Jason Crow Gets Armed Services Committee

Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)

Freshman Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora has been appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, which is typically an important committee for Colorado because we are home to Fort Carson Army Base, the Air Force Academy, NORAD, and military-industrial companies like Lockheed-Martin.. The full statement from his office is below:

“I’m honored to announce my appointment to the House Armed Services Committee. Our most solemn responsibility is the decision to send our young men and women into harm’s way. As a former Army Ranger, I have seen firsthand the horrors of war and understand force should always be a last resort. It is an experience that will guide my work on the committee and in Congress.

“I look forward to working with other committee members and fellow veterans to ensure a strong national defense, support our men and women in uniform, and work with our allies to advance diplomacy overseas.”

While the 116th Congress has the largest class of freshmen veteran members in more than a decade, less than 18 percent of members have served in the military, the lowest since World War II.

Jason Crow served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with both conventional and special operations units, receiving a Bronze Star for his actions in battle.

46 Shares

Why Mitch McConnell Isn’t Sweating Cory Gardner

As the longest shutdown of the federal government in American history grinds on toward a full month of dysfunction, Politico’s Burgess Everett reports on the central problem in the story of alleged dissent by a few Republican Senators, including Cory Gardner of Colorado, now paying lip service to ending the shutdown without victory for President Donald Trump on his obsessive quest to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

The problem? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has steadfastly blown Gardner off:

The Senate majority leader is standing firm in his resolve to not move a muscle on any government funding bill that would not have the president’s approval. That’s earned him scorn among Democrats given that he endorsed a funding bill that didn’t include the president’s much-sought additional border wall funding of more than $5 billion in December.

But aside from some rank-and-file Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Cory Gardner of Colorado who say Congress should again pass spending bills that don’t provide additional wall funding, McConnell’s allies say he’s facing little pressure to change his stance as the longest shutdown in history continues.

“They’re going to do what they need to do and advocate for what they believe their constituents want,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, [Pols emphasis] who served as McConnell’s deputy for six years. “But I don’t think that should be confused with what Sen. McConnell’s calculus is, which is: not to go through this effort of passing something the president won’t sign and then going through a potential veto override and all the conflict that would cause.”

That’s a frank admission from Sen. John Cornyn that Gardner and other Republican Senators who claim to support an immediate end to the shutdown are doing so for their own political purposes–in Gardner’s case, political survival, being arguably the most vulnerable Republican Senator up for re-election in 2020.

But it doesn’t matter, because Gardner appears to have backtracked almost entirely between then and now:

Yet even the senators who have proposed reopening the government without additional border wall funding don’t fault McConnell. Gardner is up for reelection in 2020 in blue Colorado and has been talking to senators in both parties about ending the shutdown, but he said that McConnell is “trying to find a way forward, just like the rest of us are.” [Pols emphasis]

“Why isn’t there a rebellion on the Democrats’ side?” Gardner said, [Pols emphasis] highlighting the party’s lockstep opposition to giving Trump more than $1.3 billion for fencing.

This is the same Cory Gardner who just after the New Year said he would support the Democratic House’s bills to reopen the government, capitulating to the “lockstep opposition” he’s complaining about today! In truth Gardner started to back away from his new position almost as fast as he staked it out, stockpiling media praise he didn’t deserve–and now instead of placing the blame where it obviously belongs, with his own GOP Senate leadership who refuses to allow a vote on the bills Gardner claims to support, Gardner has reverted to blaming the same Democrats he allied himself with less than two weeks ago.

All told, it’s a classic example of Cory Gardner’s trademark two-faced politics. Of course, knowing this means understanding that Gardner is not going to end the shutdown, in fact if anything his insincere “dissent” is more likely to prolong it. But this long game does give Cory Gardner a chance, paraphrasing Jethro Tull, to skate away on the thin ice of a new day.

And for America’s most vulnerable Senator, that’s all anything is really about now.

20 Shares

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 15)

We’re halfway through the NBA season, and the Denver Nuggets are still the best team in the Western Conference. Get on the bandwagon, people! Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump’s nominee to be the next Attorney General is sitting before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. Confirmation hearings for William Barr are largely focused on how the former George H.W. Bush AG would handle the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation into potential collusion between Trump and Russia. The New York Times is following Barr’s confirmation hearings with live updates.

 

► President Trump may own the ongoing federal government shutdown, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are more-than-willing partners. McConnell and pals — like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner — are getting more attention as enablers of Trump’s disastrous policies.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado Democrats are pushing hard for an end to the shutdown:

As the country entered the fourth week of the partial government shutdown, Colorado’s Democratic delegation to Congress had a unified message for Republican leadership: End the shutdown now. Discuss border security later.

U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet held a news conference Monday at Denver International Airport that overlooked airport security, where Transportation Security Administration workers served travelers without pay.

There are more than 15,000 federal employees that are furloughed or working without pay in Colorado.

The legislators emphasized that if the Democratic House majority and the Republican Senate majority work together, they can end the partial government shutdown without President Trump’s approval.

Meanwhile, stories about the local impact of the shutdown continue to dominate headlines here in Colorado. The City of Denver is offering grants for federal workers to help them make mortgage payments.

 

► As the New York Times reports, a federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s attempts to put a citizenship query on the next U.S. Census questionnaire:

The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer.

In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed “a veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added.

Mr. Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Judge Furman wrote.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

0 Shares

Disable the Enablers

Sen. Cory Gardner is always right behind President Trump

The federal government shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history. New reports over the weekend indicate an increasing (yes, ever-increasing) level of concern about the possibility that President Trump is or has been actively working to advance the interests of Russia to the detriment of the United States. At the very least, it is inarguable that Trump has taken unusual unprecedented steps to hide the details of all of his discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin from even his most senior staff. As even a child understands, if you have nothing to hide, you don’t go to extreme lengths to, you know, hide things.

There is no hiding from the fact that Trump is causing great harm to this country and our political system. But as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post writes today in a column that is being widely shared, it’s time that Americans take a deeper look at the enablers that make Trump’s actions possible:

Two new blockbuster scoops about President Trump’s relations with Russia — combined with fresh signs that Trump will drag out the government shutdown indefinitely — should renew our focus on the quiet but critical role that Mitch McConnell has played in enabling the damage that Trump is doing to the country on so many fronts…

…In much discussion of all these matters, there is a terrible rhetorical habit of treating GOP conduct toward Trump as mere passive acquiescence. In fact, this is better seen as an active enabling, on one front after another. And we are likely to learn much more about just how damaging this has been soon enough. [Pols emphasis]

Republican leadership in Congress doesn’t appear to know how to deal with any of this, so they have ended up doing nothing. You might as well just change the Republican Party logo from an elephant to a “¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ” emoji.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t in Washington D.C. on Friday, the first day that federal employees missed a regular paycheck. Neither was Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner he was at the stock show in Denver instead.

Republicans have lost the messaging battle over the government shutdown — which is no surprise given that President Trump has repeatedly said that he would own the shutdown himself. Even Trump’s once-loyal base of white, working-class voters is starting to slip away. Yet Senate Republican leadership, which includes both McConnell and Gardner, won’t act.

Sure, Gardner will say that he wants the shutdown to end, but he won’t do anything about it. Officials from Colorado’s Congressional delegation, including Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver), were at Denver International Airport today to talk about the shutdown and proposals to get the government up and running — proposals that Republican leadership won’t even consider because Trump demands a big wall. If Gardner was at DIA on Monday, it was because he was flying somewhere else.

Responding to someone like President Trump with inaction is absolutely the same as enabling him. If and when Trump falls, his enablers will go right along with him.

49 Shares

BREAKING: Colorado Supremes Say Big Oil Can Poison You

UPDATE #4: Gov. Jared Polis weighs in, and everyone seems to be on the same page:

While I’m disappointed by today’s ruling, it only highlights the need to work with the Legislature and the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to more safely develop our state’s natural resources and protect our citizens from harm. I’ve made transitioning to renewable energy a top priority because it is the best way to protect Coloradans health and safety, reverse the harmful effects of climate change that threaten our economy and our way of life, and boost our state’s economy by creating green jobs that can never be outsourced.

—–

UPDATE #3: Conservation Colorado’s statement:

Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado, released the following statement:

“For too long, Coloradans asking for stronger health and safety protections have lost at the legislature, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and in the courts. That needs to change.

“Today’s Martinez decision is yet another reminder that we need to tilt the balance back in favor of Coloradans’ health and safety. With a new administration in place, we look forward to working with Governor Polis, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and legislative leaders to reform this broken system and put our communities first.”

—–

UPDATE #2: Statement on today’s ruling from the Colorado Senate Democratic Majority:

The Colorado Supreme Court today released its ruling on Martinez v. Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, reversing a Court of Appeals decision that state regulators must condition oil and gas development on ensuring protection of health, safety, and environment. In response, Senator Mike Foote released the following statement:

“While I am disappointed in the decision, it gives us at the legislature an opportunity to finally put health and safety first with oil and gas operations. It is well beyond time for us to protect Coloradans and our clean air and water. I am confident that my colleagues and I will come forward with legislation to do exactly that.”

Senator Mike Foote has been a champion of public health and safety when it comes to oil and gas operations in the legislature, sponsoring and cosponsoring legislation such as HB18-1352: Oil And Gas Facilities Distance From School Property. Unfortunately, many pieces of legislation that would have protected Coloradans died in the Republican-controlled Senate.

That won’t be a problem this year…

—–

UPDATE: The Colorado Sun reports:

This will hardly be the last word on oil and gas regulation in Colorado this year, though. The court’s ruling will likely motivate the Democratic-majority at the state Capitol to overhaul how oil and gas operations are permitted in Colorado…

“Communities all up and down the Front Range and on the Western Slope, they want to know that health and safety is getting a serious look,” said House Speaker KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat. “That goes for air quality, water quality, citing, smells, odors, and you know, explosions.”

“I don’t think the existing law right now — the way COGCC is implementing it — gives a strong enough consideration to those things,” Becker added. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Today the Colorado Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling in the landmark case of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission v. Martinez–a case brought to compel the Commission to only issue drilling permits once it has been determined that such drilling “does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change.”

Today’s decision reverses a lower court ruling that sided with the plaintiffs, and the oil and gas industry is celebrating–for now. Here’s the meat of the decision:

The court reaches this conclusion for three primary reasons. First, a court’s review of an administrative agency’s decision as to whether to engage in rulemaking is limited and highly deferential. Second, the Commission correctly determined that, under the applicable language of the Act, it could not properly adopt the rule proposed by Respondents. Specifically, as the Commission recognized, the pertinent provisions do not allow it to condition all new oil and gas development on a finding of no cumulative adverse impacts to public health and the environment. Rather, the provisions make clear that the Commission is required to foster the development of oil and gas resources, protecting and enforcing the rights of owners and producers, [Pols emphasis] and in doing so, to prevent and mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts to the extent necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare, but only after taking into consideration cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility. [Pols emphasis] Finally, in declining to engage in rulemaking, the Commission reasonably relied on the facts that it was already working with the CDPHE to address the concerns underlying Respondents’ proposed rule and that other Commission priorities took precedence at this time.

Although the industry is celebrating this ruling as of this writing, the long-term consequences of this decision could be the energizing of opponents of oil and gas drilling just as the state comes under the unhindered control of Democrats. We’ll update with further legal analysis, but as we understand it the decision relies on the mission of the COGCC not just to regulate the production of oil and gas resources in Colorado, but to “foster the development” of oil and gas–a mission that under current law obliges the commission to rank public health and safety lower than the mission to promote the oil and gas industry.

All we can say is, if that’s the law, it’s law ripe for changing. Stay tuned.

215 Shares

“Personhood” Principal Wants To Be Colorado GOP Vice Chair

Back to the future!

Taking note of a report late last week from Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette–one of the central figures in the years-long quest by the evangelical right in Colorado to pass a constitutional “Personhood” abortion ban amendment, Kristi Burton Brown, is now running for the vice-chairmanship of the Colorado Republican Party:

Burton Brown, 31, maintains that the GOP’s thumping losses in the November election will eventually amount to “a momentary blip on the screen” if the party turns itself around ahead of the 2020 election.

“The Republican Party’s not dead by a long shot in Colorado. But we really need to rebrand ourselves and reimagine how things are done,” she said. “For too long, we’ve done the same old thing the same old ways. We need to make it more fun to be a Republican, we need to engage people. We need to tell stories.” [Pols emphasis]

She drew national attention a decade ago as the face of Amendment 48, a state ballot initiative also known as the personhood amendment, which would have changed the definition of a person under the state constitution to “any human being from the moment of fertilization.”

Although by all accounts a very good advocate for her signature issue of banning abortion, the idea that Kristi Burton Brown represents a “rebranding” of the Colorado Republican Party is a (pardon us) difficult pill to swallow. After sponsoring “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures in Colorado that were not just rejected wholesale by Colorado voters but did significant collateral damage to Republican candidates running on the same ballot, Burton Brown went on to become an attorney for the Susan B. Anthony List–an anti-abortion organization where none other than former Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave serves as Vice President of Government Affairs.

Don’t get us wrong, this is not an attack on Burton Brown’s character or qualifications, which on paper are exemplary for the job of Colorado GOP vice-chair. What she does not represent, however, is any kind of new brand for Colorado Republicans. In every way that matters, she is a creature of the bad old days leading to last November’s electoral bloodbath.

Which seems to be exactly what they want, lest we harbor any delusions.

2 Shares

Shutdown Update: Records Will Fall

UPDATE #2: On Friday, President Trump backed away from his threat to use “emergency powers” for his big border wall. As CNN explains:

President Donald Trump said Friday he is still open to declaring a national emergency over immigration at the southern border, but made clear he would “rather not,” calling it an “easy way out.”

One of the reasons Trump is reluctant to declare a national emergency: He believes his administration will be sued and that his actions will be blocked by the 9th Circuit.

As CNBC reports, the total cost of the shutdown to the U.S. economy will soon exceed the price of Trump’s proposed wall. That’s some great negotiating, Mr. President.

—–

UPDATE: Gov. Jared Polis catches Sen. Cory Gardner at the National Western Stock Show, where some very appropriate shade is thrown:

—–

The ongoing federal government shutdown is about to become the longest in U.S. history. As the Washington Post reports:

The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history, while President Trump continued his efforts to sway public opinion on the need for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.

The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments — but it was already declared dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump. [Pols emphasis]

About 800,000 workers missed a paycheck Friday as the impasse between Trump and Democrats stretched into its 21st day. Without a dramatic turn of events, the shutdown would become one for the record books at midnight.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will no doubt continue to try to blame Democrats for the shutdown, but Democrats are actually trying to pass legislation to reopen the government. It’s Senate Republicans who are backing Trump and refusing to budge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn’t even in Washington D.C. on Friday.

Meanwhile, President Trump appears to be moving closer to using “emergency powers” to force construction of the wall. From the New York Times:

President Trump traveled to the border on Thursday to warn of crime and chaos on the frontier, as White House officials considered diverting emergency aid from storm- and fire-ravaged Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California to build a border barrier, perhaps under an emergency declaration.

In a sign of growing unease about the partial government shutdown, some Senate Republicans came off the sidelines to hash out a deal that would reopen the government as Congress worked toward a broader agreement tying wall funds to protection for some undocumented immigrants and other migrants.

But before those negotiations could gain momentum, they collapsed. Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Mr. Trump’s team let it be known privately that the president would not back such a deal.

“It kind of fell apart,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who was among those Republicans seeking a deal.

You read that correctly. The Trump administration is considering diverting DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS to an “emergency” wall-building project.

What is “Plan C” — robbing old ladies?

With the government shutdown expected to continue for the foreseeable future, the nation’s airports may soon run into serious problems as TSA security agents increasingly stop showing up for work. Air traffic controllers are also now suing the federal government over being forced to work without pay.

12 Shares

Seven Republicans Vote No on Back Pay for Federal Employees

UPDATE: Rep. Ken Buck was apparently misidentified as one of the 7 Republicans voting against back pay for federal employees.


—–

As The Hill reports, Congress is trying to do the right thing for federal workers who will miss their first paycheck today as a result of the government shutdown:

The House on Friday cleared a bill that would ensure back pay for federal workers missing paychecks as a result of the partial government shutdown, as well as guarantee payment for employees affected by any future closures.

The measure passed with broad bipartisan support, 411-7. All seven votes against the bill came from Republicans.

The Senate approved the back pay measure — unanimously — on Thursday, and President Trump says he will sign the legislation. That makes the overall vote total 511-7 in favor of paying federal employees the salary they are currently not receiving through no fault of their own.

12 Shares

#TrumpShutdown Standoff Reaches Critical Stage


Collage by Mathew Helman

As the Colorado Independent’s Lena Novins Montague reports, federal workers protested yesterday outside Sen. Cory Gardner’s downtown Denver offices as the partial shutdown of the federal government approached its three-week mark today:

Nathan Wiser, who monitors water quality for the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, has been unable to go to work for 20 days due to the partial government shutdown. So on Thursday afternoon, he joined roughly 150 other federal workers in a rally outside of the U.S. Custom House in Denver.

Their message to the government: “Do your job so that we can do ours.”

Organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, the rally was part of a nationwide protest over the shutdown, which entered its 20th day Thursday. The shutdown impacts or could impact some 800,000 federal workers, including 53,200 in Colorado.

“I’m here because I am a furloughed federal employee,” Wiser said. “I am not being paid. I am being shut out of the office. I am not allowed to go to work.” Wiser said his frustration with the shutdown is twofold: one, he said his work is important for public safety, and two, on a more personal level, he hates burning through his savings.

This morning, the standoff affected thousands more federal workers who did not receive their regular paychecks, throwing personal finances into chaos and potentially affecting security clearances if resulting credit problems leave federal workers financially vulnerable. For workers who have the personal savings to cope with the loss of a paycheck, it’s an inconvenience, but for thousands who live paycheck to paycheck like most Americans it’s a full-blown crisis. The Democratic contingent of Colorado’s congressional delegation put out a statement this morning decrying the situation and demanding that Senate Republicans take firmer action:

More than 15,000 Coloradans were not paid today because President Trump and Senate Republicans are using those federal employees as political pawns. This shutdown puts our country’s national security at risk and the livelihoods of hardworking men and women in jeopardy. Enough is enough. We call on Senate Republicans to immediately act and join Democrats to fully reopen the government and end this senseless shutdown. It’s past time for President Trump and Senate Republicans to come to their senses and act in the best interest of the country and hardworking folks everywhere. [Pols emphasis]

As the shutdown drags on past this critical point of thousands of federal workers not being paid, and with the effects of the shutdown starting to appear everywhere despite legislation passed after previous shutdowns to limit their impact, the failure of Senate Republicans to take up the House’s legislation to immediately reopen the government increasingly stands out as the center of the problem. If Senate Republicans wanted to, they could be much more aggressive in defying Trump–passing the House’s legislation, and if necessary overriding a veto.

But for all the face time Cory Gardner gets with Senate GOP leaders (see collage at top), Mitch McConnell isn’t willing to put his money where Gardner’s mouth is! McConnell’s blocking of a vote yesterday effectively slammed the door on Gardner’s lip service to ending the shutdown immediately. With all of that in mind, the question to ask is this: is Gardner merely ineffective at persuading his leadership to do the right thing, or complicit in a shell game Republicans are all playing?

Once you cut through the rhetoric, folks, it’s one or the other.

174 Shares

The Gardner Shuffle

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks a move by Senate Democrats to hold a vote on reopening the federal government.

—–

Come on everybody, gather ’round! Grab your partner and head on over to the dance floor for “The Gardner Shuffle.”

Just follow these simple instructions…

STEP 1:

Make national headlines by saying that you want to end the government shutdown to show the rubes that you are a bipartisan moderate superhero:

As The Hill reported on January 3, 2019:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces a potentially tough re-election in 2020, says Congress should re-open the federal government, even without a deal on funding President Trump’s border wall.

Gardner is the first Senate Republican to call for ending the partial shutdown even without a deal on President Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund a border wall.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” he said…

 

STEP 2:

Minimize the daylight between you and President Trump when your right-wing base gets angry that you suggested ending the shutdown without resolution on a border wall.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette (January 5, 2019):

Despite the firestorm that erupted when he became the first Republican senator to call for reopening the federal government, Colorado’s Cory Gardner said Friday that he hasn’t changed his position on shutdowns…

…“This is the same position I have had,” Gardner said. “I don’t think shutdowns are the right way to govern.”

Gardner said he supports Trump’s demand for $5.6 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. [Pols emphasis] But, he said, the GOP should reopen the government, then resume the fight over border security, putting Democrats on the defensive.

NOTE: You may need to pretend that you didn’t hear the question when you get asked about previous statements in opposition to building a border wall

 

STEP 3:

Tell conservative audiences that President Trump has your full support and blame the government shutdown on Democrats (nevermind that Trump has repeatedly taken ownership of the shutdown).

Here’s Gardner on the “Steffan Tubbs Show” on KNUS on Wednesday (January 9, 2019):

“The President is right to be fighting for more border security dollars. I don’t understand the opposition today, other than it’s just opposition to the President…

…I made a comment several weeks ago where I said that it seems like what we’re seeing out of the House of Representatives is a ‘revenge majority,’ A majority that is simply going to oppose everything because it comes from President Trump.”

STEP 4:

Do-si-do, or whatever.

 

54 Shares

Sen. Owen Hill Hits a New Low

Sen. Owen Hill (R).

Yesterday, the Colorado General Assembly held a training session on workplace sexual harassment to address the issue, following an historic reckoning in the 2018 session that resulted in the first-in-a-century expulsion of a sitting lawmaker, Democratic-turned-Republican Rep. Steve Lebsock, and the eventual resignation of by some accounts the worst offender of all, Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs. A second Republican Senator, Jack Tate, announced that he will not run again following an investigation into his misconduct with a Senate aide.

Although politically a no-brainer, yesterday’s training was not expressly mandatory–and as 9NEWS reports, two Republican Senators chose not only to forego the training but complain about it the indignity of it all:

The training was not mandatory and two state Senators decided not to attend. 9NEWS spoke to both Sen. Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who gave varying reasons for not attending.

Coram said it was hinted to him the training was mandatory and said he didn’t like being bullied…

Note that the “bullying” alleged here appears to be Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, who 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reports “strongly encouraged” Republican Senators to attend. But we’ll set aside Sen. Don Coram’s red-on-red objections to focus on the comments of another Republican, Sen. Owen Hill. Not content to simply tell reporters he didn’t have to attend, Hill launched into a hypocritical tirade over yesterday’s sexual harassment training that obliges a response:

[Sen. Owen] Hill, on the other hand, took a different tack, saying the training was “sanctimonious hypocrisy.”

“The Senate Leadership illegally fired ou[r] Senate secretary for taking a stand against sexual harassment and now they want to lecture me?” he asked. [Pols emphasis]

In order to understand just how egregiously Sen. Hill is misrepresenting the facts, let’s review. In response to the findings by multiple redundant investigations that allegations of sexual harassment at least two Republican Senators were credible, a retaliatory complaint was filed against Democratic Sen. Daniel Kagan by now-ousted GOP Sen. Beth Humenik. This complaint alleged that Sen. Kagan had used an unmarked restroom reserved for female Senators and staff. No allegation of any misconduct other than using the wrong unmarked bathroom was ever made or found by the resulting investigation.

As we wrote about when it occurred last November, the former Senate Secretary Effie Ameen who served under GOP majority leadership was fired by incoming Democrats, reportedly due to her handling of sexual harassment complaints against Baumgardner and Tate–all the while helping to throw Kagan under the bus for his comparatively minor offense. The details here are critical to understand: as Democrats pushed last spring for a vote to expel Baumgardner, the results of a second investigation validating the allegations against him were kept under wraps by GOP Senate leadership–who then rushed a vote on the motion to expel before that second investigation could be disclosed. We only know what has been reported on the aftermath of this, principally by Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland, but it’s clear that Democrats held Ameen partly responsible for this cover-up.

Either way it’s a wholesale falsehood for Hill to claim that the former Senate Secretary “took a stand against sexual harassment” with regard to Kagan, because Kagan was never accused of sexual harassment. The truth of the matter as we understand it is that Kagan had medical problems that fully account for his use of the wrong unmarked bathroom–and nothing more needs to be said.

With that established, what we have is Owen Hill disgracefully turning a blind eye to the reality of sexual harassment committed by fellow Republican lawmakers–choosing instead to falsely attack a Democratic lawmaker who did not commit sexual harassment, all the while declaring that he has no need to attend sexual harassment training.

In short, Hill just proved why yesterday’s training should have been mandatory.

1 Shares

Everyone Wants to be GOP Party Chair (Even Ken Buck)

Ken Buck to the rescue?

Colorado Republicans were positively demolished in the 2018 election cycle, losing their slim majority in the State Senate and giving up all four major statewide offices to Democrats (Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Secretary of State). Republicans desperately need new leadership to guide their wounded flock out of the political wilderness in 2020, which means the soon-to-be-vacant role of State Party Chair is suddenly the most sought-after job in the state.

As 9News reports, there’s a new name atop the list of people vying to succeed Jeff Hays as Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party:

Four sources with knowledge of the process on Wednesday told 9NEWS Congressman Ken Buck will run for chair of the Colorado Republican Party.

The replacement for outgoing party chairman Jeff Hays, who is not seeking another two-year term, will be selected by roughly 500 party insiders at a State Central Committee meeting on March 30.

Buck is presumably making his intentions known because the line for the job is already getting pretty long. Among those who have expressed interest in taking the reins of the State GOP are former Jefferson County Republican Party Chair Don Ytterberg; former State Senator Tom Wiens; current Republican Party Vice-Chairman Sherrie Gibson; El Paso County Republican Chair Joshua Hosler; and State Rep. Susan Beckman of Littleton.

The jockeying to become the next person thrown under the bus Chair of the Colorado Republican Party has always been filled with intrigue, back-stabbing, and complicated rivalries. The job itself isn’t nearly as important as it is made out to be — the 2002 passage of Amendment 27 basically neutered the influence of State Parties in Colorado — but the mythology of the position persists for the GOP.

Buck and others appear to be looking at the chairmanship as a stepping stone to a statewide run in 2022 (Bob Beauprez, you’ll recall, was GOP Chair before running for Congress and Governor). It’s easy to understand the narrative when you consider that Colorado Republicans can’t really do much worse than they did in 2018. As long as the next GOP Chair doesn’t plunder the bank accounts or get somebody killed, they’ll be able to claim ownership of whatever resurgence Republicans can muster in 2020.

“The Republican Party is dead.”

Rep. Ken Buck (7/31/17)

Nevertheless, it is unusual for a sitting Member of Congress to be attempting to take the lead of the State Republican Party. Beckman would likely resign from the legislature if she succeeds in her bid for Chair, but it’s not clear that Buck would do the same. As 9News reports:

Colorado Republican Party spokesman Daniel Cole said he was unaware of any reason why a currently elected official, on the state level or federal level, could not simultaneously lead the state party. Cole could not recall a recent time when the chair of the state GOP was also in elected office.

State Party Chairman used to be more of a volunteer role until Republicans turned it into a full-time salaried position for Dick Wadhams in 2007. It’s hard to see Republicans being interested in the idea of Buck serving as Chair while maintaining his seat in Congress, but that’s not Buck’s biggest problem.

Buck’s biggest hurdle to becoming State GOP Chair is that he already declared the patient to be deceased. Here’s what Buck wrote in a guest commentary for the Denver Post on July 31, 2017:

The Republican Party is dead.

At one time, the blood of the people coursed through its veins, enlivening the party with their values and virtues, their goals and dreams. The party became its own energizing force, compelling people to sacrifice for a higher moral purpose.

But today’s Republican Party abandoned these people. It no longer represents their values. It no longer has a vision for a better America. And no one is stepping up to provide that vision.

Yikes! Good luck walking that one back, Congressman.

The Republican Party is dead. Long live the Republican Party.

10 Shares

Rich Guys Get Un-Deputized in Yuma County

Billionaire Republican megadonor Robert Mercer

Bloomberg News has a fascinating update to a story that we followed regularly in this space last year about Republican mega donor Robert Mercer and his pay-to-play posse scheme in Yuma, Colorado. As Zachary Mider writes for Bloomberg, Mercer will have to go play cops and robbers somewhere else:

The New York hedge fund magnate and conservative donor had his status as a volunteer deputy sheriff revoked by Yuma County, Colorado, Sheriff Chad Day on Monday, his last day in office. Day lost his re-election bid last year after Bloomberg News reported on Mercer’s role and his purchase of a new pickup truck for the sheriff’s official use. [Pols emphasis]

The arrangement provoked controversy in the prairie county that borders Kansas and Nebraska. Day submitted papers last week ending the appointments of Mercer, 72, and at least a dozen other volunteer posse members, effective Jan. 7, according to documents signed by Day and filed with the county clerk. Day also revoked the appointment of William Koch, 78, though a spokesman for the billionaire industrialist said he was never a posse member.

County records that became public in recent months show that four Mercer associates, including a bodyguard who says on LinkedIn that he’s a former “Cuban Special Operations Commander,” had also received badges from Day and that the value of Mercer’s donations of cash and equipment to the sheriff’s office totaled more than $135,000. Mercer declined to comment, and Day didn’t respond to multiple inquiries.

Chad Day is now the former Sheriff of Yuma County (and presumably the outgoing President of the Colorado County Sheriffs’ Association) in large part because he sold out his county in exchange for a new truck and a bunch of stun guns so that Mercer — who owns one of the world’s largest private collections of machine guns — and his buddies would be able to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the country. Day had insisted to Blair Miller of Denver7 that there was no quid, pro, or quo in this deal, but that’s not how it looks from Bloomberg’s follow-up investigation.

Much like Robert Mercer, Chad Day can now only pretend to be in law enforcement in Yuma County.

Mercer was apparently connected to Day via Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown, who is also associated with a certain U.S. Senator from Yuma. A spokesman for Sen. Cory Gardner told Miller at the time that “he didn’t know anything about the story aside from what he’d read in Bloomberg.”

For his part, Day had refused to answer detailed questions about the arrangement when it was first reported last spring, making the absurd claim that some of his “volunteer resources” were “directly involved in confidential undercover operations that involve direct ties and associations with the Mexican Cartel which has a presence in [the Yuma area].” No doubt the 78-year-old William Koch (yes, that Koch brother) was also a tremendous deterrent to any potential Mexican cartel operations.

The Bloomberg update to this story also provides more disconcerting details on some of the individuals involved in the arrangement Mercer had with Day and Yuma County.

In 2016, a foundation Mercer controls bought the pickup truck for Day’s agency. The foundation’s goals include educating local police forces about H.R. 218. At a county meeting, Day reported that he’d connected with Mercer through Brown, according to minutes of the meeting. It was a nicer truck, Day remarked, than the county would have spent its own money on.

That November, county records show, Mercer and four associates took oaths of office in Yuma, swearing “before the ever living God” to support the U.S. and Colorado constitutions. The crew included a Mercer son-in-law and three employees with backgrounds in bodyguard work, including the Cuban veteran; a self-described martial arts master; and a former Army Ranger whose LinkedIn page says he once guarded Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

The Cuban, Julio Garcia, had recently accompanied Mercer’s daughter Rebekah to the 2016 Republican convention. Garcia’s LinkedIn page boasts of training by Russian and Vietnamese special operations forces. An essay posted on a martial-arts website says he once served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. Garcia declined to comment.

In exchange for a shiny new truck and some other toys, Yuma County’s Sheriff deputized a guy who once guarded Afghan president Hamid Karzai and another man who served as a bodyguard to Fidel Freaking Castro!

Viva la revolución, Yuma County.

76 Shares

While Shutdown Rages, Cory Gardner Raises

American Bridge alerts the world to a fundraiser that took place a short while ago this morning in Washington, D.C. in support of Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado hosted by the ubiquitous Denver-headquartered law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck:

A tracker from Bridge caught Gardner headed into the “undisclosed location”:

Needless to say the optics of Gardner holding a high-dollar D.C. fundraiser while federal employees in Colorado file for unemployment and the first missed payday for hundreds of thousands more cross the nation rapidly approaches are extremely poor, and undermines his credibility after nominally breaking with President Donald Trump over the shutdown. Every day the shutdown drags on now, Gardner proves himself ineffective at the one thing a majority of Colorado voters might value: persuading fellow his Republicans to do the right thing. Meanwhile, the Republican base fumes.

And when Gardner is cashing checks instead of taking every possible action to force a vote on reopening the government, he’s simply part of the problem–and he doesn’t deserve the praise he got a week ago.

1 Shares

Gov. Jared Polis Takes Office

UPDATE: Watch live:

—–

UPDATE: Incoming Gov. Jared Polis’ vanquished Republican opponent Walker Stapleton sends his regards…from jury duty:

—–

KDVR reporting on preparation and road closures around the state capitol building for today’s inauguration of Gov. Jared Polis:

Polis will be sworn in as the 43rd governor at 11 a.m. Tuesday on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol.

Most of the road closures will begin at 10 p.m. on Monday night and last until around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The Colorado State Patrol recommends planning accordingly and avoiding the area.

Grant Street: Two lanes between Colfax Avenue and 14th Avenue
Lincoln Street: Complete closure between 13th Avenue and Colfax Avenue
Sherman Street: Complete closure from 13th Avenue to 14th Avenue
14th Avenue: Complete closure at Broadway to Grant Street

We’ll update this post with coverage, and watch the inauguration live here at 11:00AM.

1 Shares

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 8)

The 2020 election is 665 days away. In the meantime, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Democrat Jared Polis will officially take over as Colorado’s Governor today. Polis’ 2018 opponent, Republican Walker Stapleton, will be reporting for jury duty. Denver7 has more on today’s inauguration festivities.

 

► President Trump will deliver a prime time address tonight about his fictional border crisis; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will follow with a Democratic rebuttal. As James Hohmann writes for the Washington Post, Trump’s rhetoric on immigration is not at all related to facts on the ground:

Leaks from inside the government continue to undercut the administration’s misleading spin on crime and terrorism vis-à-vis immigration:

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018,” NBC News’s Julia Ainsley reports.

Six people. Six. That’s quite a bit fewer than the 4,000 that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted were stopped at the border in 2018. And then there’s this:

“Despite their portrayal of Mexico as a teeming portal for terrorists,” the AP’s Calvin Woodward reports this morning, “the State Department issued a report in September finding ‘no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.’” (Read the State Department report for yourself.)

Here in Colorado, we’ll be anxiously waiting to see how Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) responds to Trump’s speech tonight. Gardner’s recent shutdown waffling has angered his Republican base (or what’s left of it) and prompted new talk about a “circular firing squad.”

 

► The New York Times examines the toll of the government shutdown on day 17:

The impact of a partial government shutdown began to ripple across the economy as it stretched into Day 17, with mortgage applications delayed, public companies unable to get approval to raise capital and thousands of Secret Service agents expected to show up for work without pay.

President Trump and congressional Democrats have made little progress in negotiations to end a shutdown that has affected about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will miss their first paycheck this week, and who owe a combined $249 million in monthly mortgage payments, according to the online real estate firm Zillow…

…The standoff is beginning to inflict pain on Americans, whose lives are affected, in one way or another, by the federal government. It is already the second-longest shutdown in history, behind the one that started in December 1995 and lasted 21 days.

More than 600 federal employees in Colorado have now filed for unemployment benefits, as 9News reports.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

1 Shares

GOP Tries To Swap FAMLI With “SCAMLI”

Sen. Faith Winter (D).

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reported late last week, one of the top Democratic policy priorities in the Colorado legislature for 2019 is the passage of a paid family medical leave system, known as the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Act:

A paid family- and medical-leave bill is among the Democrats’ priorities this year. They’ve focused discussion on how to ensure that all Coloradans have the ability to get paid time off work when they have a newborn or become sick.

[Sen. Faith] Winter, who is leading the charge, called the measure “a social insurance program.” It’s not clear yet who will pay and how much, although preliminary estimates show employees and employers each paying about $1 to $2 a week into a fund. Initial costs would be covered by bonding.

Similar legislation has been introduced by Democrats for several years running now, only to meet its end in the single-seat majority GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. In 2018, Democrats including now-Sen. Faith Winter campaigned heavily on the passage of paid family medical leave and Republican obstruction of this popular idea.

With Democrats now in firm control of both chambers of the Colorado legislature, there’s little Republicans can do at this point to stop the FAMLI Act from becoming law. With that in mind, Republicans have switched tactics from a frontal assault on popular family leave, which is politically a train wreck, to more of a bait-and-switch approach:

Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain plans to introduce her own paid-leave legislation, which would reimburse workers through tax credits.

The Republican counterproposal to FAMLI in 2019 is House Bill 19-1058, which just became available to read on the state legislative website over the weekend. Although this legislation purports to create a paid family medical leave system, that’s not the reality–this is a bill to let workers create their own savings accounts subject to a state income tax deduction, combined with a voluntary employer match that would qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit. The revenue reduction from these credits would presumably come from other programs.

In practice, this bill would do almost nothing to solve a serious problem faced by a large percentage of Colorado households. The incentives to save money for medical leave in this bill are simply not enough to motivate widespread participation, and the reality is that working people already have major challenges to establishing savings of any kind, let alone savings for such a specific purpose. The whole point of family medical leave is to provide relief to workers unexpectedly unable to work, but the GOP’s plan would only help those who already have the resources to prepare in advance.

As debate proceeds over the FAMLI Democratic plan for a family leave insurance system, look for Republicans and their mouthpieces to push hard on their “SCAMLI” alternative legislation as evidence that they are responding to the problem. Under the hood, however, these two plans could not be more different, and only one will actually accomplish the stated goal. Much like Ivanka Trump’s ill-fated idea to let workers drain their Social Security benefits to cover parental leave, it’s a naive solution–proposed without an understanding of the real problem.

1 Shares

Donald Trump is Not Really Just Like You

Keyser Soze

We are currently in the midst of the third-longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Roughly 800,000 federal employees are not receiving paychecks.

President Trump says he can feel your pain.

Chris Cillizza of CNN finds this statement hard to believe:

But the most amazing trick Trump has pulled as a politician — and now as president — is to convince lower-middle class, predominantly white voters that he is one of them. [Pols emphasis]

I was reminded of that trick on Sunday when Trump was asked whether he can relate to federal workers not being paid due to the ongoing government shutdown. Here’s how the President responded:

“I can relate, [Pols emphasis] and I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments, they always do, and they’ll make adjustments. People understand exactly what’s going on. But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100% with what I’m doing.”

Donald Trump was born into a wealthy family in New York City. After graduating from a private high school, Trump eventually ended up at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he had a part-time job at a family business called “Elizabeth Trump & Son.” After earning his undergraduate degree at Penn, Trump received a $1 million “loan” from his developer father, Fred Trump, to “get him started” in the business world. All told, Trump inherited somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million from his father, at least some of which was generated from questionable tax and accounting schemes.

Raise your hand if you can “relate” to any of this.

0 Shares