Walker Stapleton. Anti-Semitism. Calling You Out.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s deadly attack on a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, capping a week of political violence that included a racially motivated shooting in Kentucky and pipe bombs mailed by a pro-Trump Floridian to numerous Democratic leaders and other critics of President Donald Trump, NBC News reported on an underlying spike in social media attacks on Jewish people in particular–using code language anyone who follows politics locally or nationally ought to recognize.

Separate researchers who were independently looking at [Instagram and Twitter] said attacks on Jewish people had spiked on both services ahead of the midterm elections on Nov. 6, similar to a rise in harassment before the 2016 presidential election.

Many but not all of the posts mention billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, the researchers said. Soros is frequently the subject of unfounded conspiracy theories, and his home was among the targets in a series of attempted bombings this month. [Pols emphasis]

Jonathan Albright, a researcher at Columbia University in New York who directs a center on digital forensics, told NBC News that the amount of anti-Semitic material posted to Instagram and tied to Soros was possibly the worst sample of hate speech he had seen on the site.

Billionaire investor George Soros has served as a boogeyman for the far right for many years, stemming from his support both for Democratic candidates and liberal nonprofit organizations working in support of a wide range of progressive agenda items. Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton regularly invokes Soros as a villain on the campaign trail. In truth, conservative funders from Sheldon Adelson to the Koch Brothers spend vastly more on American politics than Soros–but Soros has been the subject of intense vilification because he was born in Europe, and perceived to be a corrupting foreign influence by the nativist right.

And of course, George Soros is Jewish.

RYAN WARNER: …Recently it was reported that Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, will be investing in your campaign perhaps to the tune of as much as a million dollars. While it sounds like that money might be welcome when you look at what your opponent is spending, I wonder what kind of influence comes with a sizeable contribution like that.

WALKER STAPLETON: Probably the same kind of influence that comes from Good Jobs Colorado which is being backed by checks from George Soros, a wealthy international financier… [Pols emphasis]

Full stop. The term “wealthy international financier” has stood in for “Jew” among anti-Semitic bigots literally for centuries. Henry Ford’s infamous anti-Semitic book The International Jew was entirely based on the trope of wealthy Jews controlling the world through financial treachery and a lack of national loyalties, like its forged predecessor The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In terms of identifying thinly-concealed prejudice against Jewish people, the phrase can be fairly considered a dead giveaway.

So the next logical question is, Did Walker Stapleton use these words by accident?

The answer: we don’t think so. And here’s why.

Stapleton was nominated for governor at the Republican State Assembly this year by former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Tancredo is a past board member of the openly racist organization VDARE, which had planned to host its annual conference in Colorado Springs but was turned away after negative press. Tancredo’s anger over the supposed bad treatment of VDARE led him to first consider a run for governor himself, then to endorse Stapleton once he was satisfied Stapleton took the “issue” seriously. If you go to VDARE’s website to read about Jewish people, this is the kind of thing you’ll find:

Jewish activity collectively, throughout history, is best understood as an elaborate and highly successful group competitive strategy directed against neighboring peoples and host societies. The objective has been control of economic resources and political power. One example: overwhelming Jewish support for non-traditional immigration, which has the effect of weakening America’s historic white majority. [Pols emphasis]

The individual in custody for the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh entered the building screaming “All Jews Must Die,” and in his social media rantings before the attack peddled conspiracy theories that Jewish immigration groups were funding the “caravan” of asylum seekers slowly traveling north through Mexico toward the U.S. border. The attack in Pittsburgh on Saturday was a direct expression of the ideology promoted by VDARE as you can read above. The ideology of Tom Tancredo. The man who nominated Walker Stapleton.

The same Walker Stapleton now demonizing “wealthy international financier” George Soros.

Stapleton’s embrace of Tom Tancredo, like Donald Trump himself, was not an accident. Employing Tancredo to tacitly reassure far-right voters about Stapleton’s own views was not an accident.  The hatred being stirred up in order to turn out conservative votes across the nation and right here in Colorado, from fact-free conspiracy theories about “Soros funding the caravan” to Stapleton’s own ad campaigns vilifying so-called “sanctuary cities,” is not an accident. Based on these facts, we have absolutely no reason to believe that Stapleton’s choice of specific racist code words to describe Mr. Soros was an accident either.

At some point, you have to stop being polite and call this out for what it is.

After the deadliest hate crime against Jewish people in American history, the time has come.

Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack Discussion Thread

UPDATE: Amanda Henderson of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado:

At the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado our hearts are breaking with the Jewish community at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and with our Jewish family who has been experiencing an increase in anti-Semitic hate and vitriol over the past several years. Hateful and violent rhetoric must stop. Our leaders must lead. This is the time to stop pitting one person against another and to work for freedom and thriving for all.

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It’s difficult to find words to describe what happened today at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, but we’ll use this space to aggregate local responses and news updates on what appears to be the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history. This is a tragedy with enormous social and political import that we’ll all be unpacking for some time. Both Colorado U.S. Senators have expressed their outrage and sympathy:

If you would like to give in response to this tragedy, we suggest the Anti-Defamation League and HIAS.

“MAGA Bomber” Busted

Miami Herald:

The Miami Herald has learned that the suspect who has been arrested is a man in his 50s from Aventura. He is being questioned by FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force since his arrest this morning at about 10 a.m…

Live shots from a Local 10 news helicopter show federal agents examining a white van that appeared to be covered in pro-Donald Trump and right wing stickers. Investigators covered the vehicle with a blue tarp. Police have blocked off traffic at Peters Road heading north on State Road 7.

Federal investigators quickly centered the investigation on the dozen crudely fashioned “pipe bombs” sent to top Trump critics, including Hillary Clinton and Cory Booker, on a mail sorting facility in Opa-locka. The devices have been recovered in New York, Washington D.C., California and South Florida, all with the return address of Debbie Wassermann-Schultz’s office. Several words, including her name, were misspelled on the packages.

We’ll update as more is learned in this case, but hopefully this means the pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump will stop now. Lots of politics lurking in this story, and we advise everyone to make sure the time and manner of your response is something you’ll be proud of in hindsight.

With that said, yes–“MAGA Bomber” is looking like a pretty accurate moniker.

Brauchler’s Aurora theater shooting trial conduct disqualifies him as attorney general candidate

(This is a must-read – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sandy Phillips (left) and daughter Jessica Ghawi.

We’ve known George Brauchler for six years. We spent nearly every day together in the courtroom for five agonizing months while he tried our daughter’s killer. But in the race for Colorado’s next Attorney General, we cannot support his candidacy.

We came to know George during one of the darkest times in our lives. Our beautiful 24 year-old daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was gunned down in the Aurora movie theater on July 20, 2012 by a madman armed with military-style assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Jessi went to a midnight showing of Batman and never came home. Eleven others were killed that night, and more than 70 sustained life-changing injuries, not to mention the emotional scars that come with living through a real-life nightmare. 

Jessi was a force. She was smart, feisty, and was thriving in her career in Colorado, covering the Avalanche for a local radio station. That night, we exchanged texts before the movie started. “I need my mama,” she texted. We’d later find out, the response “I need my baby girl,” would be the last text she would read.  We take solace in the fact Jessi knew how much she was loved, and was reminded this right before she died.

When we first met George, like many people, we were taken with his charm. He was this confident prosecutor, with a big, warm smile, who promised to bring justice for our family. But over time, we felt like our family was not George’s primary concern. It increasingly appeared as if his conduct during the trial was not about pursuing justice but about his political aspirations. George could have taken a plea deal and saved us months of sitting in the courtroom with our daughter’s killer, listening to the most gruesome details of what transpired that night in the theater. But George pursued — and lost — the death penalty, to boost his name recognition for gubernatorial bid. Not to mention, he spent nearly $5 million of taxpayer dollars to end up with same life without parole sentence we could have gotten years sooner.

We’ve had numerous conversations with George about gun safety. After the Aurora theater shooting, Colorado responded by passing common-sense gun safety laws, including background checks on private and online gun sales and limits on high-capacity magazines. We cannot wrap our minds around how, after trying a shooter who was able to amass an arsenal of weapons and ammunition and cause so much devastation, George still believes we should allow weapons of war on our streets and unlimited magazines on our gun store shelves. He has made no pretensions about his lack of support for the gun laws that are on the books in Colorado. Not only does he oppose these measures, but if elected Attorney General we believe he would work to repeal these live-saving laws and fight any efforts to strengthen them.

George might like the voters to think his views are moderate. But what moderate embraces the endorsement of an extreme right-wing radical like Ted Nugent who called for President Obama to be shot and said America would have been better off if the Confederacy had won the Civil War? Even after a number of Aurora survivors, ourselves included, called for George to denounce the endorsement, he refused.

Colorado deserves an Attorney General who will put people over politics and public safety over partisanship. And George Brauchler just isn’t that person.

Our journey has not been one we would wish on anyone, but it always brings us back to Colorado, where Jessi’s life was taken from us six years ago. We carry her spirit in our hearts as we meet people and advocate for change. For Jessi, and the tens of thousands of others taken and wounded every year, we will never stop speaking out and sharing our story, especially when there is so much at stake.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips are the parents of Jessica Ghawi, who was murdered in the mass shooting at the Aurora Theater on July 20, 2012. Soon after Jessica’s death, they became activists for the prevention of gun violence. They currently travel the country, reaching out to and meeting with other survivors through their non-profit organization, Survivors Empowered.

Terror Scare Hits CNN, Obamas, Clintons

UPDATE: New York Times reports as the investigation continues:

Pipe bombs were sent to several prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, setting off an intense investigation on Wednesday into whether a bomber is going after political figures vilified by the right wing.

CNN received a similar bomb, addressed to John O. Brennan, a career intelligence officer who served as Mr. Obama’s C.I.A. director. The discovery of the device caused a mass evacuation of the Time Warner Center in Midtown Manhattan, where the network is located.

None of the devices harmed anyone; it was not immediately clear whether any of them could have exploded. One law enforcement official said investigators were examining the possibility that they were hoax devices.

—–
UPDATE: Politico:

The U.S. Secret Service on Wednesday morning released a statement that it had intercepted two packages, one addressed to Clinton and another to Obama.

Shortly after the statement was released, the Time Warner Center in New York City, where CNN’s New York bureau is located, was also evacuated due to a suspicious package. The package has been removed.

In addition, police in Florida have responded to a suspicious package at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s Sunrise office, which was evacuated, Sunrise police confirmed to POLITICO. Police have also dispatched a bomb squad and are determining what was in the package.

—–

CNN reports following the evacuation of their New York offices this morning:

A US intelligence official tells CNN it is too early to tell whether there is a nexus to terrorism at this point regarding the suspicious packages sent to multiple locations today.

The official says the intelligence community is monitoring the situation regarding the suspicious packages, saying it is still very early in the process.

Intelligence agencies could become involved later on but at this point law enforcement is still assessing the facts on the ground, the official tells CNN.

We’ll be watching this developing story for updates and local reactions. Until we know more, it’s best not to speculate about motives and responsibility.

With that said, be safe out there. No political disagreement merits violence, ever.

John Morse’s Revenge Continues

Former Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron (D).

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports:

A national gun control group is hoping to flip control of the Colorado Senate and other key races in the state by injecting $650,000 into campaigns and efforts to mobilize Democratic voters.

“The politics on this issue have shifted dramatically in favor of gun safety — and nowhere is that more true than in Colorado,” Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt said. “We are proud to support candidates up and down the ballot who will put public safety ahead of gun lobby priorities.”

Democrats hold a safe majority in the Colorado House of Representatives, but Republicans control the Senate by a single seat. Senate Republicans blocked a “red-flag” bill during the 2018 legislative session that would have let law enforcement confiscate weapons from people in the midst of mental health crisis. Sen. Tim Neville, R-Jefferson County, fought to kill the red-flag bill and was the sponsor on another proposal to remove the permit requirement in order to carry a concealed weapon.

In 2013, following mass shooting tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut and (especially) the July 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the unified Democratic majorities in the Colorado House and Senate debated and passed a landmark package of gun safety bills: most controversially, laws requiring background checks on most transfers of guns including private sales and a limit on magazine capacity at 15 rounds.

These laws provoked an intense backlash from national pro-gun organizations like the National Rifle Association and the hard-line National Association for Gun Rights headed by local gun rights extremist Dudley Brown. Brown, who believes there should be no pre-sale checks on gun purchases of any kind, and allied local groups flush with NRA cash initiated a recall election in September of 2013 that successfully recalled two Democratic Senators: Senate President John Morse of Colorado Springs and Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo. A third Democratic Senator, Evie Hudak of Arvada, voluntarily resigned rather than putting her swing district (and herself) through the pain of a recall.

Since that time, though, all of the gains made by Republicans as a result of the events of 2013 have been retaken by Democrats. The successors for Morse and Giron both lost their seats in 2014, and fringe-right Sen. Laura Woods held Evie Hudak’s former seat for only two years before being ousted by Rachel Zenzinger in their second matchup in 2016. And despite annual attempts by Republicans to repeal the laws passed in 2013, they remain on the books. In the meantime, the ongoing and worsening tragedy of mass gun violence in America has shifted the politics of the issue to the point where Democrats in Colorado and elsewhere no longer fear taking the gun lobby head-on.

In 2013, Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute predicted the recalls would create a “wave of fear” among Democrats across the land, and for a few years, yes–it probably did. We submit to you that those days are over, and history will record that it was Morse, Giron, Hudak, and everyone else who tried to reduce the impact of gun violence instead of make excuses for it who were on the right side.

And yes, flipping the Colorado Senate would be a powerful way to say so.

Giffords PAC Acts Swiftly After Ad Hits Too Close To Home

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on a controversy that erupted this week over an ad from Giffords PAC, hitting Rep. Mike Coffman’s opposition to gun safety laws and support from the National Rifle Association with a visual that bore a disturbing similarity to actual events in Colorado over a decade ago:

The parents of Emily Keyes said Wednesday that the super PAC behind an ad that depicted text messages similar to those sent during the final moments of her life had apologized, and said they believe the similarities were unintentional…

John-Michael and Ellen Keyes said in a statement the PAC had spoken with them and that they were satisfied with the committee’s response.

“Our initial response was profound disappointment…. The Giffords organization reached out to us directly to offer both their regret and apologies,” the Keyes said in a statement to Denver7. “They assured us that the similarities were coincidental and they would be altering the advertisement and reposting a new version on social media and other internet sites. We believe that any connection to the tragedy our family experienced was unintentional.” [Pols emphasis]

“We respect the ability to exercise a political voice and we understand that mistakes happen,” they added. “We appreciate the prompt attention paid by the Giffords organization and their commitment to remedy the situation.”

Although the text message dramatization in the ad does not recite the exchange of texts between 2006 school shooting victim Emily Keyes and her family verbatim, the use of the first name “Emily” was considered by many local observers to be close enough–and the fact that Coffman wasn’t elected to Congress until two years after the 2006 Platte Canyon High School shooting gave Coffman an opening to cry foul.

With that said, Coffman’s long record of support for and backing from the NRA is a matter of public record and has been a liability for years–more so since the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting in the heart of his district. It’s an issue that Coffman most certainly doesn’t need resurfacing in any capacity in the October before the toughest general election of his lifetime, an election in which Coffman has fled to the center on every available issue in hope not being swept away by an anti-Trump wave. That’s why Coffman seized on the negative initial response from the Keyes family–and howled from behind the family’s justifiable upset about how the ad is “beneath basic human dignity.”

Once the family is satisfied with the explanation from Giffords PAC and the changes to the ad, however, Coffman’s faux outrage lost its cover. Now, the only fact that remains is that Mike Coffman has an A+ rating from the NRA. Which is distantly out of step with a majority of voters in CD-6. And unlike previous elections, the polls say the voters in CD-6 get it now.

So, as they say, protest too much while you can.

Brauchler Now More Skeptical Of Laws Allowing Police To Take Guns From Dangerous People

(Backpedaling to appease Dudley Brown? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

George Brauchler.

The Republican candidate for Colorado attorney general, George Brauchler, is now more skeptical than he was this spring of legislation allowing law enforcement officials to ask the courts for permission to take guns from people deemed to pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

His new assessment of so-called “red flag” legislation comes in the wake of what he sees as the abuse of such laws, like one in Broward County, Florida, convincing him that the focus should be on mental health care not a red flag bill.

“I don’t think my position has changed from the one that I took versus now,” Brauchler told the Colorado Times Recorder when asked to clarify statements he made on a KNUS radio show. “The difference is, we have more information about how something like this can be used.”

“I said at the time, I am skeptical of giving the government this kind of authority,” he continued. “And I had preached and pitched to the House Judiciary Committee, ‘Look, I want to sunset this bill,’ in addition to a bunch of other changes, because I wanted to see if it would be abused. And if it’s not, let’s tweak it and make it great.”

“I have absolute faith that [Douglas and Arapahoe County Sheriffs] Tony Spurlock and Dave Walcher would do right by this, but who comes after them, or who comes after the people who come after them?” asked Brauchler. “Once this thing is on the books, does it have the potential to be abused? And I think the answer that we’ve seen now is, yeah, it does. So we have to figure out another way to tackle this problem without taking on the Second Amendment.”

Colorado’s version of red flag legislation was defeated in May by senate Republicans–after clearing the state house in a 37-23 vote, with support mostly from Democrats but some Republicans as well, like Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist (R-Centennial), who was a sponsor of the bill.

At the time, Brauchler defended the red-flag bill in high-profile arguments with fellow conservatives, like State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), who accused Brauchler of being scared to oppose the bill, which, Neville said, could lead to “possibly taking away people’s kitchen knives or whatever else they have in their home. This is insane. But, yeah, it’s politicians. Some take a look and they run their campaigns by polls…  Could that possibly be some of the motivation for George Brauchler?”

But Brauchler stuck to his guns, even earning praise from the liberal blog ColoradoPols for taking a gun-safety stand that’s “toxic to his base of support.”

Brauchler now says the red-flag legislation around the country is proving the fears of Second Amendment supporters to be true, that the law could be “ripe for abuse in the wrong hands.”

“I don’t think Colorado can go that direction—or should to in that direction—if we have the ability to tackle this same problem without having to confront the Second Amendment,” Brauchler said.

Red-flag bill proponents argue that the gun confiscations in Broward County, show that the law is working. Since the law was passed there after the Parkland high school massacre, through July, 108 gun confiscations occurred, including 28 relating to domestic violence, 45 connected to mental illness, and 34 relating specifically to people contemplating suicide.

“I want to stay away from taking on the Second Amendment and really focus on, how can we really help people and keep them from hurting themselves and others, whether it’s by a gun or a car or whatever,” said Brauchler.

Listen to Brauchler on KNUS 710-AM Sept. 25:

Local Domestic Violence Activists Rally To Deborah Ramirez

UPDATE #3: Denver7’s Blair Miller with more local support for Deborah Ramirez:

Lisa Calderon, who currently teaches at Denver’s Regis University and was Ramirez’s supervisor while the two worked together at Safehouse Progressive for Nonviolence (SPAN), said the attacks on Ramirez were unfair.

Ramirez has been working for Boulder County as a volunteer since 2013, but had been a victim’s advocate coordinator for SPAN before that and still is a board member. Calderon, who was the policy director of SPAN from 1995 to 2007, said Ramirez joined the nonprofit about halfway through her tenure.

“She is someone who has great integrity,” Calderon said of her former co-worker and employee. “She’s dedicated her life to working with victims.”

Calderon said that Ramirez was initially a volunteer but that she decided to hire her because she was detail-oriented and went above and beyond at work. Calderon said Ramirez was eventually responsible for a 24/7 crisis response team, a group of volunteers coordinated by Ramirez to go to domestic violence incidents and provide support to victims.

If any of you have advice for Sen. Cory Gardner on what to do about this, now’s the time.

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UPDATE #2: Sen. Michael Bennet says it: the nomination “should not move forward” until the FBI can investigate.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post with a similar theme:

Friends of Deborah Ramirez say she’s a private person with a life and career focused on volunteerism and community service.

She’s the senior volunteer coordinator at the Boulder County Department of Housing & Human Services, where she’s worked since February 2013. The 53-year-old Boulder resident also is on the board of the nonprofit Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, which helps domestic violence victims…

“I believe her without hesitation,” [Scott] Fliegelman said in an interview. “I can’t imagine that Debbie would fabricate anything, much less anything of this nature, and that’s why I really felt for her.” [Pols emphasis]

Fliegelman said Ramirez is a humble person who went to Yale, then chose a career path focused on helping others, including women in crisis.

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (left) meeting with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in late July.

Denver7’s Blair Miller has more reaction to the explosive allegations yesterday from a Colorado woman of sexual misconduct by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at Yale University in the 1980s, including more information on the background of the accuser that reinforces her credibility:

A Colorado woman is the second in recent weeks to come forward publicly and accuse U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of committing sexual misconduct while he was a teenager, and she has hired high-profile Colorado attorneys to represent her…

Lara Day, a spokesperson for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, confirmed to Denver7 Monday that Garnett would be transitioning out of representing [Deborah] Ramirez and that Boulder-based John Clune of Hutchison Black and Cook would be taking over as counsel for Ramirez. Garnett did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Denver7 Sunday night.

Clune declined to comment when reached by Denver7 Monday morning.

But Clune did release a statement on Twitter from the board and staff of Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN), where Ramirez is a volunteer and board member, who spoke in support of Ramirez and her character.

“We know Debbie Ramirez to be a woman of great integrity and honor. We stand by her and her courageous decision to come forward. It is never simple or easy for survivors to share their experiences. To do so in the face of public scrutiny requires a level of personal strength that is true to the person Debbie is. She has our support, our respect, and our admiration,” they wrote. [Pols emphasis]

One of the most important lessons from the recent movement for accountability for men who commit sexual misconduct of all kinds has been the overarching need to set aside presumptions and respect the women who are coming forward with these painful stories of abuse. In the case of both of the public accusers against Brett Kavanaugh, we have credible, well-educated and professional women with nothing to gain from coming forward with these allegations and everything to lose. Deborah Ramirez’s experience in particular as a volunteer and board member of a local domestic violence charity means she understands the issues women face holding their assailants accountable.

Today, as supporters of Kavanaugh leap reflexively into attack mode against Ramirez, they’re doing so without any regard to her actual background–a background that, like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s, is inherently credible. Although Kavanaugh’s supporters doubtless feel compelled to do so this is extremely risky, because there is absolutely nothing in the story of either of these accusers as reported so far to justify the bile being hurled against them.

With the midterm election fast approaching, popular backlash against these attacks on women who are by all accounts above reproach could take down many more Republicans than Brett Kavanaugh, whose prospects of serving on the U.S. Supreme Court appear to be dimming by the hour.

Why Dudley Brown Is Working To Elect Tom Sullivan

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports on a curiosity we’ve discussed in this space many times–the willingness of the hard-right gun rights organization Rocky Mountain Gun Owners to attack fellow Republicans who stray from their strident line. With the election approaching, RMGO is focusing its wrath on GOP Rep. Cole Wist of Centennial:

A conservative group that describes itself as “Colorado’s only no-compromise gun rights organization” is working to make sure a top Republican state representative loses his seat.

“We love election time,” Rocky Mountain Gun Owners posted on its Facebook page. “It’s when politicians are reminded that their votes have consequences.”

The group spent the weekend delivering flyers to voters in House District 37 that accused Rep. Cole Wist, R-Centennial, of “voting like a gun-grabbing Democrat” and urged people to vote against “Cole ‘The Mole’ Wist.”

The supreme irony of this situation is that Rep. Wist’s Democratic opponent is Tom Sullivan. Sullivan’s son died in the Aurora theater shooting in July of 2012, and since that time Sullivan has been one of the strongest citizen voices at the Capitol in favor of gun safety legislation. Sullivan’s fearless advocacy on the issue has frequently shamed Republican lawmakers into silence, and as a lawmaker it’s would be fair to conclude that Tom Sullivan would be RMGO’s worst nightmare.

Except Sullivan isn’t RMGO’s nightmare. For RMGO, it’s much worse that a Republican had the temerity to support a “red flag” bill this year to provide legal tools to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of mentally ill people in crisis. That’s all Rep. Wist did, and along with AG candidate George Brauchler it was enough to earn these Republicans a determined foe they do not need in this difficult election.

“Mainstream” Republicans have often expressed their frustration with RMGO’s red-on-red hostile engagement strategy over the years, but director Dudley Brown knows exactly what he is doing. From Brown’s point of view, ensuring that the Republican caucus is (pardon us) bulletproof in its opposition to even the smallest measure to reduce gun violence is more important than supporting Republican majorities in the short term.

And if guns are your single issue–no small segment of Republican voters–you’re with him.

George Brauchler Whiffs Two More Cases

George Brauchler.

Republican Attorney General George Brauchler has always talked a big game when it comes to his skills as a prosecutor, but as we’ve recounted in this space a number of times in recent years, the talk hasn’t always been matched by a record of courtroom victories–particularly in recent high profile cases involving fellow Republicans and law enforcement.

Westword’s Michael Roberts documents two more losses for Brauchler this week alone:

District attorneys from different jurisdictions don’t usually take each other on in court. But that’s what happened in regard to Denver DA Beth McCann and 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler, whose face-off involved a disagreement over life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentencing of juvenile offenders.

The Colorado Supreme Court has now sided with McCann. The Supremes found that McCann’s expansive strategy toward LWOP resentencing, which Mitch Morrissey, her predecessor as Denver DA, called “illegal” in this space, doesn’t actually run afoul of the law.

The matter gets into the legal weeds pretty quickly, but the short version is that Denver DA Beth McCann’s interpretation of the law prevailed–and more juvenile offenders may potentially be considered for a shorter sentence after the legislature eliminated life without parole for juvenile offenders. The second case this week, also via Westword’s Michael Roberts, concerns a mistrial in the death of State Trooper Cody Donahue:

Last week, a mistrial was declared in the case of Noe Gamez-Ruiz, a commercial truck driver charged with criminally negligent homicide for a November 2016 accident that killed Colorado State Patrol Trooper Cody Donahue.

Now, political insiders are speculating that the way the proceedings were short-circuited — the judge took action after defense complaints that prosecutors withheld relevant evidence [Pols emphasis] — could impact one of the biggest races on the November 2018 ballot. Why? Because the high-profile embarrassment took place on the watch of 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler, the Republican nominee for Colorado Attorney General, and a new hearing in the matter is scheduled to take place shortly before election day.

Especially since Brauchler has turned his focus to running for higher office in recent years, his career has been marked by complex failures like the ones above. In all of these cases, Brauchler is ready to long-windedly defend himself and pay lip service to whatever victim is getting short shrift. But the failures aggregate: add these to Brauchler’s controversial plea deal sparing prison time for a cop who created and solicited child porn, the failure to win a meaningful conviction (twice) against former El Paso County Sheriff “Shirtless” Terry Maketa, and the loss of the death penalty phase of the Aurora theater shooting trial–resulting in months of needless suffering by survivors and families.

The point is that George Brauchler is wrong a lot, and loses. A lot. And that’s a poor case for promotion.

State Rep. Steve Humphrey Posts Image Of Flyer Attacking Colleague Over Violence Against Women

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep Humphrey Shares RMGO Wist Attack, 9.15.18

Colorado state representative Steve Humphrey (R-Severance) shared a photo of a flyer that accuses his party’s Assistant Minority Leader, Rep Cole Wist (R-Centennial) of wanting to prevent women from being able to defend themselves.

Rep. Steve Humphrey posts photo of RMGO flyer attacking Rep. WistRocky Mountain Gun Owners distributed the flyer at this weekend’s Centennial Gun Club Firearms Festival. Humphrey  posted a picture of the RMGO table, including the flyer, with the caption “Meeting and greeting and supporting conservative Second Amendment candidates at the RMGO booth.”

 

The flyer, one of two on the table attacking Wist, labels the House’s number two Republicans as “anti-gun” and says he “wants to leave you defenseless,” below an image of a woman being assaulted on the street.

 

RMGO, along with Minority Leader Patrick Neville, attacked Wist repeatedly during this year’s legislative fight over his proposed “red flag” bill. The bipartisan bill would have created a civil legal process called an Extreme Risk Protection Order to enable family members and law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from an individual who poses danger to themselves or others.

Sponsored by Assistant Minority Leader Wist, the bill was also supported by District Attorney George Brauchler and Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, both Republicans. It passed the House 37-23, with Wist and Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction) joining all Democrats in support, but failed to get out of committee in the Senate.

Rep. Humphrey’s post was “liked” by two of his colleagues, Rep. Perry Buck (R-Windsor) and Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Colorado Springs). Joe Neville, who runs the House GOP independent expenditure committee and is a former RMGO lobbyist, also liked the post.

Voicemail messages requesting comment were not immediately answered by either Rep. Humphrey or Rep. Wist. This post will be updated with any replies received.

This post was first published by the Colorado Times Recorder.

“Fetal Homicide”=Personhood: The Ghouls Come Out

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

We wrote on Tuesday about renewed debate in the wake of an horrific triple murder in Frederick, allegedly committed by an Anadarko Petroleum employee who disposed on the bodies on company property including in a crude oil tank, over laws in Colorado pertaining to the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. Colorado has had such a law on the books since 2003, but crimes like the one committed this month in Frederick have been opportunistically seized upon by anti-abortion activists as a way of “back-dooring” so-called “Personhood” legal status for fetuses that leads directly to the criminalization of abortion.

We predicted that usual suspects in the Colorado General Assembly would be swift to appropriate this tragedy to serve their unrelated anti-abortion agenda, and as 9NEWS’ Steve Staeger reports we were not obliged to wait long:

State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Firestone), whose district includes Frederick, where these murders occurred, is planning to propose a new state law that would create a so-called “fetal homicide” charge.

“As a child, Niko was the victim of a crime, a horrific crime and he hasn’t been given full consideration by our justice system,” Saine said…

Saine wouldn’t directly say what she feels doesn’t work about current law. [Pols emphasis]

“People are asking not for an addendum or an afterthought… they’re asking why hasn’t there been four counts of murder charged on Monday,” Saine said.

Rep. Lori Saine has a well-earned reputation as one of the more ignominious Republican members of the House, much more interested in ham-fistedly flogging the culture war hot button of the moment for her personal gratification than the boring work of making laws. She’s also not immune to bouts of eye-popping hypocrisy, sponsoring bills to weaken Colorado gun laws just months after she was arrested at a Denver International Airport security checkpoint with a loaded handgun in her purse.

It’s telling therefore, after Saine called legislation to strengthen protections for neighborhoods threatened by old and new oil and gas drilling last year after two of her constituents blew up in Firestone “spiking the political football,” that she can’t even specify what’s wrong with the law already on the books in this case. But her choice of words to describe a reportedly fifteen-week pregnancy “as a child” and asking rhetorically about a “fourth murder charge” broadcast clearly what this is all about: personhood for a fetus.

Something Colorado voters have rejected by overwhelming margins over, and over, and over again.

When called out on this duplicity, it’s the usual practice to claim offense and hide behind the victims of whatever terrible crime provoked this latest push for a “fetal homicide” bill in order to escape shame. But make no mistake, this has nothing to do with justice for any victim. There is already a law on the books appropriate for this crime. This is about misusing a tragic news story to further a totally unrelated agenda, that of banning abortion. It does not deserve any kind of cover, least not behind this whole murdered family.

Shame on Lori Saine. Or should we say, even more shame on Lori Saine.

Ghoulish “Fetal Homicide” Politics Revisited

Murder victim Shannan Watts.

FOX 31 reported last week in rather inflammatory fashion about laws in Colorado pertaining to the killing of a pregnant woman, an issue that flares up politically every time such a horrible crime is committed:

After a Frederick man was arrested on murder charges after the disappearance of his pregnant wife and two daughters, a debate has reignited about Colorado’s laws regarding the killing of a fetus…

Watts faces three counts of first-degree murder and three charges of tampering with physical evidence. He is not charged for the death of the unborn child.

However, Colorado has laws that increase penalties for those who commit crimes against pregnant women. [Pols emphasis]

Social media has flared with people discussing Colorado’s lack of a fetal homicide law…

In 2003, Colorado passed a law establishing as a felony crime the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. In 2013, this law was strengthened considerably by the passage of House Bill 13-1154, which included situations in which a person “recklessly or carelessly” terminates a pregnancy in addition to deliberately intending to do so. Most importantly, this legislation specifically exempted any action by a woman with regard to her own pregnancy or actions of a health care provider–and also specifically stated that the legislation was not intended to “confer personhood, or any rights associated with that status, on a human being at any time prior to live birth.”

Why are these distinctions so important? Because so-called “fetal homicide” bills, like so many local media outlets were duped into clamoring for despite the laws on the books in Colorado that already address the issue, are deliberate steppingstones to criminalizing abortion by establishing individual rights for fetuses–something Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected in the form of “Personhood” amendments.

It’s upsetting that every time such a heinous crime in committed in our state, there’s a rush by anti-abortion activists to fictionalize the “need” for a fetal homicide law in order to further their own totally unrelated agenda. In truth, Colorado has a law making the wrongful termination of a pregnancy a crime, and there’s little evidence to suggest that such an additional charge would deter someone already intent on committing murder.

So please, let’s not do this. It’s deceptive and it’s totally unnecessary.

Brauchler Flip-Flops, Faceplants On Guns

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler (R).

An in-depth story in the Vail Daily by freelance reporter David O. Williams could spell big trouble for GOP attorney general candidate George Brauchler: after taking fire from fellow Republicans for supporting “red flag” legislation to get guns out of the hands of dangerous persons with mental illness, Brauchler appears to be backtracking in order to shore up base Republican support heading into the general election:

Brauchler last month said Colorado’s background check law, passed in a package of gun bills during a heated 2013 legislative session that led to the unprecedented recall of two Democratic lawmakers, “has some value to it because we’re able to stop people who shouldn’t get guns.”

But in a 2017 Denver Post story surveying the positions of various candidates for governor (before he dropped out to run for attorney general), Brauchler said he opposed the background check law. He also opposes the 2013 law limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds…

Opposing every one of the gun safety laws passed in 2013 by the Colorado General Assembly is an article of faith among Republicans, but the shift in public opinion that occurred this year after a mass shooting at a high school in Florida gave Brauchler a bit more space to side with the overwhelming majority of the public who supports common-sense measures like tightening background checks.

But as of now, Brauchler is back to dissing the 2013 universal background check law:

“That universal background check bill would have done nothing had it existed on July 19 (2012) or before for our shooter in Aurora,” Brauchler said. [Pols emphasis]

As for the magazine limit law, by far the most reviled by gun rights supporters of any of the measures passed in 2013? Here’s what Brauchler says now:

Brauchler said Holmes’s gun actually jammed after 65 trigger pulls and malfunctioned because he didn’t properly clean his weapon after practicing with it several times in the mountains.

“So, do I think that changing the magazines might have given someone a better chance? Maybe,” Brauchler said. “But this guy practiced changing out the magazines quickly. His problem was he did not anticipate a jam, had never experienced a jam and didn’t know the immediate action drill to clear a jam was, so that kind of providential turn of events did more, in my opinion, than any magazine capacity ban would have done.”

Longtime readers will recall when former GOP Sen. Bernie Herpin, who briefly held recalled Senate President John Morse’s seat in 2013-14, claimed it was “a good thing” that the Aurora theater shooter had used a 100-drum magazine, because of the fact that the weapon eventually jammed. This contention is severely undercut by the reality that 65 rounds were fired successfully through that weapon before it jammed, resulting in the majority of the bloodshed in the shooting. Whatever practice the shooter may have had changing magazines, that still would have been preferable to firing off 65 rounds with no interruption whatsoever.

The fact that we are obliged to explain this to the prosecutor in the trial of the shooter shows the extent of the gun lobby’s dogmatic control over Republican politics–to the extent that something as obvious as “yes it would have been better if the Aurora shooter had not been able to cook off 65 rounds in a row” can’t be admitted to by someone who absolutely knows better. Of course a few seconds after every 15 rounds could have made a difference. It’s absurd to suggest otherwise.

Though unsuccessful in persuading fellow Republicans to go along, Brauchler had some credit coming for his support of the “red flag” bill, even though it was toxic to his base of support. This nonsensical denial of the obvious devastating effect of a high capacity drum magazine in the Aurora shooting undoes that goodwill entirely, and makes Brauchler look like just another hapless tool of the gun lobby.

And it’s easy to see why survivors and families of the victims are begging voters to not promote him.