KOA’s Mike Rosen Endorses Terrorist Attack on Islamic Center in New York

(And so begins [or perhaps continues] Mike Rosen’s decline from respected talk show host–and Denver Post columnist–to mindless pandering shock jock desperately seeking to maintain a following. This is just sad, for a lot of reasons. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Can’t see the audio player? Click here.

On Wednesday night, I debated KHOW’s Peter Boyles and 850 KOA host/Denver Post columnist Mike Rosen in front of a sold out audience in Centennial. During a question about whether an Islamic Center should be allowed to be built in Lower Manhattan, Rosen said that if one is built, he supports terrorists blowing it up. You can listen to the full debate here, or the specific excerpt in question here. After both myself and Boyles said the Islamic Center should be allowed to be built, Rosen said:

“I think they should be allowed to build it, followed by the hijacking of an Iranian plane right into that building and blow it to smithereens.”

Remember, the same Mike Rosen now using his media platform to endorse a new terrorist attack on New York City, was the major voice leading the crusade pressuring University of Colorado to fire professor Ward Churchill. In the clip, you’ll first hear my voice, then Rosen, then conservative host Peter Boyles (who you can hear disagreeing with Rosen and agreeing with me).

If you listen to the whole debate, in addition to this exchange, you’ll also hear Rosen periodically make sexist and racist jokes.


GOP Validates Progressive Critique In Powerful New Ad Against Bennet

NOTE: We’ll be discussing this ad and taking your calls about it on AM760 Wednesday morning from 7am-10am. Tune in – and call in.

A few months ago, I appeared on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now to discuss the Colorado U.S. Senate race. During that appearance, I reiterated what I had been saying on AM760 in the weeks leading up to the Democratic primary: namely, that Democrats risked losing the Senate seat if Michael Bennet was their nominee because Republicans would be able to run a left-right campaign against him. Specifically, I said they would be able to use his shady Wall Street/Denver Public Schools deal to flank him on the populist left.

Now, in the final stretch of the campaign, they are doing just that in a new statewide television ad:

With Denver Public Schools both the biggest school district in Colorado and my own personal school district, I extensively reported on the original story behind these allegations. You can see examples of that coverage in the AM760 podcast archives, or here and here. In short, this is far more than a political campaign-season story – this is a story that quite literally threatens the education of my soon-to-be-born first son.

Which, of course, is why this Republican ad is so predictably powerful. Regardless of whether you are a hard-core Democrat or a partisan Republican, and regardless of the fact that this ad comes from an insipid 527 group, the substance in these charges is very important and has very serious real-world consequences outside the realm of soulless political junkies and the politics-as-sport crowd – a crowd which is, not surprisingly, disproportionately overrepresented on this site (for partisan Democratic denialists, see Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Gretchen Morgenson’s expose on the DPS/Wall Street deal here if somehow you don’t believe this is a hugely substantive issue. Or, see how even the Bennet-backing Denver Post’s editorial board acknowledged just how “risky” the deal was and how the Times’ report was a “compelling case” against it).*

Obviously, I am not excited at the prospect of Senator Ken Buck, nor am I advocating voters support Buck over Bennet. But I am saying that this was entirely predictable – and that this is exactly what the Democratic Party gets when it uses its top-down Beltway and Colorado Establishments to crush progressive primary challengers and ignore inconvenient truths about candidates’ problematic records.

Remember – that’s exactly what happened here in Colorado. The White House and the D.C. Democratic Establishment lined up for Bennet and against former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, despite Bennet’s shady record as DPS chief and despite his troubling ties to the financial interests who made big money off his DPS deal. That support was the whole difference in the primary, as Romanoff narrowly lost, despite being hugely outspent and outgunned by the national Democratic Party. Had the party stayed out, he likely would have prevailed – and Democrats would have a Senate nominee here who wouldn’t be susceptible to a devastating left-and-right attack on his record.

Certainly, any Democratic nominee would have been hit from the hard right on issues like taxes, spending and regulation. But because of Bennet’s record and his connections to the Wall Street faction of his party, he is now – clearly – wide open to being attacked from both his right and his left, thus allowing the Republicans to  portray themselves as the true economic populists.

That leaves progressives in Colorado mostly with bad news, but also with a sliver of good news.

First, the bad news: Because of Bennet’s record, Republicans will be able to pretend to be protect-the-little-guy populists when in reality they are anything but. Yes, the idea of Ken Buck as some sort of anti-Wall Street populist is laughable to those who are watching this race closely. But for a casually interested independent voter (ie. the majority of voters in this election), the image may seem perfectly credible in comparison to Bennet and his record.

Now, the tiny sliver of good news: When Republicans embrace a progressive-themed criticism of a Democratic politician – even if that criticism is entirely motivated out of opportunism and unprincipled hackery, it provides bipartisan credibility to the underlying questions being raised. To put it in Colorado 2010 election terms, when the national Republican Party says we should be worried about Michael Bennet’s DPS/Wall Street deal and about his too-close-connections to Wall Street, the Republican Party is effectively validating the overall progressive critique of DPS-like Wall Street schemes and politicians’ penchant for being too close to financial industry interests.

This, then, helps create political capital for progressive policy changes – for instance, perhaps for state legislation to ban municipalities and school districts from putting taxpayers into the hands of Wall Street’s predatory lenders. Or, perhaps for stronger campaign finance laws that prevent politicians from raising cash from the industries they do favors for.

Sure, you can call this pie-in-the-sky thinking. But I’m under no illusions – I’m not stupid enough to think Republicans are serious in their criticism of Wall Street. I am, however, far-sighted enough to see that the parameters of the public policy debate matter. When Republicans validate progressive themes, no matter what the GOP’s motivation, that helps legitimize those themes for the long haul.

That this may hurt the Democratic Senate nominee in Colorado was predictable. Maybe the “We Know Better Than Voters” Democratic Establishment both in Colorado and Washington, D.C. will take that under advisement in a future election.

* NOTE: Watch the comments section here – I predict there will be lots of carping, personal attacks on me, etc., but not one single factual refutation of anything stated in this post, or in the articles cited. Additionally, be on the lookout for head-in-the-sand Bennet sycophants (again, disproportionately overrepresented on this site) to insist that Buck is parroting attacks from Romanoff – the preposterous assumption, of course, being that Romanoff is somehow responsible for the DPS/Wall Street story, not Bennet’s actions and/or the New York Times Business Section. This assumption is more than silly – it posits that the Republican Party has no opposition research staff and therefore wouldn’t have found this story on its own. The assumption is also grotesquely anti-democratic – it suggests that Democratic primaries shouldn’t be an informed debate about candidates’ public records, and that negative parts of candidates’ public records should be withheld from primary voters for the sake of party unity.  


INVITE: Author of “Bad Sports” to Discuss CO Sports/Politics at the Mercury Cafe WEDNESDAY 9/15

This morning on AM760, we were joined in studio by The Nation’s esteemed sportswriter, Dave Zirin. We discussed Dave’s newest book, entitled “Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love” – a fascinating look at the intersection of public policy, politics and professional athletics. The interview previewed AM760’s event on Wednesday (9/15) at 7:30pm the Mercury Cafe at 2199 California St. here in Denver.

The event is free, and the Mercury Cafe has great food and drinks, so it’s going to be a good time all around. I hope folks can make it – it is sure to be a vigorous discussion from one of the most provocative national voices in the political and sports media today. The book includes an entire chapter on Colorado sports and some of the political issues Colorado sports has intersected with – so the event should have a really local flavor.

For more on Dave’s work, check his website at www.edgeofsports.com. Hope to see you there!


Hick: More Tax Cuts, No New Money for Education

(This is not so much a question about the election, where all conventional wisdom suggests this won’t hurt–as what comes after – promoted by Colorado Pols)

How can you tell the virulent anti-tax fervor still dominates American politics in genuinely a bipartisan way? Look no further than Colorado. In a state facing a historic budget deficit – a state that now ranks 40th out of 50 in its funding of education – we get this from the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer:

Hick: No new money for education

Education funding will remain tight, Democrat John Hickenlooper warned today as he unveiled his plans for education if he’s elected governor.

“We’re not going to throw money at the problem,” the Denver mayor said during a news conference at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton with running mate Joe Garcia, president of Colorado State University-Pueblo. “There is no appetite” among the public for new taxes, Hickenlooper said.

Remember, Hickenlooper is making this no-new-education-money stand at the same time he is now campaigning on an explicit promise to cut taxes (see this video starting at 1:19). Also remember that he effectively faces token opposition in his run for governor, thanks to the Republican vote being split by GOP nominee Dan Maes and Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo. So he is taking this stand in a political vacuum – that is, he’s saying this on his own with no real external political/electoral pressure.

Knowing that – knowing that this is an unvarnished, pure expression of principle rather than forced political calculation – only reiterates the fact that the anti-tax, anti-government ideology is alive and well in both parties, especially when you consider the abrasive “throwing money at the problem” language being employed.  

It would be one thing to use that kind of rhetoric in a state that was at the top of the heap in education funding. At least then a politician could claim that a state had already been spending lots on education. But to use that kind of language in a state near the bottom suggests – well, it shows that this is a matter of deep conviction at least for Hickenlooper, if not for the larger national conservative faction that still calls the shots in the Democratic Party.

As I’ve said before, it’s particularly sad to watch Hickenlooper engage in this kind of campaign, considering his previous admirable record of leveling with voters on tax and budget questions. This is a guy who deserves a lot of credit for going to Denver voters and requesting some pragmatic tax increases to preserve some basic public priorities. However, now that he’s running statewide and is surrounded by national Democratic Party hacks, he’s turned into a rather typical Republican-parroting conservadem on economics.

That might not be such a big idea if this was some kind of anomaly. But, as anyone who follows politics knows, Hickenlooper’s trajectory on economics is far more the rule than the exception in modern Democratic politics. And in representing that rule, Hickenlooper proves that the anti-tax, anti-government zeitgeist is still alive and well – even at a time of a historic budget crisis.  


How CO’s Gubernatorial Race Is (So Far) Depriving Voters of a Much-Needed Debate

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Other than perhaps drug policy reform and some civil liberties issues, I rarely agree with the Denver Post’s conservative/libertarian columnist Vince Carroll on policy issues. However, his recent piece on what voters should be able to expect from candidates is right-on. Indeed, it is a must-read jeremiad against the perils of uncontested elections and, ultimately, against the kind of red-versus-blue tribalism that increasingly strips substance out of our (allegedly) democratic process.

Using the recent campaign ad by Colorado gubernatorial frontrunner John Hickenlooper (D) as a jumping-off point, Carroll notes that the Denver Mayor’s spot isn’t saying we need a governor “to make tough but unavoidable cuts in government spending” – Hickenlooper is, instead trumpeting a broad ideological mantra against the very concept of government spending. Additionally, Hickenlooper has spent recent months criticizing Colorado Democrats’ energy and regulatory policies; opposing Democratic legislators’ efforts to end corporate welfare subsidies and raise revenues; and flip-flopping on the issue of global climate change.

Looking at Hickenlooper’s posture in sum, Carroll notes that this is part of the usual dance where “many politicians remake themselves depending on the mood of the times.” However, Carroll also notes that when that inevitably happens, democracy relies on candidates’ “opponents (to) offer a bracing reality check in response, reminding voters of certain, er, inconsistencies in the actual record.” And, as Carroll points out, that’s where the fundamental downside of Colorado’s current gubernatorial campaign – and uncontested elections in general – comes in.

Because Republicans have a scandal-plagued far-less-than-credible nominee and because the conservative vote is further split by Tom Tancredo’s immigration-obsessed third-party run, Hickenlooper’s rhetoric on basic tax and budget issues (ie. the most important issues for a governor) isn’t being scrutinized nearly as closely as it might be – and should be. That leaves voters with very little information about what the likely next governor will actually do in office.

This is where the potential lack of a real contested gubernatorial election in Colorado – and, really, lack of contested elections in many congressional races – deprives voters of a debate on issues, accountability, and the potential for a legislative election mandate. When primaries go uncontested, when gerrymandered districts allow for uncontested general elections and/or when one party puts up unelectable clowns (as is probably the case in Colorado on the Republican side of the gubernatorial race), the coronated candidate doesn’t have to actually explain himself – or even answer for his inconsistencies.

The way this dynamic will likely play out in Colorado illuminates the broader perils. Here we have arguably the biggest budget and revenue emergency in state history. Here we are in a state that has already become a national cautionary tale about the idea of relying on government spending cuts as a comprehensive and constructive public policy vision. And here we are, little more than 2 months from a gubernatorial election with the presumptive governor campaigning on a blanket “cut government spending” message – and (so far) not having to face a contested election where he has to answer questions about what specifically he proposes to cut (a query a credible GOP candidate would demand answers to), or whether a laser-like focus on such cuts (rather than, say, a focus on increasing revenue) is even appropriate for the times.

Democratic party officials and activists, of course, are thrilled that Republicans are in disarray and that Hickenlooper may walk to the governorship. So transfixed on the red-versus-blue sport of politics, all they are focused on is a win – regardless of what that win means. But rank-and-file voters shouldn’t be thrilled about this – not because Hickenlooper is less qualified than Maes or Tancredo (Hickenlooper is definitely WAY MORE qualified than them), but because the cakewalk election means it is difficult to subject his deliberately vague and ideologically misguided anti-government message to necessary electoral scrutiny.

When we wonder why our elected leaders seem to stand for nothing, or why we have trouble holding those leaders accountable, we can look to this kind of situation for answers.


Why Is Hick Pushing the GOP’s Destructive Anti-Government Message?

(Interesting counterpoint on Hick’s new ad – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper has released his first campaign ad, and beneath the terrific production value and smart branding lurks a very disturbing message. See if you can catch what I’m referring to:

That’s right, at 15 seconds in, Hickenlooper says, “Colorado needs a governor who brings people together to create jobs and cut government spending.” And this isn’t one of many policy in one of many ads – this is the only policy message in the campaign’s very first, agenda-setting ad. So it’s very deliberate and very important.

Remember, Colorado has for years been aggressively slashing its budget thanks to the recession and the pressures of the odious Taxpayer Bill of Rights (which, though temporarily suspended by Ref C, still made a major spending impact). Because of these huge cuts, we’ve seen draconian reductions in teachers, police forces, road maintenance and basic infrastructure. Thanks to Colorado Springs’ experience with all these awful cuts, our state has become the infamous national cautionary tale about what happens to a state whose political culture becomes obsessed with the idea that the best kind of politician is the one who most aggressively promises to “cut government spending” – regardless of the consequences.

Because Republicans are likely to split the vote in this three-way race featuring GOP nominee Dan Maes and third-party candidate Tom Tancredo, this gubernatorial race is all but a coronation for Hickenlooper, which means he could be using the free pass to do what Colorado Democrats in the recent past have been doing to great electoral and public policy success – namely, countering the right’s insidious “cut government spending” mantra with a more constructive vision. But instead, Hickenlooper’s ad, while certainly cute in its construction, is actually using the free pass to reiterate the Republicans’ central (and most legitimately dangerous) argument about what Colorado’s fundamental challenge really is.

What’s particularly bad about this is that we have some idea of what Hickenlooper thinks should and should not be cut from government spending. Though his ad doesn’t specify where he wants to cut, Hickenlooper recently opposed Democratic efforts to reduce corporate welfare subsidies here in Colorado.

So we know he’s not interested in cutting those subsidies, which, of course, then leaves programs for regular working people on the chopping block. We’re talking stuff like schools, and low-income assistance and police and firefighting. Indeed, it would be nice if a Colorado reporter would ask Hickenlooper exactly which government programs he believes need to be cut, and what areas he thinks Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration is overspending on (by the way, I’d be happy to be the journalist who asks Hickenlooper these questions, but since Hickenlooper caught his foot in his mouth on my radio show a few months ago, he has unfortunately refused our invitations to come back on the show, preferring a monthly appointment on Mike Rosen’s conservative forum on KOA). Considering the hard work done by progressive groups and Democratic legislators to oppose TABOR and other TABOR-like initiatives, it would also be nice if those groups and those legislators took public issue with Hickenlooper’s central “cut government spending” message.

No doubt, this ad will get lots of applause from Democratic politicos here in Colorado and in D.C. They will say it’s construction, slick choreography and humor are brilliant – just brilliant! And, as I said, it certainly is a nice piece of marketing. But in a state that is facing extreme crises because of the “cut government spending” mantra Hickenlooper echoes, this ad is part of the problem, not part of the solution, sycophants predictable protests to the contrary notwithstanding.

The worst part is, Hickenlooper didn’t have to make this the central message of his campaign (by the way, just as polls show congressional Democrats don’t have to make conservatives’ deficit reduction mantra the central message of the Democratic 2010 campaign). Again, this race is probably going to be a coronation, which means there’s no extreme pressure for him to simply parrot Republicans’ most destructive talking points. In fact, he could have decided to talk about his laudable courage in successfully advocating modest tax increases here in Denver in order to preserve government spending on key municipal priorities. Or, he could have followed the lead of another Western Democratic governor from the even redder state where I used to live – that is, he could have trumpeted innovative ideas to raise more revenue and therefore avoid more spending cuts.

Instead, he did the opposite. He doubled-down on a promise to generally “cut government spending” – as if government overspending (not spending on specific programs he identifies as wasteful, but spending as a general concept) is the number one problem in Colorado. In making the choice he made, in telling us that he thinks that this is the central problem facing our state, Hickenlooper is telling us exactly what kind of policies he will pursue as governor.  


Bennet Faces Legislative Probe Over Wall Street/DPS Deal

UPDATE: Colorado House Majority Leader Paul Weissman (D) will be on the show at 7:05am detailing how DPS lobbyists successfully killed legislation in the last session that would have opened up the DPS/Wall Street deal to public scrutiny.

After Friday’s explosive front-page New York Times expose on Sen. Michael Bennet’s tenure at the Denver Public Schools, the Democratic chairman of the Colorado state house’s Budget Committee, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, is moving to launch a formal bipartisan investigation into Bennet’s Wall Street/DPS deal, with an eye on how much DPS taxpayer money will now be handed over to Wall Street banks. Considering the audit may happen in the middle of the general election, the move just days before the Democratic Senate primary election seems to blow a hole in Bennet’s argument that he is the most “electable” general election candidate.

Ferrandino, a former Democratic budget analyst in the federal government, was quoted on my colleague Mario Solis-Marich’s AM760 show on Friday saying that he and Democratic House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann will be moving to open up a bipartisan audit of the deal:

“We are going to ask members of both parties and both chambers to do an audit of the investment because this has bigger implications than just DPS (Denver Public Schools), because of the recent merger of DPS and PERA (Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association, because if (the investment) was done wrong, this could have an impact not just on Denver, not just the kids in Denver, but the State as a whole.”

So one way or the other, all of the sordid details are going to come out – and likely in the middle of the stretch run of the campaign, providing Republicans with a huge cudgel against Bennet, should he win the Democratic nomination on Tuesday.

You can listen to Ferrandino’s statement here. We are hoping to talk to Ferrandino (a Romanoff supporter) about the potential probe on Monday’s morning show on AM760.

Also on the program, we will also be looking at how, according to the Denver Post, “Bennet’s campaign Friday released talking points that mirrored (DPS chief Tom) Boasberg’s” – and whether or not this means Boasberg (a Bennet donor and longtime ally) is effectively spending DPS taxpayer resources to aid Bennet’s political campaign research office. Boasberg, of course, has a personal stake in defending the deal, as he was named in the Times’ piece as one of the co-architects of the Wall Street/DPS deal with Bennet.

Tellingly, Boasberg’s DPS-written talking points were forwarded by the Bennet campaign (and promulgated almost verbatim on some websites) only after Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid took to Fox News to issue an expletive-laced attack on Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Gretchen Morgenson for publishing a front-page New York Times story about the DPS deal.

Tune in Monday from 7-10am at www.am760.net or on your radio dial.


Boasberg & DPS Board Brawl Over NYT/Bennet/Wall Street Story

Denver school board member Jeannie Kaplan and Cherry Creek News publisher Guerin Green debated DPS chief Tom Boasberg over the blockbuster NYT story reporting on Sen. Bennet’s time at DPS. It was a heated debate – listen to the podcast here. You’ll note that Boasberg (quite unbelievably) tries to label Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter Gretchen Morgensen a Romanoff stooge, and Boasberg refuses to answer whether he thinks it is appropriate for Bennet to have taken big campaign contributions from the banks that are profiting off the DPS deal. Listen in here. Then listen to Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff respond to the Times’ piece here (it starts about halfway in.

In a massive and well-researched story, the New York Times tonight dealt the potential death-blow to Sen. Michael Bennet’s already-struggling campaign for reelection. Just four days before the end of Colorado Democratic primary voting, the story by Pulitzer Prize-winner Gretchen Morgenson (complete with Bennet’s mug shot) details how in 2005 Bennet left his job as a corporate raider for right-wing billionaire Philip Anschutz, later became head of Denver Public Schools and in that position orchestrated a deal with JP Morgan – a deal that destroyed the Denver Public Schools’ balance sheet and made JP Morgan, Citigroup and Bank of America millions. Bennet’s senate campaign (no surprise) is a recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the financial industry, including PAC contributions from JP Morgan;  individual contributions from a Citigroup lobbyist and director; and an individual contribution from a Bank of America executive.

The story is truly ugly – and I say that as an expectant father who wants to send my new child to a DPS school. The Times reports that Bennet “persuaded the seven-person school board of the deal’s advantages,” and, as KDVR Fox 31 adds, this was a deal that “was only good for big banks, which have been contributors to Bennet’s campaign.” Here are the sordid details:

Since it struck the deal, the school system has paid $115 million in interest and other fees (to JPMorgan), at least $25 million more than it originally anticipated…to unwind it all, the schools would have to pay the banks $81 million in termination fees, or about 19 percent of its $420 million payroll…

(Bennet and DPS chief Boasberg) say that it has saved the school district $20 million it would have otherwise had to pay to cover the pension shortfall…But the savings cited by the two men do not take into account termination fees associated with the complex deal. And had the school district issued fixed-rate debt, Wall Street would not have received the cornucopia of fees embedded in the more complex deal

From the campaign trail in mid-July, Mr. Bennet reiterated his support of the deal…

In an earlier piece about this, the Cherry Creek News* sums it up:

DPS worked with JP Morgan and Citigroup on fixed-rate bonds, then worked with Morgan and others on a “swap,” betting taxpayer money that interest rates would stay high. Placing the bet earned the banks millions in fees, and when interest rates sunk to historically low levels, the bankers made more money and Denver taxpayers and schoolchildren lost. In essence, Bennet bet taxpayer money on the direction of interest rates against big Wall Street banks, and lost.

Denver taxpayers lost, but big Wall Street banks won huge, to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars.

All of this is genuinely stunning – and politically devastating. You have huge losses for the school system that Bennet claims is his shining management achievement that makes him qualified to be senator. You have quotes from experts saying the deal would have been “highly unusual among private sector issuers like corporations” and yet, Bennet led the charge for it at the urging of JPMorgan and Citigroup, his future campaign contributors. And maybe worst of all, you have Bennet still refusing to admit any error or wrongdoing, insisting despite a huge transfer of taxpayer cash to his Wall Street donors that this deal was nonetheless just great for taxpayers.

The issue boils down to this: Either Bennet was embarrassingly incompetent in sending Denver taxpayers and schoolchildren into the jaws of Wall Street’s predatory lenders. If that’s the story, it destroys his argument that his positive “real-world experience” will make him an effective legislator. Or, Bennet was blatantly corrupt, using his position as DPS chief to help pad the profits of his corporate friends at the time – and his future Senate campaign contributors.

Either way, this makes the ads of Bennet’s opponent, Andrew Romanoff, look like they hit devastatingly close to home. For months, Romanoff has been focusing attention on how Bennet’s huge corporate campaign contributions influence Bennet’s votes, and how Bennet’s time as a corporate raider raise the ultimate question about Bennet: Which side are you on? After this New York Times blockbuster, it sure doesn’t look like Bennet has a good answer to that query.

Well, at least not good if you are a Denver taxpayer, a Denver schoolchild and/or a Colorado Senate primary voter.

* By the way, HUGE kudos to the Cherry Creek News in its political reporting on this race. This is the second investigative story the paper has been ahead of in the campaign (the first one is here).  


Join Me for Colorado Low Impact Week – 8/16-8/20

Recently on AM760, I interviewed author Colin Beavan about his fantastic book and movie “No Impact Man.” Inspired by the discussion, we’ve decided at AM760 to organize and launch a Low Impact Week – and I’m asking you to join me by signing up here. It’s free and it should be a helluva lot of fun – and here’s the thing: You don’t have to be a liberal or a conservative to know this is important.

From August 16th-20th, we’re asking listeners to join me in a one-week challenge to reduce our carbon emissions and have less of an impact on our environment in general. No, you don’t have to build a hut in the woods and wear a loincloth. We’ve broken it down it down to 5 simple things we can do without.  Each day of the week we’ll add one more thing to try and stick with it for the remainder of the week:

Day 1: Eat no meat.

Day 2: Eat one locally grown meal per day.

Day 3: Use no paper (other than toilet paper!).

Day 4: Produce no non-recyclable trash.

Day 5: Do not drive in a fossil-fuel burning automobile with less than 3 people in it.

Each of these steps significantly reduces an individual’s carbon emissions and overall environmental footprint. If you are willing to take the challenge with me – and I hope you are – then sign up here. You don’t have to be a resident of Colorado to participate – we want as many people as possible across the country joining us.

We’re going to list all the names of those who are taking the pledge, and any recommendations you have for how to lessen our impact. Rest assured, we’ll be using the honor system because the point here is not perfection, but the willingness to join me in trying to take each of these steps to the best of your own ability. If you can only take a few of these steps, that’s totally fine. If you can take all of them, that’s great, too. Again, the website for Low Impact Week is here – and you’ll see we are starting to list companies that provide eco-friendly products and services to help us maximize the week.

The point of doing this is to lessen our environmental foot print for a week, but to also raise our consciousness on how much we all currently waste in our own lives. We’re hoping to get as many people signed up as possible – so please forward this post to all your friends and family.

During the each day of the Low Impact Week, we’re going to devote time on AM760’s morning show to talk to nationally acclaimed experts on ways to make lowering our individual environmental impacts easy and fun. We’ll also examine why each of these steps have such a powerful positive environmental effect. And, of course, we will take your calls telling us how you are doing with the challenge, and sharing with us your own eco-friendly tips.  

We here at the AM760 morning show work really hard to make our program not a one-way broadcast medium – but a participatory experience. So again, I hope you’ll join me in this challenge by signing up for Low Impact Week and then tuning in to the show at www.am760.net or on AM760 on your radio dial.


Perlmutter: Questions About Connection Between Bennet’s PAC Money & Votes Are Fair

On the AM760 morning show today, I interviewed Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter about the state of Colorado politics. In our discussion about the Senate Democratic primary, I asked Perlmutter whether he believed the questions about the connection between Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D) massive corporate PAC fundraising and Sen. Bennet’s votes on key issues were legitimate and fair. Perlmutter, who had previously endorsed Bennet, twice said he believed such questions were entirely fair. You can listen to the interview here (the relevant section starts at about 36:30 in).

This is a pretty interesting statement from Perlmutter, considering he is one of the biggest Colorado Democratic Party powerbrokers to have previously endorsed Bennet, and considering that the Bennet campaign has said such questions about money and votes are not acceptable and/or are overly “negative.” Indeed, Bennet has bridled at questions about whether the Wall Street money he has taken had anything to do with his vote-switching on credit card reform and vote against cramdown, and whether the oil/gas money he has taken had anything to do with him being one of the handful of Democrats to vote against eliminating massive tax breaks to the oil and gas industry.

If even Sen. Bennet’s key Democratic Party surrogates and supporters say such questions are entirely fair, how can he argue that they are somehow off limits?


Ritter to NBA Fans: You Can Wear Melo’s New Team Jersey In CO, Even If Melo Leaves Denver

On AM760 this morning, we discussed whether police should have forcibly ejected a man from a Cleveland Indians game last night for wearing Lebron James’ new Miami Heat jersey. The move was deliberately provocative and this guy was certainly a jerk. But the use of public resources – in this case, municipal police officers – to remove the man for simply wearing an article of clothing seemed to me like a blatant trampling of the man’s First Amendment rights (take AM760’s online poll here to vote on whether you think it was appropriate to eject him).

After all, the First Amendment and the case law around it is damn clear: you have an absolute constitutional right to express ideas that others may not like, the government (in this case, the police) are constitutionally prohibited from stopping you from exercising that right, and anyone who physically assaults you for your lawful speech is the criminal wrongdoer – not you for simply exercising your rights (and if you disagree with this basic statement of fact, you oughta read the U.S. Constitution and ponder just how genuinely anti-constitution or, dare I say un-American, your thought process really is).

During the show, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter joined us for an interview and I asked him his opinion on the whole matter, which prompted him to deliver an impassioned defense of the First Amendment. Ritter, a lawyer and former prosecutor, said (and I agreed) that Americans not only have the right to wear expressive clothing (as long as they fall within basic obscenity laws), but also to expect that fellow Americans will not physically harm them for doing so, and to further expect that police will not deter their speech.

So I pressed Ritter on his answer, asking him about Denver Nuggets’ star Carmelo Anthony. If Melo leaves Colorado for another team, does Ritter believe people should be able to wear Melo’s new team jersey to Colorado sporting events without fear of police ejecting them?

Listen to the audio of Ritter’s response here* – and I’ll give you a hint: I agree with Ritter, and if Melo leaves, I may be wearing his new jersey at a Nuggets game in the near future, if only to exercise my constitutional rights.

* Note: Ritter does not in any way endorse someone wearing Melo’s new team jersey – he’s not hoping someone does. He is simply commenting on whether or not they have a right to.


Defining Extremism: CO GOP Opposes Federal Fracking Regs REGARDLESS of Whether EPA Finds Poisoning

(Eh, what’s a little poison among friends, right? – promoted by Colorado Pols)

NOTE: We will be discussing this story on the AM760 morning show on Thursday. Tune in from 7-10am on your radio dial or on the web at www.am760.net.

As natural gas exploration expands throughout our energy starved nation – from the West and now into the South and Northeast – many folks living in drilling country are rightfully expressing concern that their groundwater may be susceptible to pollution from the fracking fluids that are central to drilling operations. These are very legitimate fears, as HBO’s critically acclaimed documentary “Gasland” so graphically shows. And yet, to date, the Republican Party has expressed a rather callous “drill first, never ask questions later” attitude – callous, even for the GOP.

During the Bush years, Republicans managed to legislate an exemption for fracking fluid into the Clean Water Act. Then, Republicans in Congress blocked the proposed FRAC Act, which wouldn’t even ban fracking fluid – it would simply require drilling companies to disclose what’s in the fluids they are pumping into the earth near critical groundwater supplies. And now, in perhaps the most extreme step yet, Republicans here in Colorado (a state with one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the world) are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency never regulate fracking, regardless of whether or not the agency discovers that fracking is poisoning people.

As the Colorado Independent reports, you just can’t make this up:

Eighteen Republican members of the Colorado State Legislature Monday sent a letter (pdf) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding the federal agency refrain from regulating the natural gas drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” no matter what a two-year EPA study of the process reveals.

In a coincidence that highlights just how extreme the GOP position is, notice that the GOP letter was sent two days after this disturbing dispatch from the Grand Junction Sentinel:

Energy giant agrees to pay record fine

By Dennis Webb

Friday, July 23, 2010

Williams has agreed to pay a record $423,300 fine to resolve a state investigation into a spring-contamination case in which a De Beque man drank benzene-tainted water…

The fine would be the highest ever imposed by the commission for a single incident. The current record is a $390,000 fine handed down by the commission in April against Oxy USA for another case of spring contamination, also northwest of Parachute.

State regulators should be applauded for this catch, but with state budgets so strapped across the country, they clearly should not be the only regulators on the job. Do we really need more Civil Action-like tragedies to teach us that?

According to Republicans who know about the issue (which, incredibly, does not include one proudly ignorant leading Senate candidate), we do. And that cavalier attitude is both immoral and politically dangerous for the GOP. Though the national media has tended to portray debates over drilling as “liberal environmentalists” versus “pro-business conservatives,” the fact is that these issues can cut in very unpredictable ways. As I reported back in 2008 for the New York Times magazine, someone living in drilling company may like the energy industry and be a cultural conservative – but that person probably doesn’t like the thought of being able to light their tap water on fire, and might not want to vote for politicians who do.


Markey vs. Gardner: The Problem with Selective Outrage

NOTE: We will be discussing this story with the editor of the Ft. Collins Coloradoan on the AM760 morning show on Monday. Tune in from 7-10am on your radio dial or on the web at www.am760.net.

Colorado Republican candidate Cory Gardner has taken his share of well-deserved local and national media flack from progressives (including from me on my radio show) for holding a fundraiser with energy lobbyists. He undoubtedly deserves the criticism he’s received (and on a personal note, just remember that I’ve said repeatedly on the radio that I hope he loses in 2010 in part because he’d be a far worse vote on energy issues than his Democratic opponent). However, the problem with outrage at corruption is when it is applied selectively.

Here’s what I mean: It’s perfectly fine – even admirable – to criticize Gardner for sucking up to energy interests, as long as the same voices expressing outrage at him express outrage at his Democratic opponent, Rep. Betsy Markey, for engaging in something very similar earlier in the same week. Note this report from the Ft. Collins Coloradoan:

Betsy Markey’s re-election campaign will get a boost from one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, a former party official now working as an energy industry lobbyist.

Brian Wolff, a former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who’s currently senior vice president of external affairs for the Edison Electric Institute, volunteered to help Markey raise money and develop re-election strategy…

Wolff helped organize a meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this month in which a number of the party’s top fundraisers – many of them lobbyists – agreed to help 16 of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents, according to an article in Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Capitol Hill.

Although lobbyists have long been major donors to political campaigns, Roll Call quoted unnamed participants in the meeting as saying this level of involvement in congressional campaigns was new.

While the Markey story was reported in one local paper, it didn’t generate nearly as much residual huffing and puffing from other media or the blogosphere as the Gardner story did. And in that disparity, there’s a larger lesson, especially because this kind of selective outrage is so common.

Anger at lawmakers for their all-too-close ties to the industries they regulate is justified in this age of corruption. But pretending that corruption is the disease of only one party is to try to suck the last shreds of honesty out of our already debased political debate. That undeniable truth may offend partisans (for example, I bet you’ll see Democratic activists whining and moaning about this post, somehow insisting energy lobbyists’ cash given to both parties only ends up influencing Republican recipients but not Democratic recipients) – but, alas, it is the undeniable truth.

Yes, be angry at corruption – but at least be honest about it and apply your outrage equally across the political spectrum when it is warranted. Otherwise, you are just adding to the destructive substance-free noise that has turned our politics into a red-versus-blue tribal war of attrition – one that ignores the real underlying problems.


Hick’s Flip-Flop Underscores a Big Credibility Gap

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

NOTE: We will be discussing this story on the AM760 morning show from 7-10am on Friday. Tune in on your radio dial or on the web at www.am760.net.

This week’s back-and-forth over whether or not gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper (D) yet again insulted the environmental movement is certainly interesting – but let’s make sure it doesn’t hide the blatant credibility-destroying flip-flop that the candidate’s statement this week represents. It is a flip flop that even Hickenlooper’s artful campaign spin doctors cannot easily explain away.

Hickenlooper clearly endorsed an effort to “tweak” the 2007 oil and gas regulations because he said he felt some of them are “onerous.” That is, he endorsed reopening the rules and revising them – more specifically, weakening them. Sure, that’s not as extreme as Scott McInnis’ call to all but repeal them, but it is a clear call to revisit the rules and change them – and that is a huge reversal of his previous position from less than a month ago.

I present to you the Colorado Independent dispatch from May 25, 2010:

He doesn’t want to open up the rules process again, obviously, and he agrees with where it ended up; he just has a critique of the tenor,” Hickenlooper spokesman George Merritt said, adding the process that began in 2007 was needlessly contentious and didn’t fully provide industry officials with a seat at the table.

The fact that this hideous contradiction simply hasn’t been reported by any major Colorado media outlet is a sad commentary on the state of local political reporting. We’re talking about a major flip flop here on one of the most important issues in our state.

That said, those who follow these issues closely probably noticed the reversal. And considering that, it’s no wonder that Hickenlooper is increasingly seen by many environmental voters as A) more interested in appeasing oil and gas interests than in protecting the environment B) having zero credibility and/or genuine conviction.

No matter where you come down on the particular issue of energy regulation, it should be self-evidently clear that flip flopping poses a very serious political problem for Hickenlooper. Over and over again, voters have shown they will support candidates who seem to have core principles over candidates who are trying to be all things to all people. Hickenlooper a month ago saying he was opposed to renegotiating the rules because he “obviously” agreed with them and then a month later telling oil and gas executives he wants to renegotiate/weaken the rules makes him look like a typical thumb-in-the-wind hack.

The policy problem, of course, is just as disturbing, IMHO (and anti-environment “drill baby drill!” voices will, of course, disagree with me here). At a time when some Coloradoans in energy country can light their tap water on fire and when a neighboring state just saw one of its rivers destroyed by an oil spill, watching Democratic and Republican standard-bearers in Colorado both pledge to weaken basic drilling regulation is frightening.


CO GOP Leader: Foreclosure Victims “Want a Homeless Life”

(At the rate Colorado Springs is going, the “homeless” will be closer to the majority. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

NOTE: We will be discussing this story on the AM760 morning show from 7-10am on Monday. Tune in on your radio dial or on the web at www.am760.net.

After their anti-tax zealotry left their city in the budgetary lurch, Colorado Springs Republicans have slashed their community’s social services to the bone. We’re talking big cuts to police, firefighters, park maintenance, public transportation – even turning off the city’s streetlights (except, of course, in the wealthy areas!).

If this wasn’t bad enough, the city council this week doubled down on its conservative extremism, officially opposing a congressional jobs bill that would provide roughly $43 million to the city in much-needed aid. Their rationale? They don’t want to add to the federal deficit – a seemingly principled position, until you realize the same city council has had nothing to say about a far bigger deficit culprit: the profligate defense spending that underwrites about a third of Colorado Springs.

You see, for both Springs’ Republicans and the Republican Party nationally, federal deficit spending on huge defense contractors as AOK. But deficit spending on jobs for the unemployed or basic safety-net services for the very poor in a city that has experienced a big jump in homelessness? Well, Republicans are against that because, according to the Springs’ Republican mayor, Lionel Rivera, poor people want to be poor.

That last part sounds like I’m extrapolating the mayor’s comments, but unfortunately it’s exactly what he said. Check this out from the Denver Post’s Susan Greene today, quoting The Springs’ mayor:

Thumbing his nose at federal assistance seems to abdicate his responsibilities to the Judd Hesses of his community and others who are down and out, living in tent colonies, arguably not because they want to.

“Some people want a homeless life,” counters (Mayor) Rivera, a financial adviser. “Some people, they really do.”

So there you have it: According to the conservative leader of one of the most conservative cities in America, those thrown out of their homes in this Great Recession actually want to be homeless, so we shouldn’t spend money or – gasp! – dare to raise taxes on the super-rich to generate revenue for programs to help the homeless get back on their feet.

I’d say that’s about as frank an admission about the Republican Party’s callous attitude these days as any. Give the Springs’ conservative leadership credit – at least their honest in their heartlessness and their extremism.  


NEW: McInnis Endorsed Profiling Solely On Basis of Ethnicity, Religion, Age and Gender

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

NOTE: We will be discussing this new story on the AM760 morning show from 7-10am on Friday. McInnis today formally declined to appear on the morning show to discuss these issues, but he will continue to have an open invitation to appear.

In his once-obscure and now-famous U.S. House floor speech in 2001, Scott McInnis talked a lot about his belief that police should be in the business of “threat profiling,” using “ethnic background” as a key measure of “threat.” McInnis seemed to suggest that ethnicity should be one of many metrics police should use to profile – the implication being that profiling is not bigoted if ethnicity/race is only one of many metrics.

This is a pretty obvious sleight of hand – he’s trying to leave himself a way to pretend he’s not a racist by vaguely implying that he only believes in profiling that couples other significant non-ascribed characteristics (like, say, criminal behavior) with ascribed characteristics.* Except, he doesn’t really believe that. How do we know? Because he said so quite explicitly.

Check out McInnis’ statement from his October 31, 2001 interview with CNN:

“We all use profiling…I mean, not using it right now is simply a diversion to our safety. And our safety has got to come first…for example, these hijackers, we knew that they were all in a certain age group. We knew that they were all male. We knew that they were all Arab. We knew that they were of the Islamic faith. When you put all of those factors together, you are darn right you better pull those people aside and start asking some questions.”

So there’s the key point: By this standard, McInnis believes police “darn right better pull people aside and start asking questions” based not on people’s observed criminal behavior, but solely on their age, gender, ethnicity and religion.**

To understand how this directly relates to McInnis’ pivotal role in today’s national immigration debate and how it shows what McInnis is really supporting, replace a few key words from McInnis’ 2001 quote with the typical (and abhorrent) conservative language around immigration today:

“We all use profiling…I mean, not using it right now is simply a diversion to our safety. And our safety has got to come first…for example, these illegals, we knew that they were all in a certain age group. We knew that they were all male. We knew that they were all Latino. We knew that they were of the Catholic faith. When you put all of those factors together, you are darn right you better pull those people aside and start asking some questions.”

Sadly, that hypothetical quote isn’t a stretch – considering McInnis’ endorsement of the Arizona law, it’s the logical analogue of his views on profiling as it relates to the issue of immigration and anti-Latino racial profiling today. It really couldn’t be clearer: Scott McInnis believes that police “darn right better pull people aside and start asking questions” of people based solely on an individual’s age, gender, ethnicity and religion.

Put this together with his endorsement of Arizona’s law which encourages this very kind of profiling, and we can be confident that’s the kind of profiling he’d aim to empower police to do here in Colorado if elected governor. And based on his very detailed comments in 2001, it’s clear that his so-called “threat profile” would target Latinos.

* NOTE: I don’t personally buy this logic in the same way I don’t believe someone can be half pregnant. Racial/ethnic profiling is racial/ethnic profiling regardless of what other information that profiling is coupled with.

** As if you need more proof that McInnis’ standards are racially/ethnically motivated, remember that we didn’t hear McInnis call for young, white Christian men to be “pulled aside and questioned” after the Oklahoma City bombing. After all, that might have meant McInnis himself would have been detained.


VIDEO: In 2001, McInnis Endorsed Racial Profiling in Immigration

(And it just keeps getting worse for McInnis… – promoted by Colorado Pols)

FYI – I dug up this speech and video after McInnis’s announcement this morning on the Arizona law triggered some deep memory from when I was working on Capitol Hill. I remembered him giving a speech on racial profiling, and after a bit of research, came up with it – and wow, is it even more explicit than I remembered. We will be reviewing this newly unearthed speech and discussing the political fallout of it and McInnis’s statement on the Arizona law tomorrow (Thursday) on the morning show on AM760. Tune in. – D

As a follow up to the news this morning that GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis wants to implement an Arizona-style racial profiling law in Colorado, I want to point out that McInnis in 2001 already went on record explicitly supporting overt racial profiling. Though this has (somehow) not been widely reported, on November 7, 2001, McInnis gave an impassioned floor speech explicitly endorsing the use of racial profiling on immigration matters – or, what he euphemistically terms “threat profiling.” You can watch the video of that speech here. Here are some key excerpts:

The first matter I would like to discuss at some length would be profiling and the need for profiling for the national security of this country

I have seen, and I have been very disappointed and discouraged recently, about some people playing what I would call the race card against profiling. We have to talk in a very serious tone and with thoughts of the consequences of doing things and not doing things, about tools of enforcement that we can utilize within  the borders of our country and outside the borders of our country and for the people that want to cross the borders of our country and for the people that want to leave the borders of our country, tools that we can use to help secure the national security. One of those tools is profiling

So how do we build a profile? What kind of profile am I talking about? I think, for example, ethnic background is a legitimate component of it…I call (it) “threat profiling.” That is what I am advocating here, threat profiling…

What I am saying here is, for God’s sakes, if we allow profiling for marketing purposes, if we allow profiling out there in our schools, if we allow profiling in every step of our lives, why do we not or why are we resistant at all to profiling to protect the national security of the United States of America?…

All I am saying is it is a huge mistake, a huge mistake for us to allow political pressure by a very select number of people to give any kind of commitment that we will not allow ethnic background to be considered as a component of a threat


Once we begin to use ethnic profiling as a component, one of several components to build a profile, I think it is very legitimate. I think it is smart. Obviously, it is constitutionally protected…

So I urge that my colleagues take into consideration and run away from the politically correct theory out there, and to take into consideration just how much we depend on threat profiling for the protection of our society.

More after the jump.

You can read the whole speech here. So while it’s stunning to hear McInnis so forcefully endorse Arizona’s racial profiling law today, and while its shocking to hear him say he wants to implement a similar law here in Colorado, it’s consistent with his legislative history. McInnis has long been an ardent supporter of racial profiling – though he tries to make a semantic distinction between racial profiling and “threat profiling,” he was adamant that we must profile people on the basis of race and ethnicity. The record on that is very clear – just listen to him say it over and over again in this speech.

We’ll be playing clips of McInnis’s 2001 speech on AM760 tomorrow and discussing the political ramifications of McInnis’s new declaration about the Arizona law tomorrow (Thursday) on AM760. Tune in from 7-10am on your radio dial or on the web at www.am760.net.


AUDIO – McInnis On AZ Immigration Law: “I’d Do Something Very Similar” In CO If Elected Governor

As discussed on the AM760 morning show, Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis just declared his support for Arizona’s controversial immigration/racial profiling law, saying that “I would do something very similar” in Colorado if elected governor in 2010. We clipped the audio excerpt from his interview with Peter Boyles this morning. You can find that audio here.

We’ll be discussing the political ramifications of McInnis’s announcement on the show tomorrow (Thursday) and we will update folks on how many other states may be implementing this odious law in the future. Tune in from 7-10am every weekday on your radio dial or online at www.am760.net.


Senate Bill Going Back to the House – Can We Now Get a Public Option Vote?

Let’s take Sen. Michael Bennet and some Colorado progressive groups at their word when they say the only reason they have previously opposed offering a public-option amendment to the Senate reconciliation bill is because if it passes, the bill would then have to be sent back to the House. They say that having to send it back to the House would “complicate” matters (which doesn’t make much sense to me, considering the House is controlled by Democrats, and the House has already passed the public option…but I digress).

So fine – let’s just for a moment take Bennet at his word that he’s not trying to defend the insurance industry and take some Colorado progressive groups at their word that they aren’t simply bowing down to their Democratic bosses and their Big Donors.

OK – so what about now?

Byrd Rule To Send Senate Health Care Bill Back To House

Senate Republicans succeeded early Thursday morning in finding two flaws in the House-passed health care reconciliation package…the upshot is that Republicans will succeed in at least slightly altering the legislation, which means that the House is once again required to vote on it.

The ruling might give Democrats another option — the public one.

Democratic leadership no longer has to worry that additional amendments would send it back to the House, since it must return to the lower chamber regardless. The Senate is now free to put to the test that much-debated question of whether 50 votes exist for a public option. Democrats could also elect to expand Medicare or Medicaid, now that they only need 50 votes in the Senate and the approval of the House.

The question then becomes whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could pass the reconciliation changes with a public option. She has long maintained that the House has the votes to do so. Indeed, it did so in late 2009…

The Huffington Post interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Wednesday evening and asked if he thought he could have gotten the public option back through a second time, when the House voted on Sunday, even without those members who had left. “Yes, sir,” he said emphatically. Clyburn added that the problem for the public option has never been in the House. The problem has been in the Senate. And now the upper chamber has a chance to vote on it. (emphasis added)

So the bill is going back to the House anyway, the Senate still has time to amend the bill with a public option, and the top House Democratic leaders are on the record saying they could pass the public option. Additionally, the New York Times notes that “the parliamentary process playing out on the Senate floor gives (Democrats) a rare chance to enact (the public option) with a simple majority, a chance unlikely to come around again soon.” (this latter point is a key one for the “let’s wait for a standalone bill later” crowd – I’ll repeat what the Times reports: the specific chance we have right now is “a chance unlikely to come around again soon.”)

So I ask what we asked yesterday at our rally at Sen. Bennet’s office: Will our senator now fulfill his promise to push a public option using reconciliation?

Or are we going to get yet another ridiculous excuse?


Earth to Sen. Bennet: You Now Have Absolutely No Reason to Not Offer the Public Option Amendment

(Two viewpoints: this is one, click here for the other – promoted by Colorado Pols)

NOTE: Tomorrow (Wednesday, 3/24) at 11am, I will be delivering a petition signed by at least 35,000 Americans in just four days asking Senator Bennet to follow through on his promise and introduce a public option amendment. I am asking as many people in the Denver metro area to be there with me at Bennet’s office at 2300 15th Street in Denver. I hope to see you there.

Facing an increasingly difficult Democratic primary challenge, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has spent the last many weeks trumpeting himself as the Senate’s main champion of the public option, issuing a letter demanding a reconciliation vote on the public option. For this, he has – deservedly – received a lot of laudatory press coverage, including from me on my AM760 radio show and in my syndicated newspaper column. For his efforts, he garnered praise from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and positive stories like this one in the Denver Post in February:

Sen. Bennet pushing reconciliation vote; public option

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is pressing colleagues to use a procedural tool known as reconciliation to pass stalled health reform legislation – and to include the controversial public insurance option in the bill.

This week, Senator Bennet will have the opportunity to offer the public option amendment in the 51-vote reconciliation environment – that is, the environment in which it has the best chance to pass. However, Sen. Bennet’s staff is now saying that Bennet will not, in fact, offer the public option amendment.

Yesterday, Politico reported that his campaign manager suggested Bennet would not offer the amendment because “we’re not going (to) kill the bill to make a point.” Today in the Denver Post, his Senate spokeswoman “that trying to fix the bill at this point is too risky” and that offering the public option amendment would “recklessly sacrifice this bill while tens of thousands of Coloradans are losing their health insurance and seniors are facing critical decisions about their medication.”

These are tough-sounding words – except there’s just one problem: I just received a fundraising letter from Sen. Michael Bennet following President Obama’s signing of the health care bill – a letter that that accurately notes that “Health Care is Law.” This letter says:

The passage of this bill is one of the biggest legislative accomplishments in generations. It will have a massive impact on millions of lives and will pave the way for future, better, reform. We should savor this victory, even if there are parts of the bill that are far from perfect.

In fact, the most disappointing part of this bill for me is something that isn’t in it — a public option. With this first hurdle now behind us, I will continue to push for new legislation, such as a public option, that improves our health care system.

So let’s get this straight: The major portion of health care reform has indeed passed – I repeat: THE MAJOR PORTION OF HEALTH CARE REFORM HAS INDEED PASSED, AS EVIDENCED BY THE BIG SIGNING CEREMONY TODAY; Sen. Bennet is celebrating it’s passage; he is stating that “the most disappointing part of this bill” is that it doesn’t include a public option and he promises that he “will continue to push for a public option.” And yet, even as he promises to “continue to push” for a public option, he is refusing to offer a public option amendment right now when it has the best chance of passing (ie. only needing 51 votes, rather than 60 later), somehow claiming that offering a public option amendment to a separate reconciliation “fix” bill would kill a bill that he acknowledges has already passed.

My guess is Bennet is following the Democratic leadership’s orders not to offer any amendments – as the leadership is trying to prevent the separate reconciliation bill from having to be voted on again in the House (even though the House, of course, has already proven it has the votes for a public option when it passed one months ago). But, then, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is now predicting that some Republican amendments may pass and therefore be added to the separate Senate reconciliation bill, meaning that bill will likely be forced to go back to the House anyway. In other words, even the process rationale for Bennet not to offer the amendment – “we don’t want to have to send it back to the House” – is likely out the window because the bill will be sent back to the House anyway

So what is really going on here? Increasingly, it looks like Bennet is trying to trick Colorado Democratic primary voters and appease the insurance industry at the same time. To voters, he wants to look like he’s a champion of the public option. But in order to prevent offending the insurance industry, he is refusing to even offer the public option legislation when it has the best chance of passing – that is, in the 51-vote reconciliation environment. Instead, he says he’ll “continue to push it” later – of course, later is when it will need 60 votes which both he and the insurance industry knows will be all but impossible to achieve.

The real question is whether or not Colorado voters will be fooled? It’s hard to say. But if he really doesn’t offer the amendment, it is a blatant admission by Bennet that the fix was in from the get go – that his letter on the public option that he got so much press attention for was all kabuki theater.

I’m still hoping Bennet offers the public option amendment. I mean that honestly – I’m not just saying that. I’ve gotten the sense that he’s a guy who wants to do the right thing – but we’re going to have to see if he’s willing to offend the Washington Establishment to put action behind his public-option words. Stay tuned – and sign the petition demanding he follow through.


Will Romanoff’s Move Put the Public Option Back On the Table?

The big news this afternoon was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) abandoning his previous promise to offer an amendment to the Senate health care bill adding a public option into the bill. This amendment would need only 51 votes, as the public option reduces the deficit (by a lot) and therefore is in order for reconciliation. Sanders announcement that he is backing down to the Senate Democratic leadership and White House aides who cut a deal with hospital/drug lobbyists to kill the public option seemed to suggest the public option is dead. That is, until Colorado Senate Democratic candidate Andrew Romanoff tonight just issued a statement that will put significant pressure on his primary opponent, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), to offer the amendment instead:


Romanoff: Where’s the ‘Public Option’ Champion?

After  learning today that no member of the United States Senate would stand up for a “public option” in health care reform, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff issued the following statement:

“As Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, I led the fight against insurance companies that unreasonably delay or deny their customers’ valid claims. I know first-hand the lengths that industry will go to resist reform.

“I am deeply disappointed to learn that no member of the U.S. Senate is willing to offer an amendment to restore the public option to the health care bill.

“Millions of Americans cannot afford to keep up with the soaring costs of health insurance. That is why a majority of the American people support a public option. The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that a public option will reduce the deficit.  

“I call on the leadership of the U.S. Senate to allow an up-or-down vote on the public option. We should not allow the insurance industry to kill the competition the American public wants.”


Bennet has spent the last month and a half touting his letter demanding a public option – and getting a lot of press for that move (deservedly so, IMHO). But now, thanks to Romanoff’s demand, he will have to put up or shut up. If he refuses to offer the amendment, he shows his past efforts to be kabuki theater – grandstanding for attention while refusing to actually take the steps necessary to do what he publicly claims he wants to do.

Bennet, as this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show proves, has shown a willingness to respond to primary pressure on the public option – and he may be even more willing to respond to that pressure considering he just lost the Colorado Democratic caucuses this week.

Oh, and how many other Senate Democratic primary challengers across the country are going to start issuing similar statements against Senate Democratic incumbents?

Stay tuned – this is going to get interesting. Romanoff will be on my AM760 radio show to discuss this on Monday.


Where Is Udall On the Public Option?

There’s been a bit of intrigue over the last 24 hours surrounding Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) position on the public option. There were reports from DailyKos, the American Prospect, the Rachel Maddow Show and ColoradoPols saying that he had, in fact, signed the letter authored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) that endorses the use of majority rules (ie. “reconciliation”) to pass a strong public option. However, Udall did not actually physically sign the letter – he instead issued a separate statement that seems to support using reconciliation to pass a public option.

Seems like one and the same, right? Yeah, it does seem that way. Except, then why didn’t Udall just sign the letter like so many other Democratic senators? Why is he now explicitly telling the Denver Post he made a deliberate decision to not sign the letter? It could have to do with the fact that he may not actually support as strong a public option proposal as many Democrats have been pushing. I say that because of this recent but little-noticed story in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on February 17th – a story that we discussed on the AM760 morning show at the time:

Udall will push for public option, but at local level, not national

By Gary Harmon

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he is open to advancing a measure that would establish public-option, health-insurance providers in high-cost areas or regions deemed lacking in competition.

The public option he envisions wouldn’t be a nationwide provider, but would be established to provide local competition, Udall said in a visit Wednesday to Grand Junction.

Udall is not quite as far along as his colleague, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who earlier this week asked that the Senate move forward on a public option, he said. Bennet’s letter was signed by nine other senators, all Democrats, but not by Udall. (emphasis added)

Is Udall’s refusal to sign onto the Bennet letter a deliberate reflection of his statements in Grand Junction implying a potential substantive opposition to a stronger version of the public option than he is willing to support? I honestly don’t know – it’s hard to tell, but it sure seems that way between the recent Senintel story and his staff’s statements today to the Denver Post. And it most definitely means the questions are clearly worth asking as the final battle over key health care reform details takes shape.

We’ll be updating this story and examining what’s going on here on AM760 tomorrow morning from 7am to 10am. Tune in.


Bennet vs. Trippi In the AM760 Progressive Dojo

( – promoted by Middle of the Road)

This morning, we had both Andrew Romanoff’s strategist, Joe Trippi, and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the AM760 progressive dojo. Listen to the Trippi interview here (starts around 32 minutes in) and the Bennet interview here (starts about 11 minutes in).

Trippi seemed to step up the Romanoff campaign’s rhetorical assault on Bennet by saying the primary election is referendum on the corrosive effects of money in politics – an implicit suggestion that Bennet represents that money. As you’ll hear, Bennet didn’t take too kindly to that attack, insisting that his record displays independence from powerful special interests.

I also discussed health care with Bennet, after his terrific letter about the public option yesterday. Despite all the talk about how primaries supposedly hurt parties (talk I don’t buy into),  I think this primary is actually creating a productive dynamic whereby the candidates are competing with each other to show who will be more of a leader on such kitchen table issues.

We’ll be discussing all of this tomorrow in light of President Obama’s visit to Denver. Tune in weekdays from 7am-10am on your radio dial or at www.am760.net.


The Eternal Delusions of Colorado Springs’ Right-Wing Minds

(We continue to be fascinated with what has happened in Colorado Springs. If you haven’t been following, Colorado Springs is actually finding out what happens when you cut taxes and cut spending indefinitely (hint: it ain’t good) – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Springs councilman Sean Paige has a funny – and telling – screed up defending Colorado Springs from, well, the basic facts. He accuses my recent column and the Denver Post’s recent front-page story of “slurring” his city by reporting on the draconian budget cuts its anti-tax zealotry are now compelling.

I’m not quite sure how simply recounting cuts to police, firefighting, park services, road maintenance is a “slur,” but then, I’ve learned not to try to make sense of the eternal delusions of a right-wing mind. What I can, however, do is point out some of the “tells” – the poker term for a bluffing player’s giveaways:

– Paige says Colorado Springs attracts new residents and economic growth “by actually putting America’s limited government ideals into practice.” In this, he asks us to forget that one of the city’s biggest employers is the defense industry – that is, an industry that has absolutely nothing to do with “limited government” and everything to do with the hugest of Huge Government. Here’s the Colorado Springs Business Journal:

One of every three residents of the Pikes Peak Region depends directly or indirectly upon the military. According to the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the total economic impact of the military in Colorado Springs is $4.58 billion. This represents more than one third of the total regional economy.

That’s right, one of every three people living in the Colorado Springs area “depends directly or indirectly upon the military” – ie. upon Huge Government. Add in city, county and state workers, and you are probably approaching half of the entire Colorado Springs economy relying on the government. In that sense, Colorado Springs is an American version of almost pure Marxism: a city that is as close as any major city in the United States to being a full-fledged ward of the state (only one that is now planning to stop its road/park maintenance, cut police/firefighting forces, etc.).

Whether you support this kind of Huge Government or not – whether you think a city relying so heavily on military spending is a good or bad thing – that spending’s size and centrality to the Colorado Springs economy is undeniable, as is it’s antithesis to the concept of “limited,” small or efficient government. You don’t have to trust me, the guy who Paige calls a “statist” (do people even use that red-baiting McCarthy-esque word anymore?). You can look at the bloated $700 billion annual defense budget, or you can look to people John McCain and Don Rumsfeld who have repeatedly noted just how wasteful the government’s defense budget really is (I wonder if Paige believes McCain and Rummy are “statists,” too?).*

– As evidence that Colorado Springs is a great place, Paige cites magazine fluff rankings, many from right-wing business publications like Forbes. Frankly, I never said Colorado Springs wasn’t a good and decent place, and didn’t have real potential, nor do I wish it ill will. Quit the opposite: I simply argued that its tax and spending decisions are tragically threatening some of the very social fabric that would help it fulfill its potential. Maybe he believes that a city that will now severely slash its basic security and firefighting forces and its road maintenance (to name just a few things) is a way to preserve a city’s future – but my guess is many mainstream business people and voters would disagree.

– Hilariously, in puffing out his chest with fake outrage, Paige actually concedes the very fundamental point of my column and the Denver Post’s article. “Voters could have helped the city out several months back, by approving a property tax increase,” he writes. Yes, Paige correctly says voters could have helped their city out by doing that. And yet, he then says its a “slur” to say, um, exactly that. Odd…or, really, beyond odd. Insane.

So what to make of Paige’s incoherence? I’d say it’s a reflection of the incoherence of conservative ideology in general. The right will desperately paint the biggest of big government as “limited government,” attempt to change the subject, and then – preposterously – argue that it’s somehow a “slur” to argue something that the right quietly concedes. These are the eternal delusions of the right-wing mind – and as I said to start, it is a fool’s errand to try to make sense of them.

* To those right-wingers who might argue that the Constitution specifically calls for the funding of defense, and therefore massive Pentagon spending represents “limited government,” let me add two things: 1) The Constitution does not specifically call for a defense budget so wasteful that the Pentagon has literally lost $2 trillion (and here’s hoping nobody will actually argue that the Founding Fathers would be happy with that sad state of affairs) and 2) The Constitution has a “general welfare” clause, too – and yet, I don’t hear conservatives saying that, say, municipal police, fire fighters, roads, parks, etc. (much less national health care) represent “limited government.”


Hickenlooper in the AM760 Progressive Dojo

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver mayor/Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper spent about a half hour in studio in the AM760 progressive dojo this morning. You can listen to the interview here – it starts about half way through the podcast clip.

We covered a lot of ground – taxes, business influence on government, drug policy reform, job development, and his views on unionization in light of news that Colorado’s union rate declined this year. I thought he gave some solid answers, though I think he needs to get his economic message down a bit more – as the Denver Post notes, at one point in the interview he said “a recession like this is really driven by people’s mental state.” As I said in the interview, that kind of rhetoric reminded me of Phil Gramm’s famous gaffe during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Despite my disagreements with him on some of his political philosophies, I can’t deny that he’s an affable guy and might just make a pretty decent statewide candidate. He’s going to need a lot of pushing on some issues (and, as he admits in the interview, he’s going to need to get fully up to speed on the state issues that will confront him as governor), but he’s definitely a pretty good listener (make sure to listen to his quick response – and staff work – about an outsourcing question from a listener).

Tune in regularly – we’ve been covering a lot of issues relevant to the gubernatorial and senate races, as well as bills in the legislature. The show airs weekdays from 7am-10am on AM760 on your radio dial, or at www.am760.net (you can podcast the show there too).