Liars vs. Nerds: So Much For Proposition CC

Sandra Fish at the Colorado Sun reports:

The only-in-the-nation fiscal handcuffs on Colorado’s budget will remain in place after voters Tuesday rejected a move by Democrats to repeal the spending limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Preliminary election returns showed Proposition CC losing by a solid margin, trailing 56% to 44% with an estimated three-quarters of the vote counted.

If the numbers hold, it would amount to a resounding victory for fiscal conservatives and national organizations that spent big money to keep TABOR intact and push back against Gov. Jared Polis and the Democratic agenda.

There’s little question that the double-digit defeat of Proposition CC was a victory for Republicans, but we’ll stop short of calling it a “resounding” victory because the math doesn’t support the superlative. Compared to previous off-year revenue questions, 2013’s Amendment 66 and 2011’s Proposition 103, Proposition CC actually did quite a bit better–Amendment 66 only garnered 35.54%, and Prop 103 36.3%. Everything short of a win is of course a loss, and we’re not trying to sugar coat this undeniable defeat, but comparing the outcome of Proposition CC to these previous measures shouldn’t leave proponents entirely hopeless.

It is clear, however, that TABOR reform proponents need to recalibrate their game for future elections–and be ready for misinformation that might seem outlandish at first but in the end was persuasive with low-information voters. Prop CC’s opponents deliberately sought to mislead voters about what kinds of “tax refunds” would be affected by the measure. Numerous ads against Proposition CC warned that voters would “sign away their tax refunds” with no distinction between TABOR rebates, which are infrequent and based on the total state revenue exceeding TABOR’s revenue growth cap, and the vastly more common income tax overpayment refunds that most voters are familiar with.

On the other side, the thinktank-driven campaign to pass Proposition CC was overrun by an opposition campaign relying on a single-sentence falsehood to induce “no” votes. It’s not our purpose here today to beat up Prop CC’s proponents, since in historical context they didn’t do that badly. But the Yes on CC’s reliance on dense technical bullet points to sell the Proposition to voters was ineffective against an easy-to-comprehend false argument from opponents. It may also be found in the post-mortem that leading off the ballot language with the words “without raising taxes” was a strategic mistake as well, even though it’s a perfectly defensible statement since tax rates under the measure would not have increased. In the back-and-forth of accusations between the sides, though, opponents were able to successfully cast this as deceptive and rebut the charge that they themselves were misleading voters far more egregiously.

In the 2018 elections, a tax increase measure for roads, Proposition 110, failed with only 40% of the vote–in the same election that Colorado Democrats triumphed at every level with the biggest electoral gains since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The one thing we can say confidently today is that Republican candidates have an established record of being totally unable to capitalize on TABOR ballot measure wins. Understanding this sometimes-confusing dynamic in Colorado politics takes more than any one election, but yesterday’s outcome didn’t change it.

Colorado voters want what Democrats have to offer. They just don’t want to pay for it.

And that is where the next debate over TABOR will begin.

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Colorado GOP Runs From Recalls They Once Hyped

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

A week after the spectacular failure of the last of the recall campaigns from Colorado Republicans, launched against several individual Democratic legislators and Gov. Jared Polis over the summer, the Denver Post’s Alex Burness circled back with Republican leaders for a post-mortem look at what went wrong–Republicans who were willing to return his calls, that is, because evidently many were not.

It’s not easy to capture to full magnitude of the failure for Colorado Republicans without resorting to language that seems hyperbolic, but objectively is not an exaggeration of any kind. After the 2018 elections resulted in an historic bloodbath for the Colorado GOP–destroying their gubernatorial candidate, wiping out the GOP’s hold on the attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer’s office ,and losing their only remaining legislative majority–Republicans in this state faced a hard choice: to learn the lessons dwindling moderates in their midst were begging them to learn and fundamentally change course, or embrace a future where all the elections look like 2018.

As we now know, Colorado Republicans chose the latter.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

This infamous clip of now-state GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck promising to make Democrats “learn how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L,” cheered on by the state’s highest ranking Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, has become a major embarrassment for the party leadership now that the recalls have failed. The recalls did not fail narrowly, but failed calamitously with juicy attendant details like the conservative operative class in the state glomming on to the cash flow and “gifts” of thousands of dollars to individuals after the campaign had already failed. Any way you look at what happened–from building donor confidence to mobilizing the base to credibility with the media–this summer was another unprecedented disaster for Colorado Republicans on par with their electoral defeats last November.

So we can’t claim to be surprised to see, as the Post’s Alex Burness reports today, Colorado Republicans making absurd excuses to deflect responsibility. Defeat, as they say, is an orphan:

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the Colorado GOP chair, told The Denver Post on Friday that the recall failures don’t fall on him in any way. [Pols emphasis]

“I didn’t cast any net,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the grassroots … who went after legislators. I didn’t direct any recall effort.”

When he was elected to lead the state party on the fourth ballot in March, Buck promised to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” Now, though, he claims he did not endorse the concept of mass recalls in Colorado.

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

Buck’s cowardly denial of any responsibility for recalls he ran for the chair of the state party promising to support is an indicator of just how thoroughly weak and disorganized Republicans are as the last days of October 2019 come to a close. Practically from the moment Democrats visited historic destruction on Republicans in last November’s elections, Republicans had threatened retaliation via recalls. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville openly threatened his Democratic colleagues with recalls during this year’s legislative session. Republican operatives criss-crossed the state spreading the gospel of recalls as a way to “reweight the electorate,” and score victories that are now out of reach in general elections.

History will likely record that the attempted recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan, a freshman Democrat whose advocacy for gun safety is rooted in his son’s tragic murder in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting, is the moment where the GOP’s recall strategy went off the rails for good. Ironically, this is the recall attempt that Colorado Republicans are most obliged to take ownership of, since it was initiated by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown personally. Attempts to recast Brown’s action as “personal” after the Sullivan recall was clearly doing more harm than good simply have no credibility.

Cole Wist, a Republican who lost his house seat to Sullivan in 2018 — and who publicly bashed the Sullivan recall effort — said there is an important distinction to be made between staying out of recalls and actively condemning them.

“I didn’t see one elected Republican speak out against it,” he said. “The state party needs to own this failure. [Pols emphasis] They stirred the pot, and when they could see that the strategy wasn’t going to work, they didn’t speak up. They retreated and disappeared while rank-and-file members of the party floundered and were exploited by political consultants.”

When exactly high-ranking Republicans belatedly realized that the recalls were going to fail is irrelevant. The fact is that top Republicans kept up appearances of support for the recalls very late in the game, such as when Sen. Cory Gardner told recall organizers in Pueblo at the end of August that “I’ve never said I was against recalls” about sixty seconds after telling Senate President Leroy Garcia “I’m kind of sorry that this is happening.” For rank-and-file Republicans, any emotional (not to mention financial) investment made in these recalls has been a tremendously demoralizing experience.

And above all, while Democrats have been organizing like it’s an election year to oppose the recalls, the GOP spun its wheels throughout this whole critical off-year when they should have been preparing for the 2020 general election. When all is said and done this could be the most damning of the many indictments against Rep. Ken Buck’s absentee leadership of the party while still trying to serve in Congress, and with the greatest long-term impact. Here we are a year after the 2018 Democratic wave, and Colorado Republicans have totally squandered the backlash they hoped to foment as Democrats carried out the agenda they promised voters. There are many mistakes to point out, but there are no excuses. This was the strategy Republicans chose.

Cory Gardner, Ken Buck, House Minority Leader Pat Neville, the Colorado GOP as an organization.

For Colorado Republicans who really want this nightmare to end, the housecleaning starts there.

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Garcia, Magnanimous In Victory, Accepts Post’s Mea Culpa

Senate President Leroy Garcia (D).

Colorado Public Radio’s Taylor Allen reports from yesterday’s well-deserved “victory lap” press conference by Senate President Leroy Garcia, after the recall campaign against him collapsed in a heap at the end of last week:

Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia on Thursday said he’s looking forward to the new legislative session — especially after surviving a recall effort to oust him…

Garcia was one of the six legislators who was the target of ousters during what he calls “the summer of recalls.”

“[It] spotlighted Colorado in a way that we wanted to be spotlighted in,” Garcia said. “And it’s sad to say that some Republicans took Colorado to a new low.”

“Quasi-newsman” Joey Bunch of the Colorado Springs Gazette does what he can to lessen the blow for the GOP:

“It’s no secret Republicans struggled with the new majority, and quite frankly, I would argue, with the reality,” Garcia said. “Some reverted to political shenanigans, in addition to endless temper tantrums.”

He called the recalls a tactic that was better left to Washington politics. Garcia didn’t say it, but the notable difference is that in Washington, it’s Democrats trying to oust Republican President Donald Trump via impeachment.

It’s difficult to see how impeachment “whataboutism” helps Republicans look any better after the once-balleyhooed “summer of recalls”–especially since a majority of Coloradans support impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump in the most recent poll, and unlike the recalls Trump is increasingly likely to actually be impeached. Beyond that, the moral difference between the failed Colorado recall attempts based on wild misinformation and Trump’s impeachment over serious abuses of foreign policy for political gain are fundamental enough to make the comparison absurd.

On the other hand, the Denver Post took a very different approach to the end of “recall season”–apologizing for their role in hyping what turned out to be a toothless threat from the Garcia recall organizers. Here’s reporter Alex Burness and politics editor Cindi Andrews commendably leveling with Post readers:

Reporters hate being lied to. But it does happen — pretty often, actually — and we are constantly sharing newsworthy statements we have no way to verify. We make sure to attribute these statements to the speakers, so they are not confused for verified facts…

With the previous recall efforts, organizers dropped their efforts when it was evident they wouldn’t have enough signatures — they didn’t go to the trouble of delivering near-empty boxes. We work very hard to avoid being conduits for false information, knowing we can’t always control that.

But we can reflect. And, as the grifters found out, lying to honest reporters doesn’t pay. They’ve permanently damaged their credibility, and their Budweiser-box display in Denver may have done long-term damage to their movement back home. The chair of the Pueblo County GOP told me Wednesday she wishes the organizers had just stayed home. [Pols emphasis]

Looking back not just at the failed Garcia recall but at every one of the attempts launched by Republicans to exact opportunistic revenge for 2018’s devastating losses, it’s clear that the credibility damage from these months of wasted time and money should extend well beyond the two amateur sideshow freaks who delivered the Garcia recall campaign’s four signatures. The Colorado Republican Party’s entire leadership elected this year cheered on and even helped organize the most optically disastrous of the recalls. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville raised money for his family political operation on the pretense of recalling his Democratic colleagues.

Leroy Garcia may be taking the high road, but Republicans still have much to answer for.

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Colo GOP Leaders Hosting Vaccine Summit at Capitol With National Anti-Vaxx Group

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Two Colorado Republican legislative leaders are hosting an all-day “Vaccine & Health Summit” at the state capitol on Monday, Oct. 28. The event features representatives from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), which says it’s “dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and death,” and has been described as “the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America.” NVIC promotes the debunked claim that vaccines cause autism.

Monday’s summit is the third and final “Vaccines & Health Choice” event hosted at the state capitol by Saine and Marble. The last one, on Sept. 20, featured an anti-vaccine doctor from Colorado Springs. He suggested that families could send samples of their children’s blood to schools to prove their “natural immunity” in place of required vaccinations. That event also included NVIC Executive Director Theresa Wrangham of Boulder, who will also participate in Monday’s panel.

NVIC has received criticism for spreading dangerous misinformation about vaccines, including via a billboard in New York City’s Times Square. NVIC has also continued to push a discredited academic research paper that has since been determined to be fraudulent.

(more…)

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Recall Ballin’ Outta Control: Steal His Look!


Since last Friday’s unforgettable moment at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office as two…well, rustic looking gentlemen arrived from Pueblo to turn in a total of four signatures in support of a recall against Senate President Leroy Garcia–just a few signatures short of the required minimum 13,506–there’s been a lot of chatter about what exactly happened down in Pueblo over the last 60 days. Who was in charge of collecting signatures? What happened to all the money they raised? Why did the campaign tell us early last week that they were “on track?”

And above all, why the hell would they put four signatures in two Budweiser boxes?

There’s a good possibility that the answers to all of these questions will get thrown in the dustbin of history along with the rest of the Colorado GOP’s failed recall attempts and the colorful characters who made them impossible not to watch. We mean that of course in the train wreck sense, not entertainment you’d ever put yourself through voluntarily.

With all of this in mind, many readers were especially captivated by Dave DeCenzo, the Garcia recall organizer who as it turns out egregiously misled the Colorado political press corps early last week into reporting that the recall was going well. Marching into the Secretary of State’s office Friday with his two signatures in a Budweiser box, DeCenzo cut a remarkable, not what you’d exactly call dashing pose. And with Halloween fast approaching, some of our readers will find DeCenzo’s look to be the perfect costume! Here’s a Steal This Look guide we were forwarded for dressing like a Colorado recall pro:

You’ll be the life of the party. Take pics.

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No Surprise: Fighting Proposition CC By Lying To You


Here’s a mail piece that arrived over the weekend urging a “no” vote on Proposition CC, the statewide measure to allow the state to retain taxes collected in excess of the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights’ (TABOR) arbitrary limit on revenue growth–a provision that has made it counterintuitively more difficult for the state to provide for basic needs even in economic boom times.

Proposition CC, as we believe most of our readers know, pertains specifically to excess revenue collected over TABOR’s revenue growth limit. We are not talking about the income tax refunds that many Coloradans receive every year, and rely on through tax credits and the annual lump sum for essential income. The last time revenue growth was high enough to trigger TABOR refunds was 2015, and the average “payout” ranged from $13 to $41. This distinction is crucial for voters to understand, since Colorado is the only state with a law like TABOR that mandates such refunds, and most people don’t know enough about TABOR to avoid conflating TABOR refunds with the vastly larger annual income tax refunds of withholding overpayments to the federal and state government.

Unfortunately as you can see, conflating TABOR refunds with income tax refunds is exactly what Proposition CC’s opponents are doing to mislead voters–and this mailer is not an isolated incident. Yes, the mailer does use the words “TABOR tax refunds” on one line, but the very next line says Proposition CC is about “taking away your tax refund money” with no distinction between TABOR refunds and income tax refunds. Again, a large percentage of Colorado voters do not understand how TABOR refunds differ from the income tax refunds they depend on annually–but it’s a foregone conclusion that anyone who is honestly convinced Proposition CC will “take away your tax refund money” will vote against Proposition CC, since that would be an unprecedented seizure of both state and federal tax revenue by a state government.

It would also be illegal, and insane. But that doesn’t matter when you don’t have the facts.

In the end, we believe that this fundamentally misleading argument being successfully planted in the minds of low-information voters could result in large numbers of misguided “no” votes on Proposition CC. Factual or not, it is a very real threat, and it’s clear Proposition CC’s opponents intend to exploit this gap in voter knowledge to win. As we’ve observed countless times in Colorado politics, proving the old adage, “a lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is still getting its pants on.” Recent Colorado elections have been packed full of lies seeking to outrun the fact-checkers, from the racist “China Girl” attacks on Sen. Rachel Zenzinger’s to downright slanderous smears against Gov. Jared Polis on the campaign trail last year.

Those lies failed. But if Prop CC supporters don’t refute this lie just as vigorously, it’s going to hurt them.

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BREAKING: Recall Attempt Against Leroy Garcia Fails…Miserably


UPDATE #4: Here’s the official word from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office:

You are reading this correctly.

—–

UPDATE #3: Via Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, the “Summer of Recalls” ends with even less of a whimper than first reported:

Four signatures. We could not have imagined in our wildest dreams a more pathetic waste of time.

—–

UPDATE #2: Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll’s statement:

“The people of Colorado spoke loud and clear, and sent a message to the sore losers and con artists running these sham recalls — they don’t want their 2018 decisions to be overturned. The voters of these districts chose dedicated public servants — like Puebloan and Marine veteran Leroy Garcia — because they knew these state Senators and Representatives would fight for Colorado values at the State Capitol. The fact Colorado Republican Party chair Ken Buck kicked off his term as chair by promising to ‘teach Democrats how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L’ shows just how out of touch leadership in the Colorado GOP really is.”

“It’s incredibly vindicating that these desperate attempts by the Republicans were rejected so decisively. Now, Colorado can continue to move forward and our Democratic legislators can get back to doing the work of the people without interference from these cynical distractions.”

—–

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s headline captures the magnitude of the failure succinctly:

The 0.009% has spoken!

—–

Photo courtesy Colorado Times Recorder

That’s the word from the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul–the “summer of recalls” is officially over:

Friday was the deadline by which they had to turn in 13,506 valid signatures from voters in the Pueblo Democrat’s Senate District 3.

The campaign says they will turn in some signatures, but that the amount will not be sufficient to force a special recall election.

And this positively wacky update from reporter Marianne Goodland:

We’ll have many more updates as they come in–but keep in mind that in recent days there was at least some expressed hope from Republican usual suspects of a surprise in the recall petition drive against Senate President Leroy Garcia, driven in part by the head start afforded them by the 2013 recall list still in their possession.

Obviously, that didn’t work out, but they were still trying to bullshit their way forward as recently as this morning:

“They say they have no idea how many signatures are in these boxes.” Can they not count past 100?

With this final ignominious end to the last of the once-feared campaign of recall retaliation by Republicans convinced that the 2018 landslide victory for Democrats in Colorado was a fluke, the Republican leadership who backed and, in the case of the disastrous recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan principally organized these failed recalls have now wrecked their own credibility and demoralized the Republican base. Colorado Republicans next have to reckon with a lost year of failure that has left them weakened and disorganized ahead of what is shaping up to be another historic wave year for Democrats.

We wish we could tell Republicans this is the bottom. It probably isn’t.

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AG Weiser: Sheriffs Will Enforce “Red Flag” Or Let People Die


Attorney General Phil Weiser (D).

Colorado Public Radio’s Allison Sherry:

State Attorney General Phil Weiser told gun control advocates Tuesday that despite some sheriffs threatening not to enforce the state’s new “red flag” law, he believes they will rethink that decision when faced with the realities of an armed and potentially dangerous person.

“It won’t be an abstraction,” Weiser said, during a panel of lawmakers hosted by Colorado Ceasefire and Colorado Faith Communities United to End Gun Violence. “It’s ‘my daughter Susie is thinking about taking her life, and she has procured weapons, can we do something my sheriff?’ And at that point, it’s not rhetoric, it’s human life.”

…Some sheriffs have said they will not enforce it and a number of county commissions have passed resolutions to prevent local law enforcement from carrying out ERPOs.

“Almost all those ordinances say the following, ‘we don’t want our sheriff in our county to implement an unconstitutional gun law’ to which I have always said in those counties, ‘I don’t either,’” Weiser said. “And the extreme risk protection law is constitutional and will be upheld.”

It’s a point we’ve made previously about the state’s extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law, even as county sheriffs in many cases hand-picked by the hard-right Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) defiantly promise to never enforce the new law within their jurisdictions. What is going to happen when the first family member of a suicidal person seeks help from their county sheriff under the ERPO law and is rebuffed because the sheriff refuses to enforce the law?

No one would ever wish for a tragedy take place in order to prove a political point, but once there are demonstrable cases of lives being lost due to a sheriff’s refusal to enforce state law, something akin to legal hell is going to break loose. A sheriff who has arbitrarily decided not to enforce this law, with the result of a person who could have been saved dying, must reckon with the legal and moral aftermath of that decision–and it won’t be nearly as easy to bluster on about the Second Amendment to the families of the dead.

This is part of the reason why, even though he staunchly opposed the new “red flag” law in Colorado, El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder condemned the idea that “a Sheriff, a Chief of Police, a Mayor, or ANY elected person [can] decide if a law is ‘constitutional’ or not.”

For his part, AG Weiser yesterday threatened county sheriffs who refuse to enforce a lawful ERPO from a judge with contempt of court proceedings, and vowed to defend judges against sheriff’s appeals. Beyond that, if it can be proven that a sheriff was “willful and wanton” in their refusal to enforce the law, demonstrating a “conscious disregard for the safety of others,” they could face personal liability for the outcome despite the state’s public employee immunity law.

For now, it’s a hypothetical discussion.

Very soon, unfortunately, it will not be hypothetical. And the wild rhetoric against this law will not age well.

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Ben Engen Cashes In On Moribund Garcia Recall


GOP operative Ben Engen.

As readers know, all of the recall attempts initiated by Colorado Republicans in retaliation for last year’s landslide victories for Democrats in this state have fizzled except one: the recall petition due later this month against Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, the immediate successor to ex-Sen. Angela Giron who was successfully recalled in the fall of 2013.

By all accounts, that ain’t happening again in 2019. Everything we’ve heard from Pueblo is that the signature drive against Garcia has flatlined much like the failed campaigns against Sens. Brittany Pettersen and Pete Lee, Gov. Jared Polis, and the particularly ill-fated recall attempt against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan–whose advocacy for gun safety legislation after his son was killed in the Aurora shooting made him an audacious but in the end self-injurious target for Colorado Republicans.

But as we learned with the failed but financially lucrative Recall Polis drive, success isn’t the only objective! Not when there’s cold hard cash to be made along the way by all those friendly and super “helpful” for-profit political consultants–consultants who get paid win or lose. And sure enough, in the Committee to Recall Leroy Garcia’s latest fundraising report, you’ll find big line-items for consultants:

Recall Garcia started the reporting period with $2,378 on hand, and reported $4,429 raised, $4,844 spent, with $1,962 cash remaining on hand. Given the pitiful amount of money we’re talking about here, it’s fascinating to see that the biggest expenditure, over $1,700, is for “fundraising consultants!” That suggests to us that the return on investment was…rather poor.

But at least as interesting to us is the $1,200 paid to Ben Engen of Constellation Political Strategies, the young Republican operative who became infamous as the “Johnny Appleseed of recalls” after a video surfaced of Engen very frankly admitting to a GOP audience that recalls were about a “re-weighting of the electorate”–giving Republicans the chance to sneak otherwise unobtainable wins via a recall “that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides” Democrats.

In the end, it’s Republicans who got burned by “recall season.” But for the for-profit side of Republican politics, the checks still cashed. And that’s all that matters.

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CU’s “Conservative Affirmative Action” Department Strikes Again



Readers will recall a particularly memorable speech made by Republican Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction in the Colorado Senate this year during a debate over a bill requiring the state’s Air Quality Control Commission to collect additional data pertinent to climate change. Sen. Scott, speaking in opposition to the bill, had some truly fascinating insights to share about…well, the climate…and how it’s…changing…for the better:

Climate change has led to “massive improvements” and “the planet is a thing that heals itself,” state Sen. Ray Scott argued Thursday morning.

Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction, was speaking against Senate Bill 96, which would require the state to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from oil and gas wells, coal mines and other sources of planet-warming gases. Reports on emissions would be released annually, which supporters hope would help guide climate change policy.

“I will argue that climate change is occurring, but in the reverse order,” Scott told his colleagues on the Senate floor. “Anybody in this room and I can have a discussion about what was our climate like 100 years ago or 80 years ago or 50 years ago or 20 years ago. We have made massive improvements in our climate. Massive improvements.” [Pols emphasis]

Click the video above, and you can watch Sen. Scott’s painful mistaking of solid particle and other visible forms of air pollution–which have indeed been reduced over the years by clean air laws opposed at every step by Republicans–with the only peripherally related subject of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change. It’s a level of demonstrated ignorance about the issue the legislation Sen. Scott opposed addressed that should be disqualifying from voting on it, but of course that’s not how representative government has ever worked.

We were taken aback, though, when we saw this announcement from the University of Colorado’s Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, the “conservative affirmative action” department set up by now-ex President and longtime Colorado Republican kingpin Bruce Ben$on to create a “safe space” on the campus of the state’s flagship university for what they call “conservative thought.”

It’s not a joke–next Wednesday, the very same Sen. Scott who celebrated the “massive improvements in our climate” in the Colorado Senate this year is the choice of the conservative-run Benson Center to speak for Republicans at a public discussion of “Policies on Climate and Environment!” Now in all fairness, the following week they’ll have Democratic Sen. Steve Fenberg along with Sen. Kerry Donovan later in the month to speak on the same issue–all under the auspices of the “conservative affirmative action” department.

The difference, of course, is that Sens. Fenberg and Donovan know enough about climate change to speak intelligently about it! On the other hand, Sen. Scott has no business even representing the GOP in a discussion about climate change, for the straightforward reason that Sen. Scott doesn’t know what climate change means. It would be far preferable to at least have a climate change denier who understands the subject enough to argue the point effectively.

The conservative students at CU–and yes, there are a few–deserve better, not to mention everyone else.

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SB-181 Madness: Apology Time Yet?


As Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus reports:

Six months after shouting that new legislative drilling regulations were an existential threat to their industry in Colorado, the state’s oil and gas producers are now whispering a different message to Wall Street:

No big deal.

The law was billed by both supporters and opponents as a sea change in how the industry is policed, giving local governments and state agencies greater authority to decide where and how drilling can occur. But in filings with the federal Security and Exchange Commission, some of Colorado’s largest drillers now express confidence that they can easily navigate the regulations spinning out of Senate Bill 19-181.

“We do not foresee significant changes to our development plans, as we have all necessary approvals of more than 550 permits to drill wells over the next several years,” Noble Energy representatives wrote to investors.

During the long debate in the Colorado General Assembly this year over Senate Bill 19-181, the landmark reform bill changing the relationship between state oil and gas regulators in the industry from “promotion” of more drilling to the protection of public health and safety first and foremost, the oil and gas industry’s PR armies warned of historic doom and gloom for Colorado’s economy. It would be nearly impossible, and we surely don’t have time to do it ourselves, to list out every time a Republican lawmaker or oil and gas industry press flack claimed with absolutely zero factual basis that SB-181 would “shut down oil and gas production in Colorado.”

The gospel-truth assumption that SB-181 was intended to and would speedily bring about the shutdown of oil and gas drilling in Colorado helped fuel the wave of irrational anger that Republicans deliberately sought to inflame during and after the 2019 legislative session, for the purpose of justifying recall attempts against opportune state legislative targets as well as Gov. Jared Polis. In Greeley, a town heavily dominated by oil and gas-friendly politics and politicians, the supposed threat of SB-181 ripping the local oil and gas industry apart provided cover to the attempt to recall now ex-Rep. Rochelle Galindo via a far nastier anti-LGBT “whisper campaign.”

But then a funny thing happened. Word started to leak out that despite all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over SB-181’s impending destruction, SB-181 wasn’t going to destroy the oil and gas industry at all. Energy producers started quietly telling their investors that they had all the permits they need for years of unhindered operations and were prepared to work with the new law’s additional protections. The gap between dire forecast and reality with regard to SB-181 isn’t the only reason the “summer of recalls” have sputtered out one after another in recent weeks, but it’s just not possible to maintain the level of public backlash required to pull off a recall without something to substantiate the allegations.

So the next time–and you can be assured there will be a next time–somebody tells you SB-181 is destroying/has destroyed past-tense the oil and gas industry in Colorado, here’s your rejoinder! And if you really want to irritate your conservative friends, follow that up with a brief lesson on the global energy economy, which as you and Gov. Polis already know dictates the fate of Colorado’s oil and gas industry far more than SB-181 ever could.

And yes, hopefully next time…nobody believes the hype to begin with.

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Lawmakers Saine & Marble Host Summit in Support of Vaccine Exemptions

(In Colorado, “anti-vaxxer” is spelled G-O-P – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Last Wednesday morning, Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone) and Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Greeley) hosted the second public “Vaccine and Health Choice Summit” at the Colorado State Capitol.  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2019-09-12-at-9.05.18-AM.png

The summit featured two head speakers: Cynthia Nevison, Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, and Dr. John Kucera, M.D.  

The meeting also featured panelists, including Rep. Rod Pelton (R-Cheyenne Wells) and Theresa Wrangham, executive director of the National Vaccine Information Center, a non-profit “dedicated to preventing vaccine injuries and death,” who followed up the presentations with their own questions and comments.

The event circled primarily around the issue of exemption law. Colorado lawmakers tried to introduce a bill in April 2019 that would require parents to acquire an in-person signature from a health department in order for an exemption due to religious or personal beliefs, with pushback from those who oppose vaccines. The bill “died” in legislature before it could pass last session.

Nevison’s presentation focused on data and statistics intended to support why “changing vaccine exemption laws in Colorado won’t improve children’s health.”

Nevison made several false claims during her presentation, including that measles vaccination lowers herd immunity, which can only be achieved through natural immunity; that “the four ‘As'” (autism, asthma, food allergies, and ADHD) have risen in direct correlation with, and possibly due to, vaccines; and that boys have no need for HPV vaccinations because they cannot get cervical cancer.

In fact, in order for significant herd immunity to occur, a large portion of the population must be vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Likewise, there is little evidence of a causal relationship between vaccines and major chronic health issues, especially autism; various studies have even expressly rejected a causal relationship. Additionally, HPV vaccinations are necessary for both males and females because males are still carriers of HPV (an STD), and they can still get genital warts and several other types of cancer from the disease.

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The Real Reason Republicans Love the Electoral College


Colorado voters will get to decide in 2020 whether or not to remain part of a compact of other states that awards the Presidency of the United States to the winner of the national popular vote. Or, as the Colorado Independent deftly explained, “Colorado will decide by popular vote whether it supports electing presidents by popular vote.”

Proponents of a national popular vote (NPV) believe the current winner-take-all Electoral College system essentially disregards votes for the losing candidate in a Presidential election. Recent history supports this argument. Of the five different elections in which the Presidential candidate who received the most votes was not awarded the keys to the White House, two of them happened in the last twenty years.

“The Electoral College has, at various times, given an advantage to Democrats, Republicans, and the now-defunct Whig Party. Now it gives a clear advantage to Republicans.”

— Vox.com (9/17/19)

Opponents of a national popular vote — including Sen. Cory Gardner, who donated $50,000 to the campaign seeking to repeal the NPV proposal– publicly argue that dismissing the Electoral College would disregard rural voters (nevermind that this is already happening) and would diminish the power of less-populated plots of land (which we call “states”) in determining the most powerful elected position in the country.

Privately, however, Republicans cling to the Electoral College for a much more simplistic reason: Because right now it benefits them bigly.

According to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the setup of the Electoral College significantly increases the odds of an “inversion,” in which one Presidential candidate wins the popular vote but a different candidate wins the office itself. Given the current population makeup of the United States, this is a sizable advantage for a Republican Presidential candidate.

As Vox.com explains:

In modern elections where one party prevails by just 2 points in the two-party popular vote, “inversions are expected in more than 30% of elections.” That number rises to 40 percent in elections with a 1 percentage-point margin.

Republicans, moreover, are far more likely to benefit from an inversion than Democrats. “In the modern period,” the study suggests, “Republicans should be expected to win 65% of Presidential contests in which they narrowly lose the popular vote.”…

…The Electoral College skews elections by giving a structural advantage to small states. Each state receives a number of electoral votes equal to the number of United States House of Representatives members from that state, plus two. These two additional votes effectively triple the voting power of the smallest states, while having only a negligible impact on the voting power of large states.

Republicans today tend to be clustered together in smaller states, so it is to their great advantage to allow boundaries of land – dirt, basically — to determine winners instead of an overall popular vote.

 

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BREAKING: Recall Attempts Against Sens. Lee, Pettersen Fail


WEDNESDAY UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark plants a suitable headstone on the day’s news. Republicans lose, but the grift wins big!

—–

UPDATE #4: Denver7’s Blair Miller:

This is the fourth recall petition against Democratic lawmakers this year that has failed.

Last Friday, organizers of an effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis announced they had failed to gather enough signatures for a recall. They claimed to have gathered around 300,000 of the necessary 631,266 but provided no proof…

“It’s hardly a surprise that these bogus recalls failed to find support beyond the grifters, extremists and sore losers who hatched the ploys in the first place,” said the group’s spokesman, Curtis Hubbard. “These scams were designed to raise money and collect data on voters in competitive districts, and all Coloradans — regardless of political affiliation — should be disgusted by the abuse of the recall process.”

—–

Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Pete Lee (D).

UPDATE #3: Here’s the statement from “Recall Et All,” blaming the failure of the Lee and Pettersen recalls on big bad nasty union thugs, et al. — who target 60-80 year old women, no less — while promising like good Scooby Doo villains to be back next time for total victory!

Recall Et All is suspending the recall campaigns for Senators Pete Lee (SD11) and Brittany Pettersen (SD22). We are confident in the success of our future efforts to recall both of these elected officials. In the meantime, we will continue to educate the public regarding the party-line politics being played in both districts that completely undermine the will of the people.

We want to thank each and every volunteer who fought through extreme heat, countless sunburns, and the harassment of dissenters which was not limited to vile name calling and crude gestures. Our dedicated volunteers also went up against the onslaught of paid protesters whose only purpose was to harass and intimidate. We learned that the leftists will stop at nothing to impede our signature-gathering efforts, as they focused on 60-80 year-old volunteers, mostly women.

We are so proud of our volunteers for standing up for freedom. They did not back down from these juvenile, dirty tactics! This opposition only showed the citizens of Colorado their true colors, making the decision to sign that much easier.

To our law enforcement officers and security guards, thank you for checking on us, treating us with dignity and respect, and recognizing our First Amendment rights.

Lastly, our sincere gratitude to the businesses in and around Senate Districts 11 and 22, both large and small, that protected our volunteers’ signature-gathering activities and their right to petition in parking lots, store fronts, etc. Protecting our freedoms is what this whole movement is about, and we will continue to fight that battle for the people of Colorado. The fight isn’t over, it’s just begun.

We’re so confident in future recall efforts that we’re just going to stop altogether! That makes lotsa sense.

—–

UPDATE #2: Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll:

Considering that both Senators Lee and Pettersen won their 2018 elections overwhelmingly by double digits, it is hardly surprising the sore losers running these sham recalls are throwing in the towel. As has been the case with the previous failed recalls, this was never about their votes. These were far-right activists who are upset they lost so badly in 2018 and were desperate for a redo through these ridiculous recalls. The people of SD11 and SD22 saw through this sham, which is exactly why they rejected this cynical effort to overthrow their 2018 votes.

—–

UPDATE: Colorado Times Recorder:

An attempted recall of state Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) fizzled today, as proponents will not meet the deadline to submit over 11,000 signatures.

Resist Polis PAC board member Kristina Finley confirmed that signatures will not be submitted by 5:00 PM today…

Recall Et Al, the issue group behind the recall, still has a donor pages for Sens. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) and Kerry Donovan (D-Vail). However, the local leader of the nascent movement to recall Donovan recently posted on Facebook that “it seems the effort is dying as more people are refusing to help or won’t volunteer.”

—–

That’s the late-breaking word this afternoon from the Colorado Secretary of State–after a 60-day period to collect 11,304 signatures in the case of Sen. Pete Lee and the recall petition against Sen. Brittany Pettersen nearing its deadline next week, both campaigns are announcing failure–via Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

They’re “confident in the success of their future efforts?” We’ve seen this one before:

And with that, another singularly stupid chapter in Colorado politics comes to an ignominious end–four recalls in succession now crashed and burned. We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage.

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More Colorado Republicans Tripped Up Over Jordan Cove


Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction).

After last week’s damaging story from The Guardian documenting what sure looks like a huge violation of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s promise to steer clear of conflicts of interest between his current position and his friends and former clients in the oil and gas industry–revelations that came courtesy of emails from Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson celebrating Bernhardt’s unethical promotion of the Jordan Cove natural gas export project–the Huffington Post reports:

In late June, Colorado State Sen. Ray Scott and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese published a guest opinion column in the Boulder Daily Camera celebrating the growing “momentum” for an initiative to export Colorado and Utah natural gas to markets in Asia.

“What benefits us locally will translate into geopolitical and environmental gains for the United States and the world,” the column says…

But while those words were attributed to Scott and Pugliese, they were actually the work of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a Houston-based industry trade group whose members include oil giants like BP, Shell and ExxonMobil. Emails HuffPost has obtained via the fossil fuel watchdog Energy and Policy Institute show that while the Colorado officials wrote a first draft of the piece, CEA heavily revised it before publication.

That line is one of many additions CEA made to the column, and the emails show the inner workings of a larger campaign to win local support for a major liquified natural gas infrastructure project in Oregon.

Sen. Ray Scott doing some “research” during 2019 legislative session.

To put it charitably, Sen. Ray Scott and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese do not top anyone’s list of “experts” in the field of oil and gas development or, well, anything else. Sen. Scott, a fireplace dealer by trade, is the same state senator who waxed idiotic about the “massive improvements in the climate” made in recent decades during this year’s legislative session, and was even caught watching movies during debate instead of paying attention. Pugliese is less known on the east side of the divide, primarily for her work on the National Popular Vote repeal initiative, but Mesa County locals have been documenting her antics in this space for years.

Back in May, readers will recall, Secretary of State Jena Griswold was subjected to an over-the-top roasting by Republican opponents organized by former Secretary of State Scott Gessler after her office sought and received minor edits from Planned Parenthood to a press release condemning the state of Alabama’s recently-passed abortion restrictions. Contrast that to this full-scale rewrite of Scott and Pugliese’s op-ed by oil and gas PR guys–so much that Sen. Scott even responded:

“When you guys edit you really edit…….lol,” [Pols emphasis] Scott responded later that afternoon.  “Overall I’m fine with it,” he added.

We’re going to hazard the guess that the Republicans who lost their minds over Griswold’s trivial Planned Parenthood edits will be a little less incensed this time! But with Colorado charting a course away from fossil fuels while a faction of Western Slope Republicans and energy extraction interests and the Western Slope-born Interior Secretary works surreptitiously against the interests of their own state, this is a story so much more important…it’s just kind of ridiculous to compare them.

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Recall Donations Have a Funny Way of Disappearing


You could donate to a Neville recall campaign…or keep warm for a few minutes.

As we’ve discussed in this space on numerous occasions, various efforts to recall Democratic elected officials in Colorado are about two things: 1) Figuring out a way to get around the fact that pesky Colorado voters won’t support Republican candidates, and 2) Raising money by any means possible.

The fundraising aspect has become so intense, in fact, that it has sparked some nasty infighting among right-wing groups scrapping for loose change. One of the main financial beneficiaries of Recallpalooza is the Neville Clan, led by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and his political consultant brother, Joe Neville. This isn’t just speculation on our part. The Nevilles openly admit that they are promoting recalls in order to profit financially, which is perhaps somewhat more honorable than pretending otherwise but no less disgusting in general.

As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman…well, let’s just say you can color us unsurprised:

A political fund controlled by state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock and his brother, Joe Neville, has been attempting for months to raise money for the effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

But groups involved in the recall effort say they haven’t seen any of that money yet. [Pols emphasis]

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

The most recent fundraising email was sent Aug. 5 under the name of Take Back Colorado, asking respondents to reply to a survey on whether the governor should be recalled. It included a link to a donation site, operated by Values First Colorado, the 527 campaign committee run by Joe Neville that primarily supports Republican candidates for the Colorado state House.

Under tax law, 527 committees can raise unlimited funds to influence an election or issue but can’t coordinate with a campaign.

Joe Neville told Colorado Politics that any money received through that Aug. 5 fundraising email would go to the Resist Polis PAC, one of two groups involved in the petition effort to recall the governor. He did not respond to a request on how much money was raised by the Polis-recall emails.

But Resist Polis PAC spokeswoman Korry Lewis said the group’s dealings with the Nevilles have been frustrating, because while “we’ve been talking to them since April” about the fundraising emails, it hasn’t seen any money yet.

As we’ve already seen with failed recall attempts targeting Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, you had better hold on to your receipts if you decide to write a check to one of these grifting operations. Some recall donors have in fact figured this out and are asking for their money back, which is sort of like waiting for a check from Bernie Madoff.

This is not the first time that the Nevilles and their friends at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners have made campaign donations disappear. Since Republican donors don’t seem to be learning anything from these mistakes, it surely won’t be the last time, either.

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Surprising Poll Results for Proposition CC, TABOR Refunds


The Colorado Sun reports on some surprising new polling data about Proposition CC and TABOR refunds in general:

A survey conducted by Republican firm Magellan Strategies found that 54% of likely 2019 general election voters intend to approve Proposition CC, while 30% said they were going to reject the question. And 15% said they were undecided. [Pols emphasis]

“You have to give the Democratic legislature and governor credit, because the language of the ballot question is very simple and very good,” said David Flaherty, who leads Louisville-based Magellan. “It’s not your typical ‘shall taxes be raised by $10 billion for transportation or roads?’ It’s a very simple ask and it doesn’t even mention TABOR.”

He pointed to the fact that 32% of Republicans said they intended to support the measure as proof of the well-written language by proponents, given that conservatives are typically fierce defenders of TABOR, Colorado’s complicated tax law limiting government growth and mandating that voters approve any tax hike.

Those polled were read the exact ballot language and then asked if they would support the measure when they vote in November.

The full polling memo from Magellan Strategies is available HERE.

Via Magellan Strategies

Proposition CC is a measure for the November 2019 ballot that was referred by the state legislature earlier this year. It essentially asks voters to allow the State of Colorado to attain excess revenue — for transportation and education funding — that would otherwise be returned to taxpayers in very small amounts under a formula established by the 1992 “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” (TABOR).

As anyone familiar with Colorado politics well knows, attempting to make any sort of changes to TABOR has typically been an arduous and often unsuccessful task. It is a huge surprise, then, that 54% of likely general election voters already support the idea of Proposition CC — particularly given that there is still no organized campaign promoting the measure. Republican opponents of Prop. CC have been out in force for months, with funding and support from groups like Americans for Prosperity and big-name fist-shakers such as Walker Stapleton and Heidi Ganahl leading the charge. In other words, Prop. CC is viewed favorably by voters despite the fact that nobody is telling them good things about the measure — and perhaps because there is active opposition from well-known Colorado Republicans.

So, what’s happening here? As Magellan Strategies notes, while 46% of respondents still view TABOR favorably, only 20% say that they are “very familiar” with the 1992 ballot measure. Those respondents who dislike Colorado’s funding restrictions are well-tuned to the anti-TABOR messaging:

“The primary reasons 36% of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of TABOR is the belief that the amendment has had a negative impact on adequate funding for public education, roads, transportation and other government services.”

It’s way too early to get too excited about these polling numbers if you support Prop. CC, but opinions on TABOR are clearly trending in a negative direction. Some of that is undoubtedly because many Colorado voters have no familiarity with TABOR after 27 years; Colorado’s recent blueward tendencies also play a significant role.

Should Prop. CC supporters manage to scrap together a semi-decent campaign this fall, we could be looking at a very interesting election night in November.

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Recallpalooza: Meet Herbie The Hate Bug!


Photos forwarded to us yesterday from the far western reaches of Jefferson County, at the intersection of US-285 and Pine Valley Road. In the 20 minutes or so our source observed there weren’t any drive-ups to sign petitions either to recall Gov. Jared Polis or the recently-announced “citizens-only voting” ballot measure being pushed in search of a problem by Republican hanger-on George Athanasopoulos.

Much like the Recall Polis “creeper van” we took note of a couple weeks ago, this roadside scene inspires something other than credibility. Would you give your personal information to these very fine people? Also:

Sen. Brittany Pettersen’s district is miles east of here, and that doesn’t bode well for their validity rate.

Cusp of victory, folks. Stay tuned!

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The Hard Truth About Suicide And Gun-Loving Sheriffs


Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams (R).

FOX 31’s Rob Low correlated a data point in the renewed debate over gun control in general and Colorado’s extreme risk protection order (ERPO or “red flag”) law in particular: something so significant and troubling that we wanted to make sure it was mentioned in this space.

Supporters of Colorado’s “red flag” law say the measure is more likely to prevent suicides than mass shootings, even though it’s the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that led President Donald Trump to embrace red flag laws as a way to reduce gun violence.

In Colorado, more than half of the state’s 64 counties have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries opposed to the the red flag law. Many of those counties have the state’s highest gun suicide rates, according to statistics provided to FOX31 by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment… [Pols emphasis]

Counties with large urban populations like Denver and Boulder tend to have lower rates of suicide by gun: 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Denver; 8 per 100,000 people in Boulder between the years of 2013 and 2017. However, Custer County averaged 49 gun suicides per 100,000 people over the same time period.

Gun rights proponents often insist that suicides involving guns should be excluded from statistics used by gun control supporters, arguing that because only the perpetrator is harmed in suicide such incidents shouldn’t “count” as according-to-Hoyle gun violence. But the undeniable positive correlation between access to guns and their use in suicides as well as crimes against other people is why ERPO laws permit the removal of guns from persons ruled to be a risk to themselves or others. Suicide prevention is every bit as important as, and in theory more likely to form the basis of ERPO requests than individuals plotting attacks on others.

With respect to the large number of elected county sheriffs who have announced their intentions to refuse to enforce Colorado’s new ERPO law, the high suicide rate in many of these same counties is going to put these politician-sheriffs in a very difficult position after the law takes effect on January 1, 2020. It won’t be long, perhaps a matter of days, before someone who could have intervened in the suicide of a family member is thwarted by a county sheriff who refuses to enforce Colorado law. It’s not a hypothetical. It’s a certainty.

And it’s not something we’d ever want to face the news cameras to explain.

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The Coming Battle Over NPV: Qui Bono?


President Donald Trump.

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports:

Proponents of the effort to repeal Colorado’s new law that would give Colorado’s presidential electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote submitted more than 225,000 signatures Thursday, organizers said.

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who is one of the organizers of the effort along with Monument Mayor Don Wilson , said the Protect Colorado’s Vote initiative submitted 227,198 signatures from voters statewide to the secretary of state’s office for review.

The proponents need 125,000 of those signatures to be deemed valid for the referendum to be put on the 2020 ballot. Aug. 1 was the submission deadline.

Opponents of Colorado joining the not-yet-operational National Popular Vote Interstate Compact have been working to collect signatures for a repeal measure ever since Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill back in March. The campaign reportedly used both volunteer and professional paid signature gatherers. To put this result in perspective, supporters of the campaign to recall Gov. Polis have a much smaller window in which to collect at minimum three times as many valid voter signatures–clearly demonstrating the near-impossible task ahead for the “Dismiss Polis” campaign in only a few short remaining weeks. As we’ve said repeatedly in this space, the NPV repeal effort makes far more political sense for Republicans than pursuing recalls, not least because it’s an attainable goal.

And now, it’s a good bet the NPV repeal will be on the 2020 ballot right along with President Donald Trump, the polarizing chief executive serving as the backdrop for this larger philosophical battle over the role of states in presidential elections and the relative power of individual voters. If Republicans are correct that Democratic “overreach” in Colorado since the 2018 Democratic landslide is provoking a conservative backlash, NPV could give them an excellent vehicle to turn those voters out.

But what if it backfires?

The principal hole in the reasoning of Republican opponents of NPV is the fact that President Donald Trump remains unpopular in this state, and polls show there’s been nothing since the 2018 elections to significantly alter that downward trajectory. The “overreach” tag has not taken hold outside the Republican base, the only group where even a plurality agrees–and who we’d bet money were the overwhelming majority of NPV petition signers. If NPV becomes part of a wholesale rejection of Donald Trump by Colorado voters in 2020, there’s a likely scenario in which the NPV repeal attempt goes down along with him.

Either way, once the dust settles from the current spate of fringe-backed recall attempts, this is going to be a central battlefield for Republicans in 2020. And it will be up to Colorado voters to decide if the personal satisfaction of having a vote “worth more” than a vote in a large state is worth the end result as delivered by the Electoral College in both the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections–Presidents elected by a minority of American voters.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (August 1)


Welcome to August, friends. 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 Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Senate passed a broad new spending agreement that completely ignores Republican claims to be “fiscally conservative.” As the Washington Post reports:

The Senate passed a broad, two-year budget deal Thursday that boosts spending and eliminates the threat of a debt default until past the 2020 election, while reducing chances for another government shutdown. The legislation now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign it despite conservative complaints that it will fuel the nation’s runaway debt…

…Republican leaders including Trump himself had been working to round up GOP support ahead of Thursday’s vote, trying to avoid a repeat of the outcome in the House last week, when a majority of Republican lawmakers ignored Trump’s pleas and voted against the deal. It passed the House anyway, on the strength of Democratic votes. The lobbying effort paid off in the Senate as more Republicans voted in favor of the deal than against it.

The agreement heads off several looming fiscal threats, most immediately the possibility that the Treasury Department could have run out of money to pay its bills as early as September if Congress didn’t act, resulting in a market-shattering default on U.S. obligations.

The deal passed Thursday suspends the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021, removing the threat of default and the accompanying risk of political brinkmanship that typically accompanies debt limit negotiations. It lifts strict Obama-era spending caps that would otherwise slash indiscriminately into agency and military budgets, and sets overall spending levels that will make it easier for lawmakers to write the individual appropriations bills needed to keep the government open past Oct. 1, when current agency budgets expire.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was among the Republicans who had been waffling on a new spending agreement, expressing half-hearted concern about deficits while conveniently ignoring the budgetary peril they inflicted with massive tax cuts for the wealthy in late 2017.

 

► We could be just days away from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) claiming credit for free full-day kindergarten in Colorado. On Wednesday, Gardner made the ballsy and completely baseless boast that he helped Colorado secure approval for a “reinsurance” program that could cut healthcare costs for Coloradans by as much as 18% in 2020. Credit for this program actually goes to Gov. Jared Polis and Democrats in the state legislature, who have worked for years to implement this cost-saving measure.

Colorado journalists, including Kyle Clark of 9News, saw right through Gardner’s nonsense:

► We’ve made it through the second round of debates for candidates seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination. Chris Cillizza of CNN lists his “winners and losers” from Wednesday night, while Ed Rogers of the Washington Post doesn’t give high marks to either Colorado-based contender, former Gov. John Hickenlooper or Sen. Michael Bennet. Hickenlooper and Bennet had brief moments in Detroit, but neither did well enough to likely keep them in the race for much longer. As Nic Garcia writes for the Denver Post, it is Hickenlooper who might be the first to depart:

John Hickenlooper’s campaign for the presidency was always a longshot. Now, after another lusterless debate performance, national political observers and some of his closest allies are wondering when — not if — the former Colorado governor will end his quixotic bid for the White House.

At best, Hickenlooper’s friends are split on whether he should persist in seeking the Democratic nomination or bow out. State party insiders are annoyed with Hickenlooper — some openly pushing him to run for the U.S. Senate instead. Others merely dismiss him as a relic of a political era gone by.

“I think he’s done,” a former Hickenlooper aide told The Denver Post.

Like many former gubernatorial and campaign staff members interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with Hickenlooper.

“I think his team will know in the next two days after they see the numbers and analyze other data,” the former aide said. “But my sense is he’s not going to see that.”

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado Celebrates Healthcare Savings; Gardner Shamelessly Claims Credit


Gov. Jared Polis outlines his healthcare savings plan in April. Note the absence of anyone who looks anything like Sen. Cory Gardner.

As Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post, healthcare costs will decrease significantly next year thanks to legislation passed by the Colorado legislature earlier this year:

Colorado has received federal approval for a new program that is expected to save families who buy health insurance through the individual marketplace thousands of dollars a year, Gov. Jared Polis is announcing Wednesday.

The program, known as reinsurance, is expected to drop premiums by an average of 18.2% when it gets under way in January, state officials estimate…

…The reinsurance program is expected to pool $260 million in state and federal money and use it to cover the costliest medical bills among the 250,000 Coloradans who buy their health insurance on the exchange. Taking that burden off of insurance providers will enable them to lower premiums overall.

Colorado is the ninth state to secure a federal waiver for a reinsurance program. Minnesota’s reinsurance program brought down its 2018 premiums by about 11.3%, and Alaska’s dropped by a statewide average of 26%, according to a Georgetown University Health Policy Institute report.

We noted this impressive 18% savings when figures were first projected by the Colorado Division of Insurance earlier this month. The reinsurance program is part of a broader healthcare savings plan promoted by Gov. Jared Polis and passed by Democrats in the state legislature. This reinsurance program is such a good idea, in fact, that Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is now TRYING TO TAKE CREDIT FOR IT:

This did not go over well with Colorado lawmakers such as State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail):

Likewise, Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) was not amused:

 

But wait, it gets even more ridiculous. Not only did Gardner have nothing to do with this proposal — his support for getting rid of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would ultimately kill off the reinsurance deal entirely. As the Colorado Sun reports:

That’s because the Trump Administration — the same one that is expected to sign off on the program — is also backing a lawsuit to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act, the health law that makes a lot of the funding for the reinsurance program possible…

…Earlier this month, a panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard a lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and others — with the Trump Administration’s backing — arguing that the whole Affordable Care Act should be thrown out. The argument requires its own explainer (like this one), but the upshot from the hearing was that it didn’t gowell for defenders of the health care law. A challenge to the law also known as Obamacare appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

If that lawsuit ultimately succeeds, then Colorado’s reinsurance program in its current form is basically doomed. The subsidies that provide money for the program — and the entire section of federal law that the program lives under — would be gone. Lawmakers would need to do some significant tinkering just to preserve any vestige of it.

This is not the first time that Gardner has been so blatantly duplicitous on the issue of healthcare. In March 2017, Gardner was one of four Republican Senators who signed onto a letter defending the expansion of Medicaid in states like Colorado. A few months later, Gardner voted in favor of a proposal to gut the ACA that quite literally would have ended Medicaid coverage for millions of Americans.

To recap, Coloradans are going to see a major decrease in healthcare costs in 2020 thanks to Gov. Polis and Democrats in the state legislature. Senator Gardner had nothing to do with this and is supportive of federal policies that would destroy this reinsurance plan, but he’s raising his hand like a conquering hero in the meantime.

Please, don’t clap.

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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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Why “Overreach” Is The Dumbest Word In Colorado Politics


Gov. Jared Polis (D).

A new poll from Republican David Flaherty’s Magellan Strategies, who since last year’s landslide election for Democrats has been increasingly frank about the bleak future of the Colorado Republican Party given the state’s demographic and electoral trajectory, is prompting much discussion today in the local political chattering class. The poll offers quotable quotes to both sides, but ends in a conclusion you already know: Republicans are in serious trouble in this state going into next year’s election, and there’s no authentic appetite for recalling either Gov. Jared Polis or Democrats in the legislature. The Colorado Sun’s John Frank:

President Donald Trump gets low marks. Gov. Jared Polis is popular. And people lean toward thinking that the state is headed in the right direction…

“I think having President Trump at the top of the ticket is not good for any Republican running,” said Ryan Winger at Magellan Strategies, which released its poll numbers Thursday.

…In its new poll, Magellan forecasted that 36% of 2020 voters would be unaffiliated with a political party, 33% will be Democrats, 30% would be Republicans and 1% would be from other parties. So it showed a 3-point advantage to Democrats.

The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reports beneath the obligatory headline “Democrats overreached but…”

Asked if Democrats “went too far and were out of touch with everyday Coloradans,” 45% agreed. Meanwhile, 40% of voters said Democrats did not overreach.

Despite those feelings, most voters — 47% — said they’re not interested in efforts to recall Polis or state lawmakers, according to the poll conducted by Magellan Strategies, a Republican Colorado-based firm…

The survey results, released Thursday morning, mirror earlier findings: Coloradans are generally pleased with Polis, split on the direction state is going and unhappy with President Donald Trump.

And 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

Based on the 500 survey responses, 45% felt that Polis and the legislature overreached this past session, compared to 40% who did not think so…

Unaffiliated voters are the largest bloc in Colorado, and 50% of unaffiliateds support not recalling Polis, compared to 32% who would recall him. Of the Republicans surveyed, 62% said yes compared to 24% saying no. The Democrats responded 66% no and 21% yes to a Polis recall.

The survey also showed Polis had a job approval rating of 49%, 12 points higher than those who felt he was not doing a good job. [Pols emphasis]

Practically from the moment that Colorado Democrats won in a landslide in last year’s elections, Republicans have employed the word “overreach” to describe the Democratic agenda for 2019. The theory was that Colorado voters weren’t upset with local Republicans and Republican policies so much as they were lashing out against President Donald Trump–and that despite the clear mandate for Democrats won in the 2018 elections, they would “go too far” and provoke a “grassroots backlash.”

After relentlessly beating this word into the heads of reporters, the Republican base, and as far as their message penetrates into the plurality of unaffiliated voters in Colorado who decide elections, it’s not at all surprising to see the spurious notion of “overreach” echoed back in poll numbers, much like the polling on the Affordable Care Act that consistently showed voters hated “Obamacare” but loved what the law actually did. And yes, we’ll concede that 45% of respondents agreeing Democrats “overreached” is a message win for the GOP.

But it’s a hollow victory. Even if Republicans are correct that 2018 was a referendum against Trump, dislike for the sitting Republican President greatly exceeds voter concerns about Colorado Democrats “overreaching” according to these poll numbers. Democrats ran on and were elected to pass a Democratic agenda, and Polis’ enduring high favorability is proof that staying the course was the right decision in the face of over-the-top Republican obstruction this year.

In the end, Democrats keeping their promises will never be as offensive to a majority of Colorado voters as Trump’s chaotic Presidency and the Colorado Republicans who have enabled it. That’s what this poll says most clearly, and it’s not even close.

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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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