Cory Gardner Loves Him Some Koch Brothers

Koch Brothers and Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner is a big fan of David and Charles Koch…though he’d prefer to keep that quiet.

It's no secret that the billionaire Koch Brothers (David and Charles) are the proud parents of the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, and major contributors to all things Republican. It's also no secret that Democrats have been raising significant amounts of money using the Koch Brothers as Bogeymen, so Republican politicians have been careful about associating themselves too closely with the Koch family. A new audio recording has emerged in which Republican Senate candidates such as Cory Gardner heap praise on the Kochs during a super-secret conference in California this summer.

As the Huffington Post reports:

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

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

…Audio of the event, held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort, was obtained by The Undercurrent and shared exclusively with The Huffington Post. In it, the three Republican candidates, appearing on a panel titled "The Senate: A Window of Policy Opportunity for Principled Leaders," speak for several minutes each about the state of their respective races. Because the discussion took place in mid-June, some of the comments are dated. In addition, some of the audio was redacted to preserve the anonymity of the individual who provided it — "a source who was present at the event," per an official with The Undercurrent — and to remove sections with too much cross-talk. A separate source, who helped organize the retreat, confirmed each candidate's participation.

Getting exposed for loving up the Koch Brothers isn't a critical wound for Gardner, of course, but it will hurt his chances of beating Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in November–not to mention making hypocrites of anyone who brings up, for example, big Democratic funder Tom Steyer. As we've said over and over again in this space, Colorado voters have shown that they are more interested in supporting the statewide candidate who appears to be closest to the political center, and Gardner absolutely can't afford to appear any more partisan than he is already viewed. And while close ties to the Koch Brothers may not be a deciding factor for Unaffiliated voters, Gardner's cozy relationship with the coal barons will be incredibly helpful for Democrats as they try to motivate the base to get out the vote.

Sorry, Ryan Call: El Paso County GOP Stands By “Dr. Chaps”

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call, GOP HD-15 nominee Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call, GOP HD-15 nominee Gordon Klingenschmitt.

KOAA-TV's Greg Dingrando reports, the El Paso County Republican Party is standing up for embattled Colorado House candidate Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt in the wake of his outlandish attack on Rep. Jared Polis last weekend, suggesting that Polis would "join ISIS in beheading Christians" for…actually, it doesn't really matter why he thought that statement was justifiable.

Reports KOAA-TV, local Republicans who know "Dr. Chaps" best are standing by him:

"Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy. Next he'll join ISIS in beheading Christians…" said Klingenschmitt.

It's a comment that has Democrats shocked and appalled yet county Republicans are still defending him…

The Colorado State Republicans are denouncing him from the party, but El Paso County Republicans are standing by him. [Pols emphasis]

"He's part of our team. Whether we agree with him or disagree with him," said El Paso County Republican Chairman Jeffrey Hays…

"They're using that as a smoke screen to get people's attention away from their bad policies of a constant effort to control people," said Hays.

He said it's a smoke screen Republicans aren't afraid to fight right along side Klingenschmitt.

"I want to win. I believe in value of us winning. He represents a whole host of views the Republican Party will have [Pols emphasis] so absolutely we want him to win," said Hays.

While we pick our jaws up off the floor, read again from our friends at Right Wing Watch:

Just let that sink in: a man who thinks that "Obamacare causes cancer," that the Bible commands people to own guns in order to "defend themselves against left wing crazies," and that the FCC is allowing demonic spirits to "molest and visually rape your children" is now a Republican candidate for office. [Pols emphasis]

Not just a candidate, the GOP's primary election winner to succeed Rep. Mark Waller in HD-15. A candidate who, in the view of El Paso County GOP Chairman Jeffrey Hays, "represents a whole host of views the Republican Party will have." We haven't heard from other local political figures close to Klingenschmitt, like Sen. Bernie Herpin, but at some point a lack of condemnation is reasonably tantamount to support–especially as the story blows up nationally. In any event, we should be able to accept the word of the county GOP chairman as official.

Right?

Last Monday, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call sort-of denounced Klingenschmitt's comments, while making it clear that he wasn't going to let those conniving Democrats turn this into another "Todd Akin" situation–you know, "trying to brand all Republicans." Because obviously, "his views do not reflect my personal position or" (this is the important part) "the position of the party." This isn't the first time that Call has had to condemn a Republican elected official's indefensible remarks (see: Marble, Vicki and Saine, Lori), but it seemed for a moment like he was working from a better prepared script.

Ryan Call, call your office.

Wednesday Open Thread

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

2014 Will Not Be a “Wave Election”

Bush wave

No, not that kind of wave.

Our friends at "The Fix" produced an interesting list today titled, "The 10 Things We Know 10 Weeks Before Election Day." While there are several interesting points on the list, the one that stood out most to us is #2:

This isn't a wave election. Yet.  The last two midterm elections — 2006 and 2010 — were waves, elections totally dominated by the national issue environment to the detriment of individual candidates trying to swim against the tide. (Terrible water metaphor alert!) That doesn't look like it's happening just yet.  The generic Congressional ballot — "if the election were held today would you prefer a Republican or Democratic controlled Congress?" — shows Democrats with a narrow one-point edge, a far cry from the five point (and building) margin that Republicans had at this time in the 2010 election. And, in Senate races, candidates like Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) are hanging in races that, if the national environment was worse, would already be lost.

It has been awhile since we heard much talk about another midterm "wave election" similar to the 2010 version that gave Republicans control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier this year, Republicans were giddy about the prospect of another wave that could enable them to pick up the Senate in 2014, but this election cycle looks and feels much different than 2010. Remember how much media coverage was given to Congressional town hall meetings in August of that year? Republicans may be more excited about the election than Democrats in general, but 2014 definitely does not have the same political fervor that enveloped 2010.

It's also worth noting that the 2010 national wave was significantly less impactful for Republicans here in Colorado. While Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton did capture seats held by Democrats (Rep. Betsy Markey and Rep. John Salazar, respectively), both CD-4 and CD-3 were not what any political handicapper would have called Democratic seats; Gardner and Tipton essentially won back seats that the GOP should have held anyway. In the 2010 Senate race, first-time candidate Michael Bennet defeated Republican Ken Buck in a race that Buck could have — and some say should have — won for Republicans. In CD-7, incumbent Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter absolutely destroyed GOP challenger Ryan Frazier, winning re-election by a 12-point margin.

"The Fix" hedges their bet about 2014 by saying that this "not yet" a wave election, but the "not yet" is unnecessary. If 2014 was indeed shaping up to be a "wave election," we would already be feeling it by now.

“Dr. Chaps’” Opponent Calls For Withdrawal From HD-15 Race

UPDATE: The Washington Post's Abby Ohlheiser keeps the national spotlight on "Dr. Chaps":

A Republican nominee for a Colorado statehouse seat responded to criticism on Monday over his claim that U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) would “join ISIS in beheading Christians.”

Gordon Klingenschmitt, a longtime conservative figure in the state, said in the video embedded below that the statement e-mailed to supporters was just “hyperbole” and that “some Democrats do not have a sense of humor” before offering up an apology to Polis…

In his apology video, Klingenschmitt maintained that he thought policies supported by Polis would “persecute” Christian business owners in the state, adding: “I would never compare you to the ISIS rebels who behead Christians, right? Of course, you would never go in for something like that.”

The state Republican party distanced itself from Klingenschmitt’s remarks, and not for the first time…

Meanwhile, local progressives join the call for Klingenschmitt to withdraw from the HD-15 race:

"Gordon Klingenschmitt's extreme homophobic slurs have no place in any civil discussion of American politics," said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. "There is absolutely nothing that can justify these outlandish statements, certainly nothing in Rep. Jared Polis' record of fighting for equality for all Americans."

"Like it or not, Klingenschmitt is the Republican Party's nominee for Colorado House District 15," said Runyon-Harms. "His extreme rhetoric dishonors not just the Republican Party, but other Republican politicians who have endorsed his campaign either directly or indirectly. Sen. Bernie Herpin, who invited Klingenschmitt to deliver a prayer at his recall victory party, should disavow Klingenschmitt–or explain why he will not."

"For years, Colorado conservatives have turned a blind eye to irresponsible extremism," said Runyon-Harms. "Now, one of their worst offenders is receiving national attention just before a major election. Is Gordon Klingenschmitt the new face of the Colorado Republican Party? If Klingenschmitt refuses to withdraw, and his Republican colleagues refuse to ask him to do so, he must be."

—–

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

​As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Megan Schrader reports, the story of GOP HD-15 nominee Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, whose every pronouncement since winning his Colorado House primary has been an absolute disaster for the Republican brand. They were before, of course, but now he's official. Klingenschmitt's Democratic opponent Lois Fornander is now calling for "Dr. Chaps" to pull out of the race:

Lois Fornander is calling for her opponent for the state House of Representatives to withdraw from the election after what she calls "a homophobic attack on Congressman Jared Polis."

Fornander, a Democrat, is set to face Republican Gordon Klingenschmitt in November for the eastern Colorado Springs and El Paso County House District 15 seat…

"Such a statement is far beyond 'hyperbole,' it is inflammatory, irresponsible and repulsive," said Fornander in an email. "Klingenschmitt's attempt to pass off this reference to an ISIS beheading as an attempt at humor is not only disingenuous, it's perverse."

It's interesting to see Fornander call for Klingenschmitt to exit the race, since arguably "Dr. Chaps" represents Fornanders best shot at actually winning the safe Republican HD-15 seat this November. We assume that Fornander and those advising her have considered this, and simply concluded that calling for Klingenschmitt to withdraw from the HD-15 race is the altruistically right thing to do.

On the other hand, there's really nothing that Fornander or Republicans can do to force Klingenschmitt out. As we learned when Rep. Jared Wright's campaign in 2012 went off the rails, leading to not-so-subtle attempts by fellow Republicans to get him out of the HD-54 race, safe Republican seats like HD-15 leave candidates with little to fear no matter what they say or do–within reason, of course, but neither Wright's embarrassing career and financial troubles nor Klingenschmitt's penchant for bug-eyed insanity appear to rise to the proverbial level.

And that could be a problem for Republicans in more than just this one House seat. The next logical step in the Klingenschmitt story, which hasn't been anywhere near fully developed, is his close ties to GOP SD-11 Senator Bernie Herpin. Herpin's recall victory last yearover Sen. John Morse in a district that leans Democratic has made him a major target this year. Herpin's ties to Klingenschmitt include a genuine "Dr. Chaps" prayer at Herpin's victory party, and the subsequent endorsement of Klingenschmitt's House campaign by Herpin's Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition.

Even before this latest, there was a vast wealth of "Dr. Chaps" lunacy on video to make Herpin dearly regret it.

Will the real Both Ways Bob please stand up?

(Skip to 4:10 in the video below for the quotes in question – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As women across the country celebrate Women's Equality Day, ProgressNow Colorado demands that Bob Beauprez tell the truth about his opposition to a woman’s right to choose–even in the case of rape and incest. Beauprez claims his hard line opposition to abortion is his "personal" view, but during his last run for governor, Beauprez clearly stated he would sign an abortion ban into law with no exception for victims of sex crimes.

"It's time for Bob Beauprez to end his war on women: a woman has the right to make her own personal, private medical decisions, including victims of rape and incest,” stated Amy Runyon-Harms, Executive Director of ProgressNow Colorado. "It's shocking that in 2014 we are still having a debate about something so basic."

In an interview broadcast this past Sunday–transcribed below–Beauprez said, "I respect that different people have different opinions than me and I respect the law of the land which is very clear and as Governor I will enforce the law of the land…for me personally the only exception is life of the mother–that's me personally."

Yet in 2006, Beauprez said he would sign a bill that outlaws abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. (Denver Post, October 20, 2006)

"Beauprez's record shows that he would let the government interfere with decisions that should be left to a woman, her family and her doctor," said Runyon-Harms. "Beauprez supported federal Personhood legislation, and said in his last run for Governor that he would sign a bill outlawing all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. Once again, Both Ways Bob is saying one thing to women, while his record demonstrates otherwise."

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More evidence that Gardner tried to stop Obamacare by threatening government shutdown

(Once again, the record makes a liar of Cory Gardner – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Cory Gardner.

Cory Gardner.

In a blog post last week, I noted that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner threatened, during a radio interview in August of last year, to shut down the government unless Obamacare was defunded.

This is in 180-degree-contrast to what a Gardner spokesperson was quoted as saying last week, that "Gardner had warned against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open.”

It turns out Gardner also launched the defund-Obamacare-or-we-shut-down-the-government warning from the floor of the House of Representatives. And he did it the day before the shutdown occurred:

Gardner: "Over the weekend, this House worked to find a solution to the impasse over the Continuing Resolution, sending over various options to the Senate to try to jump start negotiations to work through an agreement to find a solution to keep our government funded. In the early hours of this morning we finally said to the leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, let's find a way to meet face-to-face, through a conference committee, to negotiate a solution and avoid a government shutdown. We passed three times now measures to keep the government funded and a way to find solutions to this critical issue.

But there are many people in Colorado who are struggling now because of the shutdown and who are worried about what happens to their situation, particularly those who may have been impacted by the flood. And that is why we must find a way to get government funded, to find a solution to get government going back on track, while preventing policies that we know are bad for the economy."

Here, Gardner acknowledged the concern that the shutdown could affect flood recovery, and he blamed Harry Reid for the impasse, but he insisted that a budget deal must prevent "policies that we know are bad for the economy" (i.e. Obamacare riders in the Gardner-supported funding resolutions to keep the government open).

This contradicts his spokesperson's statement that Gardner warned Republicans not to shut down the government to try to stop Obamacare. I don't see any such warning in Gardner's floor speech, and, in fact, the government shut down the next day.

[Pols Note: Video moved so that it appears after the jump]

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John Newkirk, Jeffco BoE Secretary: Public Comment is too long, off topic, repetitive

(Pesky meddling citizens, who needs 'em? - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

From Jefferson County School Board Watch:

The new Jefferson County School Board Secretary, John Newkirk, would really rather not be bothered with those boring public comment sessions. I mean, who really wants to hear from all of those  parents, students, and teachers?

Much easier if we just go to a Douglas County style system, break the union, teach creationism and whatever other curriculum is approved by the Tea Party, and leave it at that. No need for long, boring, meetings where the public gets to weigh in on policies, and maybe (gasp!) influence them.

At last Saturday's school board meeting, Mr. Newkirk made the following comments, which were immediately transformed into a Facebook meme:

Past blog posts on Jefferson County School Board Watch (non Facebook version)

Jefferson County parents, students, teachers, and staff are still fighting to keep the excellent school district they have created. The fight continues.

Will Cory Gardner Attend Tomorrow’s Big Pro-Life Rally?

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels:

“It’s no surprise that the biggest defenders of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who both made national headlines for their crass and demeaning comments on rape, are parachuting into Colorado to help Congressman Gardner, who wrote a bill to make abortion a felony in cases of rape,” said Udall’s campaign spokeswoman, Kristin Lynch.

“Coloradans won’t be swayed by radical groups like the Susan B. Anthony List. Voters know that Mark respects women and trusts them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Akin, of Missouri, and Mourdock, of Indiana, were GOP Senate candidates whose comments on rape helped doom their campaigns…

The group sponsoring the rally is Students for Life, which makes no mention of Gardner on its website. Gardner voted for the bill limiting late-term abortions.

—–

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

​From the announcement for tomorrow's star-studded pro-life rally at the Colorado Capitol, put on by a coalition of anti-abortion groups including former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's Susan B. Anthony Fund:

Senate Bill 1670, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protect Act, speaks up for those who can't speak for themselves and protects the health of women when it comes to late-term abortion. And our Colorado Senators need to hear from you.

Thanks to scientific research and advancing technology we know the inhumane treatment of babies in the womb, who after 20 weeks (about five months gestation) can feel pain…

The Senate has the opportunity to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves and protect the health of women. While all abortions pose physical and psychological risks for the woman, medical risks from abortion increase markedly as pregnancy progresses, including the risk of death.

Join us on Tuesday August 26th at the State Capitol in Downtown Denver to make our voices heard!

Speakers Include:
Kristan Hawkins, SFLA
Marilyn Musgrave, SBA-List
State Senator Vicki Marble, SD-23
Michael Norton, ADF
Debra Chaves, Colorado Family Action
Lynn Grandon, Archdiocese of Denver
Sarah Zagorski, Colorado Citizens for Life
Co-sponsoring groups include FRC Action, Susan B. Anthony, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, and Americans United for Life.

A name we noticed right away was missing from this list of speakers is GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner. Just a couple of weeks ago, Gardner reaffirmed on camera (above) that he would vote again for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as a U.S. Senator as he already has done in the House. Like we said then, this legislation doesn't go quite as far as the no-exceptions Life at Conception Act abortion ban that Gardner remains a sponsor of in the House, but it still represents a direct challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision mandating reproductive choice rights in the United States. Between this bill and the "Personhood" abortion bans at the federal and state level that Gardner still supports and has recently flip-flopped on (respectively), it's very difficult to argue this is not an issue that Gardner and a lot of his fellow Republicans care about.

Keep this in mind next time someone tells you what Democrats call the "war on women" doesn't exist.

With all of this in mind, will Gardner make an appearance at this rally tomorrow celebrating legislation he supports? Either way, it's safe to say he'll be the 800 pound gorilla in–excuse us–on the Capitol steps.

Beauprez Says Secession About “Celebrating Diversity”

beauprezncolorado

Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez was featured in a sit-down interview with Fox 31's Eli Stokols that aired Sunday morning on Stokols' #COPolitics public affairs show.

One of the topics of conversation involved the failed Secession movement of last fall, in which voters of 11 counties cast ballots on the question of seceding from the State of Colorado to form a 51st State. The total number of voters able to vote on the topic of secession was relatively small, as we pointed out before, and a majority of politicians on both side of the political aisle did not approve of the proposal.

Stokols asked Beauprez about the Secession effort and where he stood on the issue; as you can see in the video below (beginning around the 7:40 mark), Beauprez says he did not support Secession. But Beauprez does talk a lot about sad rural Coloradans before attempting the odd connection that secession is really about "celebrating diversity" (as opposed to what it really was: a small, loud group of angry partisans who refuse to concede that the majority of Colorado's population is not aligned with rural interests any longer).

"I did not support the secession movement, but I certainly understood the sentiment — that's the key here."

This is a little different, of course, than what Beauprez said about the Secession movement last September. In Voice of America News (Sept. 16, 2013), Beauprez was clearly trying to align himself with sad rural Colorado:

"…maybe we ought to just go our separate ways.  Why don’t you run your state and we'll run ours."


Which state is that, exactly, Bob?

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Dr. Chaps: Jared Polis Wants To Behead America’s Christians

MONDAY UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols with reaction from GOP chairman Ryan Call as Gordon Klingenschmitt apologizes for his self-described "hyperbole."

“Gordon, as I’ve said before, does not speak for the Colorado Republican Party,” Call told FOX31 Denver. “His views do not reflect my personal position or the position of the party.

“But this tired, ineffectual tactic of trying to brand all Republicans based on these comments — the Todd Akin approach [Pols emphasis] — it’s not going to work this time around,” Call continued. “Voters are too sophisticated. They know that one legislative candidate in Colorado Springs doesn’t reflect the views of Bob Beauprez or Cory Gardner.”

—–

To summarize, Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call really doesn't want to accept that Klingenschmitt is the Republican Party's nominee for Colorado House District 15, a safe Republican seat–which means that barring the extraordinary, this man is headed for the Colorado Capitol in January as an elected GOP state representative. That makes "Dr. Chaps" Call's responsibility, to a significantly greater degree than if he was some lone crazy with a sandwich board.

Chairman Call fails to recognize this at his peril.

—–

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

MONDAY UPDATE: House Speaker Mark Ferrandino calls on Colorado Republicans to speak out about "Dr. Chaps." From a press release (full text after the jump):

"I call on Ryan Call and other Republicans to denounce Mr. Klingenschmitt and his homophobic, extreme, and slanderous attacks against Congressman Polis."

—–

Colorado House District 15's Republican nominee, Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, continues to shock national audiences with his video program–in which he has made statements that are, there's no nice way to say this, disqualifying from anything you'd call responsible politics. But after Klingenschmitt's victory in the June HD-15 primary, a relatively safe Republican district, the chances are pretty good that Dr. Chaps will be bringing his special brand of over-the-top distasteful lunacy to the Colorado Capitol next January.

When we say this guy is insane, do we really mean in a clinical sense, or just kind of, you know, metaphorically for politics? For those who still haven't heard about Dr. Chaps, we can't introduce him any better than Right Wing Watch:

Just let that sink in: a man who thinks that "Obamacare causes cancer," that the Bible commands people to own guns in order to "defend themselves against left wing crazies," and that the FCC is allowing demonic spirits to "molest and visually rape your children" is now a Republican candidate for office.

Yes, folks, we mean crazy on the objective scale. And you really can't say that about many politicians.

Early this morning, Klingenschmitt possibly topped even his own very high mark for insanity. In an email from Klingenschmitt's Pray in Jesus' Name Project, a screed attacking Rep. Jared Polis that very straightforwardly blew us away:

Gay Congressman:  "No Religious Exemptions" for Christians

The openly homosexual Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a revised bill to force Christian employers and business owners to hire and promote homosexuals with ZERO RELIGIOUS EXEMPTIONS for Christians who want to opt out.

Polis "wants sexual orientation and gender identity treated the same way as race, religion, sex, and national origin, when it comes to employment protections," claims the Advocate, under the headline "Polis trims ENDA's religious exemption."

Dr. Chaps' comment:  The open persecution of Christians is underway.  Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy.  Next he'll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America. [Pols emphasis]

There's really no commentary necessary to elucidate how disgustingly inappropriate, false, nonsensical, whatever adjective you want to apply this is. To say this kind of talk has no place in Colorado politics is a major understatement. Perhaps the best that can be said is it's so far over the line, no one can take it seriously–but that brings us back to the fact that this man is the Republican nominee for a seat in the Colorado legislature.

Like it or not, many more people than Dr. Chaps should be ashamed right now.

 

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Monday Open Thread

"If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done."

          — Ludwig Wittgenstein

What To Make of Gessler Harrassment Allegations?

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Earlier this week, Westword's Melanie Asmar posted a story about the former chief financial officer in Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office–who claims she was harassed, intimidated, and ultimately demoted after she raised questions about Gessler's use of discretionary account funds. You'll recall that Gessler's use of taxpayer money to attend partisan political events resulted in a ruling from the state's Independent Ethics Commission that he had "breached the public trust for private gain."

As published at Westword Tuesday afternoon:

The former chief financial officer for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office is accusing Secretary Scott Gessler of harassing her, retaliating against her and eventually demoting her after she "began to push back on the financial mismanagement" she reportedly saw in the office. Heather Lizotte took issue with Gessler's use of the office's $5,000 discretionary fund and federal grant funds meant to improve state elections, according to a lengthy claim notice filed with the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

According to the notice, Lizotte began working for the secretary of state's office in 2003 and got excellent performance reviews for many years. The trouble started shortly after Gessler took office in 2010, the notice says. Gessler made headlines for wanting to moonlight at his previous law firm because, he claimed, the secretary of state's salary wasn't enough. Meanwhile, the notice says, Gessler didn't always provide receipts in connection with his use of the office's $5,000 discretionary fund; at the end of fiscal years 2011 and 2012, he also asked Lizotte to give him all of the money left in the fund.

Lizotte told Gessler's staff "that the casual practices being used were not appropriate," the notice says. In a November 2011 e-mail to two staffers, Lizotte wrote that all expenditures from the discretionary fund "should have supporting documentation (for example meal receipts etc.)" and that memos for "blanket expenditures" are not allowed. Lizotte's insistence on the rules, the notice says, caused "ongoing tension" between her and Gessler.

Heather Lizotte testified before the Independent Ethics Commission about the matter of Gessler's discretionary funds account. As Westword reports, Lizotte claims that after her testimony, Gessler and his close staff started shutting her out of meetings. Within a few months, Lizotte was on the wrong side of performance evaluations, and in June she was demoted with loss of pay. While we can't claim to know all of the particulars, there are plenty of circumstances in play here that could add up to plausible claim of retaliation.

Between Tuesday and yesterday afternoon, though, something interesting happened. In a new story, Asmar writes about SoS employees, in interviews "facilitated by Gessler's office," coming out of the woodwork to throw Gessler's former CFO under the bus:

[A] document signed by Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert gives different reasons, including that Lizotte abruptly left the office in December 2013 on sick leave without giving her staff any direction. Lizotte claims that she left because Gessler treated her "so aggressively that she became frightened and seriously ill" and that she did brief her staff on how to handle the meetings scheduled during her absence…

Ryan Moyle, who worked for Lizotte from April 2011 until he left the department in November 2013, says that it seemed to him that Lizotte was in over her head. "In my experience, we were doing a lot of her work," says Moyle, who was a budget analyst.

Moyle says he never saw Gessler mistreat Lizotte; instead, he was "supportive" and "patient" with her. However, Moyle recalls Lizotte saying things that made it clear she didn't see things the same way. "She would always make comments about how it was a boys' club and the men didn't respect her," Moyle says…

Deana Wiedemann, an account tech who worked under Lizotte for eight years, agrees. "It's been a rough road to work with her," Wiedemann says in a conversation facilitated by Gessler's office. "Nothing has been consistent with how she makes decisions."

Bottom line: we don't know Heather Lizotte. We don't know any of the people in the story above who question her performance in these downright ad hominem terms. We do know that Lizotte's employment with the Secretary of State's office predates Gessler's term, meaning she wasn't part of the team that Gessler brought in when he took office. And we know that Gessler was found by the IEC, with their judgment upheld in court, to have improperly spent his office's discretionary funds–which could quite reasonably upset his CFO. The Colorado Civil Rights Division, which is currently investigating, will eventually make a judgment. Until then, yesterday's story ends this way:

Laura Schwartz, one of Lizotte's attorneys, says that Lizotte disagrees with the statements made by the other employees but does not want to comment on them further. Adds Schwartz: "These people who are coming out against Heather are the very people who want to stay in touch with a powerful person. And Gessler is." [Pols emphasis]

Perhaps Gessler will be vindicated. But if he is not vindicated, these subsequent actions, marshaling current and former employees to smear this woman even as the investigation of her claims is underway, could turn out to be one of the very worst of "Honey Badger's" many misdeeds.

Weekend Open Thread

"It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways."

–Gautama Buddha