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.

Another Brutal Fundraising Quarter for Duran in CO-1

Fundraising reports for the second quarter of 2019 are now available, so it’s time to take another look at the Democratic Primary in CO-1 (Denver) between Crisanta Duran and incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette.

The good news for Duran is that she had a better fundraising quarter than she did her first time around. The bad news is rough: Duran is still nowhere close to a six-figure fundraising quarter, and she’s spending almost as much money as she’s bringing in to her campaign.

DeGette’s $207k fundraising quarter is unimpressive, to say the least, but it is nevertheless $50k more than Duran has raised during her entire campaign. Here’s how we assessed Duran’s campaign in April after her miserable initial fundraising performance:

Momentum and money go hand-in-hand in politics. Duran has neither, and she’s now in a position where she’ll need a very strong Q2 just to remain somewhat viable heading into the dead summer of an off-year. If Duran doesn’t at least quadruple her Q1 numbers, what had looked to be an interesting race will be all but over a year before the Primary Election.

This fundraising disparity, combined with DeGette’s endorsement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus earlier this month, will make it difficult for Duran to continue to mount a real challenge in CO-1. The only real mystery left here is to see how long Duran can even stay in the race.

It ain’t over until it’s over, as the saying goes…but this is about as close as it gets.

Cory Gardner is Too Darn Busy to Condemn Racism

UPDATE: Gardner was on KOA radio this morning to talk about the BLM move to Colorado, but he couldn’t get away without being asked about Trump’s racist remarks. His answer was pretty awful:

HOST: What’s your take on that, and is it defensible to say things like that?

GARDNER: Well, I disagree with the President. I wouldn’t have sent this Tweet. I think he shouldn’t have done it, and I think we oughta be focused on things that are bringing this country together and moving this country forward…I wouldn’t have sent that Tweet. I just disagree with it.

“I wouldn’t have sent that Tweet.” Unreal.

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

The House of Representatives is preparing to hold a vote today to rebuke President Trump for his racist comments over the weekend about four Democratic Members of Congress. In the meantime, as the Washington Post reports, Trump is really digging in on his disgusting remarks:

Trump lashed out at the freshman Democrats again on Tuesday and questioned why Congress was not rebuking them instead.

“The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party,” Trump wrote on Twitter, listing several grievances about the lawmakers. “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!”

His tweets marked the third day in a row of attacks on the lawmakers — a series that began Sunday with tweets in which the president said the four Democrats should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the lawmakers were born in the United States, and the fourth is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia.

As we wrote yesterday, Colorado Republicans have been reluctant to speak out about Trump’s remarks. The Washington Post has been keeping track of Republican responses (and non-responses) to Trump’s comments; as of this morning, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) is the only member of Colorado’s congressional delegation to offer an opinion, expressing (very) mild disagreement in an interview with Fox News.

Still silent on the matter are Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez), Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs), and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). As Justin Wingerter of the Denver Post reports, Gardner has just been too darn busy to speak out about racism:

Gardner obviously does not want to talk about any of this, either because he doesn’t disagree with President Trump or because he doesn’t want Trump to think that he disagrees. Gardner’s excuse that he has been solely focused on “the BLM move” is as silly as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli repeatedly insisting that he didn’t have a response to Trump’s remarks because he hadn’t logged onto Twitter recently.

Gardner’s silence on Trump’s racism nevertheless speaks volumes, particularly considering that other endangered Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020 have still managed to find their voice.

Here’s Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa):

“Yeah I do [find Trump’s comments racist]. They’re American citizens. I personally think the GOP has a stronger platform to talk about. That’s what we should be focusing on.”

And Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine):

“I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus – especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement – but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down.”

Gardner’s refusal to discuss Trump’s comments reminds us of something that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS News after he was elevated to the top job: “I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think you can oppose the president on some issue that you fundamentally disagree with, but also work with the other party on issues you do agree with.”

Maybe now that the BLM’s move to Colorado has been announced, Gardner can manage to turn his attention to another issue…not that we’re holding our breath or anything.

Do Not Sign That Recall Petition

(Another Republican voice of reason — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Robert Kennedy once said “All of us might wish at times that we lived in more tranquil world, but we don’t.  And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity” 

As Coloradans, we have a lot of freedom.  Through our state constitution, written in 1876 and continually amended, we have created a government of, by, and for the people.  Colorado voters expect the people they send to Denver as state senators and representatives to be busy during their 120 session. Those four months are challenging but they are also filled with opportunity.

Far from what you expect out of Washington D.C.; the Colorado General Assembly is comprised of 100 of the most unique individuals that you could assemble.  Every two years brings new blood, new vision and new leadership to each chamber. Every legislator can sponsor five bills, guaranteed to have a hearing, regardless of where they are from or what party they belong to.  

The 2018 election produced 19 Democrats out of 35 seats to hold the majority in the state senate and an astounding 41 Democrats out of 65 seats in the House of Representatives.  There were several controversial bills of the legislative session, from energy policy to new gun laws. Despite heated rhetoric of the folks in the minority, at least one Republican lawmaker voted for 441 of 460 bills that passed both houses and headed to Governor Polis.  The Governor vetoed five bills, and signed the other 455.

We only have a few short months of time when elected officials can govern.  We expect senators and representatives to put aside partisanship and do what is in the best interest of the entire state, not just their districts.  Voters should protect the politicians that aren’t afraid to offer controversial topics, to expand our democracy by representing a minority or contrary opinion in those beautifully restored chambers in Denver.  Only through debate, compromise and contrition can we craft the best public policy.

Unfortunately, this April, when Colorado Republicans elected a new leadership team, they decided to go in a totally different direction.  Chairman and Congressman Ken Buck of Weld County, said during his victory speech that “we need to teach Democrats how to spell recall.” 

You would think that being in the minority would encourage Republicans to develop a new strategy that would expand their beleaguered base.  By electing Buck, Republicans have decided that after every general election they lose they can try a second time to pick up certain seats by targeting them in a recall.  

The right to recall an elected official is an important constitutional right that doesn’t exist in every state.  Elected officials that take bribes, trade their votes for money or influence, or commit other crimes while in office should be recalled.  There are emergencies that exist that require the people to remove an elected official and replace them before their term expires.

But with this power comes great responsibility: voters must judge when a recall is little more than a partisan attempt to circumvent the will of the majority and instead allow a minority of voters to replace that elected official.    In November of even numbered years, we see more voter participation and information about candidates. I trust Colorado voters to get the decision right the first time, and hope those that lost would try harder in two years, not in ten months when less than 30 percent of the voters participate in a surprise election.

Think about the cost of designing ballots and verifying signatures that the Colorado Secretary of State must do prior to an election.  Mailing every voter in a state senate district, or even statewide, is an unnecessary expense when our tax dollars could go toward so many more worthwhile projects.

Voters, please do not sign a recall petition.  Every state representative is up for election in 2020, as are 18 of the 35 state senate seats.  We have one more 120 day session as well as months of time to contemplate how this legislature and our new governor have behaved in office.  Colorado has to fund K-12 education, transportation infrastructure, healthcare, PERA and dozens of other pressing issues. Every cent spent pushing unnecessary recall elections is a wasted dollar that could be spent elsewhere in the budget.

The push to recall Governor Polis started as soon as he was sworn in.  What is the rush? Are Colorado Republicans are afraid that 2020 will reveal more losses across the state as Trump heads their ticket? Why should Democrats, or anyone, have to learn how to spell recall? Should we allow a small minority of passionate voters free reign to terrorize our elected officials?

As we move closer toward 2020, I like to think we are at a time and place where we can sit down and solve the problems we face.  I prefer to follow once more the example of Senator Robert Kennedy, who said “what we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice  toward those who still suffer within our country.”

Joshua Hursa is the former President of the Denver Metro Young Republicans and a longtime Colorado political activist.  

 

Republicans Respond to Trump’s Racist Outburst…Sort Of

UPDATE (5:30 pm): What say Colorado Republicans in Congress?

 

♦ Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma): Not a peep

♦ Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez): Nada

♦ Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley): Nothing

♦ Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs): Zilch

Please let us know if we missed a comment from one of these folks.

—–

President Trump went full racist over the weekend as part of a Twitter tirade against four Democratic congresswomen, and on Monday he doubled-down on those comments. As the Associated Press reports:

Unbowed by searing criticism, President Donald Trump on Monday emphatically defended his tweet calling on four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their “broken and crime infested” countries. Condemnation of his comments “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he declared.

Trump responded to questions at the White House after his Sunday tweet assailing the lawmakers, all of whom are U.S. citizens and three of whom were born here. He has been roundly criticized by Democrats who labeled his remarks racist and divisive. A smattering of Republicans also have objected, though most leading Republicans have been silent.

We have no doubt that the office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has been busy not returning reporter calls today, but plenty of Republicans have commented on Trump’s remarks. While world leaders have roundly condemned Trump’s attacks, most Republicans who are speaking out are…not. As Aaron Blake writes for the Washington Post:

After spending much of the past 24 hours silently pretending that President Trump didn’t say what he just said, GOP reactions to Trump telling nonwhite congresswomen to return to the countries they came from are starting to roll in.

And it’s clear they have no good answers…

…Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) also tried to pretend that Trump hadn’t said what he said. Harris said that Trump’s tweets were “clearly not racist” and that “he could have meant go back to the district they came from — to the neighborhood they came from.” Trump’s tweet clearly references the “countries” these members came from before telling them to “go back.” There is no ambiguity on that count.

The first White House aide to weigh in at length was Marc Short, who serves as Vice President Pence’s chief of staff. He — rather remarkably — suggested Monday that Trump can’t be racist because he appointed a Chinese American transportation secretary, Elaine Chao. And that’s not even oversimplifying Short’s response.

That’s right — the Chief of Staff for Vice President Marc Short says President Trump can’t possibly be racist because Elaine Chao serves as his Transportation Secretary. As Colorado Pols readers understand, you can’t be racist if you went to a wedding in China, and this fits along those lines.

And then there’s South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who barfed out this response on “Fox and Friends”:

“We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — Border Patrol agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

Ken Cuccinelli (right)

This morning, Alisyn Camerota of CNN repeatedly asked Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to comment on Trump’s tirade. Cuccinelli basically just shrugged when Camerota asked if Trump’s comments were racist, repeatedly insisting that he hadn’t been on Twitter in the last 24 hours as some sort of defense in his favor:

CAMEROTA: Just the concept of the President of the United States telling duly elected Congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from — the countries they came from — these are U.S. citizens. So, you don’t find that racist?

CUCCINELLI: No.

CAMEROTA: So how do you explain it?

CUCCINELLI: I don’t. You’re going to have to ask the President about that.

It wasn’t until later in the day that a few prominent Republicans started actually speaking out against Trump’s comments, as Politico reports:

“Instead of sharing how the Democratic Party’s far-left, pro-socialist policies… are wrong for the future of our nation, the President interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican senator. “No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further.”…

…Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate up for re-election, said she disagrees “strongly” with House progressives on policy as well as their “anti-Semitic rhetoric” but urged Trump to take down his “way over the line” tweet.

“President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from. Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), emphasizing that he disagreed with the Democrats on “virtually every policy issue.” But he said those arguments should be defeated “on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”

We’ll update this post as if we hear any response from prominent Colorado Republicans.

 

Pettersen Recall Gets Recalled After 3 Days

We noted over the weekend that efforts to recall State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) were off to a bit of a rough start, with the first petition-gathering event taking place at a location that isn’t even within the boundaries of SD-22. As Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post, the entire Pettersen recall effort is being retooled while the group tries to figure out what they are supposed to be mad about:

We don’t yet know the details of why Republicans are attempting a do-over on the Pettersen recall petition, though we can speculate a couple of potential reasons. Perhaps the group decided that Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi was not the ideal figurehead for the effort. It’s also possible that the group needs to get its hands on a more accurate map of the Lakewood Senate district.

Or perhaps the Recall Pettersen team realized that they made a pretty big mistake in their homework. The recall petition targeting Sen. Pettersen included an incorrect complaint about an alleged vote on HB-1312 (School Immunization Requirements), stating that Pettersen should be recalled in part “because she voted for the passage of” HB-1312.

Trying to increase vaccination rates among Colorado children was a hot topic at the State Capitol for much of the 2019 session, and HB-1312 was ultimately killed before it could come to a vote in the State Senate. Since Pettersen was not on any of the committees that heard earlier versions of the bill, she never cast a vote on HB-1312 one way or the other.

None of the various recall attempts underway in Colorado make any real sense from a practical perspective. Pettersen was elected in November 2018 by a nearly 17-point margin, which does not suggest an undercurrent of disagreement among voters. The feuding groups trying to recall Gov. Jared Polis are likewise ignoring the fact that he defeated Republican Walker Stapleton by 11 points last fall.

The Pettersen recall malfunction is yet another entry in a growing list of blunders from a handful of Republicans activists and consultants who are trying to figure out a way to get around the fact that Colorado voters elected a bunch of Democrats in 2018. We called these efforts “half-baked” in a previous post, but even that might have been a significant overestimation on our part.

Republican Legislators Skeptical of Latest Recall Attempts

As news of recalls targeting a pair of Democratic state senators circulated through the Western Conservative Summit, two of their Republican colleagues offered their thoughts in response. Both expressed some skepticism at these latest attempts to replace legislators who were elected less than a year ago.

State Sen. Bob Rankin

State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale)

State Sen. Bob Rankin (R – Carbondale) was appointed to his Senate seat earlier this year, but was first elected to the Colorado legislature in 2012. He compared these new recall petitions of Sens. Brittany Petersen (D-Lakewood) and Pete Lee (D- Colorado Springs) to the 2013 recalls of Sen. Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse:

“You know, it didn’t work out too well that last time we did it [in 2013]. We recalled two of them and then our guys both lost in the next election. It’s a kind of way to publicly protest, but I don’t think it an effective way to choose legislators. We’ve got some tough elections coming up. 

State Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta)

Another Western Slope legislator, Rep. Matt Soper (R -Delta) also commented on the recalls. Soper is a freshman legislator first elected to office last fall, but noted he’s been working in politics for nearly two decades.

Since I don’t live in either of their districts it really doesn’t matter, but if I did as a colleague -someone who has to work with them- I wouldn’t sign a recall- just as a blanket policy. I think the recall is a tool. I might not push it myself, but I think if you live in the district and you really want to recall you should go ahead and sign it. I’d say 95 of the legislators (there are maybe five who are really partisan), think about representing their district first with every vote. But I think for all these people [recall targets Galindo, Sullivan, and now Lee & Pettersen], the voters pretty much knew what they were getting.

The group Resist Polis PAC, which is also trying to recall Governor Jared Polis, is backing both recalls. They now have 60 days to collect 18,376 valid signatures in Pettersen’s district and 11,304 signatures in Lee’s district. If successful, special elections would then be scheduled. Pettersen and Lee each won their 2018 elections by approximately 20% margins.

Will NPV Be The Real Republican Revenge Vote?


As the Colorado Sun’s John Frank reports, organizers of a ballot initiative to overturn a law passed by the Colorado General Assembly this year aligning the state with a National Popular Vote Compact to ensure the winner of the national popular vote wins the presidency say they have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot:

The deadline to submit petitions is Aug. 1, and Coloradans Vote, the issue committee challenging the new law, reports it has authenticated more than 150,000 voter signatures using state records. More signatures are still pouring into the office. To make the ballot, the group needs verified signatures from 124,632 registered voters…

The group expects to collect about 200,000 signatures, enough to provide a cushion to account for the upwards of 30% that may fail validation. The secretary of state’s office will certify the signatures once submitted.

If certified for the ballot, it would be the first time since The Great Depression that Colorado voters would decide whether to repeal or reaffirm a law approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. In 1932, voters repealed a law that increased the tax on oleomargarine.

Because the National Popular Vote Compact that Colorado joined with this legislation does not yet have enough states on board to trigger its provisions, halting its implementation while voters decide has no real effect. It’s worth noting also that Nevada and Maine recently killed their own bills to join the NPV states, and it’s unlikely that enough states would join in time to affect the next election.

With that said, the arguments in support of the Electoral College status quo are compelling to many small state voters not otherwise ideologically inclined, and Republicans broadly see the bill as direct political retaliation for Trump winning the presidency–this despite the fact that Colorado conservatives have themselves argued against the Electoral College in the past.

Politically, we have always been clear that National Popular Vote repeal was the more effective vehicle for Republicans to organize around than recalls either of Gov. Jared Polis or individual lawmakers. The Polis recall petition drive is certain to fail, and legislative recalls don’t work for organizing voters statewide ahead of a general election. Of all the options Republicans have to strike back against Democrats after their historic 2018 losses, a campaign to repeal NPV could be the one that pays the most long-term dividends.

When all is said and done, will this be the one “overreach” of 2019 Republicans are able to undo?

We have to concede that’s a real possibility.

Lee, Pettersen Prepare To Fight Half-Baked Recalls


UPDATE: Here’s some evidence that the recall campaign against Sen. Brittany Pettersen is not off to what you’d call a well-organized start:

Sure enough, Green Mountain Presbyterian Church on West Alameda is way outside SD-22, smack dab in the heart of Sen. Jessie Danielson’s district to the west.

Forward to victory, boys.

—–

Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Pete Lee (D).

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports, just before close of business yesterday recall petitions were approved for circulation against two Democratic state senators who just won elections in 2018 by wide margins: Sen. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, and Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.

Both won their seats by wide margins in the November 2018 general elections. Pettersen took her seat with 58% of the vote while Lee secured 62%.

“I’m proud of my record. This is an unfortunate abuse of power,” Pettersen told The Colorado Sun on Friday afternoon. “This is what (regular) elections are for when you disagree with somebody. I look forward to talking about why I ran for office and the work that I’ve done in the time that I’ve been elected and what I did last session.”

Pettersen added that she thinks the recall’s backers are “completely out of touch with voters in the community” and that “they keep messing with the wrong people.” She and her supporters have been preparing for weeks for a potential recall effort and have already been rallying support in the district.

Lee echoed Pettersen’s sentiment, saying “I’m really disappointed that people would undermine and disrespect the voters and the democratic process by attempting to recall someone for the votes that they took.”

Both lawmakers are being targeted for the same arithmetic reason: although recall elections are intended to be reserved for cases of official misconduct and crime, the signature requirement to initiate a recall election of a state lawmaker is low enough to make the job relatively straightforward for a well-funded petition gathering drive. It’s only necessary to gather 11,300 signatures to get a recall on the ballot in Sen. Lee’s urban Colorado Springs SD-11, and just under 18,400 in Pettersen’s suburban SD-22. Where the signature requirement to recall a statewide officeholder is dauntingly high, recalls of individual lawmakers have been celebrated by Colorado Republicans as giving them voting leverage they no longer can count on in a general election.

With that said, there’s real question about whether or not these recalls have any actual support among either Republican insiders or rank-and-file members. There’s no way to know for sure how a signature campaign is going until the campaign turns in signatures or they concede failure ahead of the deadline like in the case of the campaign against Rep. Tom Sullivan. But at this point we haven’t seen anything like a Republican wave of support for these two latest recalls. In fact,

If local Republican operative Tyler Sandberg of EIS Solutions is to be believed, these recalls are not moving forward with the support of the Republican donor/consultant class. It is possible that the months of infighting, nasty press, and strategic blunders like the Sullivan fiasco really have persuaded smart Republicans to give up on recalls and focus on the rapidly approaching 2020 elections.

But until anyone knows for sure whether this is a bonafide or silly-season threat to either lawmaker, Democrats are obliged to not just take the threat seriously but to capitalize to maximum advantage on the organizing opportunity this presents for Democrats in their districts. In the next 60 days we expect both will walk their districts like it’s the fall before a general election–which is the best possible defense against both the signature drive and, should it come to it, a recall election.

As for Republicans who want to pursue recalls instead of focusing on the next regular election, they’re going to keep doing it until they lose enough times to realize it won’t work. The only thing you can be sure of is Democrats will not be complacent to the threat ever again–or until the law is changed to preserve recalls for offenses that deserve the ultimate political punishment.

Obama Did Not Remove Citizenship Question from Census


Right wing nutter Charlie Kirk is speaking today at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he will no doubt be trying to stoke the fires of a rapidly-spreading lie in social media circles that goes something like this: It was President Obama who ended the practice of asking a citizenship question on the U.S. Census.

This nonsense is being pushed all across the country today in the wake of President Trump’s failure to get a citizenship question included on the 2020 U.S. Census. Since Trump doesn’t ever actually fail to do anything, Rush Limbaugh made a point to blame Obama during an appearance on Fox News this morning.

As Philip Bump debunks for the Washington Post:

For decades, the census conducted every 10 years included a question about the naturalization status — that is, citizenship — of immigrants. The last time it did so was in 1950…

…In other words, not only did Obama not remove the question from the census, over the past 10 years it has been asked more frequently than it was before his two terms in office.

Here’s more from National Public Radio in a story published in March:

The last time a citizenship question was among the census questions for all U.S. households was in 1950. That form asked where each person was born and in a follow-up question asked, “If foreign born — Is he naturalized?”

In 1960, there was no such question about citizenship, only about place of birth.

Barack Obama wasn’t even born until 1961, so the only way he could be responsible for removing the citizenship question from the U.S. Census is if he had somehow traveled back in time to infiltrate the Department of Commerce…

And before your right wing office buddy asks, we’re fairly confident that Obama did not figure out time travel.

Get More Smarter on Friday (July 12)


According to President Trump, movie star and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has died…in a metaphorical television ratings sort of way. It’s time to “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

 Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned his cabinet post after a failed attempt to deflect blame over his handling of a 2008 plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump told reporters Friday morning that Acosta had decided to step aside. He called Acosta a “great labor secretary, not a good one” and a “tremendous talent.”

“This was him, not me,” Trump said of the resignation decision, as Acosta stood by his side. “I said to Alex, you don’t have to do this.”

Acosta, the only Hispanic in Trump’s Cabinet, said he had submitted his resignation to take effect in a week.

“I don’t think it’s right or fair to have this administration’s labor department have Epstein be the focus instead of the incredible economy we have today,” Acosta said. “It would be selfish for me to stay in the position and continue talking about a case that is 12 years old.”

Deputy Secretary of Labor Pat Pizzella will replace Acosta. Pizzella will be hitting the ground with his mouth running trying to explain this one:

If this Mariana Islands story sounds familiar, it should: This became a big issue in the 2008 U.S. Senate race for former Rep. Bob Schaffer and his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

 

► Former special counsel Robert Mueller was set to testify publicly in front on Congress next week, but his appearance may be delayed a week. As Politico reports:

Mueller’s highly-anticipated Capitol Hill testimony will be delayed one week under a tentative arrangement he reached with House Democrats, according to multiple sources briefed on the discussions.

Although it’s unclear why Mueller’s testimony was delayed until July 24, lawmakers familiar with the matter said one reason was an ongoing negotiation about how much time they would have to question the former special counsel.

The House Judiciary and Intelligence committees have been negotiating to give lawmakers more time to question the former special counsel. Under the tentative agreement, which was described to POLITICO by lawmakers briefed on the talks, the Judiciary Committee would be granted an extra hour to question Mueller.

That concern was particularly acute for the 41-member Judiciary Committee. As initially planned, each committee would have had just two hours to question Mueller, and more junior lawmakers on the Judiciary panel — including all of its freshman members — would have been shut out.

Colorado is well-represented on the House Judiciary Committee, which includes Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

 

► Freshman Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora) announced that his re-election campaign has already surpassed $1 million in contributions. As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

The Aurora attorney and Army Ranger veteran raised $430,461 for the three-month period ending June 30, according to numbers provided to Colorado Politics.

Added to the $504,317 Crow reported raising in the year’s first quarter and the roughly $90,000 he pulled in between the election and Dec. 31, that puts Crow’s fundraising total at $1,026,000.

His campaign said Crow had about $800,000 in the bank at the end of the most recent quarter.

As we noted in April, Crow’s impressive early fundraising numbers — combined with his 11-point victory over longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) last November — may very well make CO-6 a safe Democratic seat in 2020. This is remarkable considering that CO-6 had never once been held by a Democrat in its entire existence.

As Luning points out, at least one former lawmaker decided to pass on a run in CO-6:

Former state Rep. Phil Covarrubias, who lost his Adams County-based legislative seat last year in a Republican primary, told Colorado Politics in May he was “about a foot away” from declaring a run against Crow, but in June he filed to run for Adams County commissioner.

Thus far the only Republican candidate in CO-6 is Casper Stockham, who will win a Congressional election just as soon as President Trump starts delivering speeches in Spanish.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Labor Secretary Acosta Resigns; Replacement Baggage-Laden


Rep. Bob Schaffer of Colorado parasails off the Northern Mariana Islands.

Politico reports on today’s big bad Friday story for the Trump administration, the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta after new sex crime charges against billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein called Acosta’s previous involvement in the case into question:

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is stepping down from his post, just two days after he held a news conference to defend a plea deal that he brokered for wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein while serving as a U.S. attorney in Florida more than a decade ago.

President Donald Trump informed reporters Friday morning of Acosta’s departure. “This was him, not me,” said Trump as Acosta stood beside him.

Trump, who saw Acosta largely as a source of favorable monthly statistics about unemployment and job growth, called Acosta “a great Labor secretary not a good one” and “a tremendous talent. He’s a Hispanic man, he went to Harvard, a great student.” Trump indicated that he was satisfied with Acosta’s explanation for the plea deal in Wednesday’s news conference, saying, “He explained it.”

President Donald Trump has a habit of discounting the allegations against his scandal-plagued subordinates at the same moment as they’re being shown the door–a two-faced method of scandal management that does little in the end to shield the President from fallout. Acosta’s involvement in a plea deal that has been widely condemned as letting a rich and powerful figure off the hook looks bad of course, but there’s a whole culture of elitism and impunity that allowed it to happen. It includes the President’s own description of Epstein in 2002 as a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

Bob Schaffer.

With Acosta out, attention has turned now to deputy Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella, taking over from Acosta in an acting capacity. Over ten years ago, some of our more seasoned readers will remember, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer saw his 2008 campaign derailed by revelations that Schaffer had participated in a “fact-finding” junket to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to “investigate” reports of labor abuses in the territory. In fact the trips were carefully-managed luxury excursions intended to cover up labor abuses, part of a strategy by now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of the island’s garment industry and corrupt local government.

Who helped organize those trips? That would be Patrick Pizzella:

Ms. Ridenour said Mr. Abramoff believed that the ‘‘full story’’ on the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (‘‘CNMI’’) was not getting out, so he arranged ‘‘fact-finding’’ trips for employees of think tanks, Members of Congress, congressional staff, and others. She said Mr. Abramoff asked that NCPPR become a sponsor so that Members of Congress and their staffs could attend and abide by the rules. She said she had no objections because she had gone on such a trip and it had been truly educational. ‘‘As far as I knew for years, he, they went, sat in a room like I did, talked about OSHA violations, I don’t know,’’ Ms. Ridenour told Committee staff.

Patrick Pizzella, a colleague of Mr. Abramoff’s at Preston Gates, wrote to Mr. Abramoff on July 1, 1996, to explain how they planned to funnel money to NCPPR to pay expenses related to a trip to the CNMI. [Pols emphasis]

In a September 2017 letter from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights opposing Pizzella’s nomination as Deputy Labor Secretary, more elaboration on his role in the CNMI scandal:

Mr. Pizzella worked closely with Jack Abramoff to lobby for policies on the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands that essentially allowed for unchecked slave labor to be performed with the imprimatur of the “Made in the U.S.A.” label on goods and clothing. At his hearing, Mr. Pizzella repeatedly refused to offer straightforward answers to simple questions posed by Senators and provided no real assurances that he is committed to protecting the rights of workers.

Mr. Pizzella, if confirmed, would essentially be the Chief Operating Officer of the department tasked with protecting a wide range of core labor rights, including proper payment under the wage and hour laws, the civil rights of federal contract workers, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and more. Yet he has not done enough to repudiate his past record of defending companies that routinely ignored these rights, and he has not given workers adequate reason to believe that he will defend their rights in the future.

When Trump nominated Andy Puzder, the CEO of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains of fast-food restaurants to serve as Labor Secretary, the underpaid employees of his company begged for the nomination to be rescinded–which it eventually was. About the only way we can imagine to surpass that folly would be give the job to Jack Abramoff’s right-hand man for keeping the Mariana Islands a haven for cheap “Made in the U.S.A.” labor.

It’s the scandal that arguably ended Bob Schaffer’s political career. And it may not be done ending careers.

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