County Chair Rejects Calls From Other GOP Leaders to Resign Over COVID-19 “Hoax” Post

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Several Colorado Republican leaders are calling for El Paso County GOP Chair Vickie Tonkins to resign after she used the party’s official Facebook page to ask followers if they believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a manufactured hoax.

She also confirmed to Colorado Politics reporter Ernest Luning that she wrote on her personal Facebook page that the outbreak is a “PSYOP,” using the same term she posted to the county page. The post has since garnered bipartisan national attention, including a tweet from Guy Benson, political editor of the conservative blog Townhall, and coverage from the left-leaning sites Raw Story and Huffington Post.

Denver GOP Chair Kristina Cook, joins former county chairs Jake Viano (Denver), Joe Webb (Jefferson) and Eli Bremer (El Paso) in calling for Tonkins to step down.

Former El Paso County Chair Eli Bremer first flagged the post and shared it with other Colorado Springs conservative Facebook groups.

Reached for comment, Tonkins dismissed criticism over the post itself, attributing it to the tension between the establishment and grassroots elements of the party, and claiming Bremer had other reasons for sharing the post:

“The individual [Bremer] that started the misinformation of my saying Coronavirus is a hoax…which I never said…does not like the fact a black woman is in the position and won by over 60 votes… The grassroots said they wanted something different and who could be more different than me.”

While Tonkins did not state that Coronavirus is a hoax on the El Paso County page, she did describe the outbreak as a “PSYOP,” in a comment exchange on her personal page. Another El Paso County Republican, Missy Ward, shared a screenshot of the comment.

El Paso County Republican Chair Vickie Tonkins

Tonkins responds:

“Ward, without my permission, took a screenshot of my personal page and made this a story. The post may not have been up for even an hour…but they saw an opportunity to get me, I guess. Not sure why they hate me so much but that is what it is.”

Tonkins also says she was focused on those who are suffering financially during the pandemic.

“My intentions, which my naysayers say we should always look at, is that people are not just dying from this virus, people are losing their jobs and can’t pay their bills and is time we step up to help them. Maybe had I put “the media thinks” [in the original post] I would have been heralded as a hero. This has been blown out of proportion by my haters and I say let’s move toward helping our communities which is my heart and the heart of the Republican Party. People are making this about politics and I am thinking about people!”

Joe Webb, who led the Jefferson County GOP until last year, concluded his own public Facebook post about the incident by insisting Tonkins resign, and calling on the county party’s executive committee to remove her if she doesn’t.

This is not a time to play politics but because Vickie Tonkins added to the public health emergency and may have assisted in making the curve steeper regarding infections she needs to resign as Chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party at once. If she fails to do so then members of the Executive Committee must take matters into their own hands within social distancing parameters. We all need to contribute to flattening the curve. Many other reasons exist for her resignation but I listed the most serious one. Personal responsibility for your actions should matter.

Denver GOP Chair shared Webb post noting that she agreed with Webb. She added that Tonkins’ post jeopardizes the Republican Party’s mission of electing its candidates.

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Cory Gardner Warns If GOP Loses Senate, Schumer Will Block Trump’s Judges

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Republicans must not only retain the White House this fall, they must also hold the U.S. Senate, says Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). If they don’t do both, he warns, even if President Trump is reelected, Chuck Schumer won’t approve any of Trump’s judges: “he’ll block every single one of them.”

Gardner delivered his warning via live video to the Jefferson County Republican Assembly, which held its March 17 county assembly online using remote video chat:

“We know what the left wants to do! They want socialism. They want to destroy the fabric of who we are as a country. And that Supreme Court and our court system is that body that will say, no, you’ve gone too far. You can’t do that. You’ve stepped outside the bounds of the plain meaning of the text. And that’s exactly what we have to do with our judges. So not only do we need a president to make sure they’re selecting good constitutional based judges, but we have to have a United States Senate majority in order to confirm those judges. Because if we lose the majority and President Trump is still in the White House, Chuck Schumer is never going to approve any of his judges. He’ll block every single one of them. Colorado was ground zero. We know that Chuck Schumer thinks his path to becoming majority leader is by winning Colorado. We’re not going to let that happen.” — Sen. Cory Gardner to Jefferson County GOP, March 27, 2020 (at 10:45)

It’s unclear if Gardner is arguing that a hypothetical Senate Majority Leader Schumer would be wrong to block President Trump’s future judicial nominees, or whether he’s simply making a prediction of Schumer’s actions based on partisan assumptions.

What is clear, however, Gardner has steadfastly supported his own caucus leader Mitch McConnell’s strategy of blocking judges under Obama, but prioritizing the confirmation of Trump’s nominees over all other Senate business. McConnell bragged about his success on Fox News’, when host Sean Hannity noted —tongue firmly in cheek— that he was “shocked President Obama left so many vacancies and didn’t try to fill those positions.” McConnell responded bluntly:

“I’ll tell you why. I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration.”

Gardner called for the Senate to refuse to confirm Obama’s choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Merrick Garland, the same morning Obama announced Garland as the nominee. In explaining his decision not to meet with Garland, Gardner said the “stakes were too high and the American people deserve a role in this process.”

Two years later, however, he met with and voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh despite another looming election (the 2018 midterms) which would determine control of the U.S. Senate.

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Weld Sheriff: I’d Rather Take My Risk With the Virus Than Socialism

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Weld Sheriff Steve Reams and District Attorney Michael Rourke at the Weld County Republican Assembly

Sheriff Steve Reams is the top public safety official in Weld County, Colorado. Yet even after his county declared a pandemic health emergency last week, the coronavirus isn’t his top concern. Reams is worried about socialism. 

I’m going to rant just a bit,” wrote Reams on Facebook. “I understand that nobody wants to catch Coronavirus but statistically, even if you catch it you’re likely to be just fine. What I’m concerned with is our Country catching a huge case of socialism. We (our government) has self imposed an economic crash in the name of saving us from a virus and now they are offering the “solution” through money that isn’t really available; let’s call that debt. If you read the attached article, examine what is being suggested and ask yourselves if this is makes sense. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather take my risk with the virus then socialism.”

When criticized by a commenter, Sheriff Reams reiterated his position:

Reach by phone, Reams acknowledged that the pandemic has created a challenging environment:

“It’s frustrating on both sides, as a citizen and as a law enforcement office to see so many people disregarding the public health warnings and then people asking government to enforce [the public health emergency declarations] to make them feel safer,” Reams told the Colorado Times Recorder. “Asking for the government to be the fix for all this is probably the wrong way of thinking for all of us. It creates a fear of government from citizens who are going to worry, ‘What if I need go somewhere?’ It reeks of police state.”

Despite his discomfort with government enforcement of public health restrictions, however, Reams isn’t willing to go as far as he did with the 2019 “red flag” gun law, when he publicly declared the law unconstitutional and said he would go to jail before enforcing it. Asked if he would do that same now, he answered he doesn’t intent to make public health orders a priority of enforcement.

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Ken Buck on Coronavirus: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

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When it comes to social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO4) appears to be taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach. While he has said people should try to avoid publics places for the next months, and that “elderly Americans…should be concerned” about the coronavirus, he is also still attending group events and has been photographed shaking hands with senior citizens.

Congressman Ken Buck shaking hands at the Weld County Clerk’s office, March 21, 2020

Following the Weld County Republican Party Assembly on March 21, Donna Windholz posted a picture of Buck, who also serves as Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, enthusiastically shaking hands with Lynn Miller at the Weld County Clerk’s Office. Lynn Miller is the husband of former state representative Pat Miller, who is once again a legislative candidate, 27 years after she last left office. Windholz believes Buck was improperly using his position as state party chair to support Miller over other primary candidates.

Congressman Buck’s notable disregard for social distancing reinforces his statements earlier this week, when he told the Denver Post, “it’s just craziness to shut down businesses.” He also mentioned that “elderly Americans…are rightly concerned about the virus.” Lynn Miller, the man with whom Buck is shaking hands in the image above, is 73 years old.

His position differs from other members of the Colorado delegation, who have supported Governor Polis’ decisions to close non-essential businesses and public gathering places.

Buck’s hasn’t been shy about being a contrarian on the issue of stopping the coronavirus. He was one of only two House votes against the $8.3 billion federal aid bill signed by President on March 6.

The following week, Buck held a telephone town hall. As part of a longer answer about whether or not people should stop attending church, Buck noted that he continues to shake hands with constituents and that he is “not a good example of someone who avoids social contact.”

His full answer, transcribed below included contradictory statements as to whether one should or shouldn’t attend church, but at least as of March 11, Buck said that he would still be going.

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GOP Legislative Candidate Posts Cartoon Promising To Be Polis’ “Worst Nightmare”

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Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has earned broad bipartisan praise for his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, however, isn’t among those conservatives offering him their approval.

On the morning of March 18, Kirkmeyer, who is a Republican candidate for state senate District 23, posted a campaign cartoon attacking Polis for a variety of policies and promising, “as your State Senator, I’ll be Jared Polis’s worst nightmare.” The cartoon depicts Governor Polis as a wind-powered passenger ship about to be sunk by a torpedo bearing the logo of the Kirkmeyer campaign.

The most prominent policy she appears to be attacking is wind energy, depicted by a large windmill powering the “SS Polis.” Wind power generates nearly a fifth of Colorado’s electricity. Kirkmeyer’s own Weld County is home to three Vestas factories, two in Brighton and one in Windsor, that build wind turbine components. Vestas announced last year that it was adding 200 jobs at its Brighton plants.

Below the windmill, the cartoon lists three policies: “Government-run health care, Red flag gun law,” and “Job-killing regulations.” During the coronavirus pandemic other Republicans have thanked Polis specifically for his decision to relax regulations to allow medical professionals licensed in other states to be quickly approved to work in Colorado and suspending via emergency order requirements for state employees to obtain a doctor’s note to call in sick.

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What Happened to Cory Gardner’s “Conservation Roundtable” With President Trump?

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Last Thursday, while speaking with reporters at the White House, President Trump noted that his planned trip to Colorado on Friday with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was canceled. We now have a video clip of that statement: 

“I was going out to Nevada, as I said. I was going to Colorado, where we have Cory Gardner running and he’s doing a great job, by the way. He’s done a fantastic job, but we’ve postponed that. I think we’re gonna have Cory coming in here- maybe on Friday. We’re gonna do our event from the White House. We have a lot of things that we’re moving around because of what’s happening and because I want to be here.”

The only reported event on the President’s schedule was a high-dollar Denver fundraiser with Gardner. The possibility that Trump would hold the campaign fundraiser at the White House raised the eyebrows of numerous reporters, both nationally and locally.

The Gardner campaign, which has been notoriously reluctant to engage with the media, immediately released a statement. https://twitter.com/jmdobkin/status/1238149672016830465

No such non-campaign event had been previously announced. However, the $100,000 per couple fundraiser did include a “roundtable.”

It’s unclear if such a roundtable either took place already or is still in the planning stages. Neither Gardner’s office, nor his campaign have responded to inquires about the event. An email to the White House’s Office of Public Liaison was not immediately returned.

The Colorado Times Recorder has also reached out to two conservation organizations (Colorado Wildlife Fund and the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation), both cited by Gardner in a recent press release about securing funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund. This article will be updated with any comments received.

More and more meetings and events are being canceled every day in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s certainly possible this roundtable has been postponed or canceled, but if that’s the case, no one is willing to say so.

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Gardner Campaign Clarifies Trump’s Claim of Moving “Our Event” To White House

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Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s campaign appears to have been forced to do some rapid-response clean up in response to a statement by President Trump this morning about a Trump-Gardner fundraising event.

Following Wednesday’s news that Trump canceled his planned trip to Colorado to fundraise for Gardner, the Commander-in-Chief told a New York Times reporter that “our event” would instead be held at the White House.

The statement, which appeared to propose an event that would be a blatant violation of the Hatch Act (outlawing the use of government resources for political campaigns), drew considerable surprise from reporters in D.C. and Colorado.

Reached for comment by the Colorado Times Recorder immediately after the New York Times’ Annie Karni tweeted the President’s statement about the Gardner fundraiser, Katie Behnke, who’s listed as the RSVP contact on the original invitation, did not deny the reported statement, but rather declined to comment, saying only that she wasn’t authorized to speak about it and that a communications staffer would follow up with the Colorado Times Recorder. No such follow-up ever occurred.

But twenty minutes later, Gardner campaign spokesperson Jerrod Dobkin tweeted that the event was in fact a “conservation roundtable.” No conservation event had ever been announced to be taking place in Colorado prior to Dobkin’s tweet, despite Gardner issuing a statement to the press about funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund on Monday. https://twitter.com/jmdobkin/status/1238147084324188160

The fact that Dobkin, who works for the campaign rather than the senator’s official staff, was claiming that this until-now unknown LWCF event was “obviously not a fundraiser or campaign event,” was noted with skepticism by national press. https://twitter.com/AlexThomasDC/status/1238163292310458375

Dobkin’s statement led to a follow-up tweet from Karni: https://twitter.com/anniekarni/status/1238145828818243584

NRSC staff is now requesting the NYT reporter Karni delete her original tweet, something she has politely refused to do, noting that the “conservation event had never been announced. Trump’s lead-in to talk about hosting an event at the WH was, “We have Cory Gardner running…” https://twitter.com/anniekarni/status/1238151576088383489

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“Everybody Is Fat and Happy” — Colorado Hospital CEOs Proud of Their Profits

(Not the ideal messaging from Big Hospital as it prepares to fight the Colorado Option — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s largest hospitals are ramping up a campaign against legislation aimed at lowering health care costs, saying they’re being unfairly targeted and the proposed law would weaken the hospitals.

But in various industry news interviews and speeches over past two years, several Colorado hospital CEOs have bluntly acknowledged their sizable profits, boasting in one case that hospitals and others don’t want to change because they’re “fat and happy.”

In a 2019 interview, Centura CEO Peter Banko was asked by industry blog Advisory Board about his hospital having its “single best financial year in 22 years,” citing Centura’s 13% profit margin.

Banko mentioned the prevalence of private health insurance in Colorado, as well as the state’s Medicaid expansion as providing “a big boost to health systems.” He also noted that while Centura was doing really well, its competitors are making even higher margins.

He then made the point that the major industry players are making so much money, they don’t want to change anything.

“Since everybody is fat and happy, the payers and providers don’t want to change…Basically, no one wants to disrupt the market; everybody’s just doing traditional stuff,” said Banko.

Here’s the extended exchange, in which he states that his hospital competitors are doing even better than Centura, which operates Lutheran, Porter, and St. Anthony’s hospitals, among others.

 

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On the Coronavirus, Cory Gardner’s Rhetoric Doesn’t Match His Record

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Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner said this morning that he doesn’t want people to play politics with the coronavirus outbreak. He did so while ignoring the massive public health budget cuts in recent years and his own history of using the Ebola outbreak for political gain.

Earlier today on KOA 850-AM, Gardner dismissed a question asking about Trump administration cuts to the public health funding at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institute of Health.

GARDNER: “Congress has funded CDC and NIH robustly over the past several years. I don’t want people to play partisanship on this and I hope you don’t see people go to their political corners because there’s an election eight months from now either to create some kind of a panic or because they want to put on their Democrat or Republican shirts.”

But Gardner’s statement is contradicted by news reports on cuts to public health funding, particularly at the CDC.

The Washington Post detailed drastic CDC cuts in an article titled, “CDC to cut by 80 percent efforts to prevent global disease outbreak.” It noted that “countries where the CDC is planning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerging infectious disease, such as China….”

More recently, Foreign Policy magazine noted that the cuts to the CDC were so severe that “much of its staff was laid off and the number of countries it was working in was reduced from 49 to merely 10.”

Just a couple months later in May of 2018, the article continues, “Trump ordered the NSC’s entire global health security unit shut down.”

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Elizabeth Warren Barnstorms Through Denver

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The rally began with a preemptive apology: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wouldn’t have time to do her customary post-rally selfie session; she had to rush to catch a plane to South Carolina ahead of next week’s primary.

If the nearly 4,000 enthusiastic fans at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium were disappointed, they didn’t show it, instead cheering at the long-shot prospect of their candidate winning her first state primary.

Warren actually started the event outside the venue, talking to the overflow crowd of a few hundred who weren’t able to get inside.

While she was speaking to the folks outside, Colorado state Senators Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) warmed up the crowd in the auditorium by sharing their reasons for backing Warren’s campaign.

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Politicians, Proud Boys & the President: Trump & Gardner Rally in Colorado Springs

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Even before the president took the stage, the noise level inside Colorado Springs’ Broadmoor Arena was deafening. When he finally emerged, clapping slowly as he walked out from behind the blue stage draping, the roar was deafening.

Seated in the VIP section, a number of Colorado Republicans joined those cheering from the stands and stadium floor. The Minority Leaders of both chambers, Chris Holbert (R-Parker) and Patrick Neville, (R-Castle Rock), accompanied another ten or so GOP caucus members, including Sens Rob Woodward, Bob Gardner, Ray Scott, Jim Smallwood, Jerry Sonnenberg, Dennis Hisey, and Vicki Marble and Reps Tim Geitner, Richard Holtorf, and Dave Williams.

Colorado Republican legislators took a break from lawmaking on Thursday.

Other notable figures included former Senate President Kevin Grantham, El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller (also a former state Rep.) and Wayne Williams (former Secretary of State), and former Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt.

On the federal side, Republican Representatives Buck, Tipton and Lamborn all attended, along with the rally’s nominal guest of honor: U.S. Senator Cory Gardner. Gardner spoke twice over the course of the event, first as the main warm-up speech, and then again near the end of Trump’s speech, when he called upon the Congressmen and Gardner to join him on stage.

Gardner warms up the crowd at President Trump’s campaign rally.

While Gardner stuck to his positive message of bringing federal dollars home to Colorado, President Trump served up the red meat, particularly on the subject of immigration. He devoted over five minutes to listing the supposed crimes of “dangerous criminal aliens” he claimed were released by various Colorado cities following the passage of last year’s law restricting interactions between Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and and municipal law enforcement agencies.

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Dems Eye Acting Federal Lands Chief Over Possible Misconduct

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William Perry Pendley, Acting Director Bureau of Land Management

By Gabriella Novello for the Colorado Times Recorder

WASHINGTON, D.C

William Perry Pendley is still leading the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the federal agency in charge of most public lands, and has spent the past few weeks rotating between Washington, DC, and the agency’s new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo.

But, the so-called “sagebrush rebel” has also been operating as the director of the BLM without Senate approval.

House Democrats voted last week in favor of allowing the House Natural Resources Committee chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) to subpoena the BLM for documents relating to “mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse, and wrongful conduct” within the Interior Department — including Pendley’s push to relocate the agency’s headquarters to Colorado.

“Moving an agency’s headquarters poses a direct threat to funding, expertise, and access to decision-makers on Capitol Hill,” the committee’s Democrats wrote in a Medium post following the vote, accusing Pendley of being an “anti-government, anti-federal employee ideologue.”

“The new headquarters is now near Secretary Bernhardt’s hometown, in the same building as several oil and gas companies. This is ‘efficient’ only if you’re trying to dismantle the agency and undermine its mission,” the committee’s Democrats wrote.

In July, the Colorado Times Recorder requested documents from the Interior Department under the Freedom of Information Act regarding Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) role in the relocation effort, including correspondence between Gardner and Secretaries Ryan Zinke or David Bernhardt. The Interior Department has yet to respond other than by acknowledging the request.

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Friday Fundraiser: Gardner Chases Campaign Cash At Carbondale’s Aspen Glen Club

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Mt. Sopris provides the Aspen Glen Club’s fairway scenery

After kicking off his Colorado re-election campaign at Thursday evening’s rally alongside President Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is headed west, prospecting for gold in the form of cash contributions.

Friday he’ll be lunching at the Aspen Glen Club in Carbondale. The private, gated community a few miles down the road from its famously wealthy namesake ski town, but if you want to play its Jack Nicklaus golf course, membership still runs a cool $100,000 (as of 2016), plus another $1,000 in monthly dues.

Joining Gardner as members of the host committee will be state Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) and his wife Joyce, who represents the Third District for Colorado’s state Board of Education. A call to Rankin’s office was not immediately returned.

Numerous other Republican donors round out the host committee. They include: local auto dealer Jeff Carlson and his wife Nancy, who served as a Romney alternate delegate to the RNC in 2012; former state Rep. Gregg Rippey; Alpine Bank executive and recent Polis appointee to the Colorado Securities Board Thomas Kenning; and several of other longtime GOP donors.

Reached for comment, host committee member Mark Gould, Sr., who served as Garfield County GOP Chair back in the early 90s, said while he is no longer a member of the Republican party, he is still supportive of both Gardner and Trump.

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Colorado GOP Leaders Will Use Stall Tactics to Kill Bills; Call HIV Prevention Coverage a ‘Feel-Good Idea’

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Speaking last month at a Republican Party fundraising luncheon in downtown Denver, all four ranking members of the GOP leadership at the Colorado Legislature said their primary strategy for this year’s legislative session is to stop proposed laws using the procedural stall tactic of demanding that the entire text of bills be read out loud.

Their plan is to wait until later in the session to deploy it for maximum effect.

As for policy priorities, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock) argued vehemently against a bill to create a public health care option.

Calling it “conscription,” Neville said that while it might save Coloradans in the short term, a public option would eventually lead to the end of all private insurance plans on the exchange.

The Minority Leader also objected to another bill, one that would require insurers to cover HIV infection prevention drugs, which are considered highly effective by the Food & Drug Administration.

Neville dismissed that bill as a “feel-good idea” that would add to overall health insurance costs.

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Colorado Lawmaker Claims Wolves Will Hunt Hikers and Skiers

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This November, Colorado voters will decide whether to reintroduce wolves to the state’s Western Slope. Most opposition to the proposal comes from ranchers in the region who are concerned for their livestock.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), however, speaking on KFTM’s “Big Morning Show yesterday, added a much more frightening reason to say no to wolves: he says they will hunt people:

“They wreak havoc on wildlife, they wreak havoc on livestock, and quite honestly, it’ll wreak havoc on people when they hike and ski and recreate in the mountains. If a bear sees you it will turn and run and hide. So will other wildlife; they don’t want to be a part of human beings. A wolf is a different animal: they will hunt and stalk you and they will take you out. I don’t understand why people who love nature and want to be out in the mountains want us to being more wolves in.”

Science disagrees. Since 1900, there have been two confirmed fatal wolf attacks in all of North America: one in Alaska and one in Canada. Wolves avoid human contact.

People have “a greater chance of being killed by a dog, lightning, a bee sting or a car collision with a deer, than of being injured by a wolf,” according to the International Wolf Center. For comparison’s sake, there have been 158 fatal bear attacks in North America from 1900 to 2016. Colorado is home to approximately 20,000 bears and there have been five fatal attacks since 1934.

Sonnenberg’s comments fall in line with common misconceptions about wolves. The Rocky Mountain chapter of the Sierra Club offers a “Wolf Myths & Facts” page on its website dispelling myths such as “wolves kill for sport,” or “wolves often kill people.”

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Gardner’s Annual Ski Weekend Fundraiser Features Corporate Heavyweights

Skiing in Colorado is pretty expensive these days, but even the priciest day on the slopes isn’t nearly as expensive as skiing with Sen. Cory Gardner’s family and friends.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, slope-side at Beaver Creek. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

For $2,500 per person or $3,000 per family ($5,000 for corporate PACs), lobbyists and political consultants could bring partners and kids to join the Senator, his family and his staff at the Ritz Carlton hotel, slope-side at Beaver Creek, one of Colorado’s fanciest ski destinations. This year was Gardner campaign’s fifth annual ski trip fundraiser.

The fundraiser has its own logo.

Unfortunately for the guests, Gardner himself was unable to be there in person. According to one attendee, lobbyist Travis Brown, impeachment hearings kept Gardner “chained to his desk” over the weekend. His campaign spokesman did not return an email asking to confirm the reason for his absence.

In his absence, attendees were able to mingle and chat with Gardner family members, campaign staff and, of course, each other. Over 70 people (not counting partners and children) are listed on a guest list obtained by the Colorado Times Recorder.

In addition to household names like Coca-Cola, Facebook, FedEx and MillerCoors, representatives from the energy and health care industries comprised the largest portions of the event attendance list. Companies included Koch Industries, BP America, Duke Energy, Xcel Energy, Next Era Energy (the nation’s largest electric utility holding company).

United Health, Humana, and the Federation of American Hospitals were among the members of the for-profit health care industry. A lobbyist for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for companies with health plans governed by Medicare and Medicaid, was also on the list. AHIP is a co-founder of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, the advocacy group behind a six-figure ad campaign opposing a proposal to add a state option to Colorado health insurance exchange.

Another notable name on the guest list: Facebook’s Director of Public Policy and chief Senate lobbyist Myriah Jordan, who in 2016 signed a public letter opposing the possibility of then-candidate Trump’s presidency calling him “fundamentally dishonest” and predicting he would “use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe.” Jordan did not immediately respond to a Facebook message asking to confirm her attendance.

The Beaver Creek weekend fundraiser was paid for by Gardner For Colorado, a joint fundraising committee comprising the Gardner campaign and his leadership political action committee, Project West PAC. Four of the top ten combined contributors to Gardner’s 2020 campaign and Project West PAC were on the guest list: DISH Network ($77,000), NextERA Energy ($56,500), Xcel Energy ($52,150), and Deloitte, LLC ($46,250).

A phone call to Gardner campaign fundraiser Katie Behnke was not immediately returned.

To see the full attendance list, grouped roughly by industry, click here for the original article on the Colorado Times Recorder.

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Education Secretary DeVos Compares Abortion To Slavery

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE 3: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has offered to educate Secretary of Education DeVos:

UPDATE 2: The Washington Post has also noticed.

UPDATE: This story has been picked up by Politico: DeVos compares abortion rights debate to slavery.

This story, which originally appeared in the Colorado Times Recorder, was written by Gabriella Novello.

WASHINGTON DC — Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos weighed in on a host of issues during the Colorado Christian University’s annual president’s dinner Wednesday night at the Museum of the Bible, at one point drawing comparisons of the abortion rights debate to the ending of slavery.

“[Former President Abraham Lincoln] too contended with the pro-choice arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s choice to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it,” DeVos told the crowd. “Well, President Lincoln reminded those pro-choicers [Pols Emphasis] that is a vast portion of the American people that do not look upon that matter as being this very little thing. They look upon it as a vast moral evil.”

DeVos speaking at Colorado Christian University’s annual dinner in D.C. (bottom row, center), just below CCU Centennial Institute President Jeff Hunt

DeVos called out the “irony” of supporting a woman’s choice to have an abortion but not for mothers who want to enroll their children in nontraditional public schools, receiving a vocal laugh and round of applause.

“There are many in the pro-life movement who heroically work to make abortion unconstitutional,” DeVos said. “Tonight, let’s talk about making it unthinkable.”

A graduate of Christian University, DeVos also weighed in on the oral arguments made earlier Wednesday to the Supreme Court over whether states can prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding aid to religious institutions. The Montana legislature approved a tax-credit program in 2015 that allowed families to offset the cost of college tuition, but that violated the state’s constitution and the state’s Supreme Court struck it down.

That case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, could provide answers to the years-long debate over whether public funds can be used for private schools. The Trump administration submitted a brief in favor of the plaintiff, and DeVos attended the hour-long oral arguments.

“We are especially eager for the Supreme Court to put an end to the last acceptable prejudice made manifest in the bigoted Blaine amendments,” DeVos said, which she argued denies students the freedom to pursue a faith-based education.

During a Q&A session led by conservative radio host Hew Hewitt, DeVos contended that the aid empowers low-income families to “make the choices for their kids that match their values or a better fit their assigned schools.” When DeVos left the courtroom Wednesday morning, she said she was encouraged, and it was a “thrill” to be there.

(more…)

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Sharing the Stars & Bars: Conservatives’ Contrasting Responses After Posting the Confederate Flag

(“If, by ‘white nationalist,’ that’s what you mean, count me in” – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A blog post promoting a “Militia Second Amendment Rally” in Virginia made the rounds of Colorado conservative social media in mid-December. The event, scheduled for January 20, Martin Luther King Day, uses the Confederate Flag as its logo.

Of the people and group pages sharing the post, two were relatively prominent: The Montrose County, Colorado, Republican Party, and KNUS 710-AM radio host Randy Corporon.

Their responses to inquires about the post, however, were decidedly different.

The Montrose Republican Party immediately removed the post, while talk show host Corporon reaffirmed his support for the event, the post, the Confederate flag, and even for a (narrow and specific) definition of “white nationalism.”

The Montrose GOP’s post was noticed by Michal Rosenoer, who was one of the Facebook commenters who expressed concern about it on social media.

(more…)

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Colorado Legislators Joined Extremist Groups for a “We Will Not Comply” Rally against Red Flag Law

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Approximately two hundred people rallied at the state Capitol Saturday against Colorado’s new “red flag” law, which allows guns to be taken from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Organizers of the “We Will Not Comply” rally included Rally For Our Rights activist Lesley Hollywood, conservative Facebook personality Sheronna Bishop, and gun rights activist Lauren Boebert, who just launched her campaign for Colorado’s Third Congressional District, where she will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the Republican primary.

Conservative activist Sherronna Bishop, who runs a Facebook page called “America’s Mom,” emceed the event. She thanked two groups for providing security: Boots On The Ground Bikers For Trump, and the Three Percenters.

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists a number of “three percent” anti-government extremist groups in Colorado, including the American Patriots III%, which provided security. Also among the attendees were members of the Proud Boys, which is designated as a hate group by the SPLC.

(more…)

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Gardner’s Annual Christmas Party Returns to the Brown Palace Tonight

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Cory Gardner has been hard to find in Colorado this year. This evening, however, he and his family will be at Denver’s historic Brown Palace for his annual Christmas Open Home party.

According to the invitation, Gardner says he’s looking forward to seeing his fellow Coloradans come out to show support for our Western Values and get into the holiday spirit.

The holiday gathering is officially hosted by Gardner’s political action committee, Project West PAC. The committee spent over $1.2 million during the last election, including $430,000 in direct contributions to federal candidates. Recipients included the other three Republican members of the Colorado delegation, and 44 of Gardner’s GOP colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

The PAC is managed by the Starboard Group, the fundraising firm of choice for Colorado Republicans. The Starboard Group team tweeted a picture of themselves from the party last year.

The photo included their intern at the time, right-wing social media personality, Ashley St. Clair, who earlier this year was dropped by Turning Point USA for partying with white nationalists.

(more…)

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Cory Gardner Jokes He’s Mad at his Ancestors For Settling in Yuma Rather Than Aspen

(Trading in that Carhartt for Columbia – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A favorite Republican meme, “the war on rural Colorado,” was jokingly stoked by an unlikely source today: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO).

For as long as he’s been in politics, Gardner has cultivated his image as a farm boy from the plains. In speeches and ads, he paints himself as a champion of rural Coloradans, fighting against the elite liberals flocking to the state’s cities and mountain towns.

Yet on an informal podcast with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which he chaired from 2016-18), Gardner said he was “a little mad at his ancestors” for settling in Yuma rather than pushing on to the Rockies.

“Look I’m a little mad at my ancestors. I mean, we live out by the Kansas border, you know, three more weeks in a covered wagon and they could’ve been in Aspen. I mean, I don’t know happened.”

 

The comment was clearly lighthearted, as was the rest of the interview, with the NRSC hosts asking him about casual topics ranging from Star Wars movies to Gardner’s impressive Mitch McConnell impression.

That said, Gardner raised the issue of preferring swanky Aspen to humble Yuma. His comment is notable precisely because Republicans have pushed this “war on rural Colorado” frame for years without a trace of humor. Gardner himself has talked about it extensively, from lamenting the divide in a 2017 interview with The Denver Post to attacking “big-city politicians” who “want to leave rural America behind” in his speech to this year’s Western Conservative Summit.

They take it so seriously in fact, that in 2013, when several counties, including Yuma, voted on whether or not to secede from the state of Colorado, Gardner refused to say how he voted on the issue.

Was he joking today? Sure. But thanks to years of relentlessly pushing a message of rural-urban division in his own state, he should be surprised if some of his constituents think this is no laughing matter.

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Cory Gardner Says He Needs Money to Fight “Radical Liberal Hoard [sic]”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) recent fundraising letter attempts to scare Coloradans into donating to his reelection campaign by using extremely partisan language at odds with his claims of being a moderate, bipartisan dealmaker.

Toward the end of a four-page letter mailed to prospective donors, Gardner explains his need for money in extreme (though poorly copy-edited) language:

“To help me fight back the radical liberal hoard [sic] that is descending on Colorado to try to defeat me, please make a commitment to my campaign today…” writes Gardner.

It’s unclear which Coloradans specifically Gardner is referring to as part of the “radical liberal [horde] descending on Colorado,” but at the very least he includes his potential challengers, the two most prominent of whom (Hickenlooper and Romanoff) have lived in Colorado for decades. His language also invokes a longtime conservative complaint about liberal Coloradans who moved here from other states and shifting the political demographics.

An email to the Gardner campaign requesting clarification of whom he considers to be part of the “radical liberal [horde]” was not immediately returned.

In the postscript, Gardner continues to warn of “radical liberals” and of Democrats’ desire to institute socialism.

“They want to destroy me and elect a radical liberal to work with Schumer and Pelosi in Washington, D.C.,” Gardner writes.

(more…)

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“Citizen Voter” Spokesman Sees Initiative as a “Lifeline” for “Many Republican Campaigns”

(Desperate enough to admit it without prompting – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

not George Athanasopoulos

Former GOP Congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos, who is leading the Initiative 76 “Citizen Voter” campaign, believes in the effort not only for its policy impact, but as a political organizing tool to help Republicans in the 2020 election.

The Colorado Constitution already mandates that voters to be citizens of the United States, yet the ballot initiative proposes to amend a single phrase, from “every citizen” may vote to “only a citizen” may vote.

While legislators and lawyers can debate whether the new phrase would actually change the current law’s effect, Athanasopoulos went on the radio to say that there is another benefit to the campaign: energize lagging Republican political campaigns in need of a “lifeline.”

Patrick Neville Initiative 76

On Tuesday, House Republicans may have showed at least some faith in his argument by not only delivering the Initiative 76 signatures themselves, but also sharing a video of several lawmakers including House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock), Minority Caucus Chair Lori Saine, (R-Dacono), and Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colorado Springs) carrying boxes of petitions into the Secretary of State’s office.

Speaking to KNUS hosts Chuck Bonniwell & Julie Hayden on July 29, Athanasopoulos said:

“This can be the spark that lights the fire. This can be the issue that Republicans can run on and get people enthusiastic and frankly it shouldn’t just be a Republican issue this should be an American issue.”

He expounded on his point a few minutes later, imagining a Republican candidate using the initiative as a campaign talking point:

“This is a great issue for Republicans because if you’re a Republican running for office I would vocally say, ‘I signed the petition I am supporting this initiative. I believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections. How about my opponent? Did my opponent sign this? Does my opponent support this?'”

He returned to the same point again, saying simply:

“This initiative is a lifeline to many Republican campaigns that they need to grab on to.”

Over the course of his interview, he convinced at least one person. Host Chuck Bonniwell introduced the last segment with Athanasopoulos by making his guest’s point for him:

We’re here with George Anthony was talking about a new initiative to mandate in the Colorado Constitution that you have to be a U.S. citizen to vote. And I think as George has indicated it can be used by candidates — certainly Republican candidates–to go after the Democratic ones who refuse to support the initiative. Chuck Bonniwell, KNUS radio host, July 29, 2019

The “Citizen Voter” initiative is part of a national effort to push these ballot initiatives. A Florida nonprofit called, Citizen Voters, Inc, which esssentially fully funded the signature gathering effort here in Colorado (spending $1.4M) is also supporting similar efforts in Florida, Alabama and other states. The Washington Post explored the group and its funders in a long feature over the summer called, “Secret donors and Trump allies: Inside the operation to push noncitizen voting laws in Florida and other states.”

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Recallers Rebrand: Meet Colorado Freedom Force

(The Force will not necessarily be with you – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s recall leaders aren’t calling it quits, they’re just rebranding and expanding.

Today, the Resist Polis PAC, which claimed to have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures but didn’t turn in any, re-launched as Colorado Freedom Force, with renamed Facebook groups and a new website complete with a new donation page. Divisions between the various recall entities, however, are presenting challenges for the new group’s organizing and fundraising plans.

On October 4, Korry Lewis, spokesperson and filing agent for Resist Polis PAC’s failed gubernatorial recall group and daughter of state Rep. Kimmie Lewis (R-Kim), filed articles of incorporation for a new 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the “Colorado Freedom Force.”

Resist Polis PAC has rebranded its regional chapter Facebook groups and shared the new website on each page, encouraging supporters to join the new email list and donate anonymously:

“Today, the most important step you can take is to join our force by adding your name. Join the Force – Click Here. This is the very best way to stay up to date with what’s going on in Colorado.

The second most important step would be to chip in to our cause. As a 501(c)4 organization, your contribution will remain anonymous, and there is no limit as to how much you can give.”


In the statewide Facebook group, several commenters expressed skepticism, questioning the group’s purpose and noting that they felt like their previous donations had been wasted. Lewis pushed back, asking to which of the two Polis recall groups the commenters had contributed money and specifying CFF’s anticipated activities.

According to Lewis, the CFF will organize in a variety of ways:

“Colorado Freedom Force is essentially a grassroots army of people throughout Colorado who are willing to take action to protect their freedoms. That may be through signature-gathering efforts (initiatives, referendums, or recalls), testifying at the Capitol, or educating voters about candidates and ballot measures.”

In addition to serving as the filing agent for Resist Polis PAC, Lewis coordinated the group’s half-hearted recall efforts against Colorado state senators. She solicited donations on behalf of all three recalls: Governor Polis, Sen. Brittany Pettersen, (D-Lakewood) and Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs).

(more…)

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New Poll: Colorado Latino Voters Excited to Vote, Just Not for Cory Gardner

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A new tracking poll shows both an increase in enthusiasm for voting among Coloradan Latinos and a distinct preference for presumed Democratic senate candidate John Hickenlooper over incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

When Equis Research polled Colorado Latinos over the summer, it was clear Cory Gardner had a lot of work to do. As the Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reported at the time, “U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is in big trouble with Latinos.”

However that poll from July also noted that fewer than half (48%) of Latino registered voters were “excited” to vote in 2020. According to the latest data released yesterday, that total has jumped to 55%, a significant increase in less than three months.

When asked about the U.S. Senate race, Latino Coloradans expressed a 3-1 preference for a generic Democrat over Gardner (68%-23%). The latest poll, which named Hickenlooper as Gardner’s likely opponent, returned essentially the same results (69%-23%).

The Colorado data also reflected increased support (6%) among Latinos for the Democratic party, along with a three point slide in President Trump’s favorability.

Breaking down the “excited to vote” data by partisan affiliation further exacerbates the challenge Colorado Republicans face in wooing the Latino votes. Here are the totals of “excited voters as divided into partisan categories: “Liberal 67% (+9), Moderate 51% (+12) Conservative 47% (-5).”

(more…)

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