Senate Dems Hold Together As Drilling Reform Passes

As the Denver Post reports, the 2019’s biggest legislative battle is over in the Colorado Senate:

Senate Bill 181 is one of the most hotly debated issues in front of the General Assembly this year. Wednesday’s final vote followed a day-long debate. Before the bill goes to Gov. Jared Polis for his signature, the state House, which is considered far more liberal than the Senate, must debate the bill as well…

Among the changes, the bill would make is changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to protect public health and safety. Supporters of the bill also say the bill will ensure more local control over oil and gas regulations.

Republican state Sen. John Cooke of Weld County, which has more extraction operations than any other part of the state, said the bill flies in the face of local control.

Today’s final passage of Senate Bill 19-181 in the Senate brings something of an anticlimactic end to days of intense drama, that saw Senate Republicans pull out all the stops to oppose this bill–including an attempt to stall the process by forcing a 2,000 technical bill to be read at length. That attempt was foiled by clever thinking from Senate Democrats to employ computers to read it at lightning speed, and even though Republicans successfully appealed to a district judge over that “solution” to their obstruction Democratic majority’s control of the calendar put the tactic to rest for the time being.

In the end, all 19 Democrats in the Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill, which can be regarded as a significant victory for caucus discipline in the face of formidable lobbying pressure from arguably the state’s most politically activist industry. Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg allowed amendments to the bill that, while they did not in the allow persuade any Republicans to vote for the bill, earned praise from Republican leadership that contrasted starkly with the acrimony of the last couple of weeks.

And with that the bill goes to the House, where although the debate will be no less acrimonious–as it would be with or without the Senate’s amendments–the outcome is not a close question. This major win for Democrats, on a policy issue that has vexed the state for years under control of both parties, is all but in the books.

GOP Lawmakers Have Time for Everything BUT Governing

Colorado Republicans at work.

Colorado Republicans were squawking about Democratic “overreach” long before the final ballots were counted in the 2018 election. They were warning of “secession” in mid-November. Republicans have been throwing around “recall” threats for months and pushing counties to pledge to be “sanctuaries” in the event that so-called “red flag” legislation is passed.

In response to getting walloped in the last election cycle, Republicans have focused their energies on doing whatever possible to muck things up at the state legislature. They don’t want Democracy; they want anarchy.

As the Denver Post reports, Republicans are now suing Democrats for not allowing them to do more to waste everyone’s time at the State Capitol:

Colorado state Senate Republicans have sued Leroy Garcia, the Democratic Senate president, over the use of multiple computers to read a 2,000-page bill Monday, claiming the move violated the state Constitution…

…On Monday morning, state Sen. John Cooke, a Weld County Republican, asked for a 2,000-page bill to be read at length, a request that could have taken up 60 hours to accomplish. No committee hearings or other floor work may take place during the reading, which would mean bringing work in that chamber to a halt.

However, Senate leadership used five computers simultaneously speed reading to get through the bill by 5:30 p.m. Monday.

The Post writes that the lawsuit is the latest development in “a legislative session that has been defined in part by the brinkmanship between the two parties in the statehouse’s upper chamber,” but that’s not a fair assessment of what is really taking place at the State Capitol. Republicans are doing everything they can to prevent the legislature — comprised of lawmakers duly elected by Colorado voters — from doing its job. They’ve been throwing wrenches into the process since well before the 2019 session even began.

Republicans aren’t even pretending that they aren’t trying to gum up the works wherever possible. This is a sad day in what has been a sad couple of months for a political party that seems determined to remain irrelevant when it comes to governing this state.

Vicki Marble Escalates Attacks on Kyle Clark

State Senator Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield) made quite the spectacle of herself over the weekend when she appeared to threaten 9News reporter Kyle Clark for having the audacity to inquire about an interview on the subject of her enthusiasm for another secession movement in Colorado. Marble’s thinly-veiled threats were picked up nationally by outlets like Newsweek, yet she seems in no hurry to put this problem behind her.

On Monday, Marble was a guest on the Jimmy Lakey Show on KCOL 600 AM radio, where she proceeded to trash Clark and accuse the 9News reporter/anchor of intentionally reporting false information.

You can listen to the full interview here; read on for the entire exchange, which we transcribed below. Be advised: There is a WHOLE LOT of crazy after the jump…


Why Can’t Colo Republicans Win? Bad Campaign Tactics? Or Bad on the Issues?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Republicans are standing chest-deep in blue water that crashed here in November.

They’re soaking wet, the water isn’t receding, and they’re frustrated, trying to figure out what went wrong, so they can dry out and win again in their lifetimes.

But pretty much all they’re talking about is changing their campaign tactics. More digital ads. Fewer mailers. Better mailers! More money.

GOP operative Mark Hillman, a former Colorado Treasurer, wants Republican donors to pony up big bucks like progressive groups allegedly get.

Former State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) wants fellow Republicans to stop spending money on certain failed political consultants–and instead spend their money on other failed political consultants. Former State House Speaker Frank McNulty has the same idea, but he’s likely thinking of the opposite consultants.

State GOP chair candidate Ken Buck wants to identify more Republican voters and increase turnout.

What they’re not talking about are the issues.

Aren’t Colorado Republicans going to have to change substantively to make more people like them? Specifically, to get more love from Unaffiliated voters, whose support they must have to win in Colorado?

Yes, say moderate Republicans I spoke with, on and off the record, over the past week.


Neville Family & Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Working On Recalls

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Patrick Neville and Dudley Brown talk recalls

Thursday night, House Republican leader Patrick Neville stood before a room of Rocky Mountain Gun Owner members and pledged to support their efforts to recall his colleagues, not just with a public statement, but by providing the campaign’s “infrastructure.”

Neville: I’m already getting pushback on this, but there are grassroots folks out there initiating recalls. It’s not something we asked them to do. It’s you the grassroots voter out there doing it. In 2013, the same thing happened and people in my position actually tried to prevent the grassroots from doing it. I’m not going to take that same position. I’m here to support you. We’ve actually started up a website called We will provide infrastructure for those who are actually pushing recalls. If you want to recall your legislator you can email [us]. We’ve got to do something to stand up right now.” [CTR emphasis]

The website the House Minority leader is referring to was created and paid for by Values First Colorado, the House Republicans’ 527 political committee. That entity is run by Patrick’s brother Joe Neville, who previously worked as Political Director for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO).

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organized Thursday’s event, enticing RMGO members to the Centennial Gun Club with the promise of a free hour of range time. RMGO staff broadcast the entire event on Facebook live.

Director Dudley Brown spoke largely about two topics: the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, or “red flag” measure, which would allow judges to allow the confiscation of guns from dangerous people, and “the R-word” as he called it: recalls.

Brown mentioned the two state legislators, Sen. Jeff Bridges (D-Greenwood Village) and Rep. Meg Froelich (D-Englewood) who are already named on the recall website created by Patrick Neville and his brother Joe (who also attended the briefing).


Please Stop Calling This Guy Credible, Dave Kopel Edition

A clip we were forwarded from last Friday’s episode of Colorado Inside Out:

This will destroy Weld County. It will wipe out their tax revenues and wouldn’t surprise me if they start another secession movement, uh over this because that’s it’s no longer an economically viable county, uh with what’s going to be done with it. And for their own survival, uh would be better off uh joining Northeast Colorado and uh then in Nebraska or Wyoming. [Pols emphasis]

That’s Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, calling with a straight face for Weld County to secede from Colorado in the event that Senate Bill 19-181 passes–legislation to increase local control of oil and gas development decisionmaking. We can start by fairly easily debunking the baseless claim that this legislation “would destroy Weld County,” since by definition a bill increasing local control over oil and gas drilling would give pro-energy areas of the state like Weld County the power to “drill baby drill” if they chose to. It’s not at all like, for example Amendment 74, which would have upended any sense of local control over oil and gas and every other zoning decision.

This is a nice way of saying that Dave Kopel’s statement above is completely ridiculous.

Let’s talk about that.

The Independence Institute is one of the more storied conservative advocacy groups in Colorado, a “stink tank” originally founded in the early 1980s by Tom Tancredo backed by New Right funders including the Coors family to provide an argumentative underpinning for the Republican politics that eventually reached their peak of control in this state during the 2002 elections. A combination of pseudo-intellectual white paper outreach to friendly lawmakers and political antics mostly carried out by their shock-jock longtime executive director Jon Caldara, the Independence Institute’s year-round agenda and well-paid ranks of staff have remained a force in Colorado politics even though the wins in the past decade have become few and far between.

Although Jon Caldara has willingly–some would say happily–sacrificed personal credibility to become the state’s pre-eminent conservative prankster, Kopel and the so-called “research” department of the Independence Institute are supposed to be a little more serious in their approach. That means Kopel isn’t personally out there trying to break election law or using children with disabilities as political props.

But when Kopel calls a good idea the biggest political joke of the last decade in Colorado, which dismally failed including in Weld County the last time they tried it, we feel like it’s okay to stop calling him serious.

Tuesday Open Thread

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

–Soren Kierkegaard

The Methodical Truth About SB-181

The oil and gas industry is now 0-for-2 in its primary arguments against Senate Bill 181, which would prioritize health and safety concerns in regulating oil and gas operations in Colorado. After initially claiming that the legislation was a big secret — nevermind the humongous press conference that preceded its introduction — the bill’s opponents focused their complaints on a process they claimed was too fast for proper discussion.

As we wrote last week, this “too fast” argument conveniently ignores the fact that SB-181 will be heard in 6 different legislative committees with at least 2 separate floor discussions before it can advance to the Governor’s desk. In order to put this ridiculous reasoning in the proper perspective, we took a look back at how much time lawmakers spent discussing some of the more controversial bills of the last two legislative sessions:

The State Senate has dedicated more than 16 and a half hours of testimony and debate to SB-181…and it isn’t even scheduled to be discussed on the Senate Floor until Tuesday.

In fact, SB-181 should have no trouble surpassing the amount of time dedicated to one of the most controversial bills of the last decade. The ammunition magazine ban of 2013 (HB13-1224) was discussed for a total amount of about 23 hours combined (House and Senate) before it made its way to the desk of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper. Senate Bill 181 will speed crawl past that total within the next couple of days.

What you can do to fight back this week (March 11)

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re already halfway through the 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly! As debate continues in the Colorado legislature on many important pieces of legislation, this week we’d like to focus on two especially important bills we need your help to get over the finish line:

We’re fighting to protect Colorado’s local communities and natural environment from the harmful impacts of oil and gas drilling. It’s vitally important that your lawmakers understand that this issue is why our progressive majority was elected last November. Senate Bill 19-181 will give local communities the power to protect their residents from drilling next to homes and schools, as well as reforming “forced pooling” and empowering the state government to put public health and safety first.

Click here to contact your representative and urge them to pass Senate Bill 19-181. Then stay tuned: from rallies to opportunities to testify in support of the bill, there is a lot to do to make sure we keep this promise to the voters and future generations. Thank you!

Next, join us at noon Wednesday for a rally to kick off the campaign for paid family leave in Colorado. Senate Bill 19-188, the FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program, will give every Colorado worker the ability to take time off to deal with medical emergencies without jeopardizing their economic stability. After years of division in Colorado’s legislature, 2019 is finally the year we make this important benefit a reality! We’ll rally at noon at the Colorado State Capitol and testimony in favor of the bill will get underway at 2PM. Click here to RSVP!

Bills at the Capitol are moving quickly this year, and that’s good. For the past four years, partisan divides in the legislature prevented a large number of pressing issues from being addressed. Right now progressive leaders are working through a backlog of pent-up solutions to problems that were allowed to go unsolved for too long. Be proud of the progress we’re making in Colorado this year, and thanks again for letting our representatives know you’ve got their back when they do the right thing.

Here are more great ways to fight back for the week of March 11th–don’t forget to check the RiseUp app on your smartphone for the latest:

$15 Final Vote – Denver City Council

City council will take a final vote on a proposed ordinance to raise the minimum wage for airport and other city-contracted workers to $15 an hour. Let’s turn out and help Denver workers win a living wage!

Where: Denver City and County Building, 1437 Bannock St, Denver
When: Monday, March 11 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

One Colorado Phone Bank

We would love you to join us at a phone bank to help engage our members on important events and our legislative priorities.

Where: One Colorado, 1490 Lafayette St, Ste 304, Denver
When: Tuesday, March 12 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Celebrate Sunshine Week: The First Draft with CFOIC, CSPJ, CPA and CMP

Celebrate Sunshine Week the evening of March 12 with the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, the Colorado Media Project, the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists and pick up a hot-off-the-presses copy of CFOIC’s updated, revised and much improved 2019 guide to Colorado’s sunshine laws. Mingle with journalists who will answer your questions about getting information from your government. And try your hand at CORA trivia!

Where: Wynkoop Brewing Company, 1634 18th Street, Denver
When: Tuesday, March 12 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Community Forum: Changes to Deputy Misconduct Investigations

Join the COB, Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, Together Colorado, Shorter AME Church, and others for a community forum on proposed changes being made by the Department of Safety and the Sheriff Department to sheriff deputy misconduct investigations. The intention of this forum is to provide you with information and get your feedback. We anticipate the following agenda.

Where: Shorter AME Church, 3100 Richard Allen Ct., Denver
When: Tuesday, March 12 at 6:00pm

Click here to RSVP.

Concert for Denver Right to Survive!

Come to this important concert featuring Local Legends Esmé Patterson (performing solo), Wheelchair Sports Camp, and Solo Artist Laura Goldhamer. We’ll be discussing the effects of Denver’s Urban Camping Ban! Denver Right to Survive is a community-led organization that aims to educate the public about the human rights of people experiencing homelessness.

Where: The Oriental Theater, 4335 W 44th Ave, Denver
When: Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

ACLU at the Capitol

Please join us on Wednesday, March 13 for ACLU at the Capitol, a day of advocacy and action. ACLU of Colorado has an ambitious legislative agenda this year, and we need your help to make it happen. Meet with your lawmakers and encourage them to improve our criminal justice system, pass comprehensive sex ed, and make Colorado a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees. We’ll provide breakfast in the morning and a full training on how to talk to legislators about our priority bills. Then, we’ll team up and head over to the Capitol for lobbying meetings. Afterwards, we’ll meet back for lunch and a recap of the day.

Where: First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant St, Denver
When: Wednesday, March 13 at 8:00am

Click here to RSVP.

CIRC Movement Building Training- Pueblo

Join us to defend Colorado’s immigrant families by helping us pass Virginia’s Law, a comprehensive bill aimed at keeping Colorado families together, in 2019’s legislative session. Virginia’s Law will protect immigrant domestic violence survivors from being deported by ICE and will limit ICE enforcement in public spaces, like schools and hospitals.

Where: Protegete Pueblo, 119 E Abriendo Ave, Pueblo
When: Wednesday, March 13 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Colorado Homes For All March Legislative Meeting

We will giving updates on moving legislation including the bill to overturn the ban on rent control, the Safe & Healthy homes Act, the Fair Application Cost Bill, and Virginia’s Law. We will also be talking about our political and media strategy. We will have food, childcare, and Spanish interpretation as usual. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

Where: 1609 Havana St, Aurora
When: Thursday, March 14 at 6:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Colorado Education Association March 15th Day of Action

Join us for CEA’s Day of Action on March 15th! Colorado is experiencing a teacher shortage unprecedented in the state’s history. Pay inequity, respect, and dwindling classroom resources are all to blame but one subject that often gets overlooked is the state’s current educator evaluation law, Senate bill 10-191 (SB10-191).

Where: Colorado Education Association, 1500 Grant St, Denver
When: Friday, March 15 at 8:00am

Click here to RSVP.

$15 for DIA Canvass Kickoff!

We are less than 10 weeks away from the first votes being cast in the May 7 Denver municipal election. Join us as we start going door to door asking voters to support our ballot measure and make a $15 minimum wage a reality for thousands of Denver airport workers.

Where: Mi Familia Vota, 4730 Oakland St, Aurora
When: Sunday, March 17 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos: The Peoples Wave 2019

Join us at the capitol to protect the rights and wellbeing of students, renters, and immigrants. Our lawmakers work for us, so lets make sure they are building a Colorado that puts our people first! Let’s get together Sunday, March 17th for a training on the legislative process and teach-in on priority bills affecting our communities. On Monday, March 18th we’ll head to the State Capitol to lobby our leaders to demand action on the solutions we need!

Where: 4130 Tejon St, Denver
When: Sunday, March 17 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.

Press Conference for House Bill 19-1129

One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and the Colorado Senate Democrats are hosting a press conference on HB19-1129: Ban Conversion Therapy for Minors before the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs committee hearing. Join us in support at the West Foyer on the first floor of the Capitol at 12:25 PM for a 12:30 start time.

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Monday, March 18 at 12:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Thanks again! We’ll be back next week with more ways to take action.

Colorado Senate GOP Gets Crafty, Then Gets Schooled

HAL reads faster than you.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports:

All work in the Colorado Senate has come to halt thanks to a procedural maneuver invoked by a ranking Republican on Monday morning.

No committee hearings, floor debates or votes can happen until House Bill 1172 — a 2,000-page bill revising Title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes — is read in its entirety. Most people at the Capitol estimated that would take 60 hours…

The rules also say any senator can request a bill be read in its entirety on second reading. If the statehouse staff tasked with reading it work around the clock, it’s likely to be Wednesday before they finish — potentially delaying the paid family leave hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon as well as all committee hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The GOP minority in the Colorado Senate thought they had a way to effectively gum up the works on majority Democrats today, taking advantage of the power any Senator has to order a bill read in its entirety by legislative staff when it arrives for a vote in the full chamber. The bill in question was chosen by Republicans entirely for its massive 2,000-page length, being a bill full of innocuous changes to existing dense statutory language that must all be properly referenced and explained. Presto! All business in the Colorado Senate comes to a halt.

Until Majority Senate Democrats realized they had an obvious 21st Century workaround:

That’s right! Rather than having a single longsuffering Senate staffer (or a team of staffers working in shifts, which was the original plan) take days to read the entire bill into the record, Democrats set up five computers to read the bill simultaneously at somewhere around 650 words per minute–reducing the days-long task to a couple of hours! There’s no requirement, after all, that the read-aloud bill be read aloud intelligibly. And since this is all a needless exercise in the era of digital content dissemination there’s absolutely no reason to adhere to anything more than the letter of the law.

The fact that Republicans chose this particular bill for its extreme length, entirely to achieve the maximum disruption not any legitimate policy interest, makes the Democratic majority’s technological turnabout fair play. The truth, as we’ve discussed in detail with the oil and gas drilling reform bill, is that Democrats are giving all of these pieces of legislation the full benefit of the legislative process–with multiple exhaustive hearings in both chambers. The only actual problem here is that Republicans no longer have a majority in any chamber with which to kill them.

The moral of the story? Parliamentary games are fun, but elections are what matter.

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 11)

It’s not just you — nobody knows what time it is in Arizona anymore. 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.


► The White House released its new budget proposal on Monday, which includes $8.6 billion in new funding for President Trump’s border wall obsession. From the Washington Post:

President Trump proposed a $4.7 trillion budget plan Monday that stands as a sharp challenge to Congress and the Democrats trying to unseat him, the first act in a multi-front struggle over the role of government that threatens to consume Washington for the next 18 months.

The budget proposal dramatically raises the possibility of another government shutdown in October, with the inclusion of an additional $8.6 billion to build sections of a wall along the U. S.-Mexico border. Trump’s ask for yet more wall money — beyond the spending he is already seeking under a “national emergency” declaration at the border — infuriated Democrats.

The budget also calls for a significant increase in military spending, causing problems with some Republicans who are uneasy about how it is allocated. If lawmakers and Trump don’t reach a spending agreement by the end of September, many government operations will grind to a halt.

Trump’s budget proposal includes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.


► Colorado lawmakers are debating major changes to how the state operates financially, as Anna Staver reports for the Denver Post:

Taken individually, a group of state tax bills in the works offer an overhaul of how Coloradans pay property taxes, backfill public schools and pay for a multibillion-dollar backlog of maintenance projects for roads and bridges. Taken together, the bills represent a fundamental shift in the way Colorado works.

“The overarching conversation here is that the people of Colorado for the last quarter century have put conflicting tax policy into the constitution without realizing it,” said Sen. Lois Court, D-Denver. “Standing alone each amendment can sound good, but combined they have caused an incredible mess.”

Supporters of fixing that “incredible mess” see Colorado’s booming economy and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country contrasted with leaky school roofs, outdated textbooks and fire districts that worry about how they can keep their response times from rising.


► State Sen. Vicki Marble crossed a new line on Friday when she appeared to threaten 9News reporter Kyle Clark in a social media post. Marble’s troubling words were picked up nationally by Newsweek magazine.



Get even more smarter after the jump…


Another Day, Another Democrat Sells His Soul To Big Oil

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

Last Friday, opponents of Senate Bill 19-181, the bill to tighten protections for local communities from oil and gas drilling along with other reforms, trumpeted another opinion piece from a well-known retired Democratic politician assailing the bill as both economically and politically injurious–published by the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette from ex-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb:

We live in a time when “big industry” is the enemy of the people. We put a tax on the soda industry; claim the oil and gas industry is ruining our state, and a company like Amazon is destroying small businesses. What we don’t talk about is the freedom of choice and the jobs that get lost in the crossfire.

Yet, no one can deny the human loss when businesses do not follow safety protocol. My heart goes out to Erin Martinez who lost her husband, Mark, and brother, Joey Irwin, in a home explosion in Firestone in 2017 because of an uncapped flowline. That is a real issue.

Another tragedy is the economic impact to families when people lose their jobs to extreme regulation. Colorado voters already told their lawmakers in November they don’t accept regulations that handcuff the industry and lose production to other states…

Now folks, the likening of Erin Martinez’s suffering after her husband and brother were killed in a preventable explosion caused by the oil and gas industry to job losses that may or may not result from Senate Bill 19-181 is crass enough to deserve its own mention. But beyond that, Webb’s contention that voters last November rejected anything like the bill currently up for debate in the legislature is simply not accurate. 2018’s Proposition 112 mandated 2,500 foot setbacks between new drilling and surface development. Senate Bill 181 doesn’t address setbacks at all–it gives local communities more control over siting decisions, changes the rules of “forced pooling” to stop unwanted appropriation of mineral rights, and gets the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission out of the business of “fostering” oil and gas development.

So, there’s that. But as he was quick to point out when former Sen. Ken Salazar came out against Senate Bill 181 last week, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark identifies an even more basic problem with Webb’s deceptive stand against this bill.

Just like Salazar, Webb is being paid to do it. The American Petroleum Institute sits on the top line of the Webb Group International’s client list. Just as Ken Salazar’s law firm represents leading oil and gas producer Anadarko Petroleum, Webb is doing paid advocacy work, trading on his Democratic bonafides to lobby for opposition to a Democratic bill on behalf of a client.

And as we said with Salazar, the last thing any Democrat should do is reward this.