaning.

For example, Gardner often cites his fifth-highest-ranking on a 2019 bipartisanship ranking that was given without considering any of his actual votes on legislation.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: The Sideshow Bob Defense

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, Congressmen Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) test out some odd impeachment defense strategies; Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) celebrates two years without a town hall event; Colorado Republicans promote a pointless new ballot measure; and the “fairy godmother” of the #resistance, Jessica Zender, plays America’s worst favorite game show, “Duke or Donald.”

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. If you have a question or comment, hit us up at


Dems Commemorate Two Years, Zero Cory Gardner Town Halls

It’s an anniversary Sen. Cory Gardner would be happy for Colorado voters to forget:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Tomorrow, November 20th marks the second anniversary of Cory Gardner’s last public open forum town hall, held at the Pueblo Convention Center and attended by several hundred constituents. Weather permitting, there’s an event planned for outside Gardner’s downtown Denver office tomorrow afternoon to commemorate the occasion.

Like the other town halls Gardner belatedly consented to in the fall of 2017, after months of pummeling over his lack of accessibility while newly elected President Donald Trump plowed like a bull in a china shop through Washington, Gardner was booed and heckled in Pueblo robustly as he tried to defend Trump’s then-unpassed tax cuts and other controversial agenda items like repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Gardner has tried to spin the frosty reception he received at his 2017 town halls into a sympathy play, but his persistently lackluster approval ratings suggest strongly that a majority of voters just aren’t sympathetic. Aware of the self-inflicted harm these on-camera constituent floggings were causing, after the 2017 town halls Gardner switched to scripted appearances at friendly businesses and unannounced “walking tours” of main streets–the latter still exposing Gardner to considerable negative attention.

In recent weeks, the situation has deteriorated rapidly for Gardner as he has turned into a nationwide metaphor for Republican verbal paralysis in response to the impeachment inquiry consuming Trump’s presidency. It’s very difficult to see home-front reception improving for Gardner in the upcoming holiday recess, to say nothing of what’s going to happen when Gardner hits the campaign trail in Colorado next year.

One thing’s for sure: Gardner can’t run his whole re-election campaign from Trump fundraisers.


Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 19)

Happy World Toilet Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


The Washington Post catches us up on the latest news on today’s public impeachment hearings:

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, testified Tuesday that he spoke to an intelligence community official, whom he declined to name, about President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Vindman also testified in the impeachment proceedings that he was concerned about Trump’s statements about domestic politics on the call, which he characterized as “improper.”

Vindman is one of four key witnesses testifying at the House Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday. The others are: Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Pence, Tim Morrison, another senior NSC official, and Kurt Volker, a former envoy to Ukraine.

President Trump is claiming that he doesn’t know any of the witnesses testifying in impeachment proceedings, which would probably be irrelevant even if it were true; this strategy is about as effective as claiming that everyone involved is a “Never Trumper.

Meanwhile, Trump says that he would consider testifying on impeachment matters “in writing,” a claim the President made as news was breaking that House Democrats may also be looking into allegations that Trump lied to special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Chris Cillizza of CNN has more on Tuesday’s impeachment hearings.


► Today’s revelations could be just the appetizer to Wednesday’s main course, when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland sits down in front of the House Intelligence Committee. Will Sondland have trouble “remembering” his July 26th telephone conversation with President Trump regarding efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden?


► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia and calls himself the “leader in the Senate” on issues relating to North Korea. Yet Gardner still hasn’t said a public word about President Trump’s recent decisions to weaken U.S. alliances with South Korea and Japan.


► Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more on how Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) tries using the “Sideshow Bob” defense on impeachment.

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Trump Exerts Maximum Pressure…On SOUTH Korea

TUESDAY UPDATE (2:30PM): It’s been more than five days since President Trump decided to sideswipe American allies South Korea and Japan. Senator Cory Gardner, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia and calls himself “the leader in the Senate” on North Korea policy, remains silent.


MONDAY UPDATE (3:10PM): Oh, look, the White House just created another problem with a key ally of the United States in Asia. From the The New Republic:

Last week, Trump announced that he would seek a fivefold increase in the nearly $1 billion a year South Korea contributes to maintain 28,500 U.S. troops that have been stationed there since the dawn of the Cold War; two days later, the administration announced it would demand that Japan pay $8 billion—four times its usual contribution—toward the cost of quartering 54,000 American servicemembers on its territory. Two of the most enduring, and sensitive, American alliances of the past half-century have now devolved into haggling over “cost sharing,” New York mob-protection-style.

It was only last May that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was calling for measures to strengthen the alliance between Japan and the United States — an alliance Gardner once called “the backbone of security and stability in Asia.” We’d tell you what Gardner had to say about President Trump’s latest demands of another key foreign partner, but the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia still isn’t talking.


MONDAY UPDATE (10:30AM): Not a peep, and even North Korea doesn’t want another useless photo-op.


SUNDAY UPDATE (6:15 pm): The self-proclaimed “leader in the Senate” on North Korea remains silent about Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on South Korea.

Also this weekend, the White House cancelled military exercises with South Korea after complaints from North Korea. Not a peep from Gardner on this development, either.


SATURDAY UPDATE (11:30 am): The sound of silence continues.


UPDATE (3:21 pm): Still no comment from Gardner, but his official Twitter account did find the time to send out a Veterans Day message this afternoon.


UPDATE (2:19 pm): Crickets.


UPDATE (11:56 am): Senator Gardner’s press office is apparently still functioning. Today they issued a press release about Gardner meeting with Energy Secretary nominee Dan Brouillette. Neat!

Anytime you’re ready, Sen. Gardner…

“Maximum pressure.”

This is the phrase that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) regularly deploys in discussions about American foreign policy toward North Korea and its efforts to become a nuclear power. As part of his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner serves as Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, where he fancies himself to be the Senate’s top dog on matters related to North Korea. In a press release from October 31, Gardner’s office states unequivocally: “Gardner has been the leader in the Senate in deterring North Korea’s heinous regime.”

Gardner is also a staunch defender of President Trump despite the fact that Trump regularly gives the Yuma Republican a North Korean wedgie. Given this background, we should all be anxious to hear what Gardner has to say about the latest news relating to U.S. foreign policy on the Korean Peninsula. As CNN reports: