Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 21)

Sad trombone for Case Keenum. 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…

► It sure looks like the Mueller probe is nearing a conclusion of some sort. As the Washington Post reports:

Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The special counsel’s investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William P. Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

 

► If it looks like political retribution, and it smells like political retribution, and…oh, hell, this here is obviously a “spade.” From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it’s canceling $929 million of federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project and demanding the return of $2.6 billion that’s already been spent.

Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly denounced the move as political retribution for the state’s resistance to a southern border wall and said California will fight for the money…

…In a statement Tuesday, Newsom said, “It’s no coincidence that the administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the president’s farcical ‘national emergency.’ The president even tied the two issues together in a tweet this morning.”

The reference was to a tweet in which Trump asserted that with cost overruns that “are becoming world record setting,” California’s project “is hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!”

► House Democrats plan to push forward a resolution on Friday in opposition to President Trump’s “emergency declaration” for building big ‘ol walls. Should such a resolution pass in the House, and it likely will, it will force Republican Senators to go on the record with a vote of support or opposition to Trump’s power grab. Sucks to be you, Sen. Cory Gardner!

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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More Fuzzy Accounting from the Neville Clan

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

Colorado politicos are still buzzing about a two-part story from the Colorado Springs Gazette in which Republicans openly questioned the 2018 soft money operations intended to support GOP candidates for State Representative. Reporter Marianne Goodland outlined the complaints about political spending overseen by House Minority Leader Pat Neville and his brother, Joe Neville (click for PART 1 and PART 2), including a curious case of hundreds of thousands of dollars that nobody bothered to spend prior to Election Day.

“Spend it to the end”: It’s an expression that floats around soft money groups. What it means is that you don’t leave money in the bank; you spend it on behalf of your candidates (or against their opponents) down to the last penny.

But that wasn’t the case for the Nevilles and the committees they ran in 2018, based on campaign finance filings.

After raising $1.214 million, the Values First Colorado caucus-fund committee and its related IECs left ending balances of $305,961, just over a quarter of what the GOP House caucus raised for the 2018 election.

Goodland writes that Pat Neville declined to respond to her questions about this unspent chunk of money. Joe Neville did respond, albeit poorly, claiming that the caucus just received more money than it could spend at the end of the election cycle — but this story doesn’t add up when you take a closer look at the campaign finance reports.

According to data publicly available on TRACER, some of the money raised by the Nevilles’ committee appears to vanish into thin air. We took a closer look at campaign finance reports from “Values First Colorado” and another committee run by Joe Neville, as Goodland reports:

Citizens for Secure Borders, another Joe Neville-run IEC, raised $274,200, all of it from Values First Colorado, and spent $144,740 on advertising. That left an ending balance of $129,460 after the last campaign finance reports were filed on Dec. 6.

Here’s a screenshot of reported expenditures from the “Values First Colorado” caucus fund committee to the Independent Expenditure Committee “Citizens for Secure Borders:”

As you can see, “Values First Colorado” reports contributing a total of $330,200 to “Citizens for Secure Borders.” But if you look at the campaign finance report from “Citizens for Secure Borders,” there is no mention of that $56,000 contribution:

Perhaps this missing $56k is just a (really big) accounting error, but it could also mean that “Values First Colorado” had even more “unspent” cash than the $305,961 noted by the Colorado Springs Gazette. Where some of that money actually ended up is anyone’s guess.

It’s also worth noting that we’ve seen this sort of thing before from Republican-aligned political committees. Seasoned Colorado politicos might still remember the Trailhead Group, a Republican political committee that was created to support candidates for legislative and state offices in 2006. As the website Colorado Confidential (now known as The Colorado Independent) reported at the time:

Colorado Confidential examined publicly available financial reports filed with the IRS by the Trailhead Group – a political committee created by some of Colorado’s biggest Republican names – and found several transactions totaling $200,000. Contributions to other political committees that Trailhead claims in its IRS filings are not found on the recipient’s books, and contributions from those committees back to Trailhead either don’t match Trailhead’s records or don’t appear at all. And on one occasion, a contribution was made to an organization for which Colorado Confidential can find no record of existence…

…Steve Weissman, Associate Director for Policy at the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington DC, spends a great deal of time tracking the money and the movement of funds associated with 527 organizations. He’s never seen this before.

“I don’t recall encountering situations where one group is saying they got the money and the other is saying they never received it,” says Weissman.

Republicans have plenty of reasons to question the political spending of its House caucus committee. You can add this missing $56,000 to that list.

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GOP Just Can’t Help But Lose Their Minds Over Sex Ed Bill

Rep. Perry Buck (R-Ludicrous)

More or less the whole day Friday in the Colorado House of Representatives was wasted on a marathon and factually-challenged debate over House Bill 19-1032, legislation to requiring that if sex ed courses in Colorado are taught, which is not mandatory, that they provide medically accurate and nondiscriminatory information.

As we saw previously in debate over this bill in the House Health and Insurance Committee, there was very little connection between the reality of what this legislation would do and the views of its opponents–who turned public testimony on the bill into a lurid freakshow of ill-informed homophobia. And as 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reported last night, Republican House lawmakers proved every bit as unhinged as the public witnesses–if perhaps a bit less outright vulgar for decorum’s sake.

“House Bill 19-1032 requires schools that provide comprehensive sex education to teach pro-LGBTQ sex education while banning the teaching of religious or values-based sex education,” [Rep. Steve] Humphrey read from the email.

He didn’t say if he corrected the constituent with accurate information, but here it is: sex education classes in Colorado have been required to include conversations on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities since the 2013 version of this bill was signed into law by then-Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The current sex ed bill doesn’t add that. It already exists. And it doesn’t ban religious sex education discussion.

Erik Maulbetsch at the Colorado Times Recorder took a look recently at the kind of messaging used to draw out citizen opponents to flood the state capitol on January 30th for the bill’s House committee hearing, and found they were chock full of exactly the same misinformation that witnesses spewed forth in testimony. A persistent theme among these witnesses, best exemplified by the extremely graphic testimony of Joan “Anal Fisting Granny” Poston, has been to describe in smut-novel detail various sex acts under the false pretense that these details would be taught to children in sex ed class.

After hours of gratuitous offense from literally hundreds of such witnesses, many of whom were there only to log their dislike for LGBT people in the permanent record, the bill passed committee–and local media spent the next two weeks unpacking the falsehoods told during this hearing as best they could. But as we saw from House Republicans yesterday, no amount of fact-checking has been able to penetrate the intense misinformation about the bill among its opponents, and at this point the legislation’s “credible” foes at the Centennial Institute simply have no incentive to disabuse their flock of these lies.

And as Zelinger continues, the floor debate took an outlandish twist of its own when:

Rep. Perry Buck (R-Windsor) took issue with teaching consent.

“You cannot do a one-size-fits-all. My district, the unincorporated God bless them all, don’t want to be told what they think is consent, what they think is their curriculum, everybody has different degrees,” said Buck. [Pols emphasis]

We’re not sure exactly where to start unpacking this, so we’ll just lay the facts out for you like Zelinger did. House Bill 19-1032 defines “consent” as “the affirmative, unambiguous, voluntary, knowing agreement between all participants in each physical act within the course of a sexual encounter or interpersonal relationship.” This definition is legally consistent with the behavior anyone who wants to avoid being charged with the crime of sexual assault must adhere to. To the extent that such a foundational concept in a relationship might be negotiable or variable between…oh wait, consenting adults! There’s that word again. It’s as if there’s no getting away from it…

In truth, no matter which of the Fifty Shades of Gray is your particular shade–and be assured we do not ever want to know the answer, least not in the case of Rep. Perry Buck–a universally accepted definition of unambiguous consent is the place from which everybody needs to start. Not just educationally, or morally, but legally. If this isn’t obvious to you in a position of authority, you might end up like now-Congressman Ken Buck, who as Weld County DA called a 2005 alleged rape he declined to prosecute a case of “buyer’s remorse”–a decision that helped cost him a U.S. Senate seat five years later.

Without invoking a single body part, for which we are grateful, Perry Buck proved again why we need reality-based sex ed.

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The Knives Come Out For Clan Neville

Ex-Sen. Tim “Pa” Neville, Rep. Patrick “Boy” Neville.

The talk of the Colorado politics water-cooler set this Friday morning is a deep-dive from Marianne Goodland of the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette, covering in two detailed stories the intra-party division among legislative Republicans in the wake of the devastating 2018 wave election that gave Colorado Democrats almost unprecedented power at every level of state and county government.

The subject of today’s story is a dynastic Republican political family that we’ve written a great deal about in this space. Over the last few elections, the Neville family, led by now ex-Sen. Tim “Pa” Neville and his son House Minority Leader Patrick “Boy” Neville has acquired an outsize degree of influence in local Republican politics through both running family members and aggressive recruitment of loyal Republican candidates–leading in 2018 to management of the House GOP’s “independent expenditure” campaigns via the family’s political consultant business Rearden Strategic:

“It’s a family business and about controlling the power,” former Republican state Rep. B.J. Nikkel of Loveland, who served in the House from 2009 to 2013, told Colorado Politics.

Nikkel was referring to the control Neville, R-Castle Rock, and members of his family exercised over independent expenditures used to support Republicans running for the Legislature in 2018 or oppose their Democratic challengers — spending not coordinated with the candidates.

The Nevilles used that money “to keep their own little mountain of power,” Nikkel said, echoing comments made by other Republicans. [Pols emphasis]

Now, here’s the first thing to understand: there’s nothing out of the ordinary for the leadership in a given chamber to run the increasingly critical independent expenditure side of that party’s campaign. Before the Nevilles and Rearden Strategies did so for House Republicans in 2018, we had the example of GOP Senate President Bill Cadman’s Advantage Marketing–which very similarly to the Nevilles both developed the independent-side strategy for GOP Senate candidates and was widely seen as a vehicle for Cadman to cultivate his personal power base.

What’s the difference, you ask? On the surface it’s simple–Cadman won elections, while the Nevilles presided over one of the greatest humiliations for Colorado Republicans in the lifetime of anyone now living. But that’s not all: Cadman worked in concert with the state’s GOP elite and donor class, while the Nevilles sought to supplant that traditional Republican power structure with a much more radical model featuring the Neville family, hard-right movement ideologues, and Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners calling the shots.

Undeniably, there were some examples of what can only be called amateur work product, like the slate of Jefferson County candidates advertised by Rearden that was so riddled with errors it was worse than putting up nothing at all. Goodland also reports that over $300,000 in campaign funds were left unspent in 2018, which is sure to aggrieve every Republican House candidate who lost last year. So, there’s that.

But beyond the second-guessing over details, this backbiting against the Nevilles represents to us another attempt by establishment Republicans to purge themselves of what they consider to be out-of-touch losers holding the party down. Readers  may recall how two years ago, the same Anschutz-owned media outlet became deeply enmeshed in controversy over Bob Beauprez’s Pioneer Action group–who rather brazenly attempted to “frag” a number of Neville-backed Republican candidates in 2016. The Gazette aggressively attacked the Republican who filed complaints over Pioneer Action’s red-on-red attacks in 2016, only clamming up after the complaint against Beauprez’s group was upheld.

The shortest summary to all this is that there is a civil war going on behind the scenes for the soul of the Republican Party in Colorado. It is not a new struggle by any means, but last year’s historic defeat for Republicans has instilled figures on both sides of this fight with a sense of urgency. The factions at this point are well-defined: it’s a battle between the Republican establishment controlled by a few powerful wealthy donors like Phil Anschutz, versus an unruly GOP grassroots coalition that regards the wealthy donor class as part of the same problem along with the Democrats.

However this struggle resolves–and if it ever does–the political damage to the GOP will be significant.

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Tom Sullivan Makes Powerful Case for Red Flag Bill

State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation.

We wrote yesterday about so-called “Red Flag” gun safety legislation (also known as an “extreme risk protection order”) that is returning to the Colorado Legislature. Freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) is one of the bill’s sponsors, and on Thursday he delivered a heart-wrenching statement about his personal motivation for supporting the legislation. Sullivan’s son, Alex, was among the 12 people killed in the Aurora Theater Shooting on July 20, 2012.

You can watch Sullivan’s entire statement below via 9News. We have also provided a transcription of Sullivan’s statement, but you should really watch the video — just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.

State Representative Tom Sullivan (Feb. 14, 2019):

Not many people know how to talk to the parent of a murdered child. Certainly not one whose picture was on the front page of the newspaper, that they have all seen.

I mean, I’m wearing Alex’s jacket right now. I wear this jacket every day when I take the bus on in here. Because he’s with me. And I can feel him in me. And maybe that scares some of them.

But I’m not doing this for Alex and my family. I’m doing it for yours. Because this is as bad as you think it is. Watching your child’s body drop into the ground is as bad as it gets. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that none of you have to do that.

And I don’t care what Party you belong to. I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care what country you came from. I’m going to do everything until this jacket falls off of me. I’m working every day to do this.

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“Red Flag” Returns With GOP Cowed By Dudley Brown

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports on the introduction of a bill today that’s sure to result in some of the most vigorous debate of the 2019 session–a debate that, if history is any guide, will struggle mightily to remain inside the bounds of reality:

It’s called a “red flag” or extreme risk protection order bill, and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, is again sponsoring it in memory of Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Zackari Parrish, who was killed at a Highlands Ranch apartment complex in 2017 while he tried to negotiate with a man in the midst of a mental health crisis…

The way an extreme risk protection order would work under this bill is that law enforcement, family member or a household member could petition a judge for the removal of a person’s firearms. The judge would hold a hearing — without the gun owner being present — to decide whether to grant a temporary order for up to 14 days.

During those two weeks, the gun owner and the person who asked for the order would tell the judge why those weapons should or shouldn’t be returned. The judge could extend the order for up to 364 days.

As Staver reports and the details are worth understanding, this year’s version of the bill includes changes suggested by criminal defense lawyers to ensure that anyone subject to a court order to temporarily surrender their firearms has access both to legal representation and a clear path to having their gun rights restored. These changes are intended to mollify Republican opponents, who have repeated the mantra for years of “focusing on mental health” with regard to gun safety instead of regulations on hardware and access. Public polling shows overwhelming 80%+ support for “red flag” legislation, which on seemingly any issue except guns would make this a political no-brainer.

Despite these changes, this year’s bill appears to have even less Republican support than the 2018 version. The reason for this is well-known to our readers, after the bill’s GOP co-sponsor in the House last year was pummeled in return by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners during the election–“friendly fire” that played a key role in Cole Wist’s loss to Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan. Sullivan, the father of a victim of the Aurora theater shooting, could not be more antithetical to RMGO’s agenda, but that didn’t matter to them as much as enforcing party discipline on their single issue.

And even though “red flag” is as good as law in the 2019 solid blue Colorado General Assembly, there’s little doubt that RMGO considers the lack of Republican support for the bill this year to be a strategic victory–while the rest of the Republican coalition would call it winning a battle to lose the war. We’ll be watching closely to see if any other Republicans who have expressed prior support have the courage to speak up for the current bill. Here’s looking at you, George Brauchler.

The key difference is that this year, Republican infighting over this bill is background noise.

They are irrelevant–thanks in no small part to RMGO.

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Rep. Dave Williams Knuckles Under?

Rep. Dave Williams (R).

Following up on a story we’ve been watching in the Colorado House, where a hard-right Republican representative “went rogue” against the state party leadership with legislation to outlaw the charging of so-called “badge fees” in order to participate in the Republican Party’s county, district, and state assemblies.

Despite strong support across the aisle from Democrats who have no such equivalent “poll tax,” Rep. Dave Williams’ quest to eliminate badge fees has by all accounts outraged Republican party officials–and as of now, as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Conrad Swanson reports, the bill is on ice as Williams allegedly gives the party one last chance to eliminate badge fees voluntarily:

After a month of being castigated by fellow conservatives, state Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, is postponing his controversial “badge fee” bill, which stalled last week.

Instead of a law by which delegates or alternates wouldn’t have to pay “badge fees” to vote in political party caucuses or assemblies, Williams said he’ll give the parties a chance to rectify the issue internally.

He said he’s postponed the bill till April, after a March 30 central committee meeting of the state Republican Party, the only party that charges those fees, in hopes that a bylaw change is passed by two-thirds of committee members. If so, the legislation wouldn’t be needed, Williams said.

Given the vociferous opposition to this bill from state GOP officials who claimed that eliminating these fees could bankrupt their organizations, it will be very interesting to see if they take action to avoid Williams resuming the drive to pass his legislation. One could make the argument that even if the state GOP voluntarily eliminates badges fees for now there should still be legislation to ensure the practice doesn’t resume later when no one is looking. Either way there’s little question that if Rep. Williams wants to pass this bill, it will pass with the support of the Democratic majority.

Of course, this situation also gives Rep. Williams a significant amount of leverage with his own party brass! In the event the GOP doesn’t eliminate their badge fees, and Williams for whatever reason doesn’t bring his bill back up in response, it will either be because Williams was successfully cowed by his leadership–or he found another way to make the effort worth his while.

This is intra-GOP politics, after all. Stay tuned.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 13)

Joe Flacco, eh? Try to contain your excitement. 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…

► Congressional leaders are putting the final touches on legislation that will prevent another government shutdown. From the Washington Post:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled Wednesday to finalize a sweeping spending bill that includes a compromise on border security two days ahead of a deadline for government funding to expire, as last-minute disputes arose on an array of issues.

While President Trump appeared open to signing the legislation — which includes far less funding than he has sought for construction of barriers along the southern border — White House officials said he was waiting to see the final package before making a decision.

Still pending were issues, including whether to use the bill to provide back pay to federal contractors who were caught in the middle of the recent government shutdown and to extend the federal Violence Against Women Act.

President Trump is likely to sign the legislation — despite not getting what he wants — and will try his damndest to make it look like this is some sort of victory for his administration and all wall-loving people. In reality, this is nothing short of a big, fat loss for the White House.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the rebranding of the wall debate is already underway.

 

► Denver teachers are still on strike, but negotiations have restarted between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of the first high-profile Republicans to endorse President Trump for re-election. Gardner is trying very hard to convince everyone else to agree with him.

 

► The U.S. Senate passed a massive public lands bill on Tuesday that includes reauthorization for the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It may be up to the House of Representatives to make sure LWCF is properly funded, however. At the very least, it’s nice to know that Congress isn’t completely broken. Just “mostly” broken.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado Republicans, Legislating with Crayons

L-E-G-I-S-L-A-T-I-O-N

Colorado Republicans lost pretty much everything in the 2018 election. There are a lot of reasons for why the GOP was wiped out in Colorado, from terrible candidates to just flat-out incompetence (not to mention a lot of this), but the GOP’s complete and utter inability to govern remains perhaps their biggest hurdle to gaining voter trust. In the final days of the 2018 election, former Senate President Kevin Grantham highlighted this problem when he made a late appeal to voters that was basically just a list of everything that Republicans failed to accomplish with their one-seat majority in the State Senate.

If the first six weeks of 2019 are any indication, Republicans don’t appear to have learned any lessons from their shellacking at the polls last fall. The GOP spent the first month of the 2019 legislative session vomiting out absurdities and engaging in prolonged idiotic arguments. On Monday, State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) proudly introduced a proposal for education funding that is just flat-out stupid.

As Anna Staver explains for the Denver Post:

Sonnenberg wants to ask voters in 2020 whether the General Assembly could take lottery dollars from the Great Outdoors Colorado fund and put them into the state’s education fund. If voters approved of the change, lawmakers in the 2021 legislative session would have the option to spend none, some or all of those outdoor dollars on public education.

“I think education funding is a priority. Colorado needs to make education funding a priority,” Sonnenberg said. “Truly, do we have enough outhouses and soccer fields? Can we now re-prioritize and use it for education? I want the voters to decide.”

Voters created the outdoors fund, which is often called GOCO, in 1992. It has spent more than $1.2 billion, according to its website. Those dollars have built 900 miles of trails, upgraded 56 playgrounds and added more than 47,000 acres into the state parks system.

So much facepalming

Before we get into why the logic behind this proposal is so flawed, consider the raw numbers involved. As the Post notes, GOCO picked up about $66.2 million in 2018, which is less than 1 percent of Colorado’s $7 billion education budget. This is sort of like promising to end homelessness by building an igloo.

The GOP position on Colorado’s budgetary needs in recent years has been to make completely unsupported claims that the state actually has plenty of money…but somebody is hiding it somewhere, or something. If you could make money grow on trees just by saying that money grows on trees, Colorado Republicans would make us all very rich.

When Colorado Republicans aren’t dreaming of pots of gold under rainbows, their other go-to message for budgeting has been to spin the tired old yarn about making tough financial choices just like the average person does when sitting at their kitchen table, blah, blah, blah. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton often talked about how Colorado could fix its transportation funding shortfalls (which add up to billions of dollars each year) if only C-DOT hadn’t spent $150 million on a new office space. If you’re trying to do the math at home, it looks like this: “2 + 2 = potato.”

Sonnenberg is doing something similar with his new proposal, suggesting that Colorado’s funding problems can be solved by regularly flipping a coin between two different budgetary needs. You can have parks and recreation areas, or you can have schools, but not both! 

On a very literal scale, Sonnenberg’s logic could (perhaps) eventually balance a budget by suffocating half of all government programs, but this isn’t a real solution. We could probably fully fund law enforcement needs in Colorado if we stopped paying firefighters, for example, but that would be stupid.

You can’t solve Colorado’s budgetary needs with false choices or double spending, but that won’t stop Republicans from floating the same wrong answers to every fiscal question.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 11)

Valentine’s Day is on Thursday; those flowers aren’t going to order themselves. ” 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…

► Today is the day that Congressional leaders were supposed to announce a deal on keeping the federal government open, but there is no indication as of yet that a proposal is in the works. President Trump and the GOP are trying (again) to blame Democrats for inaction, but as James Downie writes for the Washington Post, Republicans are going through the exact same motions that drove us into the last shutdown:

The truth is, three weeks after the last shutdown ended, the White House and the GOP still have no idea how to get out of the corner they’ve worked themselves into. They promised the base a “border wall,” but they have even less leverage now than they did when the first shutdown started. So they’ve returned to the first page of the playbook: scaremongering about violent immigrants.

Of course, we all saw how well fanning fears over immigration worked for the president and his party during the last shutdown, not to mention during last fall’s midterms. If anything, one wonders whether spinning the bed issue will make any deal harder for the GOP base to swallow. What was once a nonissue becomes, in the base’s mind, another cave.

As CNN reports, you’ll need to look elsewhere for silver linings:

Bottom line: There is no agreement on the path forward on the conference committee. There is no agreement on what, if any, alternatives could pass both chambers and be signed by the President if the conference committee fails. Monday is a crucial day as lawmakers try and figure a way out of another mess, all as the clock ticks away. At this point, each day leading into the February 15 deadline is enormously consequential.

Shutdown 2: Electric Boogaloo.

 

► Denver teachers are off the job today as part of the first DPS strike in 25 years; many students are joining the picket lines in solidarity. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association will hold a rally on the West Steps of the State Capitol this afternoon.

For more information on all things strike-related, check out this FAQ from the Denver Post or this primer from Colorado Public Radio and the Associated Press.

 

► A growing number of Americans are expressing frustration that the great Republican tax cut of 2017 isn’t doing jack squat for them. From the Washington Post:

Millions of Americans filling out their 2018 taxes will probably be surprised to learn that their refunds will be less than expected or that they owe money to the Internal Revenue Service after years of receiving refunds.

People have already taken to social media, using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam, to vent their anger. Many blame President Trump and the Republicans for shrinking refunds. Some on Twitter even said they wouldn’t vote for Trump again after seeing their refunds slashed.

The uproar follows the passage of a major overhaul to the tax code in December 2017, which was enacted with only Republican votes and is considered the biggest legislative achievement of Trump’s first year. While the vast majority of Americans received a tax cut in 2018, refunds are a different matter. Some refunds have decreased because of changes in the law, such as a new limit on property and local income tax deductions, and some have decreased because of how the IRS has altered withholding in paychecks…

…The average tax refund check is down 8 percent ($170) this year compared to last, the IRS reported Friday, and the number of people receiving a refund so far has dropped by almost a quarter.

Lower tax refunds mean bad news for the American economy.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Fracking Fracas: The Bill Is Coming

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Bente Birkeland and Grace Hood at Colorado Public Radio offer another preview of the big fight on the near horizon in the Colorado General Assembly–meaningfully tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry after years of intra-Democratic gridlock on the issue under the previous administration:

All parties in the debate were locked in a holding pattern under former Gov. John Hickenlooper, but Gov. Jared Polis is expected to take a different approach. Some Democrats want 2019 to be the year that significantly changes the regulation of oil and gas companies.

There’s more than activists or oil and gas companies with their eyes on the state capitol. The Front Range cities of Lafayette, Superior and Erie have all enacted drilling moratoriums to wait and see what rules the legislature adopts in 2019…

Democrats will have a difficult needle to thread on oil and gas issues, that’s why they say they’re taking their time before unveiling legislation.

“Our bills now have a fighting chance, we have to make sure that we do it right,” said Democratic Sen. Mike Foote of Lafayette. He has pushed for tougher regulations in previous years, and is one of the handful of lawmakers involved in negotiations this session. “In the past, the oil and gas bills that I introduced, were introduced for a specific reason. I thought that they faced uphill battles, and in fact they did, but we still had to push the issue forward.”

CPR reports that the final legislation is coming together now, and is expected to take the form of one large bill covering a variety of subjects from giving local communities more direct control in drilling decisions to legislatively undoing the recent Colorado Supreme Court decision that controversially declared public health and safety subordinate to the “fostering” of oil and gas resource development as prescribed by existing law.

The extremely high stakes in this debate, coupled with the changed political climate at the state capitol, makes this issue by orders of magnitude the biggest issue of the 2019 legislative session that nobody is talking about in public yet. Whatever the final form this bill takes, we fully expect Republicans and the oil and gas industry to freak out as hard as they possibly can, firing off the usual warnings of a million billion jobs lost and the entire population of Colorado freezing to death.

Somewhere between the industry’s absurd hyperbole and the very real status quo of the state valuing promotion of an industry over public health, you’ll find the legislative sweet spot Democrats need to land on. And as much as the oil and gas industry wants to kill this whole effort, base Democrats and independent voters who are passionate about energy policy and climate change–and who swept Democrats into power last year–expect results.

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A New, (Hopefully) Less Creepy ‘Stache Coming To Denver

The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent reports on the results of the Republican vacancy to replace Rep. Bob Rankin in House District 57, after Rankin was himself appointed to replace Sen. Randy Baumgardner in SD-8 following Baumgardner’s resignation in disgrace over serial sexual harassment allegations:

A Republican Party vacancy panel Tuesday appointed Perry Will of New Castle to fill the Colorado House District 57 seat vacated by now state Sen. Bob Rankin in January…

“I’m all about representing rural Colorado,” Will said in an interview Monday. “My entire life has been spent in small towns. I understand the issues with school funding, rural hospitals, roads and health insurance. I don’t want to see any rural areas of Colorado left out of anything,” he said.

Will said his 40 years with CPW and its predecessor the Division of Wildlife has given him a good knowledge of how state agencies work, not just with regards to wildlife, but from the perspective of water, conservation and agricultural interests.

Ex-Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Much like the appointment of Rankin to Baumgardner’s SD-8 seat, Rep.-designate Perry Will has a background that suggests he’ll be a competent if rough-hewn representative in the House–especially by Republican standards, who in recent years have wanted greatly for candidates with a professional background suitable for leadership (sorry, Janak Joshi).

Will’s appointment to Rankin’s former House seat brings to a close a long and sordid period of uncertainty for Western Colorado residents, which began when now ex-Sen. Baumgardner was accused of multiple counts of sexual harassment against women who worked in the Colorado Capitol. Despite a scandalous attempt under former GOP majority leadership to conceal evidence affirming the allegations against Baumgardner in order to defeat a motion to expel him from the Senate, Baumgardner was ultimately bounced from all of his committee assignments last May–and chose to resign rather than face a likely renewed effort to expel him with the Senate under Democratic control.

Today, we can admit the truth. “The ‘stache” was the only thing we really ever liked about Randy Baumgardner.

So welcome to the General Assembly, Perry Will, and here’s to you taking the ‘stache back for the good guys.

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Dulce Venganza: GOP Slobbers Selves On “Poll Tax” Ban Bill

Rep. Dave Williams (R).

We’ve been following the odd story of a piece of legislation introduced by Republican Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs this session, usually one of the House’s more disagreeable GOP members. In just a few years, Rep. Williams has garnered himself a disproportionate amount FOX News face time with his high-dudgeon bashing of illegal immigrants, a controversial brand of “reverse identity politics” about which we’ve had a few less-than-positive things to say.

So far this year however, Rep. Williams has earned most of his media from a much less overtly controversial piece of legislation he introduced in response to a practice by Colorado Republicans of charging fees in order to serve as a delegate in the party’s county, district, and state-level assemblies. In this campaign Williams has found ready allies among Democrats, who do not charge any kind of equivalent fee–and as a result, Williams is successfully moving a bill through the Democratic-controlled General Assembly over the growing frustration of Williams’ Republican colleagues.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

“I had a Denver GOP chair actually tell me on the phone that if you can’t afford fifty bucks, then ‘F’ you, I don’t want you in my party,” Williams said on the floor of the House. “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the immoral nature of what’s been going on. I am pushing for this bill because it is immoral to force people to pay in order to play.”

Opponents of the bill, primarily Republicans, said the laws that require political parties to hold assemblies constitute an unfunded government mandate…

Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said the fee is not a poll tax as some have argued, a view contrary to what GOP lawmakers often have said about various fees Democrats have imposed that Republicans have called a tax. [Pols emphasis]

We’re actually somewhat surprised to see Republicans persisting in their opposition to this bill after the initial round of press went very badly for them. The fact that there is no equivalent “fee” imposed by Democrats, who are nonetheless able to conduct their assembly process as the law requires without it, severely undercuts the contention that this change would “bankrupt the party.” If anything, that reinforces the argument that Republicans who need to make some changes–and some moral introspection too.

And it’s absolutely right–if Republicans want to bemoan the “Democratic sleight of hand” that has defined certain fees as something other than a tax in order to function under the strict language of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), they ought to be consistent.

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Get More Smarter on Monday (February 4)

Let the record show that the New England Patriots officially killed the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2019; there was more drama during “The Puppy Bowl.” 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 still threatening that he might make an “emergency declaration” in order to build his great big border wall. But as the Washington Post reports, Senate Republicans are positively terrified because of what would happen next:

According to one of the country’s leading experts on national emergencies, it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can trigger a process that could require the GOP-controlled Senate to hold a vote on such a declaration by Trump — which would put Senate Republicans in a horrible political position.

Trump reiterated his threat to declare a national emergency in an interview with CBS News that aired over the weekend. “I don’t take anything off the table,” Trump said, adding in a typically mangled construction that he still retains the “alternative” of “national emergency.”

But Pelosi has recourse against such a declaration — and if she exercises it, Senate Republicans may have to vote on where they stand on it.

Senate Republicans would likely be forced to take a public position on an “emergency declaration,” which leaves them backed into a corner between a rock and a hard place:

…the Senate could vote not to consider that resolution or change its rules to avoid such a vote. But in those scenarios, the Senate would, in effect, be voting to greenlight Trump’s emergency declaration.

D’oh!

 

Politico answers your questions about the State of the Union speech, which President Trump is scheduled to deliver on Tuesday.

 

► Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is expected to enter the 2020 race for U.S. Senate, according to Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman. Romanoff kinda, sorta leaked his Senate plans in mid-December before  an associate walked it back on his behalf.

Romanoff unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2010; in 2014 he came up short against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CO-6. Former State Senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston announced his U.S. Senate bid last week.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Move Over, “Anus Granny”–Meet “Anus FISTING Granny”


Joan Poston.

The big if not altogether expected show this week in the Colorado legislature was Wednesday’s hearing in the House Health and Insurance Committee for House Bill 19-1032: a sex ed bill that requires schools who provide sex ed do so comprehensively and without discrimination. As we discussed on Thursday the testimony in this hearing went freakishly beyond the scope of the legislation, and descended into a 10-hour ordeal consisting mostly of homophobic churchgoers trying their darndest to gross each other out.

For many years, testimony on bills of this kind was highlighted by Rosina Kovar, who earned the nickname “Anus Granny” for her reliably over-the-top explicit characterizations of gay sex entered into the permanent legislative record. This year, although Kovar reportedly showed up to testify, by the time they called her name she had gone home for the night. But she needn’t have worried–in Kovar’s stead we have the testimony of Joan Poston, a defeated Republican House candidate who ran against Rep. Chris Kennedy in 2018. Poston’s three minutes of fame, moderated by the extremely patient committee chair Rep. Janet Buckner, were sufficiently non compos mentis that they deserve special recognition. Transcript of the above clip:

POSTON: Hello, my name is Joan Poston. I represent myself. I am a, um, scientist and I was a healthcare professional for 20 years with um, the city of Denver. I am, um, now retired. I um, when I saw this bill and I looked to see exactly what they were talking about when they said something was comprehensive and I said, I don’t know like I guess I’m going to have to go check my notes that I had when I went and had, um, training and when I worked at Eastside Health Center about um, sexually transmitted diseases, so I’m about to give you a couple of definitions.

Fisting. Fisting is when you take your fist and you shove it up somebody’s anus up to your wrist. But if you have somebody who is [UNINTELLIGIBLE] you can go up to your elbow. This is not a healthy and and it…

REP. BUCKNER: Um, Ma’am?

POSTON: Yes?

REP. BUCKNER: I can’t quite figure out where this is going…

POSTON: This is not a healthy relationship. This is actually…

REP. BUCKNER: Is this to the bill?

POSTON: Yes, because you are wanting comprehensive fact-based…

REP. BUCKNER: Experiential…

POSTON: Experiential. Yes. Um, I’ve got another one on rimming and I’ve got another one on golden showers, but I can actually move on to another topic if you’d like me to.

REP. BUCKNER: Um, I’ve read the bill and I’m not, I do not think this fits into the bill because we’re talking about comprehensive sex. Um…

POSTON: This is comprehensive sex…

REP. BUCKNER: Experiences.

POSTON: …And experiences with gay people.

[FAINT APPLAUSE, “Amen”]

REP. BUCKNER: Um…

POSTON: You know what, if you give me another minute…

REP. BUCKNER: I think, I think…in all…

POSTON: I will change the subject…

REP. BUCKNER: Well, in all…

POSTON: I will change out the subject and tell you that…

REP. BUCKNER: Um, wait a minute. Ms. Ms., uh…

POSTON: Ms. Poston.

REP. BUCKNER: I’m just trying to keep all the comments to the bill.

POSTON: Okay, so this next comment is to the bill and it is in a different form. So let’s redo this: the population of the gay lesbian and bisexual from the Center of Disease Control in 2014, 26.6% of adults identify as straight. 1.6% and identify as gay or lesbian. 0.7% identify as bisexual and 1.1 or something else. Not sure what but something else. So in Jeffco we have about, um, 64,500 children that are between the ages of, uh fourth grade and 12th. And That means that there are 2,000 students that would be identifying with this kind of sexual education and that is one student per 30.

REP. BUCKNER: Ms., Ms. Poston…

POSTON: Based on how, just one more thing–based on how much money is not in the school’s right now and how we have Denver public school teachers who are going to go out on strike…

REP. BUCKNER: Okay. This is not to the bill. I’m sorry. And your time is up.

POSTON: Thank you.

REP. BUCKNER: Next witness, please.

And with that, dear reader, “Anus Granny” has been dethroned! The transcript spells out Poston’s words, but it’s the glee in Poston’s voice that really tells the story. Suffice to say that proponents of accurate and non-biased sex ed are not the problem here, and there may be…an unmet need in the lives of its imaginative opponents.

That’s as much as we care to speculate, thanks.

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Again, Who’s Afraid of the NRA?

NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch (top) and CEO Wayne LaPierre

As Roll Call’s Kate Ackley reports, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the leading political advocacy group for gun owners that has morphed into a much broader “movement conservative” organization closely aligned with the Republican Party, seems to be losing its fabled edge in the era of Donald Trump:

The influence of the National Rifle Association, the nation’s highest-profile Second Amendment-rights organization and a longtime powerhouse against gun-control laws, is showing signs of potential decline.

The NRA’s own tax forms show a dip in revenue. And even as the group, now under the leadership of new president Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame, continues to spend big money on federal lobbying and political campaigns, its opponents in the gun-control movement, after decades of ever more deadly mass shootings and seemingly random incidents of gun violence, have been on the rise…

The NRA has found itself ensnared in controversy in recent months, some of it stemming from the special counsel probe into foreign interference in the 2016 elections. The group had ties to Maria Butina, a Russian who pleaded guilty late last year to charges of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent. Whether the gun group has allowed foreign money to infiltrate its campaign coffers also may be under investigation, according to news reports. And it’s on the hot seat for possible campaign finance violations of improperly coordinating its independent campaign expenditures with candidates, after a report by the liberal magazine Mother Jones.

The NRA faces a combination of circumstances that aggregate into a real threat, if not to the organization’s long-term existence which seems assured, than certainly the organization’s once (pardon us) bulletproof sway among virtually all Republican lawmakers and no small number of Democrats. President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 provoked a massive buying spree of firearms by (needlessly) panicked gun owners, and gun manufacturers obligingly plowed those profits right back into the NRA’s advocacy budget. But with Trump as President, the hype that motivated the frenzied buying of guns under Obama just doesn’t exist.

At the same time, the continuing and worsening toll of mass shooting events in the United States has forced the debate over guns outside the NRA’s strictly-enforced boundaries. Here in Colorado, public reaction to gun safety laws that led to recall campaigns against Democrats in 2013 would look very different now, after so many intervening mass shootings with body counts that dwarf the 2012 Aurora theater massacre.

Still another factor negatively impacting the NRA’s political strength is a perception among hardened gun-rights advocates that the NRA has gotten “soft” on the issue–a view eagerly promoted by Colorado’s own Dudley Brown, who wields great influence within the gun enthusiast community through his local and national front groups. The NRA’s recent broadening into multi-issue conservative advocacy was meant to counter this ebb in support, but it also has had the effect of driving politically neutral or even left of center supporters away.

For all of these reasons, it’s not a surprise to us that the NRA’s political relevance is on the wane. If the present trend of radicalization among gun owners continues, along with a growing movement in the United States for gun safety laws considerably tighter than the status quo today, it’s a trend that could continue. For intelligent gun-rights supporters, giving the Dudley Browns of the world more power to disrupt Republican election strategy like they did in 2018 is a disastrous prospect–but that is the trajectory today.

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The Sad Spectacle Of Yesterday’s Sex Ed Hearing

UPDATE: Into the self-immolating spotlight steps, you guessed it, Rep. Lori Saine:

Here you have arguably Colorado’s most infamously shameful Republican, just days off her own national news ridicule for falsely claiming that “whites and blacks were lynched in nearly equal numbers,” complaining about “radical notions of sexuality and gender” and absurdly claiming that “Democrats are compounding their over-reach” by limiting testimony than in fact continued until nearly midnight! Even worse, the photo Saine is using (originally via House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s front group Advancing Colorado) was taken from a totally unrelated and highly emotional floor speech by Rep. Buckner, recounting racism she personally endured during last year’s commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the House.

On a day full of small-minded outrages, Rep. Lori Saine manages to stand out. Again.

—–

Packed hearing yesterday for HB19-1032.

The main event yesterday at the Colorado Capitol was a marathon hearing in the House Health and Insurance Committee that ran until almost midnight taking public testimony on a single bill: House Bill 19-1032, “concerning comprehensive human sexuality education.” Here’s the bill summary:

The bill clarifies content requirements for public schools that offer comprehensive human sexuality education and prohibits instruction from explicitly or implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.

Conservative Republicans organized by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute delivered an unexpectedly large crowd of witnesses to testify against this bill. After over 300 people (not a misprint) signed up to testify, committee chair Rep. Janet Buckner announced her intention to cut off testimony after seven and a half hours, but in the end testimony went on until just before midnight before the bill was finally advanced on a 7-4 party line vote.

In that time yesterday into early this morning, Democratic lawmakers on this committee were subjected to what we can only describe as the worst verbal abuse from witnesses we’ve perhaps ever seen–easily as bad as the invective from opponents of the gun safety bills passed in 2013, and offensive in a way that should trouble any but the most hardened bigot against LGBT people. Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports:

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 30)

At least you don’t live anywhere East of Kansas, where temperatures are cooler than a penguin’s refrigerator. Let’s warm up with “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 taking another crap on U.S. Intelligence agencies, as the Washington Post reports:

President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the nuclear danger posed by Iran and pushing back on their assessments of the Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing.

In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on an array of global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.

Trump was most pointed in his pushback on the assessment of Iran. During testimony, officials said that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and was in compliance with an agreement forged during the Obama administration from which Trump subsequently withdrew the United States…

…“Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” the president added.

Panelists at the Senate hearing included Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, so this wasn’t exactly the “C” team doing the talking.

 

► According to a new poll of Colorado voters, most people don’t support a border wall, President Trump, or Sen. Cory Gardner.

As Politico notes in a new poll about another potential government shutdown, voters have no appetite to support President Trump’s threats:

Only 31 percent of voters support shutting the government down again to force Congress to appropriate money for the wall, while nearly twice that many, 58 percent, oppose another shutdown. If the government does shut down again, a combined 54 percent would blame Trump and congressional Republicans, while just 33 percent would blame Democrats in Congress.

Trump has suggested that he could declare a “national emergency” to avert a shutdown but still build the wall — but that, too, is unpopular. A narrow, 51 percent majority opposes declaring an emergency, which is supported by 38 percent.

 

► Contract negotiations between Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union are expected to resume on Thursday.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Greeley Trib To Lori Saine: “Stop Digging”

Rep. Lori Saine (R), center, receiving an award from ALEC in 2017.

Last week’s most-discussed lowlight in Colorado politics, Rep. Lori Saine’s disastrous attempt to appropriate the occasion of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by asserting that blacks and whites were lynched “in almost equal numbers” for “the crime of being Republican,” could have been a one or two-day news incident with limited collateral damage for the GOP brand. The reason it didn’t stop is simple: Rep. Saine steadfastly refused to apologize, and in fact doubled down in subsequent days to inquiring press and various talk-radio audiences.

At this point, the Greeley Tribune’s editorial on the matter for today’s edition sums up the view of any smart Republican:

Shh …. Shh ….

That’s our advice to Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, who kicked over a hornets nest this past week at the Colorado Capitol when she claimed in a speech on the House floor that blacks and whites had been “lynched in nearly equal numbers” for the crime of being Republican in the aftermath of the Civil War…

We don’t see what Saine hoped to accomplish by making her remarks. Republicans in the Legislature will have their work cut out for them this session to advance their agenda as a minority party. Saine’s comments won’t make that easier. At best, they’re a needless distraction from the work lawmakers of both parties must accomplish during this year’s legislative session. At worst, they’re ignorant and distasteful.

Rep. Saine may be doing splash damage to Republicans well above and outside her stomping ground of the Colorado General Assembly, but it’s unlikely that any of this will result in a even a private reprimand from House GOP leaders. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville does not have a record of enforcing discipline on his members, since he possesses irresponsible blowhard qualities himself–not to mention a recently-demonstrated moral blind spot.

Most likely, the only way the “digging will stop” is via Rep. Saine’s impending term limit.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (January 25)

Roger Stone channels Richard Nixon. Let’s “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…

► Longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone has been arrested by the FBI after being indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion and obstruction of justice. As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains, this is a YUGE deal:

The indictment and arrest of longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone Friday morning in Florida fills in a big missing piece of the emerging picture that special counsel Robert Mueller is painting: The Trump campaign actively sought to communicate and coordinate with WikiLeaks in regard to stolen emails aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Here’s more from the Washington Post, including Stone’s reference to the “Godfather” movies:

The most politically explosive allegation in special counsel Bob Mueller’s seven-count indictment of Roger Stone — who was arrested early Friday morning during an FBI raid of his home in Florida — is that he lied to Congress when he denied discussing his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ email dumps with anyone involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign…

…Prosecutors say Stone made repeated references to “The Godfather: Part II” in December 2017 as he pushed an unnamed “Person 2” to not tell the truth to the House Intelligence Committee so he could cover up his role. “People close to the case said Person 2 is New York comedian Randy Credico,” per Rosalind Helderman, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner.

 

On Day 35 of the federal government shutdown, the airports began to buckle. As the New York Times reports:

Significant flight delays were rippling across the Northeast on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers as a result of the government shutdown, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The delays were cascading along the Eastern Seaboard, reaching as far north as Boston. But La Guardia was the only airport that had been closed off to departing flights from other cities because it was so crowded with planes taking off and landing on a weekday morning. Delays on flights into La Guardia were averaging almost an hour and a half, the F.A.A. said.

 

► The Senate held votes on two bills Thursday aimed at (theoretically) ending the government shutdown, but both pieces of legislation were DOA. From the Washington Post:

Senate leaders scrambled Friday in search of a deal that would satisfy President Trump on border security and end the partial government shutdown as major delays at airports around the country produced a heightened sense of urgency.

“We’re still working on it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in an interview outside his office when asked if an agreement might emerge Friday with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) did a very Gardner-esque thing by voting YES on both failed bills. As Westword notes:

Gardner issued a statement praising President Trump’s weekend proposal to end the government shutdown, which asks for Democrats to give him $5.7 billion for his Mexico border wall/collection of steel slats in exchange for a three-year reprieve involving participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Gardner voted for it and the rival Democratic measure that would have ended the ongoing partial federal shutdown without funding the wall.

Talk about trying to have it both ways. [Pols emphasis]

Some 800,000 federal workers will miss another paycheck today.

 

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is making national headlines after going OFF on the Senate floor Thursday in response to a nonsense speech from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. As The Denver Post explains:

“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said during a floor speech. “I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer, with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”

Cruz took the floor ahead of Thursday’s failed votes on two different bills to reopen the government and urged Democrats to vote for a bill to appropriate the money needed to pay federal workers during the shutdown.

That bothered Bennet because the Texas Republican led a charge to shut down the federal government in 2013 over funding for the Affordable Care Act. That 16-day shutdown coincided with the aftermath of a deadly flood that killed eight people in Colorado, and Bennet said the government’s closure delayed relief efforts.

 
Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Caplis Tries To Bail Out Saine But She Won’t Let Him

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

During a radio interview yesterday, one of the state’s most partisan Republican radio hosts essentially begged State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone) to walk back her statement at the Capitol last week that blacks and whites were once lynched in “almost equal numbers.” But Saine didn’t take the hint.

First, KNUS 710-AM host Dan Caplis, tried this:

CAPLIS: “…the Greeley Tribune version of the comments, as you know, is that you said essentially that black and whites had been lynched in nearly equal numbers during Reconstruction, and lynched for being Republican. Do you want to clarify those comments? What’s your view of all that now?

SAINE: And I clearly meant [during] Reconstruction. And Reconstruction is a period from 1865-1877, by the way. There is not a tremendous amount of data for a lot of those years, but the data that we do have….

Caplis tried again:

CAPLIS: “I think one of the concerns – and one thing you may want to qualify – is the reason why people were lynched – because my guess is, and this is not something I’ve researched – but intuitively I’d guess that an awful lot of the whites who were lynched were lynched for various alleged crimes such as stealing horses, bank robbery, etc., whereas blacks were just being lynched for the color of their skin. Am I right?”

SAINE: So, I have heard that argument before, but, if you look at the lynchings earlier in the 1800s versus the numbers coming right out of Reconstruction, it’s hard to say that all of a sudden they went from – you know, if you look at 1882 its 64 whites, 49 blacks….

Then Caplis said to Saine:

CAPLIS: “But we know – don’t we? – that blacks were being lynched based on the color of their skin. And whites weren’t being lynched based on the color of their skin, right?”

SAINE: So, the accounts that we have of history that people have written books about – I mean, there is a lot of sources on this. But there’s even an African American Congressman – his name is John Lloyd Lynch….

Then Caplis finally said to Saine as an apparent last resort:

CAPLIS: “But some could easily view this as you attempting to equate the plight of whites with black when it came to lynching, or to somehow downplay the horror that was inflicted on blacks, to politicize it, to make it a Republican thing. So, can you see where people would see your comments that way?”

SAINE: Well, that certainly was not my intent. And the rest of my speech goes on to say that Americans of all faiths, creed, and race stood by Reverend King to march for civil rights. And they were beaten, they were tortured, they were killed….

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 23)

Happy “Bounty Day,” everyone; be sure to celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s “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…

► Here’s the latest news on the government shutdown, now in its 33rd day. From the Washington Post:

House Democrats are prepared to support new levels of border security funding, but not a wall, if President Trump agrees to reopen the government first, lawmakers and aides said Wednesday.

The proposal, which Democrats plan to put into a formal letter to Trump, will include border security improvements such as retrofitting ports of entry, new sensors and drones, more immigration judges and border patrol agents, and additional technology, among other measures.

The letter was not final and the exact figure Democrats will suggest was not yet determined, but aides said it would be higher than the levels Democrats have supported in the past, which have ranged from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.

Some Democrats suggested they would even be willing to meet Trump’s request for $5.7 billion — as long as it goes for technology and other improvements, not the physical wall the president is seeking.

Democrats remain opposed to offering any funding for Trump’s great big wall, and new polling data shows that they are on the right side of the American public. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating is at an all-time high amid a historically long partial government shutdown and concerns about the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

Nearly 6-in-10 voters — 57 percent — disapprove of Trump’s job performance, compared to the 40 percent that approve. In addition, 54 percent of voters blame Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill for the government shutdown. Only 35 percent blame congressional Democrats…

…While 43 percent support the construction of a border wall — compared to 49 percent who oppose construction — only 7 percent of voters said that they support dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way to end the government shutdown. [Pols emphasis]

That’s compared to 72 percent who oppose dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way.

In local shutdown news, CBS4 Denver reports on local “Dreamers” who see President Trump’s offer of temporary protections for immigrants as a “bargaining chip for our lives.”

 

President Trump is insisting that he be allowed to deliver his State of the Union Speech in the House chambers. As CNN reports:

President Donald Trump insisted in a letter Wednesday he would deliver his annual State of the Union address from the chamber of the US House next week as planned, telling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi her concerns about security during a partial government shutdown were unfounded…

…He said the speech would occur on January 29 from the House chamber.

“It would be so very sad for our country, if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!” he wrote. [Pols emphasis]

As speaker, it is Pelosi’s prerogative to invite the President to deliver the annual address. Both the House and the Senate would need to pass resolutions convening a Joint Session of Congress before the President’s appearance. And it’s not yet clear — despite Trump’s insistence he would be appearing in the Capitol next Tuesday — whether Pelosi would take the required steps.

In times like these — with a record government shutdown and an administration under investigation for federal crimes — it’s important that we focus on the things that are most important. You know, like making sure that the State of the Union speech is delivered at its traditional location.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is still getting whacked over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols).

Saine’s ridiculous antics — this is a pattern of behavior, remember — has earned her a new title from Westword: “Colorado’s Nastiest, Most Clueless Politician.”

This week, Colorado Representative Lori Saine stirred controversy (again) with a “tribute” to Martin Luther King Jr. in which she argued that blacks and whites were once lynched in “almost equal numbers.” She also struck back against naysayers by claiming that a fellow white Republican was a victim of reverse racism.

This combination of idiocy and vindictiveness is Saine’s brand, as Westword has documented over the past decade.

Even the Russians think Saine is a bit nutty. Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, remain silent about Saine.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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Who’s “Overreaching” On Guns Again?

Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Denver7’s Russell Haythorn reports on the debate over gun legislation at the Colorado Capitol this year, which primarily centers on a bill allowing a court to temporarily order the removal of firearms from persons in a mental health crisis–legislation which passed last year in the House with bipartisan support only to die in the then-GOP held Senate, but is greased to pass this year:

With the balance of power now squarely in the hands of Democrats at the Colorado statehouse, there’s a new push for stronger gun control.

The so-called “red flag” bill would allow judge’s in Colorado to seize firearms from gun owners who are deemed mentally unstable.

Gun-rights advocates call that measure a shameless ploy.

“Make no mistake about it, this bill is designed to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens,” said Dudley Brown, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

A poll released last May by Keating Research shows that in Colorado, 81% of the public supports a “red flag” law of the kind that died last year at the hands of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. It’s a similar situation to the gun safety laws that were passed in 2013, which similarly enjoyed majority public support even as they were savaged by the extremely vocal gun lobby. “Red flag” bills have passed in a total of 13 states, including states with Republican governors and legislatures like Indiana and Florida.

On any other issue, it would be a considerable stretch to call legislation with 81% public support an example of “legislative overreach,” but as Haythorn reports, it was gun legislation that drove the 2013 recalls against state senate Democrats–recalls that have served as a catch-all boogeyman invoked by Republicans against Democrats ever since.

Outside the angry bubble of the gun lobby, however, the gun issue has politically evolved since 2013. Continuing mass shooting tragedies with record-setting body counts like the October 2017 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have shifted public opinion, and made the no-compromise stonewall from Republicans under the influence of the gun lobby politically unsustainable. That’s one reason why in 2018, you saw a number of high-profile Colorado Republicans like attorney general candidate George Brauchler and Rep. Cole Wist come out in support of a red flag bill. RMGO responded by targeting both Brauchler and Wist with negative messages to the Republican base in 2018–and they both lost, satisfying Dudley Brown but only making passage of this bill more likely.

“Gun owners across this state are worried that the legislature is going to do again – what it did in 2013,” Brown said. “And that is take big leaps to turn us into California.”

Colorado’s 2013 legislature banned high capacity magazines and private gun sales.

The move backfired on some Democrats. Some lawmakers were recalled, and the party lost control of the state legislature in 2014.

With all of this in mind, to accuse Democrats of “overreach” for passing a red flag law supported by over 80% of the public, just like in 2013 when Democrats passed a universal background check law supported by a similar overwhelming majority, is spin to the point of absurdity. That this is not immediately apparent in every relevant local news story reflects the way the fringe of the gun debate–in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners–has dictated the terms of this debate for years.

At some point, maybe the local press will realize the guy on the 19% side of the equation doesn’t deserve “equal time.”

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Lori Saine Becomes Colorado GOP Shame Nexus (Again)

PM UPDATE: The Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy updates, as the story of Rep. Lori Saine’s whitewash-y revisionist history goes to hell with a disturbing quickness:

Following media reports from across the state and beyond which focused largely on Saine’s lynching comments, Saine argued with constituents on Facebook and Tuesday morning appeared on right-wing radio host Jimmy Lackey’s show.

Lackey introduced the topic by saying reaction to Saine’s comments represent revisionist history, that kids were being taught about Martin Luther King Jr. by “union hacks” and that Colorado is now a segregated state. Lackey also referred, multiple times, to Gov. Jared Polis as “our gay, Jewish governor.” [Pols emphasis]

For the record his name is properly spelled Jimmy Lakey, morning conservative radio host of the relatively obscure AM600 KCOL radio, who we didn’t realize was such an unapologetic…well, you know! But we most certainly know now, and that ought to make the Republican officeholders who regularly appear on his show think twice–at least the ones smarter about managing their public image than Lori Saine.

In any event, if the intent here was to make Rep. Saine or any Republican look better, that was not the outcome.

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Rep. Lori Saine (R), in custody after being caught with a loaded gun at DIA in December of 2017.

Less than 24 hours after you read it here first, the story of GOP Rep. Lori Saine’s wildly exaggerated estimate of white Republicans lynched following the American Civil War, made during a speech purportedly in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., has gone national–starting with the Greeley Tribune story we updated yesterday’s post with, then the Denver Post’s Anna Staver:

A Colorado representative from Weld County claimed blacks and white Republicans were lynched in “nearly equal” numbers following Reconstruction and chastised the main sponsors of a resolution honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a speech on the House floor Friday…

Saine, Buck and dozens of other House members sponsored House Joint Resolution 19-1006, which commemorated King’s birthday. It was introduced in the House by Reps. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, and Leslie Herod, D-Denver…[Rep. Herod] went on to characterize Buck’s brief floor speech on the resolution as both eloquent and in keeping with the spirit of MLK, but Herod said Saine’s remarks were “completely off base.”

Colorado Public Radio:

“The lynching comment is extremely problematic, in the sense that it really does kind of take away and hide some of the dark past that this country has faced,” Herod said Monday. “And if we’re not honest about our history, if we don’t face our past, then we’ll never be able to move forward as nation and a country. And so her comments really sought, I think, to water down the realities of the march for justice and for civil rights.”

Saine said she delivered the comments with little preparation, based on things she’d read. She clarified that she meant only the earliest days of post-Civil War Reconstruction. However, the article Saine said she referenced is an amateur statistical analysis that looks at data from a later period and makes no reference to party affiliation.

From there…Newsweek:

Saine, a Republican representative, backed up her remarks on Monday, all in support of a white state representative who was shunned from introducing a resolution to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In her statement that was televised, Saine said whites were lynched more often than blacks “in the beginning,” and also acknowledged that blacks were collectively lynched at a far-higher pace over the next seven or eight decades.

Saine claimed whites and blacks were all lynched for the simple fact of being a Republican, which caught one college professor in the state off guard.

The Hill:

While lynchings of white, Hispanic and Native American people have taken place in the United States and Republicans were targeted during Reconstruction, evidence points to African-Americans being by far the greatest number of victims of lynchings, which were used as a tool for racial suppression.

And this morning, even FOX News is obliged to report:

According to the NAACP, nearly 73 percent of people who were lynched from 1882 to 1968 were black. Many of the white people who were lynched were being punished for helping black people, the NAACP said. It noted that many lynchings were not recorded.

The political affiliation of those who suffered this punishment was not recorded in the NAACP’s statistics. University of Northern Colorado professor Fritz Fischer said Saine’s assertion was incorrect.

“Blacks were lynched for the ‘crime of being black’ which obviously isn’t a crime – and not even close to equal numbers,” Fischer told The Greeley Tribune. “I suppose there were a certain number of blacks who were lynched who were Republican. But that was coincidental.”

With more stories going to print as we write, it won’t be long before everyone with even late-night talk show familiarity with current events hears about the Republican from Colorado who said white people were lynched as often as black people. The added insult of claiming lynchings of African Americans were for “the crime of being Republican” is not just inaccurate but a complete whitewash of the ensuing century of history, in which the Republican Party willingly morphed into the party of holdout Southern racism.

As for Rep. Lori Saine? This is hardly the first time she has shoveled shame on Colorado Republicans, having made national headlines for getting caught with a loaded handgun at a DIA security checkpoint in 2017, then introducing bills to weaken Colorado’s gun laws–not to mention underscoring Sen. Vicki Marble’s nationally infamous monologue about “problems in the black race” with heart disease by bringing fried chicken to the next hearing.

We’ve said it before: Lori Saine is a walking, talking disaster for the Republican brand.

So naturally, ALEC should give her another award.

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