Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 21)

MoreSmarter-RainApparently today is Red Nose Day; the first person who can find two friends who know what this means wins a prize. 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…

► Congress is unlikely to figure out a plan to continue funding construction at the VA Hospital project in Aurora, so it looks like work will shut down on the site as soon as next week. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) — the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee — took time out from blaming other people to have breakfast this morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss a potential Coffman campaign for U.S. Senate in 2016. Hey, priorities, right?

► If funding for the Aurora VA Hospital project is halted, that doesn’t mean the government is still saving money. As Mark Matthews reports for the Denver Post:

According to one congressional estimate, it would cost $20 million to shutter the site and $2 million a month to keep it safe from the elements — additional expenses that would increase the price tag of a project that has been called the biggest construction failure in VA history.

That’s not all. There are concerns among Colorado legislators that another work stoppage would drive away subcontractors, who already had to live through one shutdown in December. That could further increase the price…

…”I have presented a plan,” [VA Secretary Robert] McDonald wrote. “Congress has not proposed a counter-plan. I am open to reviewing any proposal that would better serve the veterans of Colorado and the American taxpayers.

“If congressional leaders choose not to support VA’s proposals or choose not to offer feasible solutions of their own, then they will be punishing Colorado veterans today for past VA errors.”

Maybe Coffman was proposing his plan to Mitch McConnell at breakfast this morning.

 Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Mitch McConnell Wooing Mike Coffman at Breakfast Tomorrow

Sen. Mitch McConnell, table for two, please.

Table for two, please.

As Roll Call reports, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) will have breakfast tomorrow with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hopes to pursuade Coffman to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016. Judging from the headline of the Roll Call story (“What if Mike Coffman Says No“), somebody may have more than egg on their face tomorrow afternoon:

Republicans are trying to recruit Rep. Mike Coffman to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado. If he stays put in the House, that gives the GOP a crop of candidates who could have a harder time in what will be one of Republicans’ few offensive opportunities in 2016.

Coffman will have breakfast Thursday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will surely make the case to convince the four-term lawmaker to try and join him across the rotunda. Asked about recruitment efforts, Coffman quipped, “Pressure, pressure, pressure.”

Coffman is taking his time. He told CQ Roll Call a decision would come “probably within the next month.”

“Still thinking. Never say never. But I haven’t ruled it out,” he said.

Roll Call says that there is a “large field of Colorado Republicans” who are waiting on Coffman’s decision, though the story just mentions a bunch of obvious names that we already know to be less of a list than a scribble on a napkin.

We’ve said for a long time in this space that we do NOT think Coffman will run for the U.S. Senate. Coffman’s troubles with the VA Hospital in Aurora certainly won’t help.

“Loan Shark Payback”–How A Bipartisan Dirty Deed Was Done

UPDATE: FOX 31 reports on the controversy over House Bill 15-1390:

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Registered lobbyist Megan Dubray.

Registered lobbyist Megan Dubray.

A big question remaining from the end of this year’s legislative session is the status of a bill passed at warp speed just as the session came to an end earlier this month. House Bill 15-1390, legislation that would allow subprime personal lenders to dramatically increase interest rates on “supervised” loans typically sought by borrowers with impacted credit histories, passed the Democratic-controlled Colorado House nearly unanimously and with almost no debate. In the Senate, most Democrats voted against the legislation after consumer advocacy groups like the Bell Policy Center managed to sound the alarm.

Yesterday, those groups joined with Senators Jessie Ulibarri and Lucia Guzman at a presser, requesting a veto of the bill by Gov. John Hickenlooper. As we’ve noted previously, Hickenlooper’s office was apparently not party to the deal that greased this bill through the legislature just before adjournment, and both sides are presently lobbying his office for and against signing the bill into law.

As these remaining steps in the process play out, many observers, including readers of this blog, have rightly asked the question–just how did this plainly anti-consumer legislation make it out of the Democratic-controlled Colorado House? Why did so many Democratic representatives, including some pretty lefty liberal types, vote for a bill directly counter to the interests of working families they are charged with defending? Especially a last-minute bill so obviously being slipped in under the wire?

The answer to this question may be as simple of the identity of the lobbyist whose job it was to pass the bill. Megan Dubray is the registered lobbyist for Springleaf Financial, one of the two major lending companies who would benefit most from House Bill 1390’s dramatic hike in subprime personal loan interest rates. If Dubray’s name rings a bell to you, it’s because she used to be the Deputy Communications Director for former Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino.

In short, Dubray is a friendly face to Democrats in the Colorado House majority, and we have to assume that relationship played a role in both the late introduction of House Bill 1390–which required the consent of House leadership–and its quick passage through the House with most Democrats in support. The difference between House Democrats’ overwhelming support for House Bill 1390 and the opposition encountered from most Senate Democrats can be at least partly accounted for by Dubray’s role in lobbying for the bill.

Assuming this version of events is accurate, does it excuse Democrats in the House? Absolutely not–no matter how outwardly persuasive a case was being made to pass this bill, or who was doing the lobbying, allowing such enormous rate hikes on loans made to people who are already in credit trouble is exploitative and morally questionable on its face. Especially considering the huge profits subprime lenders are raking in as the economy recovers, the argument that this industry would simply pack up and leave the hundreds of millions of dollars they’re making here on the table if they don’t get these rate hikes is simply ridiculous. And there’s just no excuse for so many Democratic lawmakers not realizing that.

Bottom line: all the Democratic votes in the world for this bill do not make it right. A Democratic lobbyist pushing this bill does not make it right. Whatever happens to House Bill 1390, soul-searching lies ahead for everyone who contributed to this ugly situation.

We’ll continue to update as the story develops.

The Cost Of Coffman Comes Home To Roost

UPDATE: AP’s Nick Riccardi:

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Rep. Mike Coffman: mad as hell...at everyone?

Rep. Mike Coffman: mad as hell…at everyone?

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, the ongoing controversy over the wildly over-budget new VA medical center under construction at the Anschutz campus in Aurora has taken a troubling turn–and Congressional Republicans have nobody left to blame:

With funding about to run out, Congress and the administration failed again Tuesday to reach a deal on how to finish construction of a Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora that has seen its price tag soar to $1.73 billion.

The latest setback follows an offer by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to trim the hospital campus by two buildings, including a clinic for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said House Speaker John Boehner had rejected the proposal and that Boehner wanted the cost reduced further; the VA has estimated it needs an additional $830 million to complete the facility. [Pols emphasis]

“I’ve been shuttling back and forth between (VA) Secretary (Robert) McDonald and the speaker’s office hoping that an agreement can be reached before the end of this week in order to avoid a complete shutdown at the hospital construction site,” Coffman said.

That’s right–Rep. Mike Coffman, who has chaired the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for more than two years (and served on the House VA Committee in general)–is scrambling to convince his own Republican leaders to approve the funds needed to avert yet another halt to construction. As a report from ProgressNow Colorado made clear in April, Coffman has been well aware of this looming disaster for many years yet has failed to do much more than call for VA staffers to be fired…and panic is starting to take hold. From 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

“I’m disappointed in the VA for their mismanagement. I’m disappointed in the speaker, for in my view, not showing appropriate leadership so far,” Coffman told 9NEWS in an interview Tuesday. “I hope I can convince [Boehner] to understand that our veterans should not be the casualty.” [Pols emphasis]

Coffman, along with the other eight members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, are racing the clock, hoping to convince congressional leaders to authorize another $200 million toward to the spending cap on the Aurora hospital project.

John Boehner.

John Boehner.

But the latest word today from Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is, well, screw ’em. Here’s Matthews in an updated story just posted moments ago:

A high-level, eleventh hour meeting meant to find a way to fund the troubled $1.73 billion VA hospital in Aurora ended in standstill Wednesday, raising the increasingly likely prospect that money for both a long-term and a short-term deal isn’t coming.

Punctuating that point was a combative floor speech delivered by House Speaker John Boehner that took aim at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the administration…

Matthews reports that if a deal to keep construction going isn’t reached, the cost of mothballing the project will itself be millions of dollars–not to mention the cost of getting subcontractors back on the job after a shutdown, workers who will be snatched up for other Denver-area construction projects as soon as they are idled. 

While no one is suggesting that Coffman is solely responsible for the huge cost overruns this project has incurred, there’s no ignoring the fact that Coffman “owns” as much of this problem as anybody. This is happening in Coffman’s own district; Coffman is the Chair of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee; and Coffman has campaigned for years on his military background and “support” for veterans. If the VA Hospital in Aurora was completed on-budget and on-time, Coffman would be doing pushups at the ribbon cutting.

The bottom line now is that the hospital needs to be finished or, to put it in Shakespearean terms, “all are punished.” The Obama administration looks bad, the VA looks bad, the contractors look bad — and Coffman looks worse by the day as he looks for someone else to blame or be fired.

Coffman has a lot to lose if Boehner and the House GOP leadership decide to use this project as a stick to beat on the Obama administration, and it’s difficult to see how Republicans can do this without inflicting significant collateral damage on the four-term Representative from CD-6.

We suspect Coffman is pretty nervous right about now.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 20)

MoreSmarter-RainThe Denver Nuggets ended up with the exact results expected in last night’s NBA Draft Lottery, which gives Denver the #7 pick in the June Draft. 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…

► It’s hard not to read the panic between the lines of Rep. Mike Coffman’s latest statement regarding potential delays at the Aurora VA Hospital project. As 9News reports, Coffman has found yet another person to blame for the fiasco:

With precious few days left to avert another work stoppage at Colorado’s VA hospital construction project, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) is making an unusual move: publicly calling into question the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner on the issue.

“I’m disappointed in the VA for their mismanagement. I’m disappointed in the speaker, for in my view, not showing appropriate leadership so far,” Coffman told 9NEWS in an interview Tuesday. “I hope I can convince [Boehner] to understand that our veterans should not be the casualty.”

We’re just going to keep repeating this because it’s so important: Mike Coffman is the CHAIR OF THE OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Guess who should have “oversaw” this coming?

► The editorial board of the Denver Post blasts the Jefferson County School District for its nonsense claims that they couldn’t host Gov. John Hickenlooper for a bill signing ceremony because of last-minute security concerns:

It is difficult to believe a school where Super Bowl halftime entertainer Katy Perry performed would have had that much of a problem hosting the governor.

Jeffco swears Hick is welcome to come any other time. But for now, this rejection looks bad.

Hickenlooper ended up signing the bill yesterday at Lakewood Heritage Center, which somehow managed to to provide a secure building at the last minute.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Wednesday Open Thread

Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives
And I decline

–REM, from It’s The End Of the World As We Know It

Rep. Chaps Says Judges “Cooperate With Demonic Spirits”

With the 2015 session of the Colorado legislature now in the books, the General Assembly’s most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Republican representative, Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs, has ended his self-imposed hiatus from his Pray in Jesus’ Name Youtube broadcasts. You’ll recall that Klingenschmitt temporarily stopped producing his Youtube shows after being punished in the legislature for asserting that the horrific attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont in March was “the curse of God upon America” for tolerating the practice of abortion. In the place of his regular quasi-political rants, Klingenschmitt uploaded a series of biblical education videos called “Discerning the Spirits.”

As Raw Story’s David Edwards reports, Klingenschmitt is in his second week of resumed PJN broadcasts, and was preaching yesterday about “discerning the spirits” all right–demons, that is. As they relate to gay people. And federal courts!

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling to stand that upheld a New Jersey law banning the discredited practice of converting gay people into heterosexuals.

On his Monday Pray in Jesus Name broadcast, Klingenschmitt argued that Christian psychotherapists had been stripped of their “free speech rights” because they could no longer use reparative therapy, which he said was “intended to repair the character flaw inside of someone who has a character problem and that problem is homosexual addiction.” [Pols emphasis]

“The Holy Spirit of God is a healing God and he would come, perhaps, through the psychotherapist to heal the homosexual of the sinful addiction,” Klingenschmitt explained. “And yet, there is a demonic spirit inside of the addict that is controlling their voluntary choices or, at least, has contracted with them and is manifesting through them in this sinful addiction.”

“What the lower court judges are doing is they are cooperating with the demonic spirit inside of the homosexual addict, and those judges are now reinforcing the sin,” he insisted. “That’s what these bad judges have done.”

This past April, one of the many bills killed by the one-seat GOP controlled Colorado Senate was a bill very similar to New Jersey’s law banning the use of so-called “reparative therapy” on minor children. The bill died with GOP Senators like Owen Hill defending the rights of persons who “want this therapy,” even though in the case of minor children, it’s generally the parents who want it–and despite the fact that “reparative therapy” has been condemned by the American Psychological Association, along with any type of therapy “based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder.”

Fortunately, we’ve got Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R) to explain that gayness is not a “mental disorder” at all! What’s really going on here is that a demon who normally possesses gay people is also possessing judges, or at least getting judges to “cooperate” with the demons possessing gay people in order to “reinforce the sin” and prevent Godly therapists from purging (exorcising?) the “character flaw inside of someone who has a character problem and that problem is homosexual addiction.”

To which we can only say, this would have been illuminating testimony during the debate over House Bill 1175.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 19)

MoreSmarter-RainIt only looks like Seattle out there. 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…

► The clock is ticking on a congressional agreement to prevent another halting of construction at the troubled VA Medical Center in Aurora. The Denver Business Journal reports:

VA Secretary Robert McDonald submitted a memo identifying $150 million that it could move to the Aurora project from various other budget items, but only if Congress raises the project’s spending cap by $200 million to $1 billion…

“I couldn’t be more disgusted at the gross mismanagement by the VA on this project,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora. “However, their proposal is a first step in the right direction to keep this project moving forward.”

Just a reminder that Rep. Mike Coffman has been chair of the relevant oversight subcommittee for over two years now, so his claims of shock and disgust are…well, a couple of years late.

► President Barack Obama is threatening a veto of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 over a provision stopping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the greater sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species. Republicans want the sage grouse shoehorned into the defense bill to make it a less politically palatable veto:

Vetoing the legislation because of the sage-grouse provision would be irresponsible and harm national defense, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

Or maybe using the NDAA as a hostage to get your way on the sage grouse is what’s irresponsible? Readers, weigh in here.

► Speaking of President Obama, his new Twitter account set a world record for the fastest growth to 1 million followers ever.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Tuesday Open Thread

“The world perishes not from bandits and fires, but from hatred, hostility, and all these petty squabbles.”

–Anton Chekhov

Seriously? Jeffco School District Spurns Democratic Governor

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Aguilar, here come the lame excuses:

Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, said the jettisoned ceremony was particularly relevant to Jefferson County students because it would have involved the enactment of House Bill 1323, a hotly debated test reduction measure.

“The look on kids’ faces when they get to meet the governor and he has a bill in front of him that is about to become law — that experience for students is incredible,” said Kerr, who teaches at the online Jeffco Virtual Academy…

Jefferson County Schools has been through a tumultuous year, with a flood of negative headlines generated over a controversial curriculum proposal and superintendent selection process. District spokeswoman Lisa Pinto said a visit from the governor, accompanied by a potentially large media contingent, “would be difficult for our schools to accommodate,” especially on short notice.

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Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Even more unforced bad press for the Jefferson County Board of Education’s conservative majority, as the Colorado Independent’s Kyle Harris reports:

Jefferson County public schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee told Governor John Hickenlooper’s office and Colorado lawmakers that they’re a security risk and unwelcome to conduct bill signings in the district’s schools, says the governor’s Chief Strategy Officer Alan Salazar.

Superintendent McMinimee found his district embroiled in controversy last fall when the newly elected conservative school board proposed updating AP US History curriculum to deemphasize chapters of “conflict” — such as Native American genocide, slavery, the civil rights movement –and to downplay the way protest and civil disobedience have brought tremendous social change…

Now, with the district refusing to host the governor and lawmakers, observers are wondering if the political history of the present seems equally suspect to the board.

Top staffer for Gov. John Hickenlooper Alan Salazar vented his frustration via Facebook:

Still trying to get my head around learning last week that the Superintendent of Jeffco Schools informed legislators and our office that the Governor of Colorado could not do a bill signing at any district schools because his presence at such an event presented a “security risk” to students. Really? Seems to me that any school would welcome a governor and legislators for a real life example of our democracy in action. Apparently not in Jeffco.

Gov. Hickenlooper’s chilly reception in Jefferson County differs notably from his experience just last week at a northeast Denver elementary school:

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2016 Won’t Be Like 2014 (Or 2010)

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Famed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has a smart writeup at Roll Call today on the state of play in Colorado ahead of the 2016 U.S. Senate race–with some perspective that’s quite valuable if you’re using past performance as a predictor of future results:

Republican strategists have not given up hope of recruiting a top-tier challenger, such as Rep. Mike Coffman, who might be able to mount the sort of come-from-behind effort then-Rep. Cory Gardner did to upset Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last cycle.

But even knowledgeable Republicans wouldn’t tell you the Colorado Senate race is close to a tossup now. And in their most candid moments they might even tell you the race may never get any closer than where it is now — leaning in Bennet’s favor…

Colorado voters who wanted to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president could only do so by voting against Bennet, and subsequently Udall. That is a different dynamic from the one that occurs in presidential election years, such as 2016.

Next fall, voters won’t automatically see the Senate race as a way to make a statement about the presidential race, and the GOP won’t have a strong voter turnout advantage, the way the party did in 2010 and 2014.

The last U.S. Senate race in a presidential election year in Colorado was 2008–the year when Mark Udall blew out Republican Bob Schaffer, in a race where Schaffer was hobbled by ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and generalized dissatisfaction with the Republican brand after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. In 2010 and 2014, election years where Democrats in Colorado fought uphill battles, presidential-year turnout ebbed, and conservative voters in this state surged to the polls. Even at the height of the 2010 GOP wave, Bennet managed to come out ahead of the decidedly out-of-the-mainstream GOP nominee Ken Buck. In 2014, Cory Gardner’s audacious con job airtight message discipline powered him past Udall’s uninspiring single-issue negative campaign.

In 2016, there is no Cory Gardner Colorado Republicans can turn to for a fresh start, and Bennet will not face the same kind of “Teflon” opponent Udall did. As Rothenberg correctly notes, presumed 2016 U.S. Senate frontrunner Mike Coffman has his own long record of immoderation, like in 2012 when he told attendees at a GOP fundraiser that President Barack Obama “is just not an American.” While Coffman has managed to keep his job since that major on-camera gaffe three years ago, Rothenberg is absolutely right that “Democrats undoubtedly would use that sound bite to introduce him to voters statewide.” Bennet may not be the left’s biggest hero today after spurning them on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, but Coffman has enough fringe ugliness in his background for Bennet to show a clear distinction with the broad center of Colorado voters.

Rothenberg concludes, and from our view there’s nothing with which to disagree:

Democrats have plenty of reasons to keep Colorado on their radar screens, and Republicans have plenty of reasons to look for a strong challenger who can take advantage of the state’s fundamental competitiveness.

But right now, it is much easier for Democrats to defend the seat than it is for Republicans to win it back from Bennet.

These hard facts are a big reason why we’re waiting to see if Coffman makes the jump to the 2016 U.S. Senate race at all, especially with a strong Democratic challenge for his CD-6 seat threatening from Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll. Whatever momentum Colorado Republicans may feel after 2014 is, looking ahead today, fraught with uncertainty–with a very different electorate than the last two U.S. Senate races here, and no “ace in the hole” lying in wait to change the game.

Naturally, we’ll let you know if we see one.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 18)

MoreSmarter-RainJust in case you needed any more of a reason to stay away from motorcycle gangs. 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…

► Republican State Treasurer Walker “Wasn’t Me” Stapleton continues to show the political agility of a blind skiier. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Stapleton has turned a minor controversy into a major avalanche:

Days after the legislative session closed, Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trying to distance himself from a controversial effort to issue billions of dollars of pension bonds to bolster the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association fund.

The two-term treasurer told a conservative talk radio host that he didn’t support the move, despite the fact that records show he signed up twice to testify in support of legislation that would give him authority to issue the bonds…

…Stapleton’s shift is an attempt to quell friendly fire from conservatives taking aim at him for supporting a debt venture they consider too risky. The attack threatens to undermine the 41-year-old treasurer’s conservative fiscal reputation, one that has boosted his political prospects for higher office.

We noted Stapleton’s ridiculous claims last week, which adds more evidence to our analysis from last fall that Stapleton would be an absolute disaster for Republicans if he seeks higher office.

 

Agriculture and business groups from around the state are pushing Republicans to do something on immigration reform. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is promising more grandstanding, if that helps (hint: it doesn’t).


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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ICYMI: Romney vs. Holyfield, The Complete Bout

Worlds collided Friday evening in Salt Lake City, as 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney lasted for two rounds against former heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield in a charity boxing match:

It wasn’t what you’d call a real fight, but this would have been a big deal in 2012, wouldn’t it?

“He said, ‘You know what? You float like a bee and sting like a butterfly,'” Romney said after the fight.

That sounds a lot like 2012, too.