Wednesday Open Thread

“‘Crazy’ is a term of art; ‘Insane’ is a term of law. Remember that, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble.”

–Hunter S. Thompson

Cory Gardner Gets Koched Up For 2020

You’ll say wow every time!

The Colorado Sun’s John Frank and Jesse Paul report:

The political arm of the Koch conservative network endorsed U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Tuesday, a move designed to emphasize a renewed focus on policy but one that recalls its big-dollar role in the 2014 election.

Americans for Prosperity Action, one of the most prominent conservative groups in the state, touted the Republican lawmaker’s “straight talk” and “principled stands” expressed in his opposition to trade tariffs, assistance to states that legalized marijuana and support for permanent legal status for immigrants brought as children into the country illegally.

“While others retreated to their corners, Gardner acted. That kind of independent judgment has been the hallmark of Gardner’s Senate career, and it’s why we’re endorsing him for reelection,” wrote Jesse Mallory, an adviser to the political committee and the director of Americans for Prosperity in Colorado, in an opinion piece published in The Colorado Sun.

It’s impossible to imagine Americans For Prosperity making any move other than a full-throated endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner, so how this reflects a “renewed focus on policy” is anybody’s guess. But here’s a brief passage from Jesse Mallory’s glowing ad absurdum endorsement to convey the general tone:

Gardner embodies the philosophy espoused by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, to unite with anybody to do right…

Straight talk, principled stands and a determination to get results ought to be the hallmarks of every elected official. Coloradans can count ourselves fortunate that we have such an official in Sen. Cory Gardner, and we should enthusiastically reelect him.

Look, we get that Mallory wanted to “go big” rhetorically. But Frederick Douglass? For a politician who has spent his whole time in Washington in the undistinguished rank and file of a Republican majority, rising to “leadership” only as the Senate GOP’s lead fundraiser, that’s just laughably over the top.

But before we laugh this sophomoric brown-nosing off entirely, consider the audience of the state’s best-funded conservative advocacy group–and it’s not Democrats. Polling has consistently shown that Gardner is one of the least popular incumbent Senators among fellow Republicans, and without a strategy for shoring up Gardner’s declining base of support among the GOP base Gardner has no realistic path forward in the current political climate. It’s perilous, since Gardner also must win over unaffiliated support in a state trending strongly away from GOP control–and messages that please the GOP base repel those unaffiliated voters.

Once you realize that AFP is sending a message to Republican voters, part of what appears to be a coordinated strategy to counter solidifying conservative disdain for Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senator, the Koch network rushing to Gardner’s aid this early in the cycle makes sense.

It should not, however, be mistaken for strength.

GOP Activist Arrested For Brandishing Gun Has 2020 Statehouse Campaign Committee

(Yikes! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Kanda Calef and Michelle Malkin

UPDATE: Calef eventually returned the Colorado Times Recorder’s phone call. She informed the CTR that she does not intend to run again in 2020 and that she simply hadn’t figured out how to close out her campaign committee via the Secretary of State’s website. She had no further comment on the arrest and directed inquiries to her attorneys. 

Colorado state troopers arrested Colorado Springs GOP activist and current 4th Judicial Review Commissioner Kanda Calef, for allegedly flashing a handgun at a federal agent last week.

Calef, who lost the 2018 Republican primary to Rep. Shane Sandridge, (R-Colorado Springs), apparently intends to challenge him for that same seat next year. Calef has an active 2020 candidate committee for the same seat.

Calef did not answer a call to confirm her 2020 candidacy. Her voicemail box was full. Her committee, however, has already filed quarterly campaign finance reports for the first and second quarters of 2019.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Conrad Swanson, Calef was arrested on April 10, after brandishing a Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver at an off-duty U.S. marshal while driving on I-25.

The marshal said Calef “did not point the gun directly at him, but flashed it in a way to ensure he could see it,” the affidavit says. It did not elaborate why Calef allegedly brandished the gun. The affidavit gives this account: The responding trooper caught up with Calef about 12 miles north on the interstate. She accelerated to about 90 mph and changed lanes multiple times. –“Republican activist and former Colorado candidate accused of flashing revolver at U.S. marshal,” Conrad Swanson, Colorado Springs Gazette, June 17, 2019  


At Least He’s Not Your Attorney, DIA Action Movie Edition

Robert Corry.

CBS4 reports on a bizarre care involving longtime local Republican attorney Robert Corry, who played a disputed role in the authoring and passage of 2012’s Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana–but has proven his own worst enemy in terms of self-sabotaging craziness wrecking his attempts to join the political mainstream:

The attorney for the truck driver accused of killing four people in a fiery crash on Interstate 70 was arrested on Friday. Robert Corry, 51, faces kidnapping, vehicle theft and reckless endangerment charges after he allegedly told his ex-fiancee at Denver International Airport that he was being chased by Arabs and then caused a series of car accidents.

According to arrest paperwork, the woman had come to the airport Friday evening to pick Corry up. But Corry grabbed her and said the Arabs that were after him had a helicopter. [Pols emphasis]

He then hurried to her car. Corry didn’t have permission to drive it but he got behind the wheel and with her inside he struck several vehicles as he was leaving the DIA parking area. The car then plowed through one of the airport’s toll gates. Corry was allegedly honking the car horn and yelling at people.

The best way to describe this is what what comedian Pauly Shore used to call “snapping into your own ‘Nam.” Needless to say, losing one’s mind in this manner at a secure facility like an international airport is going to attract some negative attention!


Thurlow: Republican Party Needs to Modify Core Beliefs

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Dan Thurlow (R).

There’s no hope, of course, that Colorado Republicans will moderate their hard-line stance on guns, in the wake of the failure of pro-gun groups to find enough signatures to recall a Democratic lawmaker for supporting modest gun control laws after his son was murdered in the Aurora theater.

But I did find some hope in the form of former Colorado State Rep. Dan Thurlow, who’s been pushing fellow Republicans to change their stances on a variety of issues, instead of arguing about whether one consultant or another is to blame for one election disaster or another.

“When I was in business, the first thing you had to have was a good product, and yes, you had to have a good marketing strategy,” Thurlow told me. “But if you didn’t have a good product to begin with, you wouldn’t do very well in the marketplace. And that’s my premise about the current Republican Party in Colorado.”

“We seem to have become fixated on issues the voters have passed us by on,” Thurlow continued. “And that’s guns, and gay rights, and abortion.”

Thurlow stands out among Republicans for his willingness to specify changes to produce a better “product.”

Thurlow not only backed a red-flag bill, allowing guns to be taken from dangerous people, but he says the 2nd Amendment needs to be modified, and Republicans should alter their views on gun control.

“Our party seems to say, ‘NO! We absolutely will not move an inch on that issue!'” Thurlow has said. “And as a result [in Colorado elections], we are getting worse and worse outcomes.”


Colorado Supreme Court: TABOR Beast Can Be Slain

The “Gordian Knot.”

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, a major impediment to repealing the controversial 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) has been eliminated by a Colorado Supreme Court decision, clearing the way for what could be an epic statewide fight with enormous consequences for the state’s fiscal future:

For years the conventional wisdom has been that TABOR, which was put into the state constitution with a single vote, couldn’t be undone that way because it contained so many different pieces and parts. Colorado voters passed something called a single-subject rule after TABOR’s passage that narrowed the scope of ballot questions…

“The initiative could not be written more simply or directly,” according to the court decision. “It essentially asks voters a single question: should TABOR be repealed in full.”

A statement from the Colorado Fiscal Institute’s Carol Hedges, who filed the suit leading to today’s decision:

In answering this important question today, the Colorado Supreme Court has given voters additional options for addressing the fiscal challenges the state faces. Today’s opinion clarifies voters’ role in making changes to their state constitution. I’m thrilled that those options include a full repeal of a provision that has made Colorado an outlier on state tax policy for nearly 30 years.

This decision provides a new wrinkle in ongoing community-led conversations regarding inequities in our Constitutional tax system. Our ability to keep Colorado an awesome place to live, work, and play, starts and ends with fixing our upside-down tax code, and we now have an important new tool to fix the problem.

The passage of TABOR in 1992 resulted in sweeping changes, not just to tax policy with the requirement that revenue increases be subject to a vote but complex limitations on the ability of the state to retain revenue in good years, to grow to meet evolving responsibilities and higher costs beyond TABOR’s arbitrary formula, and restrictions on the wording and carrying out of required tax increase elections engineered to make the process unlikely to be successful. In response to concerns about TABOR’s wide-ranging effects, Colorado voters passed the “single-subject rule.” Subsequent to this rule, TABOR itself would not have qualified for the ballot–but its passage also meant that TABOR could not be repealed by a single measure either.

That is, until today’s Supreme Court Ruling resolved this conflict in a perfectly logical manner by ruling that a measure to repeal the entirety of TABOR as passed is consistent with the single-subject rule. For all of the piecemeal TABOR reforms that have been proposed over the years and generally failed due to being too confusing or nuanced to reduce to a sales pitch, there is finally a clear shot at repealing a law that has uniquely hampered the state’s ability to govern itself–and despite being sold as a “model” has not ever been replicated in any other state.

Now the task before TABOR’s critics is educational. TABOR may be a cautionary tale to other states instead of a model, but in Colorado the law is an inviolate article of faith for Republicans. As great an opportunity as this decision presents, there is also considerable risk: that another failed campaign against TABOR will only further entrench it.

In short, the Colorado Supremes have ruled that the proverbial beast can be slain with one bold stroke. That is a major development. But if you take this opportunity, you’d better be prepared to kill it.

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.

Monday Open Thread

“A true and worthy ideal frees and uplifts a people; a false ideal imprisons and lowers.”

–William Edward Burghardt Du Bois

Everybody Should Release Their Taxes, Right Cory Gardner?

The Hill reports on the latest escalating constitutional crisis in Washington, D.C., this time related to the standoff over President Donald Trump’s tax returns as the administration turns to outright defiance of the law, backed up by a highly questionable opinion from Attorney General William “The Getaway Driver” Barr:

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) hammered the Justice Department on Friday over a legal opinion it wrote backing the Treasury Department’s defiance of a House subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns.

“What is the President hiding in his tax returns? And since when does ‘shall’ mean ‘unless it displeases Trump?'” the House Intelligence Committee chairman tweeted late Friday.

“And, perhaps more importantly: What will be left of DOJ’s independence and reputation for impartial justice after Barr? The answer? Very little,” he added.

The law in this case is not ambiguous, stating that the Department of the Treasury “shall furnish” any tax return on request of congressional leadership. The law does not require any reason to be specified, but Attorney General Barr asserted in his opinion backing up the Treasury Department’s refusal to turn the documents over that there was no “legitimate legislative purpose” in the request.

There are a number of problems with this, starting with the fact that Barr doesn’t get to make that determination on behalf of Congress. It is Congress’ role to determine what a “legitimate legislative purpose is.” This is a fundamental separation of powers issue, not a point of idle debate. Another problem is that the Attorney General’s job is not to serve as the President’s personal counsel, and for the second time now after Barr’s highly criticized cushioning of the release of the Mueller report he has acted in a way that can only be interpreted as defending the president from political fallout. It’s the sort of thing that would force a resignation, but not in Trump’s White House.

GARDNER: The issue of the tax returns, I think everybody should should have the opportunity to, to release their tax returns. And that’s, uh people in the state legislature and people running for Congress. I’ve done that, others have, and I think everyone should. So I think I agree with you there. It shouldn’t just be about President Trump, it ought to be about President Obama, President Bush it ought to be about whoever is running for president, Hillary Clinton, you name it, and they should have done that. So…

That’s Senator Cory Gardner, speaking during an April 2017 telephone “town hall” in response to a question about the refusal by President Trump to release his tax returns. Just a few months after the 2016 elections, Gardner apparently saw no political risk in saying that everybody should “have the opportunity” to release their tax returns. Gardner neatly glosses over the fact that Hillary Clinton did release her tax returns during the 2016 campaign and Donald Trump did not, but the lip service he pays to doing the deed is significant.

Actually, it’s more than significant today. It’s our latest constitutional crisis! And it’s not 2017 anymore, either–both Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump are on the ballot in the next general election. With all of this in mind, it’s high time to hear from Gardner on this subject again whether he wants to talk about it or not.

Our guess is he probably won’t. So keep your running shoes handy.

Weekend Open Thread

“It is, after all, impossible in the modern world to shield everyone from nonsense and stupidity.”

–Lawrence M. Krauss

DCCC Steps Up In CD-3

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is starting to run ads targeting incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s CD-3–signaling that once again Democrats will compete for a seat they held until Tipton picked off incumbent Rep. John Salazar in the 2010 Republican wave year:

Seeing 2020 as an opportunity to pick up another seat in Congress, the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sinking money into the race to defeat incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton…

Currently, two Democrats have entered the primary race and the right to challenge Tipton. They are Mitsch Bush, a former state representative, and Durango resident Root Rutledge. Mitsch Bush eventually won the nomination in last year’s race, while Rutledge never qualified for the ballot.

Other Democratic candidates are expected to come forward, but no on else has so far. One possible contender, Senate President LeRoy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said he’s been approached about running, but wouldn’t say if he will.

Although Tipton survived in 2018 against former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, Democrats are increasingly hopeful for another wave in 2020 that could give them a shot at this and other “reach goal” districts. The possibility of Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo launching a bid is certainly interesting, and speculation has been fueled to some degree by Garcia’s spending on self-promotion following the end of this year’s session despite being term-limited. Garcia would bring a very different set of qualifications to the race, including the ability to potentially shut down the crucial Pueblo-area vote for Tipton.

Being the only GOP-held seat left in Colorado that Democrats have a realistic chance of picking up, CD-3 is where the House action is in 2020. We’ll be watching to see how Rep. Tipton handles the undivided attention.

Blockhead Republicans Prepare Another Idiotic Recall Attempt

Brittany Pettersen

State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood)

The big story in Colorado politics this week was the implosion of an asinine recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). The Sullivan recall attempt fizzled amid an onslaught of terrible press, bickering over money, and a general sense from everyone with half a brain that this was a stupid idea altogether.

Naturally, this week in politics is coming to a close with ANOTHER absolutely idiotic recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker who was easily elected to office last November. This time, Republicans aren’t trying to recall a man who lost his son in a mass shooting over his support of gun safety legislation, but they found the next-worst look for a recall effort. As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Republican Nancy Pallozzi says she will mount a recall attempt against state Sen. Brittany Petterson of Lakewood in Senate District 22.

Petterson defeated Pallozzi in a 2016 race for a state House seat by 19 percentage points. [Pols emphasis]

On a closed Facebook page Pallozzi set up for the recall effort, she announced Thursday that “[e]verything is moving along and we are hoping to have the petitions in hand by July 16th, if not sooner. We are finalizing the wording to submit to the secretary of state’s office in July.”

According to the page, the Pettersen recall effort is intended to coordinate with a recall attempt against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

You read that correctly, dear readers: The Republican candidate who lost to Pettersen in a State House race by nearly 20 points in 2016 wants to recall her then-opponent, nevermind that Pettersen was swept into a State Senate seat two years later by a 16-point margin.

Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi believes that Pettersen should be recalled because of…well, there’s probably some sort of reason in there somewhere, but Goodland’s story doesn’t mention anything specific.

WHO DO WE WANT TO RECALL? Brittany Pettersen!


Please clap, or something.

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 14)

“Father’s Day” is on Sunday, so make sure to buy some wrenches or something. 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.


► Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) have both qualified for the first round of debates for 2020 Presidential hopefuls. As Colorado Public Radio reports:

Hickenlooper and Bennet will appear either June 26 or 27 in Miami. Each night will feature 10 candidates, chosen at random, making their case why they should be the nominee to take on President Donald Trump.

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam were among the others who missed the threshold for the debate.

According to the candidate drawing that took place today, Benkenlooper will share the stage in one of the debates with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris, and former Vice President Joe Biden.


► President Trump and his supporters are furiously trying to walk back comments Trump made to ABC News earlier this week in which he said that he would accept intelligence on political opponents from foreign governments and likely would not alert the FBI to such an approach (which is very clearly a federal crime). From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Friday tried again to rectify the mess he made by saying he would likely accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign entity, going on “Fox & Friends” to clean up the comments.

Trump insisted during a meandering 50-minute interview on the network that “of course” he would alert the FBI in such a case, but only after reviewing it first, “because if you don’t look at it, you won’t know it’s bad.”…

…Remarkably, Trump also asserted on Friday that he didn’t foresee that issue arising. “I don’t think anybody would present me with anything because they know how much I love the country,” he said, despite well-documented attempts by Russian nationals to do just that during the 2016 election.

As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, no amount of spin from Trump can fix this mess:

The key to the ABC interview is that even though we now understand these full dimensions — now that we understand that this effort was a wide-ranging criminal scheme designed to harm our democracy and country — Trump has confirmed that he would happily profit from such an effort again, and wouldn’t alert law enforcement about it.

This is what Trump’s spinners are trying to make disappear when they falsely claim that Trump actually said he would report another offer of help to the FBI.

Law enforcement officials say that Trump’s statements about accepting foreign election interference have all but smashed months of work by federal agencies to prevent this very problem.

Trump’s comments also prompted Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub to issue a very direct statement on Thursday warning against candidates accepting help from foreign governments. “I would not have thought that I needed to say this,” said Weintraub.


 President Trump is pointing his stubby fingers at Iran in the wake of reports of new attacks on oil tankers. From the New York Times:

President Trump said on Friday that there was no doubt that Iran was behind the explosions that crippled two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this week and warned Tehran not to try to close the Strait of Hormuz, a major transit point for the world’s oil supplies.

“Well, Iran did do it,” the president said in a telephone interview on “Fox & Friends” in his first comments since the ships were damaged. “You know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s got essentially Iran written all over it.”

The president was referring to video footage released by the United States military that it said showed an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boat pulling alongside one of the stricken ships several hours after the first explosion and removing an unexploded limpet mine in broad daylight…

…Iran dismissed allegations of its involvement, characterizing them as American propaganda intended to provoke a conflict.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


“Benkenlooper” Makes The Cut–And Will Share The Stage

UPDATE: Here’s the complete debate lineup, via the New York Times:


Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper.

Colorado Public Radio reports:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet have both qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debates. The Democratic National Committee announced the names of the candidates that made the cut on Thursday…

An NBC News drawing Friday will divide the large field between the first and second night. Party officials have promised to weight the drawing with the intention of ensuring that top tier and lagging candidates are spread roughly evenly over the two nights.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was the most high-profile candidate left off the list. He failed to reach the party’s polling or grassroots fundraising thresholds.

Today the grouping of the candidates was announced after the drawing mentioned above–former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Sen. Michael Bennet will share the stage with the man both have set their sights on as a principal target to plink at from the right side of the primary field, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates have a higher bar to meet in terms of polling and financial support in order to qualify for the third round of debates later in September, so it’s critical they take maximum advantage of the brief amount of camera time each candidate will receive in Miami.

Obviously it’s what they both wanted, including the chance to face off against Sanders.

We’ll see what they do with it.