Editorial Boards Across Colorado Discourage Recall Fever

For several months newspaper editorial boards from every part of Colorado have been opining against the various recall efforts underway or under consideration by right-wing activists around the state. There are now more than a dozen editorials from across Colorado encouraging readers to “just say no” to signing a recall petition. Here’s a quick look at some of the most recent offerings:

The Denver Post (7/22/19)

From the Denver Post:

This summer we urge Colorado voters to decline to sign recall petitions for three elected officials.

These men and women – Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, and Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs – have done nothing nefarious, or illegal or untoward. Rather, they face recalls for their votes, or in the case of the governor his signature, on issues the petition gatherers disagree with.

These are not matters that should be decided by a special election. These are issues that should be decided by the next regular election. That’s how our Democracy works – someone is elected for a term and barring some exceedingly rare and horrendous action on the part of an elected official, they serve that term until the next election. Then voters can have their say.

Recalls are not meant to be do-over elections.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal (7/26/19)

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal:

Recall elections come with a massive price tag, and not just in terms of dollars and cents.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how much a special election — the process required under Colorado Secretary of State rules — costs on a statewide level. However, in Colorado Springs alone as recently as April, the cost of a citywide special election was estimated at a half-million dollars. It stands to reason the cost of recalling a statewide official like the governor would be exponentially higher.

“It’s far better to rein in the recalls and stop the silliness now, for the sake of good governance, for our business climate and for our state’s future.”

And that’s an untenable investment to ask of taxpayers, especially when you consider that special elections historically have low voter turnout.

Recall costs aside, the process is also disruptive to good governance. When lawmakers must constantly step lightly in order to avoid losing their jobs, what chance do they have to draft thoughtful or change-making legislation? How can we expect any level of productivity?

The Colorado Springs Independent (7/24/19)

And from the Colorado Springs Independent:

It’s a sniveling threat from some far-right interests, and it’s all because the Legislature passed and the governor signed some very progressive policies during the 2019 session.

Which leaves us with a question. At what point did we become a selfish, whiny society that has made it easier to threaten to take someone’s job away than to admit you made a mistake and change it when the opportunity arises?…

…So rather than find better candidates and prepare them for victory in 2020 and beyond, they’re whining and threatening those who are doing the job for one simple fact: They’re. Doing. Their. Jobs. When it swings back to the right, what’s to stop the far left from doing the same thing?

You get the idea. From the Pueblo Chieftain and the Greeley Tribune to the Durango Herald and the Grand Junction Sentinel, the conclusion has been the same: This recall madness is wrong and it needs to stop.

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Weld County Musical Chairs

(Clockwise from bottom left): Lori Saine, Barbara Kirkmeyer, Perry Buck, and Vicki Marble

Four term-limited Republicans in Weld County are playing a fun game of musical chairs so that they can all hold onto the sort of government jobs that they simultaneously covet and criticize on a regular basis.

State Representatives Lori “The Historian” Saine (R-Firestone) and Perry Buck (R-Greeley) are running for open seats on the Weld County Board of County Commissioners in 2020. State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Looney Tunes) is making the unusual move to the lower chamber — in this case, for the seat being vacated by Buck. And since Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer is termed out, she’s hoping to take her talents to Denver as Marble’s successor in the State Senate.

This is the same sort of nonsense that plagued Jefferson County for years until voters ultimately got sick of the job-hopping and tossed out the lot of them. Jeffco now has only one Republican representative in the legislature and two GOP officials in county government — incumbent Commissioner Libby Szabo and Sheriff Jeff Shrader, who was the only Republican official re-elected in 2018 by virtue of being unopposed on the ballot.

The 2020 election in Weld County is shaping up to be quite the circus. It looks like there will be a wacky Republican Primary for the right to fill Saine’s House seat. Nearby, unabashed racist Grady Nouis is taking his criminal record for a run at the State House seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Ault).

Weld County is much more of a solid Republican area than the current iteration of Jefferson County, though Jeffco changed quickly over just a couple of election cycles in part because of the serial job-hopping among elected (and un-elected) Republicans. We wouldn’t expect a major shift toward Democrats in Weld County in 2020, but don’t be surprised if that’s where this trail of crumbs eventually ends.

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Please, Please Don’t Throw Me Into the Recall Thicket!

“Everywhere you look, people are circulating petitions to recall elected officials throughout the state. And yes, it’s all a little silly.”

The Pueblo Chieftain (July 18, 2019)

As you may have heard, there are a lot of nonsense recall campaigns being instituted by a handful of disgruntled Republicans still steaming over big election losses in 2018. Most, if not all, of these recall efforts appear doomed to fail because of disunity, disorganization, and a general lack of sense.

On Thursday, Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi received official approval to restart her recall of State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), apparently after the group realized that they were basing their complaints in part on legislation that Pettersen never even had a chance to vote on (not to mention that the group was trying to collect petition signatures well outside of Pettersen’s actual Senate district).

Newspaper editorial boards across the state have been calling out these recall efforts for months. On Thursday, the editorial board of the Pueblo Chieftain took its turn at the piñata:

If you support the brand of democracy that our country’s founders intended, then you should be worried by all this…

Absent some scandals or demonstrations of monumental incompetence, these recall efforts have to be viewed as what they really are — attempts to undo the will of the voters. The recall supporters are like those kids on the playground who always insisted on a “do-over” every time they lost a game. [Pols emphasis]

Do you want to make this summer a little less silly? Then don’t sign a frivolous recall petition.

The Chieftain makes a very succinct point in this regard by using the example of the various convoluted recall efforts targeting Gov. Jared Polis:

There’s been no indication he’s done anything illegal or improper during his first six months-plus on the job. To the contrary, he’s shown himself to be pretty much the person he advertised himself to be on the campaign trail last year. [Pols emphasis]

Are there people who disagree with some of his initiatives? Sure. Those were, in large part, the same people who voted against him last November. But guess what? Polis won that election, with the support of the majority of the state’s voters.

From The Durango Herald (April 12, 2019)

The Greeley Tribune made a similar argument in March about recall efforts targeting then-Rep. Rochelle Galindo:

The best advice we can offer recall backers is put your money into electing a better candidate in 2020. [Pols emphasis] In 2018, 22,783 people cast ballots, with more than 12,000 voting for Galindo. Republican candidate Michael Thuener received more than 10,000 votes, but still lost by 7 percentage points.

Recall elections are costly, especially considering the two-year timeline of elections for the District 50 seat. Instead, it’s fine to oppose Galindo, but let her do her job. Then if she’s not working for this community, elect a new candidate, but do it in 2020.

The Galindo recall was the first such effort of 2019…and also the first to acknowledge that its actions were strictly an attempt to re-do the November election. Back in April, former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard candidly (or accidentally) admitted that that Galindo recall effort was mostly about the fact that she was a Democrat and not because of any of her actions or votes at the State Capitol.

“Recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel (June 18, 2019)

A few months later, the Grand Junction Sentinel hit on the same points:

Some Coloradans don’t like recent legislative outcomes, so they’re interested in either changing them or punishing lawmakers for taking certain positions…

…Throughout its history, The Sentinel has taken the position that recalls are only appropriate in cases of malfeasance or incapacity. Competence is in the eye of beholder. One voter’s anger over a legislator’s record is another’s joy. There’s a huge difference between recalling someone because they are corrupt and trying to remove them from office because you disagree with their policies.

Ditto Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry from May 14:

There’s a handful of loosely related far-right extremists trying to undermine Colorado’s election system to serve their own political purposes. Among them is Joe Neville, who runs a political action committee called Values First Colorado. He’s the brother of GOP state Rep. Patrick Neville, a champion for snuffing bills like Colorado’s red flag law in favor of arming teachers with guns in schools. Joe Neville wants to recall a few Democratic state lawmakers because they voted for bills focusing on things like protecting children from sexual abuse by providing better sex ed at school, and a bill making sure local cops aren’t tools of national immigration police.

We’re not talking about extreme measures like making kids get their vaccines or making bikers wear motorcycle helmets, we’re talking about no-brainer legislation that real people in Colorado have repeatedly said they want.

These recalls are beyond Colorado crazy. This is Trump crazy.

About a month earlier, the editorial board of the Durango Herald explained how previous recall efforts merely proved that organizers were the ones who were out-of-touch with Colorado voters:

Colorado in this respect has been spooked by 2013, when two Democratic members of the state Senate were recalled, including the Senate president, after they supported gun-control measures. (Durango Rep. Mike McLachlan, another Democrat, also was targeted.) Republicans were elected in their stead, and then, in the 2014 election, they were defeated by Democrats. It was a circular exercise.

Last year, an effort to recall La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, one of two Democrats on the three-seat board, fell just short of the number of petition signatures needed. Then, in November, voters put a third Democrat on the commission.

“Oh, please don’t try to recall me.”

And here’s the editorial board of the Denver Post from April 10:

Some of the folks who are spinning this web of outrage, especially state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, should know better. His vocal support of the recall efforts of Sen. Jeff Bridges, Rep. Meg Froelich and Rep. Rochelle Galindo is painting him and the caucus he leads as political operatives rather than thoughtful lawmakers doing the work of the people at the Capitol.

Colorado Republicans aren’t really pretending that these recall efforts are anything other than an attempt to line the pockets of consultants and sidestep Colorado voters in order to sneak in a few more Republican lawmakers. As these editorials show, the folly of these recalls look the same anywhere you travel in Colorado.

We’ve thought for awhile now that the idiocy of these recall efforts is backfiring on Colorado Republicans by giving Democrats new reasons to organize and reach out to voters a year ahead of the next election. Ol’ Brer Rabbit would be mighty proud.

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House GOP Chief Of Staff Pfaff Answers Accusation Of Threatening Fellow Republican

(Republican Party events are probably great fun these days — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Republicans continue to air internal disputes over the airwaves and social media, accusing and denying various claims of blackmail, threats and extortion.

House GOP Chief of Staff Jim Pfaff joined KNUS’ Chuck & Julie show for an hour-long interview on Monday. Responding to ongoing claims in a Denver Post column by former El Paso County Chair Josh Hosler that he threatened Hosler’s family, Pfaff technically denied the accusation, but with some significant qualifications:

KNUS host Julie Hayden: I mean one of the things he did in [the op-ed] is he attacked you for saying you were going to attack his family, right?
Pfaff: “It’s just amazing that he has been implying that the whole time. Now, if he feels threatened or whatever, I don’t– all I did was just tell him, “What if I were threatening you.” I didn’t threaten to threaten him. I didn’t say I was going to do it. And obviously, after the phone call, I didn’t.”

Listen to the exchange here, which begins with Hayden’s radio partner Chuck Bonniwell reading from Hosler’s guest column:

Pfaff also explained the origins of the dispute, recounting Hosler’s issues with Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) president Dudley Brown:

House Minority Chief of Staff Jim Pfaff: About mid-May, someone told me that Josh was putting together a book to try to expose Dudley Brown and RMGO for personal issues. And I’m like, “WHAT?!” But I kind of pawned it off for a little bit, until I got a call from someone who …would have been dragged through the mud by what Josh was trying to claim with Dudley, had they talked to him. Well, fast forward [to] just a few days after that, and he and I are having a Twitter battle over this whole thing. We’re ramping up — [Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair] Kristi Brown is ramping up the whole recall. And I’m like, going back and forth on Twitter with him, like, “Can we just back off of this? Why are we fighting together? We got to get this thing going! Maybe it won’t work, but it’s definitely not going to work if we’re all in a circular firing squad.

The recall Pfaff is referring to was the failed attempt to remove Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial), a joint effort of RMGO and the Colorado Republican Party. Although embraced by Minority Leader Neville and Vice Chair Brown, (both considered RMGO allies) the wisdom of the longshot endeavor had been questioned by other GOP officials and leaders.

Hosler stands by his column, saying via email that he has a recording of Pfaff’s threat that he has shared with others and that the Denver Post would not have printed his column without that recording. In an email, Editorial Page Editor Megan Schrader said that while she had not heard a recording of the call, in the fact-check she conducted with Pfaff he did not refute the conversation he had and that he would let Hosler’s statement stand on its own.

Rep. Dave Williams

Hosler also confirmed the claims made on Facebook by El Paso County GOP Women President Missy Ward, that Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) shared false rumors about Hosler w/ Pfaff in an attempt to blackmail him. Hosler further accused Williams of using those same rumors to “extort” him last year:

“While I was Chairman of El Paso County Rep Party, Rep. Williams tried to use the same rumors that Pfaff tried to use to extort me. Rep Williams said if I didn’t make sure he did not get a primary in 2018 he would smear me with the same false rumors he shared with Pfaff.”

Pfaff posted a link to his radio interview on Facebook, calling the dispute a “petty situation” and saying he “answered the accusations made against [him] by Josh Hosler.”

Rep. Mark Baisley (R-Roxborough Park) supported Pfaff on Facebook, commenting:

“I listened live to your interview, Jim. I believe that you clarified matters. It was not a case of getting too cozy with [Rocky Mountain Gun Owners]. Rather, some leftover tenderness from a lost election that did not seem fair to Josh.”

Longtime Colorado conservative Matt Arnold, who is the filing agent for Neville’s House GOP caucus fund, Values First Colorado, took issue with Bailey’s assertion that Republicans can’t afford this much infighting because a “far more determined and cruel enemy is lurking.” Arnold tracked Pfaff’s complaints about “establishment GOP operatives mucking up the system,” saying that the GOP’s real enemy is the “establishment crony class.”

Pfaff’s comments about the establishment echo those he made on the radio, when he told the hosts:

There is a cadre of consultants who make a lot of money by keeping the status quo that we’ve lived with for the last 15 years. I complained about it when I was chairman of the Douglas County Republican Party and on the state committee. This has been a problem for a long, long time. I’ve been a consultant myself in previous years, prior to going to Washington D.C., and I don’t have a problem with people making money doing consulting. My problem is that they’re not about winning.
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Throwback Thursday: When Colorado Republicans Opposed Racism


Nate Marshall.

The past week has seen a massive escalation of racial tensions in American politics, primarily the result of President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on four women of color who have been vocal opponents of the President since winning office last November. It’s important to be clear from the outset that Trump’s call for four members of Congress, three of whom were born in this country to “go back” to their countries of origin cannot be interpreted any way other than as a racially motivated attack–since by definition persons born in this country have nowhere to “go back” to.

Since Trump’s racist attacks on these four members of Congress over the weekend, Colorado Republicans have played an uneasy game of cat and mouse with inquiring reports–generally avoiding comment as much as they can, and when cornered giving either the most gentle criticism of the President or none at all. Rep. Scott Tipton doesn’t think it was racist, and while Sen. Cory Gardner worked up the nerve to say on the radio that he “disagreed” with the Tweets in question he refused to condemn them for what they are.

One of the biggest dangers of electing an openly racist demagogue like Donald Trump has always the normalization of rhetoric that has not been acceptable, at least in mainstream American politics, for many years. Trump’s open appeals to nativism and racial prejudice have opened the door to a rise in hate crime since his election, and given space to Republican candidates at all levels to either turn a blind eye to racism or exploit racist sentiment themselves for political gain.

Maria Weese.

In Colorado, we have a long history of Republican candidates and even officeholders who turned out to be unapologetically racist. In 2014, GOP House candidates Nate Marshall and Maria Weese had frightful racist comments in their recent pasts exposed just in time for Republican brass to intervene–dumping both candidates for slightly less embarrassing placeholders who went on to lose. In 2006, Rep. Jim Welker was “persuaded” by ranking Republicans to not run for re-election after racist commentary he shared with his supporters become public.

Colorado Republicans certainly weren’t free of racists back in the day (see: Tancredo, Tom), or even really making a concerted attempt to dissociate themselves from racism. But when people like Nate Marshall became a political liability for Colorado Republicans, the will existed to deal with the problem.

Based on what we’ve seen this past week, no such will exists today.

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Will NPV Be The Real Republican Revenge Vote?


As the Colorado Sun’s John Frank reports, organizers of a ballot initiative to overturn a law passed by the Colorado General Assembly this year aligning the state with a National Popular Vote Compact to ensure the winner of the national popular vote wins the presidency say they have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot:

The deadline to submit petitions is Aug. 1, and Coloradans Vote, the issue committee challenging the new law, reports it has authenticated more than 150,000 voter signatures using state records. More signatures are still pouring into the office. To make the ballot, the group needs verified signatures from 124,632 registered voters…

The group expects to collect about 200,000 signatures, enough to provide a cushion to account for the upwards of 30% that may fail validation. The secretary of state’s office will certify the signatures once submitted.

If certified for the ballot, it would be the first time since The Great Depression that Colorado voters would decide whether to repeal or reaffirm a law approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. In 1932, voters repealed a law that increased the tax on oleomargarine.

Because the National Popular Vote Compact that Colorado joined with this legislation does not yet have enough states on board to trigger its provisions, halting its implementation while voters decide has no real effect. It’s worth noting also that Nevada and Maine recently killed their own bills to join the NPV states, and it’s unlikely that enough states would join in time to affect the next election.

With that said, the arguments in support of the Electoral College status quo are compelling to many small state voters not otherwise ideologically inclined, and Republicans broadly see the bill as direct political retaliation for Trump winning the presidency–this despite the fact that Colorado conservatives have themselves argued against the Electoral College in the past.

Politically, we have always been clear that National Popular Vote repeal was the more effective vehicle for Republicans to organize around than recalls either of Gov. Jared Polis or individual lawmakers. The Polis recall petition drive is certain to fail, and legislative recalls don’t work for organizing voters statewide ahead of a general election. Of all the options Republicans have to strike back against Democrats after their historic 2018 losses, a campaign to repeal NPV could be the one that pays the most long-term dividends.

When all is said and done, will this be the one “overreach” of 2019 Republicans are able to undo?

We have to concede that’s a real possibility.

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Threats, Lies & Blackmail: Accusations Fly Among Colorado GOP Leaders

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

RMGO's Dudley Brown with House GOP

In a flurry of social media posts following a controversial opinion piece exposing rifts in the Colorado Republican party, leaders and officials are leveling serious accusations at one another.

Among these is the claim that state Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) attempted to blackmail the author of the opinion column, and the author saying the state will investigate the statehouse minority leader’s chief of staff for threatening him.

Former El Paso County GOP Chair Joshua Hosler called Dudley Brown’s Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group the “Colorado’s Taliban” in a guest column for The Denver Post. In it he accused House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s chief of staff Jim Pfaff of threatening to smear and extort him.

Hosler wrote in The Post:

Jim Pfaff works directly for House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. He asked when I was going to stop attacking RMGO and Dudley Brown. I responded, “I am not going to stop.” Pfaff then threatened to smear me with rumors…I told Pfaff that I had already heard those fake rumors and it was old news. Pfaff stated, “I am sure I will find more on you.” … I will not sell my soul to a devil like Jim Pfaff and not stand up to the cancer that is RMGO. Josh Hosler, guest commentary for the Denver Post, July 7, 2019.

In a subsequent July 10 Facebook comment, Hosler claims that “the state is going to investigate Pfaff” for his alleged threatening conduct.

Following publication of Hosler’s column, Missy Ward, president of the El Paso County Republican Women, commented on Facebook that she heard State Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) on a phone call in which he shared “rumors” about Hosler in an attempt at blackmail “to get Josh off RMGO.”

(more…)

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Bob Beauprez is Joshua Hosler’s “Puppet Master,” Says Dudley Brown

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dudley Brown.

Dudley Brown jumped on a conservative radio show this morning to respond, for the first time, to a Republican’s accusation that his organization, which is aligned with the right wing of the Republican Party, is “Colorado’s Taliban.”

Joshua Hosler, the former chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, expressed the view in a Denver Post opinion piece, in which Hosler also accused the State House Republicans’ Chief of Staff of threatening to spread rumors about Hosler unless Hosler agreed to stop attacking Brown’s group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

“[Hosler] is speaking for the left side of the Republican Party,” Brown told KNUS 710-AM’s host, Peter Boyles. “We call that the establishment. He might as well admit that Bob Beauprez is his puppet master.”

Brown called Hosler a “very very minor player” in the Republican Party and a “failed state house candidate,” who is “a little butt hurt because we endorsed his opponent,” State Rep. Dave Williams.

The dispute between Hosler and Brown reflects wider divisions within the Colorado Republican Party over whether to moderate hard-line stances, stop using losing consultants, distance themselves from Trump, and other issues in the wake of devastating losses in last year’s election–as well as the prospect of another blue-wave thrashing at the ballot box next year.

“I think the frustration for both Bob Beauprez and little players like Joshua Hosler is that the [Republican] Party has moved pretty substantially to the right on guns, and that’s been due to us,” said Brown on air. “Setting all humility aside, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is the group that given [Republicans] a spine. And Greg Brophy, the former state senator, has talked about that frequently.”

(more…)

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How The Hell Can Patrick Neville Remain Minority Leader?


House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Over the weekend, a Denver Post guest opinion piece from former El Paso County Republican Party chairman Joshua Hosler shocked the local political chattering class with allegations of threats both overt and delivered via sinister anonymous phone calls against Hosler for his criticism of powerful conservative activist group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In particular, Hosler alleges that Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s chief of staff Jim Pfaff threatened to expose alleged professional and personal misdeeds if Hosler didn’t “back off” RMGO.

Last night, Denver7 ran a follow-up story on the fallout from Sunday’s disclosures, and got a response from Minority Leader Neville about the actions of his chief of staff on behalf of RMGO–who in addition to being a political ally is also a registered lobbying organization before the General Assembly:

House Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville, who is a supporter of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sent a statement to Denver7 about the infighting among Republicans saying it’s time for the party to come together.

“…Party infighting needs to stop. We achieve great things when we come together to fight for liberty and freedom. The Democrats know we cannot be defeated if we stand together. My Chief of Staff made amends and publicly said so. He has done a great job with this caucus. Unfortunately, we still have some in the GOP who would prefer to divide us. [Pols emphasis] It is unfortunate, but it will not deter us,” Rep. Neville’s statement read.

As you can see, Minority Leader Neville doesn’t think his chief of staff’s threats on behalf of RMGO are the problem here. The problem as Rep. Neville sees it is Joshua Hosler, for daring to second-guess the decision by Colorado GOP vice chair Kristi Burton Brown, Minority Leader Neville, and RMGO to pursue a recall of freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan. Now that the Sullivan recall campaign has collapsed in a heap, it’s clear in retrospect that Hosler was right–but that’s criticism, as you can see, that Republicans in high places do not want to hear.

We’ll leave it to lawyers to assess the criminality of the threats made against Hosler by Neville’s chief of staff on behalf of RMGO, but politically this is a totally unacceptable situation. To have a state employee threatening a member of the public on behalf of an organization that both lobbies the legislature and contributes to candidates and campaigns is an outrageous conflict of interest that under ordinary circumstances would send the responsible party to the unemployment line.

But not only will Jim Pfaff keep his job, Minority Leader Patrick Neville is blaming the victim.

Folks, this is not normal. These are fundamental, essential standards being violated. It has been long suggested that the rise of the Neville clan and their allies at RMGO to dominance of the Colorado Republican Party represents something new and more sinister than any other force in contemporary Colorado politics–even accounting for such distasteful figures as Tom Tancredo.

Now it’s on display for all to see.

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House GOP CoS Threatens Fellow Republican Over RMGO


UPDATE: In a column for the Colorado Sun today, GOP attorney Mario Nicolais drives home a similar theme, practically begging fellow Republicans to see reason and focus on rebuilding ahead of the 2020 elections instead of recalls that feel good but ultimately backfire:

Ironically, as the Colorado Republican Party shrinks, its center shifts to the loudest, most ardent voices who have driven away other members of the coalition. The result is a slow, downward spiral that quickens as it closes in on the bottom.

In Colorado, that quickening became evident last year as Republicans lost all levers of power across the state, often by surprisingly large margins. The Republican reaction has been to channel the same energy into recall elections, presumably to take advantage of smaller electorates and concentrated resources.

Unfortunately for Colorado Republicans, the recent spat of recall elections only emphasized an inability to aggregate enough energy and clout to be effective, even in the most hospitable circumstances. That bodes very ominous for Republican hopes of winning back legislative seats, protecting Sen. Cory Gardner, or delivering the state’s electoral votes to President Trump in 2020.

When Congressman Ken Buck took the reins of the Colorado Republican Party in March, he declared the party needed to teach Democrats “to spell r-e-c-a-l-l.” As it turns out, the primary lesson to be drawn from recent recalls is that Republicans must learn how to spell “r-e-b-u-i-l-d” if they hope to remain relevant in Colorado politics.

Smart Republicans are saying it. Is there anyone listening? Anyone who isn’t afraid of the threats that will follow (see below) if they speak out too? We’ll have to wait and see how it ends. Like the Godfather movies, it’s far healthier to watch this drama than be part of it.

—–

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

As Colorado politics starts to come alive again after a long holiday weekend, in today’s Denver Post we’re shocked to read in an op-ed from former El Paso County GOP chairman Joshua Hosler about threats he has received in recent weeks over his opposition to the failed recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan–and the influence of the far-right Rocky Mountain Gun Owners over the Colorado Republican Party at manifold levels.

Hosler, a combat veteran, seems to have been the wrong guy to mess with:

In May I spoke out on social media. RMGO had launched an effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, the Democrat who had defeated Wist and taken his seat in the Colorado House. Members of the Republican Party’s leadership supported RMGO’s efforts and this felt like a mistake…[a]fter that post, I received three calls from anonymous men who threatened me and my family if I did not back off RMGO and Dudley Brown. No one messes with my family, especially cowards. [Pols emphasis]

Then things got worse. On May 30th at 2:50 p.m. I received a call from the chief of staff for the Colorado House Republicans. Jim Pfaff works directly for House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. He asked when I was going to stop attacking RMGO and Dudley Brown. I responded, “I am not going to stop.”

Pfaff then threatened to smear me with rumors — false rumors that I had heard before from someone close to RMGO trying to influence my decisions — that I had rigged the party chair election and had inappropriate relationships with women in the Republican Party. I told Pfaff that I had already heard those fake rumors and it was old news. Pfaff stated, “I am sure I will find more on you.”

That the chief of state for the Colorado House Republican minority, Jim Pfaff, is the one who threatened Hosler on behalf of RMGO is extremely important to fully process. RMGO’s controversial history of attacking insufficiently strident Republicans and stacking GOP primaries with candidates personally loyal to Dudley Brown has essentially transformed the party into Brown’s fiefdom–especially where his closest allies in the Neville family hold sway. The Neville political dynasty in particular owes much of its power to RMGO’s support both for their family and their political allies, so much so that today’s it’s impossible to say where RMGO ends and the party begins in Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s House minority.

Needless to say, it’s even harder now.

The ill-fated Sullivan recall attempt was not just a product of RMGO, it was backed at the highest levels of the Colorado Republican Party. The Sullivan petition was filed by Colorado GOP vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, who although no relation to Dudley Brown has a long work history with the Nevilles as their committee filing agent. We now know that the “official” Sullivan recall committee claims to have raised and spent nothing, meaning all of the donations and spending for this recall filed by the state party vice chair went through RMGO.

It’s clear that there are Republicans in this state who want to change course. But as this Republican just found out the hard way, changing course will require more than scapegoating one organization. There are other moving parts in the mix, including a long-running operation by two-time gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez to “purge” the party of RMGO-backed candidates and embarrassments (here’s looking at you, Lori Saine) we’ve heard may try again for the 2020 primaries. It’s evident that nothing less than wholesale regime change in the Colorado GOP is needed, but we’re not at all convinced Colorado Republicans at any level are able to understand what that means.

The one thing we do feel certain of is it’s going to get uglier before it gets better.

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Sullivan Recall: Kiss That Cash Goodbye



9NEWS’ Kyle Clark put a headstone Monday on the failed attempt by the Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown with support from House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and allies (see below) to recall freshman Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan with a look at the “recall campaign’s” fundraising reports–reports that allegedly show precisely $0 raised or spent on the effort. But as anybody who knows how unaccountable “dark money” flows among nonprofit political organizations can tell you, it would be silly to think that’s the whole story:

KYLE CLARK: The failed attempt to recall Democratic State Rep. Tom Sullivan did not raise one dollar and it did not spend a dollar. We learned that from some financial filings. Now that sounds funny unless you heard us saying weeks ago that this recall was really about a gun rights group called Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The head of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners says, they funded the entire recall and guess what? They don’t have to disclose their donors.

So we are left to take that special interest group at its word that this was not just a fundraiser designed as a recall that was never going to succeed. We are left to take them at their word that they took in $30,000 and spent more than that $45,000 on a failed signature-gathering effort.

If those happen to be your dollars, and your trust, my condolences.

Because recall elections are–controversially–not considered candidate elections but rather “issue questions” under campaign finance law, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is not technically required to spend disclosable funds in support of a recall of a state legislator. This works the other way, of course, though the instigator of a recall by definition bears the full moral responsibility for all such spending. But just as we’ve observed with the mission-impossible recall attempt against Gov. Jared Polis, raising money quickly becomes the principal objective–and if the goal is simply to amass cash, a recall that doesn’t go forward is a much more lucrative endeavor.

As the old saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. But in the era of “ScamPACs” and saturation-level solicitation for donations to all manner of fly-by-night political committees and campaigns, it’s extremely important that donors be aware of not just who they’re giving to, but what the specific plan is for spending their money–including obvious contingencies like the campaign unceremoniously folding up because it was the worst Republican decision since Darryl Glenn.

In every sense of the word, we hope all money donated to RMGO to recall Tom Sullivan was “disposable.” The only thing these donors can say about their money now…is that they don’t have it anymore.

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AG: Dismiss Cheeseball Gun Nut Lawsuit


House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Colorado Public Radio reported Friday and we wanted to be sure it got a mention:

Gov. Jared Polis is asking the Denver District Court to dismiss a Republican lawsuit over the passage of a so-called “red flag” gun law last legislative session. The Colorado Attorney General’s office filed a motion Thursday.

Polis signed the measure into law April 12. The gun rights group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and three Republican lawmakers sued Polis a few weeks later, arguing that Democrats who control the House did not fulfill a Republican request to read the bill out loud in a full and intelligible way.

The Attorney General’s office says those lawmakers should have raised concerns closer to when the original bill reading requests were made in March.

“But rather than complain then to the legislature, they kept quiet until the session ended, not allowing the legislature an opportunity to cure the alleged defect, and now ask this Court to intervene in a hotly contested political issue.”

It’s important to understand the nature of the legal challenge filed by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, Rep. “Pistol Packin'” Lori Saine, and Rep. Dave Williams, which is not a challenge to the actual extreme risk protection order (ERPO) itself but rather the legislative procedure in passing the bill. Readers of course remember the battle over reading bills at length in this year’s legislative session, which Republicans temporarily won (the case is still pending) when a judge ordered Democrats to have them read intelligibly. This suit seeks to invalidate a bill passed by both chambers and signed into law by the governor, on the basis that at some point along the way a superfluous request that the bill be read at length wasn’t honored.

Attorney General Phil Weiser’s response is that Republicans essentially sandbagged this complaint about the bill not being read at length so as to provide a pretext to challenge the bill after the end of the legislative session. That puts the court in a position of having to settle a wholly political question, which courts prefer not to do.

But most importantly, this is not a challenge to the law on its merits. For all the hue and cry about the ERPO law’s alleged unconstitutionality, similar “red flag” laws already exist in a dozen other states, and the law functions similarly to laws that already require persons subject to restraining orders to temporarily surrender their firearms. The reason Colorado House Republicans and their allies at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) chose this process angle against the law as the basis of their lawsuit is simple: they know a direct challenge to the law’s constitutionality will fail.

Once you understand that, this whole undertaking looks very different.

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Grady Nouis Announces Another Statehouse Run

(Just what Colorado Republicans need! — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

HD29 candidate Grady Nouis with Pepe Flag, 7.4.17

Former statehouse candidate Grady Nouis, announced last week that he’s running for office again in 2020. Nouis, whom the Denver Post described as having been “in the orbit of groups and events associated with far-right views,” lost his 2018 race to Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada).

Nouis has recently moved north to Milliken in Weld County and now hopes to claim House District 48, currently represented by the term-limited Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Ault).

Grady Nouis’ campaign launch announcement on Facebook, June 19, 2019

Nouis’ 2018 campaign was notable for his attendance and support of several far-right rallies organized by hate and extremist groups, as well as news coverage of his own criminal history.

At a rally in June of 2017, Nouis repeatedly shouted the N-word at an African-American couple. Reporting on the same video in which he shouted the N-word, the Post noted that “later in the video, Nouis can be heard saying of a confrontation between an African-American counter-protester and an African-American police officer that there’s “nothing better than a little black-on-black crime.”

(more…)

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Blockhead Republicans Prepare Another Idiotic Recall Attempt


Brittany Pettersen

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood)

The big story in Colorado politics this week was the implosion of an asinine recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). The Sullivan recall attempt fizzled amid an onslaught of terrible press, bickering over money, and a general sense from everyone with half a brain that this was a stupid idea altogether.

Naturally, this week in politics is coming to a close with ANOTHER absolutely idiotic recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker who was easily elected to office last November. This time, Republicans aren’t trying to recall a man who lost his son in a mass shooting over his support of gun safety legislation, but they found the next-worst look for a recall effort. As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Republican Nancy Pallozzi says she will mount a recall attempt against state Sen. Brittany Petterson of Lakewood in Senate District 22.

Petterson defeated Pallozzi in a 2016 race for a state House seat by 19 percentage points. [Pols emphasis]

On a closed Facebook page Pallozzi set up for the recall effort, she announced Thursday that “[e]verything is moving along and we are hoping to have the petitions in hand by July 16th, if not sooner. We are finalizing the wording to submit to the secretary of state’s office in July.”

According to the page, the Pettersen recall effort is intended to coordinate with a recall attempt against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

You read that correctly, dear readers: The Republican candidate who lost to Pettersen in a State House race by nearly 20 points in 2016 wants to recall her then-opponent, nevermind that Pettersen was swept into a State Senate seat two years later by a 16-point margin.

Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi believes that Pettersen should be recalled because of…well, there’s probably some sort of reason in there somewhere, but Goodland’s story doesn’t mention anything specific.

WHO DO WE WANT TO RECALL? Brittany Pettersen!

WHY DO WE WANT TO RECALL HER? We don’t know!

Please clap, or something.

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Who’s Who Of GOP Losers Oppose Statewide “De-Brucing”


Walker Stapleton is back.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reportsProposition CC, this fall’s referred measure to allow the state to retain revenues in excess of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ (TABOR) prescribed growth limits, has an opposition committee stocked with big-name Republicans past and present:

The group [Former Gov. Bill] Owens joined as an advisory board member is called the No on CC campaign, and its list of co-chairs includes former State Treasurers Walker Stapleton and Mark Hillman and 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler. Their goal is to convince voters that this request is different from the temporary TABOR refund timeout passed in 2005 because it’s permanent and because Colorado isn’t facing steep budget cuts from a recession.

Proposition CC asks voters to unwind part of a constitutional amendment called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The amendment changed how Colorado governments work in two important ways: It gave people the right to vote on all proposed tax increases, and it mandated that any money governments collected above a certain amount be refunded.

Although the requirement in TABOR that tax increase measures be subjected to a vote is of course the marquee feature of the 1992 law, held up as a model for the past 25 years despite no other state adopting a similar measure. That requirement sounded good enough to help pass TABOR by 53% in 1992, a margin that would not have allowed the measure to pass under current Colorado law.

George Brauchler.

But the lesser known restriction of revenue growth under TABOR has proven even more onerous, counterintuitively forcing the state to make painful choices even when times are good in order to stay under the measure’s artificial 6% cap–and refunding the money that goes over in pittance-sized refunds to taxpayers. Proposition CC would eliminate this cap, one of the less-understood but more pernicious effects of the law. Known as “de-Brucing,” it’s a step that most local governments in the state have already taken–as the Denver Post reported earlier this year:

Most local governments in Colorado no longer adhere to the TABOR spending limit.

All but four of Colorado’s 178 school districts have already “de-Bruced,” the nickname for permanently lifting the limit on the amount of tax dollars a government can keep. Eighty-five percent of Colorado’s municipalities and 51 of 64 counties have also convinced their voters to let them opt out.

“Nobody here is hopping mad at their local school district for doing this,” Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, said.

The fact that this measure is not asking for in increase in tax rates, but to eliminate a restriction on the back end of revenue growth that many voters would be surprised to learn even exists, make opposition to it more difficult. Most voters don’t even remember the last TABOR refunds of several years ago, which took the form of credits on income tax returns instead of a separate check and ranged from $13 to $41.

So how do you explain the opposition to Proposition CC by a crew of Republican usual suspects? That’s easy–TABOR is an article of faith to activist Colorado Republican base voters, to whom the measure’s net effect of throttling government revenue regardless of need is an ideological end unto itself. 2018 gubernatorial loser Walker Stapleton, attorney general loser George Brauchler, and long-irrelevant figures like Mark Hillman are all part of a generation of Colorado Republicans who rose to prominence in this political climate and will never turn against any aspect of TABOR publicly. As for ex-Gov. Bill Owens, who did turn against TABOR’s revenue caps in 2005? He’s spent every day since then trying to live Referendum C down–and opposing Proposition CC is just another chance to salvage his own dented conservative image.

Given the well-documented long-term fiscal challenges faced by the state of Colorado, there’s a strong argument that Proposition CC doesn’t do enough to alleviate TABOR’s chokehold on today’s priorities. But any way you slice it, the opposition to this measure is made up of the losing side of the past decade in Colorado politics.

Relics defending another relic.

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Following Corporate Donors’ Surprise At Funding Recalls, Patrick Neville Forms Separate Committee

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Following the Colorado Times Recorder’s reporting that corporate donors Xcel and Noble Energy were surprised to learn that money they donated to Colorado House Republicans was possibly being spent on recalls, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s Recall Colorado entity has formed a new independent group, presumably to collect and spend money on recall campaigns.

On May 30 the Colorado Secretary of State approved paperwork filed by Patrick’s brother, Joe Neville, to create “Recall Colorado,” a 527 political committee. Despite its name, the stated purpose makes no mention of recalls, nor of elected officials currently in office. Rather, it says it will “educate and inform Colorado voters regarding candidates for the Colorado legislature, primarily supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats.”

The Recall Colorado website and brand was created and funded by another 527 committee, Values First Colorado (VFC), which serves as the House GOP caucus fund.

As previous reporting by the Colorado Times Recorder has indicated, at least two prominent corporate donors have publicly stated that they did not expect money from their 2018 election cycle donations to be spent on recalls. As of election day last year, Values First Colorado and other Neville-controlled independent expenditure committees still had approximately $300,000 — or about one-fourth of its total amount raised during the election cycle — still in the bank.

VFC has since published the “Recall Colorado” website, paid for legal support for the recalls, and solicited donations under the Recall Colorado brand, listing Patrick Neville as “Director.”

Until its collapse earlier this week, VFC was supporting the campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). Republican Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown, who initially filed the recall petition, announced Tuesday that she shutting down the recall and “refocusing” her efforts on Senate Democrats who aren’t up for reelection next year. Brown has worked closely with VFC: she served as the group’s registered agent for the 2018 cycle.

(more…)

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Root Cause of Recall Disaster Is Establishment Republican Calcification, Says GOP Activist

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial).

Former GOP congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos defended Colo House GOP leader Patrick Neville, pro-gun activist Dudley Brown, and others today against accusations that they botched a recall campaign against Democratic lawmaker Tom Sullivan of Centennial.

“Anybody who’s trying to finger [Patrick Neville, Joe Neville, or Dudley Brown] for the blame is either misguided or is straight lying for their own benefit,” said Athanasopoulos on KNUS’ Chuck and Julie Show this afternoon.

“The story I heard is that [Brown] contracted [a firm to gather] signatures,” said Athanasopoulos. “There was a contract. There were benchmarks. There were stipulations. There were agreed-upon prices, and [the signature-gathering firm] absolutely failed to deliver. Instead of throwing good money after bad, they did the responsible thing, which was [to] say, ‘Hey, we’re going to pull the plug.'”

“This illustrates the fact that we have a political class, consultants here in Colorado, who are inept, who lie, who cannot meet contractual obligations. It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about on the air for years,” said Athanasopoulos “It’s a never ending clown show of pigheaded buffoonery, to use a colorful term.”

So why aren’t there better GOP consultants in town? Athanasopoulos traces the problem to moneyed Republicans hiring their consultant friends for short-term gigs instead of developing local firms who are both competent and trusted.

“Instead of hiring fly-by-night firms, who hire anybody with a pulse, who may or may not be Republican — in fact, are probably not — we need to stand up something organic,” said Athanasopoulos on air. “There are lots of young Republicans in the state of Colorado, lots of them, who would love to have a part time job supporting the Republican cause.”

Co-host Julie Hayden, a former Fox 31 Denver reporter, says the established consulting firms squash the newcomers.

“If you come in here and try to open up another consulting agency, they will destroy you,” said Hayden. “And they make it impossible. So we have this group, as you said, of incompetent clown shows that won’t let go of the reins and won’t let the voters do what they want.

“George, I think you’ve hit it on the head, and it’s why we keep harping on this, about the establishment people, the donors and the consultant class who control Colorado politics in this state, and they’re just doing a horrible job!” said Hayden on air. “They can’t get anybody elected.”

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BREAKING: Sullivan Recall Implodes


UPDATE #5: The Denver Post’s Anna Staver:

“This gives Rep. Sullivan and the Democrats a victory,” said Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado GOP chairman. “Clearly, it was unwise to start this fight.”

Wadhams said he thinks recalls have a place in Colorado’s political process, but they need to be “well thought out.” And he isn’t convinced it’s a good idea for state party leaders to wade into the process before one gets on the ballot — even acting as a resident, as Kristi Brown said she was — because it makes any failed attempt look like it’s a failure of the GOP.

“The Colorado Republican Party was all over this aborted recall attempt,” Wadhams said. [Pols emphasis]

—–

UPDATE #4: Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

“If there was any chance of this recall succeeding they wouldn’t be running away from it, and their statement shows that they learned nothing from this failed attempt,” said a statement from Our Colorado Way of Life, the issue committee fighting the effort. “We hope that they will cease this endless election cycle and let voters decide Colorado’s future during normal elections, but we are ready to beat them again if they launch additional recalls.”

One GOP operative called the decision to pull the plug a devastating blow to Republicans that could hurt efforts to get money behind other potential recall efforts. [Pols emphasis] He said there were internal disagreements on messaging and strategy.

—–

UPDATE #3: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown has posted a statement to RMGO’s official Facebook page that is fairly defensive about how donated funds are/were being spent:

“I take the responsibility of spending RMGO donors’ money quite seriously,” said Dudley Brown, RMGO’s Executive Director. “At this point, the best use of our resources is to refocus on other efforts.” [Pols emphasis]

“It’s clear from our work on the ground in HD-37 that Sullivan is out of step with his constituents and Colorado at-large,” continued Brown.

The statement goes on to include this nonsensical assertion: “Our work on the ground in HD-37 has made it clear that voters are ready for a change.”

Obviously, it is completely illogical to claim that “voters are ready for a change” in an announcement about ending a recall attempt in HD-37, but nothing in this recall attempt ever made sense anyway.

—–

UPDATE #2: Here’s a video clip from Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck’s election as party chairman that hasn’t aged well:

Note enthusiastic applause from Sen. Cory Gardner too! We look forward to the follow-up questions.

—–

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger asks the next logical question:

To which the answer appears to be “no.” Ka-ching!

—–

Rep. Tom Sullivan (D).

Word breaking from numerous sources that Colorado Republican vice chair Party Kristi Burton Brown is ending the hotly controversial attempt to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial:

The Democrats were so scared by this recall that they pulled out every stop to defend Sullivan: from Attorney General Weiser to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Democrat Socialists screamed their “outrage” and exposed their true colors. Nearly $100,000 of out-of-state money was spent almost immediately to defend the Democrats’ radical agenda.

We have been able to confirm everything we already knew: Tom Sullivan’s days as a State Representative are almost over. While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, [Pols emphasis] Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is. The best strategies are unified strategies and, in order to accomplish the most good in the shortest time, we have decided to pull essential resources from this recall and free up volunteers to help finish the National Popular Vote petition effort and to focus on recalling Democrat Senators who are not up for re-election in 2020.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of a Denver Post story this morning in which Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’ Dudley Brown expressed doubts that the signature drive would be successful:

“We’re not confident,” Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Dudley Brown said Monday when The Post asked whether the recall will get onto the ballot. “It’s been tough work.” [Pols emphasis]

The audaciousness of the recall campaign against Rep. Sullivan, who was elected on a platform of gun safety legislation after his son Alex was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, has dominated headlines and effectively stymied the GOP’s declared strategy for initiating recalls in numerous legislative districts–and in doing so severely weakened the momentum Republicans arguably possessed toward the end of the 2019 legislative session.

The division this recall attempt has caused within the Republican Party is not going away either, particularly given the role of GOP leadership figures like Kristi Burton Brown and Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Republicans disgusted by the overreach of attempting to recall Rep. Sullivan over other more vulnerable Democrats–and there are a considerable number of such Republicans today–must also reckon with the fact that this “faction” is in effective control of the Colorado Republican Party. Are Colorado House Republicans really prepared to go into the 2020 election cycle with the Nevilles at the helm after they waded into this misguided recall? Right after losing 2018 in an historic landslide?

We’ll be updating this post throughout the day with coverage and reactions. It’s anybody’s guess what happens next. The magnitude of this defeat for the whole Republican Party in Colorado, no matter which side of this particular recall individuals came down on, will take some time to become fully evident. At the very least, this is a cold bucket of water for anyone with “recall fever.”

It’s a very big deal though. The game, once again, has completely changed.

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Chalk Up One For Pete Kolbenschlag


Pete Kolbenschlag.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports:

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill slapping back at so-called SLAPP suits, like one a Paonia activist says was filed against him by an energy company…

Delta County District Court Judge Steven Schultz has ruled twice in favor of Paonia resident Pete Kolbenschlag in a libel case brought by SG Interests. The company sued over comments Kolbenschlag posted on a newspaper website about SG’s settlement with the federal government over alleged illegal bidding on oil and gas leases. In his second ruling, awarding attorney fees to Kolbenschlag, Schultz specifically found that the suit was frivolous and filed to retaliate against an industry critic, something SG Interests has denied. [Pols emphasis]

However, Kolbenschlag told the House Judiciary Committee in April that the suit remains a hardship for him in terms of finances, stress and time demands because it’s under appeal.

House Bill 19-1324 gives defendants in civil cases an expedited process to request a dismissal based on free exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and participation in public debate. Pete Kolbenschlag, a longtime contributor to this blog from Paonia, was sued by energy company SG Interests over a comment he made on a web story at a local newspaper. Kolbenschlag’s comment about SG paying over $1 million in an antitrust settlement related to bid rigging was correct, but the company sued Kolbenschlag for libel because their settlement allowed them to avoid formally admitting guilt.

This disproportionate legal response to a perfectly defensible comment on a news story is a textbook example of what’s known as a SLAPP–a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” SG Interests didn’t sue Kolbenschlag expecting to win, but their vastly greater financial resources with which to wage legal warfare on a private citizen could well have the effect of said citizen deciding further participation in debate over the issue just isn’t worth it. And the story of that person’s legal harassment serves as a deterrent to others who might follow their example.

This isn’t about getting rid of libel laws. But when a frivolous allegation of libel is being used to suppress free speech and that can be straightforwardly seen from the facts at hand, there needs to be a way to shut that suppression down. Otherwise constitutional rights become subordinate to wealth, which is a very bad thing.

Thanks to Pete Kolbenschlag, the little guy (in most cases that’s you) now has a tool to short-circuit a SLAPP.

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Felony Deja Vu: Shady Usual Suspects Working Sullivan Recall


Craigslist ad for Sullivan recall petition circulators, taken 5/31/19.

Over the weekend, a number of important details about the for-profit players being brought in to work on the hotly controversial recall campaign against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan came to light, with a bevy of names longtime readers will remember both directly and indirectly confirmed to be involved.

And for those of you concerned with integrity in our state’s politics, it’s not good news.

Recent petition campaigns in Colorado, in particular petitions for candidates seeking access to the ballot outside their respective parties’ traditional assembly route and in 2013 petitions to force recall elections against Democrats state lawmakers, have been beset with widespread allegations of forgery, fraudulent misrepresentation of petition questions, and the hiring of out-of-state temporary employees with criminal backgrounds to collect signatures leading to all of the aforementioned problems.

In 2008, petition gathering firm Kennedy Enterprises was busted by a 9NEWS investigation after hiring “signature gatherers convicted of sexual assault on a child, theft, harassment, trespassing and drug possession.” In 2013, Kennedy Enterprises petition gatherers hired by Republicans for that year’s recalls signed up dead people, instructed signers to lie about their residence, and were caught on camera admitting to being a band of roving canvassers who “travel around the country, go from city to city, state to state, [and] put issues and candidates on the ballot for basically anybody who has money.”

In 2018, Kennedy Enterprises came under fire once again after fraudulent petitions for Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign were uncovered by a competitor in the Republican primary–and despite then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams failed attempt to cover up the Stapleton campaign’s petition fraud, Stapleton was compelled to rescind his own ballot petitions and seek the ballot through the state assembly.

Suffice to say, petition gathering in Colorado politics has a long and shady history–and that’s before we even get to Jon Keyser! Fast forward to this weekend–the ad you see above for signature gatherers to work in Centennial where Rep. Sullivan’s district is located is from a company called Northwest Petition Management. The registered agent for Northwest Petition Management is Chloe Taylor, daughter of Tracy Taylor–the same operative caught on camera in 2013 spilling the beans about Kennedy Enterprises’ business model. This is all very consistent with our understanding of the network of companies and subcontractors in Dan Kennedy’s orbit–often existing for the purpose of concealing the the better-known individual players involved.

The involvement of these highly dubious operatives in the petition campaign against Rep. Sullivan confirms a few important facts: first, that there is ample funding available to pay the premium per-signature fee charged by these gatherers. But more importantly, a network of unscrupulous operators with an undeniable history of fraud and criminal hires going back years and including last year’s gubernatorial race has been hired once again to go door-to-door in Colorado neighborhoods. The potential problems with this range from simple petition fraud and identity theft to…well, much worse. With all of this in mind, there are both moral, with respect to Rep. Sullivan and the agenda he ran on, and entirely selfish grounds for declining to go near their petition gatherers.

It’s not by accident, folks. At this point no one involved can claim ignorance. If you make the decision to hire these people knowing what everyone knows today, their shady methods are a feature not a bug.

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Matt Arnold Beats Bob Beauprez–Again


“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

A press release from perennial conservative gadfly Matt Arnold announces his latest David-and-Goliath victory over former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s political machine–a battle that has its roots in the 2016 elections and an attempt by Beauprez to “purge” the GOP caucus in the state legislature of undesired Republicans:

Notching yet another appellate victory, Campaign Integrity Watchdog prevailed against the desperate attempt of “Both-Ways Bob” Beauprez” to appeal his ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) committee’s conviction for multiple violations of state law issued over two years ago.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruling (case 2017CA883) was issued Thursday 30 May 2019 and not only affirms the trial court finding that ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) was guilty of failing to register as a political committee and disclose donors, but also affirmed the monetary penalty imposed on CPA while reversing the imposition of attorney fees on CIW’s officer Matt Arnold.

‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) will thus be required not only to finally (after over three years of operating in violation of law) to register as a political committee, disclose its contributors, and pay penalties imposed in the trial court ruling, but also will be required to pay CIW’s court costs incurred as a result of CPA’s meritless appeal.

“The wheels of justice grind slowly,” stated Campaign Integrity Watchdog officer Matt Arnold, “but they do grind – and have ground CPA’s groundless appeal to dust.” Arnold continued, “Campaign Integrity Watchdog calls on Beauprez and Colorado Pioneer Action to quickly and fully comply with the orders of the trial and appellate courts, including registering the entity with the Secretary of State, filing required disclosures, and paying penalties imposed by law. CPA has defied the law long enough; time to man up and pay the piper.”

To briefly recap the history here, Bob Beauprez’s political organization started up a group called Pioneer Action to run ads in the 2016 election cycle. This group proceeded to launch attacks in Republican primaries on both GOP incumbents and candidates aligned with Dudley Brown and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, including “pistol-packing” Rep. Lori Saine among a number of others. This “red on red” campaign outraged the targeted candidates and their hard-right backers, and drove a wedge within the Colorado Republican Party still playing out today in the recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan.

The problem for Pioneer Action is that they did not meet the so-called “primary purpose” test required of politically active nonprofits who aren’t required to disclose their donors. Indeed the group was apparently solely focused on electioneering communications–and it doesn’t matter that these were intra-GOP attacks. Matt Arnold sued and won contending that Pioneer Action should be required to disclose their spending like any other solely election-focused organization. This appellate decision cements that victory and ensures Arnold’s attorney fees will be paid by Pioneer Action.

It’s worth noting that Beauprez’s attempt to “purge” the GOP of undesired candidates was not in the end successful, and today the state house leadership as well as leadership of the Colorado Republican Party is dominated by RMGO’s allies. Arnold himself is now the registered agent for Values First Colorado, the House GOP’s “independent” communications arm directly involved with the Sullivan recall.

Once considered a pest to both sides of the aisle, Matt Arnold’s continuing victories over the vastly better funded Beauprez political operation and his current leadership role in the ascendant Neville faction show how the power has shifted within the Colorado GOP. It’s not our role today to judge the morality or long-term implications of this shift–but there is no longer any denying it.

Its Matt Arnold’s party now.

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Susan Beckman Shakes Her Fist at “Fatalist” 3rd Graders


Rep. Susan Beckman (R-Littleton)

One of the more notable Democratic accomplishments of the 2019 legislative session came in the form of several bills packaged together to help Colorado combat Climate Change and reduce our carbon footprint. Earlier this month, the editorial board of the Denver Post added themselves to the list of those who appreciated the legislature’s work on Climate Change:

Democrats achieved much in 2019 with their complete control of the Colorado state governance, but of all the policies that Gov. Jared Polis has or likely will sign into law, none is as important as the work lawmakers did to reduce Colorado’s carbon footprint.

There’s a good chance toxic D.C. politics will prevent the federal government from ever responding to the threat of climate change. States and local governments must step up and do what they can, and individuals, for that matter, must start chipping in too.

That’s why we applaud the relatively moderate “climate change” legislative agenda passed by Speaker of the House K.C. Becker, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, Senate President Leroy Garcia, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg.

Democrats were able to pass important climate legislation despite opposition from right wing Republican hardliners like science-doubting Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Firestone) and Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), who somehow believes that humans have actually improved Earth’s climate. On some of these bills, including HB-1261, the legislation passed with no Republican votes whatsoever…

…Which brings us to Rep. Susan Beckman (R-Littleton). In an illuminating Facebook post published on Friday, Beckman lamented the fact that third graders in her district had encouraged her to support HB-1261. Beckman says she is “very concerned” about the “fatalist view” being taken in these letters from third graders:

Facebook post from Rep. Susan Beckman (R-Littleton)

Here’s a closer look at the two samples provided by Beckman:

“The first reason the bill should pass is because air pollution hurts people’s hearts, lungs and more. If air pollution is doing this then we can get really sick or maybe even die. If people die, then babies can’t be born, and if no more babies are born, then there will not be any more people on Earth.”

—–

“Another reason the bill should pass is because greenhouse gasses are connected to climate change. This is crucial because climate change causes icebergs to melt. If icebergs melt it causes floods. When there are floods people have to move to another place. If people are too slow and cannot get away, they would drown.”

KIDS: We would like to be able to breathe the air and not die in a flood.

REP. BECKMAN: Stop being so negative!

While we’re on the topic of fatalism, we should note that this is the very same Susan Beckman who lost her bid to become the Chair of the Colorado Republican Party and then complained of “flagrant abuse” of election rules after Ken Buck was declared Party Chair. Such a Negative Nancy!

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Clan Neville Goes Low In Sullivan Recall Ad


Here’s a Facebook ad that started running last Friday from Values First Colorado, the House GOP “independent” message group operated by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting group Rearden Strategic:

Let’s briefly go over the problems with this ad beyond the distasteful fake mug shot–the allegation that Rep. Tom Sullivan supports “spending tax dollars on heroin” stems from a silly-season amendment proposed to the budget by Rep. Dave Williams as a “gotcha” political gimmick. Although various policies to address the opioid crisis were debated this year, nothing even remotely close to “supporting heroin” was ever even introduced let alone voted on.

In other words, it’s complete bullshit.

But the far more significant development this ad represents is direct spending by the Neville political operation on the Sullivan recall. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners headed by longtime single-issue gadfly Dudley Brown has received the majority of the press since the launch of the Sullivan recall two weeks ago, this ad is paid for by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s in-house organization. This isn’t an unexpected development, given that Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown who filed the Sullivan recall is also the registered agent for a number of Neville-linked committees.

But this just reinforces a fact that needs restating as many times as necessary until it’s driven home: the Sullivan recall is not just about Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The Sullivan recall campaign is sanctioned by and operated from the highest levels of the Colorado Republican Party. Kristi Burton Brown’s absurd attempt to distance her actions from her position as vice chair of the Colorado GOP is undermined even further by the GOP House Minority Leader’s political machine directly engaging in the recall against Sullivan.

No more scapegoating Dudley Brown, Republicans with a conscience. You have to own this.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 24)


Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was named first team All-NBA on Thursday — only the second player in Nuggets history to accomplish such a feat. It’s time “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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► As the country prepares to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, President Trump is sending more military forces to the Middle East so that he can show Iran that he has the bigger…um, pen. From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration, facing rising tensions with Iran, plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East by sending another few thousand forces to the region to step up missile defense and surveillance, according to U.S. officials.

The decision to send the additional forces to U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East, was made late Thursday during a meeting at the White House between President Trump and top Pentagon leaders, the officials said.

Ahead of the meeting, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said the purpose of any additional troops would be to ensure the protection of U.S. forces and avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation that could lead to a broader conflict.

“Our job is deterrence. This is not about war,” Shanahan said

President Trump may also commemorate Memorial Day by issuing pardons for several Americans accused of war crimes. Why would he do this? Because Fox News wants it to happen.

 

An effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) by Colorado Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) has become a complete messaging disaster for the GOP.

 

► “Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week…”

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to dodge reporters seeking answers from him about his position on abortion after Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion measure in the country earlier this month.

 

 Colorado is the first state in the country to cap rising prices of insulin. Governor Jared Polis signed legislation on Wednesday that limits the co-pay for the life saving medicine to $100 per month.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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The Real Overreach: Sullivan Breaks GOP Recall Strategy


Rep. Tom Sullivan (D).

As Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports–as word spreads nationally about the attempt by Colorado Republicans to recall freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, everybody and their mother is lining up not just to defend Sullivan, but plant the flag on this pivotal issue with Sullivan as the standard-bearer:

National Democrats are getting involved in the effort to help Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan survive a recall challenge that threatens to remove him from office…

“When the gun industry attacks one of our own, it’s important for us to respond in kind and demonstrate that our movement to save lives is just as powerful as they are,” wrote Democratic U.S Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut in a fundraising email he sent on Sullivan’s behalf. Murphy asked people to split a $35 donation between Sullivan’s recall effort and his own work to change gun laws.

“The gun lobby is trying to force a recall election to try to defeat Tom and the other Democrats who sponsored the bill. If our side wins, it’s a devastating blow to an already reeling gun lobby. And so Tom needs our help right now to defeat this recall effort.”

Birkeland reports that prominent Democrats from across the country have been in touch with Rep. Sullivan since the announcement of the recall effort against him. Sen. Chris Murphy in particular has been a leading proponent on the issue since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred a few months after the Aurora theater shooting. We expect the involvement of these national players will escalate as the mid-July petition deadline approaches.

This is happening for an important reason. The recall campaign against Sullivan has received far more and far wider press coverage because of who Sullivan is. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their allies in GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s political machine promised lots of recalls, it’s been nearly two weeks since the launch of the Sullivan recall by state party vice chair Kristi Burton Brown with no new petitions approved to circulate as of this writing. Even if more recall petition announcements are made today or after the long holiday weekend, Tom Sullivan has been firmly planted in the public consciousness now as the principal target.

And that, gentle readers, is a messaging disaster for the GOP.

By singling out the lawmaker with the most powerful story to tell in defense of his vote for 2019’s popular gun safety law, the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, Republicans have chosen the battlefield–and it’s by far their riskiest choice politically, and has the greatest chance of backfiring with lasting consequences for Republicans both in and outside of HD-37. If Republicans were to successfully recall Rep. Sullivan over a law enjoying 80% public support, the moral outrage against them would further stigmatize the party ahead of the next general election with no real effect on the Democratic majority.

On the other hand, if Democrats successfully defend Sullivan, Republicans look no less like soulless villains going into 2020 and the seat is lost for the rest Sullivan’s term. We’ll confess to some surprise that Republicans chose Tom Sullivan as the centerpiece of a strategy they have staked so much on. It’s even more surprising that they’ve let two weeks go by with no attempt to get control of the message while the Sullivan recall became national news.

It’s how a bad idea gets worse. And there’s no end in sight yet.

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