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!

slider_duggar_family-1900x450_c

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.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 26)

Get More SmarterHey, look at that…the sun is still there, after all. 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…

House Republicans may yet put a stop to a trade deal favored by President Obama, which gained initial approval from the Senate last week.

► Construction at the VA Hospital Project in Aurora will continue for about three more weeks. Congress approved a plan late last week to kick the can down the road so they could leave town for their Memorial Day recess. Meanwhile, a VA whistle blower indicates a significant lack of oversight for the hospital project. This is where we remind you that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee under the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

 Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Tuesday Open Thread

“The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument.”

–Henry David Thoreau

City Council Candidate Still Not Explaining GOP Support

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

City Council candidate Wayne New, who changed his voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated in March, acknowledged in a Denver Post interview last week that he’s spotlighting progressive ideas to try to prove to voters that he’s not as conservative as you might think from his record of donations to Republican candidates like Cory Gardner and others.

But Wayne New still hasn’t said why he donated to Gardner, just last August.

Wayne New told The Post he supports progressive ideas, like a plastic-bag fee, and he doesn’t want to get into partisan scrapping. Fair enough. But it’s not a partisan attack to want to know why Wayne New donated to Cory Gardner. It’s a substantive question. What issues did he agree with Gardner on? (Somehow, I don’t see Gardner supporting the bag fee.) What did he like about Gardner? About Mitt Romney? About John McCain? About the Republican National Committee?

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VA Whistleblower Report Shows Lack of Oversight

Exasperated Mike Coffman

Exasperated Mike Coffman

The Denver Post has more details today about a Veterans Administration whistleblower and an apparent lack of oversight with the VA:

A former high-ranking federal Veterans Affairs official responsible for overseeing the troubled Aurora medical center complex figures prominently in a whistleblower’s claims that the agency misspent at least $5 billion yearly through illegal contracts and other purchases.

Whistleblower Jan Frye, VA’s deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, alleged in a 35-page letter to the VA secretary that a pattern of cover-up and indifference permeates all levels of the agency.

Frye accused Glenn Haggstrom, the former principle executive director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Acquisition, Logistics and Construction, and others with intentionally trying to hide transactions in which the VA wrongly bought pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other goods and services without contracts that are required by federal law.

What about Congress? The Post heard from Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

“Incredibly, VA leaders either didn’t know or just didn’t care about the damage Haggstrom was doing,” Miller said in a statement to The Post. “In fact, they rewarded him for his reign of incompetence with tens of thousands in bonuses year after year after year.”

Hmmm…it seems like there should be a group of people…heck, a subcommittee even, who could provide a layer of oversight and protection for this sort of thing…

It also seems like this would be a good place in an article to insert the perspective of a Colorado resident with knowledge of the subject…

Alright, as you probably know, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is not only a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, but is also the CHAIRMAN OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATONS. Oddly enough, Coffman just happens to represent the district which contains the $1.73+ billion Aurora VA Hospital boondoggle. It is a minor miracle that Coffman has largely managed to avoid any tough follow-up questions on a VA Hospital project mess occurring in his own backyard.

The tone and substance of this latest whistleblower report may have changed that, and from what we’re hearing of national media requests surrounding this story, Coffman may be getting a bit uncomfortable.

A whistleblower gets people to look up the ladder, wherein people start checking for names of the supervisor’s supervisors. It doesn’t take but a few steps up that ladder before you realize that the VA Hospital Project is in the home district of the Congressman who is the chair of Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee. That makes Coffman more than just interesting — it makes him a great headline: Aurora Hospital Boondoggle is in Oversight Chair’s Home District!

Unfortunately for Coffman, that’s when the questions get sour. How is it that the Oversight Chairman let this happen in his own backyard?

D’oh!

Investigation Underway Into Alleged Student Bullying By Jefferson County School Board, Staff

We wrote two weeks ago about an ugly and perhaps legally actionable incident that occurred at the May meeting of the conservative-controlled Jefferson County Board of Education. A complaint from Jeffco parent Wendy McCord the following day asked for an investigation of the displaying of a Jeffco student’s name on the overhead projector at this public board meeting, and board President Ken Witt accusing the 17-year-old student in question of “favoriting racial epithets at district leaders”–an apparent reference to an anonymous Tweet that is it turns out isn’t “racist” at all. From McCord’s complaint:

All administrators, teachers, and classified staff who witness student bullying in any such circumstance shall immediately take appropriate action to stop the bullying, as prescribed by the district and building principal, and shall promptly report the bullying to the principal or principal’s designee for appropriate action. (Policy JBC)

That it is the Board members who continue to endanger our students and staff is of no relevance. You are OBLIGATED to act to ensure the safe learning environment required by CRS 22-32.109.1(1.5). The Colorado legislature enacted this statute because of their commitment to “a learning environment that is safe, conducive to the learning process, and free from unnecessary disruption.” I am quite certain that the legislators never truly considered that it would be the Board Members themselves from whom students needed to be kept safe. But that doesn’t change the spirit and letter of the law. Nor does it change your obligation to protect our students.

I demand that a formal investigation be undertaken in connection with Witt’s behavior and comments, and that prompt and equitable remedial action be taken to deter future bullying and harassment and to remedy the effects on the victim(s) of Witt’s bullying behavior. Such actions should include “[h]olding training and inservices to assist [the board] in being alert to student bullying, taking appropriate action when bullying occurs, and helping to engender an atmosphere where bullying is not tolerated at school or school-related activities.”

Here’s the bottom line: social media has become a central communications hub for opposition to the conservative Jeffco board majority, and on several occasions, social media organizing and communication has resulted in extremely embarrassing situations for the school board–from the #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory hashtag that went viral globally after Julie Williams’ disastrous AP History “review” proposal to Williams more recent linking to a hate group’s protest of the LGBT Day of Silence endorsed by the district. In response to these incidents, the team of paid communications consultants hired by Jeffco Communications Office Lisa Pinto has vigorously responded with a proxy campaign through local conservative blogs and social media–like the recent “Mean Girls” website from the right-wing Independence Institute, seeking to turn the anger on social media at the Jeffco school board into a sympathy ploy.

It appears that in the interest of “defending” the board majority from such criticism, Pinto and even elected members of the school board went on the hunt to identify persons to blame, discovering this minor student who had “favorited”–not even “Retweeted,” mind you, just “favorited”–a few Tweets critical of Pinto and the board majority. Emails forwarded to us from a recent Colorado Open Records Act request appear to be a “smoking gun,” setting up the incident that transpired later that evening between board chairman Ken Witt and the minor student in question:

pintosmokinggun

In the end, it doesn’t matter if this minor student “favorited” a Tweet. It wouldn’t matter if he or she was the original author of the Tweet that offended the board majority. That minor student is still entitled to protection from intimidation and bullying–and that includes bullying by a board member during a public board meeting.

Elected school board members have no business intimidating children. Period.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (May 22)

MoreSmarterLogounderwaterA sopping wet Memorial Day Weekend to you! 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…

► Sen. Cory Gardner’s “pay twice” proposal for birth control women can currently receive copay-free under Obamacare is going over like a lead Zeppelin. The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels has an updated story with more reaction from pro-choice advocates–quoting Karen Middleton of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado:

As we saw throughout his career and campaign — when he denied a ‘personhood’ bill he cosponsored even existed — Cory Gardner can’t be trusted when it comes to Colorado women and their health care.

With this legislation, he’s trying to limit women’s access to contraception by undermining the Affordable Care Act and double-billing them, first for insurance then for full retail cost of their birth control. This adds up to hundreds, even thousands, of dollars many women don’t have in their budget — and if birth control isn’t affordable, it isn’t accessible.

And Dr. Mark S. DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

The Affordable Care Act removed many barriers to preventive care that keeps women healthy. By making contraceptives available to women without a co-pay, it has truly increased access to contraception, thereby decreasing unintended pregnancies, and allowing women to better plan their futures. Unfortunately, instead of improving access, this bill would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.

Ouch. So much for that, Sen. Promise Keeper.

► The GOP-controlled House passed a Band-Aid to forestall negative press over the Aurora VA hospital disaster for a couple of weeks. Rep. Mike Coffman, who has chaired the Oversight Subcommittee supervising this project for years, hopes to use that time to thread the precarious needle between solving the problem and being part of it.

► Republicans are itching for Hillary Clinton to testify about the Benghazi attacks–and so are Democrats, confident that she’ll make mincemeat out of Republicans obsessed with a story that has already been beat to death without uncovering anything scandalous whatsoever.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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