Stephens, GOP “Go Benghazi” Over Udall Cancellation Flap

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall.

As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reported Friday afternoon:

State Rep. Amy Stephens on Friday asked the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to investigate reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's office pressured a director at the state Division of Insurance to change the number of insurance policies her office said were canceled because of the Affordable Care Act.

"I am deeply concerned about recent reports that U.S. Senator Mark Udall and/or Senator Udall's staff exerted inappropriate and undue pressure on the Colorado Division of Insurance," Stephens, a Republican from Monument, wrote in a letter to DORA executive director Barbara Kelley. "I am requesting that you investigate these reports to determine the level of coercion by Senator Udall and/or his staff, and whether any laws or rules were violated as a result of this conduct."

Politico's Emily Schultheis also filed a report Friday on the kerfluffle over Sen. Mark Udall's attempts last November to clarify disproportionately high figures reported by the state Division of Insurance as "policy cancellations."

In an interview with The Denver Post, Udall, who is up for reelection in November, said it’s “really important to correct the record” on the 250,000 figure, calling it “only 4 percent of the story.”

“I put my team to work to find out whether those numbers would stand up to scrutiny,” he said.

Republicans are jumping on the issue, saying Udall and his team are working to manipulate the numbers so they don’t look as bad for Obamacare.

State Rep. Amy Stephens, one of the Republicans challenging Udall, said his and his staff’s attempts to update the numbers are “appalling and shameful.” State Sen. Owen Hill, another GOP candidate, wrote on his Facebook page that it “looks like Mark Udall tried to ‘cook the books.’” And a spokesman for GOP candidate Ken Buck’s campaign said Udall “seems to be more concerned about the political damage to himself than the damage caused to the 249,000 people who received cancellation notices as a consequence of his vote.”

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

As we discussed on Friday, Republicans are pushing the rhetoric to the max against Sen. Udall, with former Colorado GOP chair-turned advisor to GOP Senate U.S. candidate Amy Stephens Dick Wadhams going to far as to pronounce this "scandal" worse than the trouble New Jersey Chris Christie is in over politically-motivated traffic problems on the George Washington Bridge.

Sen. Udall has long been considered off the table as a viable take-out target for Republicans in 2014, and it is only recently, after a tough off-year for Colorado Democrats ramped up media speculation, that conventional wisdom has begun to entertain the possibility this race could be competitive. As a result, Republicans are keen to exploit anything they can use against Udall to the maximum possible extent.

But in this case, not only is their "scandal" weak, its unraveling is actually a very bad thing for the GOP. The facts here are very simple: Of the roughly 250,000 policyholders sent "cancellation letters" in Colorado, 96% of them were actually offered renewals for 2014. It's critical to understand that Colorado's implementation of the Affordable Care Act always allowed these plans to be renewed, and this was essentially what President Barack Obama subsequently allowed nationwide to compensate for the troubled rollout of the exchange.

Bottom line: if 250,000 Coloradans had actually lost coverage on January 1, we're pretty sure the outrage would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But it didn't happen. In Colorado, many affected by "cancellation notices" no doubt simply renewed their plans like the letter said, and then wondered what the hubbub was. Thousands of "cancellation notices" were flat-out sent in error by sloppy insurers like low-rated Humana. And most importantly, the new insurance exchange has signed up tens of thousands of people.

Today, Republicans are exploiting a lack of hard information to scare people. A common-sense look at the underlying claims makes it obvious that Sen. Udall's math is closer to the truth than the over-the-top figures, and implied human misery, that Republicans claim. Once these facts are all out in the open, it's not going to be Udall who looks bad, so Republicans are going full-throttle on Udall while they can. In underperforming GOP contender Amy "Amycare" Stephens' case, her possibly unresolvable conflicts with the GOP base on health care oblige her to rage hardest of all.

At some point, the facts will catch up with them. For Sen. Udall, the sooner the better.

35 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. horseshit GOP front group says:

    You would expect today's Republican party to find attempts to correct distortions of the truth and outright lies to be "appalling and shameful".  At least they're being honest with themselves this time.

  2. BlueCat says:

    So Senator Udall objects to GOTP lies of omission? That's supposed to be a major scandal?

    I think he's going to be just fine come election time with plenty of help from a pathetic GOTP bench. And I think the Dem base is liking him more and Bennet less all the time so it's a good thing Udall's the one who has to run in 2014. The base support should be considerably more enthusiastic for Udall than it would be for Bennet in this non-presidential turn out year. 

    • mamajama55 says:

      Definitely more enthused for Udall.

    • Duke Cox says:



      And I think the Dem base is liking him more and Bennet less all the time


      …my beef with Senator Bennett has never changed. My conviction about it has only solidified. 

      It is his prediliction for hanging with and supporting Big Money in a big way. That tide is turning and I don't think his patrician nature is going to help him much going forward.

      Populism seems an unnatural fit for Senator Bennett. Of course, there is much I don't know about the senator, so, maybe it is just my perception of him.

      • BlueCat says:

        Nope. I don't think your perception is wrong. What people have always had wrong is that being pro-corporate center right is anything but typical of today's Dems in office on average. That Rs say Dems are liberal to socialist is a really silly reason to believe it. Look at all the other crap they say.  Of course their still isn't a single Dem, except a few conservatives whose only positive is giving us a better head count for maintaining the Senate majority, who isn't preferable to any R in office on over all policy, a low bar but still an important one.

      • dustpuppy says:

        Bennet continues and will always be an unpopular Democrat from Colorado. He is Bill Ritter's boy through and through, and his third way politics is not what represents Colorado today.

        I backed Andrew Romanoff against Bennet, and was pissed that Bennet got an endorsment from Obama when he should stay out of it. Now Obama's under the bus as well.


  3. DavidThi808 says:

    Udall was doing exactly what he should have done in this case. His staff looked at the numbers, found them to be bogus, and pushed the state to provide accurate numbers. What he did is comendable.

    Is the Republican point of view going to be that when bogus numbers are presented, just grin and say ok?

  4. Davie says:

    As Mike Littwin might say, If all the GOP has are phoney-baloney issues, that's what they'll run with.

    • horseshit GOP front group says:

      And this is just about as phoney baloney as it gets Davie.  Just pretty weak all around.  If this is a harbinger of their election strategy then that makes me happy.  Most people look at this and wonder what how the fuck your priorities can be so misplaced that this is important to you, with the dozens of real actual problems to solve right now.

  5. Moderatus says:

    Udall, along with President Obama, lied to the people by claiming we could keep our health plans if we wanted to. That created a huge conflict of interest when Udall tried to get the Division of Insurance to fudge their numbers. The knowledge that Udall had broken this promise is what pushed his staff to intimidate state insurance staff. Those staffers had no reason to lie to play politics — only Udall did.

    This is a dirty situation, and Udall need to tell the truth about his staff's intimidation of nonpartisan state employees.

    • DawnPatrol says:

      GD liar. You are without conscience, morals or integrity.

      • Moderatus says:

        I just heard the Insurance Commissioner Margaret Salazar is standing by the 250,000 cancellations in testimony today. Is this former Obama appointee part of the right wing lie machine too?

        • DawnPatrol says:

          You "just heard," did you, you unethical lie-spewing jackal?

          I am one of those whose poicy was cancelled, one of the ones you claim do not exist, ***who was immediately offered a new ACA-compliant one — like hundreds of thousandas of othrer Coloradans.***

          STOP LYING you malignantly partisan thug!


          • dustpuppy says:

            Please provide your facts to back up your lies. You can't! Why? Because no such facts exists.

            Typical Republican behavior – when cornered, they make up shit on the spot and try to sell it as a fact.

            It's past time that every Republican get a full mental health evaluation and then immediately thrown to the mental hospital for life if they are not fully functional and sane. That includes you, Moderatus.

        • mamajama55 says:

          Marguerite Salazar is standing by her numbers, and she is standing by her staff. However, this is not nearly as hostile and dramatic an exchange as Wadhams and the right wing blogosphere are making it out to be. Wadhams is also Stephens' campaign manager, which the Denver Post article neglected to mention when quoting him.

          Here are Ms. Salazar's words, quoted by Allison Sherry and Michael Booth, in their Denver Post article:

          Division of Insurance Commissioner Salazar said Thursday that there was no "ongoing pattern of intimidation" with Colorado's senior senator and her staffers.

          Salazar declined to let Donlin give her own interview but said, "I can speak for Jo that she did not feel intimidated. She's been doing this for a long time."

          She called the exchange between her office and Udall's in mid-November "a very candid discussion back and forth about how we arrived at our numbers. … By the end of the day, things were very calm."

          Udalls office said that they wanted to make sure that his constituents got accurate information, which seems reasonable.

          Stephens, is, of course, politicking. No mystery there.



      • DavidThi808 says:

        When you make comments like that DawnPatrol all you do is make yourself look like a moron and lose all credibility. I suggest you shut up until you learn to discuss thinks rationally.

    • Davie says:

      You could have saved yourself a lot of logical contortions if you'd simply typed "BENGHAZI" like the senior GOP apologists are doing. 🙂

      “You’ll notice we haven’t been hearing a lot from the Clinton camp about this,” Karl Rove said puzzlingly on Fox News Sunday. “The contrast with President Clinton and Secretary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi. So I think it’s going to be hard for Democrats to turn this into an issue … the amount of attention paid to Chris Christie makes the coverage of Benghazi, at the same time, the coverage of the IRS, pale in significance.”

      On ABC’s “This Week,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani took a similar tack. “Things go wrong in an administration. And frankly, you know, [President Obama] was in campaign-mode at the time, during campaign-mode you miss a lot of things. You’re not paying as much attention. We see that with Benghazi.”

    • BlueCat says:

      You just keep telling yourself that, modster.  Stop the next person you see on the street and ask them about this huge Udall scandal. Keep asking until you find someone who knows WTF you're talking about. 

      • Moderatus says:

        Your argument boils down to nobody cares? I think you are mistaken.

        • DawnPatrol says:

          You are a craven liar who knowingly bears false witness against his neighbor, for the most scurrilous and duplicitous of reasons.

          Do you consider yourself a Christian? You damed well better not.

        • BlueCat says:

          Not arguing anything. Just advising that you may be getting all happy and excited about the effect this will have prematurely. For an assessment of the charges you level see my first comment near the top.

          Can't see this having the legs of Bridgegate since there's nothing here to investigate so it won't stay in the public eye. Hardly is anyway.  Bridgegate will stay as long as new stuff surfaces and as long as investigations are taking place. Benghazi has been sputtering along on its last legs for some time now, despite your side's best efforts. It's beginning to remind me of that old crack about every sentence out of Giuliani containing a noun a verb and "9/11".  This is not to make light of a diplomat's death or a terrorist attack. Just the political use of the words.

          Really, no matter what you try to compare it to, nobody is going to equate asking for corrective clarification of questionable data with any major scandal, real or manufactured. Well, nobody who isn't already going to vote for the GOTP wacko du jour, anyway.

    • ajb says:

      Mod, thanks for the laugh.

      Do you ever read the drivel you type? 

  6. horseshit GOP front group says:

    The GOP narrative is basically because Udall disagreed with the Div of Insurance on the numbers of cancellations and contacted them about it, he somehow "tried to get the Division of Insurance to fudge their numbers" or "pushed his staff to intimidate state insurance staff".  That is the crux of the lie being peddled here.

    Second, its a bullshit narrative.  Attempting to make some sort of underhanded scandal out of this is just plain stupid, and pathetic to boot.  If the Colorado GOP had any credibility left in the bank maybe it would stick, but it won't.  Your people are selling; nobody is buying.

    Back to the drawing board.  Have a nice day.

  7. notaskinnycook says:

    Aw, you guys are mean. Poor Republicans! They're doing the best they can with what they've got. If our bench looked as sorry as theirs does we might be looking under rocks for scandals to pedal, too. Continuing with the registration numbers from the later thread, they're hemorrhaging members. This is what desperation looks like.

  8. divad says:

    If you know Jo Donlan, you also knows she isn't going to be intimidated by anyone.  I know Jo Donlan.

  9. JBJK16 says:

    The real story: people got cancellation notices.

    The hype – but now everyting is better for them.

    The over-reach – everyone who got cancelled is totally screwed.

    I especially like "kerfluffle." Flap is good, but nothing trivializes real peoples' problems like  "kerfluffle."

    • BlueCat says:

      95 or so percent constitutes a lot less hype than ignoring that percent constitutes over-reach. The proportions are pretty ridiculously against taking a he said/she said, fault lies equally on both sides stance.

      • JBJK16 says:

        Do you know the real numbers?  I do not and have not seen a reliable source.

        Real people believed the President and the D's like Udall when they said "If you like your plan, you can keep it."   Which turned out to be untrue, no matter how you cut it. That it should have been "you can keep your plan if we allow it and your carrier chooses to continue offerring it" is no consolaiton to people who lost their plan but did not want to.

        Nor is it any consolation that lots of cancellations go out every year, and a lot of the ones this year, as usual, included an option to renew too.

        So there is hype and overreaction – but the real story is lost.  

        And I do like "kerfluffle." It's like breaking the dress code when golfing – not a hockey fight.

  10. MichaelBowman says:

    I make it a point to stop by the Senator's DC-office every Wednesday that I'm in town for his meet-and-greet.  It so happened I was there the day this issue was brought to the Senator's attention by an participant who was from the insurance industry. It was just after (yet another) one my Congressman's hysteria media releases regarding ACA and cancellations.  As the man from the insurance industry suspected – the overwhelming number of the reported-250,000 "cancellations" were in thier typical, yearly "cancell and auto-re-enroll" periods. 

    The Senator and his staff were doing exactly what we expect them to do: get to the truth.  What was clear is this: Cory was lying – the Senator was seeking clarity.  As a 32-year member of the Colorado Republican party who appreciates the Senators leadership on so many of our rural and energy issues – I would offer to the state party that they find something more useful to spend their time on…and start offerning ideas and a vision if you ever want to get back in this game.

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