Get More Smarter on Thursday (July 18)

High temperatures in the Denver area are predicted to exceed 100 degrees today, so slather that sunscreen in every nook and cranny. 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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

 “Send her back” might be the “lock her up” chant equivalent of 2020 for supporters of President Trump. As Stephen Collinson writes for CNN:

In a moment of unrestrained demagoguery, President Donald Trump presided Wednesday over a crowd chanting “Send her back! Send her back!” about an American Muslim congresswoman who he targeted with racist attacks.

The scenes at a North Carolina rally provided an ugly overture to a 2020 election campaign already soaked in hate. They exemplified the tribal politics and white nationalism that Trump is making clear he plans to ride to reelection, no matter their impact on America’s fragile societal harmony.

The chants of “Send her back!” referred to Somalia-born, American citizen Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of four minority lawmakers attacked by Trump over the weekend. The invective from the crowd replaced the “Lock her up!” and “Build the wall!” chants of Trump’s first campaign with a jarring racial refrain that the commander-in-chief, speaking from behind a podium bearing the symbolic presidential seal, made no effort to stop.

There is at least one Republican Congressman who is aghast at these chants, and he’s speaking up. Again, from CNN:

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois on Thursday morning called a chant that broke out at President Donald Trump’s rally the previous night — when the crowd yelled “send her back” as the President targeted Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — “ugly” and “wrong” and said it “would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers.”

“I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone. I woke up today equally disgusted – chants like ‘send her back’ are ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union,” Kinzinger said in a tweet on Thursday morning.

Other Republican elected officials are looking to Vice President Mike Pence for answers, since they’re too afraid to actually confront the big orange guy. No, seriously, read this story.

 

► It’s gonna be a hot day today in Colorado, which might make you wonder about the impact of Climate Change. You could ask the federal government for more information, but as Politico reports, you would have trouble finding an answer:

The Agriculture Department quashed the release of a sweeping plan on how to respond to climate change that was finalized in the early days of the Trump administration, according to a USDA employee with knowledge of the decision.

Staff members across several USDA agencies drafted the multiyear plan that outlines how the department should help agriculture understand, adapt to and minimize the effects of climate change…

…The revelation comes after a recent POLITICO investigation found that the department had largely stopped promoting its own scientific findings about the consequences of climate change. The USDA has also moved away from using phrases like climate change, climate, and greenhouse gas emissions in press releases and social media posts.

 

► If Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) thinks President Trump is guilty of making racist statements, he is keeping that opinion to himself. As Kyle Clark of 9News notes, Gardner’s staff finally responded to requests for comment in a very odd manner:

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Throwback Thursday: When Colorado Republicans Opposed Racism

Nate Marshall.

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

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

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

Maria Weese.

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

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

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

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Thursday Open Thread

“These congresswomen…never have anything good to say, which is why I say, ‘If they don’t like it, let them leave.’”

— President Trump, at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday evening.

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Enthusiasm Wanes Over BLM Move to Colorado

UPDATE: Senator Gardner pens an Op-Ed on the move for the Grand Junction Sentinel. Try not to choke on the hyperbole:

One local official compared “getting the BLM to the Western Slope” to “Amazon going to Denver.”

Grand Junction is adding 27 jobs.

—–
The Bureau of Land Management formally announced on Tuesday that it will move its headquarters from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, confirming a change that has been in discussion for several years. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was so enthusiastic about the announcement that he was rendered incapable of commenting on any other issue, and the news produced bipartisan praise from the likes of Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County).

We hate to be the wet blanket at this (or any other) celebration, but some serious brake-tapping may be in order.

While the new BLM headquarters will be located in Grand Junction, most of the additional jobs coming to Colorado will be based in Lakewood. About 58 positions are expected to relocate to Lakewood from Washington D.C., with another 27 setting up shop in Grand Junction.

The BLM’s big move is probably good news for Colorado, which will benefit from the economic impact of the relocation of 85 federal jobs. The effect on Grand Junction’s economy will be significantly less than locals had hoped, however, and it’s not at all clear whether this move is a good thing for the BLM and public lands in general.

Elected officials and Chamber of Commerce types on the Western Slope have had to temper their original enthusiasm quite a bit, as this Grand Junction Sentinel editorial makes clear:

When we first contemplated the impact of this move, we imagined the entire Washington, D.C. operation — some 300 federal workers — being transplanted en masse to a campus setting somewhere in the Grand Valley.

That’s not how this is going down. The BLM is moving its top brass, 27 senior-level officials, to Grand Junction, but twice that many workers are moving to Lakewood. Other BLM employees are headed to other Western states.

A day after feeling like this was a game-changer for Grand Junction, the letdown is palpable. We’re stuck between feeling grateful that Grand Junction will be known as the BLM’s Western Headquarters and frustrated that such a distinction has been hollowed out to its barest impact. [Pols emphasis]

Conservation groups have always been skeptical about a proposed BLM move, worrying that the real motivation of such a change is to reduce the agency’s influence with top decision-makers in Washington D.C. Jennifer Rokola, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, explained those concerns in a statement earlier this week:

“[Interior] Secretary Bernhardt is asking families to uproot their lives in a matter of months or possibly lose their jobs, all for a PR stunt. It’s yet another cynical attempt to drain the Interior Department of expertise and career leadership. Our public lands deserve an agency that is effectively coordinating with the Interior Department more broadly, and with Congress.”

Before you dismiss Rokala’s red flag, consider this story today about the impact of moving some key departments of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Kansas City. As CNN reports:

More than half of the employees from two research agencies at the Department of Agriculture slated to relocate from the Washington area have refused reassignment to Kansas City, the department said Wednesday.

Such losses among the research employees affected by the reassignment could result in a drain of institutional knowledge and talent at two agencies that either fund agricultural research across the nation or produce crucial reports, including data on agricultural markets,10-year projections for the farm sector and estimates of US and international agricultural productivity. [Pols emphasis]

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and the department have argued that the move will lower living costs, save taxpayer dollars and move the agencies closer to “stakeholders.” But many employees at the two affected agencies — the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — view the change as politically driven and a way to disrupt climate research and other work with which their bosses disagree by pushing out experienced personnel.

At ERS, 72 researchers accepted relocation while 99 either declined or did not provide a response. At NIFA, 73 workers accepted reassignment while 151 declined or did not provide a response, according to a USDA spokesperson. These numbers, which could fluctuate, are also in line with a survey released last week by the union representing NIFA and ERS employees. Staff must report to work in Kansas City by September 30.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is selling the BLM move as a huge political victory.

Relocating government offices is a trendy thing to propose in Republican circles nowadays. As a candidate for Colorado Attorney General in 2018, Republican George Brauchler often talked about his desire to decentralize the State AG’s office with regional offices around the state. Brauchler’s proposal was an interesting political move, but it made less sense from a practical perspective. Democrat Phil Weiser, who ended up winning the 2018 Attorney General race, disagreed with Brauchler’s approach by pointing to an era of increased telecommuting and the many competing interests for a shrinking pot of public money that would be needed to fund these offices.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton had similar satellite thoughts during his 2018 campaign, though his general opposition to working in any office was notable in itself; Stapleton’s 11-point loss to Polis put an end to the idea of creating regional state offices.

Senator Gardner unquestionably sees the BLM move as a big political victory as he prepares for his 2020 re-election campaign, but potential land mines remain. Because the economic impact of the move is less of a big deal than originally envisioned, Gardner has been focusing his talking points on the symbolic policy importance of moving the BLM to a Western state (since most federal lands are located west of the Mississippi). We still don’t know much about the downside of moving the headquarters of a federal office to Grand Junction while most BLM employees are hundreds of miles away. There could also be issues, for example, with trying to increase the availability of flights from Grand Junction to Washington D.C. in order to accommodate travel requirements for agency leaders.

Moving the BLM headquarters is likely a net positive for Colorado. It may not be equally helpful for the rest of the country. Gardner was looking for a political home run and may instead end up with a bunt single.

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At Least He’s Not Your Congressman

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly

In another edition of our long-running feature, “At Least They’re Not Your Elected Official,” we take you the halls of Congress (via Pennsylvania), where one Republican Congressman is trying out some new talking points on racism in politics.

As CNN reports:

A white Republican congressman said Tuesday that he isn’t offended by President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color because he’s “a person of color.”

“You know, they talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white. I’m an Anglo Saxon. People say things all the time, but I don’t get offended,” Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania told Vice News. [Pols emphasis]

The statements were made as the House was considering a resolution condemning the racist language Trump used on Sunday in a series of tweets in which he told Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Illhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley to “go back” to their home countries. The comments touched off a firestorm, though House Republicans have largely defended Trump and overwhelmingly voted Tuesday night to oppose the resolution.

Well, this is not at all completely tone deaf or disrespectful of the challenges faced by other people. Would it surprise you to know that Rep. Kelly was not one of the four Republicans who voted in favor of yesterday’s resolution condemning President Trump’s racist remarks?

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Cory Gardner Even Backpedals on the Question of Racism

UPDATE: As Political Wire reports, there is a concerted effort in other parts of the country to discourage any dissent toward President Trump:

“Arizona Republican Chairwoman Kelli Ward said she wishes GOP elected officials, specifically Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), ‘would just be quiet’ when they disagree with President Trump,” according to audio obtained by Phoenix New Times.

If Gardner has had a similar discussion, you can consider the message received.

—–
Congressional Republicans have largely been going out of their way to refrain from classifying President Trump’s recent comments about four Democratic Congresswomen as what they are: Racist. Most Congressional Republicans are trying very, very hard to not comment at all, either because they agree with Trump or because they fear his political wrath.

On Tuesday, House Democrats were joined by four Republicans in support of a resolution condemning Trump’s racist remarks. None of Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress — Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — summoned the courage to rebuke Trump. Buck was the first of the trio to offer a flaccid response, and Tipton’s later comments were embarrassingly weak. As for Lamborn…well, it’s never clear that Lamborn is fully cognizant of anything that is happening around him.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), meanwhile, is employing a version of his go-to move, which is something that we like to call “The Gardner Shuffle.” Gardner usually handles a situation like this by 1) Trying to avoid reporters altogether, 2) Offering a completely meaningless comment at the end of the news cycle, and 3) Backpedaling on his previous comment and/or scurrying away from follow up questions.

First, the avoidance. Gardner did his best to ignore questions about Trump’s racism by pretending that he was just so busy working on the BLM’s move to Colorado that he couldn’t possibly do something else at the same time. As the Denver Post reports:

On Monday, Gardner told a conservative radio host that he was focused on other matters, declining to comment on the Trump tweets. The senator had faced flack from his many Democratic opponents, who have accused him of political cowardice for not commenting.

Colorado reporters persisted in trying to get a comment from Gardner, but to no avail. This brief segment from Kyle Clark of 9News on Tuesday is worth a watch:

CLARK: We have been trying to get ahold of Colorado Senator Cory Gardner to discuss President Trump’s racist Tweets telling American Congresswomen of color they should go back where they came from. And today, we heard this from Gardner and his staff…

At this point Clark goes silent for several seconds.

CLARK: Yeah, we didn’t hear anything from them. They aren’t responding to us.

Second, the meaningless comment. During an interview with KOA Radio on Tuesday, Gardner finally managed to eek out a response, saying he “disagreed with the President” and “wouldn’t have sent” the same Tweets. Shermanesque, it was not.

And finally, the backpedal retreat. As the Associated Press reports today:

By Tuesday, Gardner offered up a more on-point answer to the question of whether and how much he supports Trump’s racist tweets.

“I disagree with the president,” Gardner told Denver-area KOA NewsRadio. “I wouldn’t have sent these tweets.”

But asked by CNN later at the Capitol, he would not say whether he thought Trump’s tweets were racist. [Pols emphasis]

Would I lie to you?

As Laurie Kellman and Nick Riccardi explain for the Associated Press, Gardner is all about doing the right thing…for Cory Gardner:

To win another term, Gardner will need to hold the votes of Colorado’s Trump-allied Republicans who remain suspicious of the senator’s rescinded endorsement in 2016, while winning over independents who reject the president but are wary of the Democrats’ agenda.

Gardner has occasionally chastised the president after controversial moments – notably after Trump praised “both sides” following a confrontation between neo-Nazis and activists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 that left a counterprotester dead – and he’s carved out a distinct path on immigration. But Gardner has also voted for most of Trump’s priorities. He’s supported the president’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his tax cut, both his Supreme Court justices and several other federal judges, along with most of his Cabinet.

Gardner, who has a sunny disposition, has also embraced elements of Trump’s incendiary remarks. In a speech at a conservative gathering in Denver on Friday, Gardner, who has bemoaned Democrats’ embrace of “socialism,” slammed what Republicans describe as the leftward drift of Democrats.

And there you have it.

This is why Gardner is disliked by Coloradans of all political stripes. Cory Gardner is a used-car salesman with a fancier title. You could try to argue otherwise, but you can’t talk faster than he can backpedal.

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House Democrats Condemn Trump Racism With 4 GOP Votes

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Of all the responses we’ve seen from Republicans downplaying President Donald Trump’s overtly racist Tweets, Rep. Scott Tipton’s stands out as particularly weak-minded–via the Colorado Independent:

Tipton, who represents Colorado’s 3rd District, told The Indy he didn’t think Trump’s remarks were racist.

“You’ve got the four folks accusing [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi of racism,” he said, referring to past comments made by Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley. “Now they’ve included the president in on that. I don’t think either of them were racist.”

It’s a false equivalence that won’t age well, since:

Pelosi called Trump’s language “disgraceful” and pledged “continue to forcefully respond to these disgusting attacks” in a letter to her colleagues. [Pols emphasis]

There is simply no objective comparison.

—–

“I know racism when I see it. I know racism when I feel it. And at the highest levels of government, there is no room for racism.”

          — Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

The House of Representatives capped a dramatic day in Washington D.C. by voting (240-187) in support of H. Resolution 489, condemning President Trump for his racist remarks targeting four Members of Congress. The resolution states that “President Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” It states that the House “strongly condemns” the President’s remarks, including “that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”

As NBC News reports:

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution on Tuesday night condemning President Donald Trump for his “racist comments” about four Democratic congresswomen of color…

…The four Republicans who voted in favor of the resolution, which “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” were Reps. Will Hurd of Texas, Fred Upton of Michigan, Susan Brooks of Indiana and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. Rep. Justin Amash, who announced his departure from the Republican Party earlier this month, also voted in favor of the resolution.

“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and the comments are racist,” Pelosi said as she first introduced the resolution condemning Trump’s incendiary remarks about the congresswomen.

All three of Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress — Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) — voted no on the resolution. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will almost certainly not have to face a similar vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Thanks, Reinsurance: Colorado Premiums to Drop By 18%

Holy premium decrease, Batman!

According to a press release today from the office of Gov. Jared Polis, healthcare premiums for individual plans in Colorado are expected to decrease for the first time in state history:

Today, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), announced that for the first time ever, Colorado health insurance companies that sell individual plans (for people who do not get their health insurance from an employer or government program) expect to reduce premiums by an average of 18.2 percent (-18.2%) over their 2019 premiums, [Pols emphasis] provided the reinsurance program is approved by the federal government. These are the health insurance plans available on the Connect for Health Insurance Exchange, the state’s health exchange made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“For the first time in the history of our state’s health exchange, premiums are dropping. Premiums in the individual market are projected to go down by 18.2 percent on average next year, and as much as 41 percent in some areas of the state, so long as the Federal government approves our bipartisan reinsurance program. Reducing health care costs for Colorado families has been a primary focus of my administration, and today we are seeing the first signs that our hard work is paying off,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. “The thousands of dollars people save can go to buying a home, saving for college or retirement, or whatever Coloradans want to do with it. I’m just thrilled to save people thousands of dollars on health care so they have more left to enjoy life. By saving families money and helping more Coloradans gain affordable, quality health care for their families, we can reduce costs across our health care system and continue our state’s strong economic growth.”

Colorado’s proposed reinsurance program — a bipartisan policy that has produced double-digit premium reductions in other states — is primarily responsible for these lower premiums. These decreases range from 10.3 percent (-10.3%) to 33.5 percent (-33.5%), all tallying to an average reduction of 18.2 percent (-18.2%) over 2019 individual premiums, across all plans, from all companies, across the state. Without the proposed reinsurance program, the companies’ requested premium changes would add up to an average increase of 0.5 percent (+0.5%). [Pols emphasis]

This is a pretty big deal, for both political and policy reasons (click here for more information on the Reinsurance Program). From a political perspective, Polis and incumbent Democrats can now go back to voters in 2020 with very real evidence to support arguments for returning a Democratic majority to the State Capitol. Being able to tell voters that you delivered on one of your major promises in 2018 is a tough message to beat.

As for the already-frayed Recall Polis groups — have fun explaining this one.

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Cory Gardner is Too Darn Busy to Condemn Racism

UPDATE: Gardner was on KOA radio this morning to talk about the BLM move to Colorado, but he couldn’t get away without being asked about Trump’s racist remarks. His answer was pretty awful:

HOST: What’s your take on that, and is it defensible to say things like that?

GARDNER: Well, I disagree with the President. I wouldn’t have sent this Tweet. I think he shouldn’t have done it, and I think we oughta be focused on things that are bringing this country together and moving this country forward…I wouldn’t have sent that Tweet. I just disagree with it.

“I wouldn’t have sent that Tweet.” Unreal.

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

The House of Representatives is preparing to hold a vote today to rebuke President Trump for his racist comments over the weekend about four Democratic Members of Congress. In the meantime, as the Washington Post reports, Trump is really digging in on his disgusting remarks:

Trump lashed out at the freshman Democrats again on Tuesday and questioned why Congress was not rebuking them instead.

“The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party,” Trump wrote on Twitter, listing several grievances about the lawmakers. “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!”

His tweets marked the third day in a row of attacks on the lawmakers — a series that began Sunday with tweets in which the president said the four Democrats should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the lawmakers were born in the United States, and the fourth is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia.

As we wrote yesterday, Colorado Republicans have been reluctant to speak out about Trump’s remarks. The Washington Post has been keeping track of Republican responses (and non-responses) to Trump’s comments; as of this morning, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) is the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation to offer an opinion, expressing (very) mild disagreement in an interview with Fox News.

Still silent on the matter are Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). As Justin Wingerter of the Denver Post reports, Gardner has just been too darn busy to speak out about racism:

Gardner obviously does not want to talk about any of this, either because he doesn’t disagree with President Trump or because he doesn’t want Trump to think that he disagrees. Gardner’s excuse that he has been solely focused on “the BLM move” is as silly as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli repeatedly insisting that he didn’t have a response to Trump’s remarks because he hadn’t logged onto Twitter recently.

Gardner’s silence on Trump’s racism nevertheless speaks volumes, particularly considering that other endangered Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020 have still managed to find their voice.

Here’s Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa):

“Yeah I do [find Trump’s comments racist]. They’re American citizens. I personally think the GOP has a stronger platform to talk about. That’s what we should be focusing on.”

And Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine):

“I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus – especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement – but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down.”

Gardner’s refusal to discuss Trump’s comments reminds us of something that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News after he was elevated to the top job: “I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you can oppose the president on some issue that you fundamentally disagree with, but also work with the other party on issues you do agree with.”

Maybe now that the BLM’s move to Colorado has been announced, Gardner can manage to turn his attention to another issue…not that we’re holding our breath or anything.

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Another Brutal Fundraising Quarter for Duran in CO-1

Fundraising reports for the second quarter of 2019 are now available, so it’s time to take another look at the Democratic Primary in CO-1 (Denver) between Crisanta Duran and incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette.

The good news for Duran is that she had a better fundraising quarter than she did her first time around. The bad news is rough: Duran is still nowhere close to a six-figure fundraising quarter, and she’s spending almost as much money as she’s bringing in to her campaign.

DeGette’s $207k fundraising quarter is unimpressive, to say the least, but it is nevertheless $50k more than Duran has raised during her entire campaign. Here’s how we assessed Duran’s campaign in April after her miserable initial fundraising performance:

Momentum and money go hand-in-hand in politics. Duran has neither, and she’s now in a position where she’ll need a very strong Q2 just to remain somewhat viable heading into the dead summer of an off-year. If Duran doesn’t at least quadruple her Q1 numbers, what had looked to be an interesting race will be all but over a year before the Primary Election.

This fundraising disparity, combined with DeGette’s endorsement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this month, will make it difficult for Duran to continue to mount a real challenge in CO-1. The only real mystery left here is to see how long Duran can even stay in the race.

It ain’t over until it’s over, as the saying goes…but this is about as close as it gets.

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Republicans Respond to Trump’s Racist Outburst…Sort Of

UPDATE (5:30 pm): What say Colorado Republicans in Congress?

 

♦ Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma): Not a peep

♦ Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez): Nada

♦ Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley): Nothing

♦ Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs): Zilch

Please let us know if we missed a comment from one of these folks.

—–

President Trump went full racist over the weekend as part of a Twitter tirade against four Democratic congresswomen, and on Monday he doubled-down on those comments. As the Associated Press reports:

Unbowed by searing criticism, President Donald Trump on Monday emphatically defended his tweet calling on four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their “broken and crime infested” countries. Condemnation of his comments “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he declared.

Trump responded to questions at the White House after his Sunday tweet assailing the lawmakers, all of whom are U.S. citizens and three of whom were born here. He has been roundly criticized by Democrats who labeled his remarks racist and divisive. A smattering of Republicans also have objected, though most leading Republicans have been silent.

We have no doubt that the office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has been busy not returning reporter calls today, but plenty of Republicans have commented on Trump’s remarks. While world leaders have roundly condemned Trump’s attacks, most Republicans who are speaking out are…not. As Aaron Blake writes for the Washington Post:

After spending much of the past 24 hours silently pretending that President Trump didn’t say what he just said, GOP reactions to Trump telling nonwhite congresswomen to return to the countries they came from are starting to roll in.

And it’s clear they have no good answers…

…Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) also tried to pretend that Trump hadn’t said what he said. Harris said that Trump’s tweets were “clearly not racist” and that “he could have meant go back to the district they came from — to the neighborhood they came from.” Trump’s tweet clearly references the “countries” these members came from before telling them to “go back.” There is no ambiguity on that count.

The first White House aide to weigh in at length was Marc Short, who serves as Vice President Pence’s chief of staff. He — rather remarkably — suggested Monday that Trump can’t be racist because he appointed a Chinese American transportation secretary, Elaine Chao. And that’s not even oversimplifying Short’s response.

That’s right — the Chief of Staff for Vice President Marc Short says President Trump can’t possibly be racist because Elaine Chao serves as his Transportation Secretary. As Colorado Pols readers understand, you can’t be racist if you went to a wedding in China, and this fits along those lines.

And then there’s South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who barfed out this response on “Fox and Friends”:

“We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — Border Patrol agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

Ken Cuccinelli (right)

This morning, Alisyn Camerota of CNN repeatedly asked Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to comment on Trump’s tirade. Cuccinelli basically just shrugged when Camerota asked if Trump’s comments were racist, repeatedly insisting that he hadn’t been on Twitter in the last 24 hours as some sort of defense in his favor:

CAMEROTA: Just the concept of the President of the United States telling duly elected Congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from — the countries they came from — these are U.S. citizens. So, you don’t find that racist?

CUCCINELLI: No.

CAMEROTA: So how do you explain it?

CUCCINELLI: I don’t. You’re going to have to ask the President about that.

It wasn’t until later in the day that a few prominent Republicans started actually speaking out against Trump’s comments, as Politico reports:

“Instead of sharing how the Democratic Party’s far-left, pro-socialist policies… are wrong for the future of our nation, the President interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican senator. “No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further.”…

…Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate up for re-election, said she disagrees “strongly” with House progressives on policy as well as their “anti-Semitic rhetoric” but urged Trump to take down his “way over the line” tweet.

“President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from. Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), emphasizing that he disagreed with the Democrats on “virtually every policy issue.” But he said those arguments should be defeated “on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”

We’ll update this post as if we hear any response from prominent Colorado Republicans.

 

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Pettersen Recall Gets Recalled After 3 Days

We noted over the weekend that efforts to recall State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) were off to a bit of a rough start, with the first petition-gathering event taking place at a location that isn’t even within the boundaries of SD-22. As Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post, the entire Pettersen recall effort is being retooled while the group tries to figure out what they are supposed to be mad about:

We don’t yet know the details of why Republicans are attempting a do-over on the Pettersen recall petition, though we can speculate a couple of potential reasons. Perhaps the group decided that Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi was not the ideal figurehead for the effort. It’s also possible that the group needs to get its hands on a more accurate map of the Lakewood Senate district.

Or perhaps the Recall Pettersen team realized that they made a pretty big mistake in their homework. The recall petition targeting Sen. Pettersen included an incorrect complaint about an alleged vote on HB-1312 (School Immunization Requirements), stating that Pettersen should be recalled in part “because she voted for the passage of” HB-1312.

Trying to increase vaccination rates among Colorado children was a hot topic at the State Capitol for much of the 2019 session, and HB-1312 was ultimately killed before it could come to a vote in the State Senate. Since Pettersen was not on any of the committees that heard earlier versions of the bill, she never cast a vote on HB-1312 one way or the other.

None of the various recall attempts underway in Colorado make any real sense from a practical perspective. Pettersen was elected in November 2018 by a nearly 17-point margin, which does not suggest an undercurrent of disagreement among voters. The feuding groups trying to recall Gov. Jared Polis are likewise ignoring the fact that he defeated Republican Walker Stapleton by 11 points last fall.

The Pettersen recall malfunction is yet another entry in a growing list of blunders from a handful of Republicans activists and consultants who are trying to figure out a way to get around the fact that Colorado voters elected a bunch of Democrats in 2018. We called these efforts “half-baked” in a previous post, but even that might have been a significant overestimation on our part.

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Will NPV Be The Real Republican Revenge Vote?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have to concede that’s a real possibility.

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Lee, Pettersen Prepare To Fight Half-Baked Recalls

UPDATE: Here’s some evidence that the recall campaign against Sen. Brittany Pettersen is not off to what you’d call a well-organized start:

Sure enough, Green Mountain Presbyterian Church on West Alameda is way outside SD-22, smack dab in the heart of Sen. Jessie Danielson’s district to the west.

Forward to victory, boys.

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Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Pete Lee (D).

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports, just before close of business yesterday recall petitions were approved for circulation against two Democratic state senators who just won elections in 2018 by wide margins: Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.

Both won their seats by wide margins in the November 2018 general elections. Pettersen took her seat with 58% of the vote while Lee secured 62%.

“I’m proud of my record. This is an unfortunate abuse of power,” Pettersen told The Colorado Sun on Friday afternoon. “This is what (regular) elections are for when you disagree with somebody. I look forward to talking about why I ran for office and the work that I’ve done in the time that I’ve been elected and what I did last session.”

Pettersen added that she thinks the recall’s backers are “completely out of touch with voters in the community” and that “they keep messing with the wrong people.” She and her supporters have been preparing for weeks for a potential recall effort and have already been rallying support in the district.

Lee echoed Pettersen’s sentiment, saying “I’m really disappointed that people would undermine and disrespect the voters and the democratic process by attempting to recall someone for the votes that they took.”

Both lawmakers are being targeted for the same arithmetic reason: although recall elections are intended to be reserved for cases of official misconduct and crime, the signature requirement to initiate a recall election of a state lawmaker is low enough to make the job relatively straightforward for a well-funded petition gathering drive. It’s only necessary to gather 11,300 signatures to get a recall on the ballot in Sen. Lee’s urban Colorado Springs SD-11, and just under 18,400 in Pettersen’s suburban SD-22. Where the signature requirement to recall a statewide officeholder is dauntingly high, recalls of individual lawmakers have been celebrated by Colorado Republicans as giving them voting leverage they no longer can count on in a general election.

With that said, there’s real question about whether or not these recalls have any actual support among either Republican insiders or rank-and-file members. There’s no way to know for sure how a signature campaign is going until the campaign turns in signatures or they concede failure ahead of the deadline like in the case of the campaign against Rep. Tom Sullivan. But at this point we haven’t seen anything like a Republican wave of support for these two latest recalls. In fact,

If local Republican operative Tyler Sandberg of EIS Solutions is to be believed, these recalls are not moving forward with the support of the Republican donor/consultant class. It is possible that the months of infighting, nasty press, and strategic blunders like the Sullivan fiasco really have persuaded smart Republicans to give up on recalls and focus on the rapidly approaching 2020 elections.

But until anyone knows for sure whether this is a bonafide or silly-season threat to either lawmaker, Democrats are obliged to not just take the threat seriously but to capitalize to maximum advantage on the organizing opportunity this presents for Democrats in their districts. In the next 60 days we expect both will walk their districts like it’s the fall before a general election–which is the best possible defense against both the signature drive and, should it come to it, a recall election.

As for Republicans who want to pursue recalls instead of focusing on the next regular election, they’re going to keep doing it until they lose enough times to realize it won’t work. The only thing you can be sure of is Democrats will not be complacent to the threat ever again–or until the law is changed to preserve recalls for offenses that deserve the ultimate political punishment.

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Obama Did Not Remove Citizenship Question from Census

Right wing nutter Charlie Kirk is speaking today at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he will no doubt be trying to stoke the fires of a rapidly-spreading lie in social media circles that goes something like this: It was President Obama who ended the practice of asking a citizenship question on the U.S. Census.

This nonsense is being pushed all across the country today in the wake of President Trump’s failure to get a citizenship question included on the 2020 U.S. Census. Since Trump doesn’t ever actually fail to do anything, Rush Limbaugh made a point to blame Obama during an appearance on Fox News this morning.

As Philip Bump debunks for the Washington Post:

For decades, the census conducted every 10 years included a question about the naturalization status — that is, citizenship — of immigrants. The last time it did so was in 1950…

…In other words, not only did Obama not remove the question from the census, over the past 10 years it has been asked more frequently than it was before his two terms in office.

Here’s more from National Public Radio in a story published in March:

The last time a citizenship question was among the census questions for all U.S. households was in 1950. That form asked where each person was born and in a follow-up question asked, “If foreign born — Is he naturalized?”

In 1960, there was no such question about citizenship, only about place of birth.

Barack Obama wasn’t even born until 1961, so the only way he could be responsible for removing the citizenship question from the U.S. Census is if he had somehow traveled back in time to infiltrate the Department of Commerce…

And before your right wing office buddy asks, we’re fairly confident that Obama did not figure out time travel.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (July 12)

According to President Trump, movie star and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has died…in a metaphorical television ratings sort of way. 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 a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

 Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned his cabinet post after a failed attempt to deflect blame over his handling of a 2008 plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump told reporters Friday morning that Acosta had decided to step aside. He called Acosta a “great labor secretary, not a good one” and a “tremendous talent.”

“This was him, not me,” Trump said of the resignation decision, as Acosta stood by his side. “I said to Alex, you don’t have to do this.”

Acosta, the only Hispanic in Trump’s Cabinet, said he had submitted his resignation to take effect in a week.

“I don’t think it’s right or fair to have this administration’s labor department have Epstein be the focus instead of the incredible economy we have today,” Acosta said. “It would be selfish for me to stay in the position and continue talking about a case that is 12 years old.”

Deputy Secretary of Labor Pat Pizzella will replace Acosta. Pizzella will be hitting the ground with his mouth running trying to explain this one:

If this Mariana Islands story sounds familiar, it should: This became a big issue in the 2008 U.S. Senate race for former Rep. Bob Schaffer and his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

 

► Former special counsel Robert Mueller was set to testify publicly in front on Congress next week, but his appearance may be delayed a week. As Politico reports:

Mueller’s highly-anticipated Capitol Hill testimony will be delayed one week under a tentative arrangement he reached with House Democrats, according to multiple sources briefed on the discussions.

Although it’s unclear why Mueller’s testimony was delayed until July 24, lawmakers familiar with the matter said one reason was an ongoing negotiation about how much time they would have to question the former special counsel.

The House Judiciary and Intelligence committees have been negotiating to give lawmakers more time to question the former special counsel. Under the tentative agreement, which was described to POLITICO by lawmakers briefed on the talks, the Judiciary Committee would be granted an extra hour to question Mueller.

That concern was particularly acute for the 41-member Judiciary Committee. As initially planned, each committee would have had just two hours to question Mueller, and more junior lawmakers on the Judiciary panel — including all of its freshman members — would have been shut out.

Colorado is well-represented on the House Judiciary Committee, which includes Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

 

► Freshman Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) announced that his re-election campaign has already surpassed $1 million in contributions. As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

The Aurora attorney and Army Ranger veteran raised $430,461 for the three-month period ending June 30, according to numbers provided to Colorado Politics.

Added to the $504,317 Crow reported raising in the year’s first quarter and the roughly $90,000 he pulled in between the election and Dec. 31, that puts Crow’s fundraising total at $1,026,000.

His campaign said Crow had about $800,000 in the bank at the end of the most recent quarter.

As we noted in April, Crow’s impressive early fundraising numbers — combined with his 11-point victory over longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) last November — may very well make CO-6 a safe Democratic seat in 2020. This is remarkable considering that CO-6 had never once been held by a Democrat in its entire existence.

As Luning points out, at least one former lawmaker decided to pass on a run in CO-6:

Former state Rep. Phil Covarrubias, who lost his Adams County-based legislative seat last year in a Republican primary, told Colorado Politics in May he was “about a foot away” from declaring a run against Crow, but in June he filed to run for Adams County commissioner.

Thus far the only Republican candidate in CO-6 is Casper Stockham, who will win a Congressional election just as soon as President Trump starts delivering speeches in Spanish.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Labor Secretary Acosta Resigns; Replacement Baggage-Laden

Rep. Bob Schaffer of Colorado parasails off the Northern Mariana Islands.

Politico reports on today’s big bad Friday story for the Trump administration, the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta after new sex crime charges against billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein called Acosta’s previous involvement in the case into question:

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is stepping down from his post, just two days after he held a news conference to defend a plea deal that he brokered for wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while serving as a U.S. attorney in Florida more than a decade ago.

President Donald Trump informed reporters Friday morning of Acosta’s departure. “This was him, not me,” said Trump as Acosta stood beside him.

Trump, who saw Acosta largely as a source of favorable monthly statistics about unemployment and job growth, called Acosta “a great Labor secretary not a good one” and “a tremendous talent. He’s a Hispanic man, he went to Harvard, a great student.” Trump indicated that he was satisfied with Acosta’s explanation for the plea deal in Wednesday’s news conference, saying, “He explained it.”

President Donald Trump has a habit of discounting the allegations against his scandal-plagued subordinates at the same moment as they’re being shown the door–a two-faced method of scandal management that does little in the end to shield the President from fallout. Acosta’s involvement in a plea deal that has been widely condemned as letting a rich and powerful figure off the hook looks bad of course, but there’s a whole culture of elitism and impunity that allowed it to happen. It includes the President’s own description of Epstein in 2002 as a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Bob Schaffer.

With Acosta out, attention has turned now to deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella, taking over from Acosta in an acting capacity. Over ten years ago, some of our more seasoned readers will remember, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer saw his 2008 campaign derailed by revelations that Schaffer had participated in a “fact-finding” junket to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to “investigate” reports of labor abuses in the territory. In fact the trips were carefully-managed luxury excursions intended to cover up labor abuses, part of a strategy by now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of the island’s garment industry and corrupt local government.

Who helped organize those trips? That would be Patrick Pizzella:

Ms. Ridenour said Mr. Abramoff believed that the ‘‘full story’’ on the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (‘‘CNMI’’) was not getting out, so he arranged ‘‘fact-finding’’ trips for employees of think tanks, Members of Congress, congressional staff, and others. She said Mr. Abramoff asked that NCPPR become a sponsor so that Members of Congress and their staffs could attend and abide by the rules. She said she had no objections because she had gone on such a trip and it had been truly educational. ‘‘As far as I knew for years, he, they went, sat in a room like I did, talked about OSHA violations, I don’t know,’’ Ms. Ridenour told Committee staff.

Patrick Pizzella, a colleague of Mr. Abramoff’s at Preston Gates, wrote to Mr. Abramoff on July 1, 1996, to explain how they planned to funnel money to NCPPR to pay expenses related to a trip to the CNMI. [Pols emphasis]

In a September 2017 letter from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposing Pizzella’s nomination as Deputy Labor Secretary, more elaboration on his role in the CNMI scandal:

Mr. Pizzella worked closely with Jack Abramoff to lobby for policies on the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands that essentially allowed for unchecked slave labor to be performed with the imprimatur of the “Made in the U.S.A.” label on goods and clothing. At his hearing, Mr. Pizzella repeatedly refused to offer straightforward answers to simple questions posed by Senators and provided no real assurances that he is committed to protecting the rights of workers.

Mr. Pizzella, if confirmed, would essentially be the Chief Operating Officer of the department tasked with protecting a wide range of core labor rights, including proper payment under the wage and hour laws, the civil rights of federal contract workers, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and more. Yet he has not done enough to repudiate his past record of defending companies that routinely ignored these rights, and he has not given workers adequate reason to believe that he will defend their rights in the future.

When Trump nominated Andy Puzder, the CEO of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains of fast-food restaurants to serve as Labor Secretary, the underpaid employees of his company begged for the nomination to be rescinded–which it eventually was. About the only way we can imagine to surpass that folly would be give the job to Jack Abramoff’s right-hand man for keeping the Mariana Islands a haven for cheap “Made in the U.S.A.” labor.

It’s the scandal that arguably ended Bob Schaffer’s political career. And it may not be done ending careers.

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Throwback Thursday: Cory Gardner, Meet Dudley Brown

As Republicans bicker in hindsight over the takeover of the Colorado Republican Party in recent years by hard-right elements supported by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners advocacy group, which has led the party down a path of increasingly unelectable candidates and such political self-made disasters as the recent failed attempt to recall freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan from office, we thought it would be useful to recall a time, not so long ago, when Dudley Brown and his strident friends were welcomed into the fold by the state’s highest ranking Republicans. In 2010 when this photo was taken, the “Tea Party” insurgency against President Barack Obama was in full swing, and then-state Rep. Cory Gardner was delighted to accept Dudley’s money and brand support.

RMGO may be a scapegoat in today’s short-attention-span news cycle, but they’ve been shaping both the makeup and the direction of the Republican Party for many years. Cory Gardner knows it better than most, because he’s been a favorite of RMGO and the “softie” National Rifle Association for his whole career.

On the upside, Gardner hasn’t aged a day in ten years, has he?

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Exactly Nobody Buying Cory Gardner’s Latest “Greenwash”

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), with windmills.

As the Colorado Independent’s Robin Bravender reports, vulnerable 2020 Republicans including Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner are banding together in a new “pro-environment” coalition they’re calling Roosevelt Conservation Caucus–named of course after Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, not Teddy’s socialist cousin:

The kickoff of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus comes after President Trump gave a speech this week touting his administration’s environmental record and as Republican lawmakers appear increasingly eager to herald their green credentials.

Gardner joined other Republicans from the Senate and House on Wednesday to formally announce the launch of the group, which its leaders said will “embrace and promote constructive efforts to resolve conservation and environmental problems that align with market-based approaches and promote American ingenuity.”

Gardner said Wednesday that he hopes the platform will “shine a light on the strong [environmental] leadership” of the Republican caucus.

Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, nobody’s seems to be very clear on what this record of “strong environmental leadership” from Republicans, you know…consists of:

But environmentalists say Gardner — who’s considered the most vulnerable Republican senator in 2020 — is trying to greenwash his record.

The Roosevelt Conservation Caucus is “all hat and no cattle,” said Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado. “The bottom line is this: Senator Gardner has cast anti-environment votes 85 percent of the time, so the formation of the Roosevelt Conservation caucus could be a good thing, but it has to be action-oriented.” [Pols emphasis]

The story cites a report from Conservation Colorado last month that takes a further look at Gardner’s long record on the environment, which as we’ve discussed at length in this space is heavy on rhetoric and vanishingly light on votes to back up said rhetoric:

[A]ccording to the data experts at the media organization FiveThirtyEight, and based on President Donald Trump’s 2016 election vote margins in Colorado, Senator Gardner would be expected to support the President’s positions about 45 percent of time in the U.S. Senate. And yet, Senator Gardner votes in line with President Trump’s position about 91 percent of the time. This makes him the second-most misaligned Senator with his or her constituents.1

In no policy area is this phenomenon more on display than with conservation and the environment. Since he first became Colorado’s junior U.S. senator, Senator Gardner has voted against policies to protect clean air and water, supported the interests of fossil fuel companies above Colorado’s taxpayers, fought against common-sense laws to limit carbon and air pollution, and helped swing open the doors to America’s public lands for mining and drilling operations. In fact, our analysis shows that during the four years he has been in the Senate, he has voted against the environment four out of every five times. [Pols emphasis]

In broad political terms, it’s extremely difficult for Republicans at any level to credibly run on a platform of support for environmental protection. A modern-day Republican invoking Theodore Roosevelt to suggest Republicans care about the environment is equivalent to pretending the GOP’s racist re-alignment to court votes in the South never happened. On both the environment and race relations, Republicans have transformed into the effective opposite of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

If Cory Gardner wants to “lead on the environment,” there’s a compelling argument he should start by revisiting his endorsement of a Republican President who thinks windmills cause cancer. As long as Gardner is playing second fiddle to a sitting President seemingly determined to make a fool of Republicans who claim their party has a “record of leadership” on the environment, this kind of revisionist “greenwashing” is not just laughable but in fact politically self-harmful.

It leaves an impression that Gardner thinks voters are stupid. Voters don’t like that.

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Thursday Open Thread

“When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.”

–George Carlin

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