Naturally, this week in politics is coming to a close with ANOTHER absolutely idiotic recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker who was easily elected to office last November. This time, Republicans aren’t trying to recall a man who lost his son in a mass shooting over his support of gun safety legislation, but they found the next-worst look for a recall effort. As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:
Republican Nancy Pallozzi says she will mount a recall attempt against state Sen. Brittany Petterson of Lakewood in Senate District 22.
Petterson defeated Pallozzi in a 2016 race for a state House seat by 19 percentage points. [Pols emphasis]
On a closed Facebook page Pallozzi set up for the recall effort, she announced Thursday that “[e]verything is moving along and we are hoping to have the petitions in hand by July 16th, if not sooner. We are finalizing the wording to submit to the secretary of state’s office in July.”
According to the page, the Pettersen recall effort is intended to coordinate with a recall attempt against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.
You read that correctly, dear readers: The Republican candidate who lost to Pettersen in a State House race by nearly 20 points in 2016 wants to recall her then-opponent, nevermind that Pettersen was swept into a State Senate seat two years later by a 16-point margin.
Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi believes that Pettersen should be recalled because of…well, there’s probably some sort of reason in there somewhere, but Goodland’s story doesn’t mention anything specific.
As the Denver Post’sAnna Staverreports—Proposition CC, this fall’s referred measure to allow the state to retain revenues in excess of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ (TABOR) prescribed growth limits, has an opposition committee stocked with big-name Republicans past and present:
The group [Former Gov. Bill] Owens joined as an advisory board member is called the No on CC campaign, and its list of co-chairs includes former State Treasurers Walker Stapleton and Mark Hillman and 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler. Their goal is to convince voters that this request is different from the temporary TABOR refund timeout passed in 2005 because it’s permanent and because Colorado isn’t facing steep budget cuts from a recession.
Proposition CC asks voters to unwind part of a constitutional amendment called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The amendment changed how Colorado governments work in two important ways: It gave people the right to vote on all proposed tax increases, and it mandated that any money governments collected above a certain amount be refunded.
Although the requirement in TABOR that tax increase measures be subjected to a vote is of course the marquee feature of the 1992 law, held up as a model for the past 25 years despite no other state adopting a similar measure. That requirement sounded good enough to help pass TABOR by 53% in 1992, a margin that would not have allowed the measure to pass under current Colorado law.
But the lesser known restriction of revenue growth under TABOR has proven even more onerous, counterintuitively forcing the state to make painful choices even when times are good in order to stay under the measure’s artificial 6% cap–and refunding the money that goes over in pittance-sized refunds to taxpayers. Proposition CC would eliminate this cap, one of the less-understood but more pernicious effects of the law. Known as “de-Brucing,” it’s a step that most local governments in the state have already taken–as the Denver Postreported earlier this year:
Most local governments in Colorado no longer adhere to the TABOR spending limit.
All but four of Colorado’s 178 school districts have already “de-Bruced,” the nickname for permanently lifting the limit on the amount of tax dollars a government can keep. Eighty-five percent of Colorado’s municipalities and 51 of 64 counties have also convinced their voters to let them opt out.
“Nobody here is hopping mad at their local school district for doing this,” Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, said.
The fact that this measure is not asking for in increase in tax rates, but to eliminate a restriction on the back end of revenue growth that many voters would be surprised to learn even exists, make opposition to it more difficult. Most voters don’t even remember the last TABOR refunds of several years ago, which took the form of credits on income tax returns instead of a separate check and ranged from $13 to $41.
So how do you explain the opposition to Proposition CC by a crew of Republican usual suspects? That’s easy–TABOR is an article of faith to activist Colorado Republican base voters, to whom the measure’s net effect of throttling government revenue regardless of need is an ideological end unto itself. 2018 gubernatorial loser Walker Stapleton, attorney general loser George Brauchler, and long-irrelevant figures like Mark Hillman are all part of a generation of Colorado Republicans who rose to prominence in this political climate and will never turn against any aspect of TABOR publicly. As for ex-Gov. Bill Owens, who did turn against TABOR’s revenue caps in 2005? He’s spent every day since then trying to live Referendum C down–and opposing Proposition CC is just another chance to salvage his own dented conservative image.
Given the well-documented long-term fiscal challenges faced by the state of Colorado, there’s a strong argument that Proposition CC doesn’t do enough to alleviate TABOR’s chokehold on today’s priorities. But any way you slice it, the opposition to this measure is made up of the losing side of the past decade in Colorado politics.
Following the Colorado Times Recorder’s reporting that corporate donors Xcel and Noble Energy were surprised to learn that money they donated to Colorado House Republicans was possibly being spent on recalls, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s Recall Colorado entity has formed a new independent group, presumably to collect and spend money on recall campaigns.
On May 30 the Colorado Secretary of State approved paperwork filed by Patrick’s brother, Joe Neville, to create “Recall Colorado,” a 527 political committee. Despite its name, the stated purpose makes no mention of recalls, nor of elected officials currently in office. Rather, it says it will “educate and inform Colorado voters regarding candidates for the Colorado legislature, primarily supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats.”
The Recall Colorado website and brand was created and funded by another 527 committee, Values First Colorado (VFC), which serves as the House GOP caucus fund.
As previousreporting by the Colorado Times Recorder has indicated, at least two prominent corporate donors have publicly stated that they did not expect money from their 2018 election cycle donations to be spent on recalls. As of election day last year, Values First Colorado and other Neville-controlled independent expenditure committees still had approximately $300,000 — or about one-fourth of its total amount raised during the election cycle — still in the bank.
VFC has since published the “Recall Colorado” website, paid for legal support for the recalls, and solicited donations under the Recall Colorado brand, listing Patrick Neville as “Director.”
Until its collapse earlier this week, VFC was supporting the campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). Republican Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown, who initially filed the recall petition, announced Tuesday that she shutting down the recall and “refocusing” her efforts on Senate Democrats who aren’t up for reelection next year. Brown has worked closely with VFC: she served as the group’s registered agent for the 2018 cycle.
Former GOP congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos defended Colo House GOP leader Patrick Neville, pro-gun activist Dudley Brown, and others today against accusations that they botched a recall campaign against Democratic lawmaker Tom Sullivan of Centennial.
“Anybody who’s trying to finger [Patrick Neville, Joe Neville, or Dudley Brown] for the blame is either misguided or is straight lying for their own benefit,” said Athanasopoulos on KNUS’ Chuck and Julie Show this afternoon.
“The story I heard is that [Brown] contracted [a firm to gather] signatures,” said Athanasopoulos. “There was a contract. There were benchmarks. There were stipulations. There were agreed-upon prices, and [the signature-gathering firm] absolutely failed to deliver. Instead of throwing good money after bad, they did the responsible thing, which was [to] say, ‘Hey, we’re going to pull the plug.'”
“This illustrates the fact that we have a political class, consultants here in Colorado, who are inept, who lie, who cannot meet contractual obligations. It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about on the air for years,” said Athanasopoulos “It’s a never ending clown show of pigheaded buffoonery, to use a colorful term.”
So why aren’t there better GOP consultants in town? Athanasopoulos traces the problem to moneyed Republicans hiring their consultant friends for short-term gigs instead of developing local firms who are both competent and trusted.
“Instead of hiring fly-by-night firms, who hire anybody with a pulse, who may or may not be Republican — in fact, are probably not — we need to stand up something organic,” said Athanasopoulos on air. “There are lots of young Republicans in the state of Colorado, lots of them, who would love to have a part time job supporting the Republican cause.”
Co-host Julie Hayden, a former Fox 31 Denver reporter, says the established consulting firms squash the newcomers.
“If you come in here and try to open up another consulting agency, they will destroy you,” said Hayden. “And they make it impossible. So we have this group, as you said, of incompetent clown shows that won’t let go of the reins and won’t let the voters do what they want.
“George, I think you’ve hit it on the head, and it’s why we keep harping on this, about the establishment people, the donors and the consultant class who control Colorado politics in this state, and they’re just doing a horrible job!” said Hayden on air. “They can’t get anybody elected.”
“This gives Rep. Sullivan and the Democrats a victory,” said Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado GOP chairman. “Clearly, it was unwise to start this fight.”
Wadhams said he thinks recalls have a place in Colorado’s political process, but they need to be “well thought out.” And he isn’t convinced it’s a good idea for state party leaders to wade into the process before one gets on the ballot — even acting as a resident, as Kristi Brown said she was — because it makes any failed attempt look like it’s a failure of the GOP.
“The Colorado Republican Party was all over this aborted recall attempt,” Wadhams said. [Pols emphasis]
“If there was any chance of this recall succeeding they wouldn’t be running away from it, and their statement shows that they learned nothing from this failed attempt,” said a statement from Our Colorado Way of Life, the issue committee fighting the effort. “We hope that they will cease this endless election cycle and let voters decide Colorado’s future during normal elections, but we are ready to beat them again if they launch additional recalls.”
One GOP operative called the decision to pull the plug a devastating blow to Republicans that could hurt efforts to get money behind other potential recall efforts. [Pols emphasis] He said there were internal disagreements on messaging and strategy.
UPDATE #3: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown has posted a statement to RMGO’s official Facebook page that is fairly defensive about how donated funds are/were being spent:
“I take the responsibility of spending RMGO donors’ money quite seriously,” said Dudley Brown, RMGO’s Executive Director. “At this point, the best use of our resources is to refocus on other efforts.” [Pols emphasis]
“It’s clear from our work on the ground in HD-37 that Sullivan is out of step with his constituents and Colorado at-large,” continued Brown.
The statement goes on to include this nonsensical assertion: “Our work on the ground in HD-37 has made it clear that voters are ready for a change.”
Obviously, it is completely illogical to claim that “voters are ready for a change” in an announcement about ending a recall attempt in HD-37, but nothing in this recall attempt ever made sense anyway.
UPDATE #2: Here’s a video clip from Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck’s election as party chairman that hasn’t aged well:
Note enthusiastic applause from Sen. Cory Gardner too! We look forward to the follow-up questions.
UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger asks the next logical question:
Will those who contributed to the recall effort get their money back? I asked that question to @RMGunOwners@dudleywbrown: “Donors expect us to fight. That’s why they give: they’re mad (at gun control) and want a solution.” #coleg#copolitics
Word breaking from numerous sources that Colorado Republican vice chair Party Kristi Burton Brown is ending the hotly controversial attempt to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial:
The Democrats were so scared by this recall that they pulled out every stop to defend Sullivan: from Attorney General Weiser to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Democrat Socialists screamed their “outrage” and exposed their true colors. Nearly $100,000 of out-of-state money was spent almost immediately to defend the Democrats’ radical agenda.
We have been able to confirm everything we already knew: Tom Sullivan’s days as a State Representative are almost over. While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, [Pols emphasis] Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is. The best strategies are unified strategies and, in order to accomplish the most good in the shortest time, we have decided to pull essential resources from this recall and free up volunteers to help finish the National Popular Vote petition effort and to focus on recalling Democrat Senators who are not up for re-election in 2020.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of a Denver Post story this morning in which Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’ Dudley Brown expressed doubts that the signature drive would be successful:
“We’re not confident,” Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Dudley Brown said Monday when The Post asked whether the recall will get onto the ballot. “It’s been tough work.” [Pols emphasis]
The audaciousness of the recall campaign against Rep. Sullivan, who was elected on a platform of gun safety legislation after his son Alex was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, has dominated headlines and effectively stymied the GOP’s declared strategy for initiating recalls in numerous legislative districts–and in doing so severely weakened the momentum Republicans arguably possessed toward the end of the 2019 legislative session.
The division this recall attempt has caused within the Republican Party is not going away either, particularly given the role of GOP leadership figures like Kristi Burton Brown and Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Republicans disgusted by the overreach of attempting to recall Rep. Sullivan over other more vulnerable Democrats–and there are a considerable number of such Republicans today–must also reckon with the fact that this “faction” is in effective control of the Colorado Republican Party. Are Colorado House Republicans really prepared to go into the 2020 election cycle with the Nevilles at the helm after they waded into this misguided recall? Right after losing 2018 in an historic landslide?
We’ll be updating this post throughout the day with coverage and reactions. It’s anybody’s guess what happens next. The magnitude of this defeat for the whole Republican Party in Colorado, no matter which side of this particular recall individuals came down on, will take some time to become fully evident. At the very least, this is a cold bucket of water for anyone with “recall fever.”
It’s a very big deal though. The game, once again, has completely changed.
As the Grand Junction Sentinel’sDennis Webbreports:
Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill slapping back at so-called SLAPP suits, like one a Paonia activist says was filed against him by an energy company…
Delta County District Court Judge Steven Schultz has ruled twice in favor of Paonia resident Pete Kolbenschlag in a libel case brought by SG Interests. The company sued over comments Kolbenschlag posted on a newspaper website about SG’s settlement with the federal government over alleged illegal bidding on oil and gas leases. In his second ruling, awarding attorney fees to Kolbenschlag, Schultz specifically found that the suit was frivolous and filed to retaliate against an industry critic, something SG Interests has denied. [Pols emphasis]
However, Kolbenschlag told the House Judiciary Committee in April that the suit remains a hardship for him in terms of finances, stress and time demands because it’s under appeal.
House Bill 19-1324 gives defendants in civil cases an expedited process to request a dismissal based on free exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and participation in public debate. Pete Kolbenschlag, a longtime contributor to this blog from Paonia, was sued by energy company SG Interests over a comment he made on a web story at a local newspaper. Kolbenschlag’s comment about SG paying over $1 million in an antitrust settlement related to bid rigging was correct, but the company sued Kolbenschlag for libel because their settlement allowed them to avoid formally admitting guilt.
This disproportionate legal response to a perfectly defensible comment on a news story is a textbook example of what’s known as a SLAPP–a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” SG Interests didn’t sue Kolbenschlag expecting to win, but their vastly greater financial resources with which to wage legal warfare on a private citizen could well have the effect of said citizen deciding further participation in debate over the issue just isn’t worth it. And the story of that person’s legal harassment serves as a deterrent to others who might follow their example.
This isn’t about getting rid of libel laws. But when a frivolous allegation of libel is being used to suppress free speech and that can be straightforwardly seen from the facts at hand, there needs to be a way to shut that suppression down. Otherwise constitutional rights become subordinate to wealth, which is a very bad thing.
Thanks to Pete Kolbenschlag, the little guy (in most cases that’s you) now has a tool to short-circuit a SLAPP.
Craigslist ad for Sullivan recall petition circulators, taken 5/31/19.
Over the weekend, a number of important details about the for-profit players being brought in to work on the hotly controversial recall campaign against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan came to light, with a bevy of names longtime readers will remember both directly and indirectly confirmed to be involved.
And for those of you concerned with integrity in our state’s politics, it’s not good news.
Recent petition campaigns in Colorado, in particular petitions for candidates seeking access to the ballot outside their respective parties’ traditional assembly route and in 2013 petitions to force recall elections against Democrats state lawmakers, have been beset with widespread allegations of forgery, fraudulent misrepresentation of petition questions, and the hiring of out-of-state temporary employees with criminal backgrounds to collect signatures leading to all of the aforementioned problems.
In 2008, petition gathering firm Kennedy Enterprises was busted by a 9NEWS investigation after hiring “signature gatherers convicted of sexual assault on a child, theft, harassment, trespassing and drug possession.” In 2013, Kennedy Enterprises petition gatherers hired by Republicans for that year’s recalls signed up dead people, instructed signers to lie about their residence, and were caught on camera admitting to being a band of roving canvassers who “travel around the country, go from city to city, state to state, [and] put issues and candidates on the ballot for basically anybody who has money.”
In 2018, Kennedy Enterprises came under fire once again after fraudulent petitions for Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign were uncovered by a competitor in the Republican primary–and despite then-Secretary of State Wayne Williamsfailed attempt to cover up the Stapleton campaign’s petition fraud, Stapleton was compelled to rescind his own ballot petitions and seek the ballot through the state assembly.
Suffice to say, petition gathering in Colorado politics has a long and shady history–and that’s before we even get to Jon Keyser! Fast forward to this weekend–the ad you see above for signature gatherers to work in Centennial where Rep. Sullivan’s district is located is from a company called Northwest Petition Management. The registered agent for Northwest Petition Management is Chloe Taylor, daughter of Tracy Taylor–the same operative caught on camera in 2013 spilling the beans about Kennedy Enterprises’ business model. This is all very consistent with our understanding of the network of companies and subcontractors in Dan Kennedy’s orbit–often existing for the purpose of concealing the the better-known individual players involved.
The involvement of these highly dubious operatives in the petition campaign against Rep. Sullivan confirms a few important facts: first, that there is ample funding available to pay the premium per-signature fee charged by these gatherers. But more importantly, a network of unscrupulous operators with an undeniable history of fraud and criminal hires going back years and including last year’s gubernatorial race has been hired once again to go door-to-door in Colorado neighborhoods. The potential problems with this range from simple petition fraud and identity theft to…well, much worse. With all of this in mind, there are both moral, with respect to Rep. Sullivan and the agenda he ran on, and entirely selfish grounds for declining to go near their petition gatherers.
It’s not by accident, folks. At this point no one involved can claim ignorance. If you make the decision to hire these people knowing what everyone knows today, their shady methods are a feature not a bug.
A press release from perennial conservative gadfly Matt Arnold announces his latest David-and-Goliath victory over former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez’s political machine–a battle that has its roots in the 2016 elections and an attempt by Beauprez to “purge” the GOP caucus in the state legislature of undesired Republicans:
Notching yet another appellate victory, Campaign Integrity Watchdog prevailed against the desperate attempt of “Both-Ways Bob” Beauprez” to appeal his ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) committee’s conviction for multiple violations of state law issued over two years ago.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruling (case 2017CA883) was issued Thursday 30 May 2019 and not only affirms the trial court finding that ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) was guilty of failing to register as a political committee and disclose donors, but also affirmed the monetary penalty imposed on CPA while reversing the imposition of attorney fees on CIW’s officer Matt Arnold.
‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ (CPA) will thus be required not only to finally (after over three years of operating in violation of law) to register as a political committee, disclose its contributors, and pay penalties imposed in the trial court ruling, but also will be required to pay CIW’s court costs incurred as a result of CPA’s meritless appeal.
“The wheels of justice grind slowly,” stated Campaign Integrity Watchdog officer Matt Arnold, “but they do grind – and have ground CPA’s groundless appeal to dust.” Arnold continued, “Campaign Integrity Watchdog calls on Beauprez and Colorado Pioneer Action to quickly and fully comply with the orders of the trial and appellate courts, including registering the entity with the Secretary of State, filing required disclosures, and paying penalties imposed by law. CPA has defied the law long enough; time to man up and pay the piper.”
To briefly recap the history here, Bob Beauprez’s political organization started up a group called Pioneer Action to run ads in the 2016 election cycle. This group proceeded to launch attacks in Republican primaries on both GOP incumbents and candidates aligned with Dudley Brown and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, including “pistol-packing” Rep. Lori Saine among a number of others. This “red on red” campaign outraged the targeted candidates and their hard-right backers, and drove a wedge within the Colorado Republican Party still playing out today in the recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan.
The problem for Pioneer Action is that they did not meet the so-called “primary purpose” test required of politically active nonprofits who aren’t required to disclose their donors. Indeed the group was apparently solely focused on electioneering communications–and it doesn’t matter that these were intra-GOP attacks. Matt Arnold sued and won contending that Pioneer Action should be required to disclose their spending like any other solely election-focused organization. This appellate decision cements that victory and ensures Arnold’s attorney fees will be paid by Pioneer Action.
It’s worth noting that Beauprez’s attempt to “purge” the GOP of undesired candidates was not in the end successful, and today the state house leadership as well as leadership of the Colorado Republican Party is dominated by RMGO’s allies. Arnold himself is now the registered agent for Values First Colorado, the House GOP’s “independent” communications arm directly involved with the Sullivan recall.
Once considered a pest to both sides of the aisle, Matt Arnold’s continuing victories over the vastly better funded Beauprez political operation and his current leadership role in the ascendant Neville faction show how the power has shifted within the Colorado GOP. It’s not our role today to judge the morality or long-term implications of this shift–but there is no longer any denying it.
One of the more notable Democratic accomplishments of the 2019 legislative session came in the form of several bills packaged together to help Colorado combat Climate Change and reduce our carbon footprint. Earlier this month, the editorial board of the Denver Post added themselves to the list of those who appreciated the legislature’s work on Climate Change:
Democrats achieved much in 2019 with their complete control of the Colorado state governance, but of all the policies that Gov. Jared Polis has or likely will sign into law, none is as important as the work lawmakers did to reduce Colorado’s carbon footprint.
There’s a good chance toxic D.C. politics will prevent the federal government from ever responding to the threat of climate change. States and local governments must step up and do what they can, and individuals, for that matter, must start chipping in too.
That’s why we applaud the relatively moderate “climate change” legislative agenda passed by Speaker of the House K.C. Becker, House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, Senate President Leroy Garcia, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg.
Democrats were able to pass important climate legislation despite opposition from right wing Republican hardliners like science-doubting Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Firestone) and Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), who somehow believes that humans have actually improved Earth’s climate. On some of these bills, including HB-1261, the legislation passed with no Republican votes whatsoever…
…Which brings us to Rep. Susan Beckman (R-Littleton). In an illuminating Facebook post published on Friday, Beckman lamented the fact that third graders in her district had encouraged her to support HB-1261. Beckman says she is “very concerned” about the “fatalist view” being taken in these letters from third graders:
Facebook post from Rep. Susan Beckman (R-Littleton)
Here’s a closer look at the two samples provided by Beckman:
“The first reason the bill should pass is because air pollution hurts people’s hearts, lungs and more. If air pollution is doing this then we can get really sick or maybe even die. If people die, then babies can’t be born, and if no more babies are born, then there will not be any more people on Earth.”
“Another reason the bill should pass is because greenhouse gasses are connected to climate change. This is crucial because climate change causes icebergs to melt. If icebergs melt it causes floods. When there are floods people have to move to another place. If people are too slow and cannot get away, they would drown.”
KIDS: We would like to be able to breathe the air and not die in a flood.
REP. BECKMAN: Stop being so negative!
While we’re on the topic of fatalism, we should note that this is the very same Susan Beckman who lost her bid to become the Chair of the Colorado Republican Party and then complained of “flagrant abuse” of election rules after Ken Buck was declared Party Chair. Such a Negative Nancy!
Here’s a Facebook ad that started running last Friday from Values First Colorado, the House GOP “independent” message group operated by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting group Rearden Strategic:
Let’s briefly go over the problems with this ad beyond the distasteful fake mug shot–the allegation that Rep. Tom Sullivan supports “spending tax dollars on heroin” stems from a silly-season amendment proposed to the budget by Rep. Dave Williams as a “gotcha” political gimmick. Although various policies to address the opioid crisis were debated this year, nothing even remotely close to “supporting heroin” was ever even introduced let alone voted on.
In other words, it’s complete bullshit.
But the far more significant development this ad represents is direct spending by the Neville political operation on the Sullivan recall. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners headed by longtime single-issue gadfly Dudley Brown has received the majority of the press since the launch of the Sullivan recall two weeks ago, this ad is paid for by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s in-house organization. This isn’t an unexpected development, given that Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown who filed the Sullivan recall is also the registered agent for a number of Neville-linked committees.
But this just reinforces a fact that needs restating as many times as necessary until it’s driven home: the Sullivan recall is not just about Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The Sullivan recall campaign is sanctioned by and operated from the highest levels of the Colorado Republican Party. Kristi Burton Brown’s absurd attempt to distance her actions from her position as vice chair of the Colorado GOP is undermined even further by the GOP House Minority Leader’s political machine directly engaging in the recall against Sullivan.
► As the country prepares to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, President Trump is sending more military forces to the Middle East so that he can show Iran that he has the bigger…um, pen. From the Washington Post:
The Trump administration, facing rising tensions with Iran, plans to reinforce its military presence in the Middle East by sending another few thousand forces to the region to step up missile defense and surveillance, according to U.S. officials.
The decision to send the additional forces to U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East, was made late Thursday during a meeting at the White House between President Trump and top Pentagon leaders, the officials said.
Ahead of the meeting, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said the purpose of any additional troops would be to ensure the protection of U.S. forces and avoid the risk of Iranian miscalculation that could lead to a broader conflict.
“Our job is deterrence. This is not about war,” Shanahan said
► “Gardner’s office declined an interview request from The Denver Post this week…”
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) continues to dodge reporters seeking answers from him about his position on abortion after Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion measure in the country earlier this month.
► Colorado is the first state in the country to cap rising prices of insulin. Governor Jared Polis signed legislation on Wednesday that limits the co-pay for the life saving medicine to $100 per month.
As Colorado Public Radio’sBente Birkelandreports–as word spreads nationally about the attempt by Colorado Republicans to recall freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, everybody and their mother is lining up not just to defend Sullivan, but plant the flag on this pivotal issue with Sullivan as the standard-bearer:
National Democrats are getting involved in the effort to help Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan survive a recall challenge that threatens to remove him from office…
“When the gun industry attacks one of our own, it’s important for us to respond in kind and demonstrate that our movement to save lives is just as powerful as they are,” wrote Democratic U.S Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut in a fundraising email he sent on Sullivan’s behalf. Murphy asked people to split a $35 donation between Sullivan’s recall effort and his own work to change gun laws.
“The gun lobby is trying to force a recall election to try to defeat Tom and the other Democrats who sponsored the bill. If our side wins, it’s a devastating blow to an already reeling gun lobby. And so Tom needs our help right now to defeat this recall effort.”
Birkeland reports that prominent Democrats from across the country have been in touch with Rep. Sullivan since the announcement of the recall effort against him. Sen. Chris Murphy in particular has been a leading proponent on the issue since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred a few months after the Aurora theater shooting. We expect the involvement of these national players will escalate as the mid-July petition deadline approaches.
This is happening for an important reason. The recall campaign against Sullivan has received far more and far wider press coverage because of who Sullivan is. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their allies in GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s political machine promised lots of recalls, it’s been nearly two weeks since the launch of the Sullivan recall by state party vice chairKristi Burton Brown with no new petitions approved to circulate as of this writing. Even if more recall petition announcements are made today or after the long holiday weekend, Tom Sullivan has been firmly planted in the public consciousness now as the principal target.
And that, gentle readers, is a messaging disaster for the GOP.
By singling out the lawmaker with the most powerful story to tell in defense of his vote for 2019’s popular gun safety law, the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, Republicans have chosen the battlefield–and it’s by far their riskiest choice politically, and has the greatest chance of backfiring with lasting consequences for Republicans both in and outside of HD-37. If Republicans were to successfully recall Rep. Sullivan over a law enjoying 80% public support, the moral outrage against them would further stigmatize the party ahead of the next general election with no real effect on the Democratic majority.
On the other hand, if Democrats successfully defend Sullivan, Republicans look no less like soulless villains going into 2020 and the seat is lost for the rest Sullivan’s term. We’ll confess to some surprise that Republicans chose Tom Sullivan as the centerpiece of a strategy they have staked so much on. It’s even more surprising that they’ve let two weeks go by with no attempt to get control of the message while the Sullivan recall became national news.
It’s how a bad idea gets worse. And there’s no end in sight yet.
The skyrocketing prices of insulin are a nationwide issue and Colorado has become the first state to pass legislation that tackles the problem.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Wednesday that places a $100 per month cap on insulin co-pays, regardless of how much insulin a patient uses. Insurance companies will pay anything more than the $100 co-pay, according to the new law.
The law also enlists the Colorado attorney general to investigate the rising prices of insulin in the state and to make recommendations back to the legislature.
“Today we will finally declare that the days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado,” Gov. Polis said before signing the bill on Wednesday.
As CBS4 Denver notes, many Coloradans were paying as much as $900 per month for insulin medication.
► As expected, former White House Counsel Don McGahn failed to show up for a hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is pretty steamed about this, as the Washington Post explains:
Nadler vowed that his panel would eventually hear McGahn’s testimony about alleged obstruction of justice by Trump “even if we have to go to court to secure it.”
“We will not allow the president to block congressional subpoenas, putting himself and his allies above the law,” Nadler said. “We will not allow the president to stop this investigation, and nothing in these unjustified and unjustifiable legal attacks will stop us from pressing forward with our work on behalf of the American people. We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other.”
Nadler’s remarks came at the outset of the second “empty chair” hearing this month held by the Judiciary Committee. Three weeks ago, Attorney General William P. Barr declined to appear.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s all-out blitz to prevent Congress from seeing or hearing anything about pretty much anything — including his financial records — ran into a legal wall on Monday. As CNN reports:
A federal district judge has told the accounting firm Mazars it will need to turn over Donald Trump’s accounting records from before he was President to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee.
In a 41-page opinion, Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court dealt a significant blow to the White House as he rejected Trump’s attempt to block the committee’s subpoena, asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the President…
…Congress specifically can probe the President for conflicts of interest and ethical questions, Mehta wrote, reaching into history — citing everything from the presidency of James Buchanan, to the Teapot Dome scandal, to Watergate and Whitewater — to back up his ruling.
In a delicious bit of irony, Trump’s lawyers will now appeal in a federal court overseen by none other than Judge Merrick Garland himself. Garland was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in early 2016, but his confirmation was blocked by Senate Republicans so that a Republican President (Trump) could fill the vacancy instead.
We see a crack opening in Trump’s unconstitutional stonewall strategy. It’s the courts that might have the will and the ability to defuse a constitutional standoff.
As Elie Honigexplains for CNN, Trump’s “legal” strategy for avoiding Congress is, in a word, “nuts”:
The White House previously invoked executive privilege in an effort to prevent McGahn from producing documents to Congress. Now the White House — perhaps recognizing that its executive privilege invocation would likely fail on the legal merits — has changed tack and instead made an even broader claim that Congress cannot ever compel testimony from a senior adviser to the President.
This is nuts. The White House is relying on a brand new memo from the Office of Legal Counsel claiming that, as an absolute matter of separation of powers and executive branch autonomy, Congress cannot force the President’s senior advisers to testify.
Notably, the memo cites not a single court decision to support this novel proposition. The memo does begrudgingly note in passing that the only court opinion on the matter, a 2008 decision relating to testimony from former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, actually reaches the opposite conclusion: Senior advisers to the President are not immune from compelled congressional testimony.
► Some House Democrats, including freshman Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) are pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move ahead with an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. From Politico:
Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado — all members of Democratic leadership — pushed to begin impeachment proceedings during a leadership meeting in Pelosi’s office, said the sources. Pelosi andReps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Cheri Bustos of Illinois — some of her key allies — rejected their calls, saying Democrats’ message is being drowned out by the fight over possibly impeaching Trump.
Raskin — a former law professor — said he wasn’t advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda. [Pols emphasis]
► Could Colorado follow in the footsteps of states such as Alabama and Missouri in passing legislation to essentially make abortion illegal? We could be closer than you might think.
Meanwhile, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) took time out from running away from reporters to answer a question about abortion with an intentionally-vague and pointless statement that laws should be left “up to the states.” Gardner knows full well that the entire point of strict anti-abortion laws passed by individual states is to ultimately force a reconsideration of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Students evacuate from a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month.
In the wake of the shooting at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch earlier this month, Colorado Democrats are considering legislation to tighten the state’s laws around gun storage and child access, as the Colorado Sunreports:
“The end goal is that someone who shouldn’t have access to a firearm can’t access it,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, who revealed conversations about the potential policies at The Colorado Sun’s legislative forum last week. “Usually that would be a minor, but theoretically would include someone who just isn’t allowed to have a firearm.”…
…There are reports that the shooters in the STEM School attack, which left one student dead and eight more wounded, obtained their weapons by breaking into a gun safe belonging to one of their parents. The suspects are 18 and 16 years old, too young to legally purchase handguns, which authorities say were used in the attack.
About a dozen U.S. states have laws stipulating how guns are stored and how to prevent children from accessing them. Colorado is not among them, though it does have a law against providing a handgun to a juvenile. The older suspect in the STEM attack, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, is accused of committing that crime, according to online court records.
Image of a flyer from “Bullets Both Ways” distributed at a gun rights rally on Saturday.
Republican lawmakers are not enthusiastic about this idea. Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert dismissed the proposal in an interview with the Sun, as did Sen. John Cooke (R-Greeley), who reverted to a particularly stupid argument about the fallibility of laws in general:
“We have laws against murder. It doesn’t stop people from murdering. If you’re not storing your gun responsibly, a law is not going to change that.”
Why have laws at all?
The per-capita rate of deaths from gun violence in Colorado is at its highest level in more than 30 years, so what are Colorado Republicans going to do about the problem? They’re not going to do anything, as we’ve seen time and time again, but if backed into a corner the GOP solution continues to be to put more guns in public places.
Over the weekend, firearm enthusiasts gathered by the dozens at the State Capitol for a “Rally For Our Rights” event billed as a protest against a so-called “red flag” bill that passed through the state legislature this Spring. House Bill 1177, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis in April, allows Colorado families and law enforcement officials to petition a court for an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) to temporarily remove firearms from the hands of individuals who deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. Many Republican lawmakers opposed the “red flag” bill, including Sens. Holbert and Cooke. Perhaps the most vocal opponent was House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who has been openly advocating for recall elections against Democrats who supported the legislation (including Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, a co-sponsor of HB-1177 and the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting) .
Neville’s “solution” to gun violence has been the same since he first joined the State House in 2105; he is a leader of the movement to get more guns in the hands of teachers. This is a sentiment shared by others in the “Rally For Our Rights” circle. Among the organizations on hand for Saturday’s “more guns” rally was a Colorado-based group called “Bullets Both Ways” that believes that “Bullets Both Ways are better in our nation’s schools than bullets one way coming from an unchallenged perpetrator.” This is asinine.
What Neville and groups like “Bullets Both Ways” don’t mention, of course, is that the “more bullets” approach to gun violence actually creates…more danger for innocent people. As the Denver Post reported last week:
The district attorney for Teller and El Paso counties will review whether a security guard accused of firing at deputies responding to the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch should face criminal charges.
The source said a deputy has told authorities that the security guard, who has not been publicly identified, fired a shot at him or her while sheriff’s responders were arriving at the school. [Pols emphasis]
Investigators also are trying to determine whether the trajectory of the bullet indicates the guard may have struck and injured a student, the source said. Eight students were injured in Tuesday’s shooting, which also claimed the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo.
According to an attorney for the security guard, the armed man spent four years in the Marine Corps, which means he was probably plenty experienced with firearms. Yet he still may have mistakenly fired his weapon at students and law enforcement officers responding to the scene of the shooting. It’s ludicrous to expect that anyone other than the most highly-trained law enforcement officers would be able to safely handle a weapon in the midst of a school shooting, but if Neville and other gun advocates had their way, inexperienced shooters would be firing weapons in every direction at the first sign of a threat.
We need real solutions to our gun violence epidemic, not silly fantasies of promoting “a good guy with a gun.”
State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation earlier this year.
After the announcement last week of approved recall petitions to circulate against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of HD-37 Centennial filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, a major disagreement has erupted within the Republican coalition with a significant faction including Sullivan’s ousted Republican predecessor Cole Wistcondemning the effort of both morally and strategically self-destructive for the GOP.
Faced with this unexpected intraparty criticism, as Colorado Public Radio’sBente Birkelandreports, there’s an effort underway now to distance the actions of the Colorado GOP vice chair from the party as a whole:
“I would like definitely like to emphasize I’m doing this in my individual capacity as a citizen and a parent in House District 37,” Brown said. “Yes, I happened to be the vice-chair of the party, but I considered filing this recall before I got elected.”
Brown was elected to party leadership alongside Chairman Ken Buck on March 30. The “red flag” gun bill, one of the chief irritants that critics cite as the reason for the recall, passed the legislature April 1 and Gov. Jared Polis signed it 11 days later. Buck has called for the state party to be more active in recalls, but didn’t say what the official role would be in this instance.
“Kristi initiated the recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party. We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election,” Buck said.
Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).
The distinction between a Colorado Republican Party which has openly embraced the recall strategy to blunt increasingly landslide Democratic victories in general election and one of the state party’s highest officer’s personal action to initiate the recall of Rep. Sullivan is, in a word, preposterous. It’s a direct result of the condemnation of this recall attempt in particular by fellow Republicans, which makes it difficult for the party apparatus to publicly engage as party chair Rep. Ken Buckpromised they would.
As readers know, vice chair Kristi Burton Brown’s principal allies in her “personal” campaign to recall Rep. Sullivan are House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, both of whom view recalling Sullivan as a step to restoring their own damaged credibility after 2018’s heavy losses.
To summarize, you have a Colorado Republicans led by officials who have promised to support recalls, and a recall effort against a freshman House member initiated by the party’s vice chair and supported by the House minority leader’s political machine. Yet we’re being asked to believe that this is not a campaign sanctioned by the highest levels of the Colorado GOP–which is conveniently also what allows the Sullivan recall’s Republican opponents to focus their anger on the lightning rod of RMGO instead of acknowledging the bigger problem.
The campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the Aurora shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, is being run in-house by the Colorado Republican Party far more than any previous effort–including the recalls of 2013. Being by orders of magnitude the most divisive recall effort yet undertaken, including everything that happened in 2013, this is either a sign of a brazenness we haven’t seen before from a major state party or severe mismanagement that is going to further damage an already severely weakened coalition.
If you’re a Republican and against the Sullivan recall, it’s not enough to idly say so while hunting scapegoats.
It’s time to make a choice. What are you willing to live with and still call yourself a Republican?
We’ve been accused from time to time of posting photos of protest events that don’t quite capture the size and power of a crowd turning out to rally at the Capitol. Sometimes, like with the Women’s March events whose crowd size could literally be determined from orbit, this isn’t really an issue–but for Republicans hoping to avoid what seems to be perpetual embarrassment, it’s really very important that we get their crowd sizes “right.”
So above you can see what we think is the most flattering view of yesterday’s Rally For Our Rights protest at the Colorado Capitol–that’s everybody, right? We haven’t done a formal count of every visible head in this photo but we can’t imagine it’s more than a hundred people. It would be interesting to compare the list of attendees at yesterday’s pint-sized rally with the similarly underwhelming crowd at the previous week’s “Stand For Colorado” rallies and see how many of them attended both.
And again, for comparison, this is what a protest march in Denver can look like:
This year, Republicans have complained as loudly as they have since (not coincidentally) the last time Democrats had full control of lawmaking in this state in 2013, and vowed revenge. To listen to conservative activists tell the story to their gullible base, Democrats have taken Coloradans’ voting rights, gun rights, parental rights, and mineral rights all in one 120-day session–enough to drive any talk radio listener to distraction.
So where are the crowds of angry protesters?
The short answer is, they don’t exist. There is a core group of local conservative protesters who organize these recurring events, attend them all, yet despite all their agitation fails to grow into a mass movement no matter how much “momentum” conservatives feel they have at any given time.
On the issue chiefly motivating political backlash among gun owners thus year, the state’s new Extreme Risk Protect Order law to temporarily remove guns from persons judged in court to be a treat to themselves or others enjoys north of 80% public support in Colorado polling. We wouldn’t be surprised if that number has softened in the face of widespread misinformation about the law’s effects during debate this year, but it’s still heavily supported both here in Colorado and across the nation.
Setting aside their limitless bluster, the reason these people can’t build a crowd to support there issue is there is no such crowd. This is now, just like in 2013, an angry sliver of the electorate making threats above their fighting weight. Does that mean they don’t matter, or can’t do political damage? Of course not.
► Supporters of President Trump would love for you to believe that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and potential collusion/obstruction involving contacts with Russia should be classified “case closed.” The reality is much more complicated, as the Washington Post reports:
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.
The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…
…Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.
At nearly every turn of the probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump was working to make sure Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, knew that the White House was on his side — and that the President himself thought Flynn was a good guy.
Now we seem to know why.
Trump was worried — and it turns out, rightly — that Flynn knew things that would be problematic for the President as it related to Russia. And that if Flynn cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — as he eventually did — it would have negative consequences for the administration. Court records released Thursday night revealed previously unknown details of Flynn’s cooperation.
► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is working hard on trying to brand himself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights. The organization “One Colorado” isn’t buying it.
► Colorado’s outdoor industry is bracing for massive financial hits because of President Trump’s trade war with China; one local retailer says that “people will be shocked” at the extent of necessary price increases. Colorado’s economy in general is not well-positioned to withstand heavy losses from rising tariffs.
Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
The week’s political news in Colorado has been dominated by the approval of petitions to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a campaign kicked off by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party Kristi Burton Brown with support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’sfamily political consulting operation. As most of our readers know, Tom Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, which led to Tom’s run for office on an unapologetic platform of enacting gun safety legislation.
The announcement of the recall against Sullivan has been met with severe and in some notable cases bipartisan backlash, with Democrats morally outraged by the threat to Sullivan for keeping his most sacred campaign promise and some moderate Republicans fearfully warning that the attempt will backfire with the voting public in HD-37–cementing Democratic control of a winnable swing seat for Republicans, and sideswiping the credibility of attempts to recall lawmakers in other parts of the state.
In a Denver Postcolumn today, conservative writer Krista Kafer sums up the desired frame for Republicans who see the danger of going ahead with the recall of Rep. Sullivan, laying 100% of the blame for the situation at the feet of RMGO–to the exclusion of “Republicans” Kafer calls on to stand up to RMGO as though they are a distinct entity:
It is not enough to condemn behind closed doors RMGO’s depraved behavior, as many do. The GOP needs to openly rebuke these tactics and to act to ensure they fail. I am calling on my fellow Republicans and fellow gun owners to refuse to sign the recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan and to vote against the measure should it come to that.
There will be opportunity in the 2020 election to hold this legislature accountable for its actions. The legislature passed several pieces of legislation that are antithetical to economic prosperity, personal freedom, and constitutional rights. Ideas have consequences and the cost of these harmful laws will be evident over time. Republicans can make a strong case that new leadership is warranted. If, however, Republicans do not oppose the morally corrupt tactics of RMGO, we will not deserve to make a comeback.
Since news of the Sullivan recall broke early this week, there’s been a consistent effort by Republicans who don’t support it to insulate the Colorado Republican Party as a whole from the recall effort. The problem with this, of course, is that the recall was filed by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With the party making no attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Colorado GOP’s vice chair, no one else should either.
But even that’s not the full picture: over many years and accelerating after the 2013 recall elections, RMGO has worked successfully to install their favored candidates by winning Republican primaries. That reshaping of the Republican caucus is a major reason why close RMGO ally Patrick Neville was able hold on to his minority leadership position even after 2018’s devastating losses and allegations of mismanagement.
Whether it’s a genuine moral objection as is plainly the case from Rep. Sullivan’s Republican predecessor Rep. Cole Wist, who admits now that he was “in denial” of the extent of RMGO’s control of the Colorado Republican Party, or simple lucidity of the destructive political consequences of recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim over gun safety legislation, the bottom line is the same: the problem is bigger than Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In fact, vilifying RMGO while the party they effectively control carries out RMGO’s agenda makes everyone who engages in that diversion culpable.
And until the “civil” Republican talking heads accept that, Kafer is right: they don’t deserve a comeback.
Former Republican State Rep. Cole Wist is fed up with right-wing recall madness.
Earlier this week, former Republican Rep. Cole Wist raised eyebrows with a direct and thorough rebuke of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and their latest recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora). What makes this particularly noteworthy is that Wist was defeated by Sullivan in the 2018 election cycle, in part because RMGO went after him for his 2018 support of “red flag” legislation.
In an Op-Ed published today by The Colorado Sun, Wist elaborates on his social media comments from earlier in the week and goes into greater detail about the recall grift that we have regularly discussed in this space:
Too many in politics are in it for their own personal gain, not any actual desire to affect policy or make life better for our communities
Take my experience as an example. I sponsored a bill that was opposed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group whose stated purpose is to advocate for gun rights. They didn’t like my bill, so they raised money to attack me and littered my district with nasty fliers hoping to elect my Democratic opponent, Tom Sullivan, who is an outspoken supporter of sweeping gun control.
Why would a group that says it’s about gun rights help elect a gun control supporter? Well, so they can raise more money. And that’s just what they are doing now. They are trying to recall Tom Sullivan, whom they helped elect, so they can raise more money. [Pols emphasis]
Since the 2018 election, it seems there has been a steady drumbeat for recall elections. What’s behind recall fever? Yes, many voters are frustrated with sweeping legislation passed by the legislature this year on a number of fronts, but for many trying to instigate these recalls, it’s mostly about money and feeding the political election machine.
Wist later makes it clear that while he disagrees with Sullivan’s politics, he doesn’t dispute what happened in November:
I disagree with Rep. Sullivan on a number of policies. And, I am opposed to numerous pieces of legislation that he voted for this last session. However, Rep. Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it.
Recall enthusiasts are still pushing their nonsense rhetoric, of course, as Nic Garcia reports for the Denver Post:
Yet, according to the Republicans behind the recall, Sullivan duped voters.
When I pushed Kristi Brown – the state GOP’s vice chair and leader of the charge to recall Sullivan – on this logic, she acknowledged Sullivan’s track record as a gun control activist. But she added that the legislation he sponsored went further than a previous version of the bill. She added that his votes on sex ed and oil and gas reform were part of the “overreach.”
REAL VAIL: Some sheriffs and prosecutors who supported red flag last year, including Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, switched sides this year and opposed it. Why do you think that is? Did the bill change that much from 2018 to 2019?
BROWN:Nope, I don’t think they were that different, last year and this year’s bill. [Pols emphasis] I don’t think it was different enough to warrant some massive swing. It’s just this year sheriffs are able to read the tea leaves and that their constituents are now understanding what the concept of red flag is. And now they’re realizing that they’re going to face a big backlash from their constituents if they’re forced to carry out these, quote, protection orders. They don’t want to do it.
It’s tough to claim that the Sullivan recall is about “overreach” when one of the recall leaders admits that the “red flag” legislation that so angers them wasn’t much different than a similar bill in 2018. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of the meaning of the word “overreach.”
Efforts to recall Democratic lawmakers in Colorado are about two things, and two things only: 1) Making money for Republican consultants, and 2) trying to find a back door for Republicans to capture seats that they can’t otherwise win in a regular election. Every other rationale is just another way to justify one of the first two reasons.
(It’s war. For Colorado Republicans, it’s always war. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).
Republican leaders expressed what appeared to be cathartic disagreement yesterday over whether to support a move by Colorado’s Republican Party to recall a state lawmaker for backing a gun-control bill, after the lawmaker, whose his son died in the Aurora theater massacre, campaigned on the issue.
The dispute prompted a top Colorado Republican to say it would be a “wise move” to oust the former leader of the Republican Party from his chairmanship of a key GOP fundraising committee.
Colorado’s GOP House minority leader, Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, made the comment on KNUS radio during day of intense infighting among conservatives, which opened wounds, inflicted by Republicans on themselves, that have been festering under the party’s skin for at least a decade here.
The pain was evident on Twitter, where warriors representing factions of the Republican Party put aside restraints and publicly denounced one another’s stances.
After a conservative radio host Chuck Bonniwell slammed Tyler Sandberg, who was former U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s campaign manager, for telling a news site that Trump has a “less than zero” chance of winning in Colorado, Sandberg tweeted, “Chuck, take my advice, put down the meth pipe.”
Former Colo GOP Chair Ryan Call came out against the recall campaign of State Rep. Tom Sullivan of Aurora, which led to this conversation on KNUS 710-AM’s Chuck and Julie Show, with Neville and hosts Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden:
The Republican who lost his seat last year to Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan said Tuesday that he does not support efforts to recall Sullivan over the recently passed red-flag bill.
Cole Wist’s remarks came a day after paperwork was filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office that allows Sullivan’s critics to begin collecting signatures. Sullivan, of Centennial, has been a vocal gun control proponent since his son, Alex, died in the Aurora theater shooting.
UPDATE: Former GOP Rep. Cole Wist, who lost in 2018 to Rep. Tom Sullivan after Rocky Mountain Gun Owners turned on him, denounces the recall attempt:
It is unfortunate but crystal clear. RMGO owns the Colorado Republican Party.
This is truly a remarkable moment in Colorado politics.
GOP operative Tyler Sandberg slams RMGO.
We’re less than 24 hours into the attempted recall of freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial by Kristi Burton Brown, the vice-chair of the Colorado Republican Party and longtime ally of the Neville family of politicians and operatives–who are in turn closely linked with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, the hard-right single-issue advocacy group with a reputation for bloodying fellow Republicans in pursuit of caucus unity.
But by far most notable about yesterday’s oddly low-key launch is the highly visible and public lack of Republican consensus on initiating this recall attempt–with the substantial wing of the party not aligned with RMGO denouncing the group, the Nevilles, and the hit on Rep. Sullivan. Colorado Public Radio:
“Recalls can identify people, but it also can strengthen elected officials that survive them. The long-term strategy has to be to win November elections,” said Republican political consultant Michael Fields, who heads Colorado Rising Action.
Former GOP chairman Ryan Call said initiating recalls is “a dramatic departure from the historic role and practice of the Republican party in Colorado.” He added that the party historically gets behind recall efforts if there’s malfeasance or if someone in public office is acting in a way that doesn’t align with campaign pledges, which he doesn’t see as the case here.
“We have seen a pretty significant shift in public policy under single-party control of state government, but Democrats are pretty much governing how they promised they would,” [Pols emphasis] Call said. “Voters may have hoped for a more balanced and bipartisan approach, but what we saw during the legislative session is consistent with what most Democratic candidates said they would do while they were running.”
Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazetteconfirmed RMGO’s eager involvement in his story today, which anyone with knowledge of Kristi Burton Brown’s ties with the Neville political machine could already have surmised:
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a hard-line Second Amendment advocacy group, is committed to help Kristi Brown oust Sullivan, said Dudley Brown, executive director of RMGO.
“I welcome any group that wants to jump in on it,” Kristi Brown said. “A lot of Colorado parents in my district are upset with Rep. Sullivan and the way he voted.”
The response to yesterday’s news that Rep. Sullivan would be the next Democrat targeted for recall, especially the unenthusiastic response from fellow Republicans, underscores a longstanding divide between the Neville/RMGO axis anchored by Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the rest of the Republican establishment in the state. The recent exposure of highly questionable management of the 2018 House campaigns managed by the Nevilles, which resulted in the smallest GOP House minority in decades, has put the once-formidable political dynasty on the defensive–enough so that they were given a dubious welcome at best when they arrived to “help” with the now-defunct recall campaign against Rochelle Galindo.
But more importantly, going after Tom Sullivan, whose powerful backstory inspires both personal sympathy and support for his agenda of reducing gun violence, is politically hazardous to the point of being totally inexplicable. We’ve talked to a number of smart people on both sides of the aisle, and literally no one can understand why RMGO would start with Rep. Sullivan, kick off the campaign against Sullivan without other targets among which to distribute the backlash–and above all let the news break with no attempt to control the message. To say this is not how you’re supposed to do things is an understatement, and we’re left wondering if they simply didn’t care how it looks to the outside world.
Either way, there is a bipartisan consensus following yesterday’s news that a recall of Rep. Sullivan would be a grave mistake–both objectively for our state’s politics, and politically for Republicans. And that is something we did not expect to see, at least not so quickly and so openly. After years of struggling for dominance within the GOP, the overreach of this recall attempt could represent the beginning of the end for the Nevilles and RMGO.
UPDATE #2:Colorado Public Radio’sBente Birkelandconfirms that the recall against Rep. Tom Sullivan was initiated by none other than Colorado GOP vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown:
A campaign to try to recall Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial from office is official. The effort is directly linked to the Colorado Republican Party — which historically has stayed out of many recall efforts and not initiated them.
“Rep. Tom Sullivan needs to be recalled because, like the rest of the Democrats in the legislature this session, he did not represent the families of Colorado,” said Kristi Burton Brown, an attorney and the vice-chair of the Colorado Republican Party. She filed the request with the secretary of state.
Kristi Burton Brown has a long association with the Neville political machine, serving as the filing agent for the Values First “independent expenditure” group that (mis)managed the 2018 House GOP’s defeats. The vigorous pushback this attempt seems to be getting from within the Republican Party is indicative of a serious intraparty divide–in addition to what’s expected to be overwhelming public distaste for recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim for passing popular gun safety legislation.
What happens next? We’ll all find out together. But it’s not going to be pretty.
UPDATE: The problems here are obvious…
This could be politically risky — trying to recall the father of a mass shooting victim who clearly ran on gun control. If they swing and miss, they will bolster his support in 2020. #coleg#copoliticshttps://t.co/P5Oetx8S6Z
State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation earlier this year.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which bills itself as “Colorado’s only no-compromise gun rights organization,” has been teasing out some sort of announcement that would appear to be related to another recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker. It’s probably no coincidence that a recall petition was filed this afternoon against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora), who has been on the receiving end of mean words from RMGO head honcho Dudley Brown because of Sullivan’s strong support for a “red flag” bill that passed through the Colorado legislature this year.
For anyone who follows Colorado politics and the current state of right-wing recall fever, this is a predictable turn of events — particularly considering Brown’s considerable hubris and his need to raise money to support his militant organization. The irony is nevertheless impossible to ignore given the circumstances of the 2018 election.
Last year, Sullivan defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Cole Wist in HD-37 by an 8-point margin. In the run-up to the November election, Wist was attacked by RMGO over his support of “red flag” legislation. Brown has since claimed Wist as a political scalp, though Sullivan’s 8-point margin of victory makes that assertion fairly ridiculous. Here’s Brown in a new interview published today by David O. Williams of RealVail.com:
BROWN:Cole Wist, he lied to me last year when I called him and said, ‘I heard you were working on red flag. Oh no, I’m not.’ And then we filed a [Colorado Open Records Act request] and found out, yes, he was. And he had been lying to me all along. And so we went out and lit-dropped his district and mailed and we put a little bit of effort into ruining his life. And he paid the price. [Wist lost to primary red flag sponsor Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Democrat who lost his son in the Aurora theater shooting.] [Pols emphasis]
RV:Is that why not a single Republican backed red flag this year, out of fear of RMGO?
DB:I know a lot of RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] all bellyached about, ‘RMGO didn’t play on the team.’ We’re not owned by the Republican Party and when Republicans don’t play on the pro-gun team, we will piss in their ice bowl. We don’t care. [Pols emphasis]
Brown is now taking time away from pissing in the ice bowl of Republicans (whatever the hell that means) to go after Sullivan. Some Colorado Republicans are less than amused by RMGO’s recall quest:
Congrats to RMGO on ensuring that Tom Sullivan wins re-election in 2020.
Great work taking a swing seat and making it safe for Democrats.
To recap, RMGO is trying to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora Theater shootings, because of his support of “red flag” legislation that polling shows has the support of 80% of Colorado voters. This comes less than a week after the deadly shooting at a STEM school in Highlands Ranch, and a month after hundreds of schools in the Metro Denver area were locked down because of a threat from a Florida woman who flew to Denver and immediately bought a shotgun and ammunition at a gun store near Columbine High School.
No, this doesn’t make any sense. But somebody’s got to pay the bills for Dudley Brown.
[P]olice would not specify the nature of the complaint against Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a first-term House Democrat representing Greeley, saying it is “sealed,” though not by a judge.
Police last week received a complaint naming Galindo, Greeley police Sgt. Kyle Peltz said Sunday night — after Galindo announced her resignation.
“It is currently being investigated,” Peltz said. “It has been sealed due to the ongoing investigation.”
Rochelle Galindo (D).
News breaking this Sunday afternoon we’ll be working through all week, freshman Democratic Rep. Rochelle Galindo of Greeley, who was facing a recall campaign against her presently in the signature gathering phase, will resign following an as-yet unspecified allegation Galindo denies but accepts will end her term in office:
It has been the honor of my life to serve as the Representative for State House District 50. I have served my community to the best of my ability have given a voice for the underrepresented. With that, it is with great sadness that I announce that I will be resigning my seat as the Representative for State House District 50 effective immediately.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rep. Rochelle Galindo Announces Resignation
(May 12) – Rep. Rochelle Galindo, of House District 50 announces resigation.
“The allegations against me are false. That said, they will make my fight against the pending recall effort untenable. I will not put my constituents through what will surely be a recall campaign based on political smear tactics and false allegations. Instead, I will resign my seat as the elected representative of House District 50, effective immediately,” said Rep. Rochelle Galindo.
CBS4’s Shaun Boydreports that Democratic House leadership agree with Galindo’s decision:
House Speaker KC Becker and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett issued a response to Galindo’s resignation.
“Today Rep. Galindo submitted a letter of resignation. We agree with Rep. Galindo’s decision to step down at this time and allow someone else to serve the people of House District 50.”
Galindo’s resignation effectively ends the recall campaign underway against her, which despite voluminous bluster from Republicans was the only such campaign to have advanced beyond the rhetorical phase. It remains to be seen how this development may affect those other efforts, which seem based on early fundraising reports to have much more bark than bite. It’s worth remembering that the overwhelming majority of financial support for Galindo’s recall came from a single local donor whose interests may or may not extend beyond his home turf.
With that all necessarily explained, we’re very sad to see Rep. Galindo’s career end this way. At this point, what we don’t know about this situation dramatically exceeds what we do–but we’ll update as that information becomes available.
► Our great negotiator-in-chief Donald Trump is defending his decision to raise import tariffs on some Chinese goods from 10% to 25%, even as economists warn of the damage this could do to businesses in the United States. As the Washington Post reports:
President Trump on Friday defended his decision to impose steep tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and promised that much steeper penalties would follow, putting the rest of the world on notice that he will follow through on his protectionist agenda no matter the blowback. [Pols emphasis]…
…The chain of events that began with higher tariffs and continued through Trump’s tweets have sown unrest in financial markets around the world and have left investors and business executives unsure of what is to come. Trump in the past has threatened severe penalties only to back down days later, but he has also shown a willingness to dig in and trust his instincts, even if advisers have warned against it. He believes the strength of the economy gives him leverage to use aggressive trade tactics.
“At this stage, it is difficult to envision this as a bluff anymore,” said Eswar Prasad, a senior professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “He seems deadly serious about taking on China in a broad economic confrontation irrespective of the consequences to the U.S. economy.” [Pols emphasis]
It’ll be nearly impossible for Republicans to win a majority next year in the Colorado House, where GOP candidates could win every competitive district and still fail to net the nine seats necessary to control the chamber.
That Republicans have no hope to win control of the State House won’t surprise many political observers, but even the State Senate could be out of reach for the GOP:
Next year, there won’t be as many narrowly divided districts on the ballot — and Republicans will be playing defense in some tough races, including an open seat in a district that’s trending Democratic.
By general agreement, the Republicans’ top target next year will be Jefferson County’s Senate District 19, held by Democrat Rachel Zenzinger, while the Democrats’ top targets will be Adams County’s Senate District 25, held by Republican Kevin Priola, and Arapahoe County’s Senate District 27, held by Republican Jack Tate, who won’t be seeking another term…
…There is a wild card, however, that could tilt the balance of power in the Senate after the 2020 election. Several threatened recall elections might put additional, off-cycle Senate seats in play next year, opening the door at least a crack to a Republican majority in the chamber.
Speaking of those recall elections, read on…
► As we’ve noted in this space on several occasions, the attempted recall elections in various stages of reality in Colorado are all about A) Grift, and B) Republicans looking for a way around General Elections that they can’t seem to win anymore. The “CEO” of the Colorado Republican Party, Steve House, said the quiet part out loud last weekend in Pueblo.