Time’s Almost Up To Join “Operation Chaos 2020” In Colorado

As the Denver Post’s Jon Murray reports, it’s game time in the Colorado Democratic Super Tuesday presidential primary! If you’re a bored registered Republican who wants in on the party-raiding action “for the lulz,” the deadline is fast approaching:

Colorado voters have a lot of options if they want to help nominate a major-party presidential candidate this year — but some may need to act fast to meet an upcoming deadline.

The last day to change a party affiliation — or to withdraw a party allegiance to become an unaffiliated voter — is Monday, Feb. 3. To do so, visit www.sos.state.co.us/voter.

Colorado’s change to presidential primaries from a caucus process offers more voters the chance to participate, but their options will depend on their party affiliation, or lack thereof. Registered as a Republican, but want to help choose the Democratic nominee to take on President Donald Trump? You can do that by becoming unaffiliated. [Pols emphasis]

It’s a little surprising to see the Denver Post be so frank about how Republicans can employ Colorado’s newly restored presidential primaries, enabled by the passage of Proposition 107 in 2016, in order to monkey-wrench the opposing party. But the idea is nothing new. Back in 2008, AM radio host Rush Limbaugh hyped a campaign he called “Operation Chaos” to boost Hillary Clinton’s losing primary challenge to Barack Obama.

This year, the prevalent rumor is that Republicans are mobilizing in open primary states like Colorado to support Sen. Bernie Sanders, who according to their rationale is President Donald Trump’s most desired opponent for a “showdown” between capitalism and the dreaded S-word. Sanders won Colorado’s Democratic caucuses in 2016, but our Super Tuesday primary in which Republicans can cross over if they think ahead, and more importantly the plurality of unaffiliated voters who will almost all return the Democratic primary ballots they now automatically receive, makes that past experience useless to predict future results.

In the end, we believe unaffiliated voters taking part in the Democratic primary in good faith will be the more decisive factor, not Republicans or even conservative unaffiliated voters helping Trump pick his opponent. “Operation Chaos” always sounded more fearsome on the radio than it played out in practice, mostly because the average voter just doesn’t have the time or interest in activist shenanigans.

As for the thinking behind which candidate Republicans should “chaos” for, we’ll leave that to readers.


Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 30)

On this day in 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn-in as Chancellor of Germany. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of 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.


► Why was #CoverUpCory trending nationally on Twitter on Wednesday? Because Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) announced — after months of dodging the issue — that he opposes calling witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

Earlier this week, Gardner said that he had “approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and with the seriousness our oath requires.” He apparently forgot to add the part, “but only for two weeks.” Gardner really just wants this all to go away.

Meanwhile, the Senate impeachment trial continues today, with Republicans looking to wrap things up in the next couple of days as long as they can prevent four elephants in their ranks from voting to hear from new witnesses.


President Trump’s attorneys presented a brazen new strategy on Wednesday in the Senate impeachment trial. As Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post:

A decade after being acquitted of murder, Alan Dershowitz’s former client O.J. Simpson questionably planned a book and a TV special titled, “If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.”

On Wednesday, Dershowitz assisted in a novel defense for his current client, President Trump: If he did it, it’s still okay. [Pols emphasis]

As The Post’s Erica Werner, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck write, Trump’s legal team advanced an exceptionally broad defense of Trump’s actions at Wednesday’s Q&A session of the impeachment trial. The most striking parts of that defense came when they entertained the idea that Trump was indeed out for personal political gain when he asked Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter Biden — despite long-standing denials that he was — and suggested even that that would be aboveboard.

It was almost as if they are girding for what might come from former national security adviser John Bolton.

In a separate story, The Washington Post points out that Trump’s attorneys notably refused to answer two very important questions.

As NBC News reports, legal experts are aghast at Dershowitz’s logic:

Dershowitz argued Wednesday that if a president engaged in a quid pro quo arrangement for their own political benefit, it is not impeachable because all politicians believe that their elections are in the public interest…

…Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, law school, said he thought Dershowitz’s argument was “absurd and outrageous.”

“It means that a president could break any law or abuse any power and say that it was for the public interest because the public interest would be served by his or her election,” he said.

And Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law professor, said Dershowitz’s argument was “on its face, preposterous.”

And yet…Senate Republicans are eating it up.
► Fundraising reports for federal campaigns are due to be filed before the end of the day on Friday, January 31. While many candidates for federal office in Colorado have already made their end-of-year and Q4 2019 fundraising numbers public, we’re still waiting to find out results from the campaigns of Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic Senate challenger Andrew Romanoff. If both campaigns wait as long as possible to file their reports, you probably won’t hear anything about the numbers until Saturday.


► The Colorado State Senate is again debating legislation that would end the death penalty in Colorado. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett discusses this bill and other hot items under the Gold Dome in this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast.



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


DeVos Tours Bob Schaffer’s High School, Because Of Course

Bob Schaffer.

Brooklyn Dance of the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports:

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will visit Fort Collins charter school Liberty Common High School and Greeley’s Aims Community College with U.S. Rep. Ken Buck on Thursday.

DeVos and Buck, who represents Colorado’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, are visiting the two schools to look at how they are approaching education, according to a Wednesday news release from the U.S. Department of Education…

Liberty Common is a parent-run, public charter school authorized by Poudre School District. The school — which emphasizes literature, history, civics and languages in its curriculum — offers grades K-12, with an elementary school for students in kindergarten through sixth grade and a separate high school campus for students in seventh through 12th grades. DeVos will visit the high school campus.

Known affectionately in some circles as “Hilldale by the Hillside,” Liberty Common High School in Fort Collins’ headmaster is former Rep. Bob Schaffer. Schaffer earned a reputation as an unapologetic “culture warrior” conservative during his career in elected office from the Colorado legislature to Congress, but was soundly defeated in his 2008 run for the U.S. Senate against Mark Udall under a scandalous cloud resulting from Schaffer’s ties to corrupt former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Liberty Common by all indicators has a very high and consistent level of academic achievement. The school has a long waiting list of applicants, and is understood to be both an academic and ideological “magnet” for political conservatives. That of course makes it a perfect venue for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, by far the most ideologically polarizing Secretary of Education since the department’s creation in 1979. Most recently, Liberty Common was in the news for having applied for a waiver to exempt itself from the state’s revised sex ed guidelines passed in 2019–we assume out of an abundance of, you know, tolerance.

DeVos’ tenure as Secretary of Education has been one of the most troubled of any member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which says a lot. A 2017 poll ranked DeVos as the least popular cabinet member. DeVos’ legendary interview bombs, which preceded her confirmation, continued to haunt her to the point where she limits her exposure these days to more friendly confines–like the recent Washington, D.C. fundraising dinner in which DeVos compared abortion to slavery.

With all of this in mind, we’ll be watching for news breaking from Liberty Common today.

And no news will be good news.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: #CoverUpCory

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, your regular (relatively) host Jason Bane is joined by Alan Franklin and producer extraordinaire Ethan Black to discuss the latest impeachment news — we had to come back and record twice just to keep up — as well as #CoverUpCory Gardner, John Bolton, and next week’s Iowa caucuses. Later, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett joins us to update the latest news on the Colorado legislative session and to provide his “lock of the week” for those of you laying down bets on the Super Bowl “Big Game” this weekend.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Hit us up at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn


Please Stop Calling Big Oil “Good Corporate Citizens”

Photo courtesy Gov. Jared Polis.

With all eyes squarely focused on the slow-motion train wreck playing out in Washington, D.C., we wanted to be sure a new report from the office of Colorado State Auditor Dianne Ray got a mention. It’s the latest shining example of “good corporate citizenship” from the oil and gas industry, whose attempt to apocalyptically upend basic land use regulations in Colorado on the 2018 ballot Amendment 74 was thankfully defeated. Colorado Public Radio reports:

Colorado could be losing millions in tax revenues. A new state audit finds that oil and gas companies operating in Colorado have failed to submit thousands of monthly reports used to track how much energy they produce.

In turn, those reports help the state determine if the companies have paid the right amount of taxes.

The audit also says regulators aren’t imposing penalties or tracking the missing or incomplete production reports.

“Based on these assumptions, we estimate that operators would have been subject to about $308 million in penalties for delinquent reports for the 30-day period, none of which the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation] Commission actually imposed,” according to the audit.

To be clear, there are a couple of problems at work here. The biggest problem is that energy companies are failing to file reports to the state used to calculate their severance tax liability. There seems to be an attempt by Republican members of the Legislative Audit Committee to lay the blame on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, but it’s the producers who have the obvious financial motive to not file these reports in the first place.

In 2016 alone the audit said one company failed to submit as many as 1,123 monthly well reports. That potentially totals an additional $2.6 million in severance taxes that the operator would have owed the state. [Pols emphasis]

“It was distressing to see that there was a culture of acceptance of not filing forms,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelsen Jenet, the Democratic vice chair of the committee. “And the top producers are the biggest violators and we’re talking about thousands upon thousands of forms not filed. ”

We don’t think there’s a question whether regulators failing to adequately monitor compliance or producers conveniently “forgetting” to file their paperwork are at fault here. Certainly the COGCC needs to tighten their procedures make sure no one can just fail to file their production reports to avoid paying severance taxes. But the odds that the producers themselves were not aware of their own production in order to correctly report it are extremely remote.

If the oil and gas industry had not proven itself to be a predacious neighbor by spending millions trying to pass Amendment 74 in 2018, which would have either bankrupted local governments across the state or disrupted the most basic zoning and land-use authority everyone in Colorado takes for granted whether they know it or not, perhaps we’d be more inclined to let bygones be bygones–with a bill for all past due severance taxes, interest, and penalties. But that doesn’t seem like enough.

This politically vindictive industry deserves to be shamed. By every Colorado taxpayer.


BREAKING: Cory Gardner Lied To Everybody

After the reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post went up yesterday that Sen. Cory Gardner was urging fellow Republican U.S. Senators to reject additional witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump–most notably including Gardner’s friend John Bolton, whose explosive testimony could sink Trump’s presidency–Gardner’s communications team swung into action to refute the story:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Team Gardner appears to have prevailed on the Wall Street Journal to edit their story from the original:

Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who face competitive races in the fall, warned colleagues in the meeting against backing more witnesses, people familiar with the matter said. The senators said a drawn-out trial could lead to more Democratic attacks and hurt their re-election chances, the people said. [Pols emphasis] None of the three senators’ offices immediately responded to requests for comment.

To read in the revised version now available:

Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who face competitive races in the fall, addressed their colleagues in the meeting, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Gardner said a longer trial would lead to more Democratic attacks, according to a spokesman, [Pols emphasis] and Mr. Tillis called impeachment a sham. Ms. McSally’s office said she doesn’t comment on what happens in private meetings.

It’s important to be clear on this point: the pushback from Gardner’s communications people yesterday was that he was not arguing in internal meetings against additional witnesses, but rather simply complaining that “a longer trial would lead to more Democratic attacks.” The specific reference to arguing against witnesses was removed after the WSJ talked to Gardner’s spokesperson.

That’s important to have clear in your mind as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning reveals what you hopefully already knew: that was all a bunch of bullshit.

“I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness,” [Gardner] told Colorado Politics in a statement. [Pols emphasis] “I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses.”

If Cory Gardner had simply said this yesterday instead of lurching into media damage control mode with his trademark noncommittal pablum, this wouldn’t be quite as embarrassing. But for some reason, Gardner felt the need to keep up the pretense of an open mind last night, seeking corrections and “clarifications” that look totally absurd with this new statement in hand. Obviously, Gardner never had any intention of supporting new witnesses. He has no intention of fairly evaluating the evidence against Trump, because he doesn’t even want to see it.

The stark reversal from working over reporters to “clarify” his statements to admitting everything in less than 24 hours is another tremendous blow to Gardner’s credibility, which has been in the late-night TV punchline netherworld for some months now following his disastrous broken-record encounter with local reporters back in October. At this point, Gardner is a nationwide poster child for the servile dysfunction of the once-proud Republican Party under Donald Trump.

There’s no coming back from this, folks. Say hello to #CoverUpCory.


Cory Gardner Can’t Take The “Road To Redemption”

Donald Trump, Cory Gardner.

The Denver Post’s editorial board has followed a long and winding road with Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner: from their controversial endorsement of Gardner in 2014, through the agonizing and lengthy process of calling Gardner out in the countless instances in which Gardner broke promises and voted against most of the paper’s stated editorial values. Last March the Post rescinded their 2014 endorsement, saying “Gardner has been too busy walking a political tight rope to be a leader.”

Yesterday evening, however, the Post in their long-suffering good faith threw Gardner one more lifeline:

The road to redemption is before Gardner now in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Will Colorado’s native son stand for what is right? Will he rise above the party machinery and the right-wing talk radio that are exerting maximum pressure on Republicans to not foil their best chance at maintaining power for another four years?

If ever there was a time for Gardner to forsake Trump loyalists and special interests, this is the moment. He should remember that his power actually flows from the voters of Colorado who elevated him to this high office. It wasn’t the conservative base who chose him to be a senator from Colorado, but the swing voters in the middle who tipped the scales in his favor against an incumbent Democrat. Gardner should listen to what those constituents are saying.

Trump has abused the power of his office and threatened our republic and our democracy from within. Any remaining shadow of a doubt that could have been cast in defense of Trump’s elaborate and months-long scheme has been washed away by former national security adviser John Bolton…

This editorial went to print just as the stories from the Wall Street Journal and shortly after the Washington Post broke Gardner’s meeting with fellow Republican Senators, in which Gardner was very frank about the political risk to Republicans of allowing the trial to be extended for any reason including additional witnesses. President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address next Tuesday, and the thought of delivering that address under the cloud of ongoing impeachment is rightfully political nightmarish for the GOP.

The problem, of course, is that Gardner has relied on the evasion that he was carefully considering all the evidence in order to deliver an impartial verdict throughout the process–in contrast to so many other Republicans who have never made any pretense of impartiality. Gardner has been noncommittal to the point of headline-making absurdity when questioned by reporters about the impeachment process, but now we know despite Team Gardner’s attempts at ex post facto spin that he’s been in the tank for Trump the whole time.

Even without these latest news reports blowing the basis for the Post’s extension of the benefit of the doubt to Gardner one more time out of the water, we seriously doubt this editorial was written with any real expectation that Gardner would vote to convict the President. This is about setting the stage for Gardner’s ultimate day of reckoning, in which the Post exhorts a majority of Colorado voters to end Gardner’s political career.

On that day, the conscience of the Post’s editorial board will be at peace after many troubled years.


Oof! Grinning Gardner the Butt of National Jokes

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has had a rough couple of weeks months thanks to his transparent inability to even pretend that he’s anything more than a rubber stamp for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump on the topic of impeachment.

Gardner’s obsequiousness has made him a national punchline; on Tuesday David Leonhardt of The New York Times wrote a column referring to Gardner as “(R-Invisible),” calling him “a Trump loyalist who doesn’t want to admit it.” And last night, Gardner was the punchline in a skit on “The Tonight Show” about Republican Senators resorting to an “excuse generator” to explain their opposition to calling witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial. Take a look:

“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon poked fun at Republican Senators Rand Paul, Tom Cotton, and James Lankford before setting up the kicker:

FALLON: Next, when they asked Ben Sasse, he said, “Sorry but…I signed up for…smile lessons.”

Next, when they asked Cory Gardner, he said, “Sorry but…I’m teaching…smile lessons.” [Pols emphasis]

This is particularly brutal for Gardner because his smile is the one thing that he and his supporters have promoted above all else. He’s a nice guy! Look how much he smiles!

Before Gardner made inaccessibility his brand, the “smile” was his secret weapon. It was always disingenuous, but it wasn’t always so obviously fake in that used-car salesman kind of way. Gardner’s smile is pasted on his face in order to distract you from whatever double-cross he’s working on at the moment, and his ridiculous posturing around Trump’s dealings with Ukraine have laid that bare. Try saying “We have a trial” over and over again without cracking a smile — it’s impossible.

Even casual observers are seeing Gardner and his smile for what it really is, making him easy fodder for national columnists and late night television. When what was once your greatest political weapon becomes an open joke, your political career is in big trouble.

Via “The Tonight Show” (1/28/20)


Cory Gardner Just Double-Crossed Somebody

UPDATE (7:15 pm): The Washington Post confirms earlier reporting from the Wall Street Journal:

Several Republican senators up for reelection this November and facing tough campaigns — including Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — indicated during the meeting that they were ready to vote against witnesses and proceed to the final vote, according to two people familiar with the discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.


UPDATE #3 (5:45 pm): That sound you hear is Gardner’s office campaign spokesperson FRANTICALLY trying to claw back Gardner’s two-faced “opinions” on calling impeachment witnesses.

Wait, what? Gardner’s CAMPAIGN is “clarifying” something he supposedly said in a private caucus meeting? How does that work?

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

UPDATE #2: We changed the headline of this post to reflect the bigger story here. Our original post follows below.


UPDATE: Numerous news outlets are reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his caucus today that Republicans do NOT have the votes to block calls for witnesses. And as The Wall Street Journal reports:

…at a meeting of all Republican senators late Tuesday, GOP leaders told their conference that they don’t currently have the votes to prevent witnesses from being called, people familiar with the matter said. Republicans had hoped to wrap up the trial with an acquittal of the president by this week, but Democrats have said he should appear under oath to offer a firsthand account of the president’s motivations for freezing aid to Ukraine—a matter at the heart of the impeachment case…

Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who face competitive races in the fall, warned colleagues in the meeting against backing more witnesses, people familiar with the matter said. The senators said a drawn-out trial could lead to more Democratic attacks and hurt their re-election chances, the people said. None of the three senators’ offices immediately responded to requests for comment. [Pols emphasis]

But…that can’t be true, right? Gardner was just telling The Denver Post that he has “approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and with the seriousness our oath requires.”


John Bolton, still popping up everywhere.

White House attorneys today rested their arguments in the “defense” portion of the Senate impeachment trial against President Trump. The big question now is pretty much the same as the big question a week ago: Will the Senate approve testimony from new witnesses regarding Trump’s alleged demand to withhold foreign aid money from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate a political rival of the President?

Senate Republicans are still divided on this question, though there are new signs of movement. Maine Sen. Susan Collins now says that she is “very likely” to support calls for witness testimony, which would likely include that of former National Security Adviser John Bolton. New polling released today from Quinnipiac University finds that 75% of Americans want to hear from witnesses in the impeachment trial, including 49% of Republicans.




“Yosemite Samantha” Lands Coveted Tom Tancredo Endorsement

Lauren Boebert.

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, the CD-3 Republican primary heats up with the announcement that former Republican congressman, presidential candidate, and fringe-right gadfly extraordinaire Tom Tancredo is throwing his weight behind upstart primary challenger Lauren Boebert:

Calling her a “principled, no-nonsense patriot,” former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo on Monday endorsed fellow Republican Lauren Boebert, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a primary.

The immigration hardliner who served five terms in Congress said in a radio ad obtained by Colorado Politics that Boebert, the pistol-packing owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, “has the same fight in her that I brought to Washington.”

…The ad also touts Boebert’s well-publicized confrontation with Beto O’Rourke when the Texas Democrat brought his soon-to-be-concluded presidential campaign to Aurora to talk about gun violence in September.

Tancredo, one of the legendary pillars of Colorado’s special breed of “kamikaze conservatives” who helped relieve the GOP of most of its power in this state in the last fifteen years (see: The Blueprint by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer), nonetheless wields a built-in base of support that remains quite influential within the party. Tancredo is also blissfully untethered by any loyalty to the Republican elites in Colorado, who generally remain supportive of incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton.

Does Tancredo’s support win Boebert the primary? Of course not. But we can’t see how it hurts.


Gardner Finally Sees Doors Closing on His Career


As you may have heard, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) doesn’t want to talk about the impeachment of President Trump.

For more than six months now, Gardner has gone to ridiculous lengths to avoid reporter questions on the subject, fleeing from questions on foot, moving walkways, or via his favorite escape method: Capitol Hill elevators. On the rare occasion that he finds himself cornered by a reporter, Gardner vomits out nonsense answers like, “We have a trial” before he scurries away.

We’ve taken note on numerous occasions of Gardner’s proclivity for diving into little-used elevators instead of answering pretty standard questions from local and national journalists alike. Gardner’s most recent elevator escape led to this fantastic GIF on Monday that perfectly encapsulates the last few months for Colorado’s junior Senator.

It would appear, however, that Gardner has finally come to understand just how bad this all looks for him.

Politico’s Burgess Everett elaborates on this Tweet in an “impeachment update” report today:

10:25 A.M.
Cory Gardner avoids elevator moment

Sen. Cory Gardner, who is up for reelection this fall in Colorado, made sure to avoid any ridicule on social media on Tuesday morning.

Asked a question on witnesses, the GOP senator noted the last time he answered he was mocked for allowing the Senate elevator doors to close before he gave a complete answer.

“Last time I got in elevator, one of you guys filmed me and really made fun of. So I’m going to stand here and answer that question. And just ask that you don’t film me!” Gardner said with a laugh. [POLS EMPHASIS]

As to whether he will vote to hear from new witnesses, Gardner was noncommittal: “We’re in the middle of the trial. I’ll continue to listen to the arguments put forward.”

This sounds a lot like a guy who realizes that he has really screwed up here. Gardner wanted to get through the Trump impeachment trial without becoming part of the story, but his painfully obvious attempts at ducking the subject have had the exact opposite effect.

Via The New York Times (1/28/20)

Gardner’s revelation today comes on the same day that David Leonhardt of The New York Times singled out Colorado’s Junior Senator for his invisibility:

Gardner has not expressed skepticism about the obvious lies Trump’s lawyers are telling. Gardner doesn’t seem concerned about Trump perverting foreign policy for his own personal interests. And Gardner has shown no interest in hearing all the relevant evidence by calling witnesses to testify…

…Gardner is making a bet. Even though many of his constituents — most, perhaps — believe that Trump has violated his oath of office, Gardner has evidently decided that he can safely ignore them.

In November, Colorado’s voters will get a chance to prove him wrong.

We’ve said for a long time that inaccessibility is the Gardner brand. The Yuma Republican appears to now understand that he made a huge marketing mistake.


Tuesday Open Thread

“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

–Winston Churchill


ICYMI: Hospitals Making Big Bucks at Your Expense

Hospital executives

We’ve noted at length in this space that creating a “public option” for health care in Colorado will be perhaps the biggest fight of the 2020 legislative session. Governor Jared Polis has made a “public option” a priority for his administration (check out this interview with Polis for more detail), and the health care industry is already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads and direct mail complaints in an effort to get ahead of the debate and sway public opinion.

The health care industry and “Big Hospital” (also known as the Colorado Hospital Association) have a tough task ahead of them; recent polling shows strong support for a “public option” in Colorado, and a new study released last week examines just how much Coloradans are getting gouged by the health care industry. As The Denver Post reported on Thursday:

Despite money from the state to make up for funding shortfalls and increases in Medicaid payment rates, hospitals — not the providers — are making billions in profits while forcing patients to pay more, according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

…The report argues that hospitals are facing less of a shortfall than they did a decade ago because fewer people are uninsured and the state has increased Medicaid reimbursement rates and created other mechanisms to fund shortfalls. Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said the state expected hospitals to stop shifting so much of their costs onto people with private insurance as their shortfall went down, but instead they’ve increased spending on executives and middle men.

The shiniest numbers in the state report show that hospital profits nearly tripled in the last decade, rising from an average of $538 per patient in 2009 to $1,518 in 2018. The Colorado Hospital Association responded to these figures with some carefully-ordered but generally meaningless words:

The hospital association said the profits the state cited don’t into account some of their costs, like taxes and the value of time spent training medical residents. It also attributed much of the increase in profitability to a strong economy and to improvements in vulnerable hospitals’ finances.

“(Profit) margin improvement is also due to hospitals working to control their costs as they work to address affordability and operate during a time of great uncertainty,” the statement said.

The health care industry doesn’t have a lot to say here in part because other studies have come to similar conclusions; a separate report from the Health Care Cost Institute showed prices for inpatient hospital services in Denver and Colorado Springs far outpacing nationwide increases.

If the Colorado Hospital Association plans to keep on yammering about “profit margin improvement” while regular Coloradans are discussing the fact that they can’t afford health care, the “public option” debate may be more one-sided than anyone could have predicted.


John Bolton: Cory Gardner’s (Latest) Moment of Truth

The tipping point?

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton (no relation we assume) reports on the latest bombshell to explode in the faces of Republican Senators hoping to put the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump to bed without witnesses or evidence which has emerged since the House passed the articles of impeachment last month:

The Senate was headed into the second week of the trial facing a pivotal vote on the subject, and it looked like Democrats would almost certainly not win the four GOP votes needed to subpoena new witnesses.

But that was before a report Sunday night in The New York Times.

The report, based on an unpublished manuscript by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, said Bolton in his forthcoming book claims the president tied $391 million in aid to Ukraine to his requests for that country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Democrats immediately pounced on the news, with the Democratic impeachment managers saying there was no excuse for GOP senators not to vote for witnesses.

Ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton’s frank disclosure that Trump deliberately and personally linked the release of aid to Ukraine with the investigation of Trump’s political opponents is consistent with the testimony of so many other witnesses during the House investigation. But to have the heart of the first article of impeachment against Trump validated by a former member of Trump’s Cabinet is, or at least would be at any other time in history, game-changing–the equivalent of the “smoking gun” Watergate tape that surfaced in early August of 1974 and sank Richard Nixon’s presidency in a matter of days.

Senate Republicans today are reportedly in chaos as they try to get a handle on this latest damning news. A press conference by a number of GOP Senators firmly in Trump’s camp was cancelled this morning, and we’re waiting for statements about Bolton to start trickling out. For Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, for whom every jot and tittle of this impeachment trial is a perilous choice of evils, what to do about Bolton is even more difficult a question. Gardner is one of a small group of GOP Senators singled out by Bolton’s political action committee for supporting a “a strong, clear, and dependable U.S. national security policy.” Back in 2014 when Gardner was running for his Senate seat, he welcomed Bolton’s endorsement with words that are now back to haunt him:

I’m excited that Ambassador Bolton has endorsed my campaign and appreciate his confidence in my message to Coloradans. We share a commitment to freedom and a desire to ensure America is respected throughout the world. As crises in the Middle East and Ukraine deepen, [Pols emphasis] we need strong leadership at home to prepare us for the further global challenges that lie ahead.

Well folks, it does appear that the crisis in Ukraine has deepened. And John Bolton is ready to talk.

How can Cory Gardner possibly vote to not allow him?


Crow Steals The Show; Trial of Cory Gardner’s Life Begins

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

This morning, impeachment manager Rep. Jason Crow of Aurora appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation, where he was questioned about whining complaints from supposedly “swing” Republican Senators–incensed over fellow manager Rep. Adam Schiff reading a CBS News report stating that GOP Senators were warned their heads would (metaphorically we hope) wind up “on a pike” if they voted against the President. Vox covered this latest round of faux outrage yesterday:

After lawmakers left the trial, several continued to voice their concerns. “I thought he was doing fine with moral courage until he got to the head on a pike. That’s where he lost me,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “Nothing like going through three days of frustration and then cap it off with an insult,” said Sen. James Lankford. “He has basically offended every Republican senator in there tonight,” added Sen. John Barrasso.

Even though Rep. Schiff said that he hoped the allegation in the CBS story was not true, apparently the mere suggestion that the Trump administration would have made such a statement–which of course would not have been at all out of character–was enough to make Republican Senators howl with indignation. But as Crow picks up the story on Face The Nation today, do hurt feelings matter more than Senator’s constitutional obligations?


“This isn’t about how people are feeling about this issue,” Crow told “Face the Nation.” “Everybody sitting in that chamber has taken an oath to be an impartial juror.” [Pols emphasis]

Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are considered critical votes in the debate over calling witnesses, have criticized impeachment managers Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler for portions of their presentations…

However, Crow said he didn’t believe the impeachment managers had “overplayed” their hand. While he “can’t read people’s minds,” he said he hoped Republicans would vote to call allow deliberations over witnesses.

“The president deserves a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair trial. And the senators who are going to have to make a really important decision here in the coming days need to have all the evidence and the full picture in front of them,” Crow said.

Over the last few days, House impeachment managers have rained historic fire on the Trump administration, making a compelling case that the President should be removed from office for manipulating foreign policy for domestic political benefit–and then obstructing Congress’ investigation into his actions. The GOP’s interim response has been that the presentation was “boring” old evidence they’ve already seen from the House proceedings–but after Sen. Cory Gardner and Senate Republicans voted repeatedly to block new evidence from being introduced that argument is ludicrous. There doesn’t even appear to be much desire to refute the facts of the case against Trump at this point, let alone justify the GOP’s contradictory position of complaining about “boring old evidence” while voting against considering new evidence.

The powerful indictment of Trump delivered by Schiff, Crow, and the rest of the impeachment managers last week isn’t going to be derailed by lame Republican complaints about a news report that few if anyone even find implausible. For Sen. Gardner, there’s just nothing to work with in this latest weak sauce of a defense, and that’s exactly what Rep. Crow drove home today on Face The Nation. If Gardner, who voted to exclude the new evidence Republicans disingenuously now complain isn’t being presented continues to stick to this untenably contradictory party line, he will pay dearly in November when Colorado voters render their own verdict.

At some level, we believe Gardner is aware of this. Gardner is seeing the same poll numbers that Democrats see. His actions in the coming week could tell an important story: whether Gardner still has the will to fight the most uphill U.S. Senate battle of 2020, or whether he is already resigned to the fate the polls forecast.


Steven Mnuchin: Why The Kids Hate Politics

SUNDAY UPDATE: A little awkward around the Mnuchin dinner table today, as Politico reports:

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s wife on Saturday appeared to publicly break with her husband over support for Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism.

“I stand with Greta on this issue. (I don’t have a degree in economics either),” actress Louise Linton wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post after Mnuchin chided the 17-year-old’s call for governments to end their support of fossil fuels at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying she should attend college and study economics…

“We need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels,” she wrote. “Keep up the fight @gretathunberg.”

Steven Mnuchin says “very helpful dear, thank you.”


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right).

ABC News reporting from Davos Switzerland, where U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is hard at work setting the Republican Party’s reputation with the kids back to the stone age:

As an executive producer of the last Mad Max movie, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin might have been interested in the apocalyptic climate warnings of Greta Thunberg.

Instead, he took a personal swipe at the 17-year-old, saying she was in no position to give advice on climate change because she hasn’t been to college yet…

“Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I’m confused,” he said. Then following a brief pause, he said it was “a joke.”

“After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us,” he concluded.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been driving white dudes over 5o like Steve Mnuchin to an unusual degree of distraction with her impertinence on the matter of human-caused climate change since coming on the scene in 2018 with a high school protest against climate change that went viral, responded with rightful impertinence:

Which makes sense, since climate science is properly the domain of climate scientists, not economists! In fact this telling mistake helps explain why the will to take action on the issue is nonexistent in the Trump administration. We need scientists informing environmental policy, and instead we have guys like Steve Mnuchin.

In short, Mnuchin just proved Greta Thunberg’s point.


Tipton, Gardner Celebrate “Dirty Water Act”

Ricardo Lopez Jr. of the Pueblo Chieftain reports:

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaces the Waters of the United States Act approved by the Obama administration in 2015.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis immediately denounced the move, calling it a plan “to gut federal clean water protections.”

The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters…

“In Colorado, we value our clean water. Our rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the lifeblood of our communities and help support our thriving outdoor and agriculture industries,” Polis said Thursday. “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb:

Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.

But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…

Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. [Pols emphasis] The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.

Although the new rule is intended to resolve “uncertainty” over the extent of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction, meaning continued special-interest grumbling and court challenges since the Obama administration passed the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, this rollback is particularly bad for arid Western states. The seasonality of precipitation and overall scarcity of water here compared to states east of the “20 inch isohyet” means many ephemeral waterways which most certainly can contribute to water pollution in “navigable” bodies of water covered by the Act will lose their federal protection.

It’s a classic case of choosing economic interests over environmental protection, and it works against both Rep. Scott Tipton’s and Sen. Cory Gardner’s claims to be different from other Republicans on conservation–or at least attuned to how these issues differ in the state they represent from other regions of the country. The only people this new rule should make happy are those who benefit financially from being able to pollute small bodies of water with impunity.

And it’s hard to imagine that being a majority of Colorado voters.


Another Painful Elevator Escape For Cory Gardner

CNN’s Manu Raju is the latest reporter in Washington to make a run at the nation’s most elusive U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner of Colorado–and in the few literal seconds they had together, Gardner actually revealed quite a bit about where he stands in the ongoing impeachment trial against President Donald Trump.

That is, with Trump:

The key thing to note here that Gardner is committing only to consider the testimony from “witnesses that we’ve heard from in the House”–not any of the damning new evidence that emerged since the House passed the articles of impeachment, and not even the testimony being freely offered by potentially explosive witnesses like ex-National Security Adviser and alleged friend of Cory John Bolton. For anyone trying to do the math to get Democrats to a majority needed to introduce new witnesses and evidence now or later in the trial, this is a strong signal that Gardner will not be breaking ranks with the President.

And it’s not surprising anyone in the know:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

At the same time, Gardner’s continuing refusal to take a concrete position even as he votes with the President is politically self-destructive in its own right. Although this time Gardner had the mercy of a closing elevator door, he’s already become a nationwide metaphor for the total inability of Republican Senators to conduct effective oversight of their own President–or even answer the most basic questions about the case against him.

Yesterday, GOP Senators were told bluntly: “vote against the President and your head will be on a pike.” For Cory Gardner, on trial for his future as much as Trump himself, the doublespeak that served him so well winning statewide office has run head-first into the reality of who he truly serves–and it is hurting him now worse than saying nothing at all.

It’s just too easy to read between the lines.