Colorado Makes National Headlines for Insulin Caps


As CNN reports today:

The skyrocketing prices of insulin are a nationwide issue and Colorado has become the first state to pass legislation that tackles the problem.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Wednesday that places a $100 per month cap on insulin co-pays, regardless of how much insulin a patient uses. Insurance companies will pay anything more than the $100 co-pay, according to the new law.

The law also enlists the Colorado attorney general to investigate the rising prices of insulin in the state and to make recommendations back to the legislature.

“Today we will finally declare that the days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado,” Gov. Polis said before signing the bill on Wednesday.

As CBS4 Denver notes, many Coloradans were paying as much as $900 per month for insulin medication.

 

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Gardner Hides While Abortion Goes Under The Spotlight

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, another excellent story covering the local fallout on what’s becoming a flashpoint issue for the upcoming 2020 elections:

Cory Gardner, a freshman U.S. senator, is facing a tough re-election fight in 2020, just as then-Sen. Udall did in 2014. And there’s another parallel: Democrats, at least for now, believe abortion is a winning issue for them in 2020, just as Udall did five years ago…

Among many Democratic strategists, a new conventional wisdom has emerged about the 2014 race. Udall had the right idea, they say. Criticisms of Gardner on abortion will stick in 2020, even if they didn’t in 2014, they say.

“Here’s what’s changed: Trump’s election and the courts,” said Laura Chapin, a Democratic consultant who has advised NARAL and is now aiding Alice Madden’s campaign for Senate. “That has really supercharged this discussion because it’s not hypothetical anymore. They have a clear path, through the courts, to overturn Roe (vs. Wade).”

We wrote a couple of days ago about the recent dramatic escalation of national abortion politics following the passage of a near-total ban on abortion in Alabama, intended to serve as a vehicle to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights in all fifty states. Although Colorado has consistently and overwhelmingly rejected attacks on abortion rights at the polls, the state’s stridently conservative Republican minority in the legislature proposes abortion bans similar to Alabama’s every year–a reminder that a political turn of fortune for Republicans in Colorado would result in a direct threat to abortion rights.

With the Trump administration’s Supreme Court appointees ready to do the once-unthinkable and the challenge that could prove to be Roe’s undoing passed into law in Alabama, the narrative that allowed Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado to “beat” the issue of abortion in 2014 and win his seat despite an avowedly anti-abortion record in a pro-choice state is rapidly disintegrating. The assurance voters were given in 2014 that regardless of Gardner’s “personal view” on abortion he would be unable to act against abortion rights didn’t survive Gardner’s votes in the Senate to confirm Supreme Court Justices who are ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, let alone his numerous votes to chip away at abortion rights in the Senate since winning his seat.

Now that the threat to abortion rights is no longer hypothetical, Gardner seems to be caught completely flat-footed:

Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week. [Pols emphasis] Asked about Alabama’s restrictions on abortion by Politico, he told the news outlet that he is pro-life but hasn’t read the Alabama law. Abortion should be left up to the states, the senator said.

It’s been nearly a week since Gardner literally ran away from reporters asking about his view of the Alabama abortion ban. In a subsequent interview, Gardner reaffirmed his “personal” anti-abortion views, and said that abortion rights should be “up to the states”–tantamount to saying Roe v. Wade should be overturned, since the only way states could control the legality of abortion is in the absence of Roe’s federal guarantee.

Without the cover of public perception that Roe is invulnerable, which is most definitely a relic of the past today, Gardner’s long record of support for banning abortion sticks out like a sore thumb against the overwhelming consensus of the voters of the state he represents. It is no longer possible for Gardner to bluff his way to a draw on this issue. The more abortion becomes a marquee issue for the 2020 elections, which it was not in 2014 despite Democrats’ singleminded message, the dimmer Gardner’s re-election prospects get.

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White House, Senate GOP Can’t Square Talking Points

Oh, this sign has always been there!

White House officials are still chirping about President Trump’s temper tantrum in lieu of a scheduled meeting with Congressional leaders about legislation to advance much-needed infrastructure improvements. As Politico reports, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is spinning quite the load of crap:

The White House on Thursday denied that President Donald Trump’s eruption one day earlier at a meeting with Democratic leaders was a pre-planned stunt, rebuffing lawmakers’ accusations that the president was trying to bow out of serious infrastructure negotiations…[Pols emphasis]

…Senior administration officials are insisting that the Rose Garden gathering was impromptu, spurred by Trump’s discovery of Pelosi’s comments, which one official said both Sanders and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney alerted him to.

But Democrats who were at the meeting argued Thursday it’s obvious that Trump’s outburst was planned.

The idea that Trump’s tirade was a spontaneous reaction to comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in the morning is impossible to square with images from Trump’s Rose Garden fist-shaking appearance right after he walked out of the infrastructure meeting. As multiple media outlets have noted, including CNN’s Jake Tapper, you can’t seriously claim spontaneity when you have a professionally printed sign on the front of your podium.

Meanwhile, Sanders is also trying to convey that it is Democrats, and not President Trump, who are incapable of walking and chewing gun at the same time:

“So far what we’ve seen from the Democrats in Congress, Alisyn, is that they are incapable of doing anything other than investigating this president,” Sanders told host Alisyn Camerota in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

Time for another coffee break?

But as we see in a separate story from Politico, Senate Republicans didn’t get the memo on these talking points:

Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) called on the Senate Wednesday to do more than confirm nominations and lambasted Congress for its lack of legislative accomplishments…

“We have done nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada,” Kennedy said. [Pols emphasis]

Republican Senators acknowledge that the upper chamber is accomplishing very little. Now that President Trump is refusing to negotiate with Democrats on any issue, this inactivity will only be amplified.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have already passed major legislation on issues such as campaign finance and ethics reform; health care access and lower prescription drug costs; landmark new anti-discrimination protections; and funding for disaster relief that President Trump inexplicably opposes.

Even if the GOP eventually gets on the same page on these talking points, Republican rhetoric won’t change reality. The difference in accomplishments between Democrats and Republicans will be plenty clear for voters in 2020.

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At Least He’s Not Your HUD Secretary Forever

Not exactly…

In another edition of our long-running series, “At Least They’re Not Your Legislator,” we take you to Washington D.C., where HUD Secretary and all-around weirdo Ben Carson might like a cookie.

Carson appeared Tuesday in front of the House Financial Services Committee and had a bit of trouble with some real estate terminology, as Politico reports:

[Rep. Katie Porter ] asked Carson to “explain the disparity in REO rates — do you know what an REO is?”

“An Oreo?” Carson responded.

“No, not an Oreo. An R-E-O. R-E-O,” Porter said, prompting Carson to offer, “real estate?”

“Real estate owned – that’s what happens when a property goes into foreclosure, we call it an REO, and FHA loans have much higher REOs, that is, they go into foreclosure rather than into loss mitigation or to non-foreclosure alternatives like short sales, than comparable loans” at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said Porter, who later tweeted out the exchange.

We’re almost more amused by the fact that Sec. Carson thought he was being asked to talk about a cookie.

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No Infrastructure For You! Sad Trump Refuses to Negotiate

UPDATE: As Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post, Pelosi sure knows how to push Trump’s buttons:

Whether Pelosi intended this result or not, her ability to treat Trump as a spoiled child and provoke even more self-destructive behavior has several positive benefits for Democrats in this context. First, it puts the blame for not accomplishing anything on infrastructure — or anything else — squarely on Trump’s shoulders. Second, he makes it nearly impossible for incumbent Republicans to run in 2020 on any record of accomplishment.

—–

President Trump was scheduled to hold a meeting with Congressional leaders on a major infrastructure deal this morning, but after making House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wait for him, Trump finally stormed into the room and promptly declared that he would no longer work with Democrats on any issue. The entire meeting lasted about 3 minutes.

As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump abruptly ended a meeting with Democratic leaders on Wednesday, saying he was unable to work with them on legislation following comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he was “engaged in a coverup.”

Trump made an unscheduled appearance in the Rose Garden shortly afterward and in a meandering 10-minute address said he had left the meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) at which they were supposed to talk about working together on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

“Instead of walking in happily to a meeting, I walk in to look at people who said I was doing a coverup,” Trump said, adding that he can’t work on infrastructure “under these circumstances.”

“I pray for the president of the United States, and I pray for the United States of America.”

 — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Here’s more on Trump’s meltdown from Politico:

The breakdown came as Trump declared he will not work with Democrats as long as they are investigating him. The explosive encounter at the White House shattered a feeling of good bipartisan vibes stemming for positive budget talks on Tuesday and startled attendees, who said Trump made them wait, complained about their probes, canceled the meeting and left in a span of just a few minutes…

…Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who attended the White House meeting, said it was “high drama in the Cabinet room.”

“I don’t know where this leaves us as a nation. We have so many things that have to be done for this country and they can’t be done unless we work together,” Durbin said. “If the president walks out of the meeting, it’s a setback for the country’s priorities.”

Durbin said that Democrats couldn’t get a word in, and Pelosi told the House and Senate Democrats afterward about the importance of doing an infrastructure package.

Trump’s fuse was apparently lit after Pelosi met with Democratic Congressional leaders on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of moving forward with impeachment hearings in order to force the White House to cooperate with a growing list of subpoenas and requests for information and testimony. “We believe that the President of the United States in engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi told reporters after the meeting.

Schumer later said that he believed Trump’s tantrum was a pre-planned stunt. In his Rose Garden remarks, Trump launched into weird diatribe from behind a podium with a sign reading, “NO Collusion, NO Obstruction.” Here are some actual quotes from the actual President of the United States:

“It turns out — and I think most of you [the media] would agree to this — I’m the most transparent President probably in the history of this country.”…

…”We have the best unemployment numbers that we’ve had in the history of our country. In some cases, 51 years, but generally in the history of our country.”…

…”Instead of walking happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I’m doing a cover-up. I don’t do cover-ups. You people [the media] probably know that better than anybody.”

Words are just sounds made by blowing air through your mouth. We’ll update this post as soon as Trump walks back his promise not to negotiate with Democrats until they stop being mean to him.

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DeGette, Neguse Reach Tipping Point on Impeachment

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette)

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, two members of Colorado’s Democratic delegation in Congress, Reps. Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, have decided after deliberation that the evidence laid out in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation warrants the commencement of impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump:

As impeachment talks again ramp up among congressional Democrats, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse said Tuesday it’s time to open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, had publicly been mum on impeachment since release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report April 18. He broke that silence in a tweet Tuesday.

“The findings detailed in the special counsel’s report, and the administration’s pattern of wholesale obstruction of Congress since the report’s release, make clear that it is time to open an impeachment inquiry,” the freshman congressman said.

Colorado Independent:

“The facts laid out in the Mueller report, coupled with this administration’s ongoing attempts to stonewall Congress, leave us no other choice: It is time for Congress to officially launch an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States,” DeGette wrote on Twitter…

DeGette’s and Neguse’s comments came as other House Democrats who have been wary of impeachment also stepped up pressure to take that route following McGahn’s refusal to testify. One House Republican, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has also called for Trump’s impeachment.

“For quite some time now, the administration has been engaged in a wholesale obstruction of Congress in terms of its ability to conduct oversight and conduct its investigatory work,” Neguse told The Colorado Independent in a brief interview on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

At this point it is clear to most people paying attention that the Mueller report was very far from the “exoneration” the Trump administration has insisted from the beginning it represents. The report exhaustively details ten incidents in which the President almost certainly committed obstruction of justice, only deferring from calling these incidents crimes due to the inability to bring criminal charges against a sitting President. The inability of the Justice Department to criminally charge the President also means Trump can’t clear himself of any conclusive allegations in the report, leaving an unresolved crisis that arguably can only be addressed by Congress in an impeachment proceeding.

While it’s clear that support for impeachment hearings in the House is growing, the end result depends on a number of factors. The highest hurdle, of course, is persuading Senate Republicans to take action against a sitting President from their own party. But for the present in the House, impeachment hearings are more than a political stick to beat the opposition with. The Trump administration’s continuing obstruction since the Mueller report’s release means impeachment hearings could be the only way to get to the truth–regardless of whether the Senate has the political will to convict.

The one thing we can say for certain is that history’s verdict will be much more than the words “no collusion.”

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Rogue Staffer! Rogue Staffer!

Screenshot from Rep. Scott Tipton’s (R-Cortez) Twitter account

The official Twitter account for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) posted a rather disconcerting message on Saturday mocking women in regards to recent state decisions enacting stringent anti-abortion laws. As we noted on Sunday, the Tweet in question was deleted from Tipton’s account, but not before it was captured for posterity in a screenshot.

As the Vail Daily reports in a front page story today, Tipton’s office is resorting to one of our all-time favorite bullshit excuses: The Rogue Staffer!!!

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s office is blaming a rogue staffer for tweeting a mocking abortion meme over the weekend deemed offensive by current and past state lawmakers who saw it and retweeted it before it was deleted a short time later…

…“The tweet was mistakenly sent out by a staffer who helps manage the account,” Tipton spokesman Matthew Atwood wrote in an email statement. “It was never viewed or vetted by Congressman Tipton prior to being posted and does not reflect Congressman Tipton’s position or work on healthcare issues.”…

…Atwood did not respond to further inquiries about disciplinary action facing the staffer. Nor did he care to expand on Tipton’s stance on the various abortion bans being passed in other states in hopes of getting the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

For as long as we’ve been paying attention to Colorado politics, local Republicans have been plagued by the unnamed “rogue staffer” who causes havoc wherever he or she goes. Occasionally the “rogue staffer” emerges in other states — and sometimes even the White House — but this dastardly creature tends to focus its roguish behavior on Colorado Republicans.

Someday this “rogue staffer” will be brought to justice…and then Colorado Republicans will need to find something else to blame for their awful behavior.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 21)

The Denver Nuggets would not have been swept by the Golden State Warriors. It’s time “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…

► As expected, former White House Counsel Don McGahn failed to show up for a hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is pretty steamed about this, as the Washington Post explains:

Nadler vowed that his panel would eventually hear McGahn’s testimony about alleged obstruction of justice by Trump “even if we have to go to court to secure it.”

“We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law,” Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation, and nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people. We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other.”

Nadler’s remarks came at the outset of the second “empty chair” hearing this month held by the Judiciary Committee. Three weeks ago, Attorney General William P. Barr declined to appear.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s all-out blitz to prevent Congress from seeing or hearing anything about pretty much anything — including his financial records — ran into a legal wall on Monday. As CNN reports:

A federal district judge has told the accounting firm Mazars it will need to turn over Donald Trump’s accounting records from before he was President to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee.

In a 41-page opinion, Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court dealt a significant blow to the White House as he rejected Trump’s attempt to block the committee’s subpoena, asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the President…

…Congress specifically can probe the President for conflicts of interest and ethical questions, Mehta wrote, reaching into history — citing everything from the presidency of James Buchanan, to the Teapot Dome scandal, to Watergate and Whitewater — to back up his ruling.

In a delicious bit of irony, Trump’s lawyers will now appeal in a federal court overseen by none other than Judge Merrick Garland himself. Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in early 2016, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans so that a Republican President (Trump) could fill the vacancy instead.

As Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post:

We see a crack opening in Trump’s unconstitutional stonewall strategy. It’s the courts that might have the will and the ability to defuse a constitutional standoff.

As Elie Honig explains for CNN, Trump’s “legal” strategy for avoiding Congress is, in a word, “nuts”:

The White House previously invoked executive privilege in an effort to prevent McGahn from producing documents to Congress. Now the White House — perhaps recognizing that its executive privilege invocation would likely fail on the legal merits — has changed tack and instead made an even broader claim that Congress cannot ever compel testimony from a senior adviser to the President.

This is nuts. The White House is relying on a brand new memo from the Office of Legal Counsel claiming that, as an absolute matter of separation of powers and executive branch autonomy, Congress cannot force the President’s senior advisers to testify.

Notably, the memo cites not a single court decision to support this novel proposition. The memo does begrudgingly note in passing that the only court opinion on the matter, a 2008 decision relating to testimony from former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, actually reaches the opposite conclusion: Senior advisers to the President are not immune from compelled congressional testimony.

 

Some House Democrats, including freshman Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) are pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. From Politico:

Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.

Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda. [Pols emphasis]

 

Could Colorado follow in the footsteps of states such as Alabama and Missouri in passing legislation to essentially make abortion illegal? We could be closer than you might think.

Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) took time out from running away from reporters to answer a question about abortion with an intentionally-vague and pointless statement that laws should be left “up to the states.” Gardner knows full well that the entire point of strict anti-abortion laws passed by individual states is to ultimately force a reconsideration of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Colorado’s Abortion Rights Complacency Finally Getting Real?

The Colorado Sun’s John Frank wrote a story yesterday we’ve been waiting to see from a Colorado politics press corps for some time: an honest look at the stridently anti-abortion agenda of Colorado Republicans, who propose every year legislation as and even more restrictive than the near-total ban on abortions signed into law in Alabama last week:

Earlier this year, with less fanfare, Colorado lawmakers debated a bill to ban elective abortions that appears more severe than the controversial new limits approved in other states…

“We are never as far from those other states as we think we are. It’s only one election,” said Karen Middleton, the executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, an abortion rights organization. [Pols emphasis]

The last 15 years of Democratic dominance in Colorado, a period in which statewide ballot measures to ban abortion were defeated by the voters repeatedly, put anti-abortion Republicans on the defensive in this state–leading to arguably the low point of the movement’s influence in 2014, when Cory Gardner messily backtracked on the issue in an attempt to muddy his own record to compete in a statewide election. Since winning his Senate seat, of course, Gardner has voted to ban abortion every chance he got, making fools of his 2014 apologists on the issue and adding to Gardner’s 2020 vulnerabilities.

The result of all these developments, from Democratic control at the state legislative level to the supposed invulnerability of Roe v. Wade to direct challenge in the Supreme Court, was a climate of complacency in Colorado politics on the issue of abortion. Republicans introduced Alabama-style abortion ban bills year after year, and attempts by local reproductive choice advocates to sound the alarm were sometimes rudely blown off by the political press corps in Colorado. For Republicans this was an ideal situation, since they could please their religious conservative base with abortion ban bills without the awareness of their actions by the general voting public that could hurt them in the next general election.

When the entire pundit and journalist class in Colorado turned on Mark Udall in 2014 for “obsessing” about abortion in response to Gardner’s wholesale deception, this complacency over an issue still central to the GOP’s agenda claimed its greatest victim. It took the election of Donald Trump and the solidification of a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to bring the immediate threat to abortion rights into focus. If the electorate (not to mention the fourth estate) had understood that within 5 years of the 2014 election we would be discussing not just the possibility but the likelihood that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, would Gardner have still eked out his 1.9% victory over Udall?

Perhaps the only good thing that can be said, now that 2014’s deception is plain to everyone and no one can deny the threat to abortion rights that exists today, is that Colorado voters will find it hard to be complacent about abortion in future elections. Gardner and the Supreme Court Justices he helped install paved the way for the overturning of Roe v. Wade just as his opponents in 2014 warned to deaf ears. Without Roe, abortion rights in Colorado like every state are truly just one election from disaster.

Fail to vote accordingly at your peril.

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As Democrats Seek Gun Violence Solutions, Republicans Push More Guns

Students evacuate from a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month.

In the wake of the shooting at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month, Colorado Democrats are considering legislation to tighten the state’s laws around gun storage and child access, as the Colorado Sun reports:

“The end goal is that someone who shouldn’t have access to a firearm can’t access it,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, who revealed conversations about the potential policies at The Colorado Sun’s legislative forum last week. “Usually that would be a minor, but theoretically would include someone who just isn’t allowed to have a firearm.”…

…There are reports that the shooters in the STEM School attack, which left one student dead and eight more wounded, obtained their weapons by breaking into a gun safe belonging to one of their parents. The suspects are 18 and 16 years old, too young to legally purchase handguns, which authorities say were used in the attack.

About a dozen U.S. states have laws stipulating how guns are stored and how to prevent children from accessing them. Colorado is not among them, though it does have a law against providing a handgun to a juvenile. The older suspect in the STEM attack, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, is accused of committing that crime, according to online court records.

Image of a flyer from “Bullets Both Ways” distributed at a gun rights rally on Saturday.

Republican lawmakers are not enthusiastic about this idea. Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert dismissed the proposal in an interview with the Sun, as did Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley), who reverted to a particularly stupid argument about the fallibility of laws in general:

“We have laws against murder. It doesn’t stop people from murdering. If you’re not storing your gun responsibly, a law is not going to change that.”

Why have laws at all? 

The per-capita rate of deaths from gun violence in Colorado is at its highest level in more than 30 years, so what are Colorado Republicans going to do about the problem? They’re not going to do anything, as we’ve seen time and time again, but if backed into a corner the GOP solution continues to be to put more guns in public places.

Over the weekend, firearm enthusiasts gathered by the dozens at the State Capitol for a “Rally For Our Rights” event billed as a protest against a so-called “red flag” bill that passed through the state legislature this Spring. House Bill 1177, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in April, allows Colorado families and law enforcement officials to petition a court for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) to temporarily remove firearms from the hands of individuals who deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. Many Republican lawmakers opposed the “red flag” bill, including Sens. Holbert and Cooke. Perhaps the most vocal opponent was House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who has been openly advocating for recall elections against Democrats who supported the legislation (including Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, a co-sponsor of HB-1177 and the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting) .

Neville’s “solution” to gun violence has been the same since he first joined the State House in  2105; he is a leader of the movement to get more guns in the hands of teachers. This is a sentiment shared by others in the “Rally For Our Rights” circle. Among the organizations on hand for Saturday’s “more guns” rally was a Colorado-based group called “Bullets Both Ways” that believes that “Bullets Both Ways are better in our nation’s schools than bullets one way coming from an unchallenged perpetrator.” This is asinine.

What Neville and groups like “Bullets Both Ways” don’t mention, of course, is that the “more bullets” approach to gun violence actually creates…more danger for innocent people. As the Denver Post reported last week:

The district attorney for Teller and El Paso counties will review whether a security guard accused of firing at deputies responding to the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch should face criminal charges.

The source said a deputy has told authorities that the security guard, who has not been publicly identified, fired a shot at him or her while sheriff’s responders were arriving at the school. [Pols emphasis]

Investigators also are trying to determine whether the trajectory of the bullet indicates the guard may have struck and injured a student, the source said. Eight students were injured in Tuesday’s shooting, which also claimed the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo.

According to an attorney for the security guard, the armed man spent four years in the Marine Corps, which means he was probably plenty experienced with firearms. Yet he still may have mistakenly fired his weapon at students and law enforcement officers responding to the scene of the shooting. It’s ludicrous to expect that anyone other than the most highly-trained law enforcement officers would be able to safely handle a weapon in the midst of a school shooting, but if Neville and other gun advocates had their way, inexperienced shooters would be firing weapons in every direction at the first sign of a threat.

We need real solutions to our gun violence epidemic, not silly fantasies of promoting “a good guy with a gun.”

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Colorado GOP Can’t Just Get A Little Bit Pregnant

State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation earlier this year.

After the announcement last week of approved recall petitions to circulate against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of HD-37 Centennial filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, a major disagreement has erupted within the Republican coalition with a significant faction including Sullivan’s ousted Republican predecessor Cole Wist condemning the effort of both morally and strategically self-destructive for the GOP.

Faced with this unexpected intraparty criticism, as Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports, there’s an effort underway now to distance the actions of the Colorado GOP vice chair from the party as a whole:

“I would like definitely like to emphasize I’m doing this in my individual capacity as a citizen and a parent in House District 37,” Brown said. “Yes, I happened to be the vice-chair of the party, but I considered filing this recall before I got elected.”

Brown was elected to party leadership alongside Chairman Ken Buck on March 30. The “red flag” gun bill, one of the chief irritants that critics cite as the reason for the recall, passed the legislature April 1 and Gov. Jared Polis signed it 11 days later. Buck has called for the state party to be more active in recalls, but didn’t say what the official role would be in this instance.

“Kristi initiated the recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party. We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election,” Buck said.

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

The distinction between a Colorado Republican Party which has openly embraced the recall strategy to blunt increasingly landslide Democratic victories in general election and one of the state party’s highest officer’s personal action to initiate the recall of Rep. Sullivan is, in a word, preposterous. It’s a direct result of the condemnation of this recall attempt in particular by fellow Republicans, which makes it difficult for the party apparatus to publicly engage as party chair Rep. Ken Buck promised they would.

As readers know, vice chair Kristi Burton Brown’s principal allies in her “personal” campaign to recall Rep. Sullivan are House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, both of whom view recalling Sullivan as a step to restoring their own damaged credibility after 2018’s heavy losses.

To summarize, you have a Colorado Republicans led by officials who have promised to support recalls, and a recall effort against a freshman House member initiated by the party’s vice chair and supported by the House minority leader’s political machine. Yet we’re being asked to believe that this is not a campaign sanctioned by the highest levels of the Colorado GOP–which is conveniently also what allows the Sullivan recall’s Republican opponents to focus their anger on the lightning rod of RMGO instead of acknowledging the bigger problem.

The campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the Aurora shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, is being run in-house by the Colorado Republican Party far more than any previous effort–including the recalls of 2013. Being by orders of magnitude the most divisive recall effort yet undertaken, including everything that happened in 2013, this is either a sign of a brazenness we haven’t seen before from a major state party or severe mismanagement that is going to further damage an already severely weakened coalition.

If you’re a Republican and against the Sullivan recall, it’s not enough to idly say so while hunting scapegoats.

It’s time to make a choice. What are you willing to live with and still call yourself a Republican?

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Oh No, Pikachu! Rep. Tipton Deletes Tweet Mocking Women

If you weren’t around late last night on the Twitters, you missed it:

That’s Rep. Scott Tipton’s official congressional Twitter account, with a meme we have no doubt they thought was terribly clever for a moment–mocking women who appear to be holding #TimesUp movement protest signs, which is the contemporary movement to stamp out sexual harassment and assault, by re-captioning them as health care protesters. Then the meme slams the door on those women with the near-total ban on abortion signed into law last week in the state of Alabama. Cue surprised Pikachu!

Of course, even if you’re a fervently anti-abortion 60+ Republican white dude like Scott Tipton, this really isn’t a good look–especially in a state that overwhelmingly backs abortion rights like Colorado every time it’s put to a vote. Even fellow anti-abortion Republicans might find this insulting meme to be a cheap shot over an emotional issue, better left to internet trolls than sitting members of Congress. And they would be right.

On the bright side, if you’re in Colorado and upset about Alabama’s new abortion ban, now there’s somebody local you can call to complain! And when Rep. Tipton’s aide asks good-naturedly what Alabama’s abortion ban has to do with Rep. Tipton, which they will for at least the first few calls, you can ask them what they think of their boss’s sense of humor.

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Rally For Our Rights: Start The Revolution Without ‘Em

We’ve been accused from time to time of posting photos of protest events that don’t quite capture the size and power of a crowd turning out to rally at the Capitol. Sometimes, like with the Women’s March events whose crowd size could literally be determined from orbit, this isn’t really an issue–but for Republicans hoping to avoid what seems to be perpetual embarrassment, it’s really very important that we get their crowd sizes “right.”

So above you can see what we think is the most flattering view of yesterday’s Rally For Our Rights protest at the Colorado Capitol–that’s everybody, right? We haven’t done a formal count of every visible head in this photo but we can’t imagine it’s more than a hundred people. It would be interesting to compare the list of attendees at yesterday’s pint-sized rally with the similarly underwhelming crowd at the previous week’s “Stand For Colorado” rallies and see how many of them attended both.

And again, for comparison, this is what a protest march in Denver can look like:

This year, Republicans have complained as loudly as they have since (not coincidentally) the last time Democrats had full control of lawmaking in this state in 2013, and vowed revenge. To listen to conservative activists tell the story to their gullible base, Democrats have taken Coloradans’ voting rights, gun rights, parental rights, and mineral rights all in one 120-day session–enough to drive any talk radio listener to distraction.

So where are the crowds of angry protesters?

The short answer is, they don’t exist. There is a core group of local conservative protesters who organize these recurring events, attend them all, yet despite all their agitation fails to grow into a mass movement no matter how much “momentum” conservatives feel they have at any given time.

On the issue chiefly motivating political backlash among gun owners thus year, the state’s new Extreme Risk Protect Order law to temporarily remove guns from persons judged in court to be a treat to themselves or others enjoys north of 80% public support in Colorado polling. We wouldn’t be surprised if that number has softened in the face of widespread misinformation about the law’s effects during debate this year, but it’s still heavily supported both here in Colorado and across the nation.

Setting aside their limitless bluster,  the reason these people can’t build a crowd to support there issue is there is no such crowd. This is now, just like in 2013, an angry sliver of the electorate making threats above their fighting weight. Does that mean they don’t matter, or can’t do political damage? Of course not.

But they’re not a majority. Not even close.

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Cory Gardner (Literally) Runs Away from Abortion Question

Republican lawmakers in Alabama this week passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country as part of an effort to ultimately force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. For obvious reasons, Alabama’s new law has thus been one of the biggest political topics of the week and will likely continue to dominate conversations for months to come. For equally obvious reasons, political reporters have been asking elected officials at all levels of government for comment.

As The Hill newspaper reports, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) doesn’t want to talk about it:

Other Republicans facing tough reelection races in 2020 dodged questions on the Alabama law.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), when approached, said he was late to a meeting and referred questions to his office. Aides to Gardner did not respond to a request for comment. [Pols emphasis]

A United States Senator refusing to answer a question about one of the most significant political questions of the 2020 election cycle is not normal. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents seeking re-election in 2020. Like Gardner, Collins will be running in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried in 2016; unlike Gardner, Collins is actually willing to provide her opinion when asked. Again, from The Hill:

“I’m very much opposed to the Alabama law,” Collins told The Hill. “I think it’s completely inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and will lead to a virtual ban on abortions in Alabama, even for victims of incest and rape.”

“I can’t imagine that any justice could find that to be consistent with the previous precedence,” she told CNN in a separate interview.

When the Denver Post made its stunning decision in March to un-endorse Gardner in a harsh editorial, it had a lot to do with exactly this kind of behavior from Colorado’s junior Senator. At the time, Gardner had just completed a full 180-degree flip on the subject of President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for border wall funding. None of this is new territory for Gardner — his duplicitous nature has merely become impossible to ignore over the years. This is the same Cory Gardner who told Fox 31’s Eli Stokols prior to the 2014 election that “there is no federal personhood bill,” when, in fact, there absolutely was a federal personhood bill (and Gardner was even a co-sponsor in Congress).

Perhaps the most instructive way to consider Gardner’s non-comment on the Alabama abortion law is to look back at that same Fox 31 News interview from September 2014. Here is how Gardner responded to a question about then-Sen. Mark Udall focusing on Gardner’s ever shifting position on abortion:

“This is a political campaign and he is trying to do everything he can to change the subject, to run away.”

This is Cory Gardner.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 17)

Go forth and make us proud, graduates. It’s time “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…

► Supporters of President Trump would love for you to believe that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and potential collusion/obstruction involving contacts with Russia should be classified “case closed.” The reality is much more complicated, as the Washington Post reports:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…

…Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.

Chris Cillizza of CNN lays out one big lesson from this news:

At nearly every turn of the probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump was working to make sure Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, knew that the White House was on his side — and that the President himself thought Flynn was a good guy.

Now we seem to know why.

Trump was worried — and it turns out, rightly — that Flynn knew things that would be problematic for the President as it related to Russia. And that if Flynn cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — as he eventually did — it would have negative consequences for the administration. Court records released Thursday night revealed previously unknown details of Flynn’s cooperation.

 

Recall fever in Colorado is exposing some significant bad blood between Republicans and the “no compromises” gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is working hard on trying to brand himself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights. The organization “One Colorado” isn’t buying it.

 

Colorado’s outdoor industry is bracing for massive financial hits because of President Trump’s trade war with China; one local retailer says that “people will be shocked” at the extent of necessary price increases. Colorado’s economy in general is not well-positioned to withstand heavy losses from rising tariffs.

Meanwhile, a proposed aid package for American farmers harmed by Trump’s trade war could reach $20 billion.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Sullivan Recall Implosion: Whining About RMGO Is Not Enough

Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

The week’s political news in Colorado has been dominated by the approval of petitions to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a campaign kicked off by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party Kristi Burton Brown with support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting operation. As most of our readers know, Tom Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, which led to Tom’s run for office on an unapologetic platform of enacting gun safety legislation.

The announcement of the recall against Sullivan has been met with severe and in some notable cases bipartisan backlash, with Democrats morally outraged by the threat to Sullivan for keeping his most sacred campaign promise and some moderate Republicans fearfully warning that the attempt will backfire with the voting public in HD-37–cementing Democratic control of a winnable swing seat for Republicans, and sideswiping the credibility of attempts to recall lawmakers in other parts of the state.

In a Denver Post column today, conservative writer Krista Kafer sums up the desired frame for Republicans who see the danger of going ahead with the recall of Rep. Sullivan, laying 100% of the blame for the situation at the feet of RMGO–to the exclusion of “Republicans” Kafer calls on to stand up to RMGO as though they are a distinct entity:

It is not enough to condemn behind closed doors RMGO’s depraved behavior, as many do. The GOP needs to openly rebuke these tactics and to act to ensure they fail. I am calling on my fellow Republicans and fellow gun owners to refuse to sign the recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan and to vote against the measure should it come to that.

There will be opportunity in the 2020 election to hold this legislature accountable for its actions. The legislature passed several pieces of legislation that are antithetical to economic prosperity, personal freedom, and constitutional rights. Ideas have consequences and the cost of these harmful laws will be evident over time. Republicans can make a strong case that new leadership is warranted. If, however, Republicans do not oppose the morally corrupt tactics of RMGO, we will not deserve to make a comeback.

Since news of the Sullivan recall broke early this week, there’s been a consistent effort by Republicans who don’t support it to insulate the Colorado Republican Party as a whole from the recall effort. The problem with this, of course, is that the recall was filed by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With the party making no attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Colorado GOP’s vice chair, no one else should either.

But even that’s not the full picture: over many years and accelerating after the 2013 recall elections, RMGO has worked successfully to install their favored candidates by winning Republican primaries. That reshaping of the Republican caucus is a major reason why close RMGO ally Patrick Neville was able hold on to his minority leadership position even after 2018’s devastating losses and allegations of mismanagement.

Whether it’s a genuine moral objection as is plainly the case from Rep. Sullivan’s Republican predecessor Rep. Cole Wist, who admits now that he was “in denial” of the extent of RMGO’s control of the Colorado Republican Party, or simple lucidity of the destructive political consequences of recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim over gun safety legislation, the bottom line is the same: the problem is bigger than Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In fact, vilifying RMGO while the party they effectively control carries out RMGO’s agenda makes everyone who engages in that diversion culpable.

And until the “civil” Republican talking heads accept that, Kafer is right: they don’t deserve a comeback.

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Former Rep. Cole Wist Blasts RMGO, Recalls in New Op-Ed

Former Republican State Rep. Cole Wist is fed up with right-wing recall madness.

Earlier this week, former Republican Rep. Cole Wist raised eyebrows with a direct and thorough rebuke of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and their latest recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora). What makes this particularly noteworthy is that Wist was defeated by Sullivan in the 2018 election cycle, in part because RMGO went after him for his 2018 support of “red flag” legislation.

In an Op-Ed published today by The Colorado Sun, Wist elaborates on his social media comments from earlier in the week and goes into greater detail about the recall grift that we have regularly discussed in this space:

Too many in politics are in it for their own personal gain, not any actual desire to affect policy or make life better for our communities

Take my experience as an example. I sponsored a bill that was opposed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group whose stated purpose is to advocate for gun rights. They didn’t like my bill, so they raised money to attack me and littered my district with nasty fliers hoping to elect my Democratic opponent, Tom Sullivan, who is an outspoken supporter of sweeping gun control.

Why would a group that says it’s about gun rights help elect a gun control supporter? Well, so they can raise more money. And that’s just what they are doing now. They are trying to recall Tom Sullivan, whom they helped elect, so they can raise more money. [Pols emphasis]

Since the 2018 election, it seems there has been a steady drumbeat for recall elections. What’s behind recall fever? Yes, many voters are frustrated with sweeping legislation passed by the legislature this year on a number of fronts, but for many trying to instigate these recalls, it’s mostly about money and feeding the political election machine.

Wist later makes it clear that while he disagrees with Sullivan’s politics, he doesn’t dispute what happened in November:

I disagree with Rep. Sullivan on a number of policies. And, I am opposed to numerous pieces of legislation that he voted for this last session. However, Rep. Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it.

Recall enthusiasts are still pushing their nonsense rhetoric, of course, as Nic Garcia reports for the Denver Post:

Yet, according to the Republicans behind the recall, Sullivan duped voters.

When I pushed Kristi Brown – the state GOP’s vice chair and leader of the charge to recall Sullivan – on this logic, she acknowledged Sullivan’s track record as a gun control activist. But she added that the legislation he sponsored went further than a previous version of the bill. She added that his votes on sex ed and oil and gas reform were part of the “overreach.”

RMGO leader Dudley Brown

One of the major problems with this, um, logic is that RMGO’s Dudley Brown already blew it up in an interview with RealVail.com last week:

REAL VAIL: Some sheriffs and prosecutors who supported red flag last year, including Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, switched sides this year and opposed it. Why do you think that is? Did the bill change that much from 2018 to 2019?

BROWN: Nope, I don’t think they were that different, last year and this year’s bill. [Pols emphasis] I don’t think it was different enough to warrant some massive swing. It’s just this year sheriffs are able to read the tea leaves and that their constituents are now understanding what the concept of red flag is. And now they’re realizing that they’re going to face a big backlash from their constituents if they’re forced to carry out these, quote, protection orders. They don’t want to do it.

It’s tough to claim that the Sullivan recall is about “overreach” when one of the recall leaders admits that the “red flag” legislation that so angers them wasn’t much different than a similar bill in 2018. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of the meaning of the word “overreach.”

Efforts to recall Democratic lawmakers in Colorado are about two things, and two things only: 1) Making money for Republican consultants, and 2) trying to find a back door for Republicans to capture seats that they can’t otherwise win in a regular election. Every other rationale is just another way to justify one of the first two reasons.

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James O’Keefe: Back and Promising Fresh Local Shenanigans

We wrote last week about the most recent “Lincoln Day” dinner hosted by the Pueblo County Republicans, featuring newly-minted “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party Steve House saying too much about the real purpose of threatened recalls against Democratic state lawmakers–a fresh angle from which to combat the GOP’s trend of losses in Colorado elections, which threatens to relegate their party to long-term minority status.

That was significant, but we also wanted to make sure readers were aware of the keynote speaker at this dinner, infamous Republican hidden-camera gotcha artist James O’Keefe. O’Keefe gained fame nearly a decade ago by baiting workers for the social welfare organization ACORN into making politically and morally questionable on-camera statements. Success in that campaign led to Project Veritas, in which O’Keefe himself or well-trained and paid subordinates fan out across the country during election season in search of Democrats they can entrap. In 2014 one such entrapment campaign led to brief notoriety in Colorado–which collapsed once it became clear that the fraud he was goading low-level local organizers into discussing would have been easily busted by county clerks before any fraudulent votes were counted.

With all of this in mind, here’s a rough transcript of a portion of O’Keefe’s remarks to Pueblo Republicans:

JAMES O’KEEFE: Someone asked if I’ve been to CO before and I fumbled the answer because I’m not supposed to say where I go in terms of investigations but I have been here before many times. Sometimes I’m here and nobody knows. [applause] I’m here to talk about Veritas. It’s the Latin word for truth…

Do people recognize me? Sometimes I wear a disguise. Most of time, I’m not doing undercover stuff–it’s a team. Sometimes. They never recognize me. Don’t expect to be recorded. Don’t people know you’re filming? Not really because corruption is everywhere…so what Veritas is doing is equipping brave patriots to wear tiny cameras. Where do they go? Everywhere. Tie, blazer, hat, lapel pin, pimp costume. [Pols emphasis]

James O’Keefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker in 2014.

Although O’Keefe has no real mainstream credibility, his popularity with conservative media outlets ensures wide distribution for all but the most self-immolating of his stunts. O’Keefe’s credibility took a huge hit in 2017 during a botched attempt to “gotcha” Washington Post reporters with a fake informant with planted allegations about Alabama Republican Roy Moore’s sexual misconduct–which ended with the reporters turning the tables on O’Keefe’s mole and writing a very different story.

But if there’s on constant in conservative politics, it’s that their operatives don’t stay discredited for long! A fresh proposal to tap the right’s seemingly limitless reserves of political nonprofit giving, for example sending a wave of hidden camera-equipped GOP activists to infiltrate Colorado Democratic campaigns and liberal groups, is all O’Keefe needs to bounce right back. And it appears he has.

With all of this in mind, here’s another reminder to do what you should be doing anyway–vet your volunteers. The website Veritas Exposed keeps track of O’Keefe’s operatives and methods as much as that’s possible, and it’s a good place to start, but you should be checking the voter file, social media histories, and whatever background check services you can afford or are comfortable with. But above all, it’s critical to inspire a culture of office awareness: that the way O’Keefe gets most of his material is by having a camera rolling during preventable mistakes he can then de-contextualize for maximum political effect.

The best place to stop James O’Keefe and his band of undercover tricksters is at the door. Failing that, if someone you don’t know starts spontaneously “joking” with you about election fraud while subtly angling the lapel of their coat towards your face, please do not laugh along. This may be the only warning you get.

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