Monday Open Thread

"It is greed to do all the talking but not to want to listen at all."

–Democritus

15 Years Ago Today: Columbine

columbinememorial

The Denver Post's Allison Noon:

Sunday marks the 15th year since the shooting at Columbine High School in which 12 students and a teacher were killed.

Indigo columbine flowers were in bloom around the bases of 13 stone markers at the permanent Columbine Memorial in Littleton's Clement Park on Saturday, when about 50 people honored the victims with a remembrance program.

Colorado Ceasefire Capitol Fund organized the program at the park amphitheater ahead of the anniversary that falls this year on Easter Sunday. The program included speeches from family members of two Columbine shooting victims and two victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

CBS4:

“We are part of an unwanted family. None of us asked to be part of this family, family of survivors of mass tragedy,” said [Coni] Sanders.

Unfortunately, that family is growing.

Tom Sullivan lost his son in the Aurora theater shootings.

“Thank you for the courage you have all had since that day. It has certainly strengthened me in my private moments,” said Sullivan.

Sandy Phillips lost her daughter.

“Their lives meant something. Not just to their families, but to the communities that they lived in,” said Phillips.

100 Years Ago Today: Ludlow

ludlowmonumentPhoto courtesy United Mine Workers of America

100 years ago today, a gunfight broke out between members of the Colorado National Guard and striking coal miners employed by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company near Trinidad, Colorado. During the fighting in and around a tent encampment of striking miners, eleven children and two women were killed when the tent above a pit they were taking shelter from the fighting in was set on fire. This event became known as the Ludlow Massacre, and shocked the nation into a greater awareness of the poor working conditions and exploitative "company town" economic predation faced by coal miners.

This event is being widely commemorated on its 100th anniversary today, and we'll update with coverage.

The “War On Women” Won’t End With Flip-Flops

GOP Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

GOP Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

An insightful story published yesterday evening at the Wall Street Journal takes a look at an emerging dominant theme in the biggest federal races in Colorado this election year–a desperate attempt by veteran Republican politicians to jettison their longstanding "anti-woman" baggage:

Wary of being on the losing side of the gender gap, Republican candidates are working to repel Democratic efforts to portray GOP policy on abortion, equal-pay laws and other matters as harmful to women.

In Colorado, Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman withdrew their support last month for "personhood" proposals that could limit access to birth control. In Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell hosted his first "women's symposium" last month…

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway said Republicans are responding with mixed success to Democratic attacks that they are out of touch with women. She added, "Still, Republicans are doing a much better job by calling out Democrats for trying to divert attention from their chief liability, Obamacare."

…Democrats have criticized Messrs. Gardner and Coffman for backing statewide initiatives in 2010 and 2012 that would have treated a fetus like a person, outlawing most abortions and possibly some forms of birth control. Asked about the changes in position, staffers for the lawmakers said they recognized that voters had twice rejected "personhood" referenda. Mr. Gardner, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, called the possible limits on birth control "not right."

Ever since Rep. Cory Gardner made the obviously calculated decision to abandon his prior public support for the "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives, late on a Friday afternoon in unsuccessful hopes of minimizing the press coverage, there's been a lot of debate about what the best strategy is for Gardner–followed up swiftly by fellow GOP Rep. Mike Coffman–to extricate themselves from their records of very consistent support for banning abortion, even in cases where most voters would never stay with them like rape and incest victims.

The problem is, such debate presupposes it's possible to do that.

Gardner and Coffman have a big problem claiming legitimate "evolution" on these issues, since in both cases they have taken place against the backdrop of a changing constituency now repelled by their former position. In Coffman's case, redistricting has transformed his formerly ultra-safe Republican seat into one of the most competitive districts in America. As for Gardner, his longstanding proud support for "Personhood" and other total abortion bans was perfectly acceptable in his safe Republican seat, but as a U.S. Senate candidate, his support for "Personhood" is potentially lethal.

Once you think past the offered excuses for Gardner and Coffman's flip-flops, it becomes objectively clear, regardless of where you stand on the issue, that they switched positions to save their political hides. In Coffman's case, the length of his "evolution" has been protracted by his unexpectedly narrow win in 2012 over an underdog opponent, after Democrats failed to capitalize on redistricting with a top-tier challenger. But Coffman's switch is no less obviously political in nature than Gardner's–and both can be easily discredited as a result with the very same voters they hoped to mollify.

And that brings us to the point, what we consider to be a very important point that needs to sink in with Republicans, Democrats, and journalists: contrived flip-flopping just doesn't work. It didn't work for Mitt "Etch-a-Sketch" Romney, and it's not working for Gardner or Coffman. It's not working because it's demonstrably fake. In this space, we have consistently argued for nearly a decade that the best hope for Republicans is to start fielding more moderate candidates–ones that don't automatically disqualify themselves with positions on wedge issues that horrify women and independent voters. But they need to genuinely be moderate candidates on these issues, not holdovers from a previous generation trying to fake their way out from under their own liabilities.

Does that mean Republicans have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years like Moses, until all of the "Personhood"-saddled anti-choice Republican politicians are dead or out to pasture?

You know, folks, we don't make the rules. But maybe so.

Weekend Open Thread

"I am neither bitter nor cynical but I do wish there was less immaturity in political thinking."

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

GOP American Crossroads Poll Shows Udall Up By 2 Points

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

The conservative Daily Caller reports on a new poll conducted for Republican-aligned SuperPAC American Crossroads on the Colorado U.S. Senate race:

Incumbent Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has a slim lead over his challenger, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, according to a new poll from American Crossroads.

Forty-five percent of those polled said they would vote for Udall, compared to 43 percent for Gardner. Twelve percent of respondents aren’t sure who they will vote for.

Udall’s lead is well within the poll’s 4.35 percent margin of error, meaning that the contest remains a dead heat.

In terms of favorability, voters’ opinion of Udall is almost evenly split, with 41 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him to 42 percent unfavorable.

Their opinion of Gardner, however, is more clearly divided, with 38 percent unfavorable to 30 percent favorable. But 32 percent aren’t sure.

Here's the memo from Harper Polling.

This conservative leaning poll has a fairly high margin of error at 4.35%, and uses automated methodology that we really don't think is as accurate as live interviews. Despite these caveats, it's interesting that a month of high-volume attacks on incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall do not appear to have moved the needle against him at all–Udall still polls narrowly ahead of challenger Cory Gardner. We'll want to see more polling to establish that clearly, but as a Republican strategist, you can't look at unchanged polls after shoveling money into attack ads against Udall over "Obamacare" for a month and feel good about it. If that's right, Americans for Prosperity and friends just wasted a pile of Koch Brothers money.

Don’t Even Study Fracking? Really?

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

​The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports on passage yesterday of House Bill 14-1297, a bill to study the health impacts of hydraulic fracture drilling ("fracking") in certain affected Front Range counties:

The Colorado House approved a controversial bill Thursday that some Republicans believe is designed to give opponents of hydraulic fracturing fodder to ban the practice in the state…

The measure, HB1297, cleared the House on a 38-27 vote. It calls for a study of the health and “quality of life” impacts of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells.

Although the bill, which heads to the Senate for more debate, confines that study to six Front Range counties around the Denver metropolitan area, it is seen by some Republicans as a plan by Democrats to slant it to be anti-fracking.

Interestingly, a single Republican legislator did vote in favor of this bill yesterday, outgoing Rep. Jared Wright of Fruita. We've been hard on Wright over the scandals that nearly cost him election in the first place and appear to have now ended his brief legislative career–not to mention leaving a loaded gun unattended in a Capitol committee hearing room–but we'll be damned if Wright doesn't make perfectly good sense regarding this bill.

“We want to know that we’re not just blindly going forward with technology. That we do it the right way,” Wright said. “I believe it can be done the right way, and frankly, I don’t have a doubt that it is being done the right way. I think the results of this study will be that our operators are doing their jobs and doing it in the careful way that we ask them.”

Rep. Wright tells Ashby that while he shares traditional GOP skepticism about government studies, he has "read this bill in-depth and I feel like it’s well laid-out, and I think it’s certainly the intention that it’s done the right way." Obviously, if Wright is right, Republicans and their energy industry benefactors have nothing to fear from an objective study of the health effects of fracking in Colorado. It will reinforce the argument they make about the safety of the practice. And if Wright is wrong, and fracking is not being done "the right way"…what responsible lawmaker would argue against finding that out?

We ask rhetorically, since 27 Colorado Republicans voted against this bill yesterday.

Friday Open Thread

"People will tell you anything but what they do is always the truth."

–P. J. O'Rourke

Chuck Plunkett and the First Rule of Holes

Chuck Plunkett holes

Chuck Plunkett hopes to escape this hole by digging furiously.

Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett has obviously never heard about the number one rule of holes: STOP DIGGING!

Yesterday we followed a rather bizarre decision by Plunkett to remove a story posted to the newspaper's political blog "The Spot." Plunkett took down a story Tuesday night about Republican Congressman Mike Coffman written by reporter Kurtis Lee (you can read about that original post here) that had appeared earlier in the day. Plunkett then offered up a rambling blog post of his own in an effort to explain his decision…which made absolutely no sense.

Well, on Thursday afternoon, Plunkett doubled-down on his own defense with an even more confusion explanation of his other explanation. Only in this explanation, Plunkett concludes with a convincing argument for why the story should have never been removed in the first place (which was clearly not his intention, but, whatever). Here's the lede of Plunkett's post this afternoon, titled, "No Facts Hidden from Mike Coffman Story."

On Wednesday I published a post on this site that meant to explain why a story about Mike Coffman’s views on personhood and abortion was taken off The Denver Post’s online edition the night before.

A day later I see that some are suggesting that the story has somehow been suppressed.

I submit that this is not accurate.

My blog post on Wednesday was written and published to provide the central facts that had been in the story that I had taken down. I provided these facts in the context that I felt the story lacked.

We'd like to give Plunkett the benefit of the doubt here, but it speaks volumes about his decision when he feels compelled to write two separate blog posts about why he pulled a story after it appeared online — and then titles it, "No Facts Hidden." This is sort of like a little kid standing over a mess on the floor saying, "I didn't do it" even before you had a chance to ask.

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Faced With Catholic/GOP Uprising, Dems Kill Pro-Choice Bill

Protesters against SB-175 Tuesday. Photo credit: Peter Zelasko, Catholic News Agency

Protesters against SB-175 Tuesday. Photo credit: Peter Zelasko, Catholic News Agency

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports on drama yesterday in the Colorado Senate over Senate Bill 14-175, the Reproductive Health Freedom Act. After several days of intense controversy, what was once an important bill for at least some Democrats to close out this year's legislative session is now dead–and the finger-pointing is well underway:

Rather than battle Republicans over a proposal they stressed would help protect reproductive rights, Senate Democrats on Wednesday spiked the legislation — a move that drew applause from some religious groups packed into the chamber's gallery who strongly opposed it…

All Senate Republicans, alongside the Archdiocese of Denver, denounced the legislation as "overreaching" and "ambiguous," saying the measure was not needed.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," said Sen. Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs. "There is no one, no evidence, that has said there's a denial of things like contraception to women in Colorado."

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, who sponsored the measure, said he carried it because constituents expressed at town halls and forums concerns over efforts in other states to make it more difficult for women to seek guidance on abortions and receive common forms of contraception.

From Senate President Morgan Carroll's statement after Senate Bill 175 was killed:

We were optimistic that the Republicans would come on board with a proposal that would ensure all women are able to make private and personal reproductive health decisions with freedom from government interference. But we are disappointed that we were unable to get bi-partisan support to acknowledge and uphold the values of the majority of Coloradans.
 
With 21 days left in the legislative session and 269 bills still pending, having a GOP filibuster would bring D.C. style dysfunction to Colorado.  We have made our point and in the interest of getting the remaining work done, on education, jobs, higher education affordability and childcare, we laid the bill over. 
 
We will continue to fight against attacks on women and their private healthcare decisions and uphold the values of Colorado women and families.

On the other side, here's the story as told by the Catholic News Agency:

Amid growing protests led in large part by the Catholic Church, the Colorado Senate on April 16 killed a controversial bill that could have banned all pro-life laws in the state…

Originally introduced March 31, the controversial bill – S.B. 175 – only gained wide publicity last week. It sought to ban all new pro-life laws and regulations, including requirements for pre-abortion ultrasounds and restrictions on the RU-486 abortion drug.

With the bill now dead, there are reporters and Republicans who say this was a "quixotic effort"–but clearly the bill's religious opponents didn't agree while they massed crowds at the Capitol to oppose it. Proponents point to new restrictions on abortion being passed around the nation, as well as other so-called "pre-emptive" bills, like a bill signed in Oklahoma just this week that pre-emptively bans future minimum wage increases and paid sick day laws, to justify both the intent and functional precedent for the Reproductive Health Freedom Act.

It's our understanding and has been reported, though victorious Republicans deny it today, that threats were leveled by the Senate Minority to bring the entire chamber to a halt for the rest of the legislative session if Senate Bill 175 passed–which could have endangered dozens of important bills. The fact is, Democrats are on solid ground, given the polling on the abortion issue and the overwhelming defeat of abortion ban initiatives in Colorado, pushing a bill to affirmatively protect reproductive choice rights. For that reason alone, predictions that the defeat of Senate Bill 175 has major ramifications seem overblown–certainly not to the degree that Republicans harmed themselves by killing the popular civil unions bill two years ago. In the eyes of voters, questions about efficacy and timing aside, Democrats were on the right side of the issue.

If anything? If you have to take on the Catholic Church, Holy Week might not be the best timing…

It Would Be Difficult to be a Worse Politician than Doug Lamborn

Doug Lamborn (R).

Rep. Doug Lamborn must work harder in order to do the minimum.

Fundraising reports for the first quarter of 2014 became available this week, and Colorado's own Rep. Doug Lamborn has reached a new pinnacle of shittiness: No incumbent Member of Congress raised less money than Lamborn in the first three months of the year. Nobody. In the entire United States.

Lamborn raised a grand total of $38,253 in Q1, an amount so miniscule that the four-term Congressman had to loan his campaign $100,000. As Megan Schrader of the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on April 15:

Lamborn was forced into an unexpected primary last week when Republican challenger Bentley Rayburn won support from enough state delegates to get his name on the June 24 primary ballot.

Rayburn, who entered the race late, won't be required to file a quarterly report showing his campaign finances to the Federal Elections Commission until after the primary election. Rayburn said he'll begin filing his official candidate paperwork in late May.

In the meantime, Lamborn may also be feeling pressure from Democratic candidate Irv Halter, a retired Air Force major general, who last quarter brought in $165,095 in contributions and had $217,432 cash on hand at the end of March. Records indicate Halter has given himself about $32,000 since he entered the race.

We've been wondering aloud if 2014 might be the year that Lamborn's overall ineptitude (both as a candidate and a Congressman) catches up to him. Lamborn has survived challenges from the right, left, and everywhere between since he was first elected in 2006, so perhaps it is hard for him to really gear up for election season. But there is no reason for Lamborn to be this bad at raising money — so bad that he has to guarantee a $100,000 loan to his own campaign. Keep in mind here that Lamborn is not independently wealthy, so a $100k loan is a very real amount of money for him that is a bit of a risk; if Lamborn doesn't win the June Primary, he's going to have a hell of a time trying to convince anyone to give him donations to help pay off his campaign debt. All of this could have been avoided had Lamborn just taken a little time each quarter to raise money and build up a modest warchest larger than the $123,000 he had in the bank before his loan.

Maybe Lamborn defeats Rayburn and holds off Democrat Irv Halter to win re-election in November. But what Lamborn is doing is exactly how an incumbent ends up losing an otherwise safe seat.

It only requires a little bit of effort to maintain your hold on a district like CD-5. Lamborn has yet to reach that minimum.

LCV Hits Gardner With $1 Million Ad Campaign

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee has a response from Republican Cory Gardner's campaign:

“The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is an extreme anti-fracking group that works every day to attack Colorado’s energy economy and calls Senator Udall one of their ‘staunchest allies in the U.S. Senate.’ While Senator Udall says he is a ‘champion of natural gas,’ the LCV has called this resource ‘dirty energy,’ said Alex Siciliano, Gardner’s spokesman. “If Senator Udall and the LCV had their way, Colorado would lose tens of thousands of jobs, and working families across the state would see huge increases in their energy bills. The LCV and Mark Udall are out of touch with Colorado’s economy and energy resources.”

—–

From a League of Conservation Voters release today, a big media buy hitting GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner on his environmental record:

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) today announced that they’ve added Congressman Cory Gardner to their Dirty Dozen program and kicked off a $1 million television ad campaign highlighting his Big Oil ties. The first ad, “Wrong Way,” reminds Colorado voters that Gardner has taken more than $450,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry while repeatedly voting to protect their tax breaks, subsidies and giveaways. It begins airing this week in the Denver media market. 

“It’s no surprise that corporate polluters are already trying to buy climate change denier Cory Gardner a Senate seat in November. Cory Gardner has repeatedly helped Big Oil avoid paying their fair share while taking contributions from them hand over fist,” said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters.

“Cory Gardner’s extreme agenda may work for his special interest allies, but it’s the wrong path for Colorado. With Cory Gardner, Big Oil wins and Colorado families lose,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado.

The ad highlights that Gardner has repeatedly sided with Big Oil by voting against eliminating billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to the nation’s most profitable oil companies. Gardner also voted for the extreme fiscal year 2012 Ryan budget, which would retain $40 billion in oil subsidies, and even signed a pledge that would protect billions in Big Oil subsidies. Gardner’s votes have come at a time of record profits for the oil and gas industry. Documentation for the ad can be found here.

Eight reasons why a Denver Post reporter’s scrubbed blog post was newsworthy and should be re-posted on Post’s website

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here are eight reasons why Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee's blog post, quoting Rep. Mike Coffman about personhood and abortion-for-rape-and-incest, was newsworthy and should not have been deleted from The Post's website.

1. It was news! The core of Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett's written explanation for scrubbing the piece is that it was basically old news. But Lee's piece advanced our understanding of Coffman's thinking both on the personhood amendment (he opposes it under any circumstances; see number four below.) and on abortion-for-rape-and-incest (he supports it beyond his previous narrow support of it in a specific piece of legislation; see number three.)

2. It was the first time Coffman made a public statement himself about un-endorsing the personhood amendment and withdrawing his longstanding opposition to abortion-for-rape-and-incest. These are major flips, and journalism is all about providing a record of actual statements by public officials, not their mouthpieces.

3. Lee's deleted piece, for the first time, informed the public that Coffman has completely changed a long-held position and now broadly favors allowing a woman raped by her father to have an abortion. Last year, as Lee noted in his piece, Coffman supported a provision in a bill allowing abortion for rape and incest. But this anti-choice bill focused narrowly on banning abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, and no news outlets covered Coffman's position. It was completely unknown, until Lee asked Coffman about it, if Coffman favors broad rape-and-incest exceptions to his overall extreme opposition to abortion. It turns out his flip was complete. So Lee's headline for his post reflected actual news: "Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest."

4. Lee's deleted piece reported, for the first time, that Coffman is opposed to any version of the personhood amendment, even of it were narrowed. In his deleted piece. Lee reported that "Coffman said there is no language he would change in the ballot initiative that would make him support it." This advances Lee's March 25 story, which quoted Coffman's spokesperson, Tyler Sandberg, as saying only that Coffman did not support the personhood amendment in 2012 or this year, and the matter is settled because voters rejected it (not that Coffman's thinking had changed).

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