MSNBC Nails Gardner As Federal Personhood Deadline Passes

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

​MSNBC's Steve Benen reports on the deadline missed by Rep. Cory Gardner last Friday, as noted by our friend Jason Salzman, to remove himself as a co-sponsor of the federal Life at Conception Act before the November elections:

No issue has dogged Rep. Cory Gardner’s (R) Senate campaign in Colorado more than a policy known as “personhood,” which would ban abortions and many common forms of birth control. In a bit of a surprise, the far-right congressman has decided to ride this train straight through to Election Day.
 
Gardner has long been a culture warrior, championing personhood at the state and federal level, even after Colorado voters rejected it (twice). After launching a statewide campaign, the Republican tried to flip-flop on the issue, but Gardner struggled to even do this properly – the congressman announced he no longer supports the state personhood policy, but he would remain a co-sponsor of the federal personhood legislation.
 
With Election Day nearing and Gardner locked in a very close race with Sen. Mark Udall (D), would the conservative Coloradan complete the reversal and walk away from the right-wing legislation? Apparently not. Jason Salzman reported Friday that “the die is cast.”

…There’s simply no ambiguity here. Over a year ago, Gardner signed on to the Life at Conception Act (H.R.1091) as a co-sponsor. The Colorado Republican ostensibly changed his mind about the issue a few months ago, but nevertheless kept his name on the federal personhood bill, despite having ample opportunity to withdraw his support.
 
And now it’s too late to do anything about it.

Now that the House has adjourned until November 12th, there's no opportunity for Gardner to take the formal steps necessary in order to remove himself as a co-sponsor of this legislation. In response to questions about the obvious conflict between Gardner's abandonment of the state Personhood ballot measures and his continued sponsorship of the functionally equivalent federal Life at Conception Act, Gardner has clung to a fictional distinction between the two proposals. Both Personhood and the Life at Conception Act contain the same language conferring rights from "the moment of fertilization" that could result in a ban on certain forms of "abortifacient" birth control.

The fact-checkers have thoroughly debunked Gardner on this point, but Gardner still hasn't changed his answer to the question. The simple remains that the same language that exists in the Personhood abortion bans Gardner has abandoned is in the bill Gardner is still sponsoring. Gardner's abandonment of Personhood is therefore meaningless at best, and a desperate, incomplete attempt to escape his record ahead of a statewide run in the more likely case.

And now he's stuck. The only thing Gardner can hope for now is that the voters won't figure it out until it's too late–that, as GOP consultant Katy Atkinson said, he can "muddy it up" enough to confuse the issue until the election. That was the whole purpose of Gardner's over-the-counter birth control redirection, which has also been dismantled by fact-checkers. But the polls show clearly that this issue has already severely harmed Gardner with women voters, and there's more for them to learn about the story now. Gardner's refusal to acknowledge this ongoing liability opens him to a whole new line of attack.

If anyone can outline a scenario where this ends well on Election Day, we're all ears.

Reminder, Aurora: Mike Coffman Loves Guns

The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund sent a round of mailers last week to households across the state, touting that group's endorsement of the three top Republican candidates in Colorado this year. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and Senate candidate Cory Gardner both get a nod:

gardnernra beaupreznra

The content of this mailer seems to be aimed at the (there's no nice way to put this) less rational segment of the gun owning public. That's the only demographic we are aware of where such preposterous notions as the fictional "United Nations Gun Ban Treaty" are taken seriously. Also for good measure, NRA members are reassured that these Republican candidates will oppose "any bans on guns and ammunition," and "requiring government approval for gun sales between lifelong friends and family members"–wonderfully deceptive descriptions of Colorado's new magazine limit and universal background check laws respectively. All arguments we've heard before, with varying degrees of wild inaccuracy, in the long debate over gun safety in Colorado the past two years.

Where the NRA's efforts on behalf of local Republicans gets dicey is this mailer in support of Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).

coffmannra

Rep. Mike Coffman, as we all know in Colorado and NRA staff should be aware, represents most of Aurora–including the Century Theater that was the site of the 2012 mass shooting now eponymous with the city's name. In addition to that tragedy, the city has seen a great deal of gun violence over the years. In 2005, a witness to a murder named Javad Marshall-Fields was himself gunned down in Aurora to prevent his testifying in another murder case. That killing resulted in convictions of two of the three men on death row in Colorado today, as well as catapulting Javad's mother Rhonda Fields into public office on a mission to reduce gun violence.

Bottom line? The NRA is free to shovel their "United Nations Gun Ban" nonsense all they like. But it might not have the desired effect in Aurora.

Monday Open Thread

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

–Edmund Burke

Republican “Study Committee” Heads For The Border (Again)

UPDATE: Bonus round–check out this photo from 2010's "fact-finding tour" and tell us how many guns you see.

ColoGroupBorder
From left: 2010 House candidate Chris Holbert, then-Rep. Kent Lambert, Sen. Scott Renfroe, then-Rep. Laura Bradford, 2010 House candidate Janak Joshi, then-Rep. Randy Baumgardner.

A press release this week from the arch-conservative Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a social club for the more right-leaning among Republican legislators in this state, announces they are taking another field trip to the Mexican border. In 2006 and 2010, both years like 2014 when immigration was in the headlines, a gaggle of Republican elected officials and candidates undertook similar border "fact-finding tours."

The Republican Study Committee of Colorado (RSCC) has planned a fact-finding trip to Texas to gain firsthand knowledge of the situation with respect to U.S. border security in southern Texas. In just a few weeks (October 5-7), Colorado legislators plan to meet with representatives from the Texas State Legislature, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Military Forces (Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Texas State Guard), and perhaps even some local citizen groups during a brief three-day visit.

"With all of the information and misinformation that we see on the topics of immigration and border security, and what they mean to Colorado citizens, we thought that the best approach would be to go gather some real-time information for ourselves," said RSCC Chairman and State Senator Kevin Lundberg, representing Colorado Senate District 15. 

No taxpayer funds will be used for the trip. 

Republican legislators have a history of traveling to the southern border, having made similar visits in 2006 and again in 2010. For legislators, there have been some things that have changed dramatically, and some that haven't changed much at all. The 2010 trip revealed a porous border, some unsettled locals, increasing criminal activity, and frustrated officials. Local ranchers, veterinarians, and others who used to work regularly with their neighbors on the border had seen a dramatic shift in the nature of activity over the years. 

For some legislators, the place to start is to define just what the issues are. "When people talk about immigration', I think it's important to define what we're talking about. Does that mean Naturalization and citizenship? Does it refer to the movement of labor and capital? Does it refer to national security? Does it refer to criminal activity, particularly in drug, slave or sex trafficking? Does it refer to the availability of entitlement programs? Defining and parsing out the issues is an important place to start before we can craft good policy for Colorado," stated Senator Lundberg.

During their 2010 trip to Arizona, RSCC members were "briefed" on that state's new anti-immigrant law SB-1070 by its principal backer, then-Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce enjoyed brief popularity for his role in passing SB-1070, but within a few years his political career had completely unraveled. Pearce was ousted from his seat in 2011 is Arizona's first-ever successful recall of a sitting legislator. Then just this week, Pearce resigned as vice chairman of Arizona Republican Party after saying this on a local radio show:

"You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I'd do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” Pearce said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."

We assume the RSCC will not be meeting with Mr. Pearce during their trip to the Texas border. With that said, RSCC members who took the trip to see Pearce in 2010 introduced numerous pieces of legislation the following year–both mimicking Arizona's SB-1070 anti-immigrant law, along with other ideas they had heard about on their "fact-finding tour." In the summer of 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of SB-1070 as unconstitutional in the landmark case of Arizona vs. United States.

And of course, in the fall of 2012, Democrats retook the Colorado House from the GOP, crushing that party's single-seat, single-term majority in the one chamber they had managed to wrest control of in 2010–and helping lock down what has been the state of affairs in the General Assembly for going on a decade. Immigration wasn't the only factor in the GOP's significant legislative defeats in Colorado last election, but we can safely say that the Colorado GOP's image was not helped by the RSCC's antics in any way. Whatever disappointment Latino voters feel with Democrats for being unable to pass immigration reform, this is the stuff that reminds America's fastest growing bloc of voters who their enemies are in the starkest possible terms.

So, you know, take lots of pictures in Texas.

A Rising Tide in the Sage Brush Sea – Saving the Sage Grouse is Good for Wildlife

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This time of year the color comes out in Colorado, and it’s not only the golden aspen in the high country or rusty scrub-oak on south-facing slopes.  Blaze orange is also in full display in western Colorado as communities put out banners, and the hunters don’t disappoint—for the arrival of the fall hunting season

The Piceance Basin has been called, at various times, Colorado’s ‘mule deer factory’ and a ‘national sacrifice area.’  One is an apt description of biological fact—the Piceance is home to the largest migratory deer herd in North America and the other an unfortunate description of what too many think: that developing the area’s abundant fossil fuel deposits ought to take precedent over everything else.  Including the wildlife

This isn’t meant to be a soapbox: a lot of lands are already leased or controlled by energy companies in Northwest Colorado, more drilling is coming.  But unlike where the shale is getting drilled and fracked on the East Slope, out in Weld County for instance, gas in the Piceance isn’t worth as much for a variety of reasons and companies are mostly sitting on their large reserves—for now.

This gives Colorado’s wildlife a bit of a time out, and we shouldn’t waste it.  Because it’s not just the mule deer, or the elk, it’s all the wildlife that relies on humans not being reckless with their habitat just to suit our purposes.  That includes the Greater Sage Grouse.  And that’s a reason for everyone to come to the table and figure things out quick. 

Which gets back to the hunting season.  Hunters need animals, and animals need habitat.  It’s as simple as that, and that’s why hunters have long been counted among America’s original conservationists.  The Sage Grouse is in the news lately because its habitat needs are not being met and its headed for a listing under the Endangered Species Act.  Lots of different folks would like to avoid that—including many conservation groups if the bird’s habitat can be protected and enhanced so the grouse’s decline can be reversed. 

But the State of Colorado needs to act fast to put real and strong protection in place that protect the bird’s habitat.  That means doing more to protect habitat in the Piceance Basin, which is also where the Greater Sage Grouse occurs in Colorado.  That’s good for all the animals.  And hunters.  

Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) Displaying on a Montana Lek from Ronan Donovan on Vimeo.

 

Weekend Open Thread

"One is never so dangerous when one has no shame, than when one has grown too old to blush."

–Marquis de Sade

Gardner all in on federal personhood bill

(The die is cast – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

The House of Representatives adjourned at noon today, meaning Colorado senatorial candidate Cory Gardner has officially missed his chance to withdraw his name from the Life at Conception Act, a federal personhood bill, prior to the Nov. election.

To uncosponsor the bill, Gardner would have had to make a statement from the House floor, and now the House is out of session until Nov. 12.

In March, Gardner reversed his longstanding support of state personhood amendments.

But in an endlessly puzzling move, the congressman did not also remove his name from the federal personhood bill, saying instead that the federal bill is a toothless symbol–even though numerous fact checkers, like Factcheck.org, think otherwise.

The mystery of why Gardner thinks the Life at Conception Act is symbolic remains unanswered because, well, Gardner won't answer it, saying stuff like, "There is no federal personhood bill."

I guess, if you're a reporter, all you can do is ask the question again and see if a factual explanation emerges.

Betsy Markey Busts Walker Stapleton: Yes You Did Say That

A fundraising email from Democratic state treasurer candidate Betsy Markey today catches Republican Walker Stapleton in a whopper of a lie from their recent debate on Colorado Public Television. As sent to her supporters earlier today:

Tonight is your chance to catch my first debate with Walker Stapleton. It’s airing on Colorado Public Television-12 tonight at 7:30 p.m., or you can catch it on their website…I told you everything we didn’t hear from Walker Stapleton at the debate…no answers on his PERA attacks, his lack of transparency or his embarrassing absenteeism.
 
Of course it wasn’t all silence. Back in 2010, when Walker Stapleton first ran for Treasurer, he had this to say:
 
“It’s time, unfortunately, that everyone that benefits from PERA suffers.”
 
But when he was pushed on those statements at the debate, here’s how he answered:
 
“I never said that.”

Here's the video of the exchange in question:

MARKEY: I'd like to see you come up with a specific solution, instead of suing the PERA board on which you sit for records of the top 20% of the beneficiaries–which is quite frankly privacy information–and uses it as a political football. instead of coming up with a specific change you would like to make, and then you bring it to the state legislature as was done with Senate Bill #1. And it was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. And that's how you make changes, instead of, of basically saying, which you have said, 'it's time for people under PERA to suffer.' Well, I don't want  half a million people, who rely…

STAPLETON: I never said it's time for people to suffer…

MARKEY: Yeah, the Canon City editorial, it was from…

STAPLETON: I said, the only way to fix the problem is shared sacrifice. It's shared sacrifice.

MARKEY: I mean, I'm making, I'm not making, I'm not making this up…

We do have one small correction: Walker Stapleton didn't say "it's time for people under PERA to suffer" in an editorial. As the Canon City Daily Record's Rachel Alexander reported in February of 2010, he said it at a forum hosted by the Fremont County Republicans.

[Stapleton] said he would focus on shoring up the state pension system and that he would be an activist on PERA's board. 

"It's time, unfortunately, that everyone that benefits from PERA suffers," he said. [Pols emphasis]

But folks, he most certainly did say it. We referenced this story back in 2010–the same story in which Stapleton infamously told the soccer moms of Colorado "it’s time education competes for funds." Now, maybe Stapleton doesn't remember all the crazy things he said on the 2010 campaign trail, like warning of "hyperinflation" Glenn Beck-style and claiming the state needed to hoard gold to stay afloat.

The moral of the story? If you say these kinds of embarrassing things, own up to them, even if it's just to admit you were wrong–because denying the permanent record that anyone can find is much worse.

At Least He’s Not Your Secretary of State

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

Our neighbors in Kansas have got a real pickle on their hands trying to sort out that state's U.S. Senate race–a situation that could endanger Republican hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate this year. The Democratic candidate, prosecutor Chad Taylor, withdrew to avoid splitting votes with independent candidate Greg Orman–a popular candidate with a decent shot at unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

As the Kansas City Star reports, the state's secretary of state Kris Kobach has gone to extreme lengths to keep Taylor on the ballot, in a brazen effort to protect fellow Republican Sen. Roberts. Yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court handed Kobach and Roberts a final defeat in the case:

The state Supreme Court Thursday ordered [Kobach] to strike Democrat Chad Taylor from the November ballot for U.S. Senate, ruling Taylor had complied with state law allowing a candidate to withdraw.

Just a few minutes later, Kobach — a Republican — said he’ll tell the Kansas Democratic party to pick a replacement by noon Sept. 26.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Kobach can force Democrats to pick another Senate nominee. Kobach had asked the state Supreme Court to consider such an order in Thursday’s ruling, but the judges said Democrats weren’t a part of the case…

The Democratic nominee withdrew Sept. 3. But Kobach said the withdrawal language lacked the specific language required by state law, and restored him to the ballot.

Taylor sued. Thursday, the court — in an unsigned opinion — said Taylor’s referral to the state law was sufficient to officially remove him from the ballot.

“The Secretary of State thus has no discretion to refuse to remove Chadwick J. Taylor’s name from the ballot,” the court said. There was no published dissent.

Kansas Republicans cry shame, but their complaint is pretty ridiculous on its face:

“The Kansas Supreme Court deliberately, and for political purposes, disenfranchised over 65,000 voters,” said Roberts spokesman Corry Bliss in a statement.

“Liberal activist Supreme Court justices have decided that if you voted in the Democrat primary on August 5th, your vote does not matter, your voice does not matter,” his statement said.

Thus expressing probably the most "concern" Republicans have felt for Democratic primary voters in…well, ever. The real problem here, of course, is that independent candidate Greg Orman is beating GOP Sen. Roberts in the polls. The Kansas Supreme Court dismissed the faux concern from Republicans about "disenfranchised" Democrats, and noted correctly–obviously–that if Chad Taylor doesn't want to be a Senate candidate, and the ballots haven't been printed yet, he doesn't have to be on the ballot. It was reportedly outside the scope of the court's ruling today, but it seems very unlikely that the court will force Democrats to nominate someone else as Kobach seems to want now. Because, well, how exactly can you do that? Kobach's "interpretations" of Kansas election law border on the absurd–which gives you an idea how desperate Kansas Republicans are to protect this Senate seat.

It's worth noting also that Kris Kobach, in addition to being a conservative darling, is a close ally of Colorado's outgoing GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The two have collaborated on projects like Gessler's embarrassing and basically fruitless quest for "thousands" of illegal voters. Gessler, like Kobach, has been shot down hard by the courts for his "novel" interpretations of Colorado election law–interpretations that just happen to benefit Gessler's fellow Republicans.

As you can see, Gessler has plenty of company.

Beauprez says his support for personhood is irrelevant at state level. Not

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

I don't envy reporters who are trying to uncover the logic in gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's decision to withdraw his support for personhood at the state level but to continue backing federal personhood legislation, even though state and federal personhood laws would do the exact same thing: ban all abortion, even for rape and incest.

In a post yesterday, Denver Post reporter John Frank tried to unravel Beauprez's logic, and he made some headway, reporting that Beauprez apparently believes his abortion stance is irrelevant, because federal law is all that matters regarding abortion, and Beauprez won't "deny what the law provides you."

Beauprez: “The governor has very limited impact on what is really the federal law. Democrats always bring it up because they don’t want to talk about the economy or education or about transportation,” he said. “I don’t know where it is an issue in this campaign.”

Tell that to women and others in Texas, where a state law, under review now by federal judges, could reduce the number of abortion clinics statewide from 41 to just seven or eight–and Texas has over 5 million women of reproductive age.

In the more friendly territory of Colorado, a personhood abortion-ban bill was introduced just last year. What if control of the legislature changed, the bill were passed, and it landed on Beauprez's desk? What about a bill requiring counseling prior to having an abortion or multiple trips to a clinic?

The Guttmacher Institute has a depressing chart that reporters covering Beauprez might want to take a look at, summarizing the 9 categories of state laws restricting abortion.

(more…)

Two Jeffco High Schools Closed Today as Board Backlash Grows

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio's Jenny Brundin:

Teachers are riled by a couple of issues: one is an ongoing disagreement over pay and the intentions of the new conservative board members. The other is a board proposal to set up a curriculum committee to review what materials teachers use in the classroom.

The resolution stated that history classes in Jefferson County schools should promote “patriotism and the free enterprise system.” It generated controversy at Thursday night’s school board meeting. The resolution was tabled last night but could come up for discussion at a later date.

The controversy prompted about 60 Standley students to line Wadsworth Boulevard, near their school, waving placards and drawing a cacophony of honks from passing cars.

—–

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk of the Jefferson County School Board.

As KWGN Channel 2 reports (among others), classes were cancelled today at Standley Lake High School and Conifer High School after a wave of teachers called in sick this morning:

Standley Lake and Conifer high schools will be not have classes Friday because of several teacher absences, the Jefferson County School District said…

…Despite classes being canceled for the day, some students went ahead with a planned protest in support of the teachers.

Teachers are upset with the school board over the district’s new teacher pay model and a proposed curriculum review panel for AP U.S. history classes.

Under the plan, the starting teacher’s salary would go up about $5,000 a year, but raises will be determined based on performance. Teachers rated as ineffective or partially effective would receive only a 1 percent raise or the possibility of no raise at all.

We've been following this story closely as the right-wing Jefferson County School Board announced a plan — unveiled last night — to make changes to how schools teach history and other subjects. 9News education reporter Nelson Garcia has more on the controversy:

The proposal reads: "The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials."

[School Board Member Julie] Williams says this is necessary after all the changes to academic standards under the Common Core movement…

…The second part of the proposal reads in part, "Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

"I don't think we should encourage kids to be little rebels," Williams said. "We should encourage kids to be good citizens." [Pols emphasis]

The actions of the Jeffco School Board — under Republican control following an election last November — have created plenty of concern for months. Parents and teachers have been concerned about a number of decisions, including the hiring of a new Superintendent (with no competition for finalists), but this move by the conservative board to quite literally change curriculums has stoked a much hotter fire in the community. Public Education has always been the biggest policy issue for Jefferson County voters, and with both teachers and the PTA vocally opposing the Republican school board, candidates from Governor to U.S. Senate could suffer mightily at the polls from this public backlash.

Pueblo Chieftain Smears “Bo” Ortiz for Political Revenge

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Poor Bo. He just can't catch a break from the Pueblo Chieftain.  To inform the public,  Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz voluntarily advised the Pueblo Chieftain about  faulty driver's licenses distributed by  a Colorado Revenue Department vendor, MorphoTrust. The state IDs and licenses were supposed to have a black band across the top, identifying those ineligible to vote, but 524 of these IDs were sent out without the flag. 

The Chieftain chose  to run the ID story on page one, next to a photo of Ortiz, with the banner headline, "Faulty ID Cards Issued", on September 16, 2014. . The teaser subheading on the online edition read, "No concern for voter fraud." Who issued the faulty IDs? Who is unconcerned about voter fraud?  Judging by his photo under the headline, a reasonable reader would infer: Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

(more…)

Dems Not “Shying Away From Guns” In SD-19

A new Democratic mailer hitting mailboxes in Colorado Senate District 19, where Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed arch-conservative Laura Waters Woods is facing off against Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, is noteworthy for its subject matter. Voters are getting lots of material from Republicans about the issue discussed in this mailer this election season. Here's one back at them in one of the state's most important legislative races:

woodsgunsmailer

Inside, the mailer calls out Waters Woods–not just for her opposition to the universal background checks on gun sales that are now law in Colorado, but her RMGO litmus-test opposition to all background checks for gun purchases. Anywhere.

woodsmailerinsert

One of the major criticisms of Democrats in the wake of last year's fierce debate over gun safety legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly has been the perception that Democrats were unwilling to defend the bills they had passed. There is some validity to this criticism–not any unwillingness of individual elected Democrats like Sen. John Morse to go to the mat for these bills, which they were. Morse in particular, who was recalled by a very small margin after fighting valiantly to keep his seat, was and remains one of the most articulate and persuasive spokespeople for Democrats on gun safety. The problem was that political consultants early on had determined that the risk/benefit to "engaging the gun issue" wasn't worth it.

As those consultants discovered, pretending there's no 800-pound gorilla in the room is not a good strategy.

And the fact is, especially on closing the background check loophole, there was never a good reason to shy away from the issue. Polling on universal background checks is overwhelmingly in favor–above the 80th percentile in most surveys. Worse, the failure to respond to the avalanche of Republican misinformation about the gun bills has allowed it to gain a foothold in the public consciousness: to the point where, even as voters say they want universal background checks in overwhelming numbers, a majority say they "oppose gun control."

How can that cognitive dissonance be undone? The message in this mailer is a start.

Friday Open Thread

Used, abused without clues
I refused to blow a fuse
They even had it on the news
Don't believe the hype…

–Public Enemy