Con Man Cory Votes Against Wind Production Tax Credit, Hopes You Don’t Remember Those TV Ads

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner poses in front of some sort of weird spinny thing.

UPDATE: Guess who just voted NO on a Senate amendment to establish a renewable electricity standard? Maybe Gardner was just misquoted when he often said he supports an "all of the above" approach on energy production. Or perhaps he was crossing his fingers every time he said it.

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Republican Sen. Cory Gardner earned the nickname "Con Man Cory" during his 2014 campaign for his willingness to say anything that might help him get elected. And when we say "anything," we mean that literally — he lied and hemmed and hawed about his own record and took credit for things he didn't do, even when the facts told a different story.

Sen. Gardner hasn't even been in office for a full month yet, and he's already turned his back on some of his more blustery campaign promises. Remember that September TV ad from Gardner in which he claimed to have "cowrote the law to launch our state's green energy industry?" Kristen Wyatt of The Associated Press quickly dissected the ad and came to the obvious conclusion that Gardner was just expelling his own wind. Here's the first paragraph from that AP story:

GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, framed by sunflowers and wind turbines, tells voters in a campaign ad this week that he co-wrote a law to launch Colorado's green-energy economy. He leaves out that the law was repealed five years later, deemed useless for not enabling a single project. [Pols emphasis]

Now, this wasn't the only time during the campaign that Gardner praised the wind energy industry, which provides thousands of jobs on Colorado. And yesterday, Gardner had his first opportunity to put some substance behind those campaign promises. Instead, he voted against an amendment to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit. Yes, you read that correctly. The same guy who campaigned around the state talking about the importance of supporting Colorado's burgeoning Wind Energy industry just voted NO on an amendment to extend a critical production tax credit.

Judging from Gardner's own words, he seems to be aware that he is doing the exact opposite of what he said he would do if elected to the Senate. This is from Gardner's official statement following the vote on Heitkamp Amdt. No. 133:

“I am a true believer in the ability of wind energy to be a key part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. I have been a major proponent of the Wind Production Tax Credit in the past, and I continue to support incentives for wind energy. It plays a vital role in powering our homes and helping to grow our economy in Colorado.

This amendment, however, is the wrong way to go about it and highlights the continued need for an overhaul our entire tax code. Unfortunately, the amendment advocates the reauthorization of this tax credit without any means to pay for the extension, which I cannot support. Further, the amendment offers no vision of how to eventually ramp down this tax credit, which was always intended to be temporary. [Pols emphasis]

“I am still a major supporter of wind energy, and I look forward to working with Senator Heitkamp on the issue going forward."

Got that, Colorado wind energy producers? "Con Man Cory" is totally in your corner on the Wind Production Tax Credit — hell, he just said it twice — up until the point in which he is asked to cast a vote. Because of modernizing the tax code, or something. Only in Con Many Cory's brain does it make sense to say that voting against the tax credit doesn't mean he opposes the tax credit.

[Side note: Gardner also explains his vote against the Wind Production Tax Credit when he says, "the amendment offers no vision of how to eventually ramp down this tax credit, which was always intended to be temporary." You know what also was intended to be temporary? The billions of dollars in tax credits that the oil and gas industry enjoys every year, even though they are making tens of billions in profits every quarter. That vote will be coming soon, too.)

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Meanwhile, Colorado's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, has been traveling the state promoting the importance of the Wind Production Tax Credit and actually casting a vote in support. Here's Bennet talking to Bridgett Weaver of the Greeley Tribune about the Wind Production Tax Credit:

It’s critically important to give certainty to this vital industry in Colorado. And nationally, the wind industry accounts for more than 75,000 jobs in the country and roughly 5,000 in Colorado, and by some estimates around 2,600 in Weld County alone. So that’s what’s so critical about it. It’s not just about the windmills themselves. It’s about the entire manufacturing industry and the subcontractors who are part of that. Many of whom are right here in Colorado that need the certainty that an extension or some other signal will give them in order to move forward.

Vestas is a great example. They were laying people off in 2013 and 2012, and in 2014, I think they announced that they would be hiring 800 employees in Colorado, with 300 of them in Windsor.

This is why Sen. Bennet comes off as a statesman and Sen. Gardner looks like a used car salesman. Bennet talks the talk and backs it up with his vote in the Senate. Pretty simple, no?

So, if Gardner isn't following through on his promises to voters — who is he helping? Why, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), of course, the same group that was founded by the billionaire coal baron Koch Brothers that spent millions on Gardner's Senate campaign. Back in November, Gardner seemed to be telling AFP (publicly) that he would continue to support the Wind Production Tax Credit despite heavy lobbying from AFP to have it killed. Hmmm….sorry, Colorado voters, but at the end of the day, Con Man Cory is going to represent the interests of AFP and the Koch Brothers. This isn't an opinion — it just happened. Gardner did exactly the opposite of what he promised Colorado voters, and he's going to do it over and over and over again.

Here's what Eli Stokols of FOX 31 News wrote after Gardner voted against an amendment on Climate Change:

After campaigning successfully last year as a "different kind of Republican," Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is under fire from conservationists for voting Wednesday against an amendment stating that humans contribute to climate change, something 69 percent of his constituents believe to be a fact.

Fifteen Senate Republicans, including 2016 presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul, joined Democrats in backing the amendment, but not Gardner…

This is Cory Gardner in a nutshell, folks. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Koch).

As budding Senate BFFs, Gardner cites Cruz, Moran, Paul, and Thune

(The company Cory keeps – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Most people groan when media figures toss soft-ball questions at public officials, but not all softballs are created equal.

As you'd expect, during a Jan. 27 interview, KNUS talk-radio host Krista Kafer thew a bunch of eye-roll-inducing questions at Colorado's new Republican Senator, Cory Gardner, like has he been surprised by anything?

But one of Kafer's softballs was illuminating. She asked, "Who ya hanging out with?"

As his emerging Senate BFFs, Gardner mentioned some of the most radical right wingers in the chamber.

Gardner spotlighted his budding relationship with Tea-Party leader Ted Cruz of Texas, saying he "sat next to Sen. Cruz over the past several policy meetings that we've had, talking about issues like what we're going to do on health care…." (Cruz, of course, led the charge for a government shutdown to stop Obamacare.)

Gardner also mentioned working with Sen. Rand Paul of Texas, "on a number of bills, whether it's auditing the Federal Reserve." (You wonder if the two discussed Paul's Personhood bill, the Life at Conception Act, which Gardner endorsed while in the House.)

Also cited by Gardner, in answer to Kafer's question, were anti-environmentalists John Thune (R-SD) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

You know a Senator by the company he keeps. And in Gardner's case, his company of obstructionist right wingers reflects what we've heard from him in Washington as well. The name of a moderate Republican or Democrat did not come out of Gardner's mouth.

Good on ya, Krista Kafer, for at least one of your softballs.

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21 White Republicans (And Janak Joshi) Sponsor Affirmative Action Repeal Legislation

Up on the calendar of the always-entertaining Senate Education Committee this afternoon is Senate Bill 15-177, "Concerning prohibiting discrimination in public financing of systems of higher education." 

The bill prohibits the general assembly and the Colorado commission on higher education (commission) from appropriating or distributing state moneys to or for the benefit of students or state or private institutions of higher education based solely on the race, color, national origin, or sex of a student.

The bill requires the commission to prohibit such discrimination in higher education funding in implementing part 3 of article 18 of title 23, Colorado Revised Statutes.

This is a bill with origins in American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) stock language to prohibit funding for affirmative action policies in higher education. The national proponent of this kind of legislation, conservative activist Ward Connerly, was also behind a Colorado ballot initiative in 2008 to broadly outlaw any kind of gender or race-based affirmative action. That initiative was defeated, handing Connerly a major defeat in what has been a successful drive to eliminate affirmative action in some other states.

There are a few ways to approach this legislation, which may well pass the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate on its way to certain death in the Democratic-controlled House. We could cite the studies and large body of opinion that affirmative action remains necessary, insofar as discrimination remains a problem in America. But there's something more basic about Senate Bill 117 that struck us as we read the list of sponsors:

sb117sponsors

With the sole exception of Rep. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, they're all white people.

To which you might respond, "Well, that's pretty much all Republicans have got!"

And you would be right–about both the cause and the effect of their problem.

A Few Words on Fixing Obamacare’s Glitches

This one was not Obamas fault.

This one was not Obama’s fault.

The discovery of a legitimate problem with the Connect for Health Colorado health insurance marketplace by 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman, a glitch that has apparently resulted in some 3,600 policyholders not having their health insurance renewed for this year, has become the latest issue with the Affordable Care Act's implementation in Colorado to send Republicans into a frenzy and Democrats scrambling for talking points:

As many as 3,600 health insurance plans that should have automatically renewed this year were canceled because of a design flaw with Connect for Health Colorado, the official state exchange designed to implement the Affordable Care Act.

9NEWS was first to expose the issue last week and now the exchange says it will pro-actively find customers affected and help them re-instate coverage retroactively…

An official Connect for Health training video, uploaded to YouTube on September 9 of last year, informed the audience that customers could inadvertently cancel renewal of their plans by shopping for a potential alternative for 2015.

"If you put a different plan in their cart on October 16, that is going to turn off any auto-renewal of the plan that was indicated in their renewal notice," instructed Kyla Hoskins, Manager of Policy and External Affairs for Connect for Health, in the training video.

There have been legitimate complaints ever since the rollout of the Connect for Health Colorado exchange website that the process for obtaining health insurance is–assuming the website is functioning properly, which it usually is now–not intuitive or friendly, either for customers or those helping them. That the exchange has nonetheless successfully enrolled so many people in Colorado is testament to the overwhelming demand for affordable healthcare. The issue identified with the exchange website in this story, which was apparently considered a "feature" and not a "bug" prior to being identified as a major problem, is a perfect example of the customer service failures the exchange has grappled with–and been, to some extent, properly criticized for. We'll add that Connect for Health's initial response to inquiries from 9NEWS about the problem, essentially dismissing it as user error, will not go down in history as a model of crisis communications.

With that said, news reporting today about the "window shopping glitch" in Colorado's insurance exchange website contains assurances by all involved that every one of these policyholders will have their coverage reinstated retroactively. This roughly 5% of renewing policyholders got treated to another fine example of technological and bureaucratic faceplanting, but at the end of the day, they'll be made whole. The fact is, Brandon Rittiman's reporting was critical to a successful outcome: not least for the 3,600 policyholders who appear to have needed a media spotlight on the problem in order for it to be acknowledged as a problem.

One of the biggest internal dilemmas that Democrats face today is a reflexive defensiveness brought on by years of irrational arguments with the far right. The need to defend major reforms like the Affordable Care Act from an onslaught of hyperbolic bullshit has left some Democrats unable to confront legitimate issues that need fixing. There are signs that this is changing: legislation in the Colorado legislature to tighten oversight of Connect for Health Colorado is passing with bipartisan support. Republicans want to go much, much farther than oversight, of course, and will hype this story out of all earthly proportion to support their contention that the insurance exchange and the rest of Obamacare should simply be repealed.

But that's not what the public wants. Even as they give Obamacare low marks in polling, the same polls show the public wants health care reform to work. For Democrats, the way to prevail is to share the concern of Republicans when glitches happen–but stand firm when they try to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Thursday Open Thread

"Laziness has become the chief characteristic of journalism, displacing incompetence."

–Kingsley Amis

Your Papers Are Not In Order, “Dr. Chaps”

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

John Tomasic at the Colorado Independent got tangled up this week with the confused nonprofit and for-profit business operations of freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt–whose other job running a far-out Youtube "video ministry" called Pray in Jesus' Name has resulted in nationwide notoriety. Tomasic took a look at publicly searchable records at the Colorado Secretary of State's office, which appear to show Klingenschmitt's nonprofit charity status as "suspended."

Controversial state Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit “Pray in Jesus [sic] Name” has failed to file the proper paperwork with the state, a lapse that led the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on October 15th of last year to suspend its registration as a charitable organization. Since then, Klingenschmitt’s group has not been legally eligible to solicit or accept donations, which hasn’t stopped it from sending out fundraiser emails and posting videos asking for donations at a regular clip.

“God loves a cheerful giver,” Klingenschmitt says at the end of the most recent episode of his YouTube program, “Pray in Jesus Name News.” Text runs across the bottom of the screen intermittently asking viewers to make donations…

We have no idea how much Klingenschmitt has raised via his Pray in Jesus' Name nonprofit–based on the number of Youtube views his shows receive when not being highlighted by liberals, our guess is not that much. In any event, Tomasic's report on the suspension of Klingenschmitt's nonprofit status provoked an irate response from "Dr. Chaps" personally in the comments of the story.

chapsceaseanddesist

Yikes! We've never seen "Chaps" mad like that before. Obviously, this prompted a second report from the Independent's Tomasic with more details–details that don't actually help Chaps. Perhaps he should have left bad enough alone?

Klingenschmitt forwarded to The Independent a certificate of good standing “dated today,” he wrote in an email, signed by Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (Pictured here and available for download as a pdf.) Klingenschmitt explained that he filed papers to bring his registration up to date on Saturday, January 24th, 2014, three days ago. But the Secretary’s certificate shows some of the documents were electronically received by the office Tuesday at 2:46 p.m., nearly three hours after the original Colorado Independent story posted.

So, it's quite possible that Klingenschmitt scrambled after this report in the Independent to get his nonprofit status renewed with the Secretary of State–and then informed the Independent with high dudgeon that their report was "false." While that makes his all-caps "cease and desist" demand look kind of silly, it at least gives him a response when asked about this in the future. Except for one remaining problem: Klingenschmitt appears to have continued soliciting nonprofit donations during the period his charity was suspended, which would be a violation of the law:

In an email sent Tuesday, Klingenschmitt explained that the fundraiser emails he has sent out since October 15 and that were cited by The Colorado Independent “come from a totally different for-profit corporation, GJK, Inc., not from the non-profit as you falsely claim.”

Except no, they didn't:

[T]he fundraising emails cited by The Independent do not include reference to GJK, Inc. They do, however, come from an email address with the “prayinjesusname.org” Internet domain. They also include at the top a prominent “Pray in Jesus Name Project” banner (“Sending Petitions to God & Government to Defend Religious Freedom.”) An email sent on December 30 (see image below) asks specifically for donations for the “Pray in Jesus Name Ministries”.

If you clicked on the link in emails from that time period, this is the message you saw on the donation page:

YES! I support your non-profit defense of religious liberty and freedom of Christian expression, broadcasting the gospel on TV-radio-internet, and service to the poor and orphans. To help you protect our right to pray publicly “in Jesus’ name,” and mobilize tens of thousands of people to petition God and government, I’m making my tax-deductible donation to “PRAY IN JESUS NAME MINISTRIES.”

And with that, we do believe "Dr. Chaps" is nailed. Either he was soliciting donations via a suspended nonprofit, or he was grossly misrepresenting "donations" to a for-profit business. And neither of those seems like a model of "what Jesus would do."

2015 Denver Municipal Elections: List of Candidates

Mayor of Denver Michael Hancock

You can go ahead and mark down Michael Hancock for another term as Mayor of Denver.

The 2015 Denver Municipal Elections are fast approaching, and the way things are shaping up, we could see one of the more crowded ballots in years — which should make it very difficult for any one candidate to get 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. This is also the first Denver election to take place under the re-drawn city boundaries, so there are more unknowns than normal.

Candidates for Municipal Office (Mayor, Auditor, Clerk & Recorder, City Council) can begin circulating petitions to formally place their names on the ballot as soon as Tuesday, Feb. 3; signed petitions are required to be submitted to the Denver Clerk and Recorder by March 11. The General Election will be held on May 5, with a runoff (as necessary) election scheduled for June 2.

We'll be following the Denver elections every step of the way. Early indications are that two over-arching themes should be at play this spring: 1) Conflicting views about development and affordable housing, and 2) Labor union support (pro-union vs. anti-union sentiments).

Click after the jump for a brief look at the declared candidates for office and how each respective race is shaking out as January draws to a close:

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Lundberg Strikes Again: Pedophile Day Care, Anyone?

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Denver Post's Christopher Osher reports on the latest bill up for debate from hard-right Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg–and it's a doozy:

"We are licensing child care out of existence in far too many corners of the state," said Lundberg, who also is chairman of the Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, which will consider the legislation. "My alternative says there is an elegant solution to this bureaucratic problem, and it recognizes that smaller facilities are much better served when we stay out of the way and stop driving people out of business."

But child welfare advocates say Colorado's licensing program isn't driving providers out of business. They say costs for providers are minimal — between $63.50 to $154.50 for an initial application and criminal background checks per home. They also fear Lundberg's move could run afoul of recent federal legislation and jeopardize federal aid the state receives for child care vouchers that go to low-income parents who are working or enrolled in job training or school.
 
They believe the state's licensing program saves lives by setting uniform safety standards and requiring criminal background checks for providers and those living in their homes. [Pols emphasis] They also point out that licensed providers must take 16.5 hours of training before opening and must take an additional 15 hours annually to keep licenses current. Child care operators say the cost of all the courses is less than $150.

Given the low cost of compliance with the licensing requirements as they exist today, it's tough to argue that this is a major contributor to the high cost of child care in Colorado. On the other hand, the peace of mind of leaving one's children with a care provider who has passed a criminal background check in order to receive a child care license has a very high value indeed.

Once you accept that a $150 license and a modest bit of education is not meaningfully driving up the cost of child care, there really is no good reason for this proposal at all. To be honest, the reason to push this bill completely escapes us, because its stated justification is so easily disproven it calls the true motives for the bill into question. Is the point really to make it easier for criminals to run child care centers?

As silly as that sounds, Sen. Lundberg's response to the question honestly makes you wonder:

"Parents are the ones that need to know that they're the actual stopgap that protects children when they drop them off anywhere," Lundberg said. "They better make sure just who they are leaving their children with." [Pols emphasis]

And how are parents supposed to do that? Maybe with–wait for it–a background check? Like the one you have to pass to get a child care license? Even when you disagree with a legislative proposal, it's usually possible to see how the rationale behind said proposal could make some kind of sense to a reasonable person–maybe not you, but some number of people depending on their point of view.

But not this time. This is just an irredeemably bad idea–and for a Republican caucus that grandstanded mandatory sentences for sex offenders, and constantly represents itself as "tough on crime" at the expense of Democrats, the introduction of such a counterproductive bill makes no sense.

Colo. Unemployment Dropped More Than Any Other State in 2014

UPDATE: Colorado Democrats celebrate via social media:

demsunemployment

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Good news for Colorado, as the Denver Business Journal reports:

Colorado added 4,700 payroll jobs in December and finished 2014 with an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent, the state's lowest since October 2007, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Tuesday.

The state's private-sector employers added 5,500 positions to their payrolls in December, while government jobs declined by 800 from November levels, the monthly CDLE report indicated…

…A separate survey of Colorado households, which does include those job categories, is used to estimate unemployment rates and the size of the labor force.

That survey showed Colorado's unemployment rate having dropped for nine consecutive months. December's 4.0 percent rate was down a tenth of a percentage point from November and down 2.2 percent from December 2013.

Improving Colorado's economy was the major theme of Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election campaign in 2014, and the numbers certainly validate that strategy. Sure, there are plenty of different reasons why unemployment is falling so quickly in Colorado, but no matter how you look at it, this is a big talking point for Democrats. Colorado's unemployment rates dropped faster than any other state in the country in 2014, at a time when Democrats controlled the legislature and the Governor's office.

Wednesday Open Thread

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." 

–John Milton

Jeffco School District Hires New Communications Head…After Committee Deemed Her “Unqualified”

Dan McMinimee

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee hired a new Chief Communications Officer despite warnings from a hiring committee that she was unqualified.

Local blogger and author Paula Reed has the scuttlebutt on yet another ridiculous decision made by Jefferson County Schools Superintedent Dan McMinimee. As she writes in a post titled, "Our New Chief Propaganda Officer":

Lynn Setzer, JeffCo’s Chief Communications Officer, left JeffCo last November.  As has been the process, an interview team of staff members assembled to bring forward a list of qualified candidates to replace her.  JeffCo’s superintendent ignored all of their recommendations and went for a candidate whom the interview committee had deemed unqualified.  She did not go to public school, sends her kids to private school, and has no experience in communications for any public school system.  In fact, two of the five board members questioned hiring her.  They, too, were ignored, and she was hired for more money than her experienced predecessor. [Pols emphasis]

Kind of like this superintendent, hired despite his lack of experience and despite the legitimate questions of two of the five board members and paid more than his far more experienced, far more educated predecessor.

What made our new Chief Communications Officer, Lisa Pinto, so attractive to this superintendent and board majority?  She is a graduate of the distinctly political Leadership Program of the Rockies, a tea-party-run organization with an explicit political agenda and to which two of the board majority are tied.  In short, they now get to use taxpayer money to publicize their agenda.

Yowzers. Jefferson County Schools hired a new Chief Communications Officer that the interview committee had deemed unqualified…and not only that, but they hired someone who hails from the "Leadership Program of the Rockies," an organization founded by a longtime vouchers advocate: former Congressman Bob Schaffer.

Sometimes it can be difficult to gauge if a new hiring decision is purely political, but in this case? Not so much. As Reed points out, Lisa Pinto's problems with English and grammar were front-and-center in the latest issue of "Chalk Talk," the parent newsletter created by the Jeffco Schools' communications office. This is an actual paragraph reportedly written by someone with the title of "Chief Communications Officer":

“Students, teachers, parents, administrators, President John Ford of the Jefferson County Educators’ Association and community members have all expressed concern that students are being over assessed and that the number of assessments and time required by state standardized tests has become excessive. On Thursday, Jan. 15,  your school board voted 3 (for) -1(against)-1 (abstained) (with Mr. Witt, Newkirk and Ms. Williams voting in favor) to request waivers from the State Board of Education from the Performance Based PARCC assessments.”

It's not too difficult to see why a hiring committee might have suggested that Pinto was "unqualified."

Sen. Gardner in Full “Con Man Cory” Mode as Koch Brothers Plan to Spend Billions in 2016 Election

Koch Brothers and Cory Gardner

Sen. Cory Gardner loves him some Koch brothers.

You remember the Koch Brothers, right? The ultra-conservative coal baron founders of Americans for Prosperity have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent elections in support of Republican candidates who promise to stand up in support of endless tax breaks for the ridiculously wealthy (among other things).

Republican Senator Cory "Con Man" Gardner has much love for the Koch Brothers and their money. Gardner was a key figure in a major national story last summer about a super-duper-secret conference held by David and Charles Koch at their secret underground lair the elite St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in California. As the Huffington Post reported in August:

Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money — an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd…[Pols emphasis]

Yesterday the Washington Post reported about the latest news from Kochville, a story that includes absurd amounts of money and another appearance by — you guessed it — Cory Gardner:

A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign. The figure comes close to the $1 billion that each of the two parties’ presidential nominees are expected to spend in 2016, and cements the network’s role as one of the country’s most potent political forces…

…Saturday’s opening dinner — held on the resort’s wide lawn under strings of twinkling lights — celebrated a crop of new U.S. senators whose victories helped put the Senate back in GOP control. Their bids were lifted by the Freedom Partners network, which had pledged to spend close to $300 million in the run-up to the November elections.

Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia and Cory Gardner of Colorado were on hand to thank donors, according to people familiar with the event. [Pols emphasis]

Blah, blah, blah. What's the big deal? A freshman Senator going out of his way to thank his biggest donors? Well, it's not quite that simple.

See, "Con Man Cory" talks often about improving the economy so that it works for everyone…and then he does the exact opposite. In an interview with National Public Radio's Renee Montagne last week, we saw a classic example of "Con Man Cory" in action.

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Neville Nutters: Repeal FASTER Late Fees, Because Freedom

Bridge repair is important.

Bridge repair is important.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports on this year's attempt to repeal part of the road and bridge construction funding stream created in 2009 via increased vehicle registration fees known as FASTER, a perennial target of the "Tea Party" faction of General Assembly Republicans:

“It is one of the most egregious fees,” said Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton. “A fee is supposed to be a charge to cover the cost of handling something. There really is no cost to the government here.”

He and his son, rookie Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, are sponsoring Senate Bill 18 to repeal the vehicle registration late fee, which starts at $25 a month and is capped at $100. It’s the first bill from the father-son legislative team…

Because FASTER was passed by the General Assembly instead of a statewide vote, and has the net effect of increasing revenue available to fund Colorado transportation projects, conservative Republicans seethe annually about the program as a violation of the spirit (and, as opponents have unsuccessfully argued in court, the letter) of the 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR). The problem, of course, is that TABOR has hobbled the ability of the state to properly fund transportation projects for decades, and the only way for the state to keep up with the growing burden of maintenance and new infrastructure is to resort to alternate sources like registration late fees. In recognition of the unreasonable restriction imposed by TABOR on the legislature's ability to tax and spend, the Colorado Supreme Court has made an important distinction between fees and taxes in other cases.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville, Rep. Patrick Neville.

In previous years, despite the clamor on the right to repeal FASTER, Republicans in the legislature have been ultimately checked by their leadership. The last time Republicans had control of one chamber of the Colorado legislature in 2011, then House Speaker Frank McNulty's chief of staff was the former lobbyist for the Colorado Contractor's Association. The relentless drive to "shrink government" that serves as an article of faith for so many Republicans simply breaks down in the face of the reality that the state need these funds–and smart Republicans understand that to do nothing to address pressing needs like bridge repair would ultimately be disastrous for their own credibility.

Despite this, Bartels reports:

The bill likely will pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but its fate is unknown when it hits the Democratic-controlled House. Democrats have only a three-seat majority, and Rep. Neville is optimistic he can pull off a vote or two to help protect “the little guy.”

Missing from this bill is any plan to replace the millions of dollars it would cost the state, money that is being used right now to pay for something voters value above just about anything else–safe roads and bridges to drive on. On a matter of such basic importance, and with no alternative suggested, we have to wonder if there really isn't a single Republican in the Colorado Senate who will do the responsible thing here.

If not, it's something the voters should take careful note of.

Key fact in debate about pregnancy-prevention program: IUDs prevent pregnancy

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan advanced a story Monday that Boulder Rep. KC Becker is working on a bill to provide $5 million for a state teen-pregnancy prevention program that, in a privately-funded multi-year pilot phase, reduced teen pregnancies by 40 percent and teen abortions by 35 percent–and saved Colorado tens of millions of dollars to boot!

The Coloradoan quoted Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who's the Assistant Republican Majority Leader, as objecting to such funding because the program relies on the distribution of free or no-cost intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other long-lasting pregnancy -prevention implants, and Lundberg (along with twice failed gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez) believe IUDs cause abortions.

But IUDs work before pregnancy occurs!

“Any statement that IUDs aren't contraception simply isn't medically or scientifically accurate," said Dr. Jennifer Hyer, a Denver Ob-Gyn, in a statement distributed by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. "As a licensed, practicing Colorado OB-Gyn I recommend IUDs for my patients all the time. They are among the most effective forms of contraception, especially for at-risk women, because they automatically prevent pregnancy. That’s why Colorado's program was so successful, and access to long-acting contraceptives needs to continue if we want to keep reducing the teen birth and abortion rate.”

The Coloradoan rightly pointed out that the "definition of pregnancy used by the [Colorado Department of Health and Environment] and other scientists has pregnancy beginning at the implantation of the fertilized egg."

The definition of pregnancy is so central to the debate around this teen-pregnancy-prevention bill that the Coloradoan should have been even more explicit, saying that the mainstream scientific community, meaning the scientific establishment of nerdy medical people, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have defined pregnancy as beginning at implantation, not before.

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Tuesday Open Thread

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."

–Martin Luther King, Jr.