The Wrath of the Maths: What Really Happened in Denver

Michael Hancock and Jamie Giellis

This is a blog of words. Sure, we talk numbers now and then, mostly as it relates to polling or margins of victory (or The Big Line); but to the extent that we have any expertise, it is definitely more with words than numbers.

So it is with fair warning that we jump into a weird math problem that keeps showing up in analysis of the Denver Mayor’s race.

We started seeing this analysis more regularly after Lisa Calderon and Penfield Tate endorsed Giellis in the runoff, forming what headline writers liked to call a “Unity Ticket.” This idea picked up steam heading into the final weekend of the runoff, as Joe St. George wrote for Fox 31 Denver last week:

At the very basic level, Hancock faces a math disadvantage going into Tuesday’s runoff.

60% of voters who participated in the May election voted for someone other than Hancock. Hancock received around 40%.

The recipients of most of that vote were Penfield Tate, Lisa Calderon and Jaime Giellis. Giellis finished second with 25%.

59,000 people voted for Tate and Calderon.

Both of those candidates have endorsed Giellis. Do the voters follow? Or does Hancock steal enough votes away?

This is all wrong, but more on that in a moment. There is a similar view in a post-election analysis of the race in today’s Denver Post:

 

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Bennet “Sister Souljas” Medicare For All

Dave Weigel of the Washington Post directs us to the latest digital ad running in support of Sen. Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign–and much like Gov. John Hickenlooper left many observers scratching their heads after striking out against “socialism” to the rowdy boos of California Democrats, Bennet is taking what can only be called a triangulation approach against liberal firebrand Bernie Sanders and one of Sanders’ chief policy planks:

As readers may know, but would be excused for not knowing like we expect the majority of Americans do not know, Sen. Bennet has his own policy prescription for health care reform that he calls “Medicare X.” Medicare X is not a universal coverage plan but closer to what was known during the debate over the Affordable Care Act as a “public option.” It’s a plan with a lot to offer, and Bennet makes arguments for Medicare X that sound an awful lot like the progressive side of the debate over “Obamacare.” But in this case, Bennet is making disingenuous claims about Medicare For All “taking away insurance” that are much too close to rank GOP falsehoods about “insurance cancellations” under the ACA for us grant a pass.

As readers should know, Sen. Bennet is running toward the back of a 20+ pack of presidential candidates, and is doing whatever he can to obtain enough support both financially and in polling to qualify for the second round of presidential debates. This tactic is obviously an attempt to broaden Bennet’s support by attacking the Democratic frontrunners from the right, arguing that their more ambitious health reform agenda “won’t work.”

The problem is of course that this message, just like Hickenlooper’s off-key railing against “socialism” in front of California Democrats, is pretty much the opposite of persuasive to Democratic primary voters. It’s a message aimed at a tiny if sometimes decisive wedge of swing voters in a general election, but the job of a primary candidate is to win the hearts and minds of the ideological base. We’re not saying that Bennet is even wrong–it’s arguable after the last painful decade of partisan warfare over health care in this country that a dramatic move in either direction is politically very difficult to conceive.

But there’s no upside in lecturing primary voters at the precise moment they are looking to be inspired.

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Ex-GOP Minority Leader Mike May Dumps Cory Gardner

Former House Minority Leader Mike May (R).

We do our best to keep abreast of the latest political scuttlebutt as compiled by our various political newsrooms into weekly newsletter offerings, but like an unfortunate number of news consumers out there we sometimes don’t always make it all the way through every single such roundup every single week–particularly when there’s nothing in the headline to suggest something juicy “below the fold.”

As such, we missed this significant yet buried bit of news from the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter, two entries from the bottom of the May 30th edition of the Post’s The Spot political news agglomeration–a former GOP Colorado House Minority Leader, Mike May of Parker, is endorsing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff over incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner:

During an interview with The Post last week, Romanoff talked about the support of Mike May, a Parker Republican and former House minority leader.

“He reached out to me not long after I announced my candidacy. He said, ‘My wife and I want to support you.’ I said, ‘I appreciate that, but just to remind you, I’m a Democrat.’ He said, ‘I remember that, but my country means more than my party and we would be honored to call you our senator.’” [Pols emphasis]

Romanoff says he had a similar conversation with Mary Estill Buchanan, a former Republican secretary of state who endorsed him Tuesday. She narrowly lost a Senate race of her own to Gary Hart in 1980.

Talk about burying the lede! The truth is, we might have missed this news entirely had a correction in this week’s The Spot referring to the original story not caught our eye. It’s not for us to tell the Post’s headline writers what’s most important, and in a lot of cases the reporters don’t get much of a say in the headline wording either–but a former GOP House Minority Leader abandoning Cory Gardner ahead of the nation’s hottest Senate race really is big news. It’s big news for Romanoff, sure, but potentially a huge blow to Gardner regardless of which Democrat he faces in 2020.

We expect that there is a lot more to this story that bears telling. Minority Leader May served with Cory Gardner for years in the Colorado House, and in 2010 lavished praise on Gardner’s state house service during Gardner’s first run for Congress. May’s collegial relationship with former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff doesn’t fully explain May taking such a dramatic step. What specifically did Gardner do, or fail to do, to persuade a former top GOP leader to deliver the unkindest cut of all?

The follow-up story, and we’re excited to see it, will definitely merit its own headline.

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Gardner Tiptoes Around Trump Tariff Threats

UPDATE #2: Whatever he’s doing If Cory Gardner is doing anything to stop Trump’s tariffs, it ain’t working. From Politico:

The White House pledged on Thursday to charge ahead on tariffs on Mexico, saying the U.S. position “has not changed” after officials met for a second day to address the steady flow of Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.

Talks between Mexican and U.S. officials at the White House wrapped up without resolution. Several key officials in the administration were unavailable for negotiations. President Donald Trump was in France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were on the road.

It would sure seem like Sen. Gardner is about to get another painful wedgie.

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Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

UPDATE: Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports today on Colorado businesses bracing for the potential tariffs…and guess who isn’t commenting?

And all eyes are on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, named the Senate’s most vulnerable Republican for the 2020 elections.

Gardner told Bloomberg News Monday that tariffs are “a bad idea, plain and simple.” His office declined to comment about whether his opposition would include any efforts to overturn the President’s authority under IEEPA. [Pols emphasis]

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) did respond to Goodland, as did House Members such as Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette), Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver), and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez).

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President Trump
today renewed his threat to place new tariffs on Mexico if America’s southern neighbor doesn’t accede to his demands on immigration — while also smacking Republican Senators for their opposition to his pressure campaign. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump said Thursday that talks with Mexico over new measures to block migrants from entering the United States were making headway, but he renewed his threat to impose a punitive import tax on Mexican goods unless an agreement was reached before Monday.

“Something pretty dramatic could happen,” the president said, referring to the talks with Mexican diplomats, which are scheduled to continue Thursday in Washington. “We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too.”

Trump dismissed Republican senators who have threatened to block his tariff plans, saying they “have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to tariffs.”[Pols emphasis]

Trump is threatening to impose a 5 percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico starting June 10; the tariff would increase by 5 percentage points every month until it reaches 25% on October 1.

Earlier this week Senate Republicans began to (meekly) push back against Trump’s threats, suggesting that the Senate could pass legislation to block the tariffs; unnamed sources even offered that the GOP had enough support to override a potential Trump veto of a Senate blocking maneuver. Economists are warning that a new import tax on Mexico could cost the United States 400,000 jobs, but even with numbers on their side, Senate Republicans are treading very carefully so as not to anger the Big Orange Guy.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on Wednesday

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) made a brief appearance on Wednesday in an interview with Zack Guzman and Alexis Keenan of Yahoo Finance. Gardner predicted that this tariff kerfuffle would be “resolved over the next 48 to 72 hours,” though in typical Gardner fashion, he was careful to avoid any specifics:

KEENAN: Where do you stand on [tariffs] and how much support do you have from fellow GOP members who also have said that they don’t necessarily support this action perhaps against Mexico?

GARDNER: Well, look, if you look at Colorado, a lot of those top exports are agriculture — agriculture-based — whether that’s corn, whether that’s beef, whether that’s potatoes. I don’t think there’s much support at all for tariffs overall, specifically a tariff on Mexico, and goods from Mexico. So, I think that if this were to come to a vote, there wouldn’t be much, at all, support, out of the United States Senate for a tariff. [Pols emphasis]

GUZMAN: Would that be true even if you needed President Trump’s signature on the state’s act [on marijuana legalization] to get it through as well, if push came to shove?

GARDNER: Well, look, I think they are two totally mutually exclusive issues, but tariffs are bad policy, and I don’t think you can confuse the two issues and I don’t think you can politicize the two issues together. But tariffs are bad policy. They are a tax on the American consumer, and they affect disproportionately the lowest-income earners across the country who rely more on imported goods. So, this is something that I think is bad policy, and I think you’ll see this issue resolved over the next 48 to 72 hours. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner’s prediction is that some sort of deal is reached with Mexico by late Saturday, less than two days before the new tariff is scheduled to take effect. Calling tariffs “bad policy” has been Gardner’s standard response on this issue — when reporters can actually find him — but Gardner continues to avoid saying whether he himself would support a move by the Senate to block Trump’s tariffs from taking effect. History has shown that Gardner will stand with Trump if forced to take a side, which is no doubt why he sticks to vagaries on the tariff issue.

It’s also worth noting once again that while Gardner goes out of his way to avoid talking to Colorado media outlets, he’s plenty cooperative with people he chooses to speak with:

GUZMAN: Alright, Senator Cory Gardner. Thank you so much for joining us and for calling us twice — really appreciate it.

“Calling us twice.”

This is Cory Gardner.

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Who Will be the Democratic Nominee for President in 2020?

Who fills this spot in 2020?

It’s been more than a month since we did our last poll on this subject, which was so long ago that former Vice President Joe Biden wasn’t even an official candidate yet. When last we asked this question, that South Bend, Indiana Mayor Guy (Pete Buttigieg) led the way in our completely non-scientific poll in which we ask who you THINK will be the eventual Democratic nominee for President.

We’ve added two new choices to this poll: 1) Andrew Yang, who probably has no realistic chance but is nevertheless one of only 13 candidates to meet both the polling and donation requirements to make it into the first two Presidential debates, and 2) “One of Those 40-ish White Male Congressmen.” Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell — if they were all in the same room, we couldn’t tell you who was who.

Also…if you’re that person who thinks New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has a chance, go ahead and just mark “Someone Else.”

As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet on the outcome TODAY, who do you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?

And since there are still a bagillion candidates and we don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…

 

(more…)

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Stu Rothenberg: Gardner’s Plight Worse Than Meets The Eye

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Be sure not to miss political analyst Stuart Rothenberg’s rundown yesterday of the eight 2020 U.S. Senate races expected to decide control of the chamber. As readers should know by now, on paper the top two targets for Democrats in 2020 are the two seats held by Republicans in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election–Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Rothenberg makes much of Sen. Collins’ “personal relationships” as a survival strength, and the Morning Consult daily tracking poll of Collins’ favorability (52%) showing a number that Gardner (35%) would kill for. But as Rothenberg continues, even that is not the full measure of Gardner’s troubles going into 2020:

In 2014, I repeatedly noted what a strong candidate Cory Gardner was and what a perfect race he ran, but 2020 is likely to produce a very different political environment in Colorado…

Gardner ended up winning by just under 2 points. But two years later, Trump lost Colorado by 5 points, and the state’s growing suburbs clearly are not advantageous territory for him, as evidenced by former GOP Rep. Mike Coffman’s double-digit loss and Democrat Jared Polis’s double-digit gubernatorial victory in last year’s midterm elections.

…While handicapping websites like Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball all start Gardner’s race off as a Toss-up next year, the Colorado Republican is really more of an underdog in his bid to win a second term. [Pols emphasis]

This is consistent with our own belief that the pundits calling the Colorado U.S. Senate race a “tossup” today don’t fully understand the underlying trends. Indeed few states in America have seen as much of a Democratic political solidification since Gardner’s narrow election win in 2014 as Colorado. Gardner’s gross abandonment of the moderate image he cultivated to win that year against the prevalent political trends of the state, combined with his wholesale embrace of Donald Trump after calling for Trump to exit the presidential race in 2016, leave Gardner even more vulnerable than the results of last November’s Democratic landslide in this state foretell.

Democrats of course have a clown car primary to sort through, and the possibility that the eventual Democratic nominee has not yet even entered the race. Either way, whoever emerges the winner will have not just the opportunity of a lifetime but an obligation to rectify what was arguably the biggest mistake by midterm Colorado voters in a generation. In a state steadily transitioning from “purple” to bonafide blue, Gardner in 2020 is the last Republican anachronism standing.

At this point, Gardner’s seat is Democrats’ to lose.

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Who Needs Jordan Cove? Not You, Colorado

As the Denver Business Journal’s Greg Avery reports, Gov. Jared Polis is pulling the state of Colorado out of a partnership initiated by former Gov. John Hickenlooper to actively pursue the export of natural gas from the Western United States to Asian export markets via an as-yet unbuilt liquefied natural gas terminal at Jordan Cove, Oregon:

With the shift to a new governor this year, the state has changed its stance after previously partnering with Utah, northwest Colorado governments and others in advocating for developing the infrastructure and export terminals to ship the region’s abundant natural gas to overseas, especially to Asia.

“We are no longer actively involved in this energy project,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, which oversees energy policy and advocacy of the state government. “The administration’s stance is one of neutrality on exports.”

…Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2017 supported the effort, and advocated for issuing a federal permit for a liquid natural gas export terminal project, known as Jordan Cove, proposed on the Oregon Coast, that could connect to pipelines carrying natural gas west from Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and fill ocean-going tankers.

To be clear, Gov. Polis isn’t announcing that the state is opposed to the Jordan Cove scheme–in fact he says that if the plan moves forward, the state will still work with the companies involved. The state of Oregon has blocked permits needed for the project to move ahead, though the fight is by no means over. But given Colorado’s policy embrace under the new governor of a 100% renewable energy powered future, actively promoting the state’s fossil fuel reserves for export abroad simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

For self-interested residents of Colorado, the question of whether to support the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and the final pipelines to connect Colorado’s gas supply to the West Coast for export to Asia is simpler than it appears. As we’ve noted with the Keystone XL pipeline and other projects to facilitate energy exports, there is simply no economic benefit for local retail energy consumers–who will pay substantially higher prices for the same natural gas once it becomes an exportable commodity. Demand for exported natural gas also means the pace of drilling expansion is no longer a function of local market needs, meaning Colorado suffers all the harm from increased drilling just so Asia can delay their own necessary fossil fuel reckoning another few years.

With so many downsides to a project to benefit a single industry that consistently overstates its importance to the state’s overall economy, especially when factors like the harm to tourism and other land uses from energy exploitation are considered, Jordan Cove is a project whose perceived usefulness to either Colorado or the global economy is the product of dated thinking. The pressing challenge of climate change and the ambitious goals Colorado has set to do our part to reduce the impact of climate change mean that leaning on natural gas as a “bridge” to a renewable energy future is a luxury the world can no longer afford.

Colorado’s new governor gets this, and policy is catching up accordingly.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 5)

The Brits just love President Trump. They absolutely adore him, really. 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…

► Denver finally wrapped up its interminable election season on Tuesday. Incumbent Denver Mayor Michael Hancock won a third (and final) term in office with a 12-point victory over inept challenger Jamie Giellis, but the bigger story might be an unprecedented shift on the City Council. As the Denver Post explains, three incumbent Council members were ousted for apparently the first time in Denver’s history; Mary Beth Susman (District 5), Albus Brooks (District 9), and Wayne New (District 10) will all be looking for new jobs this summer.

The closest race of the night was for Clerk and Recorder, where Paul Lopez appears to have defeated Peg Perl by a few hundred votes out of a total of more than 143,000 cast.

 

Congressman Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) played an important role as the House of Representatives passed a bill intended to give relief to so-called “DREAMERs.” As the Washington Post reports:

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would offer a path to citizenship to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, including “dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children.

The vote was 237 to 187 for the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which would grant dreamers 10 years of legal residence status if they meet certain requirements. They would then receive permanent green cards after completing at least two years of higher education or military service, or after working for three years…

…Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), a freshman congressman and the son of Eritrean refugees, prompted cheers and a standing ovation from Democrats as he quoted President Ronald Reagan to defend immigration as integral to the fabric of the country. He also described dreamers as “young people all across our country who know no other home but the United States.”

“We can’t allow these young people to continue to live in fear, to be at risk,” Neguse said.

The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to move the House bill forward, but as Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post, that doesn’t change the significance of Tuesday’s vote:

With each bill on a popular item, the House moves one step closer to locking in its majority as it turns up the heat on vulnerable Senate Republicans who have to show what they’ve done to get reelected in 2020. What exactly are Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Susan Collins (Maine) and the rest going to point to? They cannot exactly brag about an unpopular tax cut (wiped out by Trump’s trade tax, otherwise known as tariffs). They had better not boast that they almost obliterated the popular Affordable Care Act and tried to wipe it off the books in court.

This isn’t rocket science. Pass popular bills. Tell voters you’ve passed popular bills. Remind them again. Point to the do-nothing Senate and chaos-creating and incompetent president. It’s a pretty effective way to keep the House majority, win the White House and maybe even win back the Senate.

 

 Senate Republicans are warning President Trump against imposing new tariffs on Mexico, suggesting that they have enough votes to override a potential veto of a measure that would prevent the tariffs from being implemented. The flip-floppety past of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) makes it difficult to determine whether he would stand with Senate leaders or President Trump on Mexico tariffs.

Meanwhile, a new report suggests that tariffs on Mexico could cost the United States 400,000 jobs.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Denver Runoff Election Night Open Thread

(Still) Denver Mayor Michael Hancock

UPDATE (9:41 pm): Jamie Giellis has conceded the race for Denver Mayor to incumbent Michael Hancock.

The race for Clerk and Recorder remains too close to call, while Candi CdeBaca (District 9) and Chris Hinds (District 10) appear to be pulling away.

—–

 
UPDATE (7:45 pm): Early returns show Denver Mayor Michael Hancock with a 55-44 lead over challenger Jamie Giellis. Unless Giellis captured most of the votes cast today (which are counted/reported last), Hancock probably survives.

The race for Clerk and Recorder is neck-and-neck, as are contests in District 9 (incumbent Albus Brooks and challenger Candi CdeBaca) and District 10 (incumbent Wayne New and challenger Chris Hinds).

—–
 

Let’s end this thing.

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Senate Republicans Warn Trump On Mexico Tariffs…But Gardner?

Senator Cory Gardner tends to stand behind President Trump no matter what.

Senate Republicans are finally, sorta, pushing back against President Trump amid threats to impose new tariffs on Mexico. As the Washington Post reports:

Republican senators warned Trump administration officials Tuesday they were prepared to block the president’s effort to impose tariffs on Mexican imports, promising what would be GOP lawmakers’ most brazen defiance of the president since he took office.

During a closed-door lunch, at least a half-dozen senators spoke in opposition to the tariffs, while no one spoke in support, according to multiple people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Senators told officials from the White House and Department of Justice that there could be a disapproval vote if Trump moves forward — and this time, unlike with an earlier disapproval resolution, opponents of Trump’s tariffs could have enough support to override a veto…[Pols emphasis]

…The lunch meeting occurred just hours after Trump, during a news conference in London, reiterated his intention to impose the tariffs next week and said it would be “foolish” for Republican senators to try to stop him. The 5 percent tariffs on all Mexican goods, rising to 25 percent over time, are aimed at trying to force Mexico to take action to stop the tide of Central American migrants seeking entry into the United states.

President Trump issued the first veto of his Presidency in March when he rejected a Congressional resolution opposing his “emergency declaration” for border wall money. The Senate didn’t have the votes to override that veto, with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) among the Republicans who stood behind Trump.

Gardner hasn’t said much about Trump’s tariff binge in 2019 (to be completely accurate, Gardner hasn’t said much about anything in a long time), though Bloomberg News recently got him on the record saying tariffs against Mexico are “a bad idea, plain and simple.” These broad words from Gardner are completely worthless, of course; calling tariffs “a bad idea” is as meaningless as Gardner opining on whether he likes meatloaf. Gardner said repeatedly that he opposed Trump’s emergency declaration before he eventually flipped in support — a decision that prompted the Denver Post to un-endorse the Yuma Republican in a blistering March editorial.

Given Gardner’s flip-flopping history, there’s no real way to know if he is among the Senate Republicans who are firmly in the “no tariffs” camp. This is one of those questions Gardner needs to be asked very specifically: Would you vote to override a Trump veto of a Senate resolution of disapproval?

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Chalk Up One For Pete Kolbenschlag

Pete Kolbenschlag.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports:

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill slapping back at so-called SLAPP suits, like one a Paonia activist says was filed against him by an energy company…

Delta County District Court Judge Steven Schultz has ruled twice in favor of Paonia resident Pete Kolbenschlag in a libel case brought by SG Interests. The company sued over comments Kolbenschlag posted on a newspaper website about SG’s settlement with the federal government over alleged illegal bidding on oil and gas leases. In his second ruling, awarding attorney fees to Kolbenschlag, Schultz specifically found that the suit was frivolous and filed to retaliate against an industry critic, something SG Interests has denied. [Pols emphasis]

However, Kolbenschlag told the House Judiciary Committee in April that the suit remains a hardship for him in terms of finances, stress and time demands because it’s under appeal.

House Bill 19-1324 gives defendants in civil cases an expedited process to request a dismissal based on free exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and participation in public debate. Pete Kolbenschlag, a longtime contributor to this blog from Paonia, was sued by energy company SG Interests over a comment he made on a web story at a local newspaper. Kolbenschlag’s comment about SG paying over $1 million in an antitrust settlement related to bid rigging was correct, but the company sued Kolbenschlag for libel because their settlement allowed them to avoid formally admitting guilt.

This disproportionate legal response to a perfectly defensible comment on a news story is a textbook example of what’s known as a SLAPP–a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” SG Interests didn’t sue Kolbenschlag expecting to win, but their vastly greater financial resources with which to wage legal warfare on a private citizen could well have the effect of said citizen deciding further participation in debate over the issue just isn’t worth it. And the story of that person’s legal harassment serves as a deterrent to others who might follow their example.

This isn’t about getting rid of libel laws. But when a frivolous allegation of libel is being used to suppress free speech and that can be straightforwardly seen from the facts at hand, there needs to be a way to shut that suppression down. Otherwise constitutional rights become subordinate to wealth, which is a very bad thing.

Thanks to Pete Kolbenschlag, the little guy (in most cases that’s you) now has a tool to short-circuit a SLAPP.

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Colorado GOP Chair Voted ‘NO’ on Disaster Relief Bill

No disaster relief for you, says Congressman and State GOP Chair Ken Buck.

The House of Representatives has approved $19 billion in disaster relief funds for hurricane and flood-ravaged areas such as the Florida panhandle, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico. The legislation advanced by a vote of 354-58, with all ‘NO’ votes coming from Republicans (more on that in a moment).

The Senate had already overwhelmingly passed the disaster relief measure, and President Trump — who has repeatedly expressed his support — is expected to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. Yet as the Associated Press reports, this seemingly-popular bill took quite a long time to actually get through the sausage-making process in Washington D.C.:

…conservative Republicans in the House held up the bill last week, objecting on three occasions to efforts by Democratic leaders to pass the bill by a voice vote requiring unanimity. They said the legislation — which reflects an increasingly permissive attitude in Washington on spending to address disasters that sooner or later hit every region of the country — shouldn’t be rushed through without a recorded vote…

…As the measure languished, disasters kept coming — with failed levees in Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri and tornadoes across Ohio just the most recent examples. The measure is supported by the bipartisan party leadership in both House and Senate.

The legislation is also being driven by Florida and Georgia lawmakers steaming with frustration over delays in delivering help to farmers, towns and military bases slammed by hurricanes last fall. Flooding in Iowa and Nebraska this spring added to the coalition behind the measure, which delivers much of its help to regions where Trump supporters dominate. [Pols emphasis]

Panama City, Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael

Colorado’s Congressional delegation did not vote strictly along party lines; Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) joined all four Democrats in voting ‘YES’ on Monday. The two ‘NO’ votes from Colorado’s delegation were from Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs). While Lamborn’s vote is as unsurprising as it is unimportant, Buck’s vote is a different story because of his other job as Chairman of the State Republican Party in Colorado.

When Buck decided to run for the vacant State GOP Chair position earlier this year, he made it clear that he had no plans to give up his Congressional seat. Buck now does both jobs, though the day-to-day operations of the State Party have been handed off to former Chairman and new “CEO” Steve House.

Buck and his spokespeople will say that his votes in Congress are made strictly as a representative of CO-4, where a solidly right-wing base of supporters might actually approve of their Congressman acting like a heartless dickhead. While this may be technically accurate, it doesn’t change the fact that the man who is also the leader of the Colorado GOP was among a small contingent of Congressional Republicans who opposed providing disaster relief for suffering communities across the country.

Buck can claim that what he does in Congress is unrelated to his work as State Party Chairman, but it’s just not possible to cleanly separate the two roles on policy issues. Would Buck have voted differently on the disaster relief measure if he were casting a vote on behalf of all Colorado Republicans? If so, then what does that say about the residents of CO-4? There was always going to be an obvious conflict of interest for Buck to do both jobs at the same time; these are the type of votes that turn a small discomfort into a festering wound.

Buck can be the symbol of the Colorado Republican Party or he can represent his Congressional district…but he can’t do both. Republicans who don’t think this is going to be a problem in 2020 are kidding themselves.

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Recall Polis Campaign Literally Grifting Welfare Checks

The campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis’ fundraising appears to have stalled out over the past few weeks. Almost a month ago on May 6, the Independence Institute’s “Freedomfy” fundraising page for the Polis recall showed $23,740 raised toward the effort. As of this writing on June 3, the page shows only $24,046 raised–less than $500 in a month, seemingly a dramatic slowdown from their early trajectory. But that might not be the whole story–if you visit the “Official Recall Polis” website, they’re now directing to a non-Freedomfy fundraising page. We’re not sure exactly when that change was made, but the new page does not publicly show donations or a cumulative total raised.

Regardless as we’ve discussed in detail, the campaign to recall Gov. Polis has such a meager chance of success that its true goal cannot be to actually get a recall question on the ballot. Unlike recalls against state lawmakers, a successful petition to force a recall election of the sitting governor would require over 600,000 valid Colorado voter signatures–many times the amount required for any statewide ballot question, and far in excess of what has ever been collected for any purpose in this state. The logistical requirements to conduct a petition drive on that scale are infeasible and at a cost that’s frankly difficult to accurately estimate.

To anyone who understands the extreme difficulty of making good on the Recall Polis campaign’s eponymous promise, it’s clear that the real purpose of the operation is the funds being raised to support it. The Independence Institute’s Freedomfy “fundraising platform” skimmed a large percentage off the top of every online donation for the $24,000 raised through that site, more than double what GoFundMe charges–and the largest recipient of the funds raised so far has been to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for legal fees. If they can’t raise the untold millions they would need to actually recall Gov. Polis, and it definitely looks at this point like they can’t, the consolation prize is the cash reaped by conservative organizations and lawyers.

That’s a comment late last week from the Official Recall Polis Facebook group, administrator Karen Murray fleecing the faithful for more donations. The comment in response promises a donation to the campaign when “my SSI arrives.” This is a reference to Supplemental Security Income, federal benefits paid to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or over 65. SSI is not Social Security, but a direct cash benefit paid from general tax revenues to elderly and disabled people who are still too poor to make ends meet.

Would you take this woman’s SSI money for a futile Recall Polis campaign?

Would you sleep well if you did?

One thing’s for sure. We can’t call this a “victimless crime” anymore.

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Hickenlooper: The Honest Guy Who Can’t Read a Room


Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

The Washington Post’s Dave Wiegel reports via the Denver Post on an undeniably profile-raising appearance this weekend by former Gov. John Hickenlooper before California Democrats–although whether Hick’s profile was raised positively or negatively is up for considerable debate today:

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper found a way to stand out at a crowded gathering of California Democrats: He denounced “socialism,” and got booed.

“If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” Hickenlooper said at a Saturday afternoon session of the state party’s annual convention. As the jeering grew louder, Hickenlooper added: “You know, if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up reelecting the worst president in American history.”

Watching the clip above, you can see that Hickenlooper wasn’t just booed, but booed into submission by irate California Democrats who more or less refused to let him speak after the words “socialism is not the answer” passed his lips. In an interview afterward, Hickenlooper explained what he was (albeit clumsily) getting at:

…In an interview, Hickenlooper said he had spoken “inartfully,” and that he did not mean to single out any of his opponents, though Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the only self-identified “democratic socialist” seeking the White House.

“We’ve got to clearly show that we reject socialism,” Hickenlooper said. “We’ve got to do that because Republicans will try to make us into socialists even if we’re not. If we’re not willing to draw a bright line and say we’re not socialists, we could quite possibly reelect this president.”

“Socialism” is a term that has almost always been used pejoratively in American politics, with anything identifying thusly marginalized in the public eye by the Red Scare and the McCarthyist purge a generation later. “Socialism” has been more recently rehabilitated and even championed by representatives of safely left constituencies like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who argue that the term has been abused and accurately applies to bipartisan American institutions like Social Security and Medicare. For decades, Republican message masters have worked to define “socialism” in the mold of totalitarian communism–an extreme meant to frighten Americans out of rational consideration of such things as universal health care and economic regulation of any kind.

Into this overheated rhetorical space steps our own former Gov. Hickenlooper, who in his eight years in office tried hard and often thanklessly to advance “progressive goals” without pitched ideological battles. Hickenlooper certainly has his issue blind spots, though overall his platform is one that a large percentage of Democrats nationally could support. But he doesn’t call his agenda “socialism,” and he thinks the term is politically repellent.

In Colorado, he’s…if not right then more right than wrong. The problem for Hickenlooper is that by waging war on the word “socialism,” he’s giving into the frame of Republicans who agree that the word is politically toxic and extend that toxicity to the Democratic agenda as a whole. Instead of railing against a word in front of a crowd who definitely doesn’t agree with his connotations of the word, Hickenlooper would do much better to remind prospective voters that what the right falsely demonizes as “socialism” today are the institutions we all depend on–and what Hickenlooper himself supported as governor.

It’s possible that this exposure will have an inverse effect from the boos of California Democrats, and increase Hickenlooper’s profile at a time when he can surely use it. But unless he can follow this up with a unifying principle that transcends any one word and its many tortured definitions, a valuable opportunity to make the case we think Hickenlooper wants to make in this presidential campaign is being lost.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 3)

Today is Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. 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…

► Ah, diplomacy. President Trump is on a brief visit to Europe this week, with the main focus being a stop in England so that he can have tea with the Queen and insult a bunch of Brits. From the Washington Post:

President Trump met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on Monday, beginning three days of royal feting and carefully calibrated diplomacy. The royals had lunch and a tea with Trump. They showed him old paintings of George Washington and an honor guard in scarlet tunics.

But first, Trump mocked the relatively popular London mayor as a “stone cold loser” — and short in stature. And then Trump complained at length on Twitter about CNN news coverage of his trip, which had only just begun. [Pols emphasis]

Headline from The Washington Post (6/3/19)

Before he had even landed in England, Trump was already tossing barbs at the Royal Family; in an interview with the Sun, Trump called Megan Markle “nasty” in response to remarks Markle made long before she became Duchess of Sussex. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Markle called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive” — descriptions that Trump essentially affirmed in his comments to the Sun.

It’s no wonder that 2 in 3 Britons have unfavorable unfavourable opinions of Trump. Large anti-Trump demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, and the Trump baby balloon (see image at right) is expected to make another appearance.

 

Congress is back in session after a long Memorial Day weekend. As the New York Times reports, budget and debt issues loom large for Congressional leaders:

A Congress that has struggled all year to legislate returned Monday to face two urgent deadlines that, if not met, could lead to a disastrous default on the federal debt and to automatic spending cuts that would sweep like a scythe through the military, federal health care and other popular programs.

In October or early November, fiscal analysts predict that the Treasury will run out of room to borrow money to keep the government operating, a catastrophe that could damage the stability of the United States economy and force the government to default on its debt.

That is about the same time that back-to-back budget deals would expire and strict spending caps enacted in 2011 would come back into force, automatically cutting military and domestic spending across the board by $125 billion. Lawmakers say they need to act now, before recesses in July and August, to avert a crisis. But so far, a divided Congress has found even usually easy things hard — like passing disaster relief…

“We don’t have a lot of people in government right now who know how to govern or who want to govern,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky and the chairman of the House Budget Committee. [Pols emphasis]

As CNN notes, outgoing White House economist Kevin Hassett says that tariffs and deficits are bad for America…which probably explains why Hassett is the “outgoing” White House economist.

Elsewhere, Colorado Public Radio looks at the damage to Colorado businesses from Trump’s economic policies.

 

The recall effort targeting Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) is full of more shady characters than a Quentin Tarantino flick.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Felony Deja Vu: Shady Usual Suspects Working Sullivan Recall

Craigslist ad for Sullivan recall petition circulators, taken 5/31/19.

Over the weekend, a number of important details about the for-profit players being brought in to work on the hotly controversial recall campaign against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan came to light, with a bevy of names longtime readers will remember both directly and indirectly confirmed to be involved.

And for those of you concerned with integrity in our state’s politics, it’s not good news.

Recent petition campaigns in Colorado, in particular petitions for candidates seeking access to the ballot outside their respective parties’ traditional assembly route and in 2013 petitions to force recall elections against Democrats state lawmakers, have been beset with widespread allegations of forgery, fraudulent misrepresentation of petition questions, and the hiring of out-of-state temporary employees with criminal backgrounds to collect signatures leading to all of the aforementioned problems.

In 2008, petition gathering firm Kennedy Enterprises was busted by a 9NEWS investigation after hiring “signature gatherers convicted of sexual assault on a child, theft, harassment, trespassing and drug possession.” In 2013, Kennedy Enterprises petition gatherers hired by Republicans for that year’s recalls signed up dead people, instructed signers to lie about their residence, and were caught on camera admitting to being a band of roving canvassers who “travel around the country, go from city to city, state to state, [and] put issues and candidates on the ballot for basically anybody who has money.”

In 2018, Kennedy Enterprises came under fire once again after fraudulent petitions for Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign were uncovered by a competitor in the Republican primary–and despite then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams failed attempt to cover up the Stapleton campaign’s petition fraud, Stapleton was compelled to rescind his own ballot petitions and seek the ballot through the state assembly.

Suffice to say, petition gathering in Colorado politics has a long and shady history–and that’s before we even get to Jon Keyser! Fast forward to this weekend–the ad you see above for signature gatherers to work in Centennial where Rep. Sullivan’s district is located is from a company called Northwest Petition Management. The registered agent for Northwest Petition Management is Chloe Taylor, daughter of Tracy Taylor–the same operative caught on camera in 2013 spilling the beans about Kennedy Enterprises’ business model. This is all very consistent with our understanding of the network of companies and subcontractors in Dan Kennedy’s orbit–often existing for the purpose of concealing the the better-known individual players involved.

The involvement of these highly dubious operatives in the petition campaign against Rep. Sullivan confirms a few important facts: first, that there is ample funding available to pay the premium per-signature fee charged by these gatherers. But more importantly, a network of unscrupulous operators with an undeniable history of fraud and criminal hires going back years and including last year’s gubernatorial race has been hired once again to go door-to-door in Colorado neighborhoods. The potential problems with this range from simple petition fraud and identity theft to…well, much worse. With all of this in mind, there are both moral, with respect to Rep. Sullivan and the agenda he ran on, and entirely selfish grounds for declining to go near their petition gatherers.

It’s not by accident, folks. At this point no one involved can claim ignorance. If you make the decision to hire these people knowing what everyone knows today, their shady methods are a feature not a bug.

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Caption This Photo: Cory Takes Taiwan!

Courtesy Taiwan’s Central News Agency, there’s Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado on a tour of the capital city of Taipei along with President Tsai Ing-wen this weekend. Sen. Gardner is currently on a junket to East Asia in his role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy. No word yet on whether this trip includes a stop to visit Gardner’s old buddy Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who may in all fairness have been too busy with extrajudicial killings and rape jokes to roll out the welcome mat.

In any event, Sen. Gardner seems to have something interesting to say to the President of Taiwan–and only you, gentle reader, can tell us what it is! We do know it’s about (gestures) that big.

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Poll: Who Will Win The Denver Mayoral Runoff?

The endgame of the 2019 Denver municipal elections arrives next Tuesday. In addition to several runoffs in City Council races, incumbent Mayor Michael Hancock faces challenger Jamie Giellis in one of the nastiest, craziest, and sometimes downright silliest Denver mayoral showdowns in memory.

A poll follows: who will be the next Mayor of Denver? As with all of our totally unscientific pre-election reader surveys, please tell us what you actually think will happen, not simply your desired outcome. That steam is better blown off in the comments section.

Happy voting!

Who will win the Denver mayoral runoff?
Michael Hancock
Jamie Giellis
View Result
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