Does bishops’ “neutral” stance on Amendment 67 shed light on Gardner’s preferred path to personhood

Colorado’s Catholic Bishops, speaking through the Colorado Catholic Conference, announced their “neutral stance” last week on Colorado’s latest personhood measure, Amendment 67.

The Bishops’ announcement came in a news release denouncing an anti-personhood media campaign by Catholics for Choice, a national organization that challenges the “Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life and motherhood.”

A spokeswoman for Catholics for Choice points to tacit support by Colorado Bishops for Amendment 67, despite their professed neutrality on the measure, by allowing congregations to organize in support of it. You can find more details on a post of mine today on RH Reality Check.

You wonder what the bishops are thinking and how they justify it. And a trip back four years sheds some light on the matter.

The bishops’ statement of neutrality this year doesn’t get into the details, but back in 2008, when the personhood initiative first appeared in Colorado, they articulated their belief that a personhood amendment, if successful, could undermine the church’s goal of bestowing legal rights on zygotes or fertilized eggs.

The 2008 statement by Colorado Bishops Charles J. Chaput, Arthur N. Tafoya, Michael J. Sheridan, argues that a state personhood amendment is the wrong tactic to achieve personhood, because the federal courts could use it to affirm Roe v. Wade:

We admire the goals of this year’s effort to end abortion, and we remain committed to defending all human life from conception to natural death. As we have said from the start, however, we do not believe that this year’s Colorado Personhood Amendment is the best means to pursue an end to abortion in 2008…

Constructive alternatives to reduce abortions and advance the ultimate objective of ending abortion, however, do exist at the state level.

In the last two years, state level legislative strategies to protect life have included: increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women which result in the death of the unborn child; informed consent and ultrasound legislation which would have required a woman to be notified of her right to receive an ultrasound before an abortion was performed; and a complete abortion ban.

The Catholic Church in Colorado has a long and active history of working, through state legislative efforts and other community initiatives, to protect life from conception to natural death. We will continue through every realistic means to work toward this end. [BigMedia emphasis]

Maybe that’s why Gardner opposes personhood at the state level but supports in in Washington. He thinks it’s a more realistic way to ban abortion and common forms of birth control. That’s speculation, but with Gardner apparently lying about personhood, what else can you do.

After all, like Beauprez, Gardner has said his position is the “same” as Archbishop Chaput.

Um, You’re Breaking the Law, Don Suppes

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby:

Suppes said the town long has had a policy of allowing town trustees to use town hall for personal reasons as long as no taxpayer dollars are spent.

“Under town policy, board members can use town hall free of charge,” he said. “We all have a key to town hall, and as long as we don’t have to have somebody open or close, there is no policy against it.”

But Donovan said this is about state law, not local policies.

“The rules that I operate under are not to use any of my professional assets to run for a public office,” Donovan said. “I don’t know what the letter of the law says, but my interpretation of the color of the law is, if you’re a public official, you don’t use any of those assets to run for another office. You can’t use the power of an office to influence voters. It’s not just about tax dollars.”

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Donald Suppes

Republican Don Suppes

When we last left Republican Don Suppes, the Orchard City mayor running for the open seat in SD-5, he and his campaign were still trying to add to their list of reasons why his Twitter account would be linking to a white supremacist website (It was hacked! It was identity theft! It was a rogue staffer!) 

We already know that Suppes isn't very good at 1) the Internet, and 2) messaging. Now we can add 3) posing for pictures, and 4) following the law.

According to a complaint submitted to the Trustees of the Town of Orchard City (Suppes-Complaint PDF), Suppes has been using the Orchard City Town Hall as a campaign office. That's right, the Mayor of Orchard City is using the Town Hall as part of his campaign for a State Senate seat.

It doesn't appear as though Suppes' campaign finance records include reimbursements to Orchard City for using its Town Hall, which is such an obvious violation of the law that Suppes should be disqualified from the SD-5 race just for being so inexcusably stupid. But if you think that's dumb, wait 'til you see how the violation was uncovered…

…Hey, there's Don Suppes himself, grinning away in a photo taken in front of a table full of campaign literature and next to a giant poster that proclaims "Town of Orchard City!" What could go wrong? And what are the odds that Suppes' campaign has been using other town property for his campaign (quick, somebody destroy the photocopier!)

Don Suppes campaign office

1) Town of Orchard City poster. 2) Mayor and candidate Don Suppes. 3) Table full of Suppes campaign literature.

 

 

 

 

Hilarious New NARAL Ads Slam Gardner

A press release from NARAL Pro-Choice America announces a $450,000 ad buy for the above ad targeting young voters–attacking Republican Cory Gardner on issues he's been hit with before, except a lot funnier:

“Cory Gardner tries to deceive Colorado voters on his opposition to birth control and his belief that politicians have a right to interfere in our personal, private medical decisions,” said Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “These ads highlight how Cory Gardner is on the wrong side of Colorado values and voters, especially young voters.”

“Having access to birth control and being able to decide if, when and how to start a family is not just a women’s issue,” said Erika West, Political Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “It is an issue that affects men and women. Even though he’s been called out repeatedly by fact checkers, Cory Gardner keeps trying to hide his real record as an anti-birth control extremist. And we’re going to remind all voters of that every day between now and Election Day.”

You're right, the ad is funnier than the press release. That's to be expected.

The Hill's Alexandra Jaffe:

The television and Web ads close with a shot of a couple in bed looking frustrated after they realize they've run out of the prophylactic.

And the radio ad features a conversation between a couple after the man has returned empty-handed from a condom run that took him to every store in the neighborhood…

The attack is based in Gardner's previous support for a state measure that would've given legal rights to a fertilized human egg and in effect banned some forms of contraception. Gardner has since disavowed his support for the measure, but he remains a co-sponsor of a federal version of the bill.

We really like this campaign, and that's no small statement: six days from the election it's tough to like any political ad. That said, why must everything with a fresh format, breaking out of the jaded attack ad formula that voters are sick to death of seeing over and over, be "targeted at young people?" Last time we checked, voters of all ages are tired of the usual political ads. Maybe they could use an intro other than "guys guys guys," but livening up the format of campaign ads beyond a spec that seemingly hasn't changed since the early 1990s could make them more interesting to all demographics.

For all the millions shoveled into political ads, you'd think it would happen more. Why not entertain a little?

People might not hate them as much.

In familiar form, Gardner delivers his apparent personhood lie to third TV station, completing a trifecta

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels wrote yesterday:

“Almost everyone but Congressman Gardner agrees that the federal bill is similar to state ‘personhood’ measures that Coloradans overwhelmingly defeated and Gardner supported until just weeks after entering the Senate race in February.”

More proof came the night before, when Gardner’s told 7News’ Marc Stewart  (at the 50-second mark here) that the federal personhood bill is an empty symbol, instead of the extreme anti-abortion bill that it is.

Stewart: But your name is still, though, on the personhood legislation, correct?

Gardner: Well, that’s just a statement that I support life.

Gardner’s apparent lie here completes a trifecta of false statements to Denver TV stations, including Fox 31, Channel 9, and now, Channel 7–in addition to all the other news outlets that have endured this falsehood and objected to it, rightfully, sometimes in about the strongest possible terms you could expect from journalists.

S360: Udall 45% Gardner 44%, Hickenlooper 46% Beauprez 43%

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A new poll from local consultant outfit Strategies 360 offers a different look at the Colorado U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, with a polling sample they consider to be more representative of the 2014 electorate in Colorado than most public polling we've seen–in particular, a more accurate sample of Latino voters. From their memo today:

Strategies 360 conducted a telephone survey of Colorado voters who are likely to vote in the 2014 General Election. Respondents were randomly chosen from a list of registered voters and interviews were conducted by trained interviewers in both English and Spanish. Interviews were conducted October 20-25, 2014. A combination of landline and mobile phones were called to ensure greater coverage of the population sampled.

A total of 760 interviews were completed. 604 interviews were conducted among a representative sample of likely voters statewide. An additional 156 oversample interviews were conducted among Hispanic likely voters. The sample was weighted to ensure a proportional demographic representation of the likely 2014 electorate. The topline margin of error is ±4.0 and the margin of error for Hispanic voters is ±6.7%.

Currently, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall (45%) and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner (44%) are locked in a statistical tie, with another 8% undecided and 4% supporting a third-party candidate. Several factors contribute to the stalemate:

A massive gender gap. Udall currently holds the same 17-point lead among women that exit polls showed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet holding in 2010. Meanwhile, Gardner leads among men by a similar 17-point margin. Additionally, Udall leadsamong white women by an 11-point margin and Hispanic women by a 37-point margin. In contrast, Gardner leads among white men by a huge 23-point margin but is currently losing Hispanic men by 29% to 57%. 

Unaffiliated voters. While partisans on both sides are similarly united around their party’s nominee (83% of Democrats back Udall, while 80% of Republicans support Gardner), Udall has more effectively consolidated Unaffiliated voters, which helps negate an expected GOP turnout advantage this year. Today, Unaffiliated Coloradans prefer Udall to Gardner 48% to 37%. 

Hispanics. Much of the media coverage of the U.S. Senate race has centered on Colorado’s Hispanic vote, and for good reason. This race may very well hinge on Hispanic turnout. Currently, Gardner edges Udall among white voters 47% to 43%. In most of the other key U.S. Senate races in 2014, that might be enough for the Republican to secure a win. However, Colorado features the highest proportion of Hispanic voters of any targeted U.S. Senate race this year, and Udall holds a commanding lead among this critical voting bloc: 58% of Hispanic likely voters favor Udall while just 26% favor Gardner. 

Young voters. This race remains close in part because older and middle-aged voters have yet to offer a real edge to either candidate (voters 55 and older split 46% to 46%; voters 35 to 54 lean toward Gardner 42% to 44%). Meanwhile, Udall has built a 10-point lead among voters under 35 (46% to 36%). Furthermore, young voters are disproportionately undecided compared to the older age cohorts. Turnout among this group will be key to any Democratic chances of holding Colorado.

Here's the full memo from Strategies 360. In the gubernatorial race, Gov. John Hickenlooper's somewhat larger lead is attributable to both a large gender gap and a sizable lead among unaffiliated voters–52-35%.

If this poll more accurate than others we're seeing? We do think that Strategies 360's attempt to factor Latino voters gives them a qualitative edge over a lot of the public pollsters–some of whom admit candidly that they have no idea how to account for this pivotal bloc of voters in their surveys. Also, back in 2010, Kevin Ingham, longtime Colorado pollster now with Strategies 360, released a poll on that year's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races that turned out to be dead-on. So yes, we're inclined to trust these numbers a little more.

At the very least, throw this poll into your averages, and note the conscientious attempt to get it right.

Go Home Quinnipiac, You’re Drunk

beer-drinker

Polling from Quinnipiac University this election season has easily been the most erratic of any public pollster. One week ago, Quinnipiac claimed that Gov. John Hickenlooper had erased a 10-point deficit from their early September polling. In fact, the September poll showing Hickenlooper down by 10 points was widely panned as inaccurate even by supporters of Hickenlooper's Republican opponent Bob Beauprez. The result one week ago seemed to us like Quinnipiac walking back their previously outlier results to something closer to polling-consensus reality.

Well folks, if we're to believe Quinnipiac is in any way polling Colorado accurately, the race has flipped completely back around in only a week:

Men are going Republican in a big way in the Colorado governor's race, giving former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger a 45 – 40 percent likely voter lead over Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democratic incumbent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess has 4 percent, with 2 percent for Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Another 9 percent are undecided. 

This compares to an October 23 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University showing 45 percent for Gov. Hickenlooper and 44 percent for Beauprez…

"Five points down, six days to go. The numbers are tight and the ticking clock is the enemy. Is the wolf at the door for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper? " asked Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

Compare that quote with the same Quinnipiac polling director Tim Malloy a week ago:

"Off the mat and clearly building momentum, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper fights off a ten count and enters the final round of the gubernatorial slugfest looking stronger by the day," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Okie dokie then! One of those must be right.

Bottom line: no other polling has shown the kinds of wild swings that Quinnipiac has shown in the Colorado gubernatorial race, or the large leads they have indicated on either side. The fact is, for a host of reasons, we believe the polling this year is less reliable than perhaps any we've seen since we've been covering politics. Quinnipiac's consistently outlier, otherwise entirely inconsistent results could make them the "worst of the worst" in an already bad pack–polling so bad, you'd do better to throw darts at the proverbial map.

Voter Turnout Comparisons: 2010, 2012, and 2014

Today the Secretary of State's office released another update of voter turnout figures for 2014. To put those numbers in perspective, we broke down the final numbers from 2010 and 2012 in the most populous Colorado counties.

If you're looking for a one-sentence takeaway, it's that we're still a long way from the finish line.

Colorado voter turnout

The Year of the Lie

CoryGardner-Teeth

Republican Cory Gardner’s campaign for Senate often refers to 2014 as an “historic” election year, for reasons that are as vague as Gardner’s policy positions. Normally I might scoff at the very idea of ascribing such a lofty adjective to this election cycle – after all, 2014 will not be the first year that the United States re-arranges its makeup of white dudes in Congress – but the more I consider the label, the more considerable I find the history. I believe Gardner is correct when he says this is an historic election, but not for reasons that have anything to do with Senate majorities and minorities.

Anyone who engages in politics as career or hobby is destined to feel cynical about the whole process at some point; I recognize this, but it's not cynicism that has skewed my perception of this election. No, this is about deception. This is dishonesty, fraud, and sham on a level I have personally never encountered before – and from what I read and hear, I am not alone.

I cannot recall another time when candidates so brazenly dismissed their own past and bulldozed their own words with such disregard. I hate to use the word, “lie,” because it has become so cliché to declare that our politicians are a bunch of fibbers, but there’s no other word that is more appropriate here. The lies have been suffocating in their consistency, from candidates who will lie about anything, to anyone, at any time.
 

GEORGE WASHINGTON HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying stuff.

The United States Congress is already the most disliked and distrusted organization that has ever been measured by public surveys. The current Congress has worked less and achieved less than any prior body before. The 2014 election has helped illustrate the problem: How could anyone expect to negotiate with the likes of Gardner when you quite literally have no idea in what he actually believes? You can only guess at the real answer on any subject other than the career ascendency of Cory Gardner. Yet now, here we are, potentially sending a man to the U.S. Senate to represent Colorado even though we really haven’t a clue what he’ll do.  

I like to think of myself as a generally optimistic person, yet I am confronted with a magnitude of lies that I hadn’t though possible outside of novels and North Korea. I take some relief, I suppose, in knowing that I’m not alone. Kansas City Star columnist Barbara Shelly recently wrote a blistering rebuke of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who is seeking re-election by any means necessary. Here's the lede to that column:

All politicians spin. They exaggerate and make selective use of facts and data. These are the tricks of the trade.

But I have never seen a public official lie as easily and as relentlessly as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. [emphasis mine] 

That sounds harsh, and it is possible that Brownback actually believes his own mythology. But much of what he has told the citizens of Kansas is flat out wrong.

Shelly continues by listing a page of whoppers that Brownback repeats as gospel. It doesn’t matter that most of Brownback’s lies have been debunked a dozen times over—he keeps repeating them, because he knows that there are still plenty of people who want to believe that their elected officials are guided by an actual belief in something.

It’s important to remember that these aren’t opinions we’re discussing. Gardner and Brownback lie confidently about established facts – the kind that Siri or Google could answer in about 20 seconds. Brownback likes to say that there was just $876 in the state treasury when he took over as Governor in 2011. In fact, he has repeated this line in three different state-of-the-state addresses. Shelly says that the story is “complete hokum,” and that Kansas had $251 million in its bank account when Brownback took charge. This information is public record – anybody can look it up. 

This is not to discredit politicians in general. I know many elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, who are genuine people with examined positions on important issues. But increasingly we are seeing elected officials the likes of Brownback and Gardner, for whom words are merely a vessel to deliver them to their chosen destinations. These are men who solve a Rubik’s Cube by removing the stickers. They don’t seek the satisfaction of solving a difficult puzzle; their just want you to believe that they solved it.
 

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In Which Wayne Williams Makes a Complete Fool of Himself

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Broadcasting last night from Denver, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow featured GOP Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams' interview on the FOX News Channel–hilariously, devastatingly. This is a must-watch clip of video:

We could not do a better job summing up the absurdity.

The only thing we have to add is this: Wayne Williams leads in most polls in the race to be Colorado's next Secretary of State. For Democrats, that is where the joke stops being funny. With less than a week remaining until the election, how would you capitalize on this nationally televised disaster if you were Williams' opponent? Original post follows.

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Colorado Unions Contribute to Court Ruling Striking Unionist Contractual Rights.

In 2010, public sector unions in Colorado supported a bill introduced at the Colorado Legislature, SB10-001, that diminished public pension rights previously deemed contractual under Colorado law, (see the cases Bills/McPhail.) The bill was challenged in court. Last week, after a long court battle, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed its long-standing precedent, ignored evidence (including the defendant's previous testimony admitting to the contract) and without trial or discovery ruled that public employees in Colorado have no contractual right to the contested public pension benefit. (That is, one branch of Colorado government conveniently found that another branch of Colorado government does not have to pay its debts.)  Of course, Colorado public employees have supported their Colorado PERA pension COLA benefit with their labor and contributions for many years. Now, thanks in part to many Colorado union officials, the labor and pension contributions of union members will now be used to alleviate the tax burden on wealthy Colorado residents, and provide even more Colorado corporate welfare. Thanks Colorado unions.

As we read on the Colorado PERA website:

“In Colorado, Senate Bill 1 passed with the support of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, which brought together Friends of PERA (which includes PERA members and retirees), the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado School and Public Employees Retirement Association, AFSCME Colorado, the American Federation of Teachers Colorado, the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals, the Colorado Association of School Executives, and Colorado WINS.”

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/ask.htm

Union Official Condemns Pension Contract Breach (Including the Taking of COLA Benefits) in Rhode Island.

An article published by the group Think Progress today addresses state theft of public pension benefits, including the taking of pension COLA benefits, in Rhode Island.

"The changes 'completely screwed mid- and late-career workers,' said SEIU’s Adler. For someone with 20 years of public service under his belt and a decade to go before hitting retirement age, 'you’re losing 10 years of wage increases and 20-plus percent of whatever that final average salary [used for calculating pension payments] was going to be. So it’s an enormous reduction.'”

(Does is not seem counterintuitive that Colorado public sector unions supported the taking of Colorado PERA public pension benefits, in light of their parent organization's support for public pension contractual rights?)

“'Many folks take public sector jobs because they have good pensions and benefits, and in many cases they’re forgoing better pay in the private sector,' Adler said. 'That got thrown out the window on a dime." ". . . if you’re early in your career you have time to decide if this job is still worth it. But if you’re mid-career, you’re stuck.”

(Mid-career Colorado state and local government employees should take the time to thank their Colorado union leaders for supporting SB10-001.)

"The year before, Baker crunched state-level pension numbers and found that those multi-trillion-dollar shortfalls are 'less than 0.2 percent of projected gross state product over the next 30 years for most states,' and less than 0.5 percent of projected future economic output even in the states with the worst-funded pensions."

(Of course, this evidence was also ignored by the politicians on the Colorado Supreme Court. There never was a Colorado PERA pension "crisis," the actuarial funded ratio of the Colorado PERA pension system, at the time of the contract breach, was 69%. This figure is a few points away from the historical funded ratio of the Colorado PERA pension system.)

"Like basic financial management for any working-class person, maintaining a healthy pension system requires getting into good habits and sticking with them. States that fund their pensions appropriately rather than reneging on the obligations 'generally do it because that has been the practice in the state, but generally not because of state law,' according to SEIU’s Adler."

(As we have seen, the Colorado Legislature has not paid its Colorado PERA public pension bills since 2003. This is documented at saveperacola.com.)

"The weakness in pension funds from decades of underfunding by state governments needs to be addressed and there’s no reason not to start now, he said, but the radical revisions and abandoned retirement promises Raimondo and Arnold support are unnecessary."

"Pew has received 'up to $4,850,000' for its pension work from the Arnolds since 2012 according to the Arnold Foundation’s website."

(Note that a study from Pew was used to justify the taking of the Colorado PERA pension COLA benefit in the bill SB10-001. Also, let's not forget that this Pew study was highlighted in the original legal briefs in the case, Justus v. State.)

“'They depict us as big labor, billions of dollars,' he said, 'and the reality is that we are fighting desperately to maintain the rights of our members under a furious, multifaceted right-wing assault.'”

(I do not consider the many Colorado Democrats and union officials who supported SB10-001 to be "right wing.")

"Elsewhere, the innocuously-named Colorado Pension Project held a panel discussion of how pension rules influence teacher hiring and school performance. Panelists from Bellwether Education Partners, the National Council on Teacher Quality, and the New Teacher Project all argued that traditional pensions hurt school districts’ ability to attract the best teachers." "All three groups are funded by John and Laura Arnold, whose foundation has given them a total of nearly $7 million."

(Will Colorado public sector unions support elimination of the remaining two-thirds of the value of their member's public pensions? Too soon to tell.)

“'If you stiff your bondholders they won’t lend you money. So they have power. Workers, what are they going to do?' Adler asked. 'They’re powerless.'”

(When one recognizes that Colorado PERA retirees are confronted by a pension administrator controlling all of their assets, and spending those assets to eliminate pension member contractual rights, when one sees a Colorado Supreme Court in the pocket of the proponents of pension contract breach, the word "powerless" appears quite apt.)

Greg Smith on Colorado PERA pension benefits:

“His [Colorado PERA General Counsel Greg Smith's] briefing paper said 'there has never been a finding in Colorado that the state has reserved its power to make changes' in PERA's benefit structure.”

"The PERA board, however, relying on a legal opinion by General Counsel Greg Smith, thinks benefits cannot be cut for any active PERA member. That means not just current retirees and workers who are eligible to retire but the brand-new employee who has put less than a year of contributions into the plan."

"Smith argued, however, that there is no precedent for declaring an actuarial emergency unless a pension fund has a serious cash liquidity problem."

http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2005/aug/17/span-classdeeplinksredpart-four-the-pera-puzzle/

Greg Smith, Colorado PERA’s former General Counsel told us in a Denver Post article from November 30, 2008: “The attorney general’s opinion seems clear that fully vested employees — those retired or with enough years of service to retire — cannot see any benefits reduced, including cost-of-living adjustments.”

Link: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_11105271#ixzz0eEZGoxly)

The complete article at Think Progress:

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/10/28/3585128/arnold-pensions-retirement-manufactured-crisis/

Pennies for Your Thoughts: El Paso County Ballots Scrap Signature Cover

Republican Wayne Williams is the current Clerk and Recorder in El Paso County, which puts him in charge of elections and voting in one of the largest counties in Colorado. Williams is also running for Secretary of State to replace Scott Gessler, and if his decisions in El Paso County are any indication, Williams' approach to mail ballots should make you nervous.

All mail ballots must be signed on the back of the envelope in order to be counted as official votes, and El Paso County is no exception to that rule. But El Paso County is perhaps the only large county in Colorado to have eliminated the voter signature cover on the envelope, which allows anyone who handles the envelope to see whose ballot is in their hands (provided they can read the signature). You can see the El Paso County ballot and envelope in the image below; after the jump is a comparison ballot/envelope from Denver, with the signature cover intact.

From what we understand, Williams instructed his office to eliminate the tab that covers the signature on the envelope as a cost-cutting measure. We can't imagine this decision actually saved a lot of money, but even if it did, was it really worth the savings if it jeopardized the secrecy of mail ballots in El Paso County?

El Paso County Ballot

El Paso County mail ballot sans signature cover.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rocky Mountain Heist–So Bad It’s…Well, See For Yourself

UPDATE: Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch makes an astute point:

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citizensunited

The controversial right-wing filmmaking crew Citizens United released their much-anticipated movie about the "Democratic takeover" of Colorado titled Rocky Mountain Heist last week, now available on DVD as well as streaming free on conservative website Newsmax.com. Overall, the video appears to be a overheated version of Adam Schrager's Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado, with some misleading anecdotes backdropped against the effective (and perfectly legal) Democratic infrastructure generally given credit for turning Colorado blue for the past decade.

Rocky Mountain Heist draws viewers in with references to a memo, purportedly from the Colorado Democracy Alliance in 2006, that refers to a campaign to "educate the idiots"–obviously an incendiary choice of words for any election strategy document. What Citizens United doesn't mention is that the "educate the idiots" memo was an obvious forgery, using bizarre language and bad grammar that nobody on the Democratic side could even recognize.

And that's just the beginning. The movie references the case of Jack Phillips, the bakery owner who was found to be in violation of the state's public accommodation law, claiming Phillips "faced jail time" for his refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The truth is, the Colorado General Assembly repealed the criminal penalties for public accommodation in 2013, the same year they passed the civil unions bill. To imply in the fall of 2014 that refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in Colorado could result in jail time is just one example of the way this movie blatantly misleads its audience.

Seth Masket, a DU professor, relates his experience of being duped into an interview for Rocky Mountain Heist in a Washington Post blog last week:

At one point in the film, I claim the following:

Latinos have not only been increasing in their potential to vote, but they’ve been voting increasingly Democratic over the last 10 years in Colorado.

By itself, this is not a particularly controversial statement. It is empirically verifiable that the number of Latino voters has increased substantially in Colorado over the past decade and that those voters are more likely to vote Democratic than they used to be. But this quote is inserted in between some footage purportedly showing that Democrats are trying to encourage illegal immigration, an insinuation by Tom Tancredo that the Obama administration is essentially recruiting Democratic voters via undocumented Mexican immigration, and a paean by Michelle Malkin to her Filipino parents who “immigrated here legally. It wasn’t easy. They learned English, they learned our history, they followed our rules.”

So now my uncontroversial quote is helping to legitimize an argument that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are invading our country, affecting our elections and undermining our culture.

For us, perhaps the most egregious lie in the whole film–the one that proves Citizens United is purposefully out to mislead you–is this frame:

udalltomfreespeech

This is the point late in the film where Citizens United declares their court case invalidating campaign finance laws is the reason why the "gun control revolt" in Colorado was successful–enough that "Sen. Udall" is proposing to "roll back free speech rights across the country."

But if you look closely, you can see they're not even attacking the right Sen. Udall.

tomudall

Bottom line: since the release of Rocky Mountain Heist, we've honestly been surprised by how little attention it's received in the mainstream press, and how little buzz among voters on either side of the political spectrum it seems to be generating. That's partly because the material is really quite weak, relying more on breathless reporting of uncontroversial politics than findings of real nefarious fact. And at key moments, the whole production is pasted together with rank deceptions like what you see above: maybe enough fool the most uncritical and most committed partisan Republicans, but laughable to anyone who stops even for a moment to think about what they're being presented with. As a tool for persuading undecided voters, Rocky Mountain Heist is just plain bunk.

Given the splash they made with the court battle just to set up shop in Colorado, we expected better.

Fear and Lies: Controversy Erupts Over False RGA TV Spot

UPDATE: 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman says the station has not refused the ad, but it isn't running there:

Republican-Governors-Association-RGA-LogoTo be clear, our original report was based on an update to the Denver Post's story:

UPDATE: Channel 9 is not airing the ad in its current form, Hickenlooper campaign says.

Which, to be fair, doesn't explicitly say 9NEWS pulled the ad–so we regret any presumption. This story is still reportedly developing, we'll update.

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Thinking it was set to fire a potential kill shot in Colorado’s governor’s race, the Republican Governors Association instead shot a blank.

With eight days of voting left, the Republican Governors Association went back on Colorado’s airwaves with a hard-hitting ad featuring the father of a girl who was murdered in 1993 by Nathan Dunlap, the death row inmate who Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to last May.

Unfortunately, a glaring factual error in the ad may lead Colorado television stations to pull the spot from the airwaves.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports via Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign that 9NEWS is refusing to air the ad in question, and further explains the enormous factual error behind their decision:

The last frame of the ad states: “Now John Hickenlooper is threatening a ‘full clemency’ for Nathan Dunlap that could set him free.” The ad cites an Aug. 25 story in The Denver Post, but the article never mentions the governor setting Dunlap free. And the governor’s attorneys said that’s not possible.

“The statement in the ad is flagrantly false, misleading and factually inaccurate,” Hickenlooper’s attorneys said in their cease-and-desist letters…

“The temporary reprieve of the governor’s executive order leaves only two possible outcomes with respect to Mr. Dunlap’s sentence, neither of which includes setting him free: (1) full clemency with life in prison and no possiblity for parole or (2) execution,” the attorneys wrote.

Hickenlooper's granting of an indefinite reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap was an act that pleased his Democratic base, and it's important to keep this in mind when talking about the politics of that decision. But it has also generated arguably the harshest attacks on Hickenlooper from his political opponents, foremost now from opponent Bob Beauprez. The expenditure of political capital in that decision is part of why Hickenlooper's once-stellar approval ratings have been brought to earth in the last couple of years. These are political realities.

With that said, this ad is plainly, ridiculously false, and we agree it should not air in its present form. Bartels reports that the Republican Governors Association responded to the cease and desist letter with (we are not making this up) Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of "clemency," as if that's in any way relevant or binding. Given the nature of his crimes, there is no plausible scenario we can imagine in which Nathan Dunlap will ever see the outside of a prison. At no point before this ad has anyone seriously suggested that Hickenlooper might set Dunlap free, this has always to our knowledge been a debate about execution versus life imprisonment. Reasonable people can disagree about the efficacy and morality of the death penalty, but that's not what's happening here. Because this discussion is not based on the facts.

Like the Beauprez campaign's willful abuse of Tom Clements' death, or Cory Gardner falsely invoking Ebola and ISIS against Mark Udall, the scare tactics we're seeing as the 2014 campaign comes to a close are marked with something else: pervasive dishonesty. It's tough to say objectively if it's worse this election than in prior years, but it feels that way today.