Wednesday Open Thread

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”

–Kurt Vonnegut

Colorado Republicans Choose Irrelevance for 2016

Rick Santorum.

Colorado Republicans have enacted “The Santorum Rule” for 2016.

Colorado Republicans have decided not to formally select a candidate for President in 2016 so that they can (theoretically) play a bigger role in selecting a candidate for President in 2016.

Confused? You should be. Colorado is currently the only state in the country where Republicans are essentially taking a pass on participating in the early nomination process, in large part because there are too many bad Republican candidates for President. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post:

Colorado will not pick a Republican candidate for president in its 2016 caucus after party leaders approved a little-noticed shift that is likely to diminish the swing state’s clout in the most open nomination contest in the modern era.

The GOP executive committee voted Friday to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll at the caucus after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate that wins.

What in the name of Ronald Reagan’s ghost is going on in Colorado? There is some actual logic behind Friday’s decision — though not necessarily good logic:

State Republican Party Chairman Steve House said the party’s 24-member-executive committee made a unanimous decision — six members were absent — to skip the preference poll. He said the move would give Colorado delegates the freedom to support any candidate eligible at the Cleveland convention in July. Republican National Committee officials said the change complies with strict party rules.

“If we do a binding presidential preference poll, we would then pledge our delegates … and the candidates we bind them to may not be in the race by the time we get to the convention,” House said in an interview Tuesday. [Pols emphasis]

You might call this “The Santorum Rule,” the result of a strange 2012 cycle whereby former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum somehow ended up with the support of the Colorado delegation not long before his entire campaign cratered. The solution to this problem, according to House and other Republicans, is to skip the “preference poll” part of the GOP caucus so that Republicans don’t feel compelled to support a campaign that no longer exists by the time the Republican National Convention convenes in late July.

In other words, Colorado Republicans don’t want to be forced to select — and continue to support — a bad candidate in a field of bad candidates. There is some disagreement about whether or not this will cause Republican candidates to largely avoid Colorado through 2016; you could argue that Republicans will actually work harder in Colorado in order to make sure that they hold on to delegates who could change their mind at any time.

The upside, if you can call it that, is that Colorado Republicans could wield a lot of power if the 2016 GOP nomination comes down to a brokered deal at the National Convention. Of course, we haven’t seen a brokered convention in this country in more than 60 years, and the likelihood that it will happen in 2016 is about as probable as Donald Trump growing a new head of hair.

The Colorado Republican Party has had an odd year in 2015. They elected Steve House as their new State Party Chair in March, despite a fairly successful 2014 election cycle under Ryan Callthree months later a group of GOP leaders, including Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, tried to blackmail House into resigning from the job (and as it turns out, efforts to oust House probably began on the very day he was first elected). Republicans continue to insist that incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is beatable, yet they can’t find anybody to actually run against him in 2016. Oh, and don’t forget…this?

When viewed with the proper amount of perspective, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that GOP leaders decided against participating in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary…

…On second thought: Nope, it’s still really, really weird.

Jeb! Bush Just Makes Stuff Up About Planned Parenthood

UPDATE: Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado’s Cathy Alderman weighs in:

“Jeb Bush clearly does not understand Colorado women and their health. In our state Planned Parenthood serves more than 80,000 Coloradans, the majority of which are women. Colorado women trust Planned Parenthood, and depend on them to get the health care they need.”




Reports are starting to come in from Republican presidential candidate Jeb! Bush’s town hall in Englewood today–though nominally focused on veteran’s issues, Jeb! reportedly answered questions on a number of topics.

As Democratic-leaning fact-checking site Correct the Record reports, not very factually:

Hot off of insulting immigrant families, today Jeb turned his scattershot firepower back to women’s health at a town hall in Englewood, Colorado.

“I don’t think Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues,” Jeb said. [Pols emphasis]

This is a shock to the one in five American women who have used Planned Parenthood’s health services at least once in their lives. In addition to 900,000 annual cancer screenings, Planned Parenthood provides 4.5 million annual STI tests and courses of treatment. Though Jeb and other Republican politicians paint Planned Parenthood to be solely a provider of abortion services, 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s client services go toward helping prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place and abortion services make up 3 percent.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as you can expect, was ready to call BS on the assertion that they don’t provide care for women’s health issues besides abortion services–with ample statistics:

“It’s clear Jeb Bush shouldn’t be making health care decisions for anyone — just look at what he did to women’s health in Florida. However this does beg the question — if providing millions of women each year with birth control, breast exams and pregnancy tests and more doesn’t count as women’s health in Jeb Bush’s world, what does?”

Planned Parenthood is one of the nation’s most trusted providers of high-quality, affordable reproductive health care for women, men, and young people. In 2013, Planned Parenthood’s nearly 700 nonprofit health centers provided a total of 10,590,433 services, including:

Providing 2,131,865 women with reversible contraception, including 1,440,495 emergency contraception kits
Provided 378,692 Pap tests
Provided 487,029 breast exams and care
Screened 87,988 women whose cancer was detected early or whose abnormalities were identified
Provided 34,739 HPV Vaccinations
Performed 2,095 LEEP procedures
Provided 1,128,783 Pregnancy Tests
Provided 18,684 Prenatal Services
Provided 327,653 Abortion Procedures
Provided 47,264 Urinary Tract Infections Treatments

Oops! Politico:

While the group gets a large amount of attention for abortion services, Planned Parenthood says such services make up 3 percent of the health care it provides, according to its latest annual report. The clinics also provide preventive health services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Tuesday was not the first time Bush has drawn criticism for comments regarding Planned Parenthood. He remarked last month that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars in funding for women’s health programs” writ large.

Bush later said that he “misspoke” in lumping other health organizations together with Planned Parenthood…

And that, dear reader, is how you take an issue that’s a no-brainer with your base of support and turn it into a liability. Now, the story isn’t about Jeb! engaging in the popular, even obligative Republican pastime of beating up on Planned Parenthood.

The story is how Jeb! still can’t get his facts straight.

Animas Animus: From Mindless EPA Bashing To The Real Issue

UPDATE #2: The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul:

For roughly two decades, Silverton has pushed back against the EPA designating the area a Superfund site, which could have brought substantial remediation funds. In 2014 the EPA warned the town that without such a label, funds for long-term remediation would be scarce.

Town and county officials say the new resolution is not a request for Superfund designation, though such an option is still on the table…

Silverton had rejected Superfund designation out of fears of the stigma associated with it. Superfund sites are on the national priority list for hazardous waste cleanup and can attract massive sums of federal aid.

Mark Eddy, a spokesman for the town and San Juan County, said Tuesday while this petition for federal funds is not linked to Superfund, it does not remove that option.


UPDATE: FOX 31 reports this afternoon that officials from San Juan County and the town of Silverton passed a joint resolution last night seeking federal aid to clean up their polluting mines–acknowledging that the problem is longstanding, and making no attempt to blame the EPA:

“The people of the town of Silverton and San Juan County understand that this problem is in our district and we feel we bear a greater responsibility to our downstream neighbors to help find a solution to the issue of leaking mines,” the resolution said.

“We have been working together for over 20 years to try to deal with the environmental threat of the idled mines in the area, but we’ve never had the resources necessary to get the job done,” Silverton town administrator Bill Gardner said in a statement. “We are committed to working with our downstream partners to make sure a disaster like the Gold King spill never ever happens again.”

…The joint resolution says federal funding could pay for building and operating a water treatment facility and further remediation of the contaminated mines in the area.

Here’s the full language of the joint resolution. This significantly more contrite stance from the local stakeholders in Silverton, no longer deflecting blame out of political expediency–though we’re obliged to point out that the “resources necessary to get the job done” have been repeatedly rejected by these same local officials–should be regarded as a very positive development.


Animas River fouled by minewater spill near Silverton.

Animas River fouled by minewater spill near Silverton.

After weeks of grandstanding politicians making speeches, and conservative astroturf “grassroots” groups issuing over-the-top press releases vilifying the Environmental Protection Agency for the spill of mine wastewater into the Animas River early this month, we’re no closer to answering the most important question: how do we prevent another disaster from the derelict, polluted mines above Silverton, Colorado?

As everyone not on the well-funded low-information gubmint-bashing bandwagon knows, the EPA unleashed the spill into Cement Creek above Silverton while attempting to remediate what was well known by all stakeholders to be a rapidly worsening minewater pollution problem. Contaminated runoff had been building up for years behind hastily-erected bulkheads in disused commercial mines, while mine owners from small-time local outfits to Canadian gold mining giant Kinross pointed fingers at each other. About the only thing Silverton locals and mining corporations could agree on was that they didn’t want the EPA declaring the area a Superfund site. Mining companies were afraid that operations would not be able to resume, and other locals feared the damage to Silverton’s “repuation.”

Well, as the Durango Herald reports today, the debate over Silverton’s “reputation” has taken on a very different meaning in the wake of the spill. And the part of the story frothing EPA bashers don’t want to talk about is taking center stage:

The Animas River Stakeholders Group – an un-elected volunteer group that for two decades has been at the center of the debate about how to address the pollution gushing out of Silverton’s defunct mines – is to meet Tuesday for the first time since Gold King Mine spewed 3 million gallons of sludge downstream on Aug. 5…

The meeting comes at a time when the question of whether the Environmental Protection Agency should list Silverton’s oozing mines under Superfund has taken on new urgency for both downstream communities such as Durango and people in Silverton.

Mine water retention ponds near Silverton. Photo credit: EPA

Mine water retention ponds near Silverton. Photo credit: EPA

On the one hand, you have basically every Republican politician and allied interest group in the state focusing their attention solely on the EPA’s role in this latest spill. On the other, you have stakeholders from the Animas River’s headwaters in Silverton all the way down to the river’s end and beyond–tens of thousands of people–who understand that the problem is much older and much bigger, and that this was just the latest symptom.

And those people are beginning to understand something else: a small faction in Silverton, Colorado, population 629, and big-money mining interests behind them, have put these tens of thousands in danger for their own self-interest:

Facebook users have been planning to crash the meeting for weeks. Tom Newman, writing on The Durango Herald’s website, challenged others to attend in the wake of the Gold King blowout and go “person to person” to ask why Silvertonians still spurn Superfund designation…

Even in recent years, as pollution from Silverton-area mines worsened – killing 3 out of 4 fish species living in the Animas below Bakers Bridge – San Juan County officials resisted the EPA’s warnings that the defunct mines needed to be placed under Superfund, saying they preferred working on the problem through the stakeholders’ group. [Pols emphasis]

But since the Gold King blowout, skeptics downstream and in Silverton have questioned whether a cleanup can be accomplished through the stakeholders’ group – which counts representatives from Sunnyside Gold Corp., the last major mining company to operate in the area, and San Juan Corp., the owner of Gold King Mine, among its members.

Folks, it was always going to come back to this. The last few weeks of nonstop bashing of the EPA by opportunistic Republican politicians, who never once gave a shit about the Animas River but became its come-lately champions in order to attack the EPA on unrelated issues, have accomplished absolutely nothing to solve the very real and ongoing problem of pollution flowing out of Silverton’s mines. Releasing “Good Samaritans” from liability for their own cleanup accidents is one idea, but it can’t possibly solve a problem this big–not in Silverton, or the many other polluting mines throughout the West. No one is suggesting that the EPA be held blameless for the harm from this latest spill, but fixating on the EPA instead of the pollution they were trying to clean up is an inexcusable distraction.

Hopefully, that’s about to end. Because whatever the solution is, we’re going to need the EPA.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Aug. 25)

Get More Smarter

Jebbbbbbbb!!! 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).


► JEB! is in Colorado today. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is making his first official visit to Colorado as a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. This morning he addressed a group of veterans at an Englewood VFW, with much of the focus on completing the Aurora VA Hospital project. From the Denver Post:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told veterans at a metro town hall Tuesday that he supports finishing the Aurora VA hospital despite huge cost overruns.

“We need to finish up, we can’t just can’t waste hundreds of millions of dollars,” Bush said, during the event at VFW Post 9644 in Sheridan.

More than 100 people turned out at the event, where Bush highlighted a plan to revamp veteran services.

Bush called the construction project, and  its projected $1.73 billion cost “an unmitigated disaster.”

► The Animas River Stakeholders Group is meeting today to discuss…the Animas River. Colorado Pols has you covered on the latest news from the aftermath of the Gold King minewater spill. Meanwhile, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman continues to demonstrate a bizarre lack of common political sense; on Monday Durango city leaders revealed that Coffman tried to schedule a private meeting with local elected officials, which would be a violation of Colorado’s “Sunshine Laws.”



Get even more smarter after the jump…


“Trump The Dragon Slayer” Billboard Goes Up Near Junction


That’s the report from KREX NewsChannel 5 in Grand Junction, high-res art above to share with your friends:

Readers may recall another “edgy” billboard from 2010 in Grand Junction that made national news, featuring multiple President Barack Obamas dressed up as a terrorist, a gangster, an illegal immigrant, and a gay guy in formation. This latest billboard featuring Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump slaying a (presumably) liberal dragon–the dragon’s scales featuring acronyms from EPA to ISIS to GLBT are a heartwarming touch–appears to originate from the same concerned citizen.

So take that, RINOs and “libtards!” Donald Trump is comin’ to gitcha.

Tuesday Open Thread

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

–Charles Spurgeon

D’oh! D’oh! D’oh!

Enjoy this fundraising email sent out today from the Republican National Committee in the name of Sen. Cory Gardner. We took the liberty of marking it up to help prevent future errors. For example:

  1. Cory Gardner is from Yuma, Colorado. Not Denver. Or the Mile High City.
  2. “Grinning from ear to ear” is a tad cliche when discussing Gardner.
  3. Denver may very well be a perfect place to hold a GOP Debate. Too bad the debate will be held in Boulder.
  4. Again, good luck trying to find a GOP debate in Denver in late October.
  5. Still, not Denver.


Get More Smarter on Monday (Aug. 24)

Get More Smarter

If the kids aren’t starting school this week…have fun with that. 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).


► Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is the chief law enforcement officer for the State of Colorado. With any luck, Coffman will eventually decide that it would be a good idea to, you know, learn the law. Here’s the money quote from the Colorado Independent on claims that Coffman tried to convince Durango elected officials to participate in a closed-door meeting about the Animas River mine water spill (such a meeting would violate Colorado’s “sunshine” laws):

Talk about awkward – being asked by the attorney general herself to violate the law,” Mayor Dean Brookie told The Colorado Independent. “We were all pretty taken aback that she would have created that situation.” [Pols emphasis]


► Enjoy it while it’s happening before your very eyes, Polsters: The Coffmangate Scandal may very well be the most inexplicably ridiculous political scandal you are ever likely to witness. The group of Republicans who allegedly tried to blackmail State GOP Chair Steve House decided to throw a party for themselves on Friday — and, naturally, somebody thought it would be wise to take a bunch of pictures. Cynthia Coffman was either not invited, or was at least wise enough to not show up in the photos.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


AG Coffman’s Animas River Politicizing Backfires Spectacularly

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene reports today, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s trips to Durango to “investigate” the recent spill of mine wastewater into the Animas River have local officials crying foul–and may have brushed with violating the law Coffman is charged with protecting yet again:

At the peak of the Animas River crisis, Cynthia Coffman reached out to the Durango City Council and La Plata County Commission and invited each member to dinner. But several of her would-be guests didn’t appreciate what the state Attorney General planned to serve up.

Some are blasting Coffman for ignoring Colorado’s open meetings law. As the state’s top law enforcement official, they say, she should have known better than to try to gather them together in a closed meeting.

“Talk about awkward – being asked by the attorney general herself to violate the law,” Mayor Dean Brookie told The Colorado Independent. “We were all pretty taken aback that she would have created that situation.” [Pols emphasis]



As Greene reports, Coffman asked several members of the Durango city council and La Plata County commissioners to join her for dinner at Durango’s Palace Restaurant on Tuesday, August 11th. The problem with such a meeting, as anyone familiar with Colorado law as it pertains to the conduct of public officials, is that a group of city councillors or county commissioners meeting together to discuss public business without appropriate public notice would be a clear violation of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.

And as we’ve noted before with Cynthia Coffman, attorneys general have a higher obligation than other public officials to avoid breaking the law:

“I would expect the Attorney General to know the requirements of the open meetings law. Her request to try to unofficially assemble city council members would be careless at best,” said Peg Perl, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, a group promoting government ethics and accountability throughout the state.

It appears that the conscientiousness of these local officials, who recognized that Attorney General Coffman’s invitation to discuss public business over dinner in private was illegal, may have protected Coffman from yet another instance of breaking the laws she is charged with upholding as the state’s top law enforcement officer–that and a flight delay, of course. But in addition to helping establish a pattern of misconduct by Colorado’s attorney general, there’s another piece of this story that needs to be considered:

“We assumed at first she was there to see if we needed her assistance,” added Mayor Brookie. “We would have really appreciated it if she had reached out to see what we needed like Gov. Hickenlooper did.”

But the locals soon realized that Coffman was scrambling in-state and with neighboring states’ attorneys general to drum up support for a lawsuit against the Obama administration. Some equated her work around the disaster with GOP presidential contender Ben Carson’s campaign stop in Durango to try to make political hay out of the spill. [Pols emphasis]

Coffman didn’t try to reschedule her meeting with council members and commissioners when it became clear from news reports and other channels that, regardless of their political affiliation, they were more interested in collaboration than litigation.

You see, folks, under the radar of sensationalized news coverage, ridiculous conspiracy theories, and eager Republican grandstanding over the Environmental Protection Agency’s role in the Animas River spill, there’s a growing anger over the politicization of the event for unrelated political purposes like attacking the EPA’s clean air rules. There’s a recognition by locals directly impacted by the disaster like the city government of Durango that, far from being “part of the problem,” the EPA was and remains their partner in solving the massive problem of mine waste pollution in Colorado and the West.

So when our Republican attorney general invites local Southwest Colorado officials to break the law for the purpose of trashing the EPA for political points, they have two very good reasons to tell her no.

And to not be very nice about it, either.

And Then The Coffmangaters Threw a Party!

harveyhocReaders by now are very familiar with the ongoing Coffmangate scandal, in which Colorado Republican Party chairman Steve House was confronted by a cabal of fellow Republicans led by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman about his “failure” to hire former Sen. Ted Harvey as the state party’s executive director–and as the story is told, then threatened House with exposure of an alleged affair if he did not resign his position.

The latest word we have is that the investigation of the Coffmangate scandal, which according to some legal experts meets the technical definition of felony criminal extortion in Colorado law, is still continuing. Last Friday night, though, according to photos we were forwarded over the weekend, a number of the principal figures in the Coffmangate scandal threw themselves a party! With House still in office and the Coffmangate co-conspirators in disarray, we’ll be damned if we can tell you what they were celebrating.

Perhaps they decided to go with self-incriminating instead.


From left: Coffmangate instigator Tom Tancredo, Steve House’s alleged mistress Julie Naye, Republican activist Kim Hertzfeldt, and “Tea Party”-aligned former GOP state party official Lana Fore. Hertzfeldt’s name has surfaced several times as part of the pro-Ted Harvey faction that sought Steve House’s ouster.


Here’s Lana Fore, ex-Pueblo County GOP chair and principal Coffmangate actor Becky Mizel, and Tancredo cheek-to-cheek. And look over Tancredo’s shoulder–why, isn’t that sitting GOP Rep. Clarice Navarro? Guess she’s not planning on much help from the state party next year!

But the photo you’re really waiting to see, the one that ties the whole menagerie together, is after the jump:


Whither Joe Biden?

Vice President Joe Biden.

Vice President Joe Biden.


Two days after huddling with advisers about plans for a presidential run at his home in Delaware, Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday made a short unannounced trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at his Naval Observatory home.

Warren, a liberal icon who for months has been urged by the Democratic Party’s progressive wing to mount a presidential primary challenge of her own, notably has held off on endorsing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party’s current frontrunner for the nomination. Warren’s said the race remains wide open…

The variables that would help determine if a run for president by Vice President Joe Biden principally revolve around Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who is facing a barrage of attacks from Republicans eager to pollute her image ahead of the 2016 primaries. If Hillary makes it through the next few weeks of the kitchen sink being thrown at her, a Biden run won’t make much sense and will fizzle quickly.

Another consideration is that Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign has energized liberal Democrats but doesn’t have much realistic hope of himself winning the presidency, has a lot of momentum to transfer to someone in this race. The conventional wisdom has been that Hillary would ultimately inherit Bernie’s mojo, but she still needs to present the affirmative case to liberals that she deserves their support.

In the meantime, sure. These conversations are going to happen.

Coffman Goes Negative Early: Strength or Desperation?

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

The Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning offers a preview of the message incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman intends to use against what’s expected to be his toughest challenge ever from former Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll–and it’s all negative all the time:

Coffman acknowledged that it was “going to be a tough race.” His opponent, he said, was Carroll, “a personal-injury attorney.” As the crowd groaned, he quickly added, “and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that industry, or that profession, has an important role to play in our society. But there are bad apples within that profession, and Morgan Carroll has done her best to represent those bad apples in the State Legislature.”

“She wants to do to America what she’s done to Colorado,” Coffman continued. [Pols emphasis] “What she needs to do in Colorado is help clean up the messes that she’s created here, that have hurt this economy, that have hurt jobs, that have hurt Colorado’s working families. I look forward to a spirited race,” he said, and then repeated his characterization: “Because Morgan Carroll, representing the bad apples of that industry has created a lot of IOUs there and you can bet she’s going to raise a lot of money from them, so I need all your help.”

That Coffman is centering his message on Carroll’s career as (Coffman’s words) a “personal injury attorney” is not unexpected, since “trial lawyers” have been employed as a universal boogeyman for Republican politicians since time immemorial. While that may be an effective message in safely Republican areas dominated by business interests, we have real questions how effective attacking Carroll for being someone who ordinary citizens turn to for justice will prove in swing CD-6–one of the most economically and ethnically diverse districts in the state today.

As for “doing to America” what Carroll “did to Colorado?” All we can assume here is that Coffman must have forgotten about Business Insider’s ranking last year of Colorado as the #1 state in America for economic growth. And Forbes’ ranking of Denver as the best place to do business in America. And Colorado’s unemployment rate that’s a full percentage point below the national average. These facts make exporting whatever we’re doing in Colorado to the rest of America sound, well, pretty good.

Bottom line: in each of Coffman’s last two campaigns in the redistricted swing CD-6, Coffman has opted for a strategy of going harshly negative right out of the gate against his opponents. Victories in 2012 and 2014 against an underfunded and overcautious challenger respectively have almost certainly validated this approach in Coffman’s mind.

But for a host of reasons, Coffman’s hard-charging negativity–we’ll refrain this once from calling it “shrill”–could backfire in 2016.