Cory Gardner, Banana Republican

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The decision this week by President Donald Trump to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan continues to reverberate, being an unprecedented break with longstanding bipartisan tradition to strike back at one of the administration’s more potent critics. Trump’s original threats to revoke clearances for his critics was laughed off by House Speaker Paul Ryan as “trolling,” but nobody’s laughing now.

They’re normalizing:

That’s Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner, defending the decision to revoke a former CIA director’s security clearances, acknowledging that the action was taken because of things John Brennan said about the President. We get that Brennan has no right to a security clearance, and the the President necessarily has the authority to revoke them.

But this is not how American presidents behave. This is how petty thugs with no checks on their power behave.

At least for the purposes of this interview, though, Gardner was all game face–CNN’s Manu Raju continues:

To summarize, the United States is the in the grip of an unprecedented political and moral crisis because Donald Trump is disgracing his office at such a rapid pace it can barely be catalogued. He is alienating our allies, emboldening our enemies, dividing the American public, and misusing his power as President to lash out against his critics. His serial mistreatment of women is setting back gender relations in this country by decades. Donald Trump is unquestionably one of the worst Presidents in American history, perhaps the worst, and the damage Trump is doing will take years after he leaves office to undo.

And now we know with certainty: Cory Gardner is not going to lift a finger to stop it.

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Caption This Photo: The Harasser And Beth Humenik

We did a double-take over this photo Tweeted yesterday by the Colorado Senate Republicans:

That’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who was in Colorado over the weekend visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. With him are a number of Colorado Republican state senators, Chris Holbert, Kevin Lundberg, Don Coram, Randy Baumgardner, Beth Martinez Humenik, Kent Lambert, and Kevin Priola.

It’s particularly interesting to see Sens. Baumgardner and Humenik laughing it up together in this picture, since Baumgardner was the subject of a major sexual harassment scandal this year and Humenik is one of the Senate GOP’s two representatives on a new committee charged with developing new policies to end harassment in the General Assembly. Readers might recall that Baumgardner was stripped of his remaining committee assignments just before the session ended in May, and well after the vote to expel him failed, when more evidence came out that Holbert (left) appears to have helped suppress before the vote.

Anyway, if you were wondering whether the lip service paid to putting a stop to sexual harassment in the GOP-controlled Senate was a farce all along, you can stop.

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Gold Dome Sexual Harassment: Only An Election Can Fix This

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

As the Colorado Independent’s John Herrick reports, a few members of the Colorado General Assembly convened yesterday as a “Legislative Workplace Interim Study Committee,” to address an issue that dominated the headlines during the 2018 session of the legislature: what has been exposed to be a pervasive and well-entrenched culture of sexual harassment by lawmakers against lobbyists, legislative staffers, and even fellow elected officials.

Certainly no one can object to a meeting to address this crisis, which resulted in the expulsion of one lawmaker this year and what should have been career-ending allegations against at least one other. Unfortunately, as Herrick explains, there’s little reason to be optimistic that this committee will be able to effectively tackle the problem.

And why, you ask? Because Republicans and Democrats on this committee do not agree on the facts of what happened this year or what to do about it:

Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Republican, mostly dismissed sexual misconduct complaints brought against three members of his party: Baumgardner, Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial and Larry Crowder of Alamosa. In the House, Duran, a Democrat, called on Lebsock to resign before an investigation into allegations of harassment were completed. She also stripped him and Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who was accused of making unwanted sexual advances on another gay man at a political event in 2012, of their committee leadership positions. Duran dismissed the complaint against Rosenthal because the allegations occurred before he was in office.

Hoping to iron out a policy that can be enforced fairly and consistently, leaders from both the House and Senate called for the summer committee to meet over the interim between sessions. From the Senate, they appointed Sens. Bob Gardner, a Republican from Colorado Springs, Beth Martinez Humenik, a Republican from Westminster, and Dominick Moreno, a Democrat from Commerce City. From the House, they named Lori Saine, a Republican from Firestone, and Faith Winter, a Democrat from Westminster. Speaker Duran — a term-limited Democrat from Denver — appointed herself to the committee that she chairs.

The choices made by Republicans to serve on this committee are problematic to say the least. Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik was a steadfast ally of Senate President Kevin Grantham as Grantham deliberately worked to undermine the investigation into Sen. Randy Baumgardner’s repeated confirmed instances of sexual harassment. It was Sen. Humenik who stood with Grantham at the press conference in which Grantham punted responsibility for the actions of his caucus, arguing that a criminal offense should be the minimum standard for intervening in harassment cases unlike every other workplace in Colorado. Worse, Humenik helped Senate Republicans deflect from the credible allegations against Baumgardner by filing an frivolous retaliatory complaint against a Democratic Senator accused of using an unmarked women’s bathroom.

As for Sen. Bob Gardner, as Herrick reports, he helped kill a bill to set new standards for sexual harassment cases on college campuses that even Sen. Humenik supported, in addition to his loquacious defense of Sen. Baumgardner during the unsuccessful hearing to expel Baumgardner from the Senate. Rep. Lori Saine, one of the legislature’s most embarrassment-prone members herself, claimed that Steve Lebsock’s serial harassment of women and retaliation against accusers simply didn’t rise to the level of expulsion–a view that fortunately didn’t prevail with her fellow House Republicans.

For all of these reasons, there is very little hope that this committee will be able to come up with anything like a comprehensive solution to ensure women who work at the state capitol in any capacity are protected from harassment and abuse. The actions of Republicans in the Colorado legislature have made such a mockery of the proper way any responsible employer should respond sexual harassment allegations that to expect them to come up with a solution is simply ludicrous. There’s no solving a problem when half the people tasked with solving the problem don’t think there’s a problem.

But there is one sure-fire way for the voters of Colorado to make this right, and that is to relieve the Republican Party of its one-seat Senate majority in the November elections. In the end, the failure of the Colorado General Assembly to police itself on sexual harassment is the failure of Republican Senate leadership. Every Colorado Senate race is now a battleground for the #MeToo movement.

If that’s not a powerful message to carry into election season, we don’t know what is.

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You In? Asks The Boob-Grabbin’ Senate GOP Majority

The Republican Colorado Senate Majority Fund kicked off their campaign to hold the GOP’s one-seat majority in the one chamber of the Colorado legislature they control last week–an uphill battle after sexual harassment scandals dominated the headlines from the past session, and the Republican leadership of the Senate in particular failed in dramatic fashion to confront the problem.

With that in mind, we respectfully submit a small change to the Senate Majority Fund’s “Defend the Majority” campaign logo — with the infamous “Boob Grabber” in mind:

We think this helps clarify the stakes in the 2018 elections…quite well.

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Steve Lebsock–Living It Up At Trump Hotel Las Vegas

Hey, Steve Lebsock! You’ve just become the first sitting member of the Colorado General Assembly to be expelled in over 100 years. What are you going to do now, the world wonders?

Actually, we weren’t wondering. But in case you were:

After then-Rep. Lebsock switched his party affiliation approximately one hour before being expelled from the legislature over serial sexual harassment, Colorado Republicans initially tried to distance themselves from Lebsock. That lasted just long enough for Republicans to get over their squeamishness and appoint Rep. Alex Skinny Winkler to replace him, thus taking literal and figurative ownership of Lebsock’s party switch. Skinny completed the circle of ignominy by announcing that he would not have voted to expel Lebsock to begin with, thus ensuring Republicans retain no moral high ground whatsoever after the whole sorry spectacle is said and done–which will be in November, when Skinny is bounced from one of the shorter legislative terms in office in Colorado history.

To be clear, we don’t have any idea how a guy who just lost a $35,000 a year job can afford to stay in Trump’s green-marble-and-chrome version of opulence, but that’s for another blog post! Obviously we’re curious, which no doubt delights the only bigger sleazeball in Colorado politics than convicted felon tax cheat/TABOR author Doug Bruce. Bruce and Lebsock both have in common a lack of discernment between good and bad attention.

For today, though, ex-Rep. Lebsock (R) toasting fellow lech Donald Trump at the Trump International Hotel and Tower Las Vegas is…well, it’s perfect.

Isn’t it?

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Post-Holbert Coverup, Take Two on Baumgardner Expulsion

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post reports, the new recently-exposed additional confirmation of serial sexual harassment by GOP Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner is moving Senate Democrats to once again attempt a late resolution to expel Baumgardner from the chamber–a move likely to be killed by GOP Senate leadership, which appears to have cast any pretense of holding their members accountable for sexual harassment aside:

Because it’s past the deadline to file resolutions and bills, the rules dictate that the chamber’s Republican leaders would need to consent to its introduction.

“They don’t want that,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who is pushing for resolution. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it’s a request I felt like needed to be made.”

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who as we discussed yesterday appears to have helped suppress this latest investigative report ahead of the first vote to expel Sen. Baumgardner, is using that delay to deflect from Senate Democrats’ request for a new resolution to expel:

“Don’t shortcut the process,” Holbert said. “…We’ve now had a chance to read them. And now we need to come back and meet and agree how we’re going to move forward.”

Holbert’s disingenuous call for everyone to ‘slow down’ since Senators “had just received reports on the latest investigation Friday” is undermined by the ample evidence the vote to expel Baumgardner was deliberately scheduled to maneuver around this second investigation–an investigation that validates the original complaints agfainst Baumgardner, and further underscores Baumgardner’s serial harassment of women at the state capitol. Although Senate staff had the new report, it wasn’t released to the victims because Baumgardner had refused to be interviewed. Between Baumgardner’s obstruction and the willingness of Senate leadership to proceed as if he wasn’t obstructing, Republicans had enough manufactured uncertainty to justify among themselves voting against expulsion.

And now it appears they’re going to run out the clock–no matter what else comes out, no matter how bad it looks.

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How The General Assembly Became a Hotbed of Skeeze, Sleaze

Denver7’s Blair Miller reports on the results of a long-awaited investigative report into the overall culture of the Colorado General Assembly with regard to sexual harassment in the workplace–and as women have been pleading with anyone who would listen since at least last fall, it’s a real problem:

In the report publicly released Thursday, which was provided to lawmakers earlier this week, the investigators note 10 problems involving the General Assembly’s current policies and offer a series of possible solutions, which lawmakers will have to vote to adopt before the end of this year’s session on May 9. Some of the lawmakers were skeptical Thursday they could get the new policy done by that date.

It says that “almost everyone” surveyed felt “safe” or “comfortable” working at the Capitol, though 30 percent of respondents told investigators they’d either seen or experienced harassment themselves. Only a small percentage reported the harassment, they told the investigators.

And about half of people the team interviewed said they’d seen sexist or “seriously disrespectful” behavior among people working at the Capitol.

The report says most of the people who didn’t report behavior they’d witnessed said they didn’t do so because they feared reprisal.

CBS Denver adds:

The report says retaliation is a real concern that’s not being adequately addressed. Surveyors say the need for anonymous reporting was brought up by several employees. [Pols emphasis]

Investigations Law Group recommends a Standing Workplace Culture Committee for each chamber. That committee would receive the results of investigations and be responsible for disciplinary action.

The issue of retaliation against accusers was a major factor in the lopsided vote in favor of expelling Rep. Steve Lebsock from the House. In addition to publicly smearing his accusers on a personal level, Lebsock infamously promised to take others “down with me”–a threat that prompted at least two lawmakers to start wearing bulletproof vests at the Capitol.

Unfortunately, Rep. Lebsock is not the only case of retaliation against accusers since the harassment scandal broke last fall. The defense of Sen. Jack Tate, against whom an allegation of harassment was found credible by outside investigators, began with lobbyists rushing to the media to discredit the allegations by claiming said behavior was just an example of Tate’s “southern manners.” When that backfired, a Republican legislative aide went to a different reporter at the same conservative outlet to disparage the accuser’s “personal indiscretions,” a form of retaliation known as “slut shaming” or “victim blaming.”

When we talk about a workplace culture that facilitates sexual harassment, the two principal ingredients necessary are men with power willing to exploit it for sex, and a lack of safeguards to respect and protect victims who come forward. The former has been amply demonstrated by the credible allegations of harassment that have been leveled against numerous lawmakers. The latter is evident in the horrible treatment victims have endured at the hands of Republican leaders and staff–willingly assisted by bad actors in the local press.

In 2018, the General Assembly has taken the first steps toward acknowledging and confronting a problem that has plagued the institution–and American society writ large–for longer than any of us have been alive. In doing so, theye have only just begun to reckon with the extent of the problem, so deeply entrenched that rooting it out is uncovering some truly vile beliefs and values among civic leaders with substantial power and influence. In the Colorado Senate, Republican Senate leadership has stopped the drive for accountability in its tracks, and transformed what should have been a nonpartisan appeal to decency into a partisan food fight. Assuming the November elections result in sweeping Democratic victories as is generally forecast today, Senate President Kevin Grantham’s refusal to hold his caucus accountable for sexual harassment will be remembered as another nail in the coffin of the GOP Senate’s one-seat majority.

And in 2019, a new conversation will begin.

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Sen. Cheri Jahn’s Sad Legacy: It’s a Man’s World

Sen. Cheri Jahn (U).

One lingering lowlight from yesterday’s failure by the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate to follow the House’s precedent for accountability for perpetrators of sexual harassment and expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner that we wanted to be sure received a dishonorable mention–as Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch reports:

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham had resisted over a month of calls from Democrats to hold a debate and vote on Baumgardner, who faces three harassment complaints. Baumgardner has denied the accusations, although an outside investigation found Baumgardner likely grabbed and slapped a former aide on the buttocks multiple times in 2016.

Grantham relented on Monday evening, and allowed hours of debate. But from the outset, it was clear Democrats lacked 24 votes needed to force Baumgardner from the chamber. Only Democrats stood as a Senate clerk read the resolution on the Senate floor. State Sen. Cheri Jahn, a former Democrat who became an independent in December 2017, also stayed in her seat… [Pols emphasis]

The Denver Post’s John Frank:

Sen. Cheri Jahn, a Wheat Ridge Democrat who became an independent this session, said before the vote that she didn’t believe Baumgardner’s action rose “to the ultimate level of expulsion.”

And she expressed concern about the current political climate and the numerous sexual harassment complaints being filed against lawmakers. “I think we have to be very careful,” Jahn said.

Term limited Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge, who disaffiliated from the Democratic Party late last year as part of the publicity kick-off for the so-called Centrist Project (now known as “Unite Colorado”), has a long record of voting against workplace discrimination protections such as the landmark Job Protection and Civil Rights Enforcement Act Of 2013. Her votes against most of the Democratic caucus on this issue were generally considered to be due to her “pro-business” leanings, not wanting to “place burdens on small business” like not allowing them to discriminate.

Not something to be proud of, but Jahn’s votes with the caucus on other matters helped preserve an uneasy peace.

After last night’s vote against the expulsion of Sen. Baumgardner, in which Jahn asserted that credible findings of sexual harassment which would result in termination of employment at any responsible Colorado business do not “rise to the level” of expulsion, we’re left wondering if Sen. Jahn just doesn’t think discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace is a problem. Her vote, like the votes of sixteen Republican Senators, unmistakably sends that message.

Once the dust settles, this will not be viewed as a positive development either for Sen. Jahn’s political career or the “Unite Colorado” campaign to elect “centrist” unaffiliated candidates to office. Much like the Unite Colorado campaign is in truth run by a conservative former Republican congressional candidate, Jahn didn’t take anything like a “centrist” position by voting to protect Baumgardner. She sided with Republicans, against victims of sexual harassment, after an independent investigation validated the allegations.

Good luck finding a majority of voters to support that–without an (R) after your name, anyway.

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Colorado Senate Stays Safe Space For Sexual Harassment

Sen. Randy Baumgardner (R).

Denverite had the story ready to go:

The Colorado Senate on Monday rejected a resolution to expel Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Baumgardner was investigated for sexual misconduct based on allegations made by a former legislative aide that were found credible by a third-party investigation, according to the Associated Press. The resolution read Monday said Baumgardner allegedly grabbed and smacked an aide’s buttocks multiple times during the 2016 legislative session.

The tone during Monday’s debate was far more business-like than last month’s emotionally-charged deliberations in the House that ended with then-state Rep. Steve Lebsock’s expulsion.

The final vote on the resolution to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner over allegations of sexual harassment that were confirmed credible by an outside investigation conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council was 17-17 with Sen. Baumgardner abstaining. GOP Sen. Ray Scott unexpectedly crossed party lines to vote to expel Baumgardner, while “Pretendocrat” Sen. Cheri Jahn (U) voted with Republicans against Baumgardner’s expulsion.

NARAL Pro Choice Colorado had their statement ready, too:

Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in the Capitol, or any where else. Senator Baumgardner, like Rep. Lebsock, should have been expelled.

The message that Senators who voted against the resolution sent to the women of Colorado is this: we are okay with this behavior. We are okay with the abuse of power represented by sexual harassment. We are okay with behavior that would not be tolerated in another workplace.

Everyone should be held to to the same standard and everyone deserves to feel safe at their place of work. That includes those aides and interns an independent investigator found Sen. Baumgardner more likely than not harassed.

This is fundamentally about the abuse of power and the public trust. Those that abuse their power to take advantage of others betrays the public trust and should not remain in the building. Sexual harassment isn’t partisan and a harasser’s party identification should not matter.

Speaker Duran and members of both parties in House of Representatives held a member of the majority party accountable for his actions towards women. The same standard should apply in the Senate with Senator Baumgardner.

We stand with Senator Baumgardner’s victims, and with all survivors of sexual abuse and harassment.

The failure of tonight’s vote was fully predictable. In the last two weeks, conservative blogs, social media, and friendly journalists in the Capitol press corps have flooded the news cycle with “hot take” defenses of Baumgardner along with other storylines intended to discredit and downplay sexual harassment allegations. Senate President Kevin Grantham’s bad faith in negotiations with Democrats over the fate of Baumgardner and two other Republicans credibly accused of harassment and diversionary slander against Sen. Daniel Kagan further indicated that accountability for Baumgardner was not in the offing. The night-and-day contrast between the handling of sexual harassment allegations by the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate is, with this vote, clearly defined for voters in the November elections–where we fully expect voters to dispense the justice Baumgardner’s victims were denied this evening.

Until then, all women at the Capitol can do is stick together–and make sure the new employees know who to stay away from.

If this victory for the status quo sounds disgraceful to you, that’s because it is.

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The Senate GOP’s “Broactive” Double Standard: Exposed

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland’s latest story on the crisis over widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly takes square aim at a problem we identified months ago but up to now hasn’t received the attention it deserves: the double standard being applied to Republicans accused of harassment under Senate President Kevin Grantham. It’s a double standard that became outlandish recently after Republicans engineered a ridiculous complaint against a Democratic Senator over disputed alleged use of an women’s bathroom while proven-credible allegations of harassment by Republican Senators go unpunished:

Senate President Kevin Grantham is under scrutiny for his handling of harassment complaints. Critics say he’s been inconsistent, even partisan, and they question his ability to be fair and help make the Capitol’s culture more professional.

In one example, Grantham, a Republican, told the media that Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, acted improperly, although an investigation into allegations against Kagan had not yet begun. But when sexual harassment allegations against three Republican senators were found credible, Grantham did not say if his colleagues had acted inappropriately and has instead called the independent investigations flawed.

In another example, Grantham scolded a nonpartisan Senate staffer for sharing his allegations of workplace harassment with the press, but defended the right of a Republican senator to do the same thing when she alleged harassment.

Overall, the response by Senate Republicans to the allegations of harassment by members of their caucus has been so bad that the only thing keeping them functional is highly deferential media coverage–sacrificing the credibility of friendly reporters to help Grantham and company keep the deflections going for another news cycle. The example of the complaint against Sen. Daniel Kagan, which alleges no sexual misconduct of any kind yet was validated as presumed guilt by Grantham before the complaint was even filed, is egregious enough to oblige any reasonable person to admit to the hypocrisy when confronted and either apologize or at least acknowledge the obvious problem.

But we know from experience now that’s not going to happen here.

The complaint against Kagan may not even represent the worst of the double standard Grantham rules the Senate by during this ongoing PR crisis. The deplorable incident last week in which a GOP legislative aide was quoted in a conservative media outlet “slut shaming” a victim whose complaint against Sen. Jack Tate was found credible occurred despite a memo to all Senate staff ordering them not to talk to the press about any case of harassment. The circumstances surrounding that incident invite basic questions about whether the GOP aide in question was given permission to talk to the press despite that gag order–because what he had to say would be helpful to Republicans.

The bottom line is that every one of Grantham’s moves since the sexual harassment scandal first broke last fall have been with the deliberate purpose of shielding Republican lawmakers from accountability. When the allegations surfaced, Grantham demanded a formal investigation. When the investigations sided with the accusers, Grantham sat on the reports for months. When the accusers grew tired of waiting and spoke out, Grantham attacked the investigators. When staff and lawmakers violate his orders to not talk to the press, Grantham only gets angry is when the leak goes against Republicans. And when given the chance to make a bloody hypocrite of himself over a trifling allegation against a Democrat, Grantham rushed to pronounce the Democrat guilty before any investigation had even taken place.

We don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that it doesn’t get any worse than this. We can only say again that for term-limited President Grantham, this is a singularly disgraceful legacy to leave behind. It’s likely at this point that the only remedy to the failure of the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate to hold sexual harassers in their midst accountable will be the November elections. The chances that Grantham’s misdeeds will measurably contribute to a very good year for Colorado Democrats are growing with each damaging news cycle.

When Republicans swear in to the Senate in 2019 as the minority party, they’ll have Grantham to thank.

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Even More Outrageous Treatment of GOP Sexual Harassment Victims

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen increasingly audacious attempts by Republicans in the Colorado Senate and their surrogates in the media to discredit proven-credible claims of sexual harassment against two Republican Senators: Sens. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Jack Tate of Centennial.

After the original allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly broke last fall, there was a well-organized PR campaign quickly organized to defend Tate in particular–first by enlisting lobbyists to defend Tate, which backfired after their massive conflicts of interest were exposed, and more recently by a an extremely unethical attack via a “legitimate” news outlet, the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette, citing the “personal indiscretions” of the victim in Tate’s case by a Republican legislative aide. That aide was fired the next day after his own highly insensitive comments about sexual harassment were released to the media, but the damage was done.

This weekend, a blog associated with the right-wing Independence Institute released a new story seeking to undermine the credibility of one of the victims of Sen. Randy Baumgardner and the investigation that determined the allegation against Baumgardner is credible. That story was picked up by Marianne Goodland of the same Colorado Springs Gazette involved with the questionable defense of Tate, and run uncritically with the headline “Report on sexual harassment allegations against Baumgardner raises questions of credibility.”

You might notice that we aren’t linking to those stories directly in this blog post. There’s a reason: the Independence Institute is circulating a “redacted” copy of the investigative report that positively identifies the victim in Baumgardner’s case. Needless to say, or at least it should be, to out a victim of sexual harassment who wishes to remain anonymous under any circumstances is an enormous breach of journalist ethics. We’re not accusing anyone at the Independence Institute of journalism, of course, but Goodland and the Gazette is another matter.

Folks, we understand that the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate is in a very unpleasant predicament, and that they have chits they can call in in an emergency to get a surprising degree of deference–even assistance–from friends they’ve made in local media.

What is happening to these women who are only trying to get justice after this culture of sexual harassment has been allowed to fester for literally as long as women won the right to participate in government at any level above the secretarial, is totally unacceptable. It does appear to be increasingly centered on one conservative media outlet with limited accountability either to the marketplace or journalistic standards, but this is a terrible lesson in how hard women have really had it in the workplace. The General Assembly, and every other.

When this is over, there will be journalists like KUNC’s Bente Birkeland who can take pride in the historic work they’ve done, and the lasting good exposing and ending the culture of harassment in the Colorado legislature will do for generations of women to come.

And there will be a few who have to live with the knowledge that they helped the bad guys.

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Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes Interview Open Thread

(Obligatively promoted by Colorado Pols)

Did you watch Stormy Daniels’ interview with Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” tonight? Probably. I did.  You can see video highlights on CBS 60 Minutes Overtime here:

Wikimedia Commons Stormy Daniels

By Toglenn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

I  was frankly impressed with Stephanie (“Stormy Daniels”) Clifford.  I found her story to be believable. She did not claim victimhood, took responsibility for her own decision to go alone to Trump’s hotel room, was frank about seeing her involvement with Trump as a business decision.

Her description of the threats against her and her daughter were chilling, and also quite credible. We know that the President is a ruthless man.

 

We know he surrounds himself with ruthless and truthless people, who by some saving grace are also mostly incompetent at their jobs.

It seems likely that it all went down as “Stormy” said it had, and that the subsequent Non-Disclosure-Agreement, hush-money coverup, and legal brangling had also happened  as she recounted.

Expect Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer and attack dog,  to be the next person thrown under the Trump bus. (If he doesn’t turn against Trump first) Since he paid out $130,000 to Ms. Clifford, why did he pay it? If there was no affair, as Trump says, then why pay?

Since no one who signed the NDA was using their real names, does it have any force in law? Is it a legally binding document?

Was the $130,000 a campaign contribution from Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen to the Trump campaign? If so, why wasn’t it reported? And why was it paid to a pornographic movie actress?

Prosecutor Mueller will likely be investigating these and related questions. Cliffords’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said on Twitter: “Tonight is not the end — it’s the beginning.” – CNN

Meanwhile, here’s the “money quote” (pun intended) from Ms. Clifford, on the occasion of her declaring intent to run against Louisiana Congressman “Diaper Dave” Vitter:

“Daniels said she has been a registered Democrat throughout her life. ‘But now I cannot help but recognize that over time my libertarian values regarding both money and sex and the legal use of one for the other is now best espoused by the Republican Party’.”[25]

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Meet Rep.-Designate Alex Skinny Winkler While You Can

Rep.-designate Alex Skinny Winkler (R).

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports–after Colorado Republicans decided to go ahead and own the legacy of expelled Rep. Steve Lebsock by claiming the right to appoint Lebsock’s replacement due to Lebsock switching parties literally one hour before his expulsion, there was, as there always is, an opportunity for them to make a smarter choice. Perhaps to nominate a brilliantly qualified and locally-beloved statesman who would be able to put up an actual fight for a district that, while trending Democratic, might be flippable under a certain set of circumstances.

Yeah, you knew that wasn’t going to happen!

[Alexander “Skinny”] Winkler lost to Lebsock in 2014 and made a failed bid in 2016 to become an Adams County commissioner. He said he doesn’t think he would have voted to expel Lebsock if he had been part of the legislature when the decision was made — “I don’t think the proper procedure was followed,” he said — though he thinks there should have been discipline for the allegations leveled against the former lawmaker…

Winkler said he most identifies with Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, in the Colorado House. Everett is known as “Dr. No” for his propensity to reject legislation.

“I’m a small government fella,” Winkler said. “Any bills that seek to lessen the role of government, if you will, would win my favor.”

So, the first thing we’d like to get resolved with Rep.-designate Alex Skinny Winkler is whether or not the (we assume) nickname “Skinny” is meant to be written with quotation marks. We do see that’s what the Denver Post did, but they could have been following the AP Manual of Style or something rather than, you know, Skinny’s preference. On Skinny’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that he does not use quotation marks, so we expect in the very, very limited time we’ll be talking about Skinny Winkler we’ll follow his lead.

As Paul notes above, Skinny lost to Rep. Lebsock in 2014 by 9.8%. In 2016, Skinny lost by a similar margin to incumbent Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry. Skinny in fact lost by a bigger margin to Lebsock in 2014 than a subsequent Republican challenger did in 2016, though a Green candidate in 2016 did pull some votes away from Lebsock. The point is that Skinny has not ever even come close to performing well in an Adams County election. Given that Skinny’s introduction to the Colorado political big-time after his appointment consisted of defending Lebsock, who was expelled from the House by an overwhelming bipartisan margin, and promising to govern in the style of one of the legislature’s biggest (and sleepiest) Ayn Randian obstructionists, we’re not seeing anything like a good fit here.

In November, we fully expect Skinny’s legislative career to end as ignominiously as it began.

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Victim-Blaming Broservative, Hack Reporting Do Grantham’s Dirty Work For Him

UPDATE #2: Next question–didn’t all these Senate aides get ordered not to talk to the press?

More than 100 Senate staff, aides and interns have been warned against speaking to journalists about workplace issues, including sexual harassment, and the trainings aimed at preventing it…

Grantham responded: “As staff members they should understand that confidentiality is important and blowing something up via the media is not what I would expect from a senator or from staff.”

And yet GOP legislative aide Andrew Knarr did talk to the press. And that’s interesting because:

Knarr said he was fired by Smallwood, but claimed the Senate Republicans “didn’t want to do it.”

Does that mean Knarr had permission to violate the directive that he not talk to the press? Perhaps because he intended to help an accused Republican? Given the big deal that was made about clamming all these staffers up, this is a question crying out for an answer.

Lots here for the press to run down–just not by Joey Bunch please. He should probably clock out.

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UPDATE: So much for “broservative” legislative aide Andrew Knarr’s career in politics, ladies and gentlemen:

Sen. Jim Smallwood’s statement:

Today, screenshots from my legislative aide’s Snapchat account were shown to me for the first time, and within minutes, I made the decision to dismiss Andrew Knarr. Andrew’s actions were unacceptable and unbecoming of an employee of the Colorado State Senate, and I hope he takes the time to reflect and build upon this experience in his future endeavors.

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GOP legislative aide Andrew Knarr (via Snapchat).

Yesterday afternoon, the ongoing controversy over allegations of widespread sexual harassment by members of the Colorado General Assembly took an unexpected and ugly turn. A story published by Joey Bunch of the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette discussed the public release of the investigative report that found credible an allegation of harassment against GOP Sen. Jack Tate. The alleged victim in that case, having waited almost two months for action from Senate President Kevin Grantham since the investigation was completed, released the report in hope of moving the process along.

Bunch’s story went in a very different direction, quoting a legislative aide who claims to have known the victim. The original version of Bunch’s story, since heavily edited, featured aide Andrew Knarr (undoctored Snapchat photo above right) disparaging the victim’s so-called “personal indiscretions” and asserting that although he does not “know everything about Senator Tate’s interactions” with the victim, he doesn’t believe her story.

Sometime yesterday evening, the story was edited to remove all of Knarr’s smearing of the victim. It retains the comments about not believing her story, even after the investigation found her allegations credible, but removed the comments about her “personal integrity.”

And then last night, we were forwarded the Snapchat photo of Mr. Knarr you can see above, where he lets known his true views on the matter of sexual harassment. Needless to say, it’s very difficult to accept him as a credible source after seeing this–and the journalistic malpractice on the part of Joey Bunch that allowed this sickening victim-blaming invective into the printed record is all the worse for it. We’re obliged to note that this is the second instance of the Anschutz-owned Gazette engaging in ethically dubious reporting to defend Sen. Tate from harassment allegations, the first being a story by another reporter featuring a gaggle of lobbyists who as it turns out had lots of business before Tate’s committee “vouching” for him.

But this was worse. Much, much worse. It would be tempting in this case to vent all the outrage over this latest ham-fisted attempt to shield a Republican Colorado legislator from sexual harassment allegations on the junior staffer who was willing to put his name on this kind of despicable victim-blaming, or the reporter who unconscionably and knowingly printed his smears.

But this is not about Andrew Knarr, and it’s not about Joey Bunch. Their misdeeds are, in the end, merely symptoms: of a toxic environment of permissible sexual harassment that has been created by Senate President Kevin Grantham. Grantham’s unilateral declaration that only instances of sexual harassment rising to the level of a crime would be punished in his chamber, and continuous undermining of the outside investigations into the actions of Republican Senators at every step of the process, has created the climate in which victims of harassment by Republican Senators are subjected to further abuse. Where victim’s allegations are presumed false, where accountability is farcical to nonexistent, and where men come out of the woodwork to smear your reputation even after an investigation proves you right.

All told, what is unfolding here is truly one of the most disgraceful episodes we’ve ever witnessed in over a decade writing about Colorado politics. And every time we think it can’t get worse, something happens to prove us wrong.

The end of this legislative session–not to mention November–cannot come quickly enough.

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Tate’s Harassment Victim Sick of Senate GOP Stonewall

Sen. Jack Tate (R-Handsy).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland once again breaks news that casts Senate Republicans in an unfavorable light as the foot-dragging reluctance by Senate President Kevin Grantham to take action against Senators found by independent investigations to have committed harassment becomes the story–despite desperate attempts to muddy the waters:

It has been nearly two months since an independent investigator with the Employer’s Council concluded and found the accuser to be credible in allegations of sexual harassment against Sen. Jack Tate. Weeks later, there have been no consequences as a result and the accuser said she wants to know why. So she says she now wants to make the investigator’s report public, which is allowed under the General Assembly’s workplace harassment policy, in hopes it will spur action.

Senate President Kevin Grantham is charged with determining consequences for Tate, R-Centennial. When asked about it in early March Grantham, also a Republican, said he didn’t feel obligated to rush to a conclusion when dealing with something this serious.

“If we’re going to take action on these we have to make sure we’re crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” Grantham said. “If I cross t’s and dot i’s to a fault, I’ll take that. But I want to make sure that we do things right.”

Two months since the investigation into Sen. Jack Tate’s conduct was completed with a finding that the alleged harassment occurred based on the preponderance of the evidence. Two months that Grantham has known the allegations were credible, and the victim has known that her voice has been heard–yet nothing has been done.

So the victim authorized the release of the investigative report in its redacted entirety:

The investigator said she found the accuser credible generally because of the specific details she gave that made the allegations seem plausible, and because she didn’t appear to have a reason to make up the allegations. The report said the accuser gave Tate the benefit of the doubt, “that his actions were based on not understanding personal space. This leniency… bolsters her credibility.”

The investigator questioned Tate’s credibility because she said he attempted to sway the investigation with outside information, because his answers appeared rehearsed with his attorney by his side and because of Tate’s general demeanor. [Pols emphasis]

It’s very easy to see from the full contents of the investigative report documenting the allegations against Sen. Tate why Senate Republicans attempted to distract the press and public with their ill-conceived attack on Sen. Daniel Kagan. It didn’t work, and appears to be backfiring–but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand why they tried.

It’s because this is a PR disaster of the highest order. It indicts the entire GOP Senate leadership, which has been sitting on the results of this investigation for almost two months while women have no choice but come to work at the Capitol with Tate and other lawmakers credibly accused of harassment. And after the House took bipartisan action to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock, the Senate’s failure to take any meaningful action to deal with their own sexual harassment problem has created an unacceptable double standard.

If the Republican leadership of the Colorado Senate won’t fix this, it falls to the voters in every single Colorado Senate district to ensure Republicans no longer hold the majority in that chamber in 2019. All we can say is this: Republican Senate leadership is giving Democrats everything they need to accomplish that goal and then some.

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“BathroomGate” Cheap Shot Goes Over Very, Very Badly

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

Colorado Public Radio’s Sam Brasch updates the bizarre turn that the controversy over widespread sexual harassment at the Colorado General Assembly took earlier this week–in an apparent attempt to distract from investigated and credible allegations of sexual harassment by at least three Republican state senators, a complaint alleging that a Democratic senator used an unmarked women’s bathroom at the state capitol:

[Sen. Daniel] Kagan said the story is a massive exaggeration. Like other Democrats, he believes the claim is nothing more than an effort to distract from harassment complaints filed against Republicans. Even so, the story has resulted in a formal complaint against Kagan, and a new round of partisan rancor in the Capitol.

This situation started Friday when Kagan joined a chorus of Democratic senators who took to the chamber’s microphone to call for the expulsion of Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner. An investigation has found Baumgardner likely groped an aide in 2016. Senate leadership has so-far declined to act on the findings beyond a letter that acknowledged he had voluntarily agreed to take sensitivity training and resign as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee…

Democrats have been increasingly confrontational in their demands for leadership to do more. During his turn at the mic, Kagan took a graphic approach, reciting the legal details of what constitutes sexual assault, and noted, “many butt-slappers and thigh-strokers fancy that they are merely flirting and flattering.”

On Monday, Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham called Kagan’s remarks “despicable.” He said many members were visibly shaken. Then, Grantham dropped a new allegation from his Republican members, noting the speech came from a man “that is known — known — to frequent the women’s restroom.”

Today’s story explains the details that most readers already know: the two second-floor bathrooms used by senators and senate staff are not marked as gender-specific bathrooms, or even as bathrooms at all. The bathroom that includes urinals suitable for men is unlocked and publicly accessible, while the “women’s bathroom” has a keypad to limit access. Sen. Kagan claims he made the mistake of using the wrong unmarked bathroom only once, but the simple fact that the bathroom is unmarked–and that there is no allegation of any improper behavior beyond using the wrong unmarked bathroom–severely limits the amount of scandal that can be reasonably derived from his mistake.

Once you understand that, the GOP’s over-the-top freakout on Sen. Kagan compounds the disgrace of the Senate Republican majority’s failure to address multiple credible allegations of sexual harassment by Republican lawmakers. Yes, Sen. Kagan may have used the wrong bathroom. With no allegation of any accompanying misconduct, that is not even in the same ballpark as repeatedly touching the posterior of a teenage legislative aide, or suggesting a date to further an aide’s career.

In fact, we shouldn’t even have to say so. It should be obvious.

The real issue appears to be that Sen. Kagan called out Republicans for protecting sexual harassers in their midst in explicit terms on the floor of the Senate last Friday. Unfortunately for the GOP, their retaliation against Kagan invites such an easy charge of hypocrisy–not to mention hyperbole–that in the end it is counterproductive for Republicans hoping to muddy the waters around their own misdeeds. Instead of taking the pressure off Senate Republicans, this nonsensical clamor actually makes things worse.

And for term-limited Senate President Kevin Grantham, a pathetic legacy is taking shape.

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Senate GOP Harassment Deflection Goes Completely Insane

UPDATE: So as we understand it, Republican Colorado Senators find discussion of sexual matters in explicit terms offensive:

Apparently that outrage is a bit, you know, selective.

Yes gentle readers, things got very stupid very fast today! Sorry to transgress anyone’s conveniently sudden Mike Pence modesty, but our lawmakers are grownups, and sexual harassment is necessarily a grownup topic. Let’s go ahead and let grownups have the grownup discussions that are unfortunately necessary.

For example, there’s a resolution to expel Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

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Sen. Daniel Kagan (D).

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, the daily barrage of bad press over the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate’s refusal to punish three Republican Senators who have been credibly accused of sexual harassment has finally provoked a response from Republicans.

A response that has us sincerely wondering who, if anyone, is in charge over there:

A Democratic state senator’s graphic speech last week on sexual harassment at the Colorado Capitol is drawing anger from across the aisle, with Republicans criticizing his explicit language and expressing alarm over the male lawmaker’s presence in a women’s restroom.

The legislator, state Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, said he made an honest mistake — once — last year as a freshman member of the Senate when he entered an unmarked bathroom. He says Republicans are trying to deflect from sexual harassment allegations against their own.

“They’re more than overblowing it,” Kagan said in response. “They are trying to make a zeppelin out of it. This was an innocent mistake and it is really beneath the dignity of the Senate to start trying to, firstly, misrepresent, or should I say, lie, that this happened more than once … and to try and blow it up like this is reprehensible.”

Marianne Goodland at the former Colorado Statesman:

Grantham called Kagan’s trip to the microphone “hypocrisy” and his remarks “despicable.” People came to him after the remarks, visibly shaken and emotionally upset over what they heard, Grantham said.

“This is coming from an individual who is known to habitually frequent the women’s restroom,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, a Democrat from Denver, said in a statement Monday: “Last year — his first in the Senate — Sen. Kagan accidentally used the wrong bathroom near the Senate floor. These bathrooms are unmarked and do not say ‘men’ or ‘women’ on their doors, so it’s common for people new to the Senate to enter the wrong one by mistake.

“There is absolutely no equivalence to Sen. Baumgardner using his position of power to repeatedly, physically harass a legislative aide. This accusation is a shameful attempt by Republicans to distract from very real incidents of sexual harassment at the Capitol.”

The Post story includes photos of the exterior doors to the two bathrooms located near the Senate in the Colorado Capitol. It’s a correct statement that neither of the two bathrooms are identified as gender-specific, or for that matter as bathrooms at all. It’s a mistake that anyone could make once, which is all Kagan claims occurred. If Republicans have any evidence that Kagan used the wrong bathroom “habitually,” they didn’t make it available for reporters today. And given the nature of the allegation, they should have.

And that’s where this contrived outrage breaks down for Senate Republicans. What we have here is a situation in which a Democratic Senator is accused of offending fellow Senators’ sensibilities by graphically discussing sexual harassment after multiple Republican Senators have been accused of committing sexual harassment–and escalating with a lurid kicker that may actually be slanderous.

Not only does this fail to absolve accused Republicans, it demonstrates to us they don’t have a clue how bad any of what they’re doing looks. It makes some sense if you consider that Senate President Kevin Grantham have been in a bunker mentality for weeks now over credible, thoroughly investigated allegations of sexual harassment against at least three members of his caucus. When you’re in the depths of a public relations nightmare, any deflection seems good at first glance.

But this tawdry smearing of Sen. Kagan does not get Randy Baumgardner or “Handsy” Jack Tate off the hook.

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Don’t Forget About Irish Women While Your Appropriating Their Culture This St. Patrick’s Day

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Photo: Amnesty International Ireland

It’s that special time each year where we get to partake in shenanigans that subtly appropriate Irish culture while drinking large quantities of green beer, and dressing like a leprechaun —yes, St. Patricks Day is finally upon us. While you’re enjoying your weekend of “green” celebrations and paying homage to our friends “across the pond,” this is a friendly reminder that women in Ireland have been fighting a grueling battle for reproductive freedom for half a century.

Ireland has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It is estimated that roughly 12 women per day will travel out of the country to seek abortion care. Though their reasons for needing to terminate a pregnancy may differ, their reasons for traveling elswhere, do not. The penalty for inducing an abortion in the Republic of Ireland can be up to 14 years in prison. In Northern Ireland, penalties are much more severe, and can result in a life sentence. Abortion is permitted only in the most extreme circumstances to save a woman’s life. This provision was only introduced in 2012 after the death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a life-saving abortion while suffering a septic miscarriage.

(more…)

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How Long Can Senate Business Go On Like This?

Republican State Sen. Randy Baumgardner.

Jesse Paul at the Denver Post (say a prayer for them) reports on the ongoing crisis over sexual harassment allegations in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate, and the increasing difficulty of conducting essential business in an environment where three Republican Senators have had credible allegations made against them–yet every day, dozens of women who are vocationally obliged to go to the State Capitol must deal with:

The sexual harassment complaint against GOP state Sen. Randy Baumgardner has spilled into a contentious statehouse debate about legislation to fix Colorado’s roads, with Democrats pushing back on the measure over policy disagreements and the lawmaker’s role as one of the bill’s main sponsors.

The result has been two days of politically charged floor discussion on Senate Bill 1 with no signs of compromise. While Republicans have the votes to pass the measure and send it to the House, without any Democratic support, its future in the lower chamber looks dim.

“How do I work with a colleague from across the aisle who has this cloud hanging over him?” Sen. Rachel Zenzinger,D-Arvada, said in an interview. She is one of two Democrats on the Senate Transportation Committee, which first heard the bill, and has raised concerns about how the GOP would pay for and sustain it.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have consistently refused to acknowledge the real issue behind the increasing Democratic resistance to business as usual, instead focusing on the parliamentary tactic and the legislation supplying the battleground for the more pressing concern:

The problem is not the details of Senate Bill 18-001, which would refer a measure to voters to take out a large bond obligation for road projects–although you may well find the GOP’s plan for billions in new debt “without raising taxes” is the not the responsible way to solve Colorado’s transportation problems as we suspect the Democratic House will.

The problem is that Sen. Randy Baumgardner is the sponsor of the bill.

With each passing day since the House voted overwhelmingly to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock after multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Lebsock were found credible, the Senate’s failure to take meaningful action over similarly credible complaints against multiple Republican Senators is reinforcing the hostile environment the women who work for and vocationally interact with the Colorado Senate have experienced for years. That is why every day recently in the Senate has begun with some manner of protest against these men, especially Sen. Baumgardner, continuing to serve. It’s a situation that would not be tolerated in any private workplace, and Senate President Kevin Grantham’s declaration that sexual harassment by Senators not rising to the level of a crime will go unpunished results in an environment no woman should ever be forced to work in.

And yet women who work at the Colorado Capitol are. Every. Single. Day.

Something’s got to give, folks.

We are not prescribing a specific remedy. We only say this morally cannot be allowed to continue.

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Harassment Scandal Makes Grantham’s ‘Stache All Droopy

With his one-seat Republican majority in the Colorado Senate receiving daily unwanted attention as the Colorado General Assembly’s sexual harassment scandal continues to escalate, Senate President Kevin Grantham’s Old West pointy mustache–a recent fashion upgrade for the once-frumpy lawmaker–has gotten much more exposure than we expect the honorable Senator from Cañon City ever intended:

The above photo was taken in happier times, before the harassment allegations against numerous sitting lawmakers including at least three Republican Senators began to dominate the headlines from this year’s legislative session. Contrast that to today, in a photo released by Senate Republicans, in which we find President Grantham’s whiskers have gone…for lack of a better word, flaccid:

It would appear that Grantham’s bristles no longer stand erect now that Democrats in the House have expelled one of their own members for harassment and Grantham’s inexplicable running of cover for offenders in his own caucus has worn disastrously threadbare.

Whether the metaphor was intentional or not, it fits perfectly. Let’s all keep our pointy bits safely stowed.

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Colorado Senate Sexual Harassment Crisis Nears Breaking Point

UPDATE #2: From the Senate floor moments ago:

Note Sen. “Handsy” Jack Tate in the background looking at the carpet.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post and Aurora Sentinel both call out the GOP-controlled Senate’s inaction in hard-hitting editorials:

GOP leaders there don’t want to admit what Winter and a lot of fellow House Republicans made perfectly clear as they took turns testifying against Lebsock and others who perpetrate sexual harassment as lawmakers.

To Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City and outed pervy GOP state senators Randy “Spanky” Baumgardner and Jack “Oh, Leery” Tate, it’s not that big of a deal. They say no law was broken, so move along, folks…

There were crimes committed by these men. There’s just no law — yet — against a legislator using his or her position to extort sex from or bully Capitol staffers, lobbyists or each other.

The only difference between other forms of bribery, blackmail and assault is that the sexual kind is perfectly legal for state elected officials.

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(more…)

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GOP Harassment Intransigence Untenable, Catastrophic

Senate President Kevin Grantham.

As KUNC’s Bente Birkeland reports and we discussed in some detail yesterday the historic expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock from the Colorado House last Friday has shifted attention in the widening crisis over sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly to the Colorado Senate, where two Republican Senators have been accused of their own serial bad behavior–allegations that, like those against Rep. Lebsock, were found credible by an outside investigator.

But as the whole nation’s attention suddenly turns to Colorado as the new model for holding perpetrators of sexual harassment in positions of power accountable, there’s a problem.

The men in charge of the Colorado Senate don’t want to make history. They like the status quo.

The leader of Colorado’s Senate said that last week’s historic decision in the House to expel a legislator amid sexual harassment allegations would have no bearing on how similar cases in the Senate are resolved. Senate President Kevin Grantham said the House made a tough decision to remove a fellow legislator from the Capitol.

He added that a criminal conviction would be the standard for expelling a legislator from the Senate…

Grantham said an investigation that finds allegations of sexual harassment credible is not enough for him to support the removal of a lawmaker. He said criminal charges would be.

“If we’re going to talk about expulsion, then there still has to be criminal acts and indictments and convictions,” said Grantham. [Pols emphasis]

As of yesterday, Senate Democrats are publicly ramping up the pressure on Grantham with a daily demand to introduce for debate the resolution to expel Sen. Randy BaumgardnerDenver Post:

For the second time this week, Democrats in the Colorado Senate called for Republican leadership to allow debate on the resolution they sponsored to expel GOP Sen. Randy Baumgardner over accusations of sexual harassment…

She said Baumgardner’s actions created an intimidating, hostile and offensive workplace environment.

“For this reason, the members of the Senate Democratic caucus ask that the Senate resolution we prepared and submitted for introduction … be promptly introduced and brought to the floor for debate,” Sen. Irene Aguilar, a fellow Denver Democrat, said the day before.

First of all, let’s dispense with the absurd notion that a criminal conviction is now or should ever be the standard for taking disciplinary action in cases of sexual harassment. That’s simply not the standard in any other workplace in Colorado, where investigations with far less independence and thoroughness are routinely the basis for corrective actions up to and including termination of employment. To declare a criminal conviction, or even criminal charges, to be the minimum standard for intervening in a case of sexual harassment gives members of the Colorado Senate protection that no one else enjoys–not even, as of last Friday, their colleagues in the House.

The Democrats and Republicans in the House who voted for expulsion rejected Grantham’s argument.

“This wasn’t a criminal investigation; this was a workplace investigation,” said Rep. Polly Lawrence, R- Roxborough Park.

Grantham’s off-base call last week for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann to investigate for criminal violations fell flat precisely because of what it represented: a moving of the goalposts after GOP Senate leadership decided they didn’t like the results of the independent investigation into Republican Senators. Grantham and accused Senators like “Handsy” Jack Tate might not like it, but sexual harassment that falls short of a criminal act most certainly does exist.

And Senate President Kevin Grantham just declared that in his chamber, sexual harassment not rising to the level of a criminal act may be carried out by Senators with impunity. Or at least, unlike any other workplace in Colorado, without getting fired.

Folks, this is a political disaster of the likes rarely seen at any level of government. Republicans already lose women voters by significant margins in Colorado elections, a gap that has made the difference between defeat and victory in close races (see: Bennet, Michael).

This a mistake that could help ensure a whole generation of women never, ever vote Republican again.

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The Post-Lebsock World: What Happens Next?

AP via the Washington Post summarizes yesterday’s all-day drama on the floor of the Colorado House, which ended with an outcome few expected as the House gaveled in on Friday morning: the first expulsion of a sitting Colorado lawmaker in 103 years:

Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock wasn’t present when Democrats and Republicans voted 52-9 Friday on a Democrat resolution to expel him. One of his accusers — fellow Democrat Faith Winter — cried and smiled and was mobbed by supporters after the historic vote…

Two successive male representatives told fellow members of the House that they were so worried about tensions stemming from the case against Lebsock that they had taken to wearing bulletproof vests beneath their jackets and ties.

While many Republicans were concerned about what the standard of proof should be for proving sexual misconduct allegations, some were swayed by a document Lebsock sent to lawmakers intended to defend himself that also included sexual details about his accusers.

As most of you have already read by now, Rep. Steve Lebsock had one last bit of treachery in store on his way out the door–as The Hill reports, Lebsock switched his party affiliation to the GOP about an hour before the vote to expel him from the legislature:

Colorado’s Republican Party on Friday asserted the party’s right to appoint a successor to Democratic state Rep. Steve Lebsock, who switched parties to become a Republican minutes before being ousted from the state legislature over sexual harassment claims.

A state party spokesman confirmed to The Hill that officials had not made a decision over whether to appoint a successor for Lebsock or let the decision be handled by the state’s governor, John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

As of this writing there are a host of unanswered questions about events yesterday. Did Lebsock’s party switch prompt Minority Leader Patrick Neville to release his caucus to vote yes on expulsion? Now that Republicans may have a plausible claim to Lebsock’s House seat, albeit via treachery, will they even want to fill it? With an election coming in November and having no impact on the majority, there are legitimate reasons why Republicans might not.

For the present, we think Rep. Matt Gray sums up the feeling among Democrats:

Whatever the political fallout may be from yesterday’s drama at the Capitol, the most important outcome is that Rep. Lebsock’s multiple victims have received something like justice after a truly disgraceful period in the General Assembly’s history. Lebsock’s serial harassment of women at the Capitol was reason enough to expel him, but it was Lebsock’s retaliation against his victims by trying to publicly assassinate their character that escalated his conduct from harassment to straight-up villainy.

After Lebsock’s unexpected but welcome ouster by an overwhelming bipartisan consensus, Monday will be both literally and figuratively a new day at the Capitol. Women who have suffered under a culture of harassment and denigration for years have struck back, and Lebsock’s ouster from the House has thrown the GOP-controlled Senate’s wrist-slapping, stonewalling, and diversion in response to the multiple credible allegations against Republican Senators into the harshest of relief.

But we’ll talk about that on Monday. For today, just be proud that what happened yesterday is possible.

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Live Thread: Steve Lebsock Expelled from Legislature

UPDATE #8: Steve Lebsock is expelled from the legislature by a vote of 52-9 (4 members excused).


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UPDATE #7: The moment of truth approaches:

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UPDATE #6: Getting close: Rep. Lois Landgraf joins Republicans voting to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock.

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UPDATE #5: Rep. Cole Wist (R) will vote to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock.

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UPDATE #4: Stunning drama on the floor of the Colorado House moments ago:

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UPDATE #3: GOP Rep. Larry Liston (R) becomes the first Republican to announce he will vote to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock. Liston says he was a “NO” vote when he arrived at the Capitol this morning, but has changed his mind after hearing discussion today.

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UPDATE #2: Denver Post:

Assistant Minority Leader Cole Wist suggested a potential path for Republicans to vote to expel, despite their shared concerns over the investigation.

“There is a correct way to fight back, and an incorrect way to fight back,” said Wist, R-Centennial, after he read aloud from the state harassment policy’s prohibition on retaliating against accusers. By distributing a dossier of accusations against the women, Lebsock’s handling of the situation, he said, was “demeaning.”

“Rep. Faith Winter, I believe you,” Wist said. “To the victims that have filed complaints, I believe you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you standing up for yourselves. Than you for standing up for your dignity.”

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UPDATE: Denver7:

House Majority Leader KC Becker, who introduced the measure to expel Lebsock, started the hearing off by saying the Legislature would be “letting down everyone in Colorado who could lose their job for a lesser offense.”

Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, who was one of Lebsock’s alleged victims and who was allegedly propositioned by Lebsock at a party after the 2016 legislative session, started the hearing with an emotional speech saying that the evidence against Lebsock was overwhelming and that he’d retaliated against her and the other women who had come forward.

“Today is not just about me. This is about at least 10 other people. Ten others spoke to a reporter, 5 others filed complaints, 3 went on record with the media, plus the several other women that I have talked to that were harassed by this individual who were too scared to come forward,” Winter said. “Ten others that have felt their hearts race, felt intimidated and have felt bullied by this individual. Ten others that their place of work was changed forever. Today is not about sex; it is about power. Sexual harassment is about power and the power that this individual wielded over others.”

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Follow along with us as the first debate over expulsion of a sitting Colorado legislator in 103 years goes on in the Colorado House this morning:

We’ll update as developments warrant. Already two Democrats considered on the fence on the expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock have announced they are yes votes, while Rep. Faith Winter’s powerful statement brought the entire House gallery silently to their feet.

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BREAKING: GOP Attempts To Derail Sexual Harassment Investigations

UPDATE 3:45PM: After a long day of debate and caucus meetings by both Republicans and Democrats, House Speaker Crisanta Duran told reporters a short while ago that the vote to expel Rep. Steve Lebsock from the Colorado House will take place tomorrow. 44 votes are required for the expulsion resolution to succeed, and by most reports the whip count for Democrats is either unanimous or close to it with the obvious exception of Rep. Lebsock.

With House Democrats ready to vote to expel Lebsock, it is House Republicans who are are now in the position of either supporting victims of harassment, or a lawmaker who has been found in an outside investigation to have more likely than not committed all of the harassment that has been alleged. Needless to say political considerations like how this may affect Republican lawmakers down the road are at work, but there is a transcendent moral imperative to act that could leave Republicans in a very bad place depending on what they decide to do tomorrow.

All we can say is, everyone is watching.

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UPDATE #5: Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman:

“The legislature’s decision to take disciplinary action and whether or not allegations merit a criminal investigation are separate questions. To suggest otherwise is an attempt to delay and distract from what should be a straightforward process informed by the findings of experienced, objective workplace investigators.

The public rightly expects elected officials to do more than make it through the workday without committing a crime. The potential for a criminal investigation does not remove our obligation to create a work environment free from all forms of harassment.”

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GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham.

UPDATE #4: Statement from the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault:

The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault applauds the efforts of House Leadership to balance the need for a fundamentally fair process with the need to exercise one of the state’s core principles, accountability. Therefore, we call on the House to vote yes on HR18-1005 to expel Representative Steve Lebsock from the Colorado General Assembly, and we call on the Senate to hold accountable those in their chamber who have been found to have credible complaints against them, and restore our state Capitol as a safe and welcoming place.

As investigations have unfolded, we have heard countless survivors express that the state capitol building no longer feels like a safe place to participate in civic engagement of any kind whether that be testifying in committee, meeting with their elected officials privately behind closed doors, or simply getting onto the buildings elevators with no ability to control who they might have to share that elevator with. Survivors have described the Statehouse as a hostile environment after months of investigations have produced little to no consequences for cases of sexual misconduct that resulted in findings of responsibility. For any survivor who has reported sexual victimization, it is imperative that disclosures be taken seriously and that those who have caused harm be held accountable. Failure to acknowledge and address sexual harassment conveys both the message that the behavior is acceptable and that reporting harassment does nothing to effectively end it.

When elected officials in positions of power commit sexual harassment, this affects not only the survivor but also the entire community and state. The State Capitol is a workplace and, in this historic moment, all of Colorado is looking to the General Assembly to set a tone and standard for accountability in the workplace. The cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of senior leaders to create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated. The process that has been set in place by the General Assembly itself to investigate complaints has been followed and it is now the responsibility of the General Assembly to act on the findings by the investigators.

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UPDATE #3: Denver7 reports as everyone tries to make sense of today’s bizarre GOP-engineered scrambling of the process of investigating sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly:

McCann’s office said it had not received the request from Grantham as of 11:30 a.m., though Grantham said his office had sent the request over.

Colorado has two criminal statutes that could be used in such a prosecution, but sexual harassment is not a criminal offense.

Prosecutors would likely have to charge any lawmaker with criminal sexual assault or unlawful sexual contact, a class 1 misdemeanor in most cases and a class 4 felony if the person uses force, intimidation or a threat to make the contact. Another option would be to charge them with harassment, a class 3 misdemeanor. There is a civil statute for sexual harassment. Grantham noted in the press conference, “I’m not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one,” but said legislative counsel had been working on the issue.

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UPDATE #2: 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman points out an obvious problem with Senate President Kevin Grantham’s plan to ditch the agreed process for the higher bar of a criminal investigation–that’s not how it’s supposed to work:

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