Editorial Boards Across Colorado Discourage Recall Fever

For several months newspaper editorial boards from every part of Colorado have been opining against the various recall efforts underway or under consideration by right-wing activists around the state. There are now more than a dozen editorials from across Colorado encouraging readers to “just say no” to signing a recall petition. Here’s a quick look at some of the most recent offerings:

The Denver Post (7/22/19)

From the Denver Post:

This summer we urge Colorado voters to decline to sign recall petitions for three elected officials.

These men and women – Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, and Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs – have done nothing nefarious, or illegal or untoward. Rather, they face recalls for their votes, or in the case of the governor his signature, on issues the petition gatherers disagree with.

These are not matters that should be decided by a special election. These are issues that should be decided by the next regular election. That’s how our Democracy works – someone is elected for a term and barring some exceedingly rare and horrendous action on the part of an elected official, they serve that term until the next election. Then voters can have their say.

Recalls are not meant to be do-over elections.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal (7/26/19)

From the Colorado Springs Business Journal:

Recall elections come with a massive price tag, and not just in terms of dollars and cents.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how much a special election — the process required under Colorado Secretary of State rules — costs on a statewide level. However, in Colorado Springs alone as recently as April, the cost of a citywide special election was estimated at a half-million dollars. It stands to reason the cost of recalling a statewide official like the governor would be exponentially higher.

“It’s far better to rein in the recalls and stop the silliness now, for the sake of good governance, for our business climate and for our state’s future.”

And that’s an untenable investment to ask of taxpayers, especially when you consider that special elections historically have low voter turnout.

Recall costs aside, the process is also disruptive to good governance. When lawmakers must constantly step lightly in order to avoid losing their jobs, what chance do they have to draft thoughtful or change-making legislation? How can we expect any level of productivity?

The Colorado Springs Independent (7/24/19)

And from the Colorado Springs Independent:

It’s a sniveling threat from some far-right interests, and it’s all because the Legislature passed and the governor signed some very progressive policies during the 2019 session.

Which leaves us with a question. At what point did we become a selfish, whiny society that has made it easier to threaten to take someone’s job away than to admit you made a mistake and change it when the opportunity arises?…

…So rather than find better candidates and prepare them for victory in 2020 and beyond, they’re whining and threatening those who are doing the job for one simple fact: They’re. Doing. Their. Jobs. When it swings back to the right, what’s to stop the far left from doing the same thing?

You get the idea. From the Pueblo Chieftain and the Greeley Tribune to the Durango Herald and the Grand Junction Sentinel, the conclusion has been the same: This recall madness is wrong and it needs to stop.

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Why “Overreach” Is The Dumbest Word In Colorado Politics

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

A new poll from Republican David Flaherty’s Magellan Strategies, who since last year’s landslide election for Democrats has been increasingly frank about the bleak future of the Colorado Republican Party given the state’s demographic and electoral trajectory, is prompting much discussion today in the local political chattering class. The poll offers quotable quotes to both sides, but ends in a conclusion you already know: Republicans are in serious trouble in this state going into next year’s election, and there’s no authentic appetite for recalling either Gov. Jared Polis or Democrats in the legislature. The Colorado Sun’s John Frank:

President Donald Trump gets low marks. Gov. Jared Polis is popular. And people lean toward thinking that the state is headed in the right direction…

“I think having President Trump at the top of the ticket is not good for any Republican running,” said Ryan Winger at Magellan Strategies, which released its poll numbers Thursday.

…In its new poll, Magellan forecasted that 36% of 2020 voters would be unaffiliated with a political party, 33% will be Democrats, 30% would be Republicans and 1% would be from other parties. So it showed a 3-point advantage to Democrats.

The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reports beneath the obligatory headline “Democrats overreached but…”

Asked if Democrats “went too far and were out of touch with everyday Coloradans,” 45% agreed. Meanwhile, 40% of voters said Democrats did not overreach.

Despite those feelings, most voters — 47% — said they’re not interested in efforts to recall Polis or state lawmakers, according to the poll conducted by Magellan Strategies, a Republican Colorado-based firm…

The survey results, released Thursday morning, mirror earlier findings: Coloradans are generally pleased with Polis, split on the direction state is going and unhappy with President Donald Trump.

And 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

Based on the 500 survey responses, 45% felt that Polis and the legislature overreached this past session, compared to 40% who did not think so…

Unaffiliated voters are the largest bloc in Colorado, and 50% of unaffiliateds support not recalling Polis, compared to 32% who would recall him. Of the Republicans surveyed, 62% said yes compared to 24% saying no. The Democrats responded 66% no and 21% yes to a Polis recall.

The survey also showed Polis had a job approval rating of 49%, 12 points higher than those who felt he was not doing a good job. [Pols emphasis]

Practically from the moment that Colorado Democrats won in a landslide in last year’s elections, Republicans have employed the word “overreach” to describe the Democratic agenda for 2019. The theory was that Colorado voters weren’t upset with local Republicans and Republican policies so much as they were lashing out against President Donald Trump–and that despite the clear mandate for Democrats won in the 2018 elections, they would “go too far” and provoke a “grassroots backlash.”

After relentlessly beating this word into the heads of reporters, the Republican base, and as far as their message penetrates into the plurality of unaffiliated voters in Colorado who decide elections, it’s not at all surprising to see the spurious notion of “overreach” echoed back in poll numbers, much like the polling on the Affordable Care Act that consistently showed voters hated “Obamacare” but loved what the law actually did. And yes, we’ll concede that 45% of respondents agreeing Democrats “overreached” is a message win for the GOP.

But it’s a hollow victory. Even if Republicans are correct that 2018 was a referendum against Trump, dislike for the sitting Republican President greatly exceeds voter concerns about Colorado Democrats “overreaching” according to these poll numbers. Democrats ran on and were elected to pass a Democratic agenda, and Polis’ enduring high favorability is proof that staying the course was the right decision in the face of over-the-top Republican obstruction this year.

In the end, Democrats keeping their promises will never be as offensive to a majority of Colorado voters as Trump’s chaotic Presidency and the Colorado Republicans who have enabled it. That’s what this poll says most clearly, and it’s not even close.

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Governing Magazine Give Polis Props

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Governing Magazine give an initial review of Governors elected in 2018 and their performance so far in office.  They rate Polis as among those who are “Thriving”, specifically citing his full-day kindergarten, gun control measures, oil and gas reforms, and health care cost reduction measures.

https://www.governing.com/topics/politics/gov-rookie-governors-elected-2018-thriving.html

Collaborating with a friendly legislature, Polis accomplished a significant portion of his agenda, including funding for full-day kindergarten, a gun control measure, a package of oil and gas reforms, and a variety of bills aimed at reducing health-care costs.

Polis has been more progressive than his predecessor, Democrat John Hickenlooper. But he hasn’t moved so far to the left as to hurt prospects for the state’s rising Democratic Party. Polis faces several recall efforts from the right, but they are considered a nuisance at most.

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Recalls: The Last Gasp of a Beaten Republican Party

GOP operative Ben Engen.

The 2018 election, which in Colorado was an unprecedented landslide in modern political history for Democrats, almost immediately resulted in threats by Colorado Republicans to initiate recall elections this year. Back in April, we were forwarded since-deleted video of a briefing by GOP political consultant Ben Engen of Constellation Strategies in which Engen very frankly lays out the real reason why Colorado Republicans should pursue recalls–because voters “aren’t as aware…of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them.” Engen admitted that Republicans can’t win the seats that would be targeted in recalls in general elections, instead telling them to rely on the “re-weighting of the electorate” afforded by an “surprise” recall election.

It took a few months, but in a must-read AP wire story today running coast-to-coast local reporter James Anderson unpacks Engen’s admissions in their full context–and in so doing severely undercuts the whole strategy:

Once reserved for targeting corrupt or inept elected officials, the recall has become part of the toolkit for Republicans seeking a do-over of election results. One GOP strategist in Colorado has put a name to it — “recall season.”

“…There’s a drop-off in turnout from presidential to midterm elections, and the same thing between midterms and off-year elections,” Engen said. “Initiators of a recall can use the timing to maximize that enthusiasm gap.”

To Democrats, that’s essentially an admission that Republicans are using the recall not as a vehicle to oust corrupt officials, but rather as an attempt to game the system and flip seats they otherwise could not win in a regular election. [Pols emphasis]

“The strategists see that a recall may be the best chance of winnowing down the electorate in such a way as to sneak through a seat,” agreed Jason Bane, a Denver-based Democratic operative. “They need something that goes under the radar for it to work.”

Here’s the thing: if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Republican only interested in politics from a team-sports perspective, Engen’s frank admission that the recalls are nothing more than an exploitation of voters’ short attention spans for political advantage isn’t a problem for you. But for regular people not already part of the daily talk radio/social media rage fest against majority Colorado Democrats who actually poll quite well, this is all they need to know to realize that recalls are a massive waste of time and money–solely for the purpose of giving angry partisans a do-over.

And that makes them much less likely to sign a recall petition.

As Anderson summarizes in today’s story, recalls are emerging as a go-to tactic in several other Western states where Republicans are in decline–like in California, where a freshman Senator was recalled in June 2018 just to deny Democrats a supermajority in that state’s legislature for a few more months. In all of these cases, recalls are being used to obstruct the clear intent of general election voters, and achieve electoral results that Republicans no longer obtain legitimately.

If you’re a Republican, and this acknowledgment that your party is in long-term decline and reliant on desperate measures to obstruct an increasingly permanent majority doesn’t trouble you, you’re not likely to be receptive to arguments that the recalls underway in Colorado constitute a gross misuse of the system. But a growing number of influential Colorado Republicans have soured on recalls after the disastrous misfire against Rep. Tom Sullivan. Editorial boards across the state are sounding off as loudly as they can. There is a scenario in which the entire recall movement simply falls apart over the next few weeks as the dubious campaigns underway die on the vine.

But whatever happens will not be a show of strength. In every way that matters, this is a story of GOP weakness.

They admit it.

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Please, Please Don’t Throw Me Into the Recall Thicket!

“Everywhere you look, people are circulating petitions to recall elected officials throughout the state. And yes, it’s all a little silly.”

The Pueblo Chieftain (July 18, 2019)

As you may have heard, there are a lot of nonsense recall campaigns being instituted by a handful of disgruntled Republicans still steaming over big election losses in 2018. Most, if not all, of these recall efforts appear doomed to fail because of disunity, disorganization, and a general lack of sense.

On Thursday, Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi received official approval to restart her recall of State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), apparently after the group realized that they were basing their complaints in part on legislation that Pettersen never even had a chance to vote on (not to mention that the group was trying to collect petition signatures well outside of Pettersen’s actual Senate district).

Newspaper editorial boards across the state have been calling out these recall efforts for months. On Thursday, the editorial board of the Pueblo Chieftain took its turn at the piñata:

If you support the brand of democracy that our country’s founders intended, then you should be worried by all this…

Absent some scandals or demonstrations of monumental incompetence, these recall efforts have to be viewed as what they really are — attempts to undo the will of the voters. The recall supporters are like those kids on the playground who always insisted on a “do-over” every time they lost a game. [Pols emphasis]

Do you want to make this summer a little less silly? Then don’t sign a frivolous recall petition.

The Chieftain makes a very succinct point in this regard by using the example of the various convoluted recall efforts targeting Gov. Jared Polis:

There’s been no indication he’s done anything illegal or improper during his first six months-plus on the job. To the contrary, he’s shown himself to be pretty much the person he advertised himself to be on the campaign trail last year. [Pols emphasis]

Are there people who disagree with some of his initiatives? Sure. Those were, in large part, the same people who voted against him last November. But guess what? Polis won that election, with the support of the majority of the state’s voters.

From The Durango Herald (April 12, 2019)

The Greeley Tribune made a similar argument in March about recall efforts targeting then-Rep. Rochelle Galindo:

The best advice we can offer recall backers is put your money into electing a better candidate in 2020. [Pols emphasis] In 2018, 22,783 people cast ballots, with more than 12,000 voting for Galindo. Republican candidate Michael Thuener received more than 10,000 votes, but still lost by 7 percentage points.

Recall elections are costly, especially considering the two-year timeline of elections for the District 50 seat. Instead, it’s fine to oppose Galindo, but let her do her job. Then if she’s not working for this community, elect a new candidate, but do it in 2020.

The Galindo recall was the first such effort of 2019…and also the first to acknowledge that its actions were strictly an attempt to re-do the November election. Back in April, former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard candidly (or accidentally) admitted that that Galindo recall effort was mostly about the fact that she was a Democrat and not because of any of her actions or votes at the State Capitol.

“Recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel (June 18, 2019)

A few months later, the Grand Junction Sentinel hit on the same points:

Some Coloradans don’t like recent legislative outcomes, so they’re interested in either changing them or punishing lawmakers for taking certain positions…

…Throughout its history, The Sentinel has taken the position that recalls are only appropriate in cases of malfeasance or incapacity. Competence is in the eye of beholder. One voter’s anger over a legislator’s record is another’s joy. There’s a huge difference between recalling someone because they are corrupt and trying to remove them from office because you disagree with their policies.

Ditto Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry from May 14:

There’s a handful of loosely related far-right extremists trying to undermine Colorado’s election system to serve their own political purposes. Among them is Joe Neville, who runs a political action committee called Values First Colorado. He’s the brother of GOP state Rep. Patrick Neville, a champion for snuffing bills like Colorado’s red flag law in favor of arming teachers with guns in schools. Joe Neville wants to recall a few Democratic state lawmakers because they voted for bills focusing on things like protecting children from sexual abuse by providing better sex ed at school, and a bill making sure local cops aren’t tools of national immigration police.

We’re not talking about extreme measures like making kids get their vaccines or making bikers wear motorcycle helmets, we’re talking about no-brainer legislation that real people in Colorado have repeatedly said they want.

These recalls are beyond Colorado crazy. This is Trump crazy.

About a month earlier, the editorial board of the Durango Herald explained how previous recall efforts merely proved that organizers were the ones who were out-of-touch with Colorado voters:

Colorado in this respect has been spooked by 2013, when two Democratic members of the state Senate were recalled, including the Senate president, after they supported gun-control measures. (Durango Rep. Mike McLachlan, another Democrat, also was targeted.) Republicans were elected in their stead, and then, in the 2014 election, they were defeated by Democrats. It was a circular exercise.

Last year, an effort to recall La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, one of two Democrats on the three-seat board, fell just short of the number of petition signatures needed. Then, in November, voters put a third Democrat on the commission.

“Oh, please don’t try to recall me.”

And here’s the editorial board of the Denver Post from April 10:

Some of the folks who are spinning this web of outrage, especially state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, should know better. His vocal support of the recall efforts of Sen. Jeff Bridges, Rep. Meg Froelich and Rep. Rochelle Galindo is painting him and the caucus he leads as political operatives rather than thoughtful lawmakers doing the work of the people at the Capitol.

Colorado Republicans aren’t really pretending that these recall efforts are anything other than an attempt to line the pockets of consultants and sidestep Colorado voters in order to sneak in a few more Republican lawmakers. As these editorials show, the folly of these recalls look the same anywhere you travel in Colorado.

We’ve thought for awhile now that the idiocy of these recall efforts is backfiring on Colorado Republicans by giving Democrats new reasons to organize and reach out to voters a year ahead of the next election. Ol’ Brer Rabbit would be mighty proud.

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Thanks, Reinsurance: Colorado Premiums to Drop By 18%

Holy premium decrease, Batman!

According to a press release today from the office of Gov. Jared Polis, healthcare premiums for individual plans in Colorado are expected to decrease for the first time in state history:

Today, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), announced that for the first time ever, Colorado health insurance companies that sell individual plans (for people who do not get their health insurance from an employer or government program) expect to reduce premiums by an average of 18.2 percent (-18.2%) over their 2019 premiums, [Pols emphasis] provided the reinsurance program is approved by the federal government. These are the health insurance plans available on the Connect for Health Insurance Exchange, the state’s health exchange made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“For the first time in the history of our state’s health exchange, premiums are dropping. Premiums in the individual market are projected to go down by 18.2 percent on average next year, and as much as 41 percent in some areas of the state, so long as the Federal government approves our bipartisan reinsurance program. Reducing health care costs for Colorado families has been a primary focus of my administration, and today we are seeing the first signs that our hard work is paying off,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. “The thousands of dollars people save can go to buying a home, saving for college or retirement, or whatever Coloradans want to do with it. I’m just thrilled to save people thousands of dollars on health care so they have more left to enjoy life. By saving families money and helping more Coloradans gain affordable, quality health care for their families, we can reduce costs across our health care system and continue our state’s strong economic growth.”

Colorado’s proposed reinsurance program — a bipartisan policy that has produced double-digit premium reductions in other states — is primarily responsible for these lower premiums. These decreases range from 10.3 percent (-10.3%) to 33.5 percent (-33.5%), all tallying to an average reduction of 18.2 percent (-18.2%) over 2019 individual premiums, across all plans, from all companies, across the state. Without the proposed reinsurance program, the companies’ requested premium changes would add up to an average increase of 0.5 percent (+0.5%). [Pols emphasis]

This is a pretty big deal, for both political and policy reasons (click here for more information on the Reinsurance Program). From a political perspective, Polis and incumbent Democrats can now go back to voters in 2020 with very real evidence to support arguments for returning a Democratic majority to the State Capitol. Being able to tell voters that you delivered on one of your major promises in 2018 is a tough message to beat.

As for the already-frayed Recall Polis groups — have fun explaining this one.

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Disunity Rages As Polis Recall Petition Drive Kicks Off

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Greeley Tribune’s Trevor Reid reports:

The Official Recall group said that the Dismiss group’s “premature” filing suggests malicious intent, adding the Resist and Dismiss groups may attempt to hijack the Official Recall name and logo.

Asked about such attempts, Karen Murray, co-chairwoman of the Official Recall group, shared a screenshot with the Greeley Tribune showing the main image for a Facebook event, with text reading “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Facebook Page.” The event is not supported by the Official Recall group, and calls to remove the Official Recall name have gone unanswered, Murray said. That includes a July 5 post to the event page pointing out the use of the Official Recall name…

Tom Good, chairman for the Resist Polis PAC, said in an email that the Official Recall group’s “actions and decisions fit well into the losing tradition conservatives in Colorado experience due to personality-driven politics and self interests.” [Pols emphasis]

As you can see, this is starting off extremely well.

—–

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports that Sen. Cory Gardner is hedging hard on the recall of Gov. Jared Polis–which may not sit well with the Republican faithful he needs in 2020:

Polis beat his Republican opponent, former state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, by 10 points just eight months ago and a recent poll from Keating Research showed 55% of Coloradans think the state is on the right track.

Even the state’s highest-ranking Republican officeholder, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, danced around the question when asked about the Polis recall.

“You know what, we gotta focus all we can on winning in 2020; getting our congressional seats back, getting our state legislature back … ,” Gardner said at a recent Republican Party event in El Paso County. “That’s where I’m at. You may agree or disagree, but boy I think we gotta get our nuts and bolts together so that we can win.”

Pretty far from a vote of confidence.

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Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, a longshot attempt to gather an unprecedented 600,000+ voter signatures to place a recall of Gov. Jared Polis on the ballot will start its 60-day clock this week–this being the product of the Resist Polis PAC headed by local political operative Tom Good in alliance with the “Dismiss Polis” organization fronted by the daughter of far-right Rep. Kimmi Lewis:

The first petition to seek the recall of Gov. Jared Polis — submitted by the group Dismiss Polis — was turned in Monday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Secretary of State.

Monday marks six months since Gov. Jared Polis was sworn into office. It’s also the day that those who seek his recall can officially begin circulating petitions.

A second recall, targeting state Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, could be underway by the end of the week, according to a Monday Facebook post from Republican Nancy Pallozzi, who leads that effort.

The combined effort to push a petition to recall Gov. Polis along with petitions to recall specific targeted legislators has been long anticipated by Democrats. Although the Polis recall itself is extremely unlikely to succeed, the thinking is that a Polis petition will serve as an “icebreaker” with potential petition signers for the legislative recalls–since in many cases prospective signers may not even know who their state lawmakers are.

But as we reported last week, the largest of the groups working to recall Gov. Polis, the “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee,” is actively opposing the Dismiss Polis/Resist Polis petition drive. In a press release that went out earlier this morning, ORCGJP announces they will not cooperate with the Dismiss/Resist petition campaign, and urge their 40,000+ members not to sign:

The Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee (Herein after referred to as ORCGJP) is NOT associated with any other recall groups. After careful consideration and financial review of the conglomerate group Resist Polis PAC, Recall Et All [sic] and Dismiss Polis, it is clear to us that a petition filed at this time will be a failure due to lack of adequate resources and no defined strategy. This conglomerate has stated their intention to file July 10th under the Dismiss Polis Issue Committee.

Combined money in the conglomerate equal $45,882. ORCGJP on-hand contributions are $62,533. Millions of dollars, not thousands, will be required to circulate a petition of this size to recall multi-millionaire Jared Polis. When a petition drops, we expect a mass media offensive by Polis’s team. Without adequate funding or clear plan of action, Dismiss does not have the necessary infrastructure in place to conduct this recall, and while the intention may be good, we believe the recall needs to be handled with proper due diligence and the highest degree of planning to ensure the greatest chance of success.

ORCGJP believes Dismiss’s premature filing also suggests malicious intent, and though we hope that is not the case, we have evidence suggesting Resist/Dismiss may attempt to hijack our ORCGJP name and logo. We feel we must warn potential signers that ORCGJP will not file a petition until we know we can win and have a well-oiled machine ready to roll. While we wish Resist/Dismiss well and hope they are successful, we anticipate “picking up the pieces” after the likely failure of the Dismiss recall petition. While some of their members’ intentions may be in the best interest of this recall, their leaders’ actions do not reflect a desire to successfully recall Jared Polis.

Estimates of what would be necessary in terms of funding to successfully gather the over 630,000 valid Colorado registered voter signatures vary considerably dependent on input factors like the amount of volunteer vs. paid-per-signature canvassing, advertising costs, and other expenses. The absolute bare-bones lowest number we’re heard is somewhere around $1 million for a campaign assuming unprecedented grassroots mobilization and minimal overhead, with higher estimates in the $5-$15 million range utilizing for-profit consultants on the scale that would be needed.

However you arrive at your estimate of the total cost, the tiny fraction that has actually been raised so far makes hope of success for the campaign presently getting underway simply irrational. They haven’t raised enough to physically print the petition forms, let alone carry out a successful campaign to collect the signatures. Meanwhile all the other attendant overhead costs of running a campaign chip away at the amount they’ve raised. Keep in mind that the bulk of fundraising for these groups appears to have come during and immediately following the legislative session, with two intervening months now for momentum to sputter out.

What does this all mean? It means that for all their considerable optics problems, the “Official” Polis recall group is right. The campaign kicking off this week cannot succeed, and because it is doomed to fail risks doing collateral damage–not just to the drive to recall Polis but to any other recalls Republicans may be planning against state legislators. We’ll leave it to readers to decide whether the Dismiss/Resist Polis alliance is a deception being run by allies of Gov. Polis, because in the end it really doesn’t matter.

When you’re your own worst enemy, the outcome is the same.

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“Dismiss Polis” Moves Ahead, “Official” Recall Rages

We’re monitoring fresh developments in the long-discussed longshot movement(s) to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which as of next week will finally be able to open their 60-day window to collect an unprecedented 640,000+ signatures–an effort certain to fail without a massive infusion of cash, and even then in pursuit of an historically improbable objective just to reach the ballot. The slim likelihood of success has given rise to countercharges of grift and bad character between the two principal committees, both backed by considerable damning evidence–leading to a third Dismiss Polis campaign which yesterday claimed it will shortly begin circulating petitions.

A post to the smaller of the Polis recall Facebook groups, Resist Polis PAC yesterday announced the details:

A newly drafted recall petition, submitted this week by the Dismiss Polis Issue Committee to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, appears to be the solution concerned Coloradans wanting to recall Governor Jared Polis have sought for months.

Dismiss Polis is not affiliated with any previous recall efforts and will act as a neutral, third-party organization, being the solution to the necessity of only one petition circulating to recall the Governor.

Leadership from the Resist Polis PAC team has voted to circulate the petition of Dismiss Polis this summer, as it fits with our consistent message of unity across the state.

Polis recall petitions will be printed by Dismiss Polis and can be distributed to volunteer signature gatherers across Colorado by any recall organization wishing to assist in the recall efforts. Completed, notarized petition packets would then be returned to Dismiss Polis before all signatures are turned into the Secretary of State.

Our team at Resist Polis PAC encourages any other recall groups to make the right decision for Colorado and circulate the Dismiss Polis petition. Filing a second petition will cause division in a time when Coloradans need unity more than ever. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds like they’ve got their ducks in a row, right? Think again! The above post was to the Resist Polis PAC’s Facebook group, which consists of about 2,000 people. But over at the vastly larger “Official” Recall Polis Facebook group, which has over 40,000 users, alarms are being sounded by group administrators that “Dismiss Polis” is a doomed effort–and worse, even a diversion set up by Gov. Polis himself:

It’s no secret that there are three “Recall Governor Jared Polis” groups. We have ‘Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ (ORCGJP), a Political Issue Committee (PIC), ‘Resist Polis’, a Political Action Committee (PAC), and now ‘Dismiss Polis’, another PIC.

I want you to read this knowing where I stand on this issue, so I will begin by saying I am heavily involved in the ORCGJP group. I was approached by the Resist group, did some research, and figured out they were actually working for Polis, [Pols emphasis] trying to thwart the efforts of of ORCGJP, so I got in with ORCGJP. You will have to figure out this for yourself, but I have already…

We believe, due on their behaviour, that the other two groups exist only to thwart the efforts of ORCGJP… Evidenced by the fact that THE VERY PERSON who took the money from ORCGJP is the head of the Recall Group (Tom Good), and has proof of past run ins with the law including theft as well as embezzelment within a leadership position. How can one support the Recall or Dismiss groups? There are even documented admissions from the other groups, bragging about shutting down ORCGJP’s website over Memorial Day…. Does this sound like behaviour of like minded individuals, getting together on a common goal?… I think not…

Bottom line… DO NOT SIGN ANY RECALL POLIS PETITION 🇺🇸 UNLESS IT IS FROM ORCGJP 🇺🇸.

To summarize, there is a good chance that a petition to initiate a recall election against Gov. Jared Polis will be approved by the Secretary of State on or near the July 8th date they can legally begin to circulate. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of grassroots supporters of a Polis recall are being told that this petition effort is fraudulent and being warned not to sign. All of this combined with the yawning gap between even the most optimistic fundraising estimates and the expected need raises hard questions about the utility of the entire effort–questions that donors will be understandably reticent to answer in the form of a check. As for using a Polis recall petition as a segue into signing petitions against legislators? This controversy could be all it takes to make that strategy a loser.

How will it end? Most likely with a whimper. But like any temper tantrum, it has to play itself out.

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So Bad It’s Good: Watch The “Official” Polis Recall Video


Have you ever wondered to yourself while sitting in front of your home computer, “could I make a gripping political ad?” We have some bad news–without experience, preferably some professional training or (God forbid) a college education in video production, the answer is most likely no. Once in awhile somebody stumbles into a good concept Blair Witch Project style, but generally speaking the cutting room floor of political history is littered with bad, sometimes really bad, amateur video.

So it goes with the above minute of low-res mashup footage and extremely dramatic royalty free music, fresh from the struggling “Official” Polis recall campaign and bad enough that a high school student would lose points for turning it in. But lest you think this was a volunteer effort, the campaign actually lists an expenditure of several hundred dollars to a “videographer.”

That’s right–apparently they paid for this.

On the other hand, here’s something we already know about the Polis recall campaign–since anyone who possesses “political experience” either knows it’s a fool’s errand or is taking part only to siphon off the campaign’s money. Given the likelihood that all of the competing Polis recall operations will be footnotes in history by Labor Day, preserving this example of their low-budget folly for posterity was the least we could do.

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Polis Recall Descends Into Chaos

For several months now, we’ve been closely following the competing efforts working toward the possible but highly unlikely recall of Gov. Jared Polis–a campaign that would be unprecedented in size and expense, and so far hasn’t attracted even a fraction of either the financial or popular support that would be necessary for a successful outcome. That hasn’t stopped a number of local conservative political usual suspects like Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler from raking in the dough providing “services” to the campaigns. In recent weeks, however, the early split between two principal Polis recall groups further has blossomed into still another group hoping to put previous highly negative press behind them and unify the fractious groups into one cohesive effort.

Into this mess wades local reporter Sandra Fish for the Colorado Sun in a must-read story today that diligently follows up all of these confusing characters and storylines, bringing readers to the undeniable conclusion that the campaign to recall Gov. Polis is, as we’ve maintained all along in this space, a financial black hole where the “backlash” against Colorado Democrats for daring to win an election in 2018 is headed to die. There is no way that we can adequately recount the full details of this nearly 2,000 word story, so make sure you click through and read it all:

Juli-Andra Fuentes, who leads the Official Recall committee, confirmed the current situation. She said she estimates it will take at least $4.4 million, and her group won’t initiate the recall process until it has more money, enough volunteers and a candidate to replace Polis…

Some GOP political observers say the gargantuan effort to recall a governor in Colorado — especially one who spent $23 million from his own pocket to get elected — requires more financial and strategic resources than any of the groups appear able to marshal.

“They’re good people,” said Jon Caldara, a prominent Polis critic and president of the Denver-based libertarian Independence Institute, referring to those behind the recall efforts. “I don’t think anyone really believes they’re going to recall Polis.” [Pols emphasis]

Jon Caldara.

Given the fact that Caldara’s organization has directly profited from the fundraising for the “Official” Recall Polis campaign by hosting the transaction page and charging fees more than double that charged by GoFundMe, this frank admission that no one “really believes” the Polis recall will succeed is nothing short of astonishing. We noted earlier this month that the “official” campaign appears to have migrated away from Caldara’s Freedomfy site to another platform with (presumably) lower fees. Perhaps they realized Caldara’s not really there to help?

Fish reports that the campaign finance complaint we originally wrote about on June 17th has been dismissed by the Secretary of State, not terribly surprising given its amateurish literally handwritten composition. But the Sun’s own investigation confirms major problems with the recall committee’s reporting, including multiple unexplained corrections to fundraising reports with respect to Freedomfy fees in particular and in numerous cases donations appearing to lack proper itemization. Any future complaint can build on this much more credible investigation, and if not written in crayon should go over better with the Secretary of State.

Despite all of this uncertainty and the admission that they won’t be able to kick off their campaign on schedule, Fish reports the “Official” Recall Polis is warning its 41,000+ supporters to not sign on to any other petition or ally with the competing campaigns. There’s nothing stopping any of these groups from simply pulling a petition and starting their 60-day clock to collect the over 600,000 valid voter signatures required, but once a voter signs any recall petition the first petition turned in is the only one that will count.

As Sun Tzu famously observed, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” From the outset the desire of Colorado Republicans for retaliation against Democrats after their victory in the 2018 general elections at all levels has been stymied by infighting and terrible political judgment. Republicans frittered away crucial weeks when they arguably possessed momentum from the legislative session pursuing a recall against the worst possible target in Rep. Tom Sullivan, and now a longshot recall against Polis that might have at least had utility coat-tailing a couple of legislative recall petition drives is mired in division and scandal.

Bottom line: Jon Caldara is right that Gov. Polis won’t be recalled, and legislative recalls at this point are a distraction from the general election getting closer every day. If all of this doesn’t amount to a compelling argument for Colorado Republicans to give it up and start focusing on the next election where majorities are actually in play, it’s tough to know what does.

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Buck Goes Cuck? GOP Chair Tries To Shut Down Polis Recall

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

We’re working to get more information about fresh reported infighting between organizers of a highly improbable recall effort against Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Ken Buck, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. The above message from leader “Official” Recall Polis organizer Shane Donnelley is from late last week, the day after we wrote about a third Polis recall organization starting up with the goal of supplanting the two previous troubled efforts.

But as you can see, Donnelley isn’t saying Buck is merely against his Polis recall campaign. If Donnelley is to be believed, Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck doesn’t support recalling Gov. Polis at all. That distinction is important, since during Buck’s election campaign for GOP chairman he praised recalls against Democrats in general and promised the state party’s support.

What happened? First and foremost, it’s generally agreed that the state party was badly burned by the ill-fated recall campaign against Rep. Tom Sullivan, which despite a lame attempt to distance the effort from the state party vice chair who started it severely impacted both the Colorado GOP’s reputation as well as the overall enthusiasm for pushing recalls in retaliation for the 2019 legislative session. While Republicans spent a month unsuccessfully defending the Sullivan recall, the passage of time dissipated momentum the recall movement writ large may have had last May.

Again, we’re operating from limited and unconfirmed information–but if it’s true that Ken Buck is working behind the scenes to quash the recall of Gov. Polis, it’s a major development that needs to be reported. What this tells us is that the failure of the Sullivan recall was a much bigger loss than Sullivan’s HD-37 seat would have been worth to the GOP had it succeeded, having effectively tainted the whole idea of recalls in response to the 2019 session. As we said from the outset, making Sullivan the face of the GOP’s recall movement was a stupendous mistake.

So it seems that, after winning his chairmanship pushing recalls, Buck may be backing down.

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Will The Real “Recall Polis” Please Stand Up?

We’ve been following for weeks now the sordid developments inside the multiple committees who have organized ostensibly for the purpose of initiating a recall campaign against Gov. Jared Polis. Because of the extremely daunting logistics of recalling a sitting governor, especially relative to even the most generous estimates of the fundraising so far for the various committees, the odds of a successful campaign sit somewhere between miraculously slim and none.

What the Recall Polis campaign(s) do(es) represent, however, is an opportunity to raise accountability-free money from the conservative base still smarting from the landslide defeat dealt to Republicans in the 2018 elections. We’ve discussed in this space the glomming onto this campaign’s fundraising stream by local political usual suspects like the Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler. Both have been paid significant sums of donated money for “services rendered” to this longshot campaign.

The two original “Recall Polis” groups were estranged early on in the process, with Tom Good’s Resist Polis PAC having exposed some fairly eye-popping anti-Semitism on the part of leadership of the “official” Recall Polis group. Shane Donnelly’s “official” group responded via Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute by publicly scumbagging Tom Good for alleged misdeeds while working at the Independence Institute and firing one of the more blatantly anti-Semitic offenders, Judy “Israel Did 9/11” Spady.

If reading all of this helps explain why fundraising to the “official” committee seems to have stalled in the last month, it probably should. What responsible person would invest actual money into this tangled web of crackpottery and grift? The answer to that question, as we broke on Monday, is at least partly unknown–because in a finance complaint filed last week, it’s alleged that a good deal of the money raised by the “official” Recall Polis group may be unaccounted for.

Today, Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette published an important update to this ongoing story, with a new third “Dismiss Polis” committee having been filed in an apparent attempt to unite the warring factions under a common banner. This new committee is backed by the daughter of far-right GOP Rep. Kimmi Lewis., who claims to have a statewide network ready to get started on gathering a laugh-track goal of 900,000 signatures. We’ll be respectful of the Gazette’s paywall, but in addition to introducing this third legit-no-really-this-time campaign committee, Goodland also followed up on the complaint we wrote about Monday:

According to those reports, the [Official Recall Governor Jared Polis] group has spent more than $3,200 on fundraising, almost all of that to online donor platforms. Of the 75 non-itemized donations filed through the end of May, only one is identified as coming from Freedomfy. The platform’s website claims it raised more than $24,000 for the recall, but only $172 of that has been reported to the Secretary of State, and that was as a non-itemized monetary donation.

The issue committee has also spent $4,851 on consultants, with $3,000 of that going to attorney and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

In addition to unanswered questions about the multiple fundraising platforms this committee has used in just a couple of months of operations, it appears that contributions through the Independence Institute’s Freedomfy site haven’t been properly reported. Again, it’s necessary to wait for the Secretary of State’s office to do their due diligence before we say definitively that something illegal happened here–but the questions are growing quickly. And we’re certainly talking about enough money to be a big deal if much of it turns up missing.

Although this isn’t what anyone should considser a serious threat to Gov. Polis, before the end it could be the biggest political crime story in Colorado since Jon Keyser’s petition gatherer decided to start scribbling in names off the voter rolls. With that in mind, we’ll be staying tuned.

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Grift Alert: Complaint Filed Against “Official” Recall Polis Campaign

We’ve discussed at length in this space about the nascent “official” campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which has raised somewhere north of $25,000 online despite not being able to start a petition campaign due to a constitutional requirement that a sitting governor be in office for six months before being recalled. The signature requirement to initiate a recall of the governor is well in excess of 600,000, which would require an unprecedented petition drive with a presumed cost in the millions. This raises questions the feasibility of the campaign, and invites questions about how the tiny fraction of the required total raised so far is being spent.

We’ve discussed the role of local political organizations like the Independence Institute in the Polis recall campaign’s fundraising, with Jon Caldara’s Freedomfy website skimming an unusually large percentage from online donations to the campaign and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler the group’s largest expenditure so far for “legal expenses.” During the past month, the campaign’s online fundraising has apparently moved away from Caldara’s platform, but it’s evident that fundraising is slowing not exponentially growing in the manner that would be needed for this campaign to ever get off the ground.

To this climate of uncertainty and questionable objectives you can now add a finance complaint filed last week against the campaign alleging potentially thousands of dollars of unaccounted for funds–a complaint sure to make donors to this campaign feel much better:

In short, this complaint alleges that the campaign has raised funds that have not been reported, and juggled fundraising platforms to obfuscate the total amount raised. The Secretary of State’s office is now evaluating this complaint to determine whether to proceed to an investigation, but this is very much in line with the concerns we’ve been raising about this campaign for months now. Once you realize that recalling the governor is logistically so difficult that an effort dwarfing the scale of anything that has been attempted in Colorado history would be needed, it’s obvious that even if they’re hiding a percentage of the money they’ve raised this is never going to happen. Money donated to this campaign would be better used to literally light a charcoal grill.

And that’s before the grifting! Usual suspects like Caldara and Gessler got their cut, but at least there was some disclosure. If it turns out that much larger percentages of the campaign’s take have been pocketed along the way as this complaint suggests, we’re talking about a whole new level of “ScamPAC”–perhaps even a matter to be referred from the Secretary of State to a criminal prosecutor.

In the meantime, we can only say again: if you’re dumb enough to make a donation to the Official Recall Polis Campaign, please don’t spend your SSI check. It stops being funny when needy folks get scammed.

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Weld County Commish: Drill Baby Drill, Recall Polis, Same Diff

Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer.

As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports:

Weld County is letting it be known that there’s more than one way to interpret Senate Bill 181 — Colorado’s sweeping oil and gas law giving local governments appreciably more power to regulate energy extraction.

The Weld commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Monday designating the unincorporated parts of the county as a “mineral resource area of state interest.”

Previous discussion of SB 181 has focused on municipalities that want to tighten restrictions on the oil and gas industry, but commissioners Monday expressed a clear interest in making sure the industry remains a formidable force in a county that relies heavily on mineral extraction for jobs and tax revenues.

“SB 181 changed a lot of things,” said Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer during Monday’s meeting. “We are going to use the additional authority … that was given to us so that we have a fighting chance — so that the men and women in this county have a fighting chance.”

Despite the factually deficient warnings by opponents of this year’s landmark reform of oil and gas drilling regulations that Senate Bill 19-181 would “destroy the oil and gas industry in Colorado,” the reality of the new law is nothing like a ban or even major curtailment of oil and gas drilling. Although some local governments have taken action to restrict drilling within their boundaries under the new law’s “local control,” areas of the state who are friendly to the industry have the ability to remain friendly.

We wrote early in May about a resolution passed by the Weld County Board of Commissioners in support of the oil and gas industry during the heated debate over Senate Bill 19-181. Commissioners paid almost $2,000 out of petty cash for signs and bumper stickers celebrating Weld County’s love for the industry–a clear indicator that the county government would remain every bit accommodating to drillers as they were before. And now, Weld County is wasting no time using local control to declare their little slice of feedlot heaven a “drill baby drill” zone!

This move however does create a major contradiction for Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, the board of commissioners’ ideological lightning rod who supported the failed laugh-track secession ballot question in 2013 and was herself threatened with a recall attempt just last year. In today’s Greeley Tribune, the contradiction stands out rather painfully:

In a letter responding to the recall attempt last year, Kirkmeyer, the Board of Weld County Commissioners chairwoman, said “The recall of a duly elected commissioner should be reserved for serious offenses and violations of public trust — not to retaliate for policy decisions that a handful of individuals or special interests don’t like, nor used to take over county government between regular elections and four-year commissioner terms.”

Polis, she said, violated the public’s trust in supporting and signing SB 181, which proponents say will give local governments more control over oil and gas, but opponents are concerned it will greatly decrease oil and gas in the state, especially after another oil and gas regulation bill failed to pass a public vote last November.

Let’s briefly walk through the tangled web Kirkmeyer weaves. Recalls “should be reserved for serious offenses and violations of public trust,” and not to take over governments “between regular elections!” Now, Kirkmeyer tells the Tribune that in her opinion SB-181 “violated the public’s trust,” clearing a path to support a recall of Gov. Jared Polis–but did she give that quote before or after she invoked SB-181 to protect the oil and gas industry in Weld County Monday night?

Folks, the reality of this is very simple. Months of overheated rhetoric is coming apart now that the bill is law and its true effects are becoming apparent. SB-181 is not the end of oil and gas in Colorado, and it’s certainly not the end of the industry in friendly places like Weld County. Once you understand this, it becomes evident that the real problem for SB-181’s opponents is that the industry will be less able to impose its will on communities who are not slavishly loyal to the oil and gas industry like Weld County is.

And that sounds a hell of a lot more like policy–defensible at that–than a violation of public trust.

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Who Needs Jordan Cove? Not You, Colorado

As the Denver Business Journal’s Greg Avery reports, Gov. Jared Polis is pulling the state of Colorado out of a partnership initiated by former Gov. John Hickenlooper to actively pursue the export of natural gas from the Western United States to Asian export markets via an as-yet unbuilt liquefied natural gas terminal at Jordan Cove, Oregon:

With the shift to a new governor this year, the state has changed its stance after previously partnering with Utah, northwest Colorado governments and others in advocating for developing the infrastructure and export terminals to ship the region’s abundant natural gas to overseas, especially to Asia.

“We are no longer actively involved in this energy project,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, which oversees energy policy and advocacy of the state government. “The administration’s stance is one of neutrality on exports.”

…Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2017 supported the effort, and advocated for issuing a federal permit for a liquid natural gas export terminal project, known as Jordan Cove, proposed on the Oregon Coast, that could connect to pipelines carrying natural gas west from Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and fill ocean-going tankers.

To be clear, Gov. Polis isn’t announcing that the state is opposed to the Jordan Cove scheme–in fact he says that if the plan moves forward, the state will still work with the companies involved. The state of Oregon has blocked permits needed for the project to move ahead, though the fight is by no means over. But given Colorado’s policy embrace under the new governor of a 100% renewable energy powered future, actively promoting the state’s fossil fuel reserves for export abroad simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

For self-interested residents of Colorado, the question of whether to support the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and the final pipelines to connect Colorado’s gas supply to the West Coast for export to Asia is simpler than it appears. As we’ve noted with the Keystone XL pipeline and other projects to facilitate energy exports, there is simply no economic benefit for local retail energy consumers–who will pay substantially higher prices for the same natural gas once it becomes an exportable commodity. Demand for exported natural gas also means the pace of drilling expansion is no longer a function of local market needs, meaning Colorado suffers all the harm from increased drilling just so Asia can delay their own necessary fossil fuel reckoning another few years.

With so many downsides to a project to benefit a single industry that consistently overstates its importance to the state’s overall economy, especially when factors like the harm to tourism and other land uses from energy exploitation are considered, Jordan Cove is a project whose perceived usefulness to either Colorado or the global economy is the product of dated thinking. The pressing challenge of climate change and the ambitious goals Colorado has set to do our part to reduce the impact of climate change mean that leaning on natural gas as a “bridge” to a renewable energy future is a luxury the world can no longer afford.

Colorado’s new governor gets this, and policy is catching up accordingly.

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Chalk Up One For Pete Kolbenschlag

Pete Kolbenschlag.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports:

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill slapping back at so-called SLAPP suits, like one a Paonia activist says was filed against him by an energy company…

Delta County District Court Judge Steven Schultz has ruled twice in favor of Paonia resident Pete Kolbenschlag in a libel case brought by SG Interests. The company sued over comments Kolbenschlag posted on a newspaper website about SG’s settlement with the federal government over alleged illegal bidding on oil and gas leases. In his second ruling, awarding attorney fees to Kolbenschlag, Schultz specifically found that the suit was frivolous and filed to retaliate against an industry critic, something SG Interests has denied. [Pols emphasis]

However, Kolbenschlag told the House Judiciary Committee in April that the suit remains a hardship for him in terms of finances, stress and time demands because it’s under appeal.

House Bill 19-1324 gives defendants in civil cases an expedited process to request a dismissal based on free exercise of constitutional rights to free speech and participation in public debate. Pete Kolbenschlag, a longtime contributor to this blog from Paonia, was sued by energy company SG Interests over a comment he made on a web story at a local newspaper. Kolbenschlag’s comment about SG paying over $1 million in an antitrust settlement related to bid rigging was correct, but the company sued Kolbenschlag for libel because their settlement allowed them to avoid formally admitting guilt.

This disproportionate legal response to a perfectly defensible comment on a news story is a textbook example of what’s known as a SLAPP–a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” SG Interests didn’t sue Kolbenschlag expecting to win, but their vastly greater financial resources with which to wage legal warfare on a private citizen could well have the effect of said citizen deciding further participation in debate over the issue just isn’t worth it. And the story of that person’s legal harassment serves as a deterrent to others who might follow their example.

This isn’t about getting rid of libel laws. But when a frivolous allegation of libel is being used to suppress free speech and that can be straightforwardly seen from the facts at hand, there needs to be a way to shut that suppression down. Otherwise constitutional rights become subordinate to wealth, which is a very bad thing.

Thanks to Pete Kolbenschlag, the little guy (in most cases that’s you) now has a tool to short-circuit a SLAPP.

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Recall Polis Campaign Literally Grifting Welfare Checks

The campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis’ fundraising appears to have stalled out over the past few weeks. Almost a month ago on May 6, the Independence Institute’s “Freedomfy” fundraising page for the Polis recall showed $23,740 raised toward the effort. As of this writing on June 3, the page shows only $24,046 raised–less than $500 in a month, seemingly a dramatic slowdown from their early trajectory. But that might not be the whole story–if you visit the “Official Recall Polis” website, they’re now directing to a non-Freedomfy fundraising page. We’re not sure exactly when that change was made, but the new page does not publicly show donations or a cumulative total raised.

Regardless as we’ve discussed in detail, the campaign to recall Gov. Polis has such a meager chance of success that its true goal cannot be to actually get a recall question on the ballot. Unlike recalls against state lawmakers, a successful petition to force a recall election of the sitting governor would require over 600,000 valid Colorado voter signatures–many times the amount required for any statewide ballot question, and far in excess of what has ever been collected for any purpose in this state. The logistical requirements to conduct a petition drive on that scale are infeasible and at a cost that’s frankly difficult to accurately estimate.

To anyone who understands the extreme difficulty of making good on the Recall Polis campaign’s eponymous promise, it’s clear that the real purpose of the operation is the funds being raised to support it. The Independence Institute’s Freedomfy “fundraising platform” skimmed a large percentage off the top of every online donation for the $24,000 raised through that site, more than double what GoFundMe charges–and the largest recipient of the funds raised so far has been to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for legal fees. If they can’t raise the untold millions they would need to actually recall Gov. Polis, and it definitely looks at this point like they can’t, the consolation prize is the cash reaped by conservative organizations and lawyers.

That’s a comment late last week from the Official Recall Polis Facebook group, administrator Karen Murray fleecing the faithful for more donations. The comment in response promises a donation to the campaign when “my SSI arrives.” This is a reference to Supplemental Security Income, federal benefits paid to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or over 65. SSI is not Social Security, but a direct cash benefit paid from general tax revenues to elderly and disabled people who are still too poor to make ends meet.

Would you take this woman’s SSI money for a futile Recall Polis campaign?

Would you sleep well if you did?

One thing’s for sure. We can’t call this a “victimless crime” anymore.

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Colorado Makes National Headlines for Insulin Caps


As CNN reports today:

The skyrocketing prices of insulin are a nationwide issue and Colorado has become the first state to pass legislation that tackles the problem.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Wednesday that places a $100 per month cap on insulin co-pays, regardless of how much insulin a patient uses. Insurance companies will pay anything more than the $100 co-pay, according to the new law.

The law also enlists the Colorado attorney general to investigate the rising prices of insulin in the state and to make recommendations back to the legislature.

“Today we will finally declare that the days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado,” Gov. Polis said before signing the bill on Wednesday.

As CBS4 Denver notes, many Coloradans were paying as much as $900 per month for insulin medication.

 

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Even More Sicko Speculation From Recall Polis Admins

We were forwarded this exchange on one of the Facebook groups devoted to the logistically unlikely but still popular to speculate about campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis from office once he is constitutionally eligible after being in office six months. Unlike the targets of opportunity in the legislature for whom the threshold of signatures needed to recall is arguably much too low, the massive requirement to gather over 600,000 valid voters signatures to qualify a recall of Gov. Polis for the ballot makes it a silly proposition–but also a guilt-free cash cow for enterprising Republican grifters.

It also has a tendency to attract, as we saw in the aftermath of another threat of violence against area schools last month, unhinged conspiracy theorists convinced that nothing is as it seems:

That’s Bob Tocarciuc, one of the administrators of the Resist Polis PAC Recall Facebook group operated by local political operative with ties to the Independence Institute named Tom Good–who had a falling out with a larger Recall Polis group, then helped expose nasty anti-Semitic leaders of the group in local media one of whom was later ousted.

If you Google Bob Tocarciuc, which having a last name like “Tocarciuc” makes pretty straightforward, you’ll find the KKTV news story yesterday referenced in the Facebook post about a town hall in Colorado Springs Saturday featuring the very same Gov. Jared Polis–a town hall that apparently ended in a scuffle between security and a recall supporter. In this story, Bob Tocarciuc’s role as an administrator of a recall group is curiously omitted, and he’s presented as an innocent bystander:

As the governor left, one woman pulled out a scarf that said “Recall Polis.” 11 News spoke to bystanders who watched what happened next. They say the woman was dragged over to her granddaughter, who was sitting down.

“He went from zero to complete hands-on physical, you know, submission methods,” said Bob Tocarciuc, a man who helped the woman up.

Tocaciuc also happens to be a security guard, but he was not working the event, just attending as a citizen.

“I heard screaming to my left. I was approximately 8 feet away from the lady that got assaulted, I guess. It’s the only way I can describe it,” he said.

To be clear, the incident in question didn’t directly involve Gov. Polis, but a school district security guard involved in an altercation with an attendee as Polis was leaving the town hall event Saturday evening. But it’s not really accurate to say Tocarciuc was “just attending as a citizen” either, when he’s an administrator of a group supporting Gov. Polis’ recall. This also calls into question his impartiality as a witness to the incident.

But definitely, the false flag insanity in response to yesterday’s school shooting in Highlands ranch discredits Bob Tocarciuc much more. Since it seems to be a regular occurrence based on two similar local incidents in recent weeks, we’ve been trying to understand what makes some people immediately leap to the unfounded assumption that such events must be part of a grand deception tied to contemporary politics instead of the predictable and preventable tragedies they invariably turn out to be.

For today, we can only plead with our local media to stop giving these people airtime.

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Caldara, Gessler Rake In Recall Polis Cash

Here’s a look at the latest report of contributions and expenditures for the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee, as filed with the Secretary of State:

As you can see, committee has raised somewhere a little north of $20,000 so far, which is consistent with the total shown raised via the Independence Institute’s “Freedomfy” online fundraising website. As we’ve explained previously, the Independence Institute skims a 6% flat percentage cut off the top of all donations made through their platform, plus a 30 cent per-transaction fee–more than double the fees charged by GoFundMe which the campaign used before migrating to Freeedomfy. As of today, that means the $23,720 the committee has raised so far has netted $1423 in percentage fees plus $162.60 in transaction fees from 542 donors for the Independence Institute.

But looking at the expenditures from this period, Jon Caldara’s cut is just one piece of the action:

That’s right, folks! As of the latest expenditure report filed with the Secretary of State, the #1 expenditure of the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee is $3,000 to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for legal fees. We wrote last month how the co-opting of this campaign by Caldara and Gessler represented a major shift in the focus of what is universally agreed to be an extreme longshot effort due to the unprecedented requirement to gather over 600,000 valid voter signatures–from a grassroots effort, at least nominally intended to actually go through with a recall, into a campaign primarily interested in grifting money off “low-information” conservatives riled up about unified Democratic control of state government.

Caldara’s growing skim and Gessler cashing the largest check written so far…doesn’t prove us wrong.

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Full-Day Kindergarten: A Rebuttal

Former Colorado Sen. Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs regularly made headlines during his time in office in the finest blowhard tradition since upheld by such intellectual successors as Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, pistol-packing Rep. Lori Saine, and don’t even get Sen. Vicki Marble started! It was Sen. Schultheis who warned darkly back in 2009 that President Barack Obama was “flying the U.S. plane into the ground at full speed” 9/11 style, invoking the Flight 93 battle cry “Let’s Roll”–not long after he said he hoped babies would get AIDS to teach their slutty moms a lesson.

Anyway, former Sen. Schultheis has views about this year’s priority funding for full-day kindergarten, a campaign promise by Gov. Jared Polis that in the end passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. And the bipartisan full-day-K kumbaya isn’t fooling Dave Schultheis, indeed not patriots:

That’s right, moms! The fact is that you have too much “free time” already and really should be spending it at home taking care of children instead. After all they’re just going to get “indoctrinated,” you know, in kindergarten. Though apparently half-day “indoctrination” is okay? It’s not the most coherent argument but it’s clear he’s really suspicious of what they teach kids in kindergarten and wants to minimize exposure.

You’re laughing, but you probably shouldn’t. Instead, consider how much of the Republican base Schultheis speaks for. From vaccines to the unhinged misinformation that circulated freely about the sex ed bill–here’s looking at you, Anus Fisting Granny–there’s a whole Dave Schultheis wing of today’s Republican party. And although Schultheis himself is in retirement, their influence within the GOP coalition has only grown in the Trump years. It is not a stretch to suggest that the co-occurrence of people who want to recall Democrats from Gov. Polis on down over their “perverted” sex ed bill and those who agree (or at least would agree) with Dave Schultheis about the threat of “indoctrination” posed by full-day kindergarten is very high or even total.

It’s all fun and games until the fringe gathers enough signatures.

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Winners and Losers of the 2019 Colorado Legislative Session

(Let the recaps begin – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

THE WINNERS

Regular people

The Colorado State Capitol is the place where more law is made that directly impacts our daily lives than anywhere else. In 2019, the progressive majority went to work protecting college students from drowning in debt, helping Coloradans save for retirement, and tackling the problem of addiction with compassion. These are changes you’ll see and feel.


Local communities

For decades, one industry had the power to run roughshod over the local land use authority that everyone takes for granted to keep their homes, schools, and businesses safe. Thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 181, locals have more power to control where oil and gas drilling happens, and the state’s focus is on public safety over profit.


Kindergarteners (and their parents)

Gov. Jared Polis took office in January with a promise to make full-day kindergarten a reality for every public school student in our state. It took some time personally lobbying lawmakers, but in the end a bipartisan vote, helmed by education champions Rep. Barbara McLachlan and Jim Wilson, kept Polis’ top promise to the families of Colorado.


People who need healthcare

The progressive majority in the Colorado legislature took action on health care in a big way in 2019. Legislation to reduce insurance premiums by up to 20%, import pharmaceutical products from Canada at big savings, ensuring access to mental health care–the list goes on and on.


LGBTQ youth

After years of unsuccessfully trying, in 2019 the Colorado legislature finally passed a bill to outlaw the hateful practice of so-called “conversion therapy” on LGBTQ children. Legislation also passed to make the process of gender transition more dignified. Colorado is a hate state no more.


Gov. Jared Polis

Gov. Jared Polis’ first legislative session proved he’s a new kind of leader for Colorado. In addition to delivering on his promise for full-day kindergarten, Gov. Polis helped steer the landmark oil and gas drilling reform bill through the process, and played a big role in the passage of health care bills that will reduce the cost of care for everyone.


Don Coram

Sen. Don Coram of Montrose once again proved a partner across the aisle for passing important legislation that will make his constituents’ lives better. From water conservation to wildfire prevention and rural education, Sen. Coram commendably put the interests of the state above party and was part of the solution instead of the problem.


Spurlock & Sullivan

Two men with first-person experience with the tragedy of gun violence, Sheriff Tony Spurlock of Douglas County and Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora shooting, worked together to pass legislation to prevent gun violence by people suffering from mental illness in crisis–the most important gun law passed in Colorado since 2013.


The Earth

Colorado isn’t waiting for politicians in Washington to stop playing games. This year, the Colorado Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050 was passed into law, making Colorado a leader not just in America but the entire world in doing our part to clean up the damage we’ve done to Mother Earth.


Jon Caldara

He might not be able to win elections, but longtime political stuntman Jon Caldara of the right-wing Independence Institute has finally figured out a way to cash in on duping his angry followers: a fundraising platform where he takes a 6% cut plus fees of every transaction! That’s nice work if you can get it.


Actual Legislating

After four years of divided government, in which good policy ideas would go to die in a Senate kill committee, the session was a productive breakthrough. While in the past as much time was spent positioning each party for the next election as writing bills with a chance to see the governor’s signature, 2019 was the year where lawmakers could actually make laws again. While some partisans were complaining about too much, too fast, their real beef might have been with working harder.


THE LOSERS

Polluters

Look, it sucks that the state’s #1 job is not to “foster oil and gas development” instead of looking out for public health and safety. Actually, no that doesn’t suck. That’s great news for everyone except polluters! The truth is that the industry isn’t going out of business in Colorado–but regular people just might breathe easier.


Internet trolls

Democrats are coming to take your guns! Democrats want you to freeze in the dark! Insane allegations about legislation flew wildly on social media, but the reality doesn’t live up to the rumors. The new gun law is supported by over 80% of the public and even Big Oil says they’re going to survive after all. Don’t believe the hype!


Clan Neville

Much like Jon Caldara, the Neville political dynasty can’t win elections and they proved it again in 2018–but hope springs eternal as the possibility of recalls gives the Nevilles a chance to raise more money for their family political consultant business. Unfortunately, the Neville’s loser reputation precedes them–and many locals give them the side-eye.


Gun lobby

The usual suspects at the NRA and the local Rocky Mountain Gun Owners tried once again to frighten both ordinary gun owners and politicians on both sides by threatening them over the new “red flag” law to temporarily remove guns from people who are a threat to themselves or others. But it didn’t work, and now this law supported by 80% of Coloradans will save lives.


Owen Hill

Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs didn’t take his party’s defeat in the 2018 elections well, and used 2019 as basically one long temper tantrum. Besides leading the charge on misusing Senate rules to grind the process to a halt and defending the handling of the GOP’s sexual harassment fiasco, Hill actually said that Americans should be able to “buy and own a rocket launcher.” Yikes!


Anti-Gay Activists

A mostly positive legislative session turned ugly with the introduction of a bill updating Colorado’s comprehensive sex-ed laws. Opponents organized activists out of the Centennial Institute under the banner of parental rights, but were discovered within minutes of committee testimony to simply harbor prejudice against LGBTQ people. While this sort of thing is good for ginning email lists and fundraising, it further marginalized conservative groups from the mainstream.


Lori Saine

Colorado’s most embarrassing member of the House now that Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt is history struck again this year with fictional civil rights history, a fact-challenged defense of Christopher Columbus, and leading the charge to repeal Colorado gun laws after being caught with a loaded gun in a DIA security line.


“ICEholes”

If you own an electric vehicle, there are few things more irritating than finding an old-school internal combustion engine vehicle parked in an EV charging space. Thanks to House Bill 1298, “ICEholes” will face a $150 fine–literally clearing a path to making electric vehicles a viable option for more people.


Secession (again)

Every time progressives win a majority in Colorado elections, which happens most of the time these days, disaffected conservatives get much more serious than they should about a few rural counties in northeast Colorado either seceding or joining another state. It’s a fool’s errand and only makes its proponents look silly, which happened again this year.


Vicki Marble

Lori Saine’s counterpart in crazy in the Colorado Senate, GOP Sen. Vicki Marble, kept her unbroken string of dim-bulb lowlights going with threats against reporters, baseless speculation about nonexistent illegal voters, and asking of climate change, “is anything a settled science?”


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Polis Recall Leader: Brauchler has said “yes to running” for Governor

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Recall Polis PAC GOT image

With a possible recall of Governor Jared Polis still months away, two prominent Colorado Republicans have purportedly already stated their intention to run for his office should the effort succeed. Resist Polis PAC board member Kristina Finley identified District Attorney General George Brauchler and former El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn as each having “already said yes to running” in a Facebook comment. Finley named the two Republicans while responding to a question on the “Resist Polis” Facebook group,

Reached for comment, Finley said she “heard through the grapevine that Brauchler and Glenn said yes.”

George Brauchler currently serves as District Attorney for Colorado’s 18th Judicial District. He briefly ran for Governor last year, before switching to the Attorney General race, which he eventually lost to Democrat Phil Weiser.

Darryl Glenn

Darryl Glenn served two terms as a County Commissioner for El Paso County’s First District, from 2010-2018. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, losing to incumbent Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). Last year Glenn was one of several candidates to unsuccesfully challenge Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO5) in the Republican primary.

Colorado law states that a recall petition may not be circulated until the Governor has been in office for six months, hence the “Recall Is Coming 07.08.2019,” tagline on the “Game of Thrones” image posted by the recall group. On that day or any following when a petition is officially approved by the Secretary of State, a 60-day window opens, during which recall supporters must collect and submit over 631,000 valid signatures.

The Resist Polis PAC Recall group is one of two recall groups gunning for the Governor. It was launched by Tom Good, who was at one time an administrator of the other recall group, the “Official Recall Governor Jared Polis,” but is now in a dispute with its leader, Shane Donnelly.

(more…)

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Please Stop Coddling Dangerous Anti-Vaxxer Ignorance

Gov. Jared Polis (D).

The New York Times supplies the context for today’s bit of tough love:

The measles outbreak continues to spread in the United States, surpassing 700 cases this year, federal health officials said on Monday. The virus has now been found in 22 states.

More than 500 of the 704 cases recorded as of last Friday were in people who had not been vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Sixty-six people have been hospitalized.

About 400 of the cases have been found in New York City and its suburbs, mostly in Orthodox Jewish communities. That outbreak has spread to Detroit.

Los Angeles is now experiencing a fast-growing outbreak, and hundreds of university students who are thought to have been exposed and cannot prove that they have had their shots have been asked to quarantine themselves at home.

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control declared the once-pandemic childhood disease measles to be entirely eradicated in the United States, after decades of consistent vaccination of the population in childhood steadily reduced outbreaks of the disease to nil. Unfortunately, since that moment of public health success a wave of misinformation about common childhood vaccines and in particular a now-discredited claim that vaccines are responsible for the rise in diagnosed cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has eroded the rate of childhood vaccinations enough for outbreaks to resume, steadily increasing in severity to the crisis presently underway.

In Colorado, where our rate of kindergarten vaccination is an embarrassing dead last in the nation, this renewed outbreak is taking place at the same time as a debate over legislation to tighten the state’s extremely permissive regulations for childhood vaccinations. Today, parents can claim a “personal belief” exemption from vaccinating their children with no restrictions on those children attending public school. The bill being debated today would not eliminate that exemption, but would require parents to take the additional step of filing in person at a state health department office to receive it.

And as the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, that’s where Gov. Jared Polis draws the line–and it’s creating significant blue-on-blue controversy in this fraught final week of the legislative session:

The Colorado Hospital Association and other health care experts across Colorado also responded strongly Friday to comments from the governor — first reported by Colorado Public Radio — that he didn’t support the current bill, House Bill 1312, to make some vaccination exemptions more difficult for parents to get.

“On behalf of Children’s Hospital Colorado, I was disappointed to see the governor’s comments this morning,” said Jessica Cataldi, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases. “The multiple measles outbreaks across the country represent a public health crisis that must be addressed. I hope the governor will reconsider his position.”

[Rep. Kyle] Mullica’s bill would require parents to visit a state health department office and fill out a form in person the first time they request a personal or religious vaccine exemption for a child entering public school. Currently they need only provide written notice to the school district upon registration.

Early this year, Gov. Polis scuttled much stronger legislation also sponsored by Rep. Kyle Mullica that would have eliminated the personal exemption entirely. House Bill 19-1312, the current bill to make it moderately more difficult but not impossible to claim that exemption, was criticized by Polis Friday over requiring parents seeking a personal belief exemption from vaccinating their kids to apply in person with the state health department.

Like we said in February, no one can accuse Gov. Polis of being a so-called “anti-vaxxer,” meaning someone who actually believes these discredited theories about vaccine safety. Polis has had his own children vaccinated and makes clear that everyone needs to do so. There’s a world of difference between Polis’ concern about not being overly punitive in government’s approach to this public health problem versus Republicans in the state legislature who have openly supported anti-vaccine pseudoscience in their opposition to the bill. We believe that Polis means well in trying to strike a balance.

Unfortunately, the timing of this intransigence could not be worse–and after already lowering the expectations of what is signable legislation even in the midst of a nationwide measles outbreak, Polis risks energizing the side of the vaccine debate he claims and we believe he doesn’t side with. The resurgence of preventable disease attributable to ignorance and misinformation–no matter how well intentioned or sacred–is a greater threat than the inconvenience of applying in person for an exemption.

The 11% of Coloradans who don’t vaccinate their kids make more noise than the 89% who do.

But politically, siding with the 89% should be an easy choice.

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