Womp Womp, Colin Kaepernick Edition

Colin Kaepernick.

The Hill reports:

A store in Colorado will be closing down after more than 20 years in business after its decision to stop selling Nike merchandise.

The store, Prime Time Sports, first made headlines in September when it announced it would pull Nike merchandise to protest the company’s decision to feature former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as the face of its ad campaign…

Prime Time Sports in Colorado Springs’ Chapel Hills Mall made national headlines last fall over their decision to blow out their Nike inventory and stop selling the brand’s products in protest of their ad campaign featuring ex-QB Colin Kaepernick, whose silent kneeling demonstrations during the national anthem ahead of NFL games made him an unemployed political lightning rod. If there is any place in America where a sporting goods store’s jilting of such a key brand would be survivable, one would think the conservative bastion of Colorado Springs would be it.

But as it turns out,

“As much as I hate to admit this, perhaps there are more Brandon Marshall and Colin Kaepernick supporters out there than I realized,” he added. [Pols emphasis]

For all the pundits who warned that football and politics make for bad business, here’s an example of the rule cutting both ways–even in the reddest of locales! The only thing we can add is our hope that Joe Flacco works out for the Broncos, since boycotting Kaepernick hasn’t exactly been a winning choice for John Elway either.

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Bill Coming Due for Gardner on Healthcare #FAIL

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner (July 28, 2017)

Poll after poll has shown that healthcare was the most dominant political issue of the 2018 election cycle, in which Democrats took majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives and earned sweeping victories across the country — including here in Colorado. Republicans were well aware of this problem ahead of Election Day; they tried unsuccessfully to mitigate the impact last fall with a silly measure intended to show that the GOP really did care about pre-existing conditions.

The Republican healthcare problem is back in the news today with a report from the Washington Post about a recent conversation between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and top GOP donors:

Speaking privately to his donors, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy squarely blamed Republican losses in last year’s midterm elections on the GOP push to roll back health insurance protections for people with preexisting conditions — and in turn blamed his party’s right flank.

McCarthy’s comments, made in a Feb. 6 conference call from which The Washington Post obtained partial recordings, represent a vindication of Democratic efforts to elevate health care as an issue in last year’s campaign. And in singling out the House Freedom Caucus, the remarks threaten to rekindle internal resentments inside the House Republican Conference…

…Elsewhere on the call, McCarthy offered a selective account of the 2017 health-care battles on Capitol Hill, where Republicans in the House toiled for months to craft an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, narrowly passing a bill in May before watching the Senate abandon the effort three months later.

“When we couldn’t pass the repeal of Obamacare the first way through, an amendment came because the Freedom Caucus wouldn’t vote for” the original House bill, McCarthy said. “That amendment put [the] preexisting condition campaign against us, and so even people who are running for the very first time got attacked on that. And that was the defining issue and the most important issue in the race.”

McCarthy’s frank assessment of how Republicans bungled attempts at changing healthcare policy will be particularly relevant for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) as he approaches his re-election campaign. Gardner makes a lot of vacuous statements about healthcare policy as he tries to dance around the fact that he was a reliable vote for every Republican attempt at gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2017. He won’t be able to shimmy around these tough questions with his name on the ballot in 2020.

July 27, 2017

Mark Matthews (then of the Denver Post) foresaw this very scenario for Gardner after Sen. John McCain dramatically sank Republican efforts to dismantle healthcare protections for Americans in July 2017:

…[Gardner] wouldn’t take a concrete position on any of the GOP plans to undo the 2010 health care law — only to back every major Republican proposal last week to come up for a vote, from repeal-and-replace to repeal-and-delay.

On one level, it’s not surprising: Gardner ran for Senate in 2014 on a pledge to dismantle the ACA and, as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he’s close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that his GOP colleagues — most of whom want to unwind the ACA — get re-elected in 2018.

“I am committed to reforming our nation’s broken health care system, and I’ll continue to work to bring relief to Coloradans being hurt by the negative impacts of Obamacare,” Gardner said after the repeal effort collapsed early Friday.

But the way the fight played out — from his own wavering to the Senate’s rushed, overnight vote — leaves Gardner exposed back in Colorado, a swing state with an active conservative base but one where surveys have shown a greater desire to fix the ACA rather than repeal it.

It is, of course, deeply ironic that a politician who rose to prominence because of his opposition to the ACA will struggle to win another term in office…for the exact same reason.

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Rep. Dave Williams Knuckles Under?

Rep. Dave Williams (R).

Following up on a story we’ve been watching in the Colorado House, where a hard-right Republican representative “went rogue” against the state party leadership with legislation to outlaw the charging of so-called “badge fees” in order to participate in the Republican Party’s county, district, and state assemblies.

Despite strong support across the aisle from Democrats who have no such equivalent “poll tax,” Rep. Dave Williams’ quest to eliminate badge fees has by all accounts outraged Republican party officials–and as of now, as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Conrad Swanson reports, the bill is on ice as Williams allegedly gives the party one last chance to eliminate badge fees voluntarily:

After a month of being castigated by fellow conservatives, state Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, is postponing his controversial “badge fee” bill, which stalled last week.

Instead of a law by which delegates or alternates wouldn’t have to pay “badge fees” to vote in political party caucuses or assemblies, Williams said he’ll give the parties a chance to rectify the issue internally.

He said he’s postponed the bill till April, after a March 30 central committee meeting of the state Republican Party, the only party that charges those fees, in hopes that a bylaw change is passed by two-thirds of committee members. If so, the legislation wouldn’t be needed, Williams said.

Given the vociferous opposition to this bill from state GOP officials who claimed that eliminating these fees could bankrupt their organizations, it will be very interesting to see if they take action to avoid Williams resuming the drive to pass his legislation. One could make the argument that even if the state GOP voluntarily eliminates badges fees for now there should still be legislation to ensure the practice doesn’t resume later when no one is looking. Either way there’s little question that if Rep. Williams wants to pass this bill, it will pass with the support of the Democratic majority.

Of course, this situation also gives Rep. Williams a significant amount of leverage with his own party brass! In the event the GOP doesn’t eliminate their badge fees, and Williams for whatever reason doesn’t bring his bill back up in response, it will either be because Williams was successfully cowed by his leadership–or he found another way to make the effort worth his while.

This is intra-GOP politics, after all. Stay tuned.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 13)

Joe Flacco, eh? Try to contain your excitement. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressional leaders are putting the final touches on legislation that will prevent another government shutdown. From the Washington Post:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

While President Trump appeared open to signing the legislation — which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border — White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

President Trump is likely to sign the legislation — despite not getting what he wants — and will try his damndest to make it look like this is some sort of victory for his administration and all wall-loving people. In reality, this is nothing short of a big, fat loss for the White House.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the rebranding of the wall debate is already underway.

 

► Denver teachers are still on strike, but negotiations have restarted between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of the first high-profile Republicans to endorse President Trump for re-election. Gardner is trying very hard to convince everyone else to agree with him.

 

► The U.S. Senate passed a massive public lands bill on Tuesday that includes reauthorization for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It may be up to the House of Representatives to make sure LWCF is properly funded, however. At the very least, it’s nice to know that Congress isn’t completely broken. Just “mostly” broken.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Senate Does a Thing on Public Lands, But…

The U.S. Senate proved today that it is still capable of doing Senate things when it passed the largest public lands package in decades. What is still unclear, however, is the amount of funding guaranteed for the beloved Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

As the Washington Post explains:

The Senate on Tuesday passed the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country and establishing four new national monuments honoring heroes from Civil War soldiers to a civil rights icon.

The 662-page measure, which passed 92 to 8, represented an old-fashioned approach to dealmaking that has largely disappeared on Capitol Hill. Senators from across the ideological spectrum celebrated home-state gains and congratulated each other for bridging the partisan divide.

This is absolutely good news, but there’s a rub…and a pretty substantial one:

Perhaps the most significant change the legislation would make is permanently authorizing a federal program that funnels offshore drilling revenue to conserve everything from major national parks and wildlife preserves to local baseball diamonds and basketball courts. Authorization for the popular program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), lapsed months ago due to the partial government shutdown and other disputes. Liberals like the fact that the money allows agencies to set aside land for wildlife habitat. Conservatives like the fact that taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for it.

Congress is now set to reauthorize the fund in perpetuity, though it will not make its spending mandatory. [Pols emphasis] Congressional funding for the program has “fluctuated widely” since its inception in 1965, according to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report. Less than half of the $40 billion that has piled up in the fund during its five decades of existence has been spent by Congress on conservation efforts.

As Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities said in a news release this afternoon, the money question is a big ol’ matso ball:

“At the same time, it’s imperative that members of Congress reach across the aisle to devote full, dedicated funding to safeguard America’s conservation and recreation future. Year after year, Congress has shortchanged LWCF, appropriating less than half of what is collected for recreation and conservation projects across the country. With permanent reauthorization and full, dedicated funding, America’s parks will have the certainty they deserve.”

We’ll update this post as we get more clarity on the funding aspect of LWCF. Make no mistake — reauthorization of the program is a very big deal, but everyone might need to pump their brakes if it isn’t funded. It is also possible that the legislation will get funding attached to it once it goes through the House of Representatives.

In the meantime, there has been much rejoicing among Senators — particularly those from Western states — in the aftermath of today’s vote. Here’s Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

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On Abortion, Gardner Can Run But He Can’t Hide

Cory Gardner, running from “Personhood” in 2014.

The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Michael Scherer put out an in-depth story yesterday that focuses on the changing politics of abortion with the U.S. Supreme Court shifting steadily rightward under President Donald Trump–a shift that could leave Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado dangerously exposed on the issue in 2020 after successfully talking his way out of trouble in 2014:

“We believe that the Kavanaugh vote is not going to be soon forgotten. It wasn’t just a moment in time,” said Brian Fallon, director of Demand Justice, which will launch a small digital ad campaign against Collins this week. The group also plans to hire field organizers in Maine and Colorado, swing states where Collins and Sen. Cory Gardner (R) are set to face voters in 2020…

Democrats plan to use the threat of court action to put Republicans in increasingly blue states on the defensive. Gardner, who voted for Kavanaugh and describes himself as “pro-life,” struggled with questions about abortion during his 2014 race, [Pols emphasis] when Democrats attacked him for having supported efforts to declare the fetus a person entitled to legal rights — a position that could outlaw abortion completely.

Gardner countered that his support amounted to a “statement” signaling his opposition to abortion, and said he wanted to increase access to contraception.

As we wrote last week in the wake of a narrow SCOTUS decision temporarily staving off a crisis over a Louisiana abortion restriction law, reproductive choice is an issue with a long and difficult political history in Colorado. Although our state has a demonstrated pro-choice majority of voters who have rejected abortion ban constitutional amendments repeatedly in recent years, Colorado’s anti-abortion political activists are very powerful within the Republican coalition–placing Republican candidates in the undesirable position of having to satisfy strident litmus tests on abortion in the GOP primary process, then trying to moderate that position enough to win a general election.

Cory Gardner, who had risen in Eastern Plains GOP politics by vocally supporting the “Personhood” abortion ban amendments, found a simple solution to this apparently contradiction: lying. After declaring to an obliging reporter that he no longer supported the local “Personhood” measures he had backed for years, Gardner insisted for the rest of the campaign that his continued support for federal legislation with the same language as “Personhood” was not what it plainly looked like–and managed to convince the press that the real problem was his opponent was overplaying the issue, not Gardner being deceptive at all! The success of this audacious strategy was proven when the Denver Post called Democrats’ attacks on Gardner over abortion a “tired refrain,” and asserted that “Gardner’s election would pose no threat to abortion rights.”

Safe to say, few events in local politics have aged as poorly as that endorsement. For Gardner and Colorado Republicans in general, the success for Republicans nationally that has shifted the Supreme Court toward their desired goal of overturning Roe v. Wade now risks turning abortion from a safe issue with which to mobilize the Republican base into a disastrous liability–one that forces all the consequences of their unpopular position on abortion into the spotlight. The very real threat of a nationwide rollback of abortion rights destroys the reasoning behind the Post’s downplaying of the threat Gardner personally represents, as well as the complacency of local journalists who have long blithely insisted that abortion isn’t an issue worth their time.

After literally defying reality in 2014, a perfect storm is brewing for Gardner just in time to face the voters again.

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Colorado Republicans, Legislating with Crayons

L-E-G-I-S-L-A-T-I-O-N

Colorado Republicans lost pretty much everything in the 2018 election. There are a lot of reasons for why the GOP was wiped out in Colorado, from terrible candidates to just flat-out incompetence (not to mention a lot of this), but the GOP’s complete and utter inability to govern remains perhaps their biggest hurdle to gaining voter trust. In the final days of the 2018 election, former Senate President Kevin Grantham highlighted this problem when he made a late appeal to voters that was basically just a list of everything that Republicans failed to accomplish with their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

If the first six weeks of 2019 are any indication, Republicans don’t appear to have learned any lessons from their shellacking at the polls last fall. The GOP spent the first month of the 2019 legislative session vomiting out absurdities and engaging in prolonged idiotic arguments. On Monday, State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) proudly introduced a proposal for education funding that is just flat-out stupid.

As Anna Staver explains for the Denver Post:

Sonnenberg wants to ask voters in 2020 whether the General Assembly could take lottery dollars from the Great Outdoors Colorado fund and put them into the state’s education fund. If voters approved of the change, lawmakers in the 2021 legislative session would have the option to spend none, some or all of those outdoor dollars on public education.

“I think education funding is a priority. Colorado needs to make education funding a priority,” Sonnenberg said. “Truly, do we have enough outhouses and soccer fields? Can we now re-prioritize and use it for education? I want the voters to decide.”

Voters created the outdoors fund, which is often called GOCO, in 1992. It has spent more than $1.2 billion, according to its website. Those dollars have built 900 miles of trails, upgraded 56 playgrounds and added more than 47,000 acres into the state parks system.

So much facepalming

Before we get into why the logic behind this proposal is so flawed, consider the raw numbers involved. As the Post notes, GOCO picked up about $66.2 million in 2018, which is less than 1 percent of Colorado’s $7 billion education budget. This is sort of like promising to end homelessness by building an igloo.

The GOP position on Colorado’s budgetary needs in recent years has been to make completely unsupported claims that the state actually has plenty of money…but somebody is hiding it somewhere, or something. If you could make money grow on trees just by saying that money grows on trees, Colorado Republicans would make us all very rich.

When Colorado Republicans aren’t dreaming of pots of gold under rainbows, their other go-to message for budgeting has been to spin the tired old yarn about making tough financial choices just like the average person does when sitting at their kitchen table, blah, blah, blah. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton often talked about how Colorado could fix its transportation funding shortfalls (which add up to billions of dollars each year) if only C-DOT hadn’t spent $150 million on a new office space. If you’re trying to do the math at home, it looks like this: “2 + 2 = potato.”

Sonnenberg is doing something similar with his new proposal, suggesting that Colorado’s funding problems can be solved by regularly flipping a coin between two different budgetary needs. You can have parks and recreation areas, or you can have schools, but not both! 

On a very literal scale, Sonnenberg’s logic could (perhaps) eventually balance a budget by suffocating half of all government programs, but this isn’t a real solution. We could probably fully fund law enforcement needs in Colorado if we stopped paying firefighters, for example, but that would be stupid.

You can’t solve Colorado’s budgetary needs with false choices or double spending, but that won’t stop Republicans from floating the same wrong answers to every fiscal question.

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Adventures In Sloganeering Deja Vu

The official Twitter account of the Republican Party unveiled this inspiring new slogan last night during President Donald Trump’s political rally in El Paso, Texas:

“Stronger Together.” Now, wait just a minute–haven’t we heard that before?

Answer: yes.

You know what they say: you wake up one morning and find you’ve become what you hate.

Next up: Democratic presidential candidate vows to “Make America Great Again.”

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Got Thousands To Spare? Join Cory Gardner’s “Executive Board!”

In D.C. this evening–happening right now in fact–is a fundraiser to re-elect Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, with a head-turning, depending on your point of view perhaps head-scratching theme:

The federal government may be careening toward another shutdown at the end of the week, but for Sen. Gardner it’s business as usual! For $10,000 as a PAC or a cool $5,400 as a lowly individual, you too can join Cory Gardner’s “Executive Board”–or if that’s too rich for your blood, $2,700 will buy you a “Season Pass.” It’s explained further that “Executive Board and Season Pass Benefit Packages Available upon request.”

Now of course, contributions to a sitting U.S. Senator are most assuredly not meant to be a quid pro quo affair, and it should go without saying that Senators should avoid even the slightest appearance of a transactional benefit from a campaign contribution. And that might make you rightly wonder: what exactly is in the “benefit package” one gets for writing a big enough check to join Sen. Gardner’s “Executive Board?”

Perhaps we’re being too literal about this? Maybe–but without $5,400 to find out, you’ll never know for sure.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 11)

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday; those flowers aren’t going to order themselves. ” It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today is the day that Congressional leaders were supposed to announce a deal on keeping the federal government open, but there is no indication as of yet that a proposal is in the works. President Trump and the GOP are trying (again) to blame Democrats for inaction, but as James Downie writes for the Washington Post, Republicans are going through the exact same motions that drove us into the last shutdown:

The truth is, three weeks after the last shutdown ended, the White House and the GOP still have no idea how to get out of the corner they’ve worked themselves into. They promised the base a “border wall,” but they have even less leverage now than they did when the first shutdown started. So they’ve returned to the first page of the playbook: scaremongering about violent immigrants.

Of course, we all saw how well fanning fears over immigration worked for the president and his party during the last shutdown, not to mention during last fall’s midterms. If anything, one wonders whether spinning the bed issue will make any deal harder for the GOP base to swallow. What was once a nonissue becomes, in the base’s mind, another cave.

As CNN reports, you’ll need to look elsewhere for silver linings:

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

Shutdown 2: Electric Boogaloo.

 

► Denver teachers are off the job today as part of the first DPS strike in 25 years; many students are joining the picket lines in solidarity. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will hold a rally on the West Steps of the State Capitol this afternoon.

For more information on all things strike-related, check out this FAQ from the Denver Post or this primer from Colorado Public Radio and the Associated Press.

 

► A growing number of Americans are expressing frustration that the great Republican tax cut of 2017 isn’t doing jack squat for them. From the Washington Post:

Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.

People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.

The uproar follows the passage of a major overhaul to the tax code in December 2017, which was enacted with only Republican votes and is considered the biggest legislative achievement of Trump’s first year. While the vast majority of Americans received a tax cut in 2018, refunds are a different matter. Some refunds have decreased because of changes in the law, such as a new limit on property and local income tax deductions, and some have decreased because of how the IRS has altered withholding in paychecks…

…The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared to last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund so far has dropped by almost a quarter.

Lower tax refunds mean bad news for the American economy.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Stop The Presses: A Real-Life Vote Fraud Case!

Actually, don’t. They’ll catch you.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Amy Hamilton reports, and by God every time it happens somebody ought to let you know–if for no other reason than to remind you how rarely it happens:

A Grand Junction woman was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor voter fraud after she allegedly cast a mail-in ballot for her adult son last fall after becoming frustrated that her adult children didn’t seem to be voting, according to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

Gail Arlene Gray, 66, told an investigator she “did a terrible thing” but she was “really (angry) at my kids for not voting, none of them were voting and then that (ballot) came in the mail and I didn’t even think, I thought I am going to vote for him…” according to an arrest affidavit released Thursday…

In a phone call on Jan. 30, the son told the investigator he had talked to his mom and learned she had voted for him. When asked by the investigator, the son said his mother’s voting choices were “not necessarily” how he voted but he “did not have hard feelings about it,” the affidavit said.

Now before anyone starts pointing partisan fingers, we looked up Gail Arlene Gray’s voter registration, and she’s unaffiliated. Considering that allegations of voter fraud are almost both exclusively leveled by Republicans and (in Colorado, anyway) and almost exclusively committed by Republicans, up to and including a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party–but in this case, what you have is a mother upset that her son was complacent about doing his civic duty. So Mom decided to take care of it herself.

Which is, of course, a crime.

As the Sentinel reports, the fraudulent vote was caught by the system working as intended, when the son turned up at a vote center to vast a ballot in person. After confirming that a mail ballot had already been cast in his name, a signature check revealed that he wasn’t the signer–and soon after that, Mom confessed to voting on his behalf. Because Gail Arlene Gray has no criminal record, and owing to her age and cooperation with investigators, she is only facing misdemeanor election fraud charges.

The incident marks the only case of suspected voter fraud in Mesa County for the 2018 election cycle, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said. [Pols emphasis]

Again, it’s important to take note of these bonafide cases of election fraud when they occur. Republicans from President Donald Trump all the way down to state and local officials regularly invoke the specter of “illegal voters” subverting our elections, from former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s baseless claims of tens of thousands of such voters in Colorado to more recent and very similar allegations of “95,000 illegal voters” in Texas. Gessler’s claims about Colorado voters totally collapsed under scrutiny, and those “thousands” of fraudulent votes boiled down to fewer than five actual cases.

With the actual incidence of election fraud in Colorado an infinitesimal fraction of what the usual suspects claim it is, the argument for any of the “solution” measures proposed in response becomes much more difficult. To stop thousands of fraudulent voters, a crackdown that prevents some fewer thousands of voters from lawfully participating might be more justifiable. But to effectively disenfranchise thousands in order to prevent…one case? Even five cases? That’s a “solution” in search of a problem. A cure worse than the disease.

And it’s based on one of the biggest falsehoods in politics today.

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You Say You Want Another Shutdown, Well, You Know…

CNN reports as the roller coaster that is national American politics under President Donald Trump gets ready for another dive into chaos:

It’s now days before another government shutdown — and this is the day bipartisan negotiators were supposed to announce a deal to avert just that.

Instead, there are no clear answers as to how, or if, another can be avoided.

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

As negotiations on a spending bill to avert another shutdown by Friday’s deadline continue today, the pressure is on to get a bill together today or tomorrow in order to respect the House’s 72-hour rule for considering legislation once the bill text is posted. The parties remain far apart on both funding for the wall/barrier/slats/whatever, but also related issues like the number of beds for detaining immigrants awaiting hearings. Looming over all of those disagreements is the current state of Trump’s thinking, which may become more apparent at a MAGA rally scheduled for this evening in El Paso, Texas.

You would think that after the havoc wrought by the recently-ended shutdown, and the consensus of public opinion that Trump and the GOP are to blame, Republicans would be willing to take whatever House Democrats offer to save face and move on with their lives. There’s still the possibility of that happening, but it’s not a bet we would make with, you know, the rent money.

For hundreds of thousands of federal workers, though, that’s exactly what the next few days is about.

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Industrial Schoolhouse Action: Denver Teachers On Strike

Striking teachers in Los Angeles, 12/2018.

Colorado Public Radio reports on the final breakdown of negotiations last night between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, ending with teachers heading for the picket lines for tomorrow morning–the first strike by DCTA in a quarter century that has seen enormous change in the operating philosophy of DPS, and a “reform” agenda that has delivered much more controversy than increased achievement:

Tensions boiled over Saturday night as several hours of discussion between the teachers union and Denver Public Schools aimed at averting a strike came to a halt and a Monday walkout appeared inevitable.

Exasperated negotiators for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association ended talks after they asked whether or not Superintendent Susana Cordova would agree to their concept of a salary schedule that gives teachers more opportunities to advance and rewards them for professional development classes.

Cordova wouldn’t give a specific answer and asked for time to consider their counter-proposal. DCTA lead negotiator Rob Gould tersely responded that they “can have some time, they can have until Tuesday!”

What does this mean for almost 80,000 kids who attends Denver Public Schools, not to mention their working parents? Without those thousands of hard-working long-suffering and no matter what they’re getting not paid nearly enough teachers, the district is doing whatever it can to provide a suitable warehouse educational setting–Denver7:

Denver Public School Superintendent Susan Cordova reassured parents in late January that the district is committed to keeping schools open during the strike and said an announcement would be sent Sunday notifying parents whether their child’s school would be open the next day.

That will not be the case for all early childhood education classes, which will be canceled due to the district’s inability to meet the rigorous requirements for licensed staff in those classrooms, Cordova said, adding they would try to provide opportunities for the 4,714 children currently enrolled in the district’s early childhood education programs.

Additionally, a DPS spokesperson said a daily assessment would be made as to whether there is an adequate number of teachers and substitute teachers — as well as supervisors from the central office — to keep schools in the district open during the strike.

The school district is expected to have every nonunion employee with a college degree serving as a substitute teacher tomorrow, with an unknown number of temporary teachers hired on the promise of a large daily rate to cover the indignity of crossing a picket line. Obviously, the educational value of the substitutes is going to vary widely, and in many cases it’s reasonable to expect to see whole student bodies watching movies in the gym Monday.

The breakdown between the sides continues to be over the district’s bonus system to achieve staffing goals versus the teachers’ demand for broadly higher pay to offset the growing shortage of teachers and Denver’s skyrocketing cost of living. Underlying this standoff is a larger philosophical disagreement over reforming public education, with the DPS “ProComp” compensation plan and the later “teacher effectiveness” law SB-191 passed in 2010 representing a controversial shift toward blaming teachers for the whole range of aggregate social and economic factors that affect student achievement. Without a positive correlation of better educational outcomes for students to justify this approach, and with a demonstrable and growing shortage of qualified college graduates willing to take on the challenge of a career in public education…what are we doing?

Look, folks, we have no idea how deeply this is going to be reckoned with in the current standoff at Denver Public Schools. But it’s critical to understand–on both sides–that this is much more than an argument over a few percentage points more or less in a contract. This is about a fundamental disagreement over the hardships teachers face in their jobs, and how their work should be both valued and evaluated by society.

If you think you have a slogan that answers all these weighty questions, you don’t.

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Weekend Open Thread

“People wait until they have a need for some history and then they customize it to suit their purposes.”

–Neal Stephenson

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Abortion Apocalypse Staved Off, No Thanks To Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The New York Times reports on the high-drama ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday temporarily blocking a highly restrictive anti-abortion law in Louisiana from going into effect, and revealing in this 5-4 decision the grave danger abortion rights are presently in–despite a persistent unwillingness by reporters locally and nationally to acknowledge this reality:

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana law that its opponents say could have left the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. That coalition underscored the pivotal position the chief justice has assumed after the departure last year of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who used to hold the crucial vote in many closely divided cases, including ones concerning abortion…

Meanwhile,

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh said they would have denied the stay. Only Justice Kavanaugh published a dissent, taking a middle position that acknowledged the key precedent and said he would have preferred more information on the precise effect of the law.

The Louisiana law in question is what’s known in the reproductive rights community as a TRAP law–“targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” meaning regulations intended to reduce the availability of abortions with no clinically proven benefit. This particular law is a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which is medically unnecessary and would only serve to severely reduce the number of eligible abortion providers.

The narrow and temporary blocking of this bill from taking effect is thanks to a swing vote from Chief Justice John Roberts, who once again took surprising action to avert what could have kicked off the long-awaited final assault on the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights throughout the United States. This apparently represents a swing from Roberts’ vote on a previous similar case, underscoring his self-appointed role as a moderator on a sharply divided court. With that said, the Court is still expected to hear this case in the fall, and numerous other state-level bills intended specifically to challenge Roe are in the judicial pipeline.

Despite this temporary win for pro-choice advocates, it’s clear that abortion rights are today in greater actual peril than at any point since the Roe decision in 1973. Especially if conservatives get another Justice before President Donald Trump leaves office but even with the Court as it sits today, the likelihood of Roe being thrown out is very high. Trump’s two appointed Justices, both of whom were confirmed with Sen. Cory Gardner’s support and one of which was stolen from Democrats in an unprecedented act of Senate treachery, showed in this trial balloon vote that they are ready to do it. Remember that next time anyone tells you that Gardner “would pose no threat to abortion rights.”

The moral of the story? Even here in Colorado where the voters have demonstrated their support for reproductive choice over and over at the polls, we’re only one election away from passing the same legislation that was blocked yesterday–legislation we see introduced in the Colorado legislature year after year. For reasons we’ve never really understood, local political reporters have been openly contemptuous about covering Republican anti-abortion bills in the Colorado General Assembly in recent years.

That complacency really, really needs to stop. “Token” GOP abortion bills in Colorado are not theater.

They are a warning.

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Andrew Romanoff Is In–For Real This Time

Andrew Romanoff (D).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, after a brief stir in December when campaign filings tipped off his intentions, former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff is making it official today: he’s running for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

“My campaign, like my career, is grounded in the people of Colorado,” Romanoff said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “I know firsthand what women and men of goodwill can achieve when united by a common purpose.”

The Ohio native, who once planned on a career in journalism, joins a growing list of Democrats vying to take on Gardner, pegged as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans. Former state Sen. Mike Johnston announced at the end of January, and Lorena Garcia, Trish Zornio and Keith Pottratz have all launched campaigns.

Romanoff took a progressive stance on a variety of issues in his announcement, including Medicare for all, immigration reform and renewable energy. He specifically mentioned the Green New Deal to replace fossils fuels that’s being pushed by his former aide, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Boulder.

One of the architects of the 2004 takeover of the Colorado legislature that led to enduring dominance by Democrats in Colorado politics, there are few Democratic candidates on the bench in Colorado with the long experience both as a lawmaker and a candidate to match Romanoff. In 2010, Romanoff endeared himself to the Democratic grassroots in his unsuccessful primary challenge to now-Sen. Michael Bennet, and he retains relatively good name recognition within the party rank-and-file.

It’s an interesting point of trivia that Romanoff was one of the principal advocates for 2005’s Referendum C, a fiscal measure that allowed the state some desperately-needed relief from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to keep programs funded after the early-2000s recession. Fresh off his appointment to the Colorado House in the summer of 2005, one of Gardner’s first real campaigns was the failed attempt by hard-line Republicans to oppose the bipartisan Referendum C.

A long Democratic primary lies ahead, but Romanoff stands out among the current field of candidates.

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Rep. Doug Lamborn Scoffs At You Meddling Kids

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

The Colorado Independent’s Robin Bravender reports on freshly quotable remarks from Colorado’s least inspiring Congressman, Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs–who has a thing or two to say about these whipper-snapper first-year Democrats, and their high-falutin’ idears for green energy and other such pies in the sky:

The Democrats’ sweeping plan sounds “too much like a Soviet five-year plan or something like that,” Lamborn told his colleagues Wednesday at a U.S. House hearing about climate change. The 5th District Republican, who represents Colorado Springs, said of the Green New Deal: It’s “simply not going to work.”

…Lamborn, 64, told the Natural Resources Committee he can understand how some of his younger colleagues have bought into the idea.

“You only have to be 25 years old to be a member of Congress, and we have young people that bring a lot of great qualities, but maybe they don’t bring a lot of life experience,” he said. “I guess I can understand if someone has not a lot of life experience and they’re proposing something that’s extremely unrealistic, well, impossible.”

He can’t understand how “adults and grownups, who are more mature,” would also be advocating for the plan, he said. [Pols emphasis]

Ouch, grandpa! Of course, there are plenty of “grownups” well over the age of 25 who argue a swift and determined migration to renewable energy is an urgent priority–and if Lamborn speaks for the rest of the Republican Party in declaring 25-year-old Americans are not “adults and grownups,” well, that’s a big problem for Republicans in…every future election? It’s tough to imagine the 18-25 bloc of voters ever taking that kindly.

It’s not really a surprise to see Rep. Lamborn put off by bold initiatives from the new Democratic majority in the House, with basically no legislative accomplishments of his own to celebrate after over a decade in Congress. When Lamborn does make the press, it’s usually for embarrassing self-injury like referring to President Barack Obama as a “tar baby.” In the Colorado legislature, Lamborn was best known for his quest to swap the names of Colorado’s Mount Democrat and Republican Mountain so that Republicans would have the taller mountain (this is not a joke).

So no, like that special baby boomer in your life who talks about “kids today” with a disapproving sneer, it’s a safe bet that Rep. Lamborn is never going to be a supporter of the Green New Deal. It may unfortunately be necessary for another election to pass before anything like this plan has a realistic chance of becoming law, serving until then as a point of contrast between the two parties for voters.

And though his own seat may be safe, Lamborn is a good contrast for voters everywhere too.

Especially the younger ones.

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BREAKING: Polis Will Not Intervene, DPS Strikes Next Week

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday declined to intervene in the impending Denver teacher strike, which could have delayed a teacher walkout by up to 180 days…

At the heart of the disagreement is Denver’s teacher compensation plan ProComp. Both sides have proposals they claim improve the pay scale that determines how and what teachers get paid. DCTA’s proposal kicks in about $28.5 million toward teacher compensation, while the district’s is about $20.8 million.

In addition to the $8 million difference in teachers pay plans, the district and union disagree on how educators should advance along their proposed compensation schedules. The union’s plan allows for more opportunities for teachers to bump up in pay as they accrue credits toward advancing their education.

—–

That’s the breaking word from the first floor of the state capitol, Gov. Jared Polis will NOT order a 180-day cooling-off period via the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, returning power to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association to commence a strike if a deal isn’t reached by Monday, February 11th.

We’ll update with coverage and statements, but this is a big win for teachers that will shore up Polis’ left flank on the hot-button issue of public education–and puts teeth in Polis’ campaign pledge to help organized workers flex their muscles.

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Cory Gardner Loves, Ignores Trump’s State of the Union

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, considered one of if not the most vulnerable incumbent Republican U.S. Senator up for re-election in 2020, was effusive in his praise for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last night (see video above):

“I applaud the President’s call for compromise and cooperation tonight. It is time to leave partisan corners and work together on behalf of the American people to move our country forward,” Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said in a statement. “I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to fix our broken immigration system, fund border security, invest in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure to reduce traffic in Colorado, and bolster our national security.”

Oddly, though, one of the biggest foreign policy announcements in Trump’s speech yesterday–one with direct relevance to Sen. Gardner as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–went totally unmentioned by Gardner in his response. Trump is set to meet once again with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at the end of this month:

“Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one. Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27 and 28 in Vietnam,” he added…

Trump’s announcement Tuesday came just hours after news of a confidential United Nations report that found North Korea is moving its nuclear and ballistic weapons to hide them from potential US military strikes.

The North Korean nuclear and missile program remains intact and shows no change in Pyongyang’s behavior, the biannual report says. [Pols emphasis]

The continuing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, despite Trump’s claims of progress and now the rewarding of the North Korean regime with a second face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong Un, was something Gardner personally expressed concern about in an opinion piece posted to FOX News yesterday:

Make no mistake about it: North Korea still remains a clear and present danger to the safety and security of the American people. So far, no concrete action toward CVID has taken place; decommissioning already destroyed or obsolete facilities does not count. Without concrete steps toward CVID, the only thing Kim Jong Un appears to be committed to is the regime-standard ploy of delay and non-compliance.

That assessment is entirely correct as we understand the situation. The question is, why didn’t Gardner say anything about Kim Jong Un being rewarded with another undeserved summit in his glowing sendup of Trump’s State of the Union address? After all, Gardner slammed President Obama for talks with lower level North Korean officials in the absence of “tough preconditions” that have in no way been met even now.

Bottom line: Sen. Cory Gardner is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia. His leadership role on relations with North Korea makes this omission more than a mere oversight. For whatever reason, Gardner is unwilling or unable to directly confront Trump over his decisions on North Korea–even as he admits to the problem in other forums.

It’s just another example of Gardner trying to appease both Trump and reality, and failing.

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Fracking Fracas: The Bill Is Coming

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Bente Birkeland and Grace Hood at Colorado Public Radio offer another preview of the big fight on the near horizon in the Colorado General Assembly–meaningfully tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry after years of intra-Democratic gridlock on the issue under the previous administration:

All parties in the debate were locked in a holding pattern under former Gov. John Hickenlooper, but Gov. Jared Polis is expected to take a different approach. Some Democrats want 2019 to be the year that significantly changes the regulation of oil and gas companies.

There’s more than activists or oil and gas companies with their eyes on the state capitol. The Front Range cities of Lafayette, Superior and Erie have all enacted drilling moratoriums to wait and see what rules the legislature adopts in 2019…

Democrats will have a difficult needle to thread on oil and gas issues, that’s why they say they’re taking their time before unveiling legislation.

“Our bills now have a fighting chance, we have to make sure that we do it right,” said Democratic Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette. He has pushed for tougher regulations in previous years, and is one of the handful of lawmakers involved in negotiations this session. “In the past, the oil and gas bills that I introduced, were introduced for a specific reason. I thought that they faced uphill battles, and in fact they did, but we still had to push the issue forward.”

CPR reports that the final legislation is coming together now, and is expected to take the form of one large bill covering a variety of subjects from giving local communities more direct control in drilling decisions to legislatively undoing the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that controversially declared public health and safety subordinate to the “fostering” of oil and gas resource development as prescribed by existing law.

The extremely high stakes in this debate, coupled with the changed political climate at the state capitol, makes this issue by orders of magnitude the biggest issue of the 2019 legislative session that nobody is talking about in public yet. Whatever the final form this bill takes, we fully expect Republicans and the oil and gas industry to freak out as hard as they possibly can, firing off the usual warnings of a million billion jobs lost and the entire population of Colorado freezing to death.

Somewhere between the industry’s absurd hyperbole and the very real status quo of the state valuing promotion of an industry over public health, you’ll find the legislative sweet spot Democrats need to land on. And as much as the oil and gas industry wants to kill this whole effort, base Democrats and independent voters who are passionate about energy policy and climate change–and who swept Democrats into power last year–expect results.

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