Bruce Ben$on’s CU Loves Its Climate Skeptics

CU President Bruce Benson.

CU President Bruce Benson.

Since becoming President of the University of Colorado, former GOP gubernatorial candidate and major political donor Bruce Benson has slowly but steadily nudged Colorado's flagship education institution into a place much more accommodating to conservatives. We've talked in the past about CU's former "visiting professor of conservative thought" Stephen Hayward, whose guest professorship didn't really go so well in retrospect. And then there's the recent habit of CU's Leeds School of Business churning out pro-fracking position papers that don't stand up to elementary critical thinking.

The Boulder Daily Camera's Mitchell Byars reports on another example–but this one may have lessons for both sides of the debate:

The Arizona Congressman who last week asked the University of Colorado to disclose the sources of funding for professor Roger Pielke Jr. now admits an additional request for communications regarding such funding was an "overreach" — but defended the search as an effort to seek important disclosures for figures in the climate change debate.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva last week sent letters to seven different universities — including CU — that employed researchers who have been skeptical or controversial in their positions on climate change in an effort to determine whether any had received research funding from fossil fuel companies.

In the letters, Grijalva asked the universities to disclose all sources and amounts of external funding for those professors, as well as any communications regarding the funding or testimony by the professors to Congress or other bodies…

At the time of Grijalva's request, Pielke wrote that he has disclosed all possible conflicts of interest and has no funding "declared or undeclared, with any fossil fuel company or interest."

CU officials also stood behind Pielke last week, stressing that, "None of his research has been funded by oil companies or fossil fuel interests."

We've heard different opinions of the academic work of Roger Pielke, but by most accounts he very intelligent and no stooge for the fossil fuel industry. To the extent that his testimony is sometimes used to promote climate change denial, often much more broadly than anything Pielke himself has claimed, that's an issue. But we can't call that Pielke's fault, and we don't like the idea of academics' motives being questioned the way that Rep. Raul Grijalva did in this case–especially when you consider how that has happened in recent Colorado history in the other direction. We take Pielke and CU at their word when they say his work is not funded by the oil and gas industry, and we're confident their response will document that.

The only thing we can add is that under Bruce Benson, professors at CU whose scholarship just so happens to reinforce the oil and gas industry's position probably don't need to get special funding. With that in mind, we might suggest that Rep. Grijalva inquire somewhat above the level of individual academics, and consider the possibility of a more systemic problem.

Ben Carson: Prison Makes You Gay

Ben Carson

Ben Carson may be a neurosurgeon, but he’s no rocket scientist.

It was a bit of a surprise last summer when Ben Carson won a Presidential straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit in Colorado (hosted annually by Colorado Christian University), though perhaps it shouldn't have raised too many eyebrows. After all, the Western Conservative Summit is the same place where Herman Cain won a Presidential straw poll in 2011, supercharging the Herminator's brief bid for the GOP nomination in 2012.

A retired neurosurgeon with no real political resume, Carson is not well known among average American voters. But he is a darling of the far right because…well, he's the kind of guy who will say shit like this:

"A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they're gay."

Carson believes that sexual orientation is a choice that people make. Carson has also watched too many prison movies, as CNN reports:

Asked whether being gay is a choice, Carson responded: "Absolutely."

"Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question," Carson said. [Pols emphasis]

That argument, Carson said, "thwarts" the notion that homosexuality isn't a choice, which is at odds with the majority of the medical community, including the American Psychological Association, who says "most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation." Slate's Mark Joseph Stern also outlined the scientific arguments against this particular belief last year.

Carson's comment comes as Republicans try to avoid the kinds of incendiary comments on cultural issues that cost the party two Senate races — when Missouri's Todd Akin and Indiana's Richard Mourdock drew national attention for their remarks on rape — and hurt Mitt Romney in 2012.

CNN was unable to find other Republican Presidential candidates willing to respond to Carson's nonsense.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 4)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senate Democrats are holding a mid-session legislative briefing this afternoon for the media. Saturday, March 7 marks the official halfway point of the Colorado legislative session. Gov. John Hickenlooper is taking a more hands-on approach to this legislative session compared to years past.

► This probably won't surprise you, but several Republican lawmakers who present staunch anti-government platforms actually receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal subsidies for their farms. They don't want to kill the golden goose — they just want it for themselves.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Anti-choice activists step up accusation that “pro-choicers” want to kill “newborns”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Infanticide is rare in America and has few advocates, yet anti-choice activists are leveling an accusation that more and more "pro-choicers" favor this form of murder.

American Right to Life, a national anti-choice organization, is stepping up a campaign accusing pro-choice activists of favoring the killing of "newborns and toddlers."

"An increasing number of well-known leaders and organizations who are pro-choice are also coming out publicly in favor of killing children, not only before they are born, but also after they are born," Bob Enyart, board member and spokesman for American Right to Life, told me via email.

American Right to Life is promoting an online document, titled "Pro-Choicers who Want to Legalize Infanticide." It's a list of about 10 articles and videos, some of which date back a decade or longer, that contain statements favoring infanticide.

The people cited on American Right to Life's website are not leaders of pro-choice organizations, and they aren't obviously linked with the pro-choice movement at all.

(more…)

How Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg Keeps The Government Out of Your Business (But Not His)

UPDATE #2: None of former Sen. Greg Brophy's $113,000 in federal crop subsidy payments came from melons, which is good because he shoots those. 

—–

UPDATE: Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown, a top 2016 Democratic target and another co-sponsor of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance exchange and subsidies, pulled down over $180,000 in direct cash subsidy payments from the federal government between 1995 and 2012–almost $130,000 of which was subsidy payments for wool and "sheep meat."

Got that? No health insurance subsidy for you, but sheep meat subsidies for J. Paul Brown. That's going to make for one hell of a direct mail piece.

—–

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling is one of the louder voices in the Colorado Senate GOP delegation, both literally and figuratively. Sonnenberg can be reliably counted upon to introduce some of the more combative pieces of legsialation in any given session, and he hasn't disappointed this year as sponsor of bills to roll back Colorado's renewable energy standards and to speculatively "compensate" mineral rights owners if local governments prohibit fracking operations on the surface. On the latter effort, the Craig Daily Press quoted Sonnenberg in typical form:

Sonnenberg said if counties or local government entities cannot afford to pay for what they take, they shouldn’t make regulations limiting mineral rights.

“If you can’t buy it, don’t ban it,” Sonnenberg said.

Got that? The last thing you need is the government up in your business, folks. Let the free market reign!

And then we got to thinking about it: what does Jerry Sonnenberg do for a living?

Jerry Sonnenberg is a Colorado native who has been farming and ranching in northeastern Colorado his entire life. He continues to live and work on the same farm that both his father and he were raised on growing wheat, corn, sunflowers, millet and cattle.

Jerry Sonnenberg is a farmer. Certainly an honorable profession and an important part of Colorado's economy. But in modern American agriculture, as America's growing resource-disconnected urban population is increasingly oblivious to, there's a catch.

The catch is government subsidies.

You see, the agricultural commodities market as we know it today is very far from what you'd call "free." The U.S. Department of Agriculture closely monitors the supply and demand of farm products, and pays billions of dollars each year in direct subsidy payments to farmers to protect their incomes from price volatility. We could write a very long post on how this all works, but the overall goal is to keep food prices in the United States low while keeping farmers gainfully employed. There is a great deal of debate about the efficacy and true beneficiaries of farm subsidies, but the political power wielded by farm states has protected the status quo for the last two decades.

The amount paid to farmers by the USDA in direct subsidies is a public record. The Environmental Working Group maintains a searchable index of receipients of direct farm subsidies since 1995. So we clicked here, and entered the name Jerry Sonnenberg:

sonnenbergsubsidies

That's right! Jerry Sonnenberg received almost SIX HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS in direct cash subsidy payments from the USDA between 1995 and 2012. Clicking through to the breakdown of his subsidy payments shows that over $300,000 was paid to Sonnenberg in wheat crop subsidies alone, with smaller amounts for land conservation and periodic crop disaster declarations.

Again, our purpose here is not to disparage the practice of subsidizing farmers to stabilize the agricultural products market. But when you think about things like Sonnenberg's co-sponsorship of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance marketplace, which could deprive thousands of Coloradans of their subsidies to buy health insurance…well, how is that not as utterly hypocritical as it looks?

We have no doubt that Sonnenberg has a blowhard answer ready, but it is what it is. And the questions this kind of hypocrisy provokes are, in our view, pretty fundamental to debates he is having right now at the state capitol.

Bonus round: search for the names Greg Brophy and Mark Hillman! Or try some others.

House (Finally) Passes DHS Funding Bill as Republicans Abandon Ship

UPDATE: Statement from Rep. Diana DeGette:

“Finally, Republican leaders recognized what has been clear for weeks: whatever their disagreements with President Obama and his actions to address our broken immigration system, Congress must provide the necessary resources to protect our homeland from attacks and be prepared to respond to natural disasters. While we should have taken this action weeks ago, I am pleased to see this get done at last.”

—–

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

This picture of House Speaker John Boehner is a good summation of his last couple of weeks in Congress.

As CNN reports, the House of Representatives finally voted to approve a "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but all is not well in the GOP caucus:

The House cleared legislation Tuesday that will keep the agency operating through the end of September after a standoff last week threatened to shutter the agency and furlough thousands of workers. The 257-167 vote sends the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who rarely casts votes, backed the bill, along with his top lieutenants. A majority of House Republicans opposed the bill. Just 75 GOP lawmakers joined with 182 Democrats to push it across the finish line. [Pols emphasis]

The legislation does nothing to rein in Obama's immigration executive orders — a top priority of conservatives. That issue was a sticking point for weeks as Republicans tried to tie DHS funding to the repeal of the orders but the party couldn't overcome Democratic filibusters in the Senate…

…Boehner told his members Tuesday morning that he had run out of options and the Senate couldn't pass a bill with immigration language attached.

It's nice to see the House doing its job and actually, you know, governing, though the political damage has been considerable on the GOP side. After weeks of arguing, House Speaker John Boehner seems to have all but given up on trying to work with his fractured caucus, which didn't help him anyway; despite holding the largest majority in Congress since the New Freakin' Deal, Republicans couldn't even fund a critical department without the support of Democrats. Colorado's Congressional delegation reflected this divide, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) the only Republican to vote YES, along with Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis.

How bad have things gotten for House Republicans? Bad enough that the American Action Network, a political group aligned with House leadership, spent $400,000 this week on TV and radio ads targeted at Republican dissenters. As Politico reported yesterday:

So, that worked out well.

So, that worked out well.

The nonprofit American Action Network is airing an ad in three states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio — urging Reps. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to back funding for the anti-terrorism agency. The 30-second spot will run at least 50 times in each district — on broadcast, in prime slots — Tuesday and Wednesday as the House is expected to take up a DHS funding bill.

The group says the ad campaign, which also includes radio ads on nationally syndicated shows and digital ads in dozens of other districts represented by House conservatives, is the opening salvo of a larger effort to help Republican leaders pass center-right legislation. American Action Network says it will spend millions of dollars to contact voters in the coming months. The move appears designed to give Boehner cover to end the months-long impasse over homeland security funding.

The TV ad feature images of what appear to be terrorists and says that “some in Washington are willing to put our security at risk by jeopardizing critical security funding. That’s the wrong message to send to our enemies.” [Pols emphasis]

Jordan is the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, which led last week's effort to oppose Boehner's vote on DHS funding, and he voted NO today along with Reps. Huelskamp and Bridenstine. Republicans are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars going after fellow Republicans in their home districts just to try to get them to not shoot their own toes off. It's safe to say they aren't listening.

Republicans have been getting hammered for weeks by local and national media over an ideologic battle against President Obama's immigration policies…but they didn't do anything to stunt Obama's plans, either. Hell, Brian Shaw might be a better leader for House Republicans at this point.

It was obvious to anyone who could read that Republicans were not going to win this fight, but the degree to which they completely bungled this mess is stunning. This is an absolute disaster for Boehner and Congressional Republicans. It's difficult to see how things won't just get worse from here.

Jeffco School Board Snaps Up GOP Media Consultants

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

We talked just over a month ago about the hiring by Jefferson County Public Schools of one Lisa Pinto, a right-wing Leadership Program of the Rockies graduate and former board member of the embattled Colorado Republican independent expenditure committee, as the new Chief Communications Officer of the district. Pinto appears to have been hired due to her political affiliations, as she was apparently rejected by a number of people involved in the hiring process as unqualified–yet somehow in the end deserving of a higher salary than her more qualified predecessor. We've heard that unflattering information about the process that led to Pinto's hiring by the district may shortly be disclosed, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, Jefferson County School Board Watch reported last month that Pinto is getting some extra reinforcements on the public-relations front, having hired a usual-suspect Republican aligned communications firm Novitas Communications to…well, it seems like they were more or less hired to do Pinto's job:

a) Set measureable objectives against which Novitas and the District Communications
Department efforts can be evaluated. For example, if the mix of media coverage of the district is 50% negative and 50% positive, work toward shifting that percentage to 25% negative and 75% positive.

b) Evaluate objectives’ metrics regularly and help the District Communications Department shift strategies and tactics to keep the department on track to meeting its objectives.

c) Develop strategies to address hot-button or controversial issues to ensure that District constituencies (e.g., parents, teachers, community leaders) are engaged and empowered in District decisions, and to ensure that the District is driving the narrative on these issues.

d) With District staff, develop core messaging for the District as well as on controversial issues that will help ensure spokespersons and staff are unified in their communications to District stakeholders.

e) Develop/enhance a crisis communications plan for rapid response action, as needed…

You know, the stuff Chief Communications Officers are supposed to do!

And here's the "ah-ha" reveal: Novitas Communications is run by Michelle Balch Lyng, a longtime Republican operative and former head of the Denver Republican Party–the same urban Republican social circle as Pinto herself. Lyng's staff includes Devan Crean, the Republican "tracker" who got embarrassingly mixed up in the state GOP chairmanship election battle early last month. You'll recall what Crean said about her work then:

The organization Ellie and I both work for ONLY tracks politicians and policy makers who are left-leaning. We DO NOT track fellow Republicans…

We haven't heard if Ms. Crean still works for Revealing Politics after that little fiasco, but we assume her Republican loyalties remain firmly intact. Given Pinto's background, we expect none of this will trouble her.

The obvious question is, why does the district have a need for so many conservative PR consultants? And that's an easy answer: in addition to having repeatedly stepped into controversy over such things as the conservative school board majority's ill-fated AP history "review" proposal, negotiations with the district's teachers on a new contract are about to get underway. A preliminary meeting just last night began to set the timetable for those negotiations. Following the antics of the Republican school board majority up to this point, fears that they will not enter negotiations with teachers in anything resembling good faith are well-founded. One need only look at Douglas County to see the worst-case scenario.

If these negotiations get ugly, the district's new army of GOP media flacks is going to be very busy indeed.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 3)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Colorado's Congressional delegation — minus Rep. Diana DeGette — was on hand today as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress. House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress so that Republicans would stop yelling at him for a few hours. 

► Like just about everything else these days in the Colorado legislature, partisan lines are forming over the Parental Leave BIll. Either that, or Republicans really don't want to go to that ballet recital.

► The Denver Nuggets have finally fired head coach Brian Shaw. The Nuggets were just 56-85 during Shaw's tenure, or what Congressional Republicans might call a "winning record."

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

GOP Anti-Abortion Bill #3 (!) Up Today

Creepy Uncle Sam holding a speculum.

Creepy Uncle Sam holding a speculum.

9NEWS' Amy Crowfoot reports, they just can't help themselves:

HB15-1112, sponsored by Rep. Lois Landgraf (R-Fountain), would require a physician to "take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life of a born-alive infant" and prohibits denying nourishment to a born-alive infant with the intent of ending the infant's life. It also prohibits using a born-alive infant for scientific research or other experimentation.

Landgraf said that because there are no reporting requirements for abortions, there is no way of knowing what happens to born-alive infants at this time. "The baby," she said, "can be set on a shelf and allowed to die."

Back in reality,

"It is already illegal to kill a living human being," [Pols emphasis] [Rep. Lois] Court said, also adding, "I am really tired of my Republican colleagues bringing forward divisive social issues when we really should be focused on rebuilding our middle class here in Colorado."

The same arguments apply here as with the other GOP anti-abortion bills that have been introduced to certain death in the Democratic-controlled House. The motivation must be deeply emotional and ideological, because politically, it's just disastrous. Whatever marginal benefit running these bills have with motivating the conservative anti-abortion base is totally undone by the moderate voters these bills alienate. Politically, it's a tremendous gift to Democrats, proof positive that the "War on Women" is no myth.

There seems to be this idea that Republicans can insulate themselves from criticism over abortion, perhaps following Cory Gardner's example of gumming the issue to death, even as they run anti-abortion legislation year after year.

2014's experience notwithstanding, we do not share their optimism.

Tuesday Open Thread

"With most people disbelief in a thing is founded on a blind belief in some other thing."

–Georg C. Lichtenberg

Ryan Call changes tune about his opposition to at least one recall campaign

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Appearing on KNUS 710-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger Show Saturday, Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call emphasized his support for Colorado’s 2013 recall campaigns, when, in fact, Call flat out opposed at least one recall effort.

“From a tactical perspective, frankly, the worst thing that I could do is to get to the head of the column and say that this is a Republican initiative,” Call told Sengenberger Saturday in explaining why he didn't take an earlier or higher profile stance in the recall campaigns. Call pointed out that Republicans would have had a harder time winning over Democrats and independents if the recall campaigns were perceived as GOP-led.

This contrasts with what Call told Fox 31 Denver at the time about his decision not to support the recall campaign of Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak:

Call: “This recall election would undermine our efforts in the governor’s race, the U.S. Senate race and to win a senate majority if voters perceive that Republicans are trying to win a majority through recalls.”

“The job of the Republican Party is to get Republicans elected when there are regular elections,” said Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call. “And there are already a lot of things competing for our time, attention and resources. [BigMedia emphasis]

Hudak recall organizer Laura Woods, now a GOP state senator who went by the name "Laura Waters" at the time, told KNUS radio host Peter Boyles that Call obstructed their efforts.

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Partisan Battle Lines Forming Over Parental Leave Bill

parental-leave-bill-2013

A fact sheet from 9 to 5 Colorado summarizes House Bill 15-1221, legislation to renew existing Colorado law allowing parents to take unpaid leave for their childrens' school activities. This legislation passed its first House committee test today on a party-line vote, but faces an uncertain future in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate:

In 2009, the Colorado State Legislature passed the Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act, which allowed many Colorado employees to take leave to attend their children’s school activities. Research has consistently shown that increased parental involvement in the education and schooling of their children correlates with greater academic achievement outcomes. This legislation expires this year and should be permanently extended.
 
What the Current Parental Involvement Policy Does:

•    Allows employees of Colorado businesses to take up to 18 hours of leave per academic year to attend their children’s parent-teacher conferences, special education services, response to interventions for dropout prevention, attendance, truancy or other disciplinary issues.
•    Allows parents to participate in the above activities for children in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade.
•    Applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. 
•    Limits leave to 6 hours per month, and the employer may require that the leave be taken in increments of 3 hours or less.
•    Requires parents to provide employers with at least 1 calendar week’s notice of the leave, except in an emergency. 
•    Employers may require that employees provide written verification of the reason for leave, and in the case of leave taken for an emergency, the employee must provide written verification of the leave upon return to work. 
•    Part-time employees accrue their leave at the percentage of full-time hours that they work (if you work 20 hours a week you would receive half of the leave time received by a full-time employee).
•    An employer may limit the leave granted to an employee if the health and safety of a person necessitates that the employee be present at work.  
•    Specifies that businesses that already have comparable leave policies that may be used for the same purpose and under the other provisions of the bill are not required to provide additional leave.
•    Allows for employers to deny leave if their absence would result in a halt in service or production.

House Bill 15-1221 would permanently renew the 2009 Parental Involvement for Academic Achievement Act, and expand the definition of "school activity" to include events like back-to-school meetings and meetings with counselors. This legislation saw a significant fight in 2009 when originally passed, which is one of the reasons it included a five year "sunset" provision requiring it to be reauthorized by the General Assembly. We've seen nothing to suggest that the 2009 bill has caused problems for employers, but Republicans are getting air cover from conservative group Compass Colorado as they try to kill it:

“Everyone wants to encourage parent participation in their children’s academic lives,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “We need to ask ourselves if we really need to legislate every aspect of the employer/employee relationship. Does more regulation imposed on businesses get the desired outcome, or will it just create more red tape and make the employer/employee relationship more adversarial?”

We're not saying they have a good argument, but it's interesting that Republicans are trying to fight what seems like a no-brainer bill. Supporters cite polling that says 93% of parents want to be involved with their child's education, but 52% say work responsibilities make that harder. We're not aware of any Democrats being targeted in 2010 for supporting parental leave legislation–but in 2016, what kinds of ads will be made about Republicans who are trying to repeal it? What does this say about the party who claims they're "pro-family?"

Once again, this is not a fight we would willingly take on, with a huge potential for blowback on Republicans from voters if they kill this bill. But that appears to be what's happening as of now.

Get More Smarter on Monday (March 2)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Conservation groups are drawing attention today to Republican efforts to roll back Colorado's renewable energy standards. The State House is almost certain to reject these attempts, but not before Republicans are done dragging themselves through the mud.

► Congressional Republicans have another few days to figure out how to continue funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after a dramatic end to last week that saw passage of a one-week extension. According to poll results from CNN, Americans would blame Republicans for any problems with failing to fund DHS; no surprise here, since REPUBLICANS HAVE THE LARGEST CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY SINCE THE NEW DEAL.

► House Speaker John Boehner (R-Tanning Bed) is trying to downplay GOP disarray by calling internal dissention a "disagreement on tactics." Colorado Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) sided with Boehner on Friday despite spending weeks on the talk-radio circuit saying he would do the opposite.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Polis Co-opts Ted Cruz on Legal Pot As Cruz “Evolves”

Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Rep. Jared Polis, Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews reported Friday on some fun Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado is having at the expense of 2016 GOP presidential hopeful and "Tea Party" firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz:

Jared Polis and Ted Cruz are about as far apart on the political spectrum as two lawmakers can get.

But this week the Boulder Democrat and Texas Republican took the same stance on at least one hot-button issue: Colorado’s right to legalize marijuana.

And it's true: at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Cruz paid lip service to Colorado's right to legalize weed.

At the annual gathering of conservative activists and Republican Party leaders, Fox News' Sean Hannity asked Cruz if he thought Colorado's legalization of marijuana was a good idea.

“Look, I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the laboratories of democracy,'" Cruz replied. "If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.”

Rep. Polis, who is sponsoring federal legislation allowing states to legalize marijuana, took the opportunity to co-opt Sen. Cruz's apparent support–though we seriously doubt Polis honestly expects Cruz to co-sponsor his bill. From Polis' statement:

Cruz's defense of local control over marijuana policies comes as members of his party in the House have made outlandish threats of penalties and dire consequences directed at the mayor of Washington, DC as she implements marijuana legalization approved by 70% of her constituents. These threats included the outrageous remarks from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) saying there would be “very severe consequences” and threatening that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser “can go to prison for this.”

“I’m proud to join with Ted Cruz in calling on our colleagues in Congress to respect the right of local citizens to decide how to regulate marijuana use, without federal government interference,” said Rep. Polis. “My bipartisan bill, the ‘Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act,’ would do just want Sen. Cruz now supports, leaving it to the states to regulate marijuana how they see fit, and I look forward to seeing Mr. Cruz introduce companion legislation in the Senate, which I expect he will do imminently.”

In case you were still wondering is Polis was being serious here, his statement concludes:

Polis also praised Cruz’s support of the local dispensaries in Colorado, where Cruz told attendees at CPAC the brownies they enjoyed had come from. He did warn Senator Cruz that under current federal law, transporting them across state lines was illegal, although TSA agents, who may go without pay if the Republican Department of Homeland Security shutdown occurs, may have been more worried about whether they were going to be able to make rent. [Pols emphasis]

Ouch. So no, not buddies! And Cruz isn't likely to sign on with Polis to do anything. With that said, the shift in Cruz's position on Colorado marijuana legalization is large and notable, compared to his very different view just a year ago–Raw Story:

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