Independence Institute a National Laughingstock (Again)

Try not to laugh.

ThinkProgress picks up on the latest round of in-your-face doublethink from Colorado’s own Independence Institute, the ideological pole star of the far right in our state:

One thing Earth Day celebrations have been lacking is a recognition of fossil fuels — at least according to the Independence Institute, a self-described “action tank” based in Colorado that receives funding from a litany of prominent conservative dark money groups.

“Enviros celebrate by planting trees but they never celebrate the trucks that deliver the trees, or the gas that powers that truck, or the plastic handles of the shovels they use,” an email from the organization reads. “Shouldn’t Mother Earth be thanked for making Earth Day events possible?”

Budding artists are encouraged to send their original works in by April 21 with the main requirement that it “should showcase the awesomeness of fossil fuels.”

A little more from the Independence Institute’s email announcing this captivatingly twisted stunt:

Join us in celebrating Earth Day by submitting your original artwork in our EARTH DAY FOSSIL FUELS ART CONTEST! Your entry should showcase the awesomeness of fossil fuels. We will be announcing two semi-finalists on Earth Day, April 22. The semi-finalists’ entries will be displayed at our Founders’ Night Dinner on Thursday, April 27. Guests at the event will vote and the winner will be announced at the event.

Both semi-finalists will receive:
• $75 in gift cards
• 1 ticket to our Founders’ Night Dinner ($250 purchase value)

The winner will also receive:
• One $100 gasoline gift card, suitable for framing and showing off to your smug in-laws.

It’s an event in keeping with the Independence Institute’s “Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms” party–which literally features alcohol, tobacco, and guns (hopefully not in that order, we’ve never been). While most of the world applauds sensible regulation of things that are bad for you/the planet, there are always the guys who celebrate the bad things. In Colorado, that’s the Independence Institute.

Yes, there’s an argument that talking about these kinds of antics only validates them. In this case, however, the antics are sufficiently laughable as to make a joke of much more than one state-based activist group. Something about the Koch Brothers paying for a celebration of fossil fuels on Earth Day elevates this to the level of a nationwide punchline.

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Another Try At “Rolling Coal” Ban This Year?

“Rolling coal” is not sexy.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports–after a substantial outcry over the killing of bipartisan legislation from GOP Sen. Don Coram and Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw “rolling coal,” modifying your diesel vehicle to spew clouds of black smoke on demand, Sen. Coram is planning to try again before the end of the legislative session with a new bill introduced in the GOP-held Colorado Senate:

The effort to outlaw rolling coal may have stalled out early on this legislative session, but don’t count it out just yet.

State Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, plans to introduce a similar bill later this session targeted at stopping drivers who harass others by blasting smoke from their diesel trucks. It would not seek to make the modifications that make doing so possible illegal.

“(Rolling coal) is not done for fuel economy, I can tell you that,” Coram, a rancher by trade, said. “It’s just harassment.” [Pols emphasis]

Each year Ginal’s bill passed the House and failed in a Senate committee on partisan lines with Republicans in dissent. She hoped that Coram sponsoring this year’s version in the Senate would bridge that divide.

Instead, it fell among Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s fears that it would lead to California-like emissions regulations for Colorado motorists.

Coltrain reports that Sen. Coram is going to “tweak” the bill in an attempt to allay Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s concerns and get the bill through the Senate, and Rep. Ginal will serve at the House sponsor of the new bill. It’s anybody’s guess whether Coram will have more success next time, but it’s face-saving on behalf of his fellow Republican Senators for him to at least try.

Will Colorado finally summon up the will to crack down on the noxious practice of “coal rolling?” We know plenty of pedestrians, bicyclists, and Prius owners who sincerely hope so.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (March 10)

Fifty. That’s how many days Donald Trump has now been in the White House. Let’s go ahead and see if we can 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 Republicans are nervously awaiting the results of a Congressional Budget Office assessment of Trumpcare. As Politico reports:

The fate of Obamacare may lie in the hands of a number-crunching Republican appointee whose bottom line might single-handedly blow up the GOP quest to repeal and replace it.

Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall was handpicked two years ago by top Republicans in Congress — including now Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price — to lead a nonpartisan office that will soon release its estimate of how many Americans the Republican health care bill will cover and whether it shrinks or balloons the federal deficit…

…Hall, in the post for two years, has already signaled that his office won’t soft-pedal the coverage assessments. If a health plan doesn’t have comprehensive benefits, it won’t count as coverage. Fearing a bad CBO “score,” Republicans facing backlash in their drive to gut Obamacare are turning the budget agency and its team of professional economic analysts into a punching bag as they try to discredit it. [Pols emphasis]

Republican leaders, meanwhile, are finding that it is difficult to enact new healthcare legislation at the same time that President Trump is sowing widespread confusion with differing remarks on a potential compromise policy.

 

► Colorado business leaders (and the Denver Post editorial board) are praising a potential legislative compromise that could place a tax increase for infrastructure improvements on the November ballot. As the Denver Business Journal reports, that doesn’t mean some conservative Republicans won’t continue to oppose the idea:

Conservative politicians and organizations savaged a bipartisan transportation-funding bill Thursday as offering a burdensome tax hike without commensurate spending cuts, while liberal groups gave it better reviews, despite the proposal containing less transit funding than they had sought.

The reaction — particularly a statement from state House Republican leaders that they will “aggressively oppose” the plan — showed that House Bill 1242, introduced late Wednesday, will have tough roads to travel even to get onto the November statewide ballot.

That path is difficult enough, in fact, that the Colorado Contractors Association, one of the primary supporters of this and past road-funding measures, will go ahead and file its own tax-increase ballot measure on Friday as a back-up plan in the event that the Legislature kills HB 1242.

The Denver Post has more on the predictable knee-jerk reaction from conservative Republicans who don’t have a solution of their own to Colorado’s transportation problems but simply oppose any effort to raise taxes for any reason whatsoever.

 

► Politico takes a look at the prospects for President Trump’s border wall with Mexico, which may or may not end up being built out of Legos:

Trump is claiming that the ambitious — and hugely controversial — construction plan is “way, way, way ahead of schedule,” but in reality, there is growing evidence that Trump’s central campaign pledge is in political peril…

…As the issues mount, several prominent Republicans are making their concerns more explicit.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told constituents during a telephone town hall Wednesday that “billions of dollars on a wall is not the right way to proceed” to secure the border, according to audio obtained by POLITICO on Thursday. “I don’t support a tariff to pay for any kind of wall.”…

…”We shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done,” Gardner said.

Federal budget gurus are trying to figure out the most cost-effective material for a wall, but they still haven’t even begun to deal with the “eminent domain” problem that could skyrocket the potential price tag.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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Colorado Pols Regular Gets “SLAPPed”


Pete Kolbenschlag.

We’re obliged to bring to our readers’ attention a distressing situation affecting one of our longtime readers and guest bloggers, Paonia-based environmental activist Pete Kolbenschlag. For years, Kolbenschlag has provided our community with insightful commentary on energy and conservation issues affecting Colorado’s energy-rich Western Slope.

But as the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported this week, Kolbenschlag has been hit with what’s known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) by energy company SG Interests over comments he made on an online news story:

Pete Kolbenschlag says the suit brought by SG Interests against him is unfounded and an attempt to silence him. He has raised more than $10,000 from more than 150 donors in just four days in an ongoing crowd-funding effort to pay for his defense.

SG Interests sued Kolbenschlag Feb. 21 in district court in Delta County over a comment he posted on the Glenwood Springs Post Independent website about a Nov. 28 article in that newspaper. The article said SGI planned to sue the federal government over the Bureau of Land Management’s cancellation of 18 SGI leases in the Thompson Divide southwest of Glenwood Springs, based on evidence of alleged collusion between the Obama administration and environmentalists to reach a predetermined political conclusion.

SGI proceeded with suing over the lease cancellations on Feb. 10.

The company says Kolbenschlag falsely stated in response to the Nov. 28 article that while SGI alleges collusion, “let us recall that it, SGI, was actually fined for colluding … to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers.”

And as Webb continues, Kolbenschlag appears to be right:

Kolbenschlag’s comments were a reference to allegations by the Justice Department that SGI and Gunnison Energy Corp. colluded in acquiring four leases covering some 3,500 acres in the Ragged Mountain area of Delta and Gunnison counties. The companies agreed in 2013 to pay a combined amount of more than $1 million to settle a civil antitrust action and alleged violations of the False Claims Act in the case. [Pols emphasis] Neither company admitted wrongdoing.

The fact that the companies settled without admitting wrongdoing appears to be the basis for the libel claim by SG Interests, which strikes us as extremely dubious–if not legally than certainly morally. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe that a comment on an online news story of a small-town paper would be injurious to this large energy company. The tactic of large companies filing libel or other such civil suits against individual critics is deeply controversial even with far nastier subject matter.

We can’t forget that this is the same SG Interests who Rep. Scott Tipton admitted to letting directly author large portions of legislation he introduced addressing the conflict over drilling in the Thompson Divide area:

In an interview, Tipton confirmed its origin, and documents obtained by The Denver Post show that Tipton’s draft legislation duplicates — word for word — entire sections of the proposal offered by SG Interests.

Writing at this blog and elsewhere, Kolbenschlag has been highly critical of SG Interests, their large donations to Tipton, and Tipton’s role as a vehicle for their desired policies. We’d say it’s likely that the comment Kolbenschlag is not anything close to the most serious allegation he has made about the company–it’s just the one they decided they could sue over.

With all of this in mind, we hope our readers will head over to Kolbenschlag’s legal defense fund page and consider helping him out as he readies for his David vs. Goliath legal battle. As of this writing, the page is up to $16,175. Legal defense isn’t cheap, and nobody has deep pockets like the energy biz.

Good luck to Mr. Kolbenschlag, and thanks again for all the great posts.

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Trump NOAA Cuts Bad For Boulder, Rest of Planet

The Boulder Daily Camera’s Charlie Brennan reports on growing unease in Boulder, home to numerous important federal environmental research facilities including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, as the Trump administration prepares to take a hacksaw to parts of the government that don’t comport with the new president’s vision–like climate science:

Little more than a month ago, Boulder scientists were publicly counseling a cautious, wait-and-see approach to feared budget cuts by the administration of a president who has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by China.

They waited, and late last week, they saw.

A report appeared Friday from the Washington Post, which had obtained a four-page memo outlining a 17 percent budget cut for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which the newspaper called one of the nation’s premier agencies for climate science.

One critic of those proposed cuts pointed out that the $990 million savings would fund the Department of Defense for 12 hours…

It’s not a surprise that President Donald Trump intends to make large cuts to climate research given his statements on the campaign trail. But as those consequences of Trump’s victory move from hypothetical to reality, the manifold implications are setting in:

A widely circulated posting Saturday for Forbes by Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, and 2013 president of the American Meteorological Society, explored the far-reaching ways in which NOAA affects everyday life…

Shepherd, who is also director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, said it was “beyond the scope” of his intentions to “get into the politics.”

He sticks instead to the simple facts of what a 22 percent slashing of the satellite division, or a 5 percent cut to the National Marine Services Service or 5 percent reduction to the National Weather Service — which are also both under NOAA — could mean.

Although the goal of these cuts would be to strike a blow against climate change “alarmism,” the effects may be felt in areas of the economy that have little to do with that one admittedly significant aspect of NOAA’s job. Neglect of NOAA’s coastal erosion programs, for example, could undermine hurricane recovery efforts. A reduction of weather forecasting information hurts the ability of Americans to prepare and respond to all kinds of events.

And yes, this is likely to cost Boulder some very good jobs. Republicans don’t like to factor the value of government employment into the strength of the larger economy, but the fact is, these are high-paying jobs that drive secondary economic growth just like good jobs in the private sector do. For their impact on the economy alone, these are not jobs that Coloradans of any political persuasion should want to go away.

All told, Trump’s plans for neutering climate science are bad news locally, in ways that won’t take decades to come to fruition. The long-term damage these cuts could result in is of course the more important story, but our local economy will feel the pain first.

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La Plata County Asks Tipton To Resist Whackadoo Public Lands Bill

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

As the Durango Herald’s Jessica Pace reported this week–although Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah pulled a bill earlier this year to sell off “surplus” public lands under heavy criticism from conservationists, Chaffetz is evidently not done trying to weaken protections over wild Western lands–and locals in Southwest Colorado are sounding the alarm:

La Plata County commissioners and law enforcement have asked Congressman Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, to oppose a bill that would delegate responsibility for policing public lands to local agencies.

On Tuesday, commissioners Brad Blake and Julie Westendorff voted to approve the letter, addressed to Tipton as well as Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Commissioner Gwen Lachelt was absent.

The Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would terminate the law enforcement functions of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as well as related funding…

About 657 square miles, or 39 percent, of La Plata County is federal land. The transition would mean more deputies and record-keeping.

This bill appears to be another case of fancied “local control” of public resources, that in fact translates to a much larger burden for local governments–a burden they neither want nor need as relations between federal land managers and local governments are generally pretty good outside of Cliven Bundy territory. There’s no good reason to hand off this responsibility to local governments unless it’s your hope that there will be fewer resources available for law enforcement on federal lands.

You know, like Cliven Bundy wanted.

Responding to concerns from Southwest Colorado constituents, Rep. Scott Tipton seems, well, annoyed:

A spokeswoman for Tipton’s office said Tipton will review the county’s letter, and said the U.S. representative has supported or led multiple pro-public lands initiatives.

“He has voted repeatedly for funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and he is an original co-sponsor of a bill introduced by Rep. (Jared) Polis that expands the boundaries of the Arapaho National Forest,” spokeswoman Liz Payne said in a statement. “It seems like these things are either forgotten about or never get mentioned.”

That’s nice, but:

Payne said Tipton has no position on the law enforcement bill. [Pols emphasis]

So yes, it would seem that La Plata County’s letter expressing concern is justified.

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Will The Legislature Finally Put a Stop to “Rolling Coal?”

“Rolling coal.”

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports on the debate in the General Assembly over House Bill 17-1102, a second attempt by Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw the modifications made to diesel vehicles allowing that to spew vast quantities of smoke with a flip of a switch–a practice known in the vernacular as “rolling coal.”

Given that being targeted with noxious fumes isn’t all Coloradans’ idea of fun, state lawmakers are taking a second shot at passing a bill that would make “coal rolling” – the act of using vehicle exhaust as a form of harassment – a traffic infraction with a $100 fine.

This is about public safety and public health, said Rep. Joann Ginal, a Fort Collins Democrat who showed three videos of people intentionally “rolling coal” at others during a hearing in the House Transportation and Energy Committee earlier this month.

The proposal isn’t about going after diesel trucks, Ginal told the committee. It’s more about those who modify their vehicles, usually either with a tailpipe or smokestack, in order to blast smoke at another driver, bicyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian or other human target.

Ginal said the request for the bill came from her local police department, and would give law enforcers a tool they can use when they see “coal rolling.”

Last year, legislation cracking down on “rolling coal” died in the Colorado Senate after passing the Democratic-controlled House. But this year, as the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, there’s a GOP co-sponsor in the Senate:

It’s the second year Ginal, D-Fort Collins, has run the bill. It stalled in the Senate transportation committee last session. This year, it has a Republican co-sponsor in Sen. Don Coram of Montrose.

If the bill becomes law, it would give police the ability to fine drivers who intentionally spew exhaust in a way that obstructs another person’s view, creates a safety hazard or in a manner that’s harassing to other cars or pedestrians. Violators would be fined $100.

Last year, Republicans took considerable fire for their decision to kill this bill, in effect siding with people who commit an act tantamount to vandalism–not to mention the negative public health effects of intentionally spewing black diesel smoke into the environment. It’s worth noting again that this is not legislation to further punish people with smoky vehicles due to age or poor maintenance. “Rolling coal” is made possible by a deliberate modification to the vehicle for the express purpose of…well, being an asshole.

So we’ll be watching closely to see if the GOP-controlled Senate lets the bill through this year.

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CO Attorney General Coffman files suit in support of Oil & Gas Commission, will not “indulge” Boulder County

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

On Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman appeared on KDMT’s (1690am) Business for Breakfast with host Jimmy Sengenberger  to announce her intention to intervene in a dispute between Boulder County and the state Oil and Gas Commission.

Coffman has decided to file a lawsuit – seeking a permanent injunction– to end Boulder County’s five-year-old moratorium on oil and gas development, which was instituted in February 2012 and continued via extensions approved by the Boulder County Commission.

The moratorium and subsequent extensions were passed with the intention to “allow them time to develop new regulations in their county and prepare to accept new applications for oil and gas development in Boulder County” Coffman explained.

While other local communities have instituted similar moratoriums – specifically in Longmont, which prompted a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in May 2016 that found a moratorium lasting two-and-a-half years is too long — Boulder’s moratorium is uniquely the only one statewide which remains in place.

Sengenberger inquired as to how the Attorney General arrived at the decision to file suit.  In her response, Coffman confirmed that the decision is discretionary to her office, but seemed to be triggered by a “magic number”.

HOST JIMMY SENGENBERGER:  […] Is this a choice you’re able to make, sort of, with your own discretion, or is this something that would be required for you to move forward with, as Attorney General?

COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Well, I suppose I could ignore it–the fact that a local community is violating state law – but I don’t think that is a wise or responsible thing for me to do as Attorney General.  […]  So, for five years they’ve just continued to extend their moratorium.  Their last extension was in December of last year.  And attorneys for the Oil and Gas Commission told them at that point and in public hearings, “Look, you’re violating the law and the Supreme Court rulings in cases involving Longmont and Fort Collins — that were directly on point – in May of 2016 and said, ’Communities, you can’t do this any longer.’”     Boulder is the only one that continues to say “no”, and to lock down any new applications for oil and gas development, which hit the five-year mark – which is sort of the magic number as far as we are concerned in our office.  And that was last week.  And we just said, “All right.  This is enough.” We can’t continue to indulge Boulder in taking more time to write regulations, [as Boulder is continuing to request].

Later in the interview, the Attorney General also pre-emptively defended against charges of doing the bidding on behalf of the Oil and Gas Commission of Colorado, which inexplicably are not filing the lawsuit directly, despite their position with standing and their previous involvement in the case.

Coffman stated to Sengenberger that her direct involvement was driven by a number of considerations, including the long history [of oil and gas industry] in Colorado bringing well-paying jobs to the state which have fueled our economy, and protecting Colorado’s reputation as “business friendly” by enforcing parity and predictability in policy.

Journalist David Sirota, in his International Business Times article on Coffman’s intervention in the Boulder County dispute, reviewed reports and analyses of campaign finance disclosures which show steep increases in campaign contributions in 2014 and 2016 Colorado races from oil and gas donors.  The implication is that Coffman directly and indirectly benefitted from the influence of oil and gas campaign donations, and therefore her rationale is subject to scrutiny.

Further coverage of Attorney General Coffman’s interview can be found in the Coloradopolitics.com blog piece, linked here.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (February 3)

Can we demand a recount in Punxsutawney? How do we know that the groundhog wasn’t paid off by “Big Winter” to keep it cold for another six weeks? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► That big wall between Mexico and the United States that President Trump has repeatedly promised is running into plenty of opposition from Congressional Republicans. As CNN reports:

A growing number of congressional Republicans are objecting to the cost and viability of a proposal that was a rallying cry for the billionaire businessman during his insurgent campaign. Interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers across the ideological spectrum suggest Trump could have a difficult time getting funding for his plan approved by Congress.

Many bluntly told CNN they’d likely vote against any Trump plan that is not fully offset with spending cuts, while others questioned whether Trump’s vision would adequately resolve the problems at the border.

“If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you’re going to have to show me where you’re going to get that money,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key swing vote who has already broken with Trump over his nominee for secretary of education.

“I don’t see how you can get a bill like that through (Congress) without offsets,” she added. “I don’t see how that’s possible.”

At a projected cost of $12-15 billion, it’s not hard to see why so-called “fiscal conservatives” would be freaking out a little bit.

 

► Remember Bowling Green!?

Don’t remember Bowling Green? You’re not alone. But here’s what President Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews of MSNBC on Thursday:

“Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people didn’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Conway is correct that this didn’t get covered…primarily because it never happened. From the Washington Post:

In defending President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees, immigrants and citizens from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries, Conway referred to something that didn’t happen — the “Bowling Green massacre.” (She also incorrectly said that Obama “banned” Iraqi refugees, which we have previously fact-checked as false.)

Conway was on her way to a Four-Pinocchio rating when, about an hour and a half after The Fact Checker sent her a query about her remarks, she tweeted that she meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists.”

Alternative facts.

 

One of the foremost charter school advocates in the United States says that Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is absolutely not qualified for the position and is urging the Senate to reject her nomination. Despite a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos is still moving forward in the process but will have to sweat out a full floor vote on Monday.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (February 2)

You dirty son of a groundhog! Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging from his palace this morning and seeing his shadow. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► There are growing concerns about President Trump’s mental and emotional fitness, and it’s becoming a problem in international relations. On Wednesday, President Trump hung up the phone during a conversation with the Australian Prime Minister. From the Washington Post:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Also on Wednesday, Trump may or may not have threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico.

Trump has a position on a topic, and everything else is wrong. If you are concerned about any of this, President Trump says, “Just don’t worry about it.

 

► President Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric may be fun for campaigns and television shows, but it may actually backfire in International diplomacy. From the Washington Post:

President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an “inexperienced person has threatened” his country.

The exchanges reflect the Trump administration’s toughening stance on Iran, but also point to wider changes in the White House as it advances a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy. The shifts appear to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new “America first” approach to the world.

Just before the Senate confirmed Trump’s new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, national security adviser ­Michael Flynn made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to deliver a stern warning to Iran over its most recent ballistic missile test.

Trump bangs his fists, and Iran shrugs.

 

► It’s an icy day in Metro Denver, which is something Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is growing quite accustomed to feeling. After a series of shaky performances during the confirmation process, DeVos may need a tie-breaking Senate vote from Vice President Mike Pence to make it into the Department of Education. As we noted in this space yesterday, DeVos has lost the support of two Republican Senators after demonstrating during the last few weeks that she has very little understanding of what her proposed job entails.

As the Colorado Statesman reports, a growing number of state lawmakers are also voicing their opposition to DeVos.

 

The fight is on over the Supreme Court now that Donald Trump’s nominee has been announced. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wasted no time in sitting down for a meeting with Judge Neil Gorsuchwhich is more than Gardner would even consider for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 1)

You wanna march? Let’s march on that damn groundhog tomorrow so that we can hurry up and get to Spring. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Rules? Rules?!? We don’t need no stinking rules! Republicans in the U.S. Senate have decided to abandon rules and decorum and all that crap so that they can hurry up and ram through appointments for Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Republican leaders are trying hard to blame Democrats for this mess, conveniently ignoring the fact that the GOP started well down this road last year when it refused to hold hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

From Politico:

Democrats said they were boycotting the confirmation proceedings because of concerns that Price and Mnuchin had misled the committee, and that the nominees needed to provide more information.

Republicans slammed Democrats as being obstructionists and downplayed their concerns with the nominees.

 

► As expected, President Trump on Tuesday nominated Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) managed to squeeze in a meeting with Gorsuch at his office this morning in Washington D.C. — something Gardner refused to do for Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

For Senate Republicans, Gorsuch represents something of a reward for their 2016 efforts at preventing Garland from donning the black robes of a Supreme Court Justice. The Denver Post has more reaction from Colorado officials.

 

► Republican legislators in Colorado are trying to repeal Colorado’s health insurance marketplace at the same time that Connect for Health Colorado is seeing a record surge in people signing up for coverage. A large crowd gathered at the State Capitol on Tuesday to speak out against GOP efforts to dismantle the state health exchange.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 25)

Today’s “Get More Smarter” is being read by more people on earth than any other website ever. EVER! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Got concerns? Calling the office of Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will only get you to a voicemail box…if you are lucky enough for the voicemail to even pick up. Senator Gardner seems rather nonplussed by the fact that his constituents can’t reach his office. Jonathan Romeo of the Durango Herald has a detailed story on the rising anger of constituents who are flabbergasted that they can’t even reach Gardner’s office.

The Denver Post has a primer on how to go about trying to contact your Congressional representatives.

 

► President Donald Trump is proving to be the world’s sorest winner as he continues to make completely unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump plans to ask “for a major investigation” into allegations of widespread voter fraud, as he continues to claim without providing evidence that he lost the popular vote in November’s election because millions of illegal votes were cast, according to tweets posted Wednesday.

The White House has yet to provide details, but Trump said in back-to-back tweets that the investigation would cover “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal” and “those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).” Trump used all capitals — VOTER FRAUD — for emphasis.

“Depending on results,” Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

So, uh, you know how people call you President Trump now? That’s because you won. You can’t win the 2016 election again.

Election officials in Colorado, meanwhile, continue to reiterate that there is absolutely no reason to suspect large-scale voter fraud.

 

► President Trump was set to sign Executive Orders today that would theoretically lead to the beginning of construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico that Mexico totally isn’t going to pay for in any way whatsoever. Trump is rolling out a few other immigration-related measures today.

 

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Of Course Rick Perry Doesn’t Know Squat About Energy Secretary

Rick Perry, our next Secretary of Energy (whatever that means).

As revealed yesterday in a stunning piece in the New York Times, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — Donald Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary — doesn’t really have any idea what his potential new job actually entails:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal…

…Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize.

And…now we have Rick Perry. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine sums up Perry and the Department of Energy with a simple Tweet:

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 19)

It’s your last night in the White House, so you know what that means…who is picking up the keg? It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 Republicans continue to push ahead in trying to repeal (and possibly replace, maybe) Obamacare despite the fact that public opinion polls regularly show rising support for the Affordable Care Act. As the Washington Post reports, this has led to a political strategy whereby GOP elected officials go out of their way to avoid talking about the issue to other people:

After Sen. Thom Tillis said he would be talking to constituents live on Facebook Wednesday, more than 200 people submitted questions — many of them pointed queries about his views on health care.

While Tillis’s office had advertised a 30-minute event, the senator ultimately appeared on camera for 11 minutes, answering eight questions read to him by a staff member…

…Tillis did not acknowledge any of the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video, including requests for more details on the GOP replacement plan. But he did avoid the sort of viral spectacle that many of his fellow lawmakers have encountered over the past week as the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act got underway in Washington…

…Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dust-ups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. Only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers — the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009.

There is definitely a very good plan somewhere, so don’t you worry about that. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) wouldn’t lie to you, now would he? Jason Salzman calls on Colorado media outlets to be specific in their questions for Republicans about actual replacement specifics.

 

► Congressman Tom PriceDonald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services, took a heavy grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in his first batch of Senate confirmation hearings — with a good deal of discussion focused on Obamacare and the mythical Republican “replacement plan.” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) sounded fed up with this vacant talk of a replacement plan and absolutely went off on Price.

 

► If you are planning on attending the “Women’s March” in Denver on Saturday, the Denver Post has some suggestions for navigating the event. More than 40,000 people are expected to descend on Civic Center Park on Saturday morning.

 

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Call Your Senator – Refuse Rex Tillerson as Sec/State

Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO and Trump’s Nominee for Secretary of State, Accepting the Order of Friendship from Vladimir PUtin in 2013. Wikipedia Russia

Today, January 11, 2017, was the first day of hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFR) on the confirmation of Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Tillerson evaded direct questions about if he would continue to press for removal of sanctions against Russia. He refused to denounce Russia’s human rights abuses of Syrian civilians.  He equivocated about whether climate change is caused by human activity. He seemed clueless about world affairs, outside of Russia. He played dumb about Russian hacking. And he gave little indication that he would act independently of his boss, Donald Trump.

The hearing will continue Thursday, January 12, and from that point the SFR can decide to move the nomination to the entire Senate for an up or down vote, or stall it in committee, effectively killing the nomination. We want Tillerson’s nomination to die in the SFR committee. If the SFR Senators get enough calls from their constituents, it can happen. Public pressure has prevented complete gutting of the Government Ethics Office, and has postponed several hearings that Trump originally wanted on 1/12/17


Five Reasons to Call Your Senator Now to refuse this nominee

  1. Exxon is the world’s #1 contributor to climate change. The company has known for 40 years that fossil fuel extraction and burning contribute to climate change, and it has spent 35 of those 40 years actively denying the science and lobbying to prevent worldwide action on climate change.  Meanwhile, Exxon factored warming seas into its calculations on Arctic oil extraction.
  2. Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State, would enter with huge conflicts of interest. Tillerson could reverse or make policy decisions about U.S. sanctions against Russia. Reversing sanctions would allow a $500 billion Arctic oil exploration deal to go forward, making Exxon and Russia’s state-owned oil company Rosneft rich, even if it makes the U.S. less safe. Tillerson himself owns $218 million in Exxon stock.
  3. The Arctic climate is fragile. It’s not just the risk of spills; methane and black carbon pollution from offshore oil development will increase global warming.

    Polar Bear on Arctic ice

    Expanded drilling would increase Arctic ice melt and decrease wildlife habitat. – Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  4. Tillerson has no experience in diplomacy . World diplomacy is not one giant business deal – there are very delicate situations in the world that need tact, knowledge, and patience.
  5.  Tillerson cannot be trusted to put the USA’s interests ahead of Russia’s or of Exxons –  as intelligence expert Malcolm Nance asked on MSNBC’s Joy Reid show, “Do we want a secretary of state who is going to be working hand in hand first and foremost for the U.S. and Russian petrochemical industries?”

Call your Senator on the  Foreign Relations Committee

Contact info:

  1. Marco Rubio (R-Florida)  @ Next election: 2022
  2. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)(Chairman) Next election: 2018
  3. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) Next election: 2020
  4. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) Next election: 2022
  5. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) Next election: 2018
  6. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) Next election: 2020
  7. David Perdue (R-Georgia) Next election: 2020
  8. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) Next election: 2022
  9. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) Next election: 2022
  10. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) Next election: 2018
  11. Todd Young (R – Indiana) Next election: 2022
  12. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) (Ranking Member) Next election: 2018
  13. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) Next election: 2018
  14. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) Next election: 2020
  15. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) Next election: 2020
  16. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) Next election: 2020
  17. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) Next election: 2018
  18. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) Next election: 2018
  19. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) Next election: 2020
  20. Cory Booker (D- New Jersey) Next election: 2020
  21. Jeff Merkley (D- Oregon) Next election: 2020
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Western Slope Seethes Over Public Lands Selloff Vote

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Jason Auslander at the Aspen Times follows up on last week’s surprise vote in Congress to make the transfer of federal lands easier–an issue that caused fireworks in last year’s CD-3 race when incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Tipton insisted he would never be part of any such thing:

A move by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week to make it easier to transfer federal public lands to states is causing consternation in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“I think it’s corrupt,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards. “It’s robbery. They’re robbing the public of land forever.”

Will Roush, conservation director of the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, agreed.

“(I’m feeling) disappointment, and maybe a little bit of surprise,” Roush said. “(House Natural Resources Committee Chairman) Rob Bishop and House Republicans are against public lands, but to see it happen so quickly was a surprise.” [Pols emphasis]

This issue was explored in detail in an excellent reader diary last Friday. In the case of Rep. Scott Tipton, the issue of selling off federal lands is particularly salient after his Democratic opponent Gail Schwartz tried hard to make it an issue in their campaign last year. Tipton pushed back mightily on the suggestion that he has supported selling off public lands, and the press more or less sided with him:

Tipton told the Herald that he has always supported preservation of public lands and keeping those lands public.

“She’s not telling the truth,” Tipton said of Schwartz’s accusations. “Not once have I said selling off public lands, sponsored or written legislation to sell off public lands.”

Today, Rep. Tipton’s campaign-trail assurances stand out in harsh relief:

Roush also pointed out that Tipton was attacked by his November general election opponent Gail Schwartz for being anti-public lands. Tipton forcefully pushed back against the criticism, saying he supported public lands, Roush said.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Roush said. “Either you’re an advocate for public lands or you’re not.” [Pols emphasis]

Actions, after all, speak louder than words. The issue of selling off public lands wasn’t at the forefront in every congressional race, but in Tipton’s case it was. And Tipton made statements that were belied by one of his very first votes in the new Congress.

No matter how politically safe Tipton feels right now, that’s not very advisable.

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Yes Colorado, the GOP Just Voted to Make Selling Off Your Public Lands Easier.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

EDIT: Cleaned up some typos and repetitive language. Also, Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Chair of the House Resource Committee calls the claim that this is an attempt to make it easier to sell off and transfer public lands, “Bullshit” in an E & E News article (subscription) today. Many observers remain highly doubtful of the Congressman’s claim.

—–

It was just three months ago when Congressman Scott Tipton indignantly denied he favored selling off America’s beloved public lands. And it was just three days ago that he voted to make it more easy to do so.

Which of America’s beloved public lands do Colorado’s Congressional Republicans think should be sold off?

The first response was during the campaign, when he accused his Democratic opponent Gail Schwartz of misrepresenting his record. As Charles Ashby reported in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel about a Schwartz ad:

In it, former state Sen. Gail Schwartz says Tipton wants to sell off public lands and make them available to private individuals and corporations.

That’s not even close to being true, Tipton said.

“I’ve been a longtime advocate of keeping our federal public lands and ensuring that the American people have continued access to them,” Tipton said.

“Never once have I advocated to sell them off.”

In the ad, called “Public Lands,” Schwartz said Tipton “wants to cut off access to public lands for generations to come, killing thousands of jobs,” adding that the land should remain open for ranching, hunting and fishing.

The second action was in the secret closed-door meeting, and subsequent floor vote on House rules.

As the Washington Post reported:

House Republicans on Tuesday changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, a move that will make it easier for members of the new Congress to cede federal control of public lands.

The provision, included as part as a larger rules package the House approved by a vote of 233 to 190 during its first day in session, highlights the extent to which some congressional Republicans hope to change longstanding rules now that the GOP will control the executive and the legislative branches starting Jan. 20.

(more…)

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Get More Smarter on Friday (December 16)

You’re down to just eight shopping days until Christmas. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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 Obama is scheduled to hold a news conference this afternoon during which time he is expected to announce some sort of decision related to Russia’s tampering in the 2016 election. Early reports indicate that Obama will discuss some form of retaliation against Russia.

President-elect Donald Trump has recently been trying to spin a tale that allegations of Russian interference only emerged after the election, which of course is not at all true. But as the Washington Post notes, Trump sent out a Tweet on Friday that basically undermines his entire argument by referencing hacking intrusions on the Democratic National Committee and others:

And so, by referring to this episode, what Trump is inadvertently revealing here is that, yes, the complaint about Russian hacking to hurt Clinton did in fact precede the election, and this was widely and publicly known. Of course, there is ample other evidence that Trump is fully aware of this. The intel community had publicly declared it weeks before the election. Trump had reportedly been privately briefedon it by U.S. officials. Trump was confronted with evidence of the hack at a debate with Clinton that was watched by tens of millions of people. At the debate, he cast doubt on the notion that Russia had hacked the materials to hurt Clinton. And yet, as Mark Murray points out, Trump himself widely referenced the material dug up in the hacks at rallies, where he used that material to — wait for it — try to damage Clinton.

 

► The Republican Party is on the brink of another Cold War…but this battle is of the internal nature. As CNN reports today:

The party of Reagan is fast lurching into a mini-Cold War with itself — this time over working with Russia rather than against it.

President-elect Donald Trump’s affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his denials that the Kremlin hacked the 2016 election are unleashing a feud in the GOP, which sees its hawkish history on Moscow and triumph over the Soviet Union as one of its defining achievements…

…The idea that Russia may not pay a price for the startling allegation of seeking to undermine American democracy with a series of cyber breaches is infuriating some senior Republicans, and putting even those less hostile to Trump in a tough political spot.

“I can’t imagine I would vote for anybody that believes that we should not sanction Russia, given the fact that they did in fact interfere in our election,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the “Situation Room” on Wednesday.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 15)

Happy Bill of Rights Day! Catch up on your Colorado politics news while you wait in line to see the new Star Wars movie. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Evergreen Republican lawmaker Tim Leonard is still sitting in jail in Jefferson County…and House Republicans are still sitting on their hands. As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Republican leadership in the state House of Representatives is still withholding comment beyond a statement issued last week about one of its members jailed Friday for contempt of court in a divorce dispute…

…Reached for a response Tuesday to Hullinghorst’s remarks, House GOP Communications Director Joel Malecka said the House Republican leadership regards the incident as a personal matter and that no further statements would be forthcoming. [Pols emphasis]

Leonard was just elected to his first full term in the legislature after being appointed by a Republican vacancy committee last January; now he is the first sitting legislator to serve time in jail in at least 40 years. This is indeed a personal matter…for the more than 50,000 voters in HD-25 who cast a ballot in November.

 

► Repealing Obamacare could lead to a national disaster. As CNN reports:

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Barack Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services, told CNN Wednesday that dismantling the Affordable Care Act will hit millions of Americans’ healthcare coverage, result in a spike in premiums and unleash widespread uncertainty across the insurance market…

…”If there is repeal, there would be chaos,” Burwell said in an interview at a diner in Newark, New Jersey. “If your child is on your policy ’til 26, and it’s repealed, that goes away. If you have a pre-existing condition — asthma, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, any of those things — you could be kept off of insurance if you had to make a move or a transition or were unemployed for a portion of time.”

She added: “The 20 million folks who have gotten insurance — that would go away too.”

That 20 million figure is the estimated net increase of individuals insured through Obamacare. Many policy experts agree with Burwell that the law, now almost seven years old, is so massive and complicated that rolling it back would inevitably be a messy and disruptive process. [Pols emphasis]

Never fear! Congressional Republicans are totally maybe possibly going to come up with an idea to replace Obamacare at some point after they gut the healthcare law. But in the meantime, yay chaos!

 

► The U.S. Federal Reserve is trying to protect against Donald Trump making inflation great again. From Politico:

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised interest rates for only the second time in a decade with the prospect of as many as three more increases to come in 2017.

Central bank chair Janet Yellen suggested that she and her colleagues would keep their eyes on Trump’s plans for steep tax cuts and infrastructure spending, with the Fed poised to hike faster if the president-elect and the Republican Congress start pumping massive amounts of cash into the economy…

…The emerging Trump-versus-Yellen battle is in large part based on completely opposite views of the current U.S. economy.

The Fed sees unemployment at just 4.6 percent, a third-quarter growth rate of 3 percent and rising wages as signals that the economy is close to overheating. The central bank wants to bump rates back up to more normal levels over the coming years to prevent crippling inflation. [Pols emphasis]

 

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Beauprez Keeps Getting Dissed for Interior Secretary

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right) is only getting one response as he campaigns for Interior Secretary.

Former Congressman and two-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez really wants to become Interior Secretary under President Donald Trump. The feeling is apparently not mutual.

Beauprez’s name was floated as a potential Interior choice by the Colorado Springs Gazette a few weeks ago — though the only confirmation the Gazette received was from Beauprez himself. “Both Ways Bob” has definitely been working hard trying to get on Trump’s radar, and even managed to convince the Denver Post to publish a weird backhanded endorsement for the job.

But if there is a short list for Interior Secretary, Beauprez’s name does not appear to be listed. Late last week, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers was rumored to be Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary…until she wasn’t. McMorris-Rodgers apparently did not get the thumbs-up from Trump, and now Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke is the new favorite for the job.

All hope is not yet lost for Beauprez, however; it is not clear that Zinke actually wants the job of Interior Secretary, as Republicans had been grooming him for a potential U.S. Senate run against Democratic incumbent Jon Tester.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (December 14)

Canada has lost a great thespian; RIP Alan Thicke. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► A judge ruled against a request by some Colorado electoral college representatives that might have allowed them to cast votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton, who captured Colorado’s nine electoral votes in November. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Colorado presidential electors who do not vote for Hillary Clinton as the winner of the state’s vote risk criminal charges after a Denver judge delivered the second setback in two days to an effort to block Donald Trump from winning the presidency.

Denver District Judge Elizabeth Starrs ruled that state law requires members of the Electoral College, when the body meets at noon Monday, to vote for the presidential and vice presidential candidates who received the most votes in Colorado.

The order also granted authority to the Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, to replace electors who violate the law — essentially ending Colorado’s role in the “Hamilton Electors” movementto keep Trump from the White House.

Two of Colorado’s electors have filed an appeal to the federal judge’s ruling.

 

► President-elect Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he has selected ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as Secretary of State. Tillerson’s nomination could face a stiff challenge from the U.S. Senate, where Republicans such as John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio have all expressed serious concerns about Tillerson’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) will get an early crack at making a decision on Tillerson; as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner will vote on Tillerson’s nomination before he is considered by the full Senate. It is expected, however, that Gardner will just do whatever the oil and gas industry tells him to do.

 

Donald Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor has been less than secure about handling classified information. As the Washington Post reports:

A secret U.S. military investigation in 2010 determined that Michael T. Flynn, the retired Army general tapped to serve as national security adviser in the Trump White House, “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign military officers in Afghanistan, newly released documents show.

Although Flynn lacked authorization to share the classified material, he was not disciplined or reprimanded after the investigation concluded that he did not act “knowingly” and that “there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result,” according to Army records obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Well, that’s awesome. In the meantime, perhaps somebody in the Trump administration could convince the President-elect to actually listen to security briefings at some point.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (December 9)

You basically have about two weeks to finish your Christmas shopping. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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-elect Donald Trump’s approval rating a few weeks before Inauguration Day is historically bad. From CNN:

Americans say Trump has also done too little to distance himself from white supremacists. And a majority are concerned that his business ties will present conflicts.

As Trump prepares to take office, 41% say they approve of the job he has done explaining his plans and policies for the future of the American people, while 55% say they disapprove of the job Trump has done.

That 41% approval rating is lower than President Barack Obama’s 72% in December 2008 and President George W. Bush’s 50% in January 2001 — in the wake of a disputed election. It’s also lower than President Bill Clinton’s 62% in January 1993 and President George H.W. Bush’s 65% in March 1989.

That 41% is most definitely not a Yuge number.

 

► As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, many high-profile Republicans seem to be grappling with the reality of the hypocrisy of their own Party:

The other day, president-elect Donald Trump cheerfully urinated all over an idea that Tea Partyers have long held aloft as one of their most sacred founding principles. “Sometimes you have to prime the pump,” Trump told Time Magazine, explaining why he wants a big infrastructure spending package — the sort of Keynesian economic spending policy that Tea Partyers regularly denounced as a dire threat to the republic throughout the Obama years.

As Time put it, Trump “has little patience for the organizing principle of the Tea Party: the idea that the federal government must live within its means and lower its debts.”

Today Politico reports that some congressional Republicans are suddenly deciding that this alleged organizing principle isn’t so hallowed, after all. Politico quotes multiple Republicans either embracing Trump’s infrastructure spending idea in principle or going through laughable contortions to avoid directly denouncing it. One comes out squarely for a “federal commitment” to spending on “world-class infrastructure.” Another actually uses the dreaded S-word — stimulus — arguing that it would “make sense” to “examine” how to do some projects “through a stimulus and infrastructure package.”

For more, check out the full story from Politico.

 

► No Cabinet position for you! Sorry, Bob Beauprez — President-elect Trump has selected Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to lead the Interior Department.

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (December 8)

Heat Wave! High temperatures should burst into the 20s today! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is among a group of Republicans who are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to stop President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Naturally, Pruitt has been selected by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next head of the EPA. From the Washington Post:

He is the third of Trump’s nominees who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run. Ben Carson, named to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has expressed a deep aversion to the social safety net programs and fair housing initiatives that have been central to that agency’s activities. Betsy DeVos, named education secretary, has a passion for private school vouchers that critics say undercut the public school systems at the core of the government’s mission.

Conservation and environmental leaders are obviously not pleased about Pruitt’s appointment.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing about Trump’s over-reliance on military leaders in his cabinet after retired Marine Gen. John Kelly was announced as the new head of the Department of Homeland Security.

 

► Fast-food executive Andrew Puzder appears to be President-elect Trump’s choice for labor secretary. From Politico:

Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company for Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s and Green Burrito, and was a senior policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He also served as a presidential trustee to a joint fundraising committee organized between Trump and the Republican National Committee…

…Puzder’s selection would suggest that Trump, despite his strong working-class backing, will favor management over labor at the Labor Department. In 2010, Puzder coauthored a book titled “Job Creation: How It Really Works And Why Government Doesn’t Understand It.”

Indeed, Puzder has been drawing criticism from unions already. A Nov. 29 story posted on the website of the left-leaning American Prospect quoted Kendall Fells, organizing director for the Service Employees International Union-funded Fight for $15, saying, “Puzder as Labor secretary is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the Treasury.”

We probably don’t need to tell you how Puzder feels about increasing the minimum wage in the United States.

 

 

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Polluters Trump Science with EPA Pick

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Al Gore Climate Champion leaves Trump Tower after meeting on climate change. “I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued,” Gore reportedly said. Two days later Trump appointed an infamous climate change denier to head the EPA.

Do the media get whiplash? Just a day ago we saw none other than Al Gore, the chief apostle warning humanity of its reckless carbon-belching ways, saying vaguely complimentary things about his summons to the Trump Tower to speak with The Donald and First Daughter to be. Today we get a science-denying climate change villain put forth as nominee for Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And while you can’t hide the sooty facts behind a pretty face, if media were a harp it might manage a tune of sorts. Played so well by the reality star, real estate magnate, alleged sexual predator cum leader of the Free World. Look there not here. Watch the pageantry, ignore the sleight of hand.

(more…)

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Denver Post’s Bizarre Backhanded Endorsement of Beauprez

THURSDAY UPDATE: Sen. Cory Gardner adds some Marcomentum to Beauprez’s bid:

—–

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

Moments ago, the Denver Post’s editorial board released…well, the title makes it clear it’s an endorsement of two-time Colorado GOP gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez for Interior Secretary in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, but the content?

It’s not quite damning with faint praise, but…

We were glad to learn Beauprez had made President-elect Donald Trump’s list for the position that oversees federal lands, even if environmentalists were not.

Beauprez has gotten a bad rap in the environmental community, perhaps deservedly, [Pols emphasis] as a man who subdivided his parents’ farm into a sprawling housing development and golf course in Lafayette. And for his recorded votes in Congress to open up more federal lands for oil and gas leasing while reducing regulation surrounding critical habitats for endangered species.

Remember, folks, this is a newspaper with a longstanding editorial tradition at least somewhat in acknowledgement of fundamentals like science and critical thinking. And we are talking about a politician who says that climate change is a “complete hoax.”

But apparently, says the Post’s editorial board, that’s no problem! Because the world is going to hell anyway.

No seriously, that’s what they say:

It’ll be a stark transition for the nation’s public lands no matter who Trump taps as the next secretary of the interior. [Pols emphasis] For Colorado and the West, that transition will be made a bit easier by having someone in office who we know and trust.

With a few edits, this endorsement of Beauprez for Interior Secretary could made easily made into an editorial opposing his nomination. It’s not the first time the Post’s editorial board has left us scratching our heads as to the decisions that led to an oddly-worded backhanded endorsement, which are sometimes rumored to emanate from a higher level than the editorial board members themselves. If so, that could indicate Beauprez is a more serious candidate for the job than first thought, in which case we’ll be talking about “Both Ways Bob” much more going forward.

Either way, in this case not only is the Post again making an endorsement contrary to their stated editorial position on the pertinent issues, they’re straining their credibility to the breaking point to do it.

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