Thursday Open Thread

“Ignorance of all things is an evil neither terrible nor excessive, nor yet the greatest of all; but great cleverness and much learning, if they be accompanied by a bad training, are a much greater misfortune.”

–Plato

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Tell Us How You Really Feel, Chaffee County GOP

Continuing our occasional look at content appearing on official Colorado Republican Party social media landing pages, here’s the Chaffee County GOP voicing what appears to be their displeasure over white people not having enough wives, which results through straightforward means in…well, fewer white babies. It’s true that you might be a little confused hearing from an official Republican Party mouthpiece how “Europeans disappeared,” past tense, since it’s our understanding that people of European descent both in Europe and elsewhere–including 85% non-Hispanic lily-white Chaffee County–are still very much with us.

Outside a few places we’ve read about in southern Utah where the gene pool is problematically shallow, there’s not much we can offer to help Chaffee County Republicans in their quest for more wives! More babies is something they could work on at least to some degree, as long as their spouses are willing, but the reality is that birthrates decline as a natural product of economic development–and that includes the developed Muslim world, too.

But again, that’s a conversation for well-adjusted adults to have.

Well-adjusted adults are not in charge of the Chaffee County Republican Party.

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Selling Air: GOP Defends Pointless “Citizen Voter” Initiative

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

In the 24 hours since petitions were submitted in support of Initiative 76, a constitutional amendment to duplicatively restate that voting rights in Colorado are restricted to U.S. citizens only–which the constitution already prescribes and is already followed in practice throughout the state with zero exceptions we are aware of–proponents have faced a barrage of questions from reporters, trying to figure out what the point of the measure is beyond the superficial objective of turning out a particular segment of low-information, high-prejudice voters.

The answers? Mostly crazy stuff, with a wink and nod to the desperate realpolitik. Colorado Public Radio:

The Colorado effort has collected more than 200,000 signatures ahead of a Tuesday deadline, likely ensuring they’ll have more than enough ruled valid to qualify for the election, according to Joe Stengel, registered agent for the initiative…

Stengel claimed, without providing any evidence, that noncitizens already are voting in Colorado, despite the existing laws.

“They are voting now, and I think that they’ll probably continue to vote if we don’t ensure the integrity of our elections,” he said. He could not point to any specific examples, he said.

Grand Junction Sentinel:

Stengel, who served as minority leader in the Colorado House before leaving office in 2006, denied that the effort has anything to do with politics.

“It’s a non-partisan issue,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans, independents should all be concerned about voter integrity. Opponents can say whatever they want, but who would not be in favor of voter integrity?”

CBS4:

“This is a great opportunity so that we can get in front of the voters first hand,” said Rep. Patrick Neville (R – District 45), the House Minority Leader. “They are going to get a chance to vote on it.” [Pols emphasis]

Denver Post:

“In my mind, this simply clears up some ambiguous language,” Neville said during a press conference late Tuesday morning, “and ensures we take the first steps to ensure we have election integrity in the state of Colorado.”

We’ll start with the most important point, which is there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that noncitizens are voting in Colorado elections. Repeated false claims of this kind from former Secretary of State Scott Gessler during his term from 2011-14 fell apart under scrutiny, and it became obvious that Gessler and friends were intentionally omitting the naturalization of new citizens in the state–which completely accounts for these alleged instances of “noncitizen voters” with room to spare.

It’s been necessary for us to revisit this question over and over as the false claims get recycled to new audiences. And every time, whether it’s Gessler or Donald Trump making the allegation, it has always turned out the same way.

Once you get past the easily disproven claims of “noncitizens voting,” proponents seem to acknowledge that Initiative 76 is nothing more than a get-out-the-vote vehicle for beat-down Colorado Republicans in the 2020 elections. Along with the ballot measure to overturn the legislature’s passage of the National Popular Vote Compact, these measures are unapologetically described (at least in private) as a way of giving demoralized Colorado Republicans demotivated by the top of the ticket and the near-inevitability of another impending defeat in our state some reason to return their ballot.

Bottom line: Initiative 76 almost surgically targets a segment of the electorate that Republicans need desperately to vote, namely conservatives in possession of more rage than facts. That’s its entire reason for existence. Like so many other storylines in today’s politics, when the pitch man tells you you’re being too cynical…the reality is that you’re not being cynical enough.

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Gardner Breaks Silence On First Day Of Impeachment Hearings

Technically speaking, anyway, from today’s Get More Smarter:

As the nation sits riveted to their televisions and other screens following updates to the impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner is indefatigably on script–talking about any available subject besides the eight hundred pound gorilla dominating the headlines. Unfortunately for Gardner, we’re at the stage where talking about something else–anything else–is worse than saying nothing at all.

Gardner tried that first, of course, and it did not end well.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (November 13)

Happy first day of public impeachment hearings…day. Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The headline and subhead in every media outlet in the country is all about public impeachment hearings beginning today on Capitol Hill. William B. Taylor Jr., acting ambassador to Ukraine, dropped a bombshell piece of news in his testimony this morning when he revealed that an aide overheard a damning phone call between President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland that took place on July 26, one day after Trump’s infamous “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian President.

You can get live updates of today’s impeachment hearings via The Washington Post, CNN, The New York Times, and just about anywhere else on the Internet. Heck, you could probably find live updates on PornHub, but we’re not going to check that one for ourselves. For more information, go to The Washington Post for initial reactions to today’s testimony and for fact-checking on the spin machine.

We’ll end this section with some advice for Republicans from the editorial board at The Washington Post:

 

► Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) writes an Op-Ed for The Hill newspaper about honoring the service of those who are testifying on impeachment hearings:

The American people will soon hear the testimony of veterans, career foreign service officers, and dedicated public servants. As both a combat veteran and member of Congress, I have one request of my colleagues: do not question the patriotism of these decorated veterans and public servants.

We can and will debate the merits of the testimony, but baseless smears against those who have dedicated their lives to our country are beneath our nation’s dignity. Unfortunately, we have seen these attacks before.

► It’s been one week since the polls closed on the 2019 Election, and Aurora still doesn’t know who will be the city’s mayor. As The Denver Post reports:

The votes cast in the five-way race, which appeared to be in former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s favor Nov. 5, ended up being too close to call when the three counties involved finished their main ballot counts Thursday.

Coffman was leading Omar Montgomery, the NAACP chapter president, by fewer than 300 votes.

And there were still about 2,300 votes out in Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties combined — all counties that can claim part of Aurora — that needed signature and identification verification before they could be counted. There were also additional military and overseas ballots that needed to be counted as well as ballots that were transferred from various county offices. However, many of the uncounted ballots are probably not from Aurora.

So Montgomery volunteers started knocking on doors again, trying to cure, or correct, signature and identification discrepancies, on hundreds of ballots that weren’t counted.

 

DACA recipients in Denver are anxiously awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court as to whether or not President Trump can lawfully cancel the Obama-era program. As NBC News reports, observers expect the court to side with Trump on ending DACA, but as the New York Times explains, a ruling favorable to President Trump might actually be the worse outcome for the White House.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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Bombshell on First Day of Public Impeachment Hearings

UPDATE: So, what happens when EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland testifies publicly, which could come as soon as next week?

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William Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, during the swearing-in process prior to House testimony.

William B. Taylor Jr., acting ambassador to Ukraine, opened up the first day of public impeachment hearings in front of the House Intelligence Committee today with a bombshell bit of new information. As The Washington Post explains:

Taylor added new information to his opening statement Wednesday, describing a July phone call between Trump and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland overheard by a member of Taylor’s staff in which Trump purportedly asked about “the investigations.”

Taylor said one of his aides told him that Sondland called Trump from a Kyiv restaurant on July 26 to update him on meetings he was having in the city.

The aide heard Trump through the phone asking about “the investigations” and Sondland said the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, according to Taylor.

The phone call purportedly took place after Sondland met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, and one day after Trump asked Zelensky to pursue investigations into his political opponents in a controversial phone call.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”

  — Ambassador Bill Taylor

As CNN notes, “Bill Taylor’s opening statement is a wow.”

George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, joined Taylor in testifying this morning.

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Alex Cranberg Steps In Oily Foreign Policy Scandal (Again)

Alex Cranberg.

AP reported yesterday via the Colorado Sun and a host of other news outlets on a sweetheart deal apparently obtained by Energy Secretary Rick Perry on behalf of American oil speculators including Alex Cranberg, a former Colorado Republican megadonor with a long and dubious history of turning up where fossil fuel and foreign policy intrigue meet:

Perry’s efforts to influence Ukraine’s energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the United States to defend against Russian aggression and allies of President Donald Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.

A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.

The Texas Observer recaps some of the details about the close ties between former Gov. Perry and Cranberg since Cranberg relocated to Texas, after several years of Cranberg trying unsuccessfully to beat back the growing tide of Democratic political victories in our state. Among other mutual showings of affection, Cranberg supplied Perry with a private plane for Perry’s ill-fated 2012 presidential run:

Perry appointed Cranberg to the UT Board of Regents shortly after the man registered to vote in Texas following a move from Colorado. Cranberg served from 2011 to 2017 and was a controversial figure on the system’s governing board…

Democrats on three U.S. House committees last month subpoenaed documents from Perry as part of their impeachment inquiry into allegations that President Donald Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son.

…An attorney for Aspect Holdings, Cranberg’s company, told the AP that American officials supported “a fair, competitive process.”

Back in 2008, as some long-time readers may remember, Cranberg’s Aspect Energy became a significant liability to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer–among many other scandals such as Schaffer’s involvment with now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a scheme to cover up labor abuses in the Northern Mariana Islands–after a deal Schaffer had helped broker to produce oil in northern Iraqi Kurdish-controlled territory ran afoul of the U.S. State Department. U.S. occupation policy required such deals to be approved by the Iraqi national government in the in-retrospect well-founded interest of not provoking sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Schaffer and Cranberg, on the other hand, were in it for the money–not American interests.

With all of this in mind, we’ll have to wait and see what shakes out from this lucrative deal between Ukraine and Cranberg’s energy company, brokered by the now-outgoing U.S. Secretary of Energy who resigned in no small part so he wouldn’t have to talk about Ukraine. This is a bigger deal than anything Republicans have accused Joe Biden’s son of involvement in, and if Cranberg’s below-market winning bid wasn’t above board there is actual wrongdoing in this case which doesn’t credibly exist in Biden’s.

And that’s not going to help the Republicans Cranberg supports win in 2020.

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Steve House Gets a Little Silly on Veterans Day

Military adviser for Steve House campaign for Congress

Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora) is a former Army Ranger who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star. Crow honored American service members on Veterans Day on Monday by thanking them for their service and attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the Colorado Fallen Heroes Memorial in Denver.

Steve House is one of three Republicans looking to challenge Crow in CO-6 next November. The former State Republican Party Chairman (and later State Party “CEO”)  can’t match Crow’s military record, but he does know people who do things with the word “veteran” in their job description. As Ernest Luning explains for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

House marked Veterans Day by announcing he’s been endorsed by five Coloradans with records of military service and four Republican state lawmakers with more tenuous connections to veterans.

The endorsements listed in a release issued Monday by House’s campaign include an oral surgeon who serves in the Army National Guard, a prosecutor who serves in the Marine Reserves, a Marine Corps veteran who chaired the El Paso County Republicans, and a retired Army officer who lost a primary for Elbert County commissioner last year by just two votes.

There’s also a state lawmaker from Colorado Springs who went to the Air Force Academy and two Republicans who sit on their chamber’s respective State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees — known as the “kill committees,” where legislation of all sorts routinely goes to die — and two GOP lawmakers from Western Colorado who look out for veterans while they’re at the Capitol, according to the House campaign. [Pols emphasis]

House does have a couple of endorsements from honest-to-goodness military veterans, but his announcement on Monday was watered down quite a bit by the inclusion of people who have nothing to do with the armed services of the United States.

Two of these endorsements (State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and state Rep. Janice Rich) are apparently related to “Veterans Day” because they are state lawmakers who sit on the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committees. This is sort of like claiming the support of South Americans because you are endorsed by someone who delivers packages for Amazon.com. But these endorsements almost make sense compared to state Sen. Ray Scott and state Rep. Matt Soper, both of whom are included on House’s “Veterans Day” list because they…appreciate veterans?

Scott honors the servicemen and women of Colorado and fights to ensure they are treated with honor and dignity by the State of Colorado’s highest legislative body…

…Soper has fought tirelessly for veterans and their families since he was first elected in 2018.

The House campaign must have forgotten to mention that Sen. Scott also likes to watch movies about Americans who are in the military when he is supposed to be paying attention on the Senate floor.

Via press release (11/11/19)

Perhaps on Valentine’s Day, House can wrangle the endorsement of former Utah Congresswoman Mia Love.

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The Get More Smarter Podcast: What Happened on Tuesday?

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, the latest effort to save the state from TABOR’s claws goes down, the 2019 election gets messy in a top swing county, washed up old politicians trying to be relevant get smacked down by the Denver Post Editorial Board, Impeachment-a-lago gets; and our Producer Ethan Black goes head to head with Ian Silverii in America’s best/worst game show, Duke or Donald.

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 12)

Happy World Pneumonia Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today about whether or not President Trump can legally end the Obama-era DACA program. From The New York Times:

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday appeared ready to side with the Trump administration in its efforts to shut down a program protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

The court’s liberal justices probed the administration’s justifications for ending the program, expressing skepticism about its rationales for doing so. But other justices indicated that they would not second-guess the administration’s reasoning and, in any event, considered its explanations sufficient.

Still, there was agreement among the justices that the young people who signed up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, were sympathetic and that they and their families, schools and employers had relied on it in good faith.

The arguments in the case, one of the most important of the term, addressed presidential power over immigration, a signature issue for President Trump and a divisive one, especially as it has played out in the debate over DACA, a program that has broad, bipartisan support.

Coloradans who back DREAMERs are rallying in Washington D.C. today, as CBS4 Denver reports. Closer to home, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is leading a DACA rally on the campus of Metro State University.

 

Colorado gun shops are using a loophole in state law to continue selling equipment that is supposed to be banned. As Marshall Zelinger reports for 9News:

A state law banning the sale and transfer of large-capacity gun magazines has not stopped the sale and transfer of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.

An undercover investigation by 9Wants to Know found examples of gun stores in Colorado either ignoring the law altogether or finding a loophole to get around the law…

…Our undercover investigation found gun stores selling these “parts kits” in Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso and Larimer counties. The kits are large-capacity magazines sold in pieces, ready to be assembled after they are purchased.

“This is a 30-round mag; we have to sell it as parts,” said the employee at Iron Horse Armory. “That’s one of Colorado’s retarded laws.”

 

Public impeachment hearings begin Wednesday on Capitol Hill. As Politico explains:

The hearings alone are a historic moment; only three presidents have been subject to an impeachment inquiry before. And though the probe was launched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, this is the week when it all becomes real…

…Democrats plan to hold two weeks of hearings in the House Intelligence Committee and will later hold hearings in the Judiciary Committee, which will draft any articles of impeachment.

Three key witnesses will testify before the committee this week. On Wednesday, William Taylor and George Kent are expected to appear; on Friday, it’s Marie Yovanovitch.

As the Colorado Independent notes, two Colorado Congressmen — Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) — will play an important role in upcoming impeachment hearings. 

 

Axios got hold of the plan Congressional Republicans have put together for defending President Trump against impeachment. If you were hoping the GOP had prepared a bold new strategy…you’re going to be disappointed. The big problem of this approach, as Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, is that President Trump himself keeps kicking sand into the gears.

 

► Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more post-election analysis and other political jabberings:

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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Dumbest Solution In Search Of Problem Ever Heads For Ballot

“Herbie the Hate Bug” collects signatures for the so-called Citizen Voter initiative.

Colorado Public Radio’s Andrew Kenney reports, here’s an exciting new way Republicans have found to make differing groups of people who live in America dislike one another–which history has shown has a measurable effect on how Americans vote!

The national group Citizen Voters has poured more than $1 million into an attempt to change a few words in Colorado’s state constitution.

It’s part of a well-funded, multi-state campaign to explicitly ban anyone without U.S. citizenship from voting in elections, which critics say is already part of Colorado’s existing law. Organizers say they’re on track to get on the ballot for the 2020 election.

The Colorado effort has collected more than 200,000 signatures ahead of a Tuesday deadline, likely ensuring they’ll have more than enough ruled valid to qualify for the election, according to Joe Stengel, registered agent for the initiative.

“Only people eligible to vote by virtue of being a citizen should be allowed to vote. This will ensure that will take place,” said Stengel, a former Republican state legislator from Littleton.

Let’s start with the most important thing people need to know about the so-called “Citizen Voter” initiative, which assuming the petition drive in support of placing this measure on the November 2020 ballot was carried out professionally–no guarantee of course with the shady characters involved in paid signature collection efforts–we’ll be voting on.

It’s already the law that only U.S. citizens can vote in Colorado elections. It’s the law two ways, in fact, via federal law pertinent to every federal office as well as the state constitution which explicitly makes citizenship a requirement to vote.

The state constitution says that “every citizen” may vote, and Initiative 76 would change it to say that “only citizens” may vote. [Pols emphasis]

In terms of practical effect in any Colorado election, this change would be completely meaningless. Although some local governments in other states have allowed for noncitizens to participate in low-level elections like school boards where federal election laws do not apply, that can’t happen in Colorado under the state constitution.

So why spend the money and man-hours to pass a constitutional amendment that changes nothing? That’s simple: it motivates conservative voters, who believe against all available evidence that election fraud in general and noncitizen voting in particular is rampant throughout the country. Here in Colorado, former GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler tried for years to persuade the public that “tens of thousands of illegal voters” were swinging our elections. Gessler’s initial claims of tens of thousands dwindled down to something around a half dozen cases, since Gessler omitted basic considerations like the thousands of people who became citizens during the same period–more than accounting for Gessler’s fictional discrepancy.

We’ve always assumed that Gessler knew he was being dishonest. Likewise it’s reasonable to assume that the proponents of this initiative are fully aware that it would make no practical difference in the law. This is about showing token support for President Donald Trump’s virulently anti-immigrant agenda, and stoking the ugly anti-immigrant animus Trump has capitalized on since the moment he entered the presidential race in 2015. For this to be happening at the same time as the U.S. Supreme Court’s battle over “DREAMer” immigrant children makes for a compelling backdrop, and not in any way that makes the measure’s proponents look good.

One can only hope that the same Colorado voters who rejected Trump’s demagoguery will see through this as well.

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Tuesday Open Thread

“About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”

–Will Rogers

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The Next Abortion Ban: Telemedicine

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R).

A report from medical industry publication mHealth Intelligence discusses a new monkeywrench being thrown by Republicans into the gears of women’s reproductive rights–a ban on “telemedicine” physician appointments to prescribe abortion medications:

A Congressman from Texas is seeking to make telemedicine abortions all but illegal in the US.

Rep. Ron Wright’s new bill, HR 4395, would prohibit care providers from using telehealth to prescribe abortion drugs unless they have physically examined the patient, are physically present when the patient takes the medications, and schedule a follow-up visit…

Roughly 25 percent of the abortions performed in the U.S. are non-surgical, or medical abortions. The process can be paired with a telemedicine platform in two ways: a physician can examine a patient via telemedicine, then issue a prescription for mifepristone and misoprostol to the patient to terminate the pregnancy; or a remote physician can examine a patient who’s at a clinic, then issue instructions to clinic personnel to dispense the drugs from a locked cabinet that is remotely opened by the doctor.

As states have moved in recent to impose all manner of incremental restrictions and medically dubious regulations on access to abortion, telemedicine has emerged as a novel way for women to circumvent so-called “TRAP” legislation and get the care they need. It’s only natural that a ban on the practice would emerge as soon as anti-abortion Republicans became aware of it, and we fully expect to see a state-level version of this ban introduced in the Colorado legislature next January–where it will die, of course, after giving the issue’s diehards another chance to sound off in futility. This federal version was filed in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House for similar reasons.

The bill, which was filed on October 30, has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further action. It has 12 co-sponsors: Reps. John Joyce (R-PA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Randy Weber Sr. (R-TX), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), John Rutherford (R-FL), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), [Pols emphasis] Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jody Hice (R-GA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Andy Harris (R-MD) and Bob Gibbs (R-OH).

And no surprise, Colorado’s Rep. Doug Lamborn is an original cosponsor! One of the ways Colorado’s least inspiring member of Congress defends his safe GOP seat from perennial primary challengers is by never missing the chance to jump all over sticky wedge issues the base can’t resist. Opposition to telemedicine appointments for reproductive care is difficult to oppose on the merits–if you oppose it, it’s probably because you oppose all abortion and recognize telemedicine as a way of circumventing other arbitrary restrictions.

Par for the course for Doug Lamborn, Colorado’s premiere “gynotician.”

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New Polling in New Hampshire Shows Same Four at Top

Last week we took note of a new poll from Quinnipiac University showing that the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination in Iowa appears to be centering on four candidates: Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. According to new polling results out today from Quinnipiac, the battle for New Hampshire looks much the same:

Biden receives support from 20 percent of New Hampshire likely Democratic primary voters, with Senator Elizabeth Warren getting 16 percent, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting 15 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders at 14 percent.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard gets 6 percent, businessman Andrew Yang gets 4 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer are each at 3 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent, and 14 percent of likely voters are undecided.

Just as with last week’s Quinnipiac polling from Iowa, the top four Democratic candidates are essentially tied when you consider the margin of error. There’s still time for other candidates to move up (keep hope alive, Sen. Michael Bennet!), but it’s looking more and more like a four-candidate race at the moment.

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What Does This Even Mean? DougCo GOP Edition

We get forwarded all kinds of bizarre social media postings from both official and decidedly unofficial Republican Party mouthpieces (here’s looking at you, Tom Tancredo) some of which are straightforwardly offensive in any of the customary ways individuals on the fringes of the American political right offend the socially well-adjusted. Others, however, just leave us scratching our heads as to what exactly they’re trying to say at all:

Folks, where are the Douglas County Republicans going with this? In Colorado, it’s the law that students must have the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance–though they also have the freedom to not recite it. Is somebody forcing kids to pray to Mecca, which would be the only way we can think of this makes any sense?

The problem must be that we expect it to make sense.

But again, this is “official” Republican Party content. You can’t just ignore it.

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Mike Coffman’s “Comeback” Marred By Frazier Lifeline

Ex-Rep. Mike Coffman.

CBS4 Denver reports, as of this moment we still don’t technically know the winner of the extremely close race to be the next Mayor of the city of Aurora, coming down to just a few hundred votes with lots of procedural finger-pointing–and enough ballots waiting to be “cured” to at least hypothetically swing a race in which former GOP Congressman Mike Coffman holds the narrowest of leads:

People living in Aurora still don’t know who will be their next mayor. Even though Tuesday was Election Day, there is still some confusion with the ballots…

The difference is 281 votes. On Friday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold tweeted about 828 replacement ballots that remain in question. Griswold blamed the U.S. Postal Service.

“The bottom line is that the Post Office understood that they had a problem on Election Day. They called all their carriers to come back for an emergency, pickup these ballots and send them out, but they failed to notify us,” said Griswold.

The race between Coffman and progressive challenger Omar Montgomery became a national proxy fight over gun violence after national gun-safety groups weighed in against Coffman, casting his longstanding support from the National Rifle Association as out of step with a city trying to heal from tragedies including the July 2012 mass shooting at Aurora’s Century Theater. Despite Coffman’s double-digit drubbing at the polls in 2018 when he lost the congressional seat that represents the city after years of splitting tickets in a Democratic-leaning district, most political observers have considered Coffman to be the favorite in the Aurora mayoral race based on sheer name recognition.

But the razor-thin margin between Coffman and Montgomery in this race doesn’t tell the whole story. Ryan Frazier, the former Republican congressional and U.S. Senate candidate among other failed runs for office, who (not that anyone really cares) changed his affiliation to independent earlier this year, and received nearly 12,000 votes in the mayoral race, appears to have played a decisive role in spoiling what would have otherwise have been a comfortable win for Omar Montgomery. Frazier served on the Aurora City Council until 2011, but had in fact moved away from the state eschewing politics before coming back to launch this longshot bid to be Mayor.

Given the results, some more conspiracy-minded readers might even suspect that Coffman and Frazier were working together to ensure the opposition to Coffman was fractured. We ourselves try not to attribute to treachery what can be explained by incompetence, as the saying goes, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary we’re willing to go along with the more likely scenario that Mike Coffman is simply the beneficiary of Ryan Frazier’s endless supply of hubris.

Depending on the final count and the available ballots left to “cure,” Coffman may get lucky. But anyone hoping for a “Coffman Comeback” narrative coming out of this election should be aware that luck is not synonymous with strength–and whatever the result, the real story of the 2019 Aurora mayoral election is that Coffman is weaker than conventional wisdom held.

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Hick Ethics Complaint Careens Toward Nothingburger

SUNDAY UPDATE: Frank McNulty’s not going to like the Denver Post’s editorial bottom line:

As Scott Gessler can tell you, all “scandals” are not created equal.

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Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has released a fact-finding report on allegations in an ethics complaint against former Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding trips Hickenlooper took while governor — filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty:

Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission released a report Thursday into former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel, including interview notes that show a private jet trip to Connecticut last year was paid for by a billionaire friend’s company.

The report, which drew no conclusions, will be used by the ethics commission as it conducts a hearing into Hickenlooper’s travel and whether it violated the Colorado Constitution. The report is primarily made up of interview summations, along with documentation such as checks and travel itineraries.

According to interviews with Hickenlooper and an attorney for MDC Holdings, a company that builds single-family homes and is owned by billionaire Larry Mizel, MDC paid to fly Hickenlooper to Connecticut, where he spoke at a USS Colorado commissioning.

The ethics commission’s report discusses the circumstances of a number of trips that Hickenlooper took as governor in 2018. Wingerter cites Hickenlooper’s trip to New London, Connecticut for the commissioning ceremony of the USS Colorado attack submarine–which seems difficult to cast aspersions on, since it’s very much within the scope of the governor’s duties. Other trips cited in the report include a trip to the conspiracy theorists’ favorite Bilderberg conference in Italy that Hicklenlooper says he paid for entirely on his own, and a trip to Texas to preside over the wedding of Boulder restauranteur Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk of SpaceX fame. Hickenlooper’s attorneys say the trip to Texas for the Musk wedding falls under an exemption in the state’s ethics law allowing trips paid for “by a personal friend and on a special occasion.”

With that said, this report is not intended to be conclusive, and any ethics violations determined from the report will be made by the IEC. But it’s pretty clear from these long-awaited details that the facts underlying this complaint do not come close to, for example, the IEC’s determination that former Secretary of State Scott Gessler abused the public trust by spending taxpayer dollars on trips to partisan political events. Some of our readers may find the idea of Hickenlooper flying with Larry Mizel, a kingpin Republican donor to be politically intriguing, but the trip itself to speak at the USS Colorado’s commissioning seems perfectly appropriate–and it’s hard to see the political advantage in ensnaring one of the GOP’s own top donors in an ethics complaint.

Wingerter reports that former Speaker McNulty’s “ethics group,” known as the The Public Trust Institute (PTI), was created only two days before the complaint was filed in October of 2018 against Hickenlooper, and shares an address with a principal GOP “dark money” group known as Defend Colorado which has played heavily in attacks on Gov. Jared Polis over the oil and gas regulation bill SB19-181 as well as the factually-challenged but successful campaign against Referendum CC. All told, this is about Republican political operatives checking a task box they would have checked against Hickenlooper regardless of what office he’s running for.

So we’ll all have to wait for the ethics commission’s conclusions now, but it’s evident from this report that there isn’t a whole lot of “there” there–not enough, anyway, to justify more than a year of faux-outraged chestbeating from Republicans.

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Weekend Open Thread

“True courage is not the brutal force of vulgar heroes, but the firm resolve of virtue and reason.”

–Alfred North Whitehead

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Warren Campaign Holding Its Fire

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

We ran across an interesting story in Politico today detailing a somewhat-unconventional communications strategy being employed by the campaign of Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. In short, Warren’s campaign is making a conscious decision to disengage from the standard practice of returning fire on all fronts:

Her surrogates and campaign aides aren’t going on cable TV to defend her — even as her rivals and their aides are constantly on shows bashing her. Warren advisers haven’t taken to Twitter to shape “the conversation.” There’ve been no statements from Warren HQ calling out rivals by name. Even when former Vice President Joe Biden portrayed Warren as an out-of-touch elitist — while he was attending a fundraiser with real estate moguls, offering the corruption-focused Warren a freebie rebuttal — the campaign kept quiet.

The only response of note to the elitist charge was a subtweet the Warren campaign posted Wednesday with a video about her humble upbringing and challenges as a young mother.

The campaign’s refusal to engage this week has baffled rival campaigns and some Democratic strategists. But it’s not an outlier. Internally, communications director Kristen Orthman refers to the approach as “blinders and bulletin board” — as in, put your blinders on to the horserace drama and stick your retorts on a bulletin board rather than tweeting them out. (Orthman has an actual bulletin board on which she also posts critical stories about Warren as a motivation tool.)

“Fighting on Twitter most of the time does not advance our goals,” said one campaign official in explaining Warren’s refusal to follow “The War Room” ethos that political campaigns have hewed to for decades. In short: All attacks must be publicly returned, and then some.

Warren’s communications strategy is baffling to the likes of James Carville, the longtime Democratic political consultant who popularized the idea of a campaign “war room” during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for President.

“There is much more to be lost in attacking fellow Democrats than there is to be gained for a news cycle or two.”

— Unnamed Democratic strategist quoted in Politico (11/8/19)

Warren is polling well and raising good money for her campaign, so this strategy of not engaging in a tit-for-tat with her opponents is a decision she has the luxury to make at the moment; candidates who are struggling on both fronts may not feel as though they have the same sort of choice. If Warren loses ground in the next month or two, of course, then this strategy could go out the window.

We certainly agree that it makes sense to not get stuck responding to the story of the day on a regular basis, and it’s hard to argue that Warren’s decisions haven’t been paying off to this point. Critics will argue that a candidate must always be on the offensive against a potential opponent like President Trump, but perhaps not engaging in Trumpian distractions is exactly the correct way to deal with his vitriol.

Overall, we’re a bit undecided on this approach. What say you, Polsters?

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Trump Torpedoes GOP Talking Points on Impeachment

It was two weeks ago that Republican Members of Congress stormed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the Capitol in order to highlight their protest that impeachment investigations were unjust because hearings were held behind closed doors (nevermind that Republican members of these particular House committees were always able to attend the hearings).

Two days later, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) co-sponsored a resolution in the Senate criticizing the House for a lack of openness on impeachment matters. “I hope people will read the resolution and that everyone supports a fair and transparent process,” said Gardner. This was more than Gardner had said previously about President Trump’s actions; Gardner infamously bombed in front of a group of reporters when asked whether it was appropriate for the President of the United States to ask a foreign government to interfere in American elections.

Today, Gardner and his fellow Republicans learned once more that following Trump’s lead will only get you hopelessly lost:

Via CNN (11/8/19)

 

President Trump now says that Democrats should NOT hold public impeachment hearings after he and Republicans spent weeks bemoaning the fact that hearings were being done outside the public view. “They shouldn’t be having public hearings,” said Trump on Friday. “This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt.”

None of this should be a surprise to anyone who has paid even a lick of attention to national news in the last couple of years. Republicans are continually sticking their necks out for a President who won’t even blink at doing something to contradict their every word. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chair, ran into a similar problem just a few days after supporting the GOP’s SCIF Storming when it became clear that officials involved with Trump’s Ukraine dealings were confirming every bit of the whistleblower’s fears.

House Democrats had already effectively neutered the Republican’s “lack of transparency” strategy by agreeing to make everything public (on-camera testimony in House committees will begin next week). That hadn’t stopped the GOP from continuing with their attacks on the legitimacy of the “process” for impeachment discussions, but Democrats don’t really need to undermine the Republican strategy when President Trump will do it for them.

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Caption This Photo: Cory Gardner at Trump’s Last Supper

The cover art for today’s Politico Magazine top story, a photo collage of AP and Getty images by Zach Meyer, is turning heads–a depiction of President Donald Trump and key Republican lawmakers in the style of the Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci. On the left you’ll find Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who has embraced Trump in recent months despite the state he represents turning decidedly hostile toward the President (and the President’s party) in recent elections. The thinking here we assume is that despite Gardner’s steadfast support of Trump up to now, Gardner’s personal vulnerability could well make a turncoat of him before the end.

With that said, we will grant that this depiction is a little better imagewise for Gardner than the Politico Magazine headline he earned after his narrow win in 2014:

Not much better, but a little.

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2019 Election Winners and Losers

The 2019 election isn’t quite finished yet, but we’re not waiting for Aurora to announce our Winners and Losers from the cycle.

WINNERS

Mayors
Incumbent mayoral candidates won re-election in several cities, including Lakewood, Arvada, Longmont, and Greeley. Voters in Broomfield also welcomed back former Mayor Pat Quinn. Incumbent victories might have more to do with the quality of their opponents than the power of the office itself (see Ramey Johnson below), but Tuesday was generally a good night for Mayors seeking another term.

 

Mike Coffman
The former Congressman from CO-6 appears likely to have won his race for Mayor of Aurora, which extends Coffman’s 30+ years in elected office.

 

Non-White Candidates
As the Associated Press reports, the 2019 election results included some encouraging signs of diversity:

People of color made history this week by winning municipal races in places their families were once ignored or prevented from voting, including a New Mexico mayor whose father was forced into a Japanese internment camp during World War II.

From Arizona to Massachusetts, the gains highlight the ongoing demographic changes in the nation but also the growing political power of black, Latino and Native American voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Sin Taxes
Colorado voters may not have agreed with forgoing potential TABOR refunds, but they don’t have much of a problem with “sin taxes.” Proposition DD, which permits sports betting in Colorado via a tax on casinos, won a narrow victory on Tuesday. Voters in several communities also approved significant new taxes for cigarettes and vaping products.

 

Colorado Water Plan
The passage of Proposition DD provides funding for the Colorado Water Plan, one of the signature achievements of John Hickenlooper from his time both as Denver Mayor and Governor of Colorado. The Colorado Water Plan was created to help ensure that the state has enough agua for a population that could double by 2050.

 

DCTA
The Denver Classroom Teacher’s Association (DCTA) will have a pro-union majority on the Denver School Board for the first time in many years — a change from the “reform” direction that had enjoyed popular support in recent elections. Denver voters were moved in part by a three-day teacher’s strike last spring.

 

 

LOSERS

 

President Trump and Cory Gardner
Election results in Kentucky and Virginia can be viewed as pretty clear referendums against President Trump, which doesn’t bode well for his chances in Colorado in 2020 (and by association, the hopes of Sen. Cory Gardner). Kentucky voters booted an incumbent Republican Governor, despite Trump’s last-minute campaigning in the state. In Virginia, voters gave Democrats majority control of the state legislature for the first time in decades, affirming progressive policies to curb gun violence that Gov. Ralph Northam has already promised to re-introduce.

Republicans should also be very worried about what is happening in American suburbs, which used to be strongholds for the GOP. As Dan Balz writes for The Washington Post:

For Republicans looking beyond the president’s reelection campaign, the deterioration of support in the suburbs should be cause for major alarm. Democrats won control of the House in 2018 by flipping suburban districts, and there was nothing in the results Tuesday night to suggest that the anti-Trump energy that fueled those victories has slackened. Trump is the master of motivating voters — both those for him and, clearly, those against him.

“This is an overwhelming Trump phenomenon,” said a gloomy Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment of the party’s plight. “Trump has accelerated everything. There is no path in a swing, suburban district for a Republican — male, female or minority. . . . It’s not a challenge, it’s a hill. . . . There’s no strategy to climb it.”

This strategist said she worries about the GOP losing more suburban swing districts in 2020. If that happens, she said, the diversity of the Republican conference in the House will be reduced to “white men with white hair and white men with gray hair and a few token women, and when [Rep.] Will Hurd [Tex.] leaves, no African Americans and only a couple of Latinos.”

 

Ryan Frazier and Ramey Johnson
Barack Obama lost a Congressional race before being elected to the Senate and the Presidency. Abraham Lincoln lost a bunch of elections before making it to the White House. Both men are often cited to encourage politicians to keep trying to fulfill their election hopes and dreams.

Conversely, Frazier and Johnson are excellent examples of politicians who should probably do something else.

Frazier finished a distant third in the race for Aurora Mayor, his latest bid for elected office after multiple failed attempts for Congress and U.S. Senate. Frazier even changed his voter registration from Republican to Unaffiliated in hopes of winning another election, but it didn’t make any difference; he’s been stuck in the loss column since finishing his second term on the Aurora City Council in 2011. For whatever reason, voters in Colorado just aren’t interested in what Frazier is selling.

Johnson, meanwhile, was defeated for the second time in her bid to become Mayor of Lakewood (losing both times to Adam Paul). It didn’t help her cause in 2019 when she promoted the Climate Change denial theories of one Tyler Durden, who is in fact a fictional character. Running for office is basically Johnson’s hobby; she’s been a candidate for office in just about every election cycle since at least 2000 — seriously, we’re not exaggerating here — and she’ll probably be on the ballot again for something in 2020. In 20 years, Johnson has won one race for State Representative, another for RTD Board, and has even managed to get elected to Lakewood’s City Council (all while using the same headshot). It’s probably time for the 73-year-old Johnson to do something else.

 

Medicaid Work Requirements
We’ll let The Washington Post explain this one:

There was a clear loser in last night’s elections: Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Virginia.

To accomplish its goals for Medicaid, the Trump administration needs the help of state political leaders – and election results in Kentucky and Virginia yesterday made that less likely as Democrats widened their control in those states. Meanwhile, a Republican won in Mississippi, keeping it in the camp of states aligning themselves with the administration’s vision for the health insurance program for the low income.

In all three of these states, Medicaid work requirements and its expansion through the Affordable Care Act were on the line. The Trump administration can only do so much in carrying out its vision for the Medicaid program, which includes requiring able-bodied enrollees to work or volunteer and generally trying to limit further dependence on public benefits by discouraging Medicaid expansion. It’s up to governors and legislators to decide whether to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health-care law and what types of eligibility requirements to impose.

 

Local Ballot Measures in Big Counties
Voters in both Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, respectively, rejected ballot measures to allocate more funding for jails. Arapahoe County wanted to raise property taxes, while Jeffco was asking to keep more of the money it is required to return because of TABOR. Both measures suffered from poor campaigns that failed to adequately explain why the changes were needed; Jeffco has seen several particularly bad ballot measure campaigns in recent years and will need a different approach in the future.

 

Younger Voters
Colorado saw decent ballot returns in 2019 thanks primarily to older voters. Younger voters may be getting more involved in even-year election cycles, but they aren’t showing a lot of interest in off years.

 

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