Will The Real “Recall Polis” Please Stand Up?

We’ve been following for weeks now the sordid developments inside the multiple committees who have organized ostensibly for the purpose of initiating a recall campaign against Gov. Jared Polis. Because of the extremely daunting logistics of recalling a sitting governor, especially relative to even the most generous estimates of the fundraising so far for the various committees, the odds of a successful campaign sit somewhere between miraculously slim and none.

What the Recall Polis campaign(s) do(es) represent, however, is an opportunity to raise accountability-free money from the conservative base still smarting from the landslide defeat dealt to Republicans in the 2018 elections. We’ve discussed in this space the glomming onto this campaign’s fundraising stream by local political usual suspects like the Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler. Both have been paid significant sums of donated money for “services rendered” to this longshot campaign.

The two original “Recall Polis” groups were estranged early on in the process, with Tom Good’s Resist Polis PAC having exposed some fairly eye-popping anti-Semitism on the part of leadership of the “official” Recall Polis group. Shane Donnelly’s “official” group responded via Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute by publicly scumbagging Tom Good for alleged misdeeds while working at the Independence Institute and firing one of the more blatantly anti-Semitic offenders, Judy “Israel Did 9/11” Spady.

If reading all of this helps explain why fundraising to the “official” committee seems to have stalled in the last month, it probably should. What responsible person would invest actual money into this tangled web of crackpottery and grift? The answer to that question, as we broke on Monday, is at least partly unknown–because in a finance complaint filed last week, it’s alleged that a good deal of the money raised by the “official” Recall Polis group may be unaccounted for.

Today, Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette published an important update to this ongoing story, with a new third “Dismiss Polis” committee having been filed in an apparent attempt to unite the warring factions under a common banner. This new committee is backed by the daughter of far-right GOP Rep. Kimmi Lewis., who claims to have a statewide network ready to get started on gathering a laugh-track goal of 900,000 signatures. We’ll be respectful of the Gazette’s paywall, but in addition to introducing this third legit-no-really-this-time campaign committee, Goodland also followed up on the complaint we wrote about Monday:

According to those reports, the [Official Recall Governor Jared Polis] group has spent more than $3,200 on fundraising, almost all of that to online donor platforms. Of the 75 non-itemized donations filed through the end of May, only one is identified as coming from Freedomfy. The platform’s website claims it raised more than $24,000 for the recall, but only $172 of that has been reported to the Secretary of State, and that was as a non-itemized monetary donation.

The issue committee has also spent $4,851 on consultants, with $3,000 of that going to attorney and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

In addition to unanswered questions about the multiple fundraising platforms this committee has used in just a couple of months of operations, it appears that contributions through the Independence Institute’s Freedomfy site haven’t been properly reported. Again, it’s necessary to wait for the Secretary of State’s office to do their due diligence before we say definitively that something illegal happened here–but the questions are growing quickly. And we’re certainly talking about enough money to be a big deal if much of it turns up missing.

Although this isn’t what anyone should considser a serious threat to Gov. Polis, before the end it could be the biggest political crime story in Colorado since Jon Keyser’s petition gatherer decided to start scribbling in names off the voter rolls. With that in mind, we’ll be staying tuned.


Colorado Trump Faithful Delude, Console Selves

The new slogan.

Kicking off a brief roundup of coverage from watch parties around the state organized by Colorado Republicans to celebrate the kickoff of President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, FOX 31’s Joe St. George lays the scene:

President Donald Trump is officially launching his reelection campaign in Orlando, Florida Tuesday evening.

While the president lost Colorado by more than 136,000 votes in 2016, Colorado Republicans still see the state as a possible “pickup” state in 2020…

Sources tell FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George that Trump has already hired several major staffers for the state and that Trump is expected to have more staffers in Colorado than in 2016.

Sen. Cory Gardner told FOX31 last week he believes Trump “certainly can” win the state.

We’ll start by saying what many of you are thinking, which is the last thing Democrats should be going into the 2020 election cycle is complacent. Here in Colorado, though, the math is very much not looking good for Trump or Republicans down the ballot, after Trump lost the state in 2016 and GOP losing margins grew dramatically in 2018 largely as a referendum on Trump’s presidency. Nonetheless hope springs eternal among the GOP faithful, and Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch caught up with Steve Barlock, the diehard Trump campaign staffer from 2016 who ran for governor in 2018–and got some memorable quotes on the record:

There were at least nine county Republican watch parties across the state. In deep blue Denver, dozens of the president’s supporters, decked out in American flag hoodies and MAGA hats, packed a sports bar in the tony Washington Park neighborhood…

Steven Barlock, who worked on Trump’s 2016 Colorado campaign and unsuccessfully challenged Walker Stapleton for the Republican governor’s nomination last year, suggested Colorado’s left turn in the last midterm election could end up helping Trump…

“I would like to see him [Trump] be tough on Nancy Pelosi. He’s been very inviting to work with Nancy and Nancy has been such a stubborn b—h,” [Pols emphasis] [Barlock] said. “I would like to see Donald Trump really stand up to Nancy and slap her around a little harder. [Pols emphasis] It’s really sad.”

While you’re picking your jaw up off the floor from that moment of extreme classiness, the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette assigned three different reporters for a “team coverage” tour de force featuring its own fascinating moments of Republican candor:

Weston Imer, a teenager who is part of the Trump Victory Campaign for Jefferson County, read off a list of the president’s accomplishments on jobs, trade and foreign affairs.

“One of the things we want to focus on in this 2020 campaign is talking to your neighbors and saying, ‘The president isn’t that bad,'” [Pols emphasis] Imer told the crowd of about 150 at the church.

Got that, swing voters of America? “The president isn’t that bad.” Go forth and conquer!



Wednesday Open Thread

“‘Crazy’ is a term of art; ‘Insane’ is a term of law. Remember that, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble.”

–Hunter S. Thompson


Cory Gardner Gets Koched Up For 2020

You’ll say wow every time!

The Colorado Sun’s John Frank and Jesse Paul report:

The political arm of the Koch conservative network endorsed U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Tuesday, a move designed to emphasize a renewed focus on policy but one that recalls its big-dollar role in the 2014 election.

Americans for Prosperity Action, one of the most prominent conservative groups in the state, touted the Republican lawmaker’s “straight talk” and “principled stands” expressed in his opposition to trade tariffs, assistance to states that legalized marijuana and support for permanent legal status for immigrants brought as children into the country illegally.

“While others retreated to their corners, Gardner acted. That kind of independent judgment has been the hallmark of Gardner’s Senate career, and it’s why we’re endorsing him for reelection,” wrote Jesse Mallory, an adviser to the political committee and the director of Americans for Prosperity in Colorado, in an opinion piece published in The Colorado Sun.

It’s impossible to imagine Americans For Prosperity making any move other than a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner, so how this reflects a “renewed focus on policy” is anybody’s guess. But here’s a brief passage from Jesse Mallory’s glowing ad absurdum endorsement to convey the general tone:

Gardner embodies the philosophy espoused by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to unite with anybody to do right…

Straight talk, principled stands and a determination to get results ought to be the hallmarks of every elected official. Coloradans can count ourselves fortunate that we have such an official in Sen. Cory Gardner, and we should enthusiastically reelect him.

Look, we get that Mallory wanted to “go big” rhetorically. But Frederick Douglass? For a politician who has spent his whole time in Washington in the undistinguished rank and file of a Republican majority, rising to “leadership” only as the Senate GOP’s lead fundraiser, that’s just laughably over the top.

But before we laugh this sophomoric brown-nosing off entirely, consider the audience of the state’s best-funded conservative advocacy group–and it’s not Democrats. Polling has consistently shown that Gardner is one of the least popular incumbent Senators among fellow Republicans, and without a strategy for shoring up Gardner’s declining base of support among the GOP base Gardner has no realistic path forward in the current political climate. It’s perilous, since Gardner also must win over unaffiliated support in a state trending strongly away from GOP control–and messages that please the GOP base repel those unaffiliated voters.

Once you realize that AFP is sending a message to Republican voters, part of what appears to be a coordinated strategy to counter solidifying conservative disdain for Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senator, the Koch network rushing to Gardner’s aid this early in the cycle makes sense.

It should not, however, be mistaken for strength.


At Least He’s Not Your Attorney, DIA Action Movie Edition

Robert Corry.

CBS4 reports on a bizarre care involving longtime local Republican attorney Robert Corry, who played a disputed role in the authoring and passage of 2012’s Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana–but has proven his own worst enemy in terms of self-sabotaging craziness wrecking his attempts to join the political mainstream:

The attorney for the truck driver accused of killing four people in a fiery crash on Interstate 70 was arrested on Friday. Robert Corry, 51, faces kidnapping, vehicle theft and reckless endangerment charges after he allegedly told his ex-fiancee at Denver International Airport that he was being chased by Arabs and then caused a series of car accidents.

According to arrest paperwork, the woman had come to the airport Friday evening to pick Corry up. But Corry grabbed her and said the Arabs that were after him had a helicopter. [Pols emphasis]

He then hurried to her car. Corry didn’t have permission to drive it but he got behind the wheel and with her inside he struck several vehicles as he was leaving the DIA parking area. The car then plowed through one of the airport’s toll gates. Corry was allegedly honking the car horn and yelling at people.

The best way to describe this is what what comedian Pauly Shore used to call “snapping into your own ‘Nam.” Needless to say, losing one’s mind in this manner at a secure facility like an international airport is going to attract some negative attention!



Colorado Supreme Court: TABOR Beast Can Be Slain

The “Gordian Knot.”

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, a major impediment to repealing the controversial 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has been eliminated by a Colorado Supreme Court decision, clearing the way for what could be an epic statewide fight with enormous consequences for the state’s fiscal future:

For years the conventional wisdom has been that TABOR, which was put into the state constitution with a single vote, couldn’t be undone that way because it contained so many different pieces and parts. Colorado voters passed something called a single-subject rule after TABOR’s passage that narrowed the scope of ballot questions…

“The initiative could not be written more simply or directly,” according to the court decision. “It essentially asks voters a single question: should TABOR be repealed in full.”

A statement from the Colorado Fiscal Institute’s Carol Hedges, who filed the suit leading to today’s decision:

In answering this important question today, the Colorado Supreme Court has given voters additional options for addressing the fiscal challenges the state faces. Today’s opinion clarifies voters’ role in making changes to their state constitution. I’m thrilled that those options include a full repeal of a provision that has made Colorado an outlier on state tax policy for nearly 30 years.

This decision provides a new wrinkle in ongoing community-led conversations regarding inequities in our Constitutional tax system. Our ability to keep Colorado an awesome place to live, work, and play, starts and ends with fixing our upside-down tax code, and we now have an important new tool to fix the problem.

The passage of TABOR in 1992 resulted in sweeping changes, not just to tax policy with the requirement that revenue increases be subject to a vote but complex limitations on the ability of the state to retain revenue in good years, to grow to meet evolving responsibilities and higher costs beyond TABOR’s arbitrary formula, and restrictions on the wording and carrying out of required tax increase elections engineered to make the process unlikely to be successful. In response to concerns about TABOR’s wide-ranging effects, Colorado voters passed the “single-subject rule.” Subsequent to this rule, TABOR itself would not have qualified for the ballot–but its passage also meant that TABOR could not be repealed by a single measure either.

That is, until today’s Supreme Court Ruling resolved this conflict in a perfectly logical manner by ruling that a measure to repeal the entirety of TABOR as passed is consistent with the single-subject rule. For all of the piecemeal TABOR reforms that have been proposed over the years and generally failed due to being too confusing or nuanced to reduce to a sales pitch, there is finally a clear shot at repealing a law that has uniquely hampered the state’s ability to govern itself–and despite being sold as a “model” has not ever been replicated in any other state.

Now the task before TABOR’s critics is educational. TABOR may be a cautionary tale to other states instead of a model, but in Colorado the law is an inviolate article of faith for Republicans. As great an opportunity as this decision presents, there is also considerable risk: that another failed campaign against TABOR will only further entrench it.

In short, the Colorado Supremes have ruled that the proverbial beast can be slain with one bold stroke. That is a major development. But if you take this opportunity, you’d better be prepared to kill it.


Grift Alert: Complaint Filed Against “Official” Recall Polis Campaign

We’ve discussed at length in this space about the nascent “official” campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which has raised somewhere north of $25,000 online despite not being able to start a petition campaign due to a constitutional requirement that a sitting governor be in office for six months before being recalled. The signature requirement to initiate a recall of the governor is well in excess of 600,000, which would require an unprecedented petition drive with a presumed cost in the millions. This raises questions the feasibility of the campaign, and invites questions about how the tiny fraction of the required total raised so far is being spent.

We’ve discussed the role of local political organizations like the Independence Institute in the Polis recall campaign’s fundraising, with Jon Caldara’s Freedomfy website skimming an unusually large percentage from online donations to the campaign and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler the group’s largest expenditure so far for “legal expenses.” During the past month, the campaign’s online fundraising has apparently moved away from Caldara’s platform, but it’s evident that fundraising is slowing not exponentially growing in the manner that would be needed for this campaign to ever get off the ground.

To this climate of uncertainty and questionable objectives you can now add a finance complaint filed last week against the campaign alleging potentially thousands of dollars of unaccounted for funds–a complaint sure to make donors to this campaign feel much better:

In short, this complaint alleges that the campaign has raised funds that have not been reported, and juggled fundraising platforms to obfuscate the total amount raised. The Secretary of State’s office is now evaluating this complaint to determine whether to proceed to an investigation, but this is very much in line with the concerns we’ve been raising about this campaign for months now. Once you realize that recalling the governor is logistically so difficult that an effort dwarfing the scale of anything that has been attempted in Colorado history would be needed, it’s obvious that even if they’re hiding a percentage of the money they’ve raised this is never going to happen. Money donated to this campaign would be better used to literally light a charcoal grill.

And that’s before the grifting! Usual suspects like Caldara and Gessler got their cut, but at least there was some disclosure. If it turns out that much larger percentages of the campaign’s take have been pocketed along the way as this complaint suggests, we’re talking about a whole new level of “ScamPAC”–perhaps even a matter to be referred from the Secretary of State to a criminal prosecutor.

In the meantime, we can only say again: if you’re dumb enough to make a donation to the Official Recall Polis Campaign, please don’t spend your SSI check. It stops being funny when needy folks get scammed.


Monday Open Thread

“A true and worthy ideal frees and uplifts a people; a false ideal imprisons and lowers.”

–William Edward Burghardt Du Bois


Everybody Should Release Their Taxes, Right Cory Gardner?

The Hill reports on the latest escalating constitutional crisis in Washington, D.C., this time related to the standoff over President Donald Trump’s tax returns as the administration turns to outright defiance of the law, backed up by a highly questionable opinion from Attorney General William “The Getaway Driver” Barr:

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) hammered the Justice Department on Friday over a legal opinion it wrote backing the Treasury Department’s defiance of a House subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns.

“What is the President hiding in his tax returns? And since when does ‘shall’ mean ‘unless it displeases Trump?'” the House Intelligence Committee chairman tweeted late Friday.

“And, perhaps more importantly: What will be left of DOJ’s independence and reputation for impartial justice after Barr? The answer? Very little,” he added.

The law in this case is not ambiguous, stating that the Department of the Treasury “shall furnish” any tax return on request of congressional leadership. The law does not require any reason to be specified, but Attorney General Barr asserted in his opinion backing up the Treasury Department’s refusal to turn the documents over that there was no “legitimate legislative purpose” in the request.

There are a number of problems with this, starting with the fact that Barr doesn’t get to make that determination on behalf of Congress. It is Congress’ role to determine what a “legitimate legislative purpose is.” This is a fundamental separation of powers issue, not a point of idle debate. Another problem is that the Attorney General’s job is not to serve as the President’s personal counsel, and for the second time now after Barr’s highly criticized cushioning of the release of the Mueller report he has acted in a way that can only be interpreted as defending the president from political fallout. It’s the sort of thing that would force a resignation, but not in Trump’s White House.

GARDNER: The issue of the tax returns, I think everybody should should have the opportunity to, to release their tax returns. And that’s, uh people in the state legislature and people running for Congress. I’ve done that, others have, and I think everyone should. So I think I agree with you there. It shouldn’t just be about President Trump, it ought to be about President Obama, President Bush it ought to be about whoever is running for president, Hillary Clinton, you name it, and they should have done that. So…

That’s Senator Cory Gardner, speaking during an April 2017 telephone “town hall” in response to a question about the refusal by President Trump to release his tax returns. Just a few months after the 2016 elections, Gardner apparently saw no political risk in saying that everybody should “have the opportunity” to release their tax returns. Gardner neatly glosses over the fact that Hillary Clinton did release her tax returns during the 2016 campaign and Donald Trump did not, but the lip service he pays to doing the deed is significant.

Actually, it’s more than significant today. It’s our latest constitutional crisis! And it’s not 2017 anymore, either–both Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump are on the ballot in the next general election. With all of this in mind, it’s high time to hear from Gardner on this subject again whether he wants to talk about it or not.

Our guess is he probably won’t. So keep your running shoes handy.


DCCC Steps Up In CD-3

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is starting to run ads targeting incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s CD-3–signaling that once again Democrats will compete for a seat they held until Tipton picked off incumbent Rep. John Salazar in the 2010 Republican wave year:

Seeing 2020 as an opportunity to pick up another seat in Congress, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sinking money into the race to defeat incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton…

Currently, two Democrats have entered the primary race and the right to challenge Tipton. They are Mitsch Bush, a former state representative, and Durango resident Root Rutledge. Mitsch Bush eventually won the nomination in last year’s race, while Rutledge never qualified for the ballot.

Other Democratic candidates are expected to come forward, but no on else has so far. One possible contender, Senate President LeRoy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said he’s been approached about running, but wouldn’t say if he will.

Although Tipton survived in 2018 against former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, Democrats are increasingly hopeful for another wave in 2020 that could give them a shot at this and other “reach goal” districts. The possibility of Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo launching a bid is certainly interesting, and speculation has been fueled to some degree by Garcia’s spending on self-promotion following the end of this year’s session despite being term-limited. Garcia would bring a very different set of qualifications to the race, including the ability to potentially shut down the crucial Pueblo-area vote for Tipton.

Being the only GOP-held seat left in Colorado that Democrats have a realistic chance of picking up, CD-3 is where the House action is in 2020. We’ll be watching to see how Rep. Tipton handles the undivided attention.


Blockhead Republicans Prepare Another Idiotic Recall Attempt

Brittany Pettersen

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO DO WE WANT TO RECALL? Brittany Pettersen!


Please clap, or something.


Get More Smarter on Friday (June 14)

“Father’s Day” is on Sunday, so make sure to buy some wrenches or something. 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.


► Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) have both qualified for the first round of debates for 2020 Presidential hopefuls. As Colorado Public Radio reports:

Hickenlooper and Bennet will appear either June 26 or 27 in Miami. Each night will feature 10 candidates, chosen at random, making their case why they should be the nominee to take on President Donald Trump.

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam were among the others who missed the threshold for the debate.

According to the candidate drawing that took place today, Benkenlooper will share the stage in one of the debates with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, and former Vice President Joe Biden.


► President Trump and his supporters are furiously trying to walk back comments Trump made to ABC News earlier this week in which he said that he would accept intelligence on political opponents from foreign governments and likely would not alert the FBI to such an approach (which is very clearly a federal crime). From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Friday tried again to rectify the mess he made by saying he would likely accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign entity, going on “Fox & Friends” to clean up the comments.

Trump insisted during a meandering 50-minute interview on the network that “of course” he would alert the FBI in such a case, but only after reviewing it first, “because if you don’t look at it, you won’t know it’s bad.”…

…Remarkably, Trump also asserted on Friday that he didn’t foresee that issue arising. “I don’t think anybody would present me with anything because they know how much I love the country,” he said, despite well-documented attempts by Russian nationals to do just that during the 2016 election.

As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, no amount of spin from Trump can fix this mess:

The key to the ABC interview is that even though we now understand these full dimensions — now that we understand that this effort was a wide-ranging criminal scheme designed to harm our democracy and country — Trump has confirmed that he would happily profit from such an effort again, and wouldn’t alert law enforcement about it.

This is what Trump’s spinners are trying to make disappear when they falsely claim that Trump actually said he would report another offer of help to the FBI.

Law enforcement officials say that Trump’s statements about accepting foreign election interference have all but smashed months of work by federal agencies to prevent this very problem.

Trump’s comments also prompted Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub to issue a very direct statement on Thursday warning against candidates accepting help from foreign governments. “I would not have thought that I needed to say this,” said Weintraub.


 President Trump is pointing his stubby fingers at Iran in the wake of reports of new attacks on oil tankers. From the New York Times:

President Trump said on Friday that there was no doubt that Iran was behind the explosions that crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week and warned Tehran not to try to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit point for the world’s oil supplies.

“Well, Iran did do it,” the president said in a telephone interview on “Fox & Friends” in his first comments since the ships were damaged. “You know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s got essentially Iran written all over it.”

The president was referring to video footage released by the United States military that it said showed an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boat pulling alongside one of the stricken ships several hours after the first explosion and removing an unexploded limpet mine in broad daylight…

…Iran dismissed allegations of its involvement, characterizing them as American propaganda intended to provoke a conflict.


Get even more smarter after the jump…



“Benkenlooper” Makes The Cut–And Will Share The Stage

UPDATE: Here’s the complete debate lineup, via the New York Times:


Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Public Radio reports:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet have both qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debates. The Democratic National Committee announced the names of the candidates that made the cut on Thursday…

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Today the grouping of the candidates was announced after the drawing mentioned above–former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Sen. Michael Bennet will share the stage with the man both have set their sights on as a principal target to plink at from the right side of the primary field, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates have a higher bar to meet in terms of polling and financial support in order to qualify for the third round of debates later in September, so it’s critical they take maximum advantage of the brief amount of camera time each candidate will receive in Miami.

Obviously it’s what they both wanted, including the chance to face off against Sanders.

We’ll see what they do with it.


BREAKING: Sarah Sanders Leaving White House

NPR’s Sarah McCammon reports:

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving the White House, President Trump tweeted on Thursday.

“After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas,” Trump said. “She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job! I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas – she would be fantastic. Sarah, thank you for a job well done!”

We’ll update when the next press secretary is announced–not that it matters much.


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

Walker Stapleton is back.

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

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

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

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

George Brauchler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relics defending another relic.


Trump Says He’d Accept Foreign Help with Re-Election

UPDATE #2: Gardner speaks…sort of. From Politico:

Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), one of the most vulnerable senators in the 2020 cycle, said foreign opposition “should be turned over to the FBI, plain and simple.”

Perhaps there is more to come from Gardner, but you probably noticed that he didn’t actually say anything about Trump’s comments. He isn’t alone, as Politico noted later:

Still, most stopped short of calling out Trump by name despite some private anger over the president’s comments. Republicans seemed to view the firestorm as a temporary one that will pass given Trump’s penchant for changing the media narrative.

There are two parts to this question for other elected officials, particularly Republicans: 1) Would you inform the FBI about information you received from foreign countries about a political opponent, and 2) What do you think about President Trump’s comments that he would accept politically-helpful information from a foreign government?


UPDATE: Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) regularly boasts about his frequent communication with Trump. So what does Gardner have to say about this? Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis tried to find out:

But not all Republican Senators are avoiding the subject:


President Trump

I’m not “not listening.”

President Trump sat down for an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on Wednesday and candidly admitted that not only would he accept foreign help in his 2020 re-election campaign — but he probably wouldn’t even tell the FBI about those interactions:

President Donald Trump may not alert the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his 2020 rivals during the upcoming presidential race, he said, despite the deluge of investigations stemming from his campaign’s interactions with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

Later in the interview, Stephanopoulos brought up FBI Director Christopher Wray’s warning that anyone who received incriminating information from a foreign government should immediately contact the FBI. As James Hohmann recaps for the Washington Post:

Trump said that he would “want to hear” whatever information a foreigner was offering and that accepting compromising information about a challenger does not count as foreign interference. “The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it,” he said. “When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

Trump added: “You don’t call the FBI. … Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

In response to rebukes, including from Republicans, Trump claimed in the summer of 2016 that he had been joking when he encouraged Russia to hack his opponent’s emails. Watch last night’s clip, and you’ll see that Trump is clearly not joking about welcoming dirt from foreigners. Once again, this puts him crosswise with the FBI.

After the ABC News interview aired, Trump seemed to belatedly understand the problem with these statements and is now furiously trying to spin his own remarks in a different light. As Stephen Collinson writes for CNN:

President Donald Trump threw up a smokescreen of deflection and confusing counter attacks Thursday as a furor mounted over his staggering comment that he would be open to dirt dug up on his 2020 opponents by foreign powers such as Russia or China.

The President even implied — clearly erroneously — that he had been merely referring to the content of his conversations with foreign dignitaries such as the Queen of England and Prince Charles when he made the remark in an ABC News interview.

Even in a presidency that long ago burned through all conceivable superlatives, Trump’s statement was a stunner…

…This was the President of the United States — the man charged with protecting the Constitution, American democracy and the Western world — sitting at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, saying he would accept damaging information from Russia and China on his 2020 Democratic foe. [Pols emphasis]

It is a federal crime in the United States for a political candidate to accept money (or anything of value) from foreign governments or citizens for the purposes of winning an election.


Supergirl Asks, “Who Is Cory Gardner?”

An excellent new video from NowThis News takes an in-depth and most unflattering look at the political career of Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner–tracing back to his roots as a Democrat in college to one of the state’s most stridently anti-abortion legislators, then his election to the U.S. Senate and subsequent role as principal Donald Trump apologist and arrester of wheelchair-bound health care protesters.

It’s a well produced and damning take on Gardner’s life and time in office, even more interesting to locals since the narrator is Arapahoe High School grad Melissa Benoist–better known as the star of the CW series Supergirl. We weren’t aware that Benoist even followed politics in her home state of Colorado, but with this you can consider her, as they say, thrown down.

Give this a watch and share.


Gardner’s Re-Elect Pitch: “Ask Senator Udall”

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

We did a spit-take a few moments ago after watching the above clip from an interview by FOX 31’s Joe St. George of Sen. Cory Gardner today, asking about Gardner’s field of Democratic opponents and the growing unease among Republicans about Gardner’s re-election prospects. Here’s a transcript:

ST. GEORGE: Nine Democrats want to run against you. Are you paying attention to any of them right now or you worried about any of them?

GARDNER: Well I think you’re undercounting! I think there’s more than that. Uh, look we’re going to continue to do what’s right for the people of Colorado, what’s right for this country. And I look forward to taking the things that we have accomplished for the people of Colorado back home and sharing that message. Look, at we’ve cut taxes allowing more and more people to keep their hard-earned money in their own pockets. We’ve helped create reforms that that the VA that’s allowed veterans to receive better care. We’ve brought dollars back to Western Colorado at where they rightfully belong. We’re working hard to move Space Command and BLM headquarters to Colorado. This is about the four corners of our state. This is about opportunity. This is about making sure that the Eastern Plains in the Western Slope and the Front Range benefit. I don’t think socialism gets us there. In fact, I know socialism does not get us there.

ST. GEORGE: A lot of people I’ve talked to are already writing you off. They say no way Cory Gardner can win Colorado in 2020. Why are they wrong?

GARDNER: Well, you could ask Senator Udall that question. [Pols emphasis]

As a pitch for re-election to a U.S. Senate seat, this is fairly stunning for its ineptitude. Gardner’s list of accomplishments pretty much begins and ends with the Trump tax cut bill of 2017, which Americans strongly disapprove of in every opinion poll after failing to realize the promised benefits in their paychecks and tax returns. President Donald Trump did sign legislation reforming VA health care delivery–but critics have denounced the plan as back-door privatization. Either way, after nearly a full six-year term in the United States Senate, these are absolutely piffling “accomplishments,” closer to what the ineffectual safe-seat Rep. Doug Lamborn lists in his franked mailers than a top-tier Senate re-election campaign.

But all of that takes a back seat to Gardner’s testy response to St. George’s question about those who have already written Gardner off as a political dead man walking. It’s a rare moment for the always-scripted Sen. Gardner to slip like this and invoke a backward-looking message–similar to Donald Trump talking about Hillary Clinton three years later. Gardner will not win by re-fighting the last election.

And here’s why: Gardner won his Senate seat in 2014 by a narrow margin of fewer than two percent, after a campaign in which Gardner relied on rank deception about his record as well as a national Republican wave to win against the prevailing local electoral trends. To suggest that Gardner’s narrow win over Mark Udall in 2014 is any indicator of what he faces today in a state that has grown only more hostile to the Republican brand is nothing short of delusional. The improbable circumstances that allowed Gardner to eke out a win in 2014 no longer exist. The polite society he fooled will not be fooled again.

And despite his (fading) reputation as a political mastermind, Gardner is even weaker than he looks on paper.


The Actual President of the United States of America

Both President Trump and Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden were in Iowa on Tuesday as part of their respective 2020 election campaigns. The two men shot a lot of arrows back and forth, a verbal battle that captured most of the headlines related to the word “Iowa.” But those headlines obscured a couple of really strange comments from Trump on other issues, which thankfully were not missed by Aaron Rupar of Vox.com.

Here we have President Trump commiserating with Iowa farmers about the sad fact that their tractors don’t connect to the Internet:

“We secured nearly $1.2 billion dollars to expand rural broadband, which you need very badly. They have not treated the Midwest well with broadband, with anything having to do with the word ‘computer.’ I look at some of those tractors and they don’t even hook up. [Pols emphasis] They’re all set, but you don’t have the capability here in terms of your infrastructure.”

Where do I plug in?

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the son of a tractor salesman who regularly appears on national political interviews with tractors in the background.

Maybe the Gardner family can sell Iowa some of them Internet Tractors.

Later in his remarks on Tuesday, Trump claimed that California is no longer going to burn down because it listened to him on the importance of cleaning up those dirty forests:

“They were saying it was global warming — could have had something to do with it — but you need forest management. You can’t let 15 and 20 years of leaves and broken trees and dead wood, that after the first 18 months is dry as a bone. You can’t let that be there. You have to clean it. You have to clean those floors of the forest, and you’re going to see a big difference. [Pols emphasis]

And actually, they mocked me. They said, ‘Oh, what’s he doing? He’s talking about sweeping the floors…well, I don’t use the word “sweeping,” but you have to have forest management. And all of a sudden about four weeks after that happened they learned I was right, and now they are managing the forest as least as much as they could — they have a long way to go, because there’s a lot of it. But when you look, year after year, you see California mostly burning down. It’s management. And I think they’re going to do a much better job.” [Pols emphasis]

Here’s the link to that video clip if you are so inclined. In fairness to Trump, it is true that he didn’t previously use the word “sweeping”…he called it forest “raking.

Anyhoo, there are 510 days until the November 2020 election.


Why Didn’t Ken Buck Do Something?

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

Entering the second day of reaction to the failure of the Republican campaign to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, the conversation is moving beyond initial shock into the important follow-up questions–how high up does the blame for this fiasco extend? And how exactly did this incredibly bad idea even get off the ground?

With the effort now officially dead, pointy fingers are converging on the Colorado Republican Party itself, and the central role of vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown in launching the campaign against Sullivan–9NEWS yesterday:

Kristi Burton Brown, Vice Chair of the Colorado Republican Party, posted on Facebook that the recall effort she initiated against the first-year lawmaker was ending.

“While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is,” wrote Brown.

The obvious first question–who is “we?” Wasn’t this done in her “personal capacity?”

That was of course farcical. After the recall petition against Rep. Sullivan was approved, Colorado Republican Party chairman Ken Buck insisted that his vice chair was acting “in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party.” But Colorado GOP “CEO” Steve House had already eagerly explained how the Colorado GOP would support recalls for electoral advantage–not to mention Buck’s own speech before his election as state party chair promising to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L” (video above). Combine that with the vice chair’s “personal” leadership role in the Sullivan recall, and it’s simply absurd to not hold the Colorado Republican Party directly responsible for the outcome.

And that opens the door to more pressing questions that Republicans must reckon with. Is Ken Buck’s absentee leadership of the state party while he tries to serve in Congress at the same time creating a leadership vacuum? Did Buck simply not have time or the presence of mind to recognize that the vice chair leading the Sullivan recall would indelibly link the party to the recall? Who exactly is in charge over there?

As the saying goes, victory has a thousand fathers. But as much as many Republicans want to lay the blame for this massive defeat at the feet of Dudley Brown, the man everyone loves to hate and has little credibility to lose, this is the Colorado Republican Party’s in-house disaster. The party’s vice chair is centrally to blame–and the statements of the party’s chairman and the “CEO” who runs the day-to-day operations on behalf of the absentee chairman oblige them to take the blame as well.

It’s time for Chairman Buck to own up to this disaster and clean house.

Or make way for someone who, for whatever reason, can.


Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is Coming to Colorado!

Come see Sen. Cory Gardner on Friday, June 14, at 8:00 am at the Country Steak Out in Fort Morgan.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will be making a rare public appearance in Colorado this week. We wanted to make sure you didn’t miss this announcement from Monday in the Ft. Morgan Times:

The Morgan County Republican Central Committee will be hosting U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner for a Legislative Update at 8 a.m. on Friday, June 14 at the Country Steak Out, 19592 E. 8th Avenue in Fort Morgan.

Join the Republicans for this informative update from Sen. Gardner. The public is invited to attend.

For more information contact any member of the Morgan County Central Committee: Chairman, Vivianne Lorenzini, 970-645-2485; Vice-chairman, Candie Loomis, 970-768-5070; Secretary, Jamie Hochanadel, 970-380-7060; or Treasurer, Dan Marler, 970-380-9621.

Colorado’s first-term Senator doesn’t make many public appearances in the state he was elected to represent, even though (or perhaps because) he is up for re-election in 2020. Normally your only chance at catching a glimpse of Gardner is to stumble upon some unannounced “event” — usually on a Friday — like when Gardner slipped into a meeting of the University of Colorado College Republican club in February. Statistically, you may be more likely to run across Gardner in Southeast Asia, which is where he turned up during the long Memorial Day recess last month.

It’s not just local reporters who get ignored by Gardner, who conducts “town hall” events about as often as you get your driver’s license renewed. But on Friday morning, Gardner will make the one-hour drive from his home in Yuma to the Country Steak Out at 19592 E. 8th Avenue in Fort Morgan. Here’s how to get there:

Here’s where all of your questions will be answered.

Don’t be late, because any “legislative update” about the U.S. Senate isn’t likely to last very long.