Ambush in the Public Interest

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

votersbelieveliesIn an online Denver Post op-ed yesterday, I urged reporters to seek out and interview hiding politicians. I gave some recent Colorado examples, like Rep. Mike Coffman hiding from reporters after he said he wasn’t sure Obama was an American.

On Twitter, former CU regent Tom Lucero, a Republican, told me I left out instances of Democrats hiding from reporters, but he won’t provide me with any examples, saying he doesn’t want to do my “job.”

Too bad, because I’d like to see his examples, and I’m sure they exist. But I couldn’t think of many in recent memory (I mentioned Udall)–and my piece focused on Colorado reporting.

In any case, I wish Lucero would work with me, because if journalists did this more often, it would benefit all of us.

The ambush interview shouldn’t be relegated to showboaters like Bill O’Reilly and consumer reporters, like (mostly) the investigative units at 9News and channel 7.

In my piece, I quoted Eli Stokols, who told the Columbia Journalism Review in March that among Colorado reporters, “There seems to be a reluctance to hold people accountable for policy positions.”

I wrote in The Post:

What’s not to like about that suggestion, regardless of where you sit on the partisan spectrum? But how to do it?

One simple way is to not let public officials hide out and avoid answering questions. Journalists should track them down and force them to respond.

For example, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is under fire for telling conservative radio-host Mike Rosen he did not support a proposed law to bolster Colorado’s public pension program when, in fact, he did support the legislation.

What are other examples from any politician in Colorado?

Even More Ugly Jeffco School Board Footage


Ken Witt.

Ken Witt.

Amid fresh negative press coverage for the conservative Jefferson County school board majority, we were forwarded another clip of video from this month’s regular board meeting–in which the subject of board member Julie Williams’ Facebook posting of a hate group’s protest against the LGBT Day of Silence event the previous month loomed large, but was never acknowledged by the conservative members of the board.

Sources who have regularly attended Jefferson County school board meetings since the takeover of the board by right-wing candidates two years ago stress that they have never seen such a toxic environment as currently exists in these meetings. It’s often the case that school board politics become rather contentious, but not like this we’re told. Perhaps the best evidence of how far out of control the situation has gotten was the highly questionable public disparagement of a 17-year-old student by board chairman Ken Witt during this month’s board meeting, an incident now the subject of an outside investigation to determine whether laws or district policies prohibiting bullying were violated.

In the five-minute video clip you see above, a Jeffco student who earlier participated in a silent protest against Williams attempted to speak as the representative of a group of students. It’s the policy for Jeffco school board meetings that groups of speakers during the public comment periods are allotted extra time to speak. Witt apparently found a discrepancy in the list of students who had signed up as a member of this particular group, and ruled that the student in question could only speak for two minutes. Outgoing board member Lesley Dahlkemper immediately objects to Witt’s limiting of the student’s time to speak, and the room erupts in boos. The student gives an abbreviated version of his speech, only to be very rudely cut off by Witt once again as his already-chopped time expired.

All told, this probably isn’t as serious an incident as Witt’s later name-naming attack on a minor student who merely “favorited” a few Tweets. But having watched it along with all the rest of the Jeffco school board’s history since 2013, it’s illustrative of the kind of openly belligerent treatment that parents, teachers, and even students routinely experience at the hands of this board majority.

And folks, it is really not okay.

Thursday Open Thread

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

–George Bernard Shaw

Nebraska Officially Abolishes the Death Penalty

Breaking news from Lincoln, Nebraska, as the New York Times (and everybody else) reports:

Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it.

By a 30 to 19 vote that cut across party lines, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto on Tuesday of a bill repealing the state’s death penalty law. The measure garnered just enough votes to overcome the veto…

…Though it formally considers itself nonpartisan, the Nebraska Legislature is dominated by Republicans. Republican legislators who have voted in favor of abolition said they believed the death penalty was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values. Other lawmakers cited religious or moral reasons for their support of the death penalty ban. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have banned the death penalty.

Wow. So, there you go.

#COLEG Efforts To Sell Public Lands: Nonsense

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Why We Saw Public Land Seizure This Year 

Public land seizure has been making headlines in Colorado and across the West for years now, and lots of us aren’t quite sure what to make of it. This confusion is understandable; the logic behind the movement is not particularly coherent and there are a lot of different influences at play. Terms and names are often dropped, and their relationship to one another is not always clear — what or who is ALEC? What is ALC? What does this have to do with Cliven Bundy?

And last but not least, how exactly would this idea work?

We intend to clear all this up for you.

What is public land seizure?

Short answer: Nonsense.

Long answer: Public land seizure is essentially the idea that land currently managed by national agencies should be owned by the state. The legal validity, financial prudence, and feasibility of this argument have all been debunked several times over, and yet it persists. It stems from ideological values that resemble those of Cliven Bundy, the law-breaking Nevada rancher who made headlines last year for engaging in an armed standoff with BLM officials because he didn’t want to pay grazing fees. His basis for this was simply that he doesn’t believe that the American government is legitimate.

We’ve seen this before — in the “Sagebrush Rebellion” of the late 1970s and early 1980s, ranchers rebelled against the federal government because of grazing fees that they felt were too high, despite the fact that they are usually a fraction of the average private leasing cost.

If this reasoning seems bizarre, that’s because it is. The real reason for these efforts is not a principled stand against federal overreach, it’s a thinly veiled push to privatize and profit off our land, mostly through extractive industries.

Yeah, but there must be some grounds on which people are arguing for it.

Short answer: Not really.

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Pro-Gun Columbine “Backlash” Snares Aurora Shooting Victims

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Huffington Post’s Gabriel Arana took note of a story on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show late last week that we’re surprised hasn’t received more local coverage, and we didn’t want it to escape mention. The parents of one of the victims of the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, a case currently being tried in an Arapahoe County court, sued online gun dealers who sold the alleged perpetrator of that crime some of the ammunition and other items used in the massacre.

But a law passed in 2000 by the GOP-controlled Colorado General Assembly and signed into law by GOP Gov. Bill Owens turned Sandy and Lonnie Phillips’ pursuit of justice for shooting victim Jessica Ghawi into a nightmare:

Maddow opened her show with heart-rending footage of the Aurora trial. She highlighted the testimony of Brenton Lowak, whose friend Jessica Ghawi — a 24-year-old aspiring sports reporter — died in the shooting.

Here’s the part that set off the Outrage-O-Meter: Jessica’s parents have been ordered by a judge in Colorado to pay $220,000 to the gun retailers who sold Holmes his weapon.

The parents unsuccessfully sued the retailers whose products were used in the Aurora shooting. Colorado state law requires that plaintiffs who sue the manufacturers or dealers of gun products pay the companies’ legal fees if they lose.

“That’s not a typo,” Maddow said, adding, “The mother and father of the victim who died in the Aurora mass shooting have just been ordered to pay a quarter-million dollars to the gun retailers who sold the bullets that were used in the Aurora mass shooting — the parents of the girl who was killed.”

A Reuters blog post by attorney Alison Frankel explains what happened here:

In 2014, Ghawi’s mother and stepfather, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, sued the companies that supplied Holmes with ammunition and body armor. The suit named Lucky Gunner, which operates as BulkAmmo.com and sold Holmes more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition; The Sportsman’s Guide, which sold him a 100-round magazine and 700 rounds; BTP Arms, which supplied two canisters of tear gas; and Bullet Proof Body Armor.

The Phillipses’ suit faced long odds. Both the U.S. and Colorado (along with many other states) have laws shielding guns and ammo dealers from liability to shooting victims in most circumstances. (They may be responsible, for instance, if they’ve sold a defective product or violated gun sale regulations.) The federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, has been subjected to many challenges, including allegations that it violates the constitutional separation of powers doctrine because it impinges on states’ lawmaking powers and the constitutional due process rights of shooting victims with common-law claims. According to the Justice Department, those constitutional challenges have all failed.

But the Phillipses and their lawyers at Arnold & Porter argued their case was different because the dealers sold weaponry to Holmes over the Internet, without ever seeing his face or assessing his state of mind. That made the dealers negligent, the Phillipses said, despite their protections under state and federal law. [Pols emphasis] “A crazed, homicidal killer should not be able to amass a military arsenal, without showing his face or answering a single question, with the simple click of a mouse,” the Brady Center gun control advocacy group said in a statement announcing the Phillipses’ suit, in which Brady Center lawyers are also involved. “If businesses choose to sell military-grade equipment online, they must screen purchasers to prevent arming people like James Holmes.”

Unfortunately for the Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, in 2000, the Colorado legislature passed House Bill 00-1208. This legislation was part of the intense debates over gun safety that took place in the aftermath of the Columbine High School mass shooting in April of 1999. Most Colorado residents only remember the constitutional ballot measure, Amendment 22, which closed the so-called “gun show loophole” that allowed guns to be sold at shows without a background check. But House Bill 00-1208 was part of a backlash against greater gun control, mostly backed by Republican legislators. Similar legislation was passed at the federal level in 2005. Here’s what House Bill 00-1208 says:

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Jeffco Conservative School Board Insults Parents by Omission on Talk Radio

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: The hits keep coming for conservative Jeffco school board member John Newkirk, 9NEWS reporting this afternoon:

During a public hearing Tuesday evening to discuss the proposed budget for next year, Jefferson County School Board member John Newkirk made a comparison that some are calling offensive…

Newkirk wants the district to increase funding to charter schools to make funding more equal compared to district schools.

Scott Kwasny with the Jefferson County Education Association shot video of the meeting Tuesday night and provided a clip to 9News with Newkirk’s comments.

“We had a diversity day at Evergreen High School that I attended last month, and one of the people we heard from was a lady from the Deep South,” Newkirk said during the hearing. “She is African-American, and she spoke of growing up there in the 60s and how certain people would be treated differently from others just because of their skin color, and that thought was so foreign to me. It just made me just shake my head and go ‘what were they thinking?’ And, I think we almost have a metaphor here at this moment. Why would the district discriminate and say that certain students would be worth less than others just based on where they choose to go school? So, this is a quintessential what were we thinking moment here. This district has the opportunity here to validate that inequity by not working upon it.”

Got that? Being a charter school student is like being black in the 1960s Deep South.

Backpedal time, Mr. Newkirk.

—–

Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

Activist parents of Jefferson County Public Schools students don’t rate a mention with conservative school board members and radio talk show hosts, when discussing the future of district schools, teachers, students and programming. 

In fact, if you take the words of Krista Kafer and Jeffco board member John Newkirk at face value– from their interview on the Dan Caplis show on 710 KNUS, on Monday, May 25– the only players with any stake or voice in the debate are “childish” teachers, “useful idiot” students, paternalistic board members, and self-righteous radio hosts.

Smells like desperation, to me – a desperate attempt to minimalize the force and action of dedicated and commited parents’ organizing and sacrifice, to bring accountability to board members who do not represent their interests. 

Kafer and Newkirk disingenuously call for an “adult debate”, while chiding teachers and mischaracterizing their alleged participation as “disgusting”, “mean”,  “vicious” and “bad examples” for students.  And they try to demonize activist unity as blind allegiance to the teachers union and more incredulously, to a universal rejection of performance pay. Even if this were true, which it’s not, it’s based on the false premise that Jeffco rejected performance incentives in previous negotiations.

I’d be insulted, too, were I a concerned parent in Jeffco.  Conflating the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum review protests as an extension of contract negotiations, trying to blame teachers for the collective irreverence of Twitter and social media, and portraying a massive rally of first amendment expression as, in Newkirk’s quip below, “Occupy Wadsworth” only serves to further marginalize and stir the hive of Jeffco parents and voters. 

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Rick Santorum, 2012 Colorado Caucus Winner, Running Again

Rick Santorum.

Rick Santorum.

ABC News reporting:

Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, will announce today that he will seek the GOP nomination for president in 2016, ABC News has learned. ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos will sit down for an exclusive interview with Santorum this afternoon.

Santorum, 57, is set to reveal his presidential intentions at an event today in Cabot, Pa., near his childhood home. It will be his second run for the White House, almost four years after he won primaries and caucuses in 11 states and finished second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination.

Santorum will join a quickly widening Republican field that already includes six declared candidates and could grow to encompass around a dozen more. Several contenders are expected to give him tougher competition this time around for the Christian conservative votes he relied on in 2012.

Our longtime readers know that Colorado was one of the states carried by former Sen. Rick Santorum during the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, briefly throwing the race into chaos, and unhelpfully delaying the eventual coronation of Mitt Romney–helping feed an already well-entrenched narrative about Romney not being the party rank-and-file’s first choice.

Our recollection of 2012 is that Santorum worked very hard courting conservative Republican caucusgoers, and whatever you might think of Santorum’s wedge-issue agenda, he’s quite skilled at the sort of retail small-audience politicking that wins caucuses. There’s an argument that Santorum’s victory in Colorado in 2012 helped motivate a failed compromise effort this year to restore our state’s presidential primary elections–an effort that was scotched under less-than-transparent circumstances by infighting within the Colorado Republican Party. As a result, the process stays the same for next year.

Which we expect suits Rick Santorum just fine.

The Duggars Are Coming To Denver!

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That’s the word from organizers of the Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family, coming to the Denver Merchandise Mart on the weekend of June 19th via the Christian Home Educators of Colorado:

Jesus set aside His kingly glory to come and to SERVE hell-deserving sinners. He showed us the perfect example of how to LEAD by serving others. This year’s conference will explore ways to build stronger families, churches, and governments through SERVANT LEADERSHIP…

Join us on Friday, June 19th, at 7:00 pm for a special evening with the Duggar Family. Come and hear the Duggar kids perform a special musical program, followed by a presentation with Jim Bob and Michelle.

As you can see above, the website for the Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family proudly proclaims “we’ve got the whole Duggar family!” And yes, the accompanying photo of what looks like all 19 Duggar children–or is it 20 now? We haven’t been watching–does include Josh Duggar (just right of center, gray shirt), at the moment the most famous of all the Duggar brood after admitting to having molested “several” underage girls as a teenager. In the wake of those allegations, Josh Duggar resigned from his job as executive director of the hard-right Family Research Council Action, one of the nation’s leading anti-gay and anti-abortion advocacy groups. The Duggar family’s reality TV program, 19 Kids and Counting, has been suspended from broadcast as advertisers line up to pull their advertising from the show.

All of which leaves the Christian Home Educators of Colorado in, you know, a bit of a lurch! As of this writing, the Duggar family–the WHOLE Duggar family, mind you–is still headlining their event. GOP presidential hopeful and fellow Arkansan Mike Huckabee continues to stand by the Duggars, and he’s not alone. Will Josh be part of the Duggar family musical ensemble playing in Denver next month?

If so, maybe consider keeping your kids home that day.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 27)

Get More SmarterThe last day of school is almost here. The last day of work…not so much. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Democrat Morgan Carroll hasn’t said anything recently about her plans to run for Congress in CD-6, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from going bonkers over the idea.

► Certain undocumented immigrants can now apply for a driver’s license in Colorado; the much-discussed program finally got underway on Tuesday, though there were a few technical hiccups.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Morgan Carroll CD-6 Buzz Continues To Build

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Roll Call’s Alexis Levinson reports today on growing Democratic excitement in Washington, D.C.–and trepidation from Republicans–about a possible run by Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll for incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman’s CD-6 seat:

Coffman has proved resilient over his four terms. He has been a top Democratic target since redistricting reshaped his solidly Republican district into a more competitive one. After a tight race in 2012, defeating his opponent by 2 points, he easily toppled former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff by 9 points last fall…

State Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll, term-limited out of her seat, has emerged as the top choice over the past few weeks. She has met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and she attended the House Democratic Caucus meeting last week, shadowing Rep. Jared Polis during her time at the Capitol, according to a source with knowledge of her visit. Carroll has a reputation as a strong fundraiser, and represented the area as a member of the state House and while practicing law there.

That profile alone makes her appealing to Colorado Democrats, who say one of the problems the past two cycles was running two white men who were viewed as carpetbaggers.

“With Hillary [Rodham Clinton] at the top of the ticket, having a woman candidate only makes sense,” said Colorado Democratic consultant Laura Chapin. [Pols emphasis]

The only downside Roll Call speculates about with Sen. Carroll relates to her voting record in the legislature, and the likelihood of “gotcha” attacks on votes she’s taken similar to what we’ve seen leveled against Coffman’s last two CD-6 opponents. As we’ve noted, however, the big difference this time is Sen. Carroll’s willingness–even eagerness–to run on her record, and to articulately defend both her career and the progressive ideals she has always campaigned on.

Unlike 2014’s Andrew Romanoff, Carroll is not a Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) “milquetoast” Democrat who will shy away from her principles, and that may be exactly the edge against the aggressively reinvented Coffman that she needs to avoid Romanoff’s fate. It’s worth remembering, and we’ll have many occasions to point it out in the months ahead, that the victories both Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner enjoyed last year were primarily the result of those candidates flanking their opponents on the left–a tactic that Carroll’s unambiguous progressive record renders ineffective.

Sources tell us that as of this writing, Carroll is “leaning toward” entering the CD-6 race. The increasing likelihood of a tough challenge for CD-6 is reportedly giving both Coffman and national Republican strategists pause, delaying what may once have been an easy decision for Coffman to step up to the U.S. Senate race in 2016–though there is debate on this point as well, with some close to the decision maintaining that he has always been unsure about challenging Michael Bennet.

As of now, Coffman and Republican strategists have an additional worry.

Not Well Played, Sean Bradley

Do not take campaign advice from this man.

This is Sean Bradley. Do not take campaign advice from this man.

Sean Bradley is one of two candidates in the District 11 runoff for Denver City Council, which concludes next Tuesday (June 2). Should Bradley defeat Stacie Gilmore in the runoff, he will treat the City Council Seat like a full-time job. This is notable, because the Denver City Council is a full-time job, and until recently, Bradley was refusing to say whether he would quit his current job if elected.

As Jon Murray reports for the Denver Post, Bradley finally tried to stick a band-aid on that gaping campaign wound that he caused for himself:

Denver City Council candidate Sean Bradley said Friday that if he wins a June 2 runoff, he will leave his job as president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver.

Bradley’s comments to The Denver Post, after declining to answer the question definitively earlier this week, put to rest speculation that he might try to work both jobs.

He started at the Urban League in January. He said Friday that he would not step down immediately, instead making arrangements to help the organization transition to a new leader. He likely would leave the Urban League by the time new council members take the oath in mid-July, Bradley said.

“The reality of it all is, if and when we win this race, there was no way I was going to be able to do two of these jobs,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Uh, you think?

Thus ends one of the more inexplicable self-inflicted political wounds we’ve seen in quite awhile. By refusing to say if he would quit his current job if elected to the Denver City Council, Bradley gave his opponents plenty of time to question his commitment to the job he is seeking, and he made himself look ridiculous in the process.

Did Bradley not know that City Council is a full-time job? Did his bosses at the Urban League not know he was running? Both questions seem absurd, but why else would he refuse to even acknowledge that he would need to quit his current job if elected?

Hardly Anybody’s Buying Cory Gardner’s Birth Control “Sham”

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Freshman Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado unveiled his long-awaited proposal to make oral contraceptives available over the counter last week, nominally keeping a major campaign promise but opening himself to new criticism as the details of his plan are unpacked by experts. Last Friday, Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post highlighted the objections of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to Gardner’s proposal, who say it “would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.”

Today, after more experts and advocacy groups have had a chance to look at the bill, the criticism continues to pile on. The Hill’s Sarah Ferris reports today:

The Colorado Republican’s push to make birth control available over-the-counter is not winning him more allies among women’s reproductive health groups…

Groups like Planned Parenthood have opposed the idea, which they argue could drive up contraception prices.

The group has pointed to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate — requiring insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved forms of birth control — and said that insurers may no longer cover the medication if it’s not prescribed by a doctor.

Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check:

Gardner was one of many Republican candidates in the 2014 midterm elections who campaigned on expanding “access” to birth control by making it available over the counter. Reproductive health advocates said that this was a cynical way for candidates to downplay their extreme anti-choice views on issues like anti-choice fetal “personhood,” which Gardner has supported throughout his political career.

The proposed Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act would waive the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) filing fee and expedite the application review process to encourage manufacturers of “routine-use contraceptives” to apply to the FDA for over-the-counter (OTC) status, according to Gardner’s website…

As Salon’s Katie McDonough explains, this legislation doesn’t do anything except ensure that women who now pay nothing for their contraceptives will start paying:

Birth control is expensive. Oral contraceptives can cost, in some places, more than $600 a year. And that cost can be prohibitive for women already struggling to support themselves. And as funding cuts to family planning clinics continue to devastate access for low-income women, making full-price birth control available over the counter does virtually nothing to counter that…

And no cost reduction through market force could match what’s offered by the new healthcare law: no cost. There simply is no competing with zero dollars when it comes to access. [Pols emphasis] And Joshua Cohen, a health economist at Tufts University, told FiveThirtyEight that such measures may improve convenience, but not cost. “Any improvement in access is likely to be merely a convenience issue,” he said. But that women “would pay more out-of-pocket for the OTC contraceptive than they would for the prescription product.”

Which brings us to the Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett, and the most important reason this proposal is being offered at all–to undercut the requirement in Obamacare that contraception be covered through a guaranteed health insurance benefit with no co-pay at all. Think Hobby Lobby:

[T]he proposal also represents a GOP end run around the Affordable Care Act provision that requires most employers to cover the full range of contraception at no cost to women. Republicans have long opposed and even pledged to repeal that rule because they claim it violates the religious freedom rights of employers who are morally opposed to birth control.

The mandatory contraception coverage under Obamacare applies only to birth control that requires a prescription. So if this bill resulted in various forms of routine-use contraception being sold over the counter, they would not have to be covered by insurance. [Pols emphasis]

On the campaign trail last year, Gardner used this proposal for over-the-counter oral contraceptives to counter allegations that, as a longtime supporter of the “Personhood” abortion ban ballot measures, he had effectively advocated for a ban on common forms of birth control. Despite the fact that the birth control restrictions that would result from passage of “Personhood” were well known to all sides of the debate as far back as 2008, Gardner insisted that he “had not realized” the initiative would have this effect until much more recently. As our readers know, a very large amount of oxygen in the 2014 U.S. Senate race was expended on trying to pin “Personhood’s” worst potential effects on Gardner, which Gardner outlasted via blanket denials that eventually fatigued the public’s interest.

In retrospect, it worked brilliantly–and for low-information voters who don’t know the details, Gardner just “kept his promise,” even as medical experts and pro-choice advocates cry foul to anyone who will listen. The bill is of course never going to become law under President Barack Obama, but that’s not the point.

Because this is not about passing anything, or even helping women get contraceptives. It’s about, as GOP consultant Katy Atkinson candidly admitted last year of Gardner’s women’s health agenda, “muddying it up” enough to confound the politics of birth control and abortion, and helping Gardner complete his reinvention from a conservative “social issue warrior” into an electable mainstream politician.

With all of this in mind, it’s easier to understand why pro-choice advocates are so angry over this proposal. It’s not sour grapes over 2014, more like proof that what they said about Gardner’s reproductive choice “con job” last year…was right.

Stapleton Kicks Off Taxpayer-Funded “Statewide Tour”

Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Fresh off an avalanche of bad press for absurdly denying having backed legislation to shore up the state’s public employee retirement system when questioned about it on right-wing talk radio, Colorado Treasurer Walker “Bush” Stapleton is heading out on a “listening tour” of all 64 counties in Colorado–including the counties with basically no people in them. From Stapleton’s press release:

Today, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton announced the kick off of a 64-county tour across Colorado. The goal of this summer-long road trip is to update civic and community leaders on what is happening at the State Capitol, and to hold meetings with county elected officials to get a better understanding of the issues impacting local communities…

“As I begin my second term, it is important to step out of the office, hit the road and continue to listen to the needs of people across our state,” said Treasurer Stapleton. “When I was in the private sector, I found it immensely useful to go out and talk to customers and co-workers. That’s where the good ideas come from, the people, not the boardroom. But you have to be willing to put in the legwork.”

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reports that Stapleton claims the trip has been “in the works” since March–apparently he’s more willing to talk to Bartels about this trip than her colleague John Frank about the recent controversy over the Public Employees Retirement Association bill. We don’t doubt that Stapleton was planning this tour for longer than he has been in hot water over his backpedaled support for legislation to reduce the unfunded liability owed by PERA, but we can’t see how this helps him either.

Setting aside the PERA gaffe, Stapleton’s aspirations for higher office are very well known, and this “fact-finding tour” to every county in the state can easily be portrayed as an improper campaign (or at least pre-campaign) activity paid for with taxpayer dollars. It’s one thing when the Governor tours the state for “fact-finding”…but the Treasurer? Coming from a politician everybody knows is angling for a run for higher office in three years, this kind of self-serving junket is just too easy to criticize.

Enough that it’s likely to cost Stapleton–politically, since you’re the one paying–more than it was worth.