InCOPetence: Stapleton Contradicts Stapleton

Walker Stapleton.

We wrote earlier today about the controversy over poorly-explained delays by Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s staff in issuing certificates of participation, bond-like instruments to provide funding for roads and other capital construction projects that were supposed to be issued on July 1 to allow those projects to proceed. Stapleton’s deputy in the treasurer’s office blasted Democrats for a “poorly orchestrated and ill-informed political attack,” while simultaneously admitting that the concern over the delay was legitimate–even to the point of explaining that a lawyer who had argued for the delay based on a pro-TABOR lawsuit by conservative activists had been fired. As The Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reported today:

[T]he treasurer’s office acknowledged that the lawyer who counseled Stapleton to delay financing had been fired and that the staff member who told the project committee that financing would have to be delayed “didn’t have the current information.” [Pols emphasis]

Based on this update, Rep. Daneya Esgar of the Capital Development Committee said she was “pleased” that the funding would be able to at least get moving by the Treasurer’s office’s revised September deadline–based on the belief that the objections inside Stapleton’s office had been resolved.

But as Westword’s Nora Alabi reports in a new Friday story, apparently nobody told this to Walker Stapleton!

At a press conference July 19 at the Colorado Farm Bureau headquarters in Centennial, where Stapleton was discussing the impacts of President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Colorado’s agricultural exports after a private roundtable, reporters asked the state treasurer about the letter and capital construction delays. Stapleton called Democratic accusations that his delay issuing bonds was ideologically motivated a “fabricated political stunt” and a “perfect example of why people lose faith in government.” Stapleton says the delay is justified because of pending litigation that could determine the fate of the capital construction funds. Not only is the outcome of the lawsuit unknown, it has made investors in the bond markets antsy, he adds. [Pols emphasis]

“My paramount concern as the treasurer of Colorado is to make sure we’re not issuing bonds when there is economic uncertainty. Anybody in the capital markets can tell you that from an investment standpoint, when you’re issuing bonds and those bonds are being impacted by pending litigation, which we had nothing to do with, it makes investors skiddish,” Stapleton says. “I’m not going to issue bonds when it could negatively impact the credit of Colorado based on hair around the deal resulting from the lawsuit. It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to do so…”

“The statute calls for the bonds to be issued within the fiscal year. We’re going to issue those bonds in September, which is well ahead of schedule,” Stapleton says. The lawsuit he cites as reason for the delay, however, does not to go trial until late October.

Westword reports that these certificates of participation are not the only financial instruments apparently stymied by the TABOR lawsuit, with bonds to add an additional lane to I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument also delayed for the same stated reason–a lawsuit that Stapleton’s deputy says doesn’t matter.

So folks, which is it? Is the delay justified or isn’t it? Is the TABOR lawsuit the reason for the delay issuing these certificates and bonds…or isn’t it? All of these questions begin and end inside Stapleton’s office. Stapleton is the only one who can explain what’s really going on, and in the last 24 hours the treasurer and his deputy treasurer have said two directly contradictory things that no one has even tried to clarify. The situation is almost, well, Trumpian.

The one thing we do know is it’s absolutely absurd for Stapleton, either in his official capacity as treasurer or as a gubernatorial candidate, to lay this confusion at the feet of Democrats. Until Stapleton and his staff can get on the same page as to what is happening here and why, they’re making colossal fools only of themselves.

Stapleton InCOPetence Blows Up In New Finger-Pointing Idiocy

Walker Stapleton.

We reported yesterday on a letter from Democrats on the legislative Capital Development Committee, calling out Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton over delays in issuing certificates of participation (COPs) for construction projects across the state–unnecessary delays that could cost real money, not to mention time as important road and other capital construction projects wait for their funding.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports today, Stapleton’s over-the-top reaction to this perfectly reasonable inquiry reflects a pattern we’ve seen establishing itself strikingly since Stapleton’s campaign for governor began: incompetence, finger-pointing, and then attempting to bury the underlying very real problem.

Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar, co-chairman of the capital project committee, sent a letter to Stapleton on Wednesday that said any delay in financing the long list of authorized state projects will mean higher costs and delays…

“In order to make the best use of public funds and get these critical projects started rapidly, the (financing) should be issued as soon as possible,” the letter says. It was co-signed by Rep. Chris Hansen, D-Denver.

The letter points to two events — a statement in June by the treasurer’s staff that the financing would be delayed beyond July 1 and legal advice to Stapleton’s office that funding might have to wait because of a pending lawsuit against the state by the Tabor Foundation, a group that first filed suit in 2015 against lawmakers. [Pols emphasis]

As Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal reports, Stapleton’s deputy Ryan Parsell practically hissed out the Treasurer’s office’s response–a response that would have required almost no revision to come from Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign:

Stapleton’s office, however, characterized the criticisms as partisan attacks that are being made and publicized because he is the Republican gubernatorial nominee and is running for the open seat against Democratic Congressman Jared Polis. No transportation projects’ construction will be delayed because of the planned September issuance of the COPs, they said.

“There is no delay. The office is on track to issue these COPs in September,” deputy treasurer Ryan Parsell said. “The faked outrage from Democrats is nothing more than a poorly orchestrated and ill-informed political attack because Walker also happens to be running for governor.”

As Roper reported above, in the press release from House Democrats yesterday, the specifics of the problem that resulted in their letter to Stapleton were not ambiguous:

At a meeting of the CDC last month, nonpartisan staff notified the committee that the Certificates of Participation (COPs) that will launch hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for capital construction and transportation would not to be issued at the start of the fiscal year as originally planned, but would be delayed until a date uncertain.

In short, it was Stapleton’s own staff who told the committee that the paperwork wouldn’t be ready by July 1, and was also apparently being delayed by a legal opinion that a right-wing lawsuit based on the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) might interfere with the issuance of these bond-like certificates of participation.

In other words, the Democrats didn’t make this up. And that’s where it all takes a turn for the stupid:

[T]he treasurer’s office acknowledged that the lawyer who counseled Stapleton to delay financing had been fired and that the staff member who told the project committee that financing would have to be delayed “didn’t have the current information.” [Pols emphasis]

Got that, Colorado? Stapleton fired the lawyer who opined he had to delay the issuance of these certificates, and says now under scrutiny that Stapleton’s own staffer who told Democrats there would be a delay was wrong–and yet it’s Democrats who launched a “poorly orchestrated and ill-informed political attack?” Once you understand all the events along the way to this story, it’s painfully obvious that Stapleton once again is trying to cover for his own incompetence with a pre-emptive volley of bellicose finger-pointing.

Like we said above, this tactic of firing off an acrimonious press release in response to every legitimate point of inquiry or criticism, then being forced to concede that the issue was actually quite valid via their own attempt to quietly remediate, is becoming a distinct pattern for Stapleton and his communications team. When Stapleton attacked his Democratic opponent for selecting a running mate one day before the deadline to do so as a “rushed announcement,” the subsequent uproar over Stapleton’s failure to announce his own selection by the deadline made that attack look totally ridiculous. Now we have Stapleton laying into Democrats with election-year partisan rhetoric via his official proxy, while quietly conceding their point.

It’s a theater of the absurd, folks. Watch for it to keep happening.

Walker Stapleton Doesn’t Do His Job, Capital Construction Edition

Walker Stapleton.

A press release from Colorado House Democrats calls out Treasurer Walker Stapleton for delays in funding approved construction projects, with potential negative consequences both economic and on the health and safety of Colorado residents:

Today, the Democratic members of the Capital Development Committee (CDC) sent a letter to Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton expressing serious concerns about his office’s delay in launching funding for capital construction needs under SB 17-267 and the impact that the delays would have on health and safety across the state.

At a meeting of the CDC last month, nonpartisan staff notified the committee that the Certificates of Participation (COPs) that will launch hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for capital construction and transportation would not to be issued at the start of the fiscal year as originally planned, but would be delayed until a date uncertain.

The letter highlights the impact of these delays on pressing needs around the state, including likely safety risks and significant escalation in costs to the taxpayers, and reiterates a call on Treasurer Stapleton to come before the CDC at the next meeting to respond to questions in person. The full committee had previously sent a letter requesting Treasurer Stapleton’s presence, but the committee agenda released yesterday showed that he did not plan to attend himself and would instead be represented by the Deputy Treasurer.

Here’s the full letter from Democrats on the Capital Development Committee to Stapleton. There’s been no real explanation for this delay offered that we’ve seen, but the most obvious explanation is that Stapleton is too busy running for governor to address these tasks related his current job as Treasurer. It’s the same assumption one could reasonably make for Stapleton’s mismanagement of the Great Colorado Payback program or his absentee oversight of the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA).

Which leads to the next logical question–why Stapleton would deserve a promotion when his current job is, you know, such a hardship.

How YOU Can Enforce Colorado’s New Campaign Finance Rules: To Appeal Or Not?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton (R-CT).

If you’ve been following the Colorado Times Recorder, you know that we’ve been explaining the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) new rules for enforcing campaign finance laws, which allow everyday citizens to lodge official complaints with the Secretary of State.

To clarify the process, we lodged a complaint, alleging that candidate for governor Walker Stapleton forgot to disclose his wife’s income on forms that he was required to file with the SOS as part of his candidacy.

The SOS dismissed our complaint, writing that he didn’t have authority to decide whether our specific allegation was true or not. He said the district attorney would have to decide.

Meanwhile, Stapleton admitted to ColoradoPolitics that, in fact, he did did not include his wife’s $30,000 income from the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation on his mandatory disclosure form.

He fixed the form and alleged that no laws were broken, without explaining what caused the lapse. Did he think his wife was a volunteer for his family’s foundation? Did he try to donate the 30K and failed? Was the $30,000 actually inserted in his bank account? Did his layer screw up? His accountant? No one knows, as of this writing.

In any case, the question is, what do you do now, if you’ve filed a complaint?

The SOS’ new rules allow for an appeal. The rule states, “The dismissal is a final agency action, and subject to review” under Colorado law governing “rule-making and licensing procedures by state agencies.”

If you file a complaint, and want to appeal, Colorado law spells out the process this way:

any person adversely affected or aggrieved by any agency action may commence an action for judicial review in the district court within thirty-five days after such agency action becomes effective; but, if such agency action occurs in relation to any hearing pursuant to section 24-4-105, then the person must also have been a party to such agency hearing. A proceeding for such review may be brought against the agency by its official title, individuals who comprise the agency, or any person representing the agency or acting on its behalf in the matter sought to be reviewed. The complaint shall state the facts upon which the plaintiff bases the claim that he or she has been adversely affected or aggrieved, the reasons entitling him or her to relief, and the relief which he or she seeks.

In our example of Stapleton forgetting his wife’s 30K, the core problem has been fixed, but an appeal could be lodged to assess penalties for forgetting his wife’s income for so long.

Also, he may face misdemeanor charges for failing to disclose the 30K in the first place.

At least that’s how I read the law.

The Stapleton campaign sees it differently, arguing that the mistake wasn’t willful, but just a run-of-the-mill stumble, according to the ColoradoPolitics post. Therefore, all’s forgiven, as long as the lapse was fixed within 30 days of his becoming aware of it, which it was, Stapleton says.

At this point, if you’re an ordinary citizen trying to navigate this SOS process, you probably need a lawyer. And you probably don’t have one. And frankly, at least in this example, you might pat yourself on the back and say, hey, he fixed his lapse, in direct response to the complaint, even if he didn’t pay fines and get convicted of anything.

So I’m not going to appeal or sue in court. The Stapleton example served its purpose of showing how the new rules work.

I hope this series of blog posts inspires you to file your own complaint, whether it be against a Democrat or a Republican like Stapleton. Colorado deputizes you as the enforcer of its campaign finance laws, and now you know how to do it.

Please Clap Vigorously While You Caption This Photo

Friday afternoon’s moment of unintended hilarity via the Colorado Republican Party’s Twitter account continues to make Colorado politics chuckle the Sunday after:

The first thing we’re obliged to note is that the photo you see above was voluntarily released into the wild by the official Twitter account of the state Republican Party–not a Democratic tracker, or anyone else looking to damage gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton. During Stapleton’s time as state treasurer and certainly in the limelight now as candidate for governor, the inability of photographers to capture a flattering likeness of Stapleton has become a consistent theme, but this pic is really especially bad. As for the photo’s caption celebrating “vigorous sustained applause” that you’ll have to take their word for, well…

All we can say is, whoever wrote that hackneyed crap had a priapism joke coming.

As for what Stapleton was saying in this picture to elicit all that vigorous sustained applause? Like the Photoshop-ready cutout above (right-click and “save image” to commence the fun), it’s whatever you want it to be.

Stapleton Says He’s Bringing Trump To Stump!

UPDATE: File this under “effusive praise.”

—–

A Tweet from conservative radio host Stefan Tubbs that got our attention yesterday:

The decision to welcome President Donald Trump’s help on the campaign trail this fall is significant in a number of ways, many of which have nothing to do with any boost Walker Stapleton might receive from a Trump visit to Colorado. Setting aside whether Trump would be helpful for Stapleton’s own campaign, which is certainly debatable, other Colorado Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman would face a perilous choice–to be seen on the same stage as Trump with all the baggage that comes with, or anger the Republican faithful whose support Coffman still requires to keep his seat by dissing the President.

As of this writing, we’d say Democrats should be helping Stapleton book the event! Preferably with a large space out front for the welcoming committee.

Lang Sias Move Could Change Top Senate Race

Christine Jensen.

Walker Stapleton’s decision to tap Arvada Rep. Lang Sias to be his running mate at the top of the Republican ticket in 2018 may lead to a significant domino effect that could change the makeup of at least one big legislative race in Jefferson County.

Sias was running for re-election in HD-27, where he would almost certainly have won in November in what has proven to be a reliably-conservative district in recent years. But now that he is running for Lieutenant Governor, Sias can’t still be on the ballot in HD-27. Republicans will need a new candidate for that House seat.

Sias’ departure from the race in HD-27 only makes this seat marginally more competitive for Democrats, but the bigger impact could be in nearby Senate District 20. State Rep. Jessie Danielson is the Democratic candidate in SD-20 who is running to succeed term-limited Democrat “Unaffiliated” Sen. Cheri Jahn; Democrats have generally fared well in this Wheat Ridge/Golden/Arvada district, but SD-20 is always among the most competitive State Senate races in the state because of its voter registration makeup, and it is again a top target for both parties in 2018. The Republican candidate here is Christine Jensen, a longtime resident who lost out to…wait for it…Lang Sias when a Republican vacancy committee needed to replace Rep. Libby Szabo in 2015.

It makes plenty of sense for Jensen to seek the HD-27 Republican vacancy once again, where she would be the favorite to waltz into office in November instead of running as a slight underdog in SD-20. Jensen would also be a better ideological fit in HD-27; she is probably a bit too conservative for the Senate district. This is similar to how Sias managed to salvage his political career after multiple losses in successive elections (Sias lost a GOP Primary in CD-7 before dropping successive State Senate bids, first to Democrat Evie Hudak and later in a Republican Primary for the same seat by Laura Woods; Democrat Rachel Zenzinger unseated Woods in 2016). Had Sias not made it through that 2015 GOP vacancy committee, he would not be in a position today to be Stapleton’s running mate, so there’s no shame in Jensen following a similar path.

If Jensen seeks the vacancy in HD-27, Republicans would have to scramble to find a new candidate in SD-20. This probably isn’t an ideal scenario for Senate Republicans, but it’s a pretty easy call for Jensen.

 

Stapleton Taps Sias for LG, Confirms Screwing Up Process Entirely

UPDATE: The jokes write themselves:


—–

As Brian Eason first reported for the Associated Press this morning, Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton has selected Arvada Rep. Lang Sias as his running mate and candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

What Sias may or may not bring to the Republican ticket is really a secondary conversation at this point, because this news confirms speculation that Stapleton’s campaign absolutely botched this entire process.

As we recapped earlier this week, Stapleton’s campaign opened the month of July by criticizing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jared Polis for “rushing” the announcement of his own LG pick — former state Rep. Dianne Primavera. Stapleton’s campaign manager, Michael Fortney, tried desperately to spin this narrative in the face of what seemed to be a fairly obvious reality: That Stapleton’s team apparently didn’t realize that the law requires a gubernatorial nominee to choose a Lieutenant Governor within seven days of the June 26 Primary Election.

Fortney claimed on July 3 that Stapleton had indeed selected a running mate but would not make the announcement for several weeks under the theory that the law gives LG candidates 30 days to officially register their campaigns with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. This story was immediately questioned by several reporters, including longtime political journalist Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Sentinel. With Stapleton’s spin unraveling, Fortney then told reporters that the campaign was likely going to announce its running mate sometime around July 26 in order to theoretically generate more publicity for the decision.

 

If Stapleton did not, in fact, select a running mate within seven days of the Primary Election, then he appears to have broken the law. We know that Stapleton’s initial choice for Lieutenant Governor was CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, but Ganahl turned down the offer to be his running mate. Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese was believed to be Stapleton’s second choice, though that has not been confirmed, and the rumor mill on Monday seemed to indicate that Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo was at the top of Stapleton’s list. The point of all this speculation leads in the same direction: If Stapleton had actually selected a running mate as his campaign has claimed, there would not have been this insistent chatter about potential candidates to run alongside him.

 

Stapleton is apparently going to officially announce Sias at an event today — notice the totally-not-rushed signage in the photo above — and the campaign will cross its fingers that nobody asks for proof that Sias was indeed offered the job and agreed to said offer within the seven-day time limit. This is another terrible look for a bumbling Stapleton campaign that is constantly defending concerns that its candidate for Governor pays no attention to details and couldn’t manage a Taco Bell restaurant.

Walker Stapleton’s Short List for Lieutenant Governor

Libby Szabo (right) poses with actor Scott Baio during the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Earlier today we recapped the odd early-July saga of Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton maybe (possibly) having chosen a Lieutenant Governor (LG) running mate but thus far remaining mum on the selection. We’ve heard that CU Regent Heidi Ganahl turned down Stapleton’s offer to be his running mate, which prompted a shift in attention toward someone like Mesa County Commissioner and Climate Change denier Rose Pugliese. Stapleton may well choose (or have chosen) Pugliese, but apparently there is another name in the mix.

Over the weekend we ran a poll asking about potential Stapleton LG candidates, and it appears that we just missed the mark on a finalist from Jefferson County. We speculated, half-jokingly, that longtime Jefferson County elected office hopper Faye Griffin could be Stapleton’s choice for LG, but from what we hear, Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo has made Stapleton’s short list (pun intended) to run alongside him in the fall.

Szabo is a former state representative — and Assistant Minority Leader — who made headlines in late 2014 when she abandoned the Republican caucus shortly after winning re-election to the House in order to secure a vacancy appointment for an open seat on the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners. The Jeffco Commissioner job came with a significant salary increase and other perks — including a brand-new car purchased by Jeffco taxpayers that was equipped with special pedals to accommodate Szabo’s short frame (in the photo at right, Szabo poses with 5-foot-10 actor Scott Baio; you can make your own guesses about Szabo’s actual height).

The upside (pun intended) of choosing Szabo as his running mate is that might help Stapleton with voters in the always-critical Jefferson County. Szabo is also a Spanish speaker, which would theoretically help in attracting Hispanic and Latina(o) voters. There is also considerable downside (pun still intended) of a Szabo selection beyond the negative stories related to her move to Jefferson County government. If Stapleton picks Szabo, it would focus new attention on her 2013 appearance on disgraced Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s show in which she and O’Reilly agreed that there is some sort of correlation between homosexuality and child sex offenders. The significance of this story is obvious given that Democrat Jared Polis would be the first openly-gay man to be elected Governor in the United States.

In short (yep, still), Stapleton will likely announce a running mate who is either a noted Climate Change denier or someone who has no problem intimating that gay people are more likely to sexually assault children.

Have we mentioned that Democrats aren’t at all afraid of running against Stapleton in 2018?

Stapleton’s Evolving Lite Gov Excuses: How The Stupid Burns

UPDATE: Stop what you’re doing right now and read Westword’s “Eight Reasons Why Walker Stapleton Won’t Announce His Running Mate.”

Walker Stapleton wants Coloradans to know that he totally, totally chose a running mate for his upcoming GOP run for the governor’s seat in November. And that, for the reals, Colorado, he met the legal deadline to do so last week. And he pinkie-swears he’s not lying. Cross his Trump-loving heart.

Like Michael Fortney said. “Not a good look.”

—–

Walker Stapleton and…somebody. Allegedly.

We wanted to briefly circle back to recap last week’s principal story in Colorado politics, the failure of Republican gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton to announce his running mate within the seven days nominally prescribed by law. Stapleton, breaking with precedent that has held ever since candidates for governor were given the power to choose their own running mates, claims that a loophole in the law allows him to keep his selection secret for up to 30 days–during which time the candidate is essentially on their honor that they made the pick within the seven-day deadline.

The excuses offered by Stapleton’s campaign for not announcing their running mate by the deadline have evolved considerably as it became apparent that the delay wasn’t going over well. Ernest Luning in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

“I don’t think it makes sense to announce over the Fourth of July week unless you are in a hurry to try to change the narrative, which, after last week, Jared undoubtedly is,” Michael Fortney said, referring to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

“He couldn’t unite the party, so he rushed to make his lieutenant governor announcement in hopes she could do what he couldn’t. I am skeptical. Or he didn’t read the entire law. Either way, not a good look.”

Under scrutiny from Charles Ashby at the Grand Junction Sentinel, this got stupid pretty quickly:

[A]ccording to state statutes — and the Polis campaign — the law requires governor candidates to make such a nomination within seven days after the primary. After Stapleton campaign manager Michael Fortney made that “rushed” comment Monday, he told The Daily Sentinel on Tuesday that Stapleton did pick a running mate the same day, [Pols emphasis] but won’t announce who that person is for a few weeks.

“You have to read the rest of that statute,” Fortney said. “We have 30 days to make that announcement.”

Both picked running mates last Monday, but Polis’ choice was “rushed” because he’s not keeping it secret? Is there another way to read this? The fact that no one has interpreted the law this way in the almost 20 years it’s been on the books makes it absurd to suggest that the Polis campaign’s announcement the day before the deadline was “rushed.” Stapleton’s campaign didn’t have to make that charge, but in the end their own failure to announce a running mate by the deadline was obviously the bigger story and the attempt had backfired. Reporters just didn’t buy the bull:

Stapleton campaign manager Michael Fortney accused the Polis camp of choosing his running mate within a week of the primary, as the law requires, [Pols emphasis] to divert attention from that unity rally, saying it was meant to “change the dialogue.”

With that line of attack floundering, it was back to the holiday week as the excuse for what everyone by this point was forced to agree was Stapleton’s unusual move, not Polis’:

Instead of unveiling Stapleton’s pick when voters are paying more attention to fireworks, barbecues and summer road trips, Fortney said, the campaign intends to let its lieutenant governor candidate be known on its own schedule, sometime before July 26 — potentially getting a bump in good publicity from the announcement instead of squandering it.

At this point, the negative press over Stapleton’s failure to announce by the deadline has done far more damage than announcing last week would have cost him in terms of voter attention. Stapleton’s decision to “keep the choice secret,” with no evident way to prove that the selection was made within the seven days required by law, make the question of whether Stapleton has a running mate even today quite pressing–especially given the credible rumors that Stapleton’s first choice for the job, CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, declined to run with him.

In the best case, Stapleton has reinforced his solidifying reputation as a bumbling idiot and the damage is done–unless it becomes clear that Stapleton didn’t have his running mate by the deadline, and has been making excuses and pointing fingers hypocritically ever since.

In that event, yes. This could get even worse.

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 9)

The looonngggg Holiday week(end) has come to an end. For those of you who haven’t really been in front of a screen since June, keep reading for a special “Things You Might Have Missed Because of That Ridiculously-Long Holiday Week” section. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY… 

President Trump is expected to announce his nominee for a vacant spot on the U.S. Supreme Court late this evening. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump said he was “close” to choosing a Supreme Court nominee Sunday after a weekend at his New Jersey golf club evaluating four leading candidates and mulling the likely response of key senators and his core supporters to each prospect, according to White House officials and Trump advisers involved in the discussions.

Over rounds of golf with friends, meals with family, and a flurry of phone calls and meetings with aides, Trump remained coy about his final decision, which is expected to be announced Monday evening from among the four federal judges atop his shortlist: Brett M. Kavanaugh, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.

“I’m very close to making a decision,” Trump told reporters Sunday afternoon. “Have not made it official yet. Have not made it final.”

He added: “It’s still — let’s say it’s the four people. But they’re excellent. Every one. You can’t go wrong.”

In a tweet Monday morning, Trump said: “I have long heard that the most important decision a U.S. President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice.” He indicated he would stick to plans to make the pick public in a 9 p.m. news conference.

As Aaron Blake writes in a separate story for the Washington Post, there is plenty of potential for some late fireworks in Trump’s announcement.

 

► Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is signaling clearly that he plans to speak out about President Trump — and that it won’t be good news for the Big Orange Man. From CNN:

Michael Cohen, the President’s former fixer and ultimate loyalist, is sending a clear signal to President Donald Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that “the truth is not you(r) or your client’s friend,” according to sources with knowledge of Cohen’s thinking.

Two sources familiar with Cohen’s thinking say he has “hit the reset button” and is continuing his commitment to speak the “real truth.”

In particular, the same sources say Giuliani is wading into dangerous territory when he asks Cohen to “tell the truth” about the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian meddling in the election.

 

► Republicans have a new message for the 2018 election that involves being sad that social media companies don’t tolerate fake right-wing news. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) tries on the tinfoil hat and finds that it fits quite nicely.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

SOS: Not His Job to Decide if Stapleton Broke Campaign Finance Rules

(Theater of the absurd — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

To show how the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) new campaign finance rules work, I filed a real-life complaint last month alleging that Republican candidate for governor Walker Stapleton broke Colorado law by not disclosing his wife’s $30,000 salary.

But the secretary of state says I messed up, because the SOS isn’t responsible for enforcing the law I think Stapleton broke.

During my vacation, in a detailed response to my complaint, the SOS didn’t say whether Stapleton was guilty or innocent of failing to disclose his wife’s 30K, which she earned as director of Stapleton’s family’s foundation.

Instead, I was told that the “district attorney,” not the secretary of state, is responsible for enforcing the law against someone “who willfully files a false or incomplete disclosure statement.”

The Colorado SOS’ Campaign Finance Manager Stephen Bouey wrote me that the SOS doesn’t enforce Colorado’s Public Disclosure law—only the “Colorado Constitution Art. XXVIII, the Fair Campaign Practices Act, or the Secretary of State’s Rules concerning Campaign and Political Finance.”

The SOS wrote me:

“Section 7 of the Public Disclosure Law states that any person ‘who willfully files a false or incomplete disclosure statement, amendment, or notice that no amendment is required,’ is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine of $1,000 to $5,000. Allegations concerning violations of this law carry criminal penalties that are under the jurisdiction of the district attorney, not the Secretary of State.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m confused, because Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, which the SOS does enforce, states that a candidate for governor “shall file a statement disclosing the information required by section 24-6-202 (2) with the appropriate officer, on a form approved by the secretary of state, within ten days of filing the affidavit required by subsection (1) of this section.”

As I see it, Stapleton didn’t file the “information required,” because he left out Jenna Stapleton’s $30,000, so he broke the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

But the SOS doesn’t see it that way:

“Failure to timely file a [Public Finance Disclosure] is a campaign finance violation. But failure to disclose required information on a PFD concerns the Public Disclosure Law, not campaign finance law. The complaint does not allege that Stapleton failed to timely file his PFD or his updated PFD, and the Secretary of State has not imposed a late filing penalty.”

The SOS went on to tell me that the Public Disclosure Law does indeed require a state candidate to list his spouse’s income. So, bingo, at least we all agree I had that right!

Again, I’m not a lawyer, so I need to figure this out, but I noticed something that might be relevant.

To break the law, it looks like Stapleton has to “willfully” omit his wife’s income.

It seems plausible that he just forgot, either because 1) Jenna’s Stapleton’s 30k amounts to grains of sand in the dunes of Stapleton’s wealth or 2) his campaign’s legal team is incompetent. Or a combination of the two.

Either way, the law-breaking wouldn’t be willful. But once he’s been informed of the omission, and he fails to correct the mistake, is he now “willfully” breaking the law? The SOS told me it contacted Stapleton about my complaint, so now he presumably knows about it.

In any case, the email I got from Bouey was titled the “Final Agency Decision” regarding my complaint, and I received it within 10 business days after I received notice of the receipt of my complaint, as promised under the new SOS rules.

It stated:

“This email serves as notification under Secretary of State Rules Concerning Campaign and Political Finance, Rule 18.2.4(b)(1), that the complaint has been dismissed. A copy of the agency decision is attached to this email.”

The SOS’ rules lay out a detailed appeal process, and I’ll explain these in my next blog post after I decide whether to appeal. Stay tuned.

Poll: Who Is Walker Stapleton’s Running Mate (If Any)?

If you believe what Walker Stapleton’s campaign is telling the press, Stapleton selected a running mate within the seven-day deadline prescribed by Colorado law last Tuesday, “and that candidate has accepted.” The problem is, for the first time under decades of existing law pertaining to running mate choice the Republican nominee is “keeping the choice secret for now,” claiming that they only must disclose their alleged choice within a novel 30-day loophole they have apparently discovered in the law–the deadline by which the running mate must file paperwork with the Secretary of State.

In the meantime, we’re all left to speculate. After the well-sourced rumors last week that Stapleton’s first choice declined to run with him, there are possibilities at work to include that maybe Stapleton doesn’t have a running mate at all, and is exploiting vagueness in the law to buy himself time to find one beyond the legal deadline. Either way, like veteran Colorado GOP strategist Dick Wadhams said it’s “another few days of chaos” for Stapleton’s already-stumbling campaign.

While we wait, tell us who you think the pick is (if any) via the poll below! Perhaps you’ll help Stapleton, you know, make up his mind. Or the running mate. Or both. It’s a mystery. Please clap!

Who did Walker Stapleton choose to be his running mate?
Nobody
They said no
Tom Tancredo
George Walker Bush
Rose Pugliese
Faye Griffin
Insert previously unknown female Republican county-level official here
Vic Mitchell Unity Ticket
Other (specify)
View Result

Walker Stapleton Just Makes Stuff Up, Again

WEDNESDAY UPDATE #2: Charles Ashby, along with Ernest Luning among the dwindling number of Colorado politics reporters with enough time served on this beat to recognize the problem, reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel:

Historically, governor candidates have made such announcements within a week of the primary, sometimes even before.

Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Wayne Williams, admitted that the law is vague, saying there is no way to prove such an appointment has actually been made if it’s not publicly announced…

The Colorado Democratic Party isn’t convinced Stapleton has actually named anyone, saying he’s in violation of the law.

“Either he forgot he needed to choose a running mate by (Tuesday’s) deadline and is lying to cover up yet another violation of law, or he thinks he plays by a different set of rules from everyone else, and feels entitled to hide his running mate from the public,” party spokesman Eric Walker said. [Pols emphasis]

And so another unforced error for Walker Stapleton goes into the record books. Or, nobody wants to be his running mate.

You can pick either, they’re just as good for the Democrats.

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WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette sorts this strange story out:

The statute only requires making the pick, not announcing it to the world, Fortney said. Officials at the Secretary of State’s Office agreed, though they acknowledge that isn’t the way anyone has interpreted the law previously… [Pols emphasis]

Veteran GOP strategist Dick Wadhams, who managed the 1998 campaign for Owens — the last Republican elected governor by state voters — hasn’t sounded very impressed by Stapleton’s campaign so far, and Tuesday’s developments didn’t change his assessment.

“I think the law is confusing,” Wadhams told Colorado Politics. “But the bottom line is, he probably should have been in a position to make the selection and announce it today. Maybe he needed more time. But it does provide another few days of chaos for his campaign.”

“Chaos” is a word that increasingly sums up Walker Stapleton’s campaign, from the petition fraud that almost made him the next Jon Keyser to getting shredded by the fact-checkers and laughably pretending to be a “fourth-generation Coloradan.” For a campaign trying desperately to project an aura of inevitability, it’s been one stumble after another.

At some point, even the most loyal Republican talking heads will have to acknowledge this.

—–

UPDATE: Something weird may be going on, gentle readers:

We did a little research on this question. Since 2000, when the law was changed to allow gubernatorial nominees to pick their own running mates, every single candidate has announced their pick within seven days. Bob Beauprez picked Jill Repella a week after the primary in 2014, and Janet Rowland a week after the primary in 2006. Even Dan Maes picked his unlucky dance partner Tambor Williams within a week. In fact, in 2014, the same Lynn Bartels who tells us now that candidates have 30 days appears to have reported in error:

Bob Beauprez, the Republican nominee for governor, must announce his running mate by midnight. [Pols emphasis]

The former congressman won the Republican primary one week ago, beating three rivals for the chance to square off against Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in November.

The law states: “No later than seven days after a primary election, the {major} party’s candidate for governor shall select a candidate for lieutenant governor.”

But now, apparently, with no statutory change whatsoever, that isn’t true anymore! That’s what this bolt from the blue clarification from the Secretary of State last night means, right? That this story from four years ago is in error, right?

If Walker Stapleton doesn’t announce his pick for lieutenant governor today, by the interpretation of the law as it’s been reported for many years he’s broken the law. Either way it’s unprecedented under current law. Rumors that Stapleton’s first choice for the position, CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, turned Stapleton down make this apparently further delay look very much like the campaign is having trouble finding a running mate.

That’s, needless to say, very bad news for Walker Stapleton. And this “rushed announcement” business (see below) is preposterous enough to merit another round of incredulous bad press.

—–

Walker Stapleton.

The response from Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton to yesterday’s announcement of Dianne Primavera as Jared Polis’ running mate is…well, it’s puzzling observers today on account of it not exactly making what you’d call logical sense:

“This rushed announcement [Pols emphasis] from Jared Polis can’t distract from the fact that Democrats are not united heading into the general election and remain divided over Polis’s plans to destroy Colorado’s energy industry and its 230,000 jobs, force Bernie Sanders-style single-payer healthcare on the state, and raise taxes on hardworking Coloradans,” said Stapleton for Colorado Campaign Manager Michael Fortney.

Here’s the thing: the announcement of Polis’ running mate was not “rushed” in, like, any conceivable way. Under Colorado law, the statutory deadline for this selection is seven days after the primary, which is today. In past years this was apparently much better understood, with the press reporting it uncontroversially:

The law states: “No later than seven days after a primary election, the {major} party’s candidate for governor shall select a candidate for lieutenant governor.”

Four years later, the collective memory of Republicans has apparently eroded to the point where they don’t even know the law regarding the selection of running mates! “Rushed” would have been last week, this week it’s complying with the law. It was our understanding that Michael Fortney was at least minimally competent, enough that he didn’t allow his candidates to make unforced asses of themselves on the campaign trail. But between Stapleton’s silly falsehoods in campaign ads that he refused to correct, his joke of a claim to be a “fourth-generation Coloradan,” and now this nonsensical response to Polis’ running mate pick, it’s a honest question whether Fortney can manage a political campaign out of a proverbial wet sack.

Also we can’t wait to meet theirs, and they’ll need to “rush” to meet that deadline.

Huerfano County GOP: Jared Polis is “openly gay” and “against our American values”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE 2: As of late evening on July 2 the post has been deleted. The Huerfano GOP has still not replied to inquiries.

POLS UPDATE: Colorado Democrats jump in:

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In a June 27 Facebook post published the morning after Colorado’s primary election, Huerfano County Republicans urge anyone considering not voting for GOP gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton to “rethink” their decision. They explained their reason for supporting Stapleton instead of his Democratic opponent in the next sentence.

“Jared Polis is an openly gay congressman who is very much against our American values.”

Included with the text of the post is a link to Congressman Polis’ voting record. It is unclear whether the Huerfano GOP believes him to be “very much against our American values” because he is “openly gay” or because of his voting record.

A call to Huerfano County Republican Chair Debi Sporleder was not returned. Sporleder has previously signed her name to Huerfano County Republicans Facebook posts. This story will be updated with any statements received.

The party account also liked a commenter’s claim that Polis “would head us willy nilly down the socialist anti-Christian path” and who criticized Polis for not mentioning “his gayness” in any campaign ads, despite “purporting to be proud of it.”

Huerfano County is southwest of Pueblo. It is part of House District 62, represented by Rep. Donald Valdez (D – La Jara) and Sen. Larry Crowder’s (R – Alamosa) Senate District 35.

The full text of the Facebook statement reads as follows.

If you are unsure about voting in the November elections or think you don’t want to vote for Walker Stapleton, rethink…..Jared Polis is an openly gay congressman who is very much against our American values. A no vote for Stapleton is a yes vote for Polis. Check out his voting record. I’ll make posts about Stapleton, too.

This story was originally published by the Colorado Times Recorder.