It must be exhausting working in the Colorado Secretary of State’s office these days. The employees face an almost constant barrage of negative media coverage brought on by one of the most activist secretary in memory.
Just in the last month and a half, two district judges and legislative staff have handed the secretary of state some serious setbacks. Two different branches of government told him he was exceeding his authority for changing campaign finance disclosure rules. When he went to court to stop Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson from mailing ballots to inactive voters, the judge refused to stop the ballots from being mailed — saying there was no harm in allowing those voters access to the ballot.
Earlier this fall, the secretary caused quite a dust-up when he fined the Larimer County GOP for failure to file campaign finance disclosure and then offered to help fundraise to pay the fine.
These are just the most recent issues surrounding the secretary of state, who has been in court or the media constantly since his election last November.
One can only imagine that the drama must be tiring for those who work in that office, employees who care about conducting fair and impartial elections. People who want to provide access to the ballot for everyone who is eligible rather than provide obstacle courses in front of the ballot box.
Hopefully, this will not be the beginning of a parade of employees heading for the door. Because we need fair-minded folks to mind the store. Colorado voters should be thankful that it’s not just the courts and legislature that will keep our secretary of state honest – it’s also the people who work for him.
POLS UPDATE #2:Washington Post, add Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging federal health care reform, to the Koch list:
He spoke at a breakfast about federalism and touted his office’s role in lawsuits against the federal government involving health care and the Environmental Protection Agency, Cuccinelli’s political director, Noah Wall, said.
POLS UPDATE: Word is getting out about more and more A-list attendees of this weekend’s Koch brothers conference near Vail. The Austin American-Statesmanreports:
Gov. Rick Perry spoke Sunday at a summit hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers near Vail, Colorado.
Perry spokesman Mark Miner described the Colorado summit as a “private gathering of business leaders” and said it was not related to a possible presidential campaign…
It’s not entirely clear how Perry got to Colorado, but a plane owned by aircraft dealer Goldsmith Team LLC flew from Aspen to Georgetown on Sunday, flight records show.
And the Palm Beach New Timesreports, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida slipped into Colorado unannounced for the Koch party–apparently, dodging the press is not a new thing for him. That said, how could you miss this guy (right)?
We finally have an answer as to where Gov. Rick Scott was this weekend, and it confirms our suspicion: At the billionaire Koch brothers’ secret conference outside Vail, Colorado.
St. Petersburg Times reporter Alex Leary got the information out of him, a day after the governor’s spokesman wouldn’t confirm nor deny whether Scott was there.
We haven’t heard yet about any Colorado attendees, but it’s just a matter of time…
The Austin paper employed a novel method of tracking down Gov. Rick Perry, tracing a plane owned by a wealthy campaign contributor’s flight plan from Texas to Aspen. Some of our readers with time on their hands today might find this slick FlightAware website, in particular flights out of Eagle County (EGE) or Aspen (KASE), you know, worth cross-referencing in all the wonderful ways the internets allow. Original post follows.
What could be better than spending a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Vail protesting against the corporate money buying right-wing political influence?
Billionaire brothers David & Charles Koch (pronounced Coke) were hosting a gathering in Vail of other “wealthies” to help fund the Tea Party, extreme right-wing candidates and think tanks that make up science to debunk climate change. A similar event in Palm Springs last January raised $88 million.
The fundraiser had been kept under wraps until Thursday, when the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell would be attending the gala event.
Common Cause led the protest at Nottingham Lake Park, just below the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Spa near Vail (where the Koch gathering is reportedly being held). About fifty protestors from Eagle County, Crowley County, Colorado Springs, Glenwood Springs and Denver carried signs that read “Keep Your Hands Off Our Elections,” “Frack You Koch Brothers,” “GOP Addicted to Koch,” among others. Unions, ProgressNow Colorado, Campaign for a Strong Colorado and other progressive groups were represented at the rally.
“It’s important for average Americans to know who’s funding extreme organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the CATO Institute and the host of negative campaign ads in opposition to candidates who stand up for the middle class,” said Jenny Flanagan, director of Colorado Common Cause.
No word on who was on the Kochs’ guest list. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have attended past gatherings. But whoever joined the Kochs wasn’t roughing it!
(An excellent guide to why Scott Gessler’s “illegal immigrant voter” numbers are nonsense, as we’ve said repeatedly – promoted by Colorado Pols)
Conspiracy theories are odd things. They typically involve byzantine logic, wild leaps of faith and holding discussions with people who have some type of extreme agenda. A large dose of skepticism is called for around conspiracy theories.
So when our new Secretary of State Scott Gessler cooked up some numbers alleging that thousands of non-citizens are voting in Colorado, a number of red flags went up. His numbers are not so much fuzzy as they are sporting a mustache, sideburns and a goatee.
Depending on the day or hour, his numbers shift a bit, but his basic conclusion is that 5,000 non-citizens voted in 2010. These 5,000 people were in the U.S. legally and presented non-citizen documentation to get a Colorado drivers license between 2006-2010. In that same time frame (2006-2009), more than 32,000 people became citizens in Colorado.>> Throw in a few thousand more in 2010 (exact numbers are not available from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security yet).
Gessler’s agenda has taken some hits. He took his numbers to Congress recently and was skewered by Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX),>> who said Gessler’s case was weak and inconclusive. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner>> is demanding that Gessler turn over any information because she’s not buying his theory. County clerks have testified that non-citizens voting in Colorado is a non-issue.
Gessler is asking Colorado lawmakers to pass a law giving him broad powers to freeze the voting rights of anyone whose citizenship — in his opinion – is questionable…until the accused can prove otherwise. Coincidentally, many of these voters tend to cast their ballots for Democrats.
Colorado is not the only state with this proposed legislation. The conservative ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is pushing similar laws>> in advance of the 2012 presidential election in swing states. Gessler is just one of the most aggressive secretaries of state carrying their water.
Former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher last year decided to have his staff re-check a random sample of people who did not mark the citizen box when registering to vote. The results? 100% of the people they contacted were citizens.
Speaking of former secretaries of state and conspiracy theories, Mike Coffman in 2007 gleefully conspired with Tom Tancredo’s congressional office, the El Paso County District Attorney, the El Paso County Clerk and his staff (all Republicans) about trying to chase down>> any illegal non-citizens voting here in Colorado. He never found any.
No one is arguing that non-citizens should vote. We should argue about protecting eligible voters right to cast their ballot. Especially from an elected official who used to represent right-wing partisan political committees and admits that he’s in office “further the conservative viewpoint.”>>
Marry Gessler’s line of thinking to another conspiracy theory currently in vogue among Republicans: President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake! Color me more skeptical about Gessler’s intentions and giving him the power to purge voters from the roles. Whose birth certificate is real to the Secretary of State’s office?
Gessler likely has at least some power to double-check citizenship without legislation. So, stay skeptical and keep a close eye on this fox in the henhouse.
(Truth is funnier than fiction. Media added by request – promoted by Colorado Pols)
Colorado’s legislative session has lacked the drama of Wisconsin’s governor-union standoff. There’s plenty of serious business going on under the golden dome, most notably balancing a budget that means chopping education and other critical services. But there are many people who lose their perspective and say silly things or do silly things, especially when there is no money to spend. Unfortunately, there’s a whole second half to top this list.
From my perch, these are the funnier highlights of the first 60 days:
Thurgood Marshall Humanitarian Award – Secretary of State Scott Gessler
Gessler told the House State Affairs Committee that requiring photo IDs to vote does not suppress minority voting. He cited the fact that Georgia had passed a photo ID requirement and African American voters increased in 2008! Oops, forgot to mention the fact that Barack Obama was on the ballot that year. (House State Affairs Committee, HB 1003, February 2, 2011)
Hugo Chavez Cultural Sensitivity Award – Rep. Jim Kerr
“Does anyone here speak Venezuelan?” Kerr asked after Maria DeCambra, an American whose family is from Venezuela, testified (in plain English) that even fingerprints and photo IDs do not stop election fraud in that South American country. (House State Affairs Committee, HB 1003, February 2, 2011)
David Koch Oil & Gas Defense Award – Rep. Spencer Swalm
“I am not an environmental scientist nor am I an expert in this issue….but I believe that this scare about global warming and CO2 emissions has risen to a point of being a superstition.” (House Agriculture Committee, HB 1240, February 21, 2011)
Breakfast of Champions/Let Them Eat Cake Award – (Tie) Sen. Kent Lambert and Rep. Cherie Gerou
Republican JBC members halted breakfast funding for low-income children. (Props to Sen. Keith King for leading the charge to restore funding.)
“As a family guy myself with children and grandchildren, I take a very strong responsibility to earn money to feed my own family.” (Lambert)
Humane Society Award for Kids & Animals – J. Paul Brown
A trio of stands that defy imagination. He advocated eliminating pre-school for the most extreme at-risk children at the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, was the only vote in the House to eliminate options to counties to help homeless youth and sponsored a bill (HB 1039) that would have decreased the ability to deal with cruelty to animals.
Bipartisan/Bicameral Award – Rep. David Balmer
The man who is the co-chair for the “bipartisan” Joint Blah-Blah Committee to redraw congressional boundaries was kicked out of the Senate and forced to publicly apologize for his treatment of fellow commission member Sen. Gail Schwartz. (Denver Post, January 28, 2011)
Let Them Drink Diet Soda Award – Rep. David Balmer (He’s a gold mine)
Balmer said in a hearing that sodas are more nutritious than fruit juice: “Juices and sport drinks are less nutritional than soda is… there’s really a lot more nutrition and hydration that can come from a diet soda.” (House Finance Committee, HB 1162, February 23, 2011)
Air Quotes of Infamy Award – Rep. Amy Stephens
Adequate funding of schools is in the “eye of the beholder,” according to this former Focus on the Family employee. She believes that Colorado’s school excellence is evidenced by the fact that Colorado is ranked among the nation’s most highly educated. Hopefully, someone has taken the House Majority Leader aside to explain that Colorado imports its highly educated work force. Unfortunately, it is not home-grown. (February 28, 2011, ColoradoPols.com)
Your Grandchildren Must be So Proud Award – Anus Church Lady
Rosina Kovar testified in opposition to civil unions on behalf of her grandchildren, saying that the anus was an exit, not an entrance and then proceeded into a cringe-worthy anatomy lesson for some of the most memorial (yet irrelevant to the bill) testimony of the 2011 session. Sorry kids! (Senate Judiciary Committee, SB 172, March 7, 2011)
In June 1999, GOP candidate state Treasurer Walker Stapleton was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of the accident in San Francisco where two women were injured. This would not be a story in this election, except for Stapleton’s mishandling of both the accident and its aftermath.
Stapleton brushed off the DUI in a September 30 debate, saying a cab hit him and he did community service, equating the incident to having to eat a “doo-doo sandwich.” He blamed the victims. (The reality is that he accepted a plea bargain down to a DUI, with three-year probation, twice weekly AA meetings and court-ordered community work.)
The court records, obtained by Campaign for a Strong Colorado, and one of the injured women tell a very different story than the candidate’s. Stapleton was originally charged under the wrong section, implying he hit pedestrians. That charge was amended several days later, to charges of running a flashing light and hitting a cab in the intersection, causing injuries and leaving the scene.
One of the victims, Ginger Vasquez of Santa Monica, CA, was alone in the backseat of the cab that was hit by Stapleton. She describes the vehicle spinning after the impact and seeing Stapleton’s car driving away.
After Stapleton’s car stopped down a steep hill, she says, two cabs boxed in his vehicle to prevent him driving any farther. She has never talked to Stapleton and did not know his name until recently. She does not know the other woman injured in the accident. Stapleton never approached the cab to find out if everyone was all right. Most importantly, she has no motive to lie about events that night.
Stapleton, who has an obvious motive not to tell the whole truth, continues to shift the blame and will not produce police reports (unavailable to the public) of the accident.
Colorado’s treasurer accounts for $20 billion and manages a $6 billion investment pool of public funds annually. Integrity, responsibility and good decision-making is critical to this job. So are honesty and transparency. That’s why his behavior is disturbing.
Cary Kennedy has a solid record of public service. She has made the state’s finances more accessible to the public and has invested the state’s assets wisely during one of the worst economic downturns in history. Her opponent’s best shot at her? Stapleton erroneously accuses Treasurer Kennedy of holding only government jobs in her career, which her resume and several media truth tests have refuted.
Ironically, Stapleton was born into one of the country’s wealthiest, best-connected families, sharing a family tree with George W. and George H.W. Bush. He attended prep school in Connecticut and expensive colleges and universities. The truth is that Stapleton has never had to find a real job outside his wealthy family’s umbrella.
Stapleton had the money to hire a very high-profile attorney to represent him in his DUI/hit and run. The attorney has all the records that Stapleton claims would support his story. He’s had more than month to produce them. Also, Stapleton is one of the few people who can ask the police department to produce the accident account.
Time and again, Ken Buck has sided with big business over Colorado families. Now, Buck argues that healthcare reform should be repealed and he has provided only vague details on keeping healthcare affordable for working families.
During the October 15 ABC/Chamber of Commerce debate, ABC news correspondent Jake Tapper pushed Buck to provide real details of his healthcare proposal. His response? Scary at best.
Buck’s campaign claims that healthcare reform is a system that, “Infringes on personal freedom, violates states’ rights, will ration medical care and could potentially bankrupt our country.” Although his critique is baseless, it seems that Ken Buck envisions a system where private, profit-earning insurance companies can violate personal freedom and bankrupt American families.
Hasn’t big business already done enough harm to America’s working families? Wall Street has destroyed retirement funds, big banks have torn communities apart with foreclosures and now Ken Buck wants to give health insurance companies the power to come after our homes, cars and bank accounts.
Colorado families cannot afford Ken Buck. Literally.
Primaries bring out the crazy in politics, sort of like family feuds around the holiday dinner table. But the primaries are now behind us and candidates like Ken Buck will begin their “low crawl”” back to the middle. And we can begin having fun with all our new words: buck-tracking, buck-pedaling,
The frenzy and lunacy of the Tea Party movement got behind Buck, who is now saying he was NEVER a Tea Party candidate. Huh? Let’s not forget that Buck owes much of his success to the national backing of U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who raised money and support for Buck. Didn’t they invent political crazy in South Carolina?
So the question is: Is Ken Buck crazy or just extreme? Let’s review some of his best hits before you decide:
• Buck called the Department of Education “unnecessary and unconstitutional.” (Colorado Statesman, 1/22/10)
• Buck said that Social Security is a “horrible” public policy. (Republican U.S. Senate debate, Colorado Springs, June 29, 2010)
• “We would be much better off with a closer relationship between church and state.” Buck said on the Jim Pfaff radio show on May 21, 2010.
• “We need to make sure that the American public remembers the global warming nonsense that is going on and how now, over and over, it’s being disproved,” said Ken Buck at the Liberty Forum, February 21, 2010.
• “I am pro-life, and I’ll answer the next question. I don’t believe in the exceptions of rape or incest. I believe that the only exception, I guess, is life of the mother. And that is only if it’s truly life of the mother,” Ken Buck told supporters in Meeker, Colorado on August 2, 2010.
• Buck also supports Amendment 62, a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would give fertilized eggs constitutional rights and ban many common forms of contraception. An almost identical measure was defeated two years ago by Colorado voters 73-27%.
Buck now says he doesn’t remember many of these comments, that they were taken out of context or he just said them during the heat of the primary battle. Fortunately, they’re all in print or on digital audio or video. So that trip back to the middle is now a voyage.
Gender politics are a kissing cousin to racial politics. Just scratch the surface on this topic and emotions and anger burst forth. U.S. Senate candidates Ken Buck and Jane Norton are engaged in a battle of the sexes that has not exactly focused on intellectual issues.
Norton fired the opening salvo in this battle when she ran an ad accusing Buck of not being “man enough” to criticize her directly, because an independent political group was running ads doubting her conservative fiscal credentials. Sensitive to his manhood being questioned, Buck’s now infamous response was: Vote for me “because I don’t wear high heels.” Buck went on to point out that his footwear of choice was cowboy boots with bulls**t on them. You get the idea, not exactly the stuff upon which to base your Ph.D. thesis – or your vote.
Buck was speaking to an ultra-conservative crowd and made the remark in that “it’s just between us folks” manner that people have when they are telling an insensitive joke. I have to admit, I laughed. Political gender correctness aside, I laughed out loud because it is amazing to watch a candidate for the U.S. Senate – a body known for its deliberative nature – utter something so outrageously lame on the campaign trail.
It is just not smart to mess with Colorado women and politics. In 1893, Colorado was the first state in the nation to give women the right to vote at the ballot box. We elected the first female state senator in the country. As recently as two years ago, Colorado had the highest percentage of female state legislators in the nation.
Historically, more women than men vote in Colorado. It is no secret that women often hold the key to statewide races. And I suspect that a bunch of those women have a pair of high heels in the closet. For that matter, a chunk of them probably own a pair of cowboy boots too.
It’s doubtful that many Colorado women will base their vote in Tuesday’s primary election solely on shoe choices. The more substantial issues that influence women’s votes are typically the economy and jobs, schools and health care.
Jane Norton wants to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education; Ken Buck wants to gut it. Both Norton and Buck favor the so-called “personhood” amendment that gives constitutional rights to fertilized eggs, a misconceived amendment backed by an extremist group, rejected in a 3-to-1 margin by Colorado voters in 2008. Both candidates support corporate interests that plunged our country into this recession. Those are the issues that should be the deciding factors for Colorado women.
That’s the real bulls**t on Jane Norton’s high heels and Ken Buck’s boots.