#NotAllRepublicans, Red Flag Edition

Amid all the acrimony directed at majority Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly over the passage of House Bill 19-1177, the bill to create Extreme Risk Protection Orders to temporarily remove firearms from people judged in court to be a threat to themselves or the public, it bears repeating that the legislation enjoys overwhelming public support in every poll that’s been conducted on the issue–including a 2018 poll in Colorado that found support for a “red flag” law north of 80%.

That includes a large segment of Republican voters, though they may be reticent to speak up at this particular moment–and one such Republican sent flowers this weekend to the prime Senate sponsor of House Bill 19-1177, Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood:

It’s an anecdotal example of how this issue has evolved since the last round of legislative action on guns six years ago, but also how the issue has never cut cleanly along partisan lines–despite the insistence by the NRA and the “no compromise” gun lobby that unfettered gun rights are a Republican litmus test. Just like the old saying that “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged,” today a supporter of gun control can be a conservative who has either woke to–or been personally affected by–gun violence.

In the next few months, sensible conservatives like this one may get to do more than send flowers.

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Colorado Republicans Pick Ken Buck as Party Chairman

Quad facepalm? Quad facepalm.

Forward into the past, once more!

The Colorado Republican Party selected its new leadership for the 2020 election cycle today. After four rounds of balloting, members of the State GOP boldly decided to just keep doing what they’ve been doing for the last several years in Colorado.

That’s right, friends: Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) is your new State Party Chairman! Buck won a narrow victory over State Rep. Susan Beckman and will now devote some of his time to overseeing the rebuilding of the Republican Party in Colorado. Buck is not giving up his seat in Congress, so instead he’ll hand the controls of the State GOP to Steve House — the same man who drove them off a cliff in 2016 after presiding over the biggest Republican scandal in state history.

It’s also worth noting that Buck becomes the State Republican Party Chairman less than two years after very publicly declaring that “The Republican Party is dead.”

This is the point where we would normally say, “You can’t make this stuff up,” but we don’t want to infringe on what may be the official slogan of the 2020 Republican Party.

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Landmark Drilling Protection Bill Nears Polis’ Desk

Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis.

As the Denver Post’s Judith Kohler reports, another major victory for majority Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly today as Senate Bill 19-181, legislation reforming regulation of the oil and gas industry, empowering local communities to control land use within their boundaries, as well as getting the state out of the business of “fostering” oil and gas development passes the House:

The House voted 36-28 for Senate Bill 19-181, which the Senate passed March 13. The Senate will now consider amendments added in the House’s Thursday night session.

The legislation would revamp the state’s oil and gas regulations by changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and putting public health and safety front and center when development is considered. It would also clarify that local governments have the authority under their planning and land-use powers to regulate oil and gas as they do other types of activities.

A press release from House Democrats following yesterday’s voice vote:

“This bill has been a long time coming and it attempts to address the concerns of many local communities about the increased quantity of oil and gas drilling happening in their communities and because they don’t have a say in it,” said Speaker KC Becker. “This bill ensures taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for cleaning up abandoned wells; it strengthens laws around forced pooling, mapping of flow lines and air quality; and finally reforms the COGCC.”

The landmark bill directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to regulate oil and gas development to protect public welfare, and clarifies that local governments have the same authority to regulate the oil and gas industry as they have with every other industry in Colorado – including the mining industry. The bill also removes the prohibition against local governments requiring oil and gas companies to cover the direct costs of regulating, monitoring and permitting the sites in their communities…

The bill addresses emissions and air quality by requiring increased monitoring and implementing a rule-making process to reduce emissions to better meet federal regulations. A “brown cloud” returned to Denver earlier this month and reports showed that the air quality was worse than that of Beijing.

From here, the bill goes back to the Senate for consideration of a considerable number of amendments passed by the House during their lengthy floor debate on the bill. Some of these amendments could be contentious between Democrats, as Westword’s Chase Woodruff explains in a freshly-updated story:

While some of the approved amendments were small technical fixes or clarifications requested by state agencies, several others include major, last-minute changes to the bill. Environmental and community activists had already been disappointed by amendments adopted amid pressure from industry groups just before its final passage in the Senate, and spent the last several days urging Becker to pass a “clean bill” without any further amendments. Still, with many of the bill’s key provisions intact, activists welcomed its passage by the House this morning. [Pols emphasis]

“Despite some concerning amendments, SB 181 is still a step in the right direction,” Anne Lee Foster, spokeswoman for anti-fracking group Colorado Rising, said in a statement. “There were some very obvious loopholes granted to industry.”

We’ll see how those amendments are resolved in the final negotiations between the House and Senate–where we expect Gov. Jared Polis’ office, for whom this bill is a top-tier priority, will help keep things on track. A final determination will help everyone understand the consequences for both sides–whether the bill is considered a sufficient solution to the problem to supporters, versus the political efficacy of compromises made to reduce the umbrage taken by the bill’s vexatious opponents.

Today is not the end of the fierce battle over one of the 2019 session’s biggest bills, but the end is now in sight.

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Bennet Basically In

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

Politico, confirming a longstanding expectation:

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said Thursday that he is “very inclined” to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, telling his MSNBC interviewers that his decision would have nothing to do with whether former Vice President Joe Biden enters the race.

“I’m very inclined to do it, and we’re looking at it. And I think, look, the American people need somebody who’s going to run and tell them the truth in 2020,” he said on “Morning Joe.”

The two-term senator argued that making any progress in Congress is impossible “if we continue to do what we’ve been doing here for the last 10 years,” adding that he didn’t believe President Donald Trump was to blame for Washington’s gridlock. The president, Bennet said, is only a symptom of a greater problem and “an accelerant of a lot of the problems.”

Sen. Michael Bennet’s overall low profile as a Senator has been lifted in recent months by flashes of rhetorical fire that attracted national attention. Like Colorado’s other Democratic presidential contender John Hickenlooper, Bennet will need to make further and much bigger waves in order to break into the upper tier of a huge pack of 2020 Democratic candidates–a pack that already includes a host of big names.

We certainly would not underestimate Bennet’s ability to do that, however. Along the way we expect Bennet will acquit himself well, and not be prone to either gaffes or background surprises. In contrast to the progressive firebrand persona of Bernie Sanders and the youthful rock star image of Beto O’Rourke, look for Michael Bennet to build a brand of understated competence and consensus building–with the ability to thrown down when the circumstances warrant.

And we’ll see how it goes, gentle readers.

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Redacted Mueller Report Available by Mid-April

Robert Mueller

As the Washington Post reports:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report detailing his investigation of President Trump and Russia’s election interference will be delivered to Congress by mid-April, Attorney General William P. Barr said Friday in a letter to lawmakers offering important new details about how the document will be edited before its public release.

“Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own,” Barr wrote.

Barr’s new letter lays out a timeline for the next steps of the hotly-debated process by which Justice Department officials are sharing the nearly 400-page report.

The Mueller report will include redactions of sensitive grand jury information; material that could “adversely impact” ongoing investigations; information that could compromise intelligence sources or methods; and info that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.”

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 29)

March is on its way out in a sorta lion-lamb hybrid style. 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…

► The Grand Junction Sentinel reports on the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s new Secretary of Interior: Rifle, Colorado native David Bernhardt.

Bernhardt on Thursday touted his experience and defended his ethics — denying one senator’s accusation he lied about his ethical integrity — during his Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to become secretary of the Department of Interior.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who strongly backs Bernhardt’s nomination, said in introducing him to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee that he believes Bernhardt would become the seventh Interior secretary from Colorado if confirmed. Recent secretaries from the state include Ken Salazar during the Obama administration and Gale Norton during the George W. Bush administration…

…Bernhardt’s work as an attorney and lobbyist for oil and gas, water and other industries affected by Interior Department policies has caused him to come under intense scrutiny from critics over the policies he has espoused during the Trump administration and questions about possible conflicts of interest.

That scrutiny was laid bare during Thursday’s hearing when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told Bernhardt he’d read recently obtained department documents showing Bernhardt had blocked release of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report with new analysis of the dangerous effects of toxic chemicals.

As the Colorado Independent reports, Bernhardt says he will stop recusing himself from cases that might cause a conflict with his former lobbying clients. That’s some straightforward graft right there.

During Thursday’s confirmation hearing, Bernhardt also updated news about the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to move its headquarters to the Western U.S. — perhaps in Grand Junction.

 

► Lawmakers in the United Kingdom rejected a third proposal for managing England’s Brexit. As CNN explains:

The defeat of the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286 came on the same day that Britain was originally supposed to leave the European Union, and left the path forward on Brexit unclear.

The rejection of May’s plan raises the chances of a lengthy delay to Brexit or Britain crashing out of Europe without a deal on the new deadline of April 12.

May had offered to resign if Parliament passed her deal, but ultimately she was unable to persuade enough MPs to back a plan they had resoundingly rejected in two previous votes.

It may now rest on British lawmakers to find a way out of the impasse when they run a second vote on alternatives to May’s deal on Monday.

 

► As Colorado Public Radio reports, a last-minute budget deal that includes new money for transportation funding may yet be held up before passage.

 

► So-called “red flag” gun safety legislation has passed out of the State Senate and now returns to the State House for consideration of amendments. House Bill 19-1177 is expected to win final approval in the House before making its way to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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“Red Flag” Wins Final State Senate Passage

Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Lois Court (D).

A press release from the Senate sponsors of House Bill 19-1177, the long-debated bill to create a process to temporarily remove firearms from persons found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others that won final passage in the Colorado Senate today:

The Colorado State Senate today voted 18-to-17 to pass HB19-1177, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, a bill sponsored by Senators Lois Court (D-Denver) and Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) that will save lives by allowing family members and law enforcement to request a court order to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is deemed a danger to themselves or to others. The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives for consideration of amendments.

“After years of working to pass similar legislation, I am proud that the Senate has finally voted to advance a commonsense gun safety bill that will ultimately save the lives of Coloradans and law enforcement officers,” said Senator Court. “Thoughts and prayers don’t save lives, but extreme risk protection orders will, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

“This bill is supported by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans, and outside of this building, it is not controversial,” said Senator Pettersen. “We passed this bill and did what is right for our law enforcement, domestic violence survivors, our kids who just want to feel safe when they go to school, and the countless family members who have lost someone to unnecessary gun violence.”

HB19-1177 is named in honor of Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Zackari Parrish III who was killed on duty in 2017 by an individual whose mental health concerns were well-known to others around him. This legislation would give law enforcement and family members the opportunity to seek a temporary order for someone who appears at risk of dangerous behavior.

To successfully block firearm access, a petitioner would have to demonstrate a preponderance of evidence that the individual poses a significant threat to themselves or others by possessing a firearm. After a petition is filed, a court would place a temporary order for up to two weeks until a hearing determines whether a full protection order is appropriate. A full protection order could then be approved for up to 364 days.

Although Senate President Leroy Garcia voted as expected against HB19-1177, the rest of the Democratic caucus held together and sent the bill by an 18-17 vote back to the House for one more reconciliation stop before heading to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk and his expected signature. Garcia could have utilized his power as Senate President to override the majority ready to pass the bill but commendably chose not to–insulating himself politically from any potential fallout back home in Pueblo but not standing in the way of one of the biggest Democratic priorities of the session.

It’s fully expected that Republicans and the gun lobby will respond with maximum outrage to final passage of a red flag bill, and the legislation is already part of the rubric of those who want to organize a recall either of legislators or Gov. Polis. Now that the bill is passed, proponents now have the task of demystifying the legislation and reminding the short-attention-span media about the overwhelming support for the bill expressed in public polling. Despite the angry bluster from the right, it’s by no means a given that this legislation will provoke the same degree of backlash seen in 2013 against that year’s gun laws. As we’ve discussed at length in this space, the issue and the electorate have both evolved considerably.

What we can say with certainty is that a big Democratic campaign promise is about to be kept.

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Cory Gardner: “A Warrior For President Trump”

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

A fascinating story from the Colorado Sun’s John Frank today on the three candidates running to be the next chair of the Colorado Republican Party–a daunting position being vacated by outgoing chair Jeff Hays following the worst defeat for the GOP in this state since the Roosevelt era. One of the principal fault lines with the Republican Party remains loyalty to President Donald Trump, with the grassroots firmly backing the President versus a party elite who spurned Trump in 2016 and has spent the last two years trying to live that misjudgment down.

Today, you surely won’t find any candidates for GOP chair scumbagging the President:

“There is some element of anti-Trump in Colorado, but I think it is smaller than has been reflected in some of the surveys,” said state Rep. Susan Beckman of Littleton, one of the candidates seeking to lead the party.

“The reality is, in an off-year election like this, there is going to be a blue wave. … I don’t think it’s fair to blame Trump for what happened,” said U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the most prominent name in the race.

“I do not blame Trump,” said Sherrie Gibson, the current party vice chairwoman and candidate. But she added, “I do think there is an element of unaffiliateds who were certainly unhappy with the messaging tone and tenor coming out of the White House, so they voted accordingly.”

From there, the conversation turned to embattled Sen. Cory Gardner, who is set (barring anything unexpected) to share the top of the GOP ticket in Colorado with Trump in 2020. Gardner of course publicly broke with the President in October of 2016 after Trump’s rapey remarks from an Access Hollywood shoot some years before became public, but now says that he “likes” the President and says that Coloradans should have the opportunity to like Trump too! To wary Republicans who worry Gardner hasn’t got the chops to represent the state’s stridently conservative GOP base, Rep. Susan Beckman has this to say:

“I know that there are some that are frustrated at Sen. Gardner, and they should voice their concern, but he has become a warrior for President Trump,” [Pols emphasis] said Beckman, referencing Gardner’s recent endorsement of the president.

And there it is, folks–what the Republican base wants to hear, and every other voter in Colorado doesn’t. It distills the truth of why Gardner has been forced in recent months to close ranks with Trump even as the majority of the state’s voters punished Republicans as a proxy for Trump last November. Within the Republican ideological bubble, what looks like madness to the majority is a matter of survival. It’s the same snare that caught Rep. Mike Coffman last year, and in 2020 it looks increasingly like Gardner is next.

No shaking the Etch-a-Sketch now. He’s a “warrior for President Trump” to the bitter end.

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Throwback Thursday: Going Gun Crazy In 2013!

With all of the meta-discussion in this latter half of the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly about the prospect of backlash, blocking statutes by petition, recalls, and all the other bellicose threats from the losers of the 2018 elections over the agenda of the winners, we thought it would be useful to highlight once again some of the rhetoric that underpinned the discontent that ultimately led to the 2013 recall elections against two Democratic targets of opportunity on the Colorado Senate.

Like this statement from then-GOP Sen. Kent Lambert on March 27, 2013, six years ago yesterday:

We have banned, effectively banned gun ownership, from the citizens of the state, including our active duty military members, and our National Guard members.

That’s Sen. Lambert claiming during the debate on the 2013 budget that the laws passed that year, closing the private sale background check loophole and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, “effectively banned gun ownership.” Today, with the 2013 laws on the books for six years and guns continuing to be sold at a brisk pace, we know that this assertion was absolute nonsense–but back in 2013, with Republican opposition to the bills raging at a fever pitch, the local press did almost nothing to fact-check the just plain stupid accusations that sent hundreds of angry gun owners to the Capitol in protest.

And of course, Sen. Lambert was far from alone:

That’s Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute–who in 2013 warned that if Colorado House Bill 13-1224 limiting gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds were to pass, “almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again.” This false claim was based on a purposefully strained interpretation of the plain language of the bill, debunked in an implementation memo from Republican Attorney General John Suthers. But much like Lambert’s claim that Democrats were “effectively banning gun ownership,” the lie traveled around the state before anyone had a chance to refute it.

This kind of absurd lying went on and on, unchecked all the way through the 2013 recall season. Senate President Bill Cadman said the state should “shut down the Department of Natural Resources” since hunters can’t bring their guns to the state anymore, a statement that had no basis in reality whatsoever. In a radio interview on March 23, 2013, Sen. Lambert had gone even further, actually claiming that “everybody” would have their guns confiscated within a couple of years:

And now, you know, with everybody having their guns confiscated or taken away here over the next couple years, almost completely overturning the Second Amendment, what’s going to happen to our crime rate?

In addition to motivating grassroots support for the recalls, these falsehoods also had the effect of sowing confusion ahead of Colorado’s highly revenue-positive hunting season–so much so that then-Rep. Bob Rankin actually proposed a budget amendment for an education program to explain to misinformed gun owners that yes, you can still hunt in Colorado with your own very much still-legal guns! There’s little question in retrospect that much of the desperate anger instilled in grassroots supporters of the 2013 recalls was fueled by this deliberate misinformation.

Today, all the talking heads in Colorado politics are chattering about the prospect of recalls, and citing the events of 2013 as evidence of the danger to majority Democrats. But the two things that nobody seems to be talking about are how the politics of guns have shifted since 2013 toward support for more gun control, and how the 2013 recalls were driven by falsehoods that should embarrass those who spread them today.

Some if the names have changed. Some haven’t. But the smell remains the same.

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Will Leroy Garcia Scuttle “Red Flag?”

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

“This bill is supported by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans, and outside of this building, it is not controversial,” said Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, the bill’s main sponsor. “We are going to pass this bill and do what’s right for our law enforcement, domestic violence survivors, our kids who just want to feel safe when they go to school, and the countless family members who have lost someone to unnecessary gun violence.”

She said she’s still confident it will pass its final vote in the Senate, even without Garcia’s support.

—–

Senate President Leroy Garcia (D).

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, one of the major agenda items for Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly is in jeopardy after Democratic Senate President Leroy Garcia announced he will vote no on House Bill 19-1177, the “red flag” bill to enact a process for the temporary removal of firearms from people in a mental health crisis:

Garcia’s decision, first reported in The Pueblo Chieftain Tuesday, comes amid threats of recalls targeting Democratic lawmakers in vulnerable seats who support gun control legislation.

“I took a hard look at this bill, and while I strongly believe in its intent of preventing gun violence, this is simply not the right legislation for the people of Pueblo and southern Colorado,” Garcia said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon.

House Bill 1177, which passed the House 38-25 earlier this month, would allow police to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms if the person is deemed a threat to themselves or others. Since the February 2017 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., over a dozen states have passed similar red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders…

Democrats control the Senate 19-16. If one more Democrat joins Senate President Garcia and decides to vote against the bill, it will fail.

We’ll try to summarize all of the moving parts in play: the briefest and easiest explanation is that Senate President Garcia remains haunted by the ghosts of the recalls that sacked his predecessor Angela Giron back in 2013. But there’s more to the story than that, in both mitigating and aggravating ways for Garcia personally. Garcia has been consistently less supportive of gun safety laws than many other Democrats, having voted to repeal the state’s 15-round magazine limit in previous years–a position he claims is in line with the will of constituents in Pueblo and Southern Colorado. As Senate President in 2019, Garcia has faced extreme intransigence from the Republican minority as they’ve sought to obstruct majority Democrats, leading to tough calls like the decision to keep the chamber open during the recent “bomb cyclone” blizzard.

This is all happening in the context of a bill that failed in 2018 despite bipartisan lawmaker support–support the bill lost this year, ostensibly due to changes made at the request of law enforcement that opponents say shift the burden of proof to the accused. But despite the gun lobby’s intense campaign against, we’re still talking about legislation that enjoys overwhelming public support. Could an amendment reverting to the 2018 language bring sides back to the table–or at least reveal the bad faith of opponents? Is Garcia pulling a safety valve to forestall another grassroots rebellion from the right by coming out against this bill, or caving in the face of bullying by the gun lobby? Right now there are more questions than answers.

History will record this moment either as an act of leadership, or something else.

We’ll have to wait and see how it ends.

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Here’s The Dumbest Thing You’ll Read All Day

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

Conservative message group Compass Colorado, one of a stable of press release-issuing GOP aligned front groups who pop up in inboxes from time to time, thinks they have figured out what’s really motivating Gov. Jared Polis to, their words, “stymie” Colorado oil and gas through the passage of Senate Bill 19-181–and Compass Colorado director Kelly Maher isn’t talking the usual capitalism-destroying cave-dwelling econightmare that the left has been fighting for all these years.

Why, Polis is doing it to (cue evil laughter) make money, of course!

According to his own financial disclosure statements, Polis is an investor in two Denver-based Bow River Capital funds that invest heavily in the Canadian oil and gas industry – a market with a much looser regulatory framework than that of Colorado or the United States. Polis personally has more than $250,000 invested in these funds. [Pols emphasis] If Polis scuttles oil and natural gas development in Colorado, the value of his personal investment holdings in Canada could increase as domestic supply contracts as a result.

Shortly after Polis started investing in Bow River energy funds, he joined forces with a fellow Democrat Congressman to sponsor legislation that would impose a burdensome regulatory framework on the oil and gas industry domestically. Polis’ pursuit of this legislation asking the oil and gas industry to follow the same rules as other industries is hypocritical given his investment in the more-lax Canadian oil and gas industry.

“Jared Polis’ radical environmental agenda could cost Colorado families hundreds of dollars a year in increased utility costs,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “As part of this agenda, Polis also wants to end oil and gas development in Colorado, which will hurt our economy and cost our state hundreds of high-paying jobs. If he’s a “true believer” when it comes to the dog whistles he’s sending out to his radical environmental base, why does he continue to profit off of the investments in Canadian oil and gas?”

It all sounds terribly damning like there should be taiko drums thundering in the background, until you apply a bit of crucial context to this wild allegation. Gov. Polis’ 2015 congressional financial disclosure listed his net worth as somewhere between $142 million and $468 million, the range reflecting the value range of assets reported in the disclosure. Most informal estimates place Polis’ net worth on the high side of that range, and the booming markets of the last couple of years have most likely not been adverse to his bottom line either.

With this in mind, the idea that Polis is supporting this bill in order to “profit off investments in Canadian oil and gas” is without a doubt one of the silliest allegations leveled in a legislative debate that has been severely factually challenged from the beginning. The theory that Democrats want to plunge the world into some kind of primitivist dark age, as dumb as that is, at least has some anecdotal one-liners that can be thrown around in a debate. This is just prima facie stupid.

Gov. Polis’ GOP opponents (and yes, a Democrat or two) have tried for years to turn his wealth into a liability, but the arithmetic falls apart under even casual scrutiny. There’s just no rational way to make the charge stick. In addition, there’s something perhaps even more contemptible about wealth-adoring Republicans suddenly upset about Democrats who possess money.

But that’s for another blog post. For today, let’s just try to keep it somewhere in the vicinity of real.

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UPDATE: Polis Recall Responds To Anti-Semitism Report

UPDATE: After a segment last night on 9NEWS recounting the Greeley Tribune’s story of anti-Semitic views held by organizers of a possible recall of Gov. Jared Polis, it looks like the Recall Polis organizers may be taking steps to come across as less overtly anti-Semitic:

In the aftermath of that report, a post went up on the Facebook group suggesting that one of its “high profile” leaders, presumably group administrator Judy Spady of “Israel did 9/11” infamy, has been excused:

“The highest standards of humanity”–now with one less Nazi! Here’s to getting the “vetting” right next time.

We feel better about the whole thing now, really.

—–

On Sunday we blogged about a story from the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy, which took an unflattering look at some of the “grassroots” activists behind a Facebook group with nearly 30,000 members who are organizing for a potential recall of Gov. Jared Polis. At least two organizers of this group including its purported leader Shane Donnelley have made what can be characterized as highly anti-Semitic postings to social media over the years, to include commenting that ‘Hitler was good to the German people’ and another claiming that “Israel did 9/11.” Our blog of this report has spread fairly widely on social media along with the original story since Sunday, and Colorado Public Radio mentioned the story briefly in their interview on the subject with Gov. Polis yesterday.

Overnight last night, two people identifying themselves as principal organizers of the Recall Polis campaign, Christine Martinez and Juli-Andra Fuentes, responded at length to our post, perhaps mistaking us for the original outlet but in any event seeking to clear the air surrounding the Greeley Tribune’s disclosures and the intentions of the Recall Polis group.

Because we strive to be eminently fair, and also because we didn’t want to see any of this memorable response deleted once…well, you know, folks sobered up, we’ve reprinted Martinez’s two comments from the original post in their entirety after the jump. If you’re in a hurry, the TL;DR version:

Needless to say, the “suggestion” that we take down our post is respectfully declined.

(more…)

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So Much BS, So Little Time

Last night a “reporter” employed by the right-wing Independence Institute, Sherrie Peif, Tweeted out from the Capitol that a large natural gas project had been withdrawn from consideration by the energy company responsible, DCP Midstream, due to “uncertainty” regarding new legislation to regulate the oil and gas industry making its way through the Colorado General Assembly.

A claim immediately picked up and recirculated by political groups opposed to Senate Bill 19-181:

There’s just one problem, as the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports today: none of this is true.

DCP Midstream has no intention of reducing investments in Weld County, and it did not pull its application for a $350 million gas processing facility…

“We are pursuing a variety of options related to compression,” Sandberg said. “We pulled a permit for one compressor station. The remainder of the project has not been canceled. The pulling of the compressor had nothing to do with 181.”

DCP has invested billions of dollars in Weld County, including its Grand Parkway — 62 miles of steel pipeline just completed last year. Sandberg said those investments are not stopping any time soon.

This is far from the only example of blatant disinformation being spread to sow fear over passage of this legislation. The truth is that the energy industry has recently suffered far more from low natural gas prices than any regulatory burden. While grassroots outreach campaigns funded by the oil and gas industry warn of billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, the truth is there’s no way to predict that–and the industry’s estimates predicate on a total shutdown of the oil and gas industry, which is not going to happen, are completely worthless.

In this case, the energy company was nice enough to admit that their lobbyist was not truthful:

Sandberg acknowledged [DCP Midstream lobbyist Patrick] Groom said the company was pulling out due to regulatory and other reasons, “but ultimately, it’s not related to SB 181.” [Pols emphasis]

Take note when this happens, because it doesn’t very often.

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Check Out Colorado’s New Logo!

As introduced today by Gov. Jared Polis in his inimitable style:

We think it looks cool! Your mileage may vary. Reportedly this logo was in existence prior to Gov. Polis taking office, but was used in other contexts than the “official” logo while former Gov. John Hickenlooper was in office. Hickenlooper’s logo design, featuring a monochrome green triangle with a second down-facing triangle serving as the logo for various departments, is what graces state vehicles, literature, and signage today:

It’s a design that was criticized in some circles, especially the department logos featuring a drill bit to “honor” the state’s mineral extraction heritage. We haven’t seen how those departmental logos will update to match the new main logo, but we’d guess that the drill bit’s days are numbered–perhaps excepting departments that deal with, you know, drilling.

Out with the old, in with the new-ish.

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Repeal A Law? Beats Repealing People

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Joe Vaccarelli reports, Republican faithful looking to act on their frustrations over the massive defeat for their party in the 2018 elections and the resulting loss of any power to stall legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly have a few options beyond the most obvious and probably best choice of trying harder to not lose in 2020.

If you’re not interested in signing on with the virulent anti-Semites who want to recall Gov. Jared Polis or helping the Neville family live down their disastrous management of House Republican electoral messaging but would still like to lodge your disapproval, try this:

Hundreds of Grand Junction voters turned out Saturday to make their voice heard regarding a recently passed state law.

While they weren’t casting ballots this day, they hope to in the future. Voters signed petitions to support an effort to put a question on the 2020 ballot to repeal the National Popular Vote Bill, which was signed into law March 15…

The effort to place a question on the ballot is led by Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and Town of Monument Mayor Don Wilson. The bill — which would change the way Colorado commits its presidential electoral votes in future elections — passed through the State House of Representatives in February and was later signed by Gov. Jared Polis.

Colorado law provides a method by which voters can petition to have a recently-passed statute put before the voters for a second guess. In order to qualify such a repeal question for the ballot, opponents need to collect a similar number of valid signatures to what’s required to place a statewide proposition before voters. And time is short: the petition deadline is August 1st, and if they can’t get enough signatures to qualify the question the national popular vote compact law will “take effect”–which in this case means nothing unless enough states join the compact to produce an Electoral College majority.

If you support changing the system to reduce the possibility that the Electoral College might come to a different result than the popular vote, as most recently occurred in 2000 and 2016 resulting in the election of Republican presidents in both cases, you’re not going to be very excited about a petition campaign to block the law from taking effect. On the other hand, collecting over 125,000 valid Colorado voter signatures to force a 2020 ballot question on blocking Colorado from joining the National Popular Vote Compact, which is years from becoming binding if it ever happens at all, is a tall order–leading to an expenditure of resources that Republicans would arguably be much better served by devoting to Republican candidates in the 2020 general election.

But the fact remains that blocking a law from taking effect by petition is a legitimate process permitted under Colorado law, and it’s a far more appropriate protest than attempting to recall lawmakers for passing legislation. And the fact is, if opponents do manage to achieve this lofty goal it would be a more potent statement in their favor than an opportunistic recall of some legislator nobody outside their district has heard of.

Again, the best way to handle defeat in any election is to try to not lose the next election. But if you’re a vengeful Republican with money burning a hole in your pocket, this is perhaps a more honorable way to console yourself.

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What The Mueller Report Does And Doesn’t Mean

Just a one-way thing apparently.

Politico reports on the story set to dominate the week in Washington political news, the hotly-debated “summary” by Trump ally and Attorney General William Barr of the conclusions of a report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections to support President Donald Trump’s unlikely victory.

Though Republicans are tripping over themselves to declare Trump “exonerated” by Barr’s opinion of Mueller’s report, there’s little factual basis for that conclusion–and many essential questions left to be answered:

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” the special counsel wrote in his findings, which Attorney General William Barr released on Sunday in four-page summary form.

Mueller’s long-awaited findings also do not take a clear position on whether Trump obstructed justice, a gray-area conclusion that leaves the door wide open for an already-heated debate in Congress over whether Democrats should even consider impeachment proceedings against the president.

“For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leave unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr wrote in a letter to the key House and Senate committees.

“The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,’” Barr added. [Pols emphasis]

The phrase “does not exonerate” appears to have lost a key component in translation from the Special Counsel’s report, as eagerly disseminated by President Trump and Colorado Republicans–the “does not” part.

With a very large gap still evident between the reality of this investigation and Republican spin following the release of Barr’s summary, attention now is turning to the next logical Democratic priority: release of the unredacted full report provided by the Special Counsel to the Department of Justice. 9NEWS reports that two Colorado members of Congress will be closely involved with that effort on the House Judiciary Committee:

The Justice Department said Mueller delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr, who will now review the report and relay the conclusions to the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) are both members of the House Judiciary Committee.

We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that Rep. Joe Neguse will be substantially more persistent in the public disclosure of the Mueller report than Rep. Ken Buck–and the difference between Buck’s eagerness to investigate any number of supposed Democratic misdeeds versus slow-walking the Mueller report will be a useful contrast. A great deal depends on the evidence “on both sides of the question” set forth in the full report that Barr doesn’t address with any specifics. In addition, it’s likely that Mueller himself will be called to testify to clear up these ambiguities.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been clear for months now that the bar to commence an impeachment proceeding would be very difficult to clear–a revelation that not even the most hardened pro-Trump Republican could ignore. In the end Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 elections was always more likely to produce facts for voters to resolve electorally than an impeachment of Trump, which is why the Trump administration is trying desperately to control the release of those facts. It’s almost certain that more damaging disclosures are just around the corner.

What Americans do know now with no real partisan dispute is that the Russians wanted Donald Trump to be America’s President. If you accept as axiomatic that Russia does not have positive outcomes for America in mind when they meddle in our elections, which most observers do, the question of whether Trump actively colluded with the Russians or passively reaped the benefits of their election meddling becomes less significant.

The Russians helped Trump win, and it wasn’t to make America “great again.”

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Who’s Running The Polis Recall? Nazis. Yes, Really.

Over the past couple of weeks there have been a number of stories about groups organizing to recall Gov. Jared Polis from office. Because Gov. Polis is constitutionally protected from a recall effort for the for six months he is in office, it has not been possible for these groups to gather any signatures, and the massive requirement of over 600,000 valid signatures makes the attempt as a practical matter highly unlikely. Regardless, the agitation is contributing to the current zeitgeist of GOP rebelliousness against Democrats, who won in an historic landslide election in 2018 leaving Republicans with no way of stopping Democrats from passing desired legislation.

But for all the legitimizing press the Polis recall proponents have received this month, there’s been something very important missing–information about the people behind the effort. And as the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports today in one of the biggest stories ever from that media outlet, this data point is extremely significant.

Because some of them are Nazis.

Recall Governor Jared Polis page, a closed Facebook group, is nearly 30,000 members strong after adopting that name.

Shane Donnelly is one of the admins for the page, and appears to be in charge, as he has called the page “my group,” and commented that he “created this movement.”

He also once posted that Hitler was good to the German people, and “its time america has someone american.” Donnelly hasn’t responded to a Facebook message seeking comment. [Pols emphasis]

There’s no way we can effectively summarize all the the damning detail in this story, so make sure you click through and read it all. The short version is that an online right-wing activist named Shane Donnelly is the principal organizer of the “official” Polis recall closed Facebook group and the issue committee of the same name. The Tribune reports on a recent split between that organization and another group calling itself the Resist Polis PAC. Regardless it’s Donnelly’s group that has almost 30,000 members, the only hard indicator of support that exists for any of this.

And Shane Donnelly is not the only Nazi in the group.

Then there’s the OFFICIAL RECALL ELECTION COMMITTEE, which would discuss potential candidates for election to take Polis’ place should a recall be successful.

Judy Spady is officially involved with both committees, and she’s also an admin for the Facebook group, earning that title following Good’s exodus.

Spady’s public Facebook page is rife with anti-semitic posts, including a post from September 2017 saying “Israel did 9/11,” and another that credits the western world with creating radical Islam to “use fear to push the Jew World Order.” [Pols emphasis]

Now, let’s compare this revelation to the outrage over Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments about “allegiance to a foreign power” in reference to support for Israel, the advisability of which remains a subject of hot contention among Democrats after a push to condemn Omar via a resolution went sideways. Republicans of course had no such division in their ranks, if anything with a few like Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado voting against the watered-down Omar resolution because it didn’t single out anti-Semitism above all other forms of oppression:

In the history of the world, no group has suffered more insidious hatred than the Jews. Anti-Semitism can’t be compared with any other hate speech without marginalizing the history of Jewish oppression. I will not vote to overlook the anti-Semitism which has been covered up by the Democratic leadership…

Well folks, we’re sorry to inform Rep. Buck that the campaign to recall Jared Polis–which he’d better handle with care as a candidate for Colorado Republican Party chairman–is run by people who aren’t at all ambiguous in their hatred of Jewish people.

There’s a lot more to say about this, and it’s time for that conversation to happen. It’s not just that these vile fringe figures were given credibility in multiple news reports that they never deserved. The Recall Polis campaign is trading on the same ginned-up outrage as the recall campaign against House members personally fronted by GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville. It’s the same message, motivating the same segment of the electorate. If anything, Neville would love to have the nearly 30,000 members of Donnelly’s Recall Polis group give Neville’s relatively obscure Recall Colorado page a like.

This is who they are. If it’s not who you are, and you’re part of their movement, you know what to do.

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Senate GOP Friday Night Obstruction Fails Hilariously

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver and Nic Garcia report, last night’s attempt by Colorado Senate Republicans to procedurally obstruct legislation from passing that chamber, continuing a campaign of obstruction from the Senate GOP minority that began with a demand to read a 2,000-page technical cleanup bill into the record and continued yesterday with Republicans ordering more bills read at length and endless ad nauseum speechifying by GOP caucus members…didn’t end off the way Republicans were hoping:

The debate over House Bill 1177 ran nearly 12 hours, but the vote came down as expected, with Republicans opposing the extreme risk protection order or “red flag” bill and Democrats supporting it.

The voice vote at about 7:30 p.m. was only the beginning of the drama on the Senate floor, as Republicans triggered a procedure to continue debate, keeping senators at work…

And that’s where the tables turned on Republicans, who thought they had gummed up the works yet again:

At about 9 p.m., Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo asked for all senators to return to the chamber. That triggered a search by the state Highway Patrol to find five Republican senators who had left the building hours earlier. [Pols emphasis] According to a GOP Senate spokesperson, two were on their way to the Western Slope and at least one had left the state altogether.

As it turns out, gentle reader, if you’re trying to force endless debate into late in the night on a Friday and a third of your caucus bails on you without permission, your protest loses its intended effect! Not to mention that Senate President Leroy Garcia can and apparently did send armed State Patrol to cart your wayward caucus members back to the Senate chamber. In a late-night session forced by the same GOP minority, this was a moment of absurdity that no Democrat could have better engineered.

Ultimately, party leaders brokered a deal to proceed with debate and end the search for the absent senators — Don Coram, Ray Scott, Kevin Priola, Jim Smallwood and Larry Crowder — but mark them absent during debate on a bill that their party sees as a top-priority Second Amendment issue.

In the end, the “red flag” bill passed second reading and Senators went home around 10:00PM last night. Whether this embarrassing episode results in a check on the Senate GOP’s “slowdown” campaign when the body reconvenes on Monday is anybody’s guess, but whatever message victory Republicans were hoping to achieve with yesterday’s no-doubt exhausting effort was squandered–by five Republican Senators who decided beating the traffic out of town was more important than Minority Leader Chris Holbert’s no-win pissing match with the majority.

It’s not the message Republicans wanted to send, but it says a mouthful.

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