“Please Stand By” Open Thread

State Treasurer Walker StapletonWe’ve been having some confounding technical problems lately, culminating in a lot of downtime for Colorado Pols on Thursday.

We are working on moving to a new server/host — which is about as much fun as cramming a box of toothpicks in your ear — and we’re really, really, really hopeful that we can finish this process soon.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Feel free to cast blame at random in the comments thread.

How The Hell Can You Oppose This Bill?

The Schlagetters.

The Schlagetters.

The Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein reports on legislation co-sponsored by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, along with Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis in the House:

Sen. Michael Bennet joined 21 other senators to introduce a bill on Monday that would reinstate honor for the estimated 100,000 military service members discharged since World War II for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act has 97 co-sponsors in the House version, including Democrats Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter. An identical bill failed along party lines last session.

Before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010, service members outed as LGBT were forced out of the military with the status of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the situation. Without honor, these veterans don’t have access to certain benefits they earned, such as health care, the GI bill and military burial. An other-than-honorable-discharge status is treated as a felony in some states, making it impossible to vote and nearly impossible to find employment.

“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a backward looking policy that undermined our national security and stood contrary to our national values,” Sen. Bennet said in a release. “It’s time to take steps that will help ensure these men and women receive the benefits they rightfully earned.”

The bill would correct the record by forcing the Department of Defense to remove mention of sexual orientation from discharge, reissue personnel records and hear oral testimony from people who experienced discrimination in the military. The move is more than symbolic — it would legally restore the rights that LGBT veterans have been denied.

With the end of the military’s much-reviled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy,” along with changes in civilian law like the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage in the states, restoring/upgrading the discharge status of thousands of military members who were discharged over the years due to their sexual orientation seems like a no-brainer. We would compare such an action to the government’s apologies to segregated minority servicemen, or even Japanese internees–all similarly victims of past discriminatory policies that have now been repudiated. Of course we should do this.

Unfortunately, this measure by all accounts has very little chance of passage in the fully GOP-controlled Congress. Without at least a few Republican Senators willing to buck prejudice within their party and help move this bill forward, it remains what seems like a no-brainer, but in the present reality is a nonstarter.

And despite everything LGBT Americans have to celebrate today, that really sucks.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (July 22)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Maybe we need to do this in reverse — just raise your hand if you are not seeking the Republican Presidential nomination. Let’s 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 petition drive in Jefferson County to recall three far-right Jeffco School Board Members is nearly complete — after only a few weeks of signature-gathering. Activists appear to be close to collecting more than 15,000 signatures well ahead of the September 8 deadline. 

► The August Congressional recess is just around the corner, but there’s a lot left to be done before everyone flees Washington D.C. One of the biggest looming decisions, finding money for federal highways and infrastructure, appears to be heading nowhere in the House despite Senate support.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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Caption This Photo: “Dr. Chaps” Flings BS (Literally)

This weekend, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt participated in the El Paso County Republican Party Cowpie Throwing Contest at the El Paso County Fair. Unfortunately, El Paso County’s most (in)famous state representative did not win this prestigious competition, reportedly on account of his chunk of manure disintegrating in mid-flight–but his mere participation was enough to give the world a truly memorable image.

chapsflingsbs

Fling it, “Dr. Chaps.” Fling that cowpie to the sky.

Wednesday Open Thread

“Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.”

–Alfred Adler

Jeffco Recall Petition Drive Nears Completion Weeks Early

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

As the Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela reports today, organizers of the petition drive to recall three right-wing members of the Jefferson County Board of Education are running way ahead of schedule, bringing in the 15,000 required Jeffco voter signatures to recall each school board member in a matter of a couple weeks instead of their nominal September 8th deadline:

Lynea Hansen, a spokeswoman for Jeffco United for Action, the group behind the recall effort, said Tuesday that the group is “over half way” to their signatures goal.

And, Hansen said, there are more than 1,000 petitions still being circulated. Petition circulators are being asked to turn in their signatures soon so organizers can start verifying names.

As part of a push for signatures this week, petition gatherers will line Wadsworth Boulevard at nine intersections from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Hansen said organized petition circulation is expected to wrap up by Saturday.

Successful completion of the petition drive so early guarantees that the recall of board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams will appear on the regular November ballot, along with the two candidates running to replace progressive minority members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman. One of the principal talking points in use by opponents of the recall is that the election could cost Jeffco Public Schools hundreds of thousands of dollars–but that’s only if the petition drive wasn’t wrapped up in time to hold the recall election in November.

Judging from what appears to be an overwhelming response from Jeffco voters in only two weeks’ time, that’s not going to be a problem. This recall is moving forward at a best-case-scenario pace, exceeding even internal expectations by all accounts, and that means it’s time for the opposition to come up with new talking points.

While they can.

Another Veteran Journalist Exits Denver Post

Mark Jaffe.

Mark Jaffe.

In a note circulated earlier this afternoon, business reporter Mark Jaffe, an experienced journalist with particular expertise covering oil and gas issues in Colorado, announced he will take the buy-out offered by management of the rapidly-declining Denver Post. Prior to working for the Post, Jaffe was a business correspondent for Bloomberg News and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Jaffe joins veteran political report Lynn Bartels in exiting the Post, and with the buy-out process still underway, they may not be the last. We’ll miss their contributions on the issues affecting our state, and hope their replacements–if any, and for whichever outlet–are able to fill the considerable void left by their departures.

Perry Haney is Everywhere, and Nowhere

Perry Haney

Perry Haney

Late last week, a Pols commenter wrote a post titled, “Who’s Perry Haney, Again?” The question is particular valid because you’d have to be a super-seasoned Colorado politico to recognize the name “Perry Haney.”

But to truly understand Perry Haney, you need to ask a second question: Where is Perry Haney?

Before we get to the “WHERE,” let’s tackle the “WHO.” Perry Haney is a wealthy chiropractor/doctor who earned some media recognition last week when he decided to run for Congress as a Democrat in CD-6, joining state Senator Morgan Carroll on the Democratic ballot. The real reason he got any attention at all is because Haney put his marker down with a $1 million loan to his campaign. The seven-figure campaign loan certainly raised eyebrows in Colorado and Washington D.C.; for those familiar with Haney, the news generated more eye-rolling than anything else.

Why would anyone roll their eyes at a candidate announcing a run for office with a $1 million loan? That question, dear readers, leads us back to “WHERE.” Here’s an excerpt from a Colorado Pols post in July 2011 (almost four years to the day, in fact) titled, “And That’s Why I’m Running for Congress…Somewhere in Colorado“:

One of the quirks that come in a redistricting year is that the Federal Election Commission is a bit lax on requiring candidates seeking a Congressional office to actually state which office they plan to run for. Take, for example, the case of Democrat Perry Haney, a wealthy Greenwood Village chiropractor who wants to run for Congress…somewhere.

Haney has been meeting with Democrats in Colorado and in Washington D.C., telling them that he plans to run for Congress, but he won’t say where he plans to kickoff his campaign. Is it against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman (and Democratic challenger Joe Miklosi) in CD-6? Is it to take on Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in CD-3, where Democrat Sal Pace has been running full-steam ahead for months?

Haney is not shy about the fact that he would like to be elected to Congress, no matter the district. We’re talking about a guy who once explored running for Congress in CD-3 and CD-6 at essentially the same time. In 2012, Haney was briefly an official candidate in CD-6 — he also loaned his campaign several hundred thousand dollars — before he pulled out of the race under a campaign finance challenge from Republicans.

Unlike election laws for offices such as State House and State Senate, candidates for the U.S. House don’t actually need to live within the boundaries of their targeted district — or even maintain an address in-district — which would allow Haney to run for any Colorado Congressional seat without getting off the couch (in 2002, Republican Bob Beauprez was elected in the newly-formed CD-7, which stretched from Jefferson County to northern Adams County, despite the fact that he never moved out of his home in Louisville).

Unlike Beauprez, Haney wants to keep up appearances, so he has always made sure to adjust his voter registration to reflect his current Congressional interest (see chart below).

So, is Perry Haney a serious candidate for Congress in CD-6? As serious as someone could be when they change their voter registration every few years. Perhaps he should wait to run for Secretary of State since he is so familiar with the voter registration process. 

Voter registration history for Perry Haney

Voter registration history for Perry Haney

 

 

 

Doug Lamborn Says Burn Those “Baby Body Parts”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

How else are we to interpret what the Colorado Statesman reported yesterday?

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn called Friday for Colorado State University to stop using fetal tissue from abortions in its research while CSU defended its work as above reproach both legally and ethically.

In a letter to CSU President Tony Frank, Lamborn cited documents released last week by the Center for Medical Progress showing that the university bought what he described as “aborted babies’ parts” on Jan. 10, 2013, from a Planned Parenthood affiliate in California…

Lamborn asked Frank to explain the purchase, including the date, “the body parts purchased, the source of the body parts purchased (including the abortion clinic which performed the abortion), the price paid by Colorado State University for the body parts.”

“I also respectfully request that, should it be true that the policy of Colorado State University permits the purchase or acquisition of aborted babies’ body parts for experimentation or for other purposes, Colorado State University immediately revoke any such policy and thereafter refrain, cease and desist from any further purchases of aborted babies’ body parts,” Lamborn said in the letter.

And here’s the kicker for those of you who have been following the (latest) Planned Parenthood hidden camera story over the past week: then-state Sen. Doug Lamborn in 2000 actually tried to pass a bill that would totally outlaw any transfer of fetal tissue, even for life-saving medical research. The original text of House Bill 00-1468 made no exceptions, not for reasonable handling expenses or anything else, mandating, apparently, that fetal tissue simply be destroyed:

No physician or institution that performs procedures for the induced termination of pregnancy shall transfer such tissue for consideration or through gift, grant, or donation to any organization or person that conducts research using fetal tissue or that transplants fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes.

Unfortunately for Lamborn (but arguably very good for the rest of us), this language was softened considerably in the final version of House Bill 00-1468 to comport with federal law–adding the key term “valuable consideration” to prohibit only true for-profit exchanges, while allowing the voluntary donation of fetal tissue for medical research to continue:

hb1468revised

Medical waste incinerator.

Medical waste incinerator.

And just so everybody is clear, in the present controversy over hidden-camera videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donations, the nominal amount of money described is strictly for the allowable handling costs indicated above. Despite the clear attempt to imply otherwise, the subjects of both videos released to date repeatedly state that the amounts are for reasonable handling costs, and that profit is not a motive.

This means that, even though the videos in question are capable of making anybody unfamiliar with the often blunt language of medical practitioners queasy, there’s nothing illegal happening. Colorado State University’s research, and the acquisition of fetal tissue with which to carry it out, appears to be perfectly legal under both federal and state law. And again–the alternative of incinerating this fetal tissue instead of saving lives with it? This whole argument seems to play on the public’s ignorance of medical advances they otherwise take for granted on a daily basis.

Instead of helping clarify what seems to us to be a very straightforward question, GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman responded to Lamborn’s request for an investigation of CSU with an encouraging letter stating that she was “forwarding” his request to the appropriate jurisdiction for “enforcement,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Because the law in question here is not ambiguous, we fully expect that CDPHE’s investigation (if needed) will clear CSU. In fact, Cynthia Coffman could easily have said as much in her response if the facts mattered more than the politics.

But with the anti-abortion crowd relying on your emotional response overcoming reason, facts just get in the way.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (July 21)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Do not be alarmed — it’s supposed to look like that. Let’s 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 Coffmangate Scandal rages on as infighting in the State Republican Party continues to escalate. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has an odd media strategy, which includes ignoring the Washington Post but giving an exclusive interview to the right-wing Politichicks blog.

► Vice President Joe Biden is in Denver today to give a speech about college education and the Obama Administration’s overall economic policy.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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Tuesday Open Thread

“Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.”

–Ambrose Bierce

Republicans Determined to See Coffmangate Scandal to Bitter End

From the very beginning, the Coffmangate Scandal has been a right-on-right slugfest of competing accusations with varying degrees of vitriol. Numerous Republicans have simultaneously tried to downplay the growing story while also making sure to sneak their own jabs into the commentary, and a new post today from the right-wing blog Politichicks makes it clear that none of the individuals involved have any plans of backing down from a fight that has already ended the political career of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and threatens to do much more damage before all is said and done.

“The House scandal continues to hold momentum in Republican circles as grassroots activists decry the lack of information that came out of the executive committee meeting.”

– “Behind Closed Doors in the CO GOP: From Bedrooms to Boardrooms,” Politichicks.com 

Last week, Ben Terris of the Washington Post penned a 2,400-word front page feature story on Coffmangate detailing the strange saga that has gripped GOP activists for more than a month. Cynthia Coffman refused attempts to comment for the Washington Post story, but the embattled AG apparently decided to give an “exclusive interview” to the Politichicks blog for a story titled, “Behind Closed Doors in the CO GOP: From Bedrooms to Boardrooms” in which she complains about everything from GOP Chair Steve House to air conditioning and a scarcity of chairs at an Executive Committee meeting.

Jason Salzman wrote an earlier post on ColoradoPols.com about the Politichicks story and Cynthia Coffman’s apparent claims that she still has a long list of grievances involving House and others. But the Politichicks blog post is so chock-full of oddities that it deserves another look. Before we get into some of the details of From Bedrooms to Boardrooms, let’s rehash why this story is much more interesting than just a firestorm of Republican infighting…

[Click here to catch up on all of our Coffmangate Scandal stories]

There are numerous plotlines involved with the Coffmangate Scandal, which makes it easy to veer off in a new direction at any given time. But the crux of the story is about Cynthia Coffman and the potential fallout hitting her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora). Cynthia has been accused of playing a key role in what House has called an attempt to blackmail him to resign as Republican State Party Chair. The stories told by House, Cynthia Coffman, former Pueblo GOP Chair Becky Mizel, and former Congressman Tom Tancredo all seem to agree on one thing: That a small meeting was held on June 15th with the intention of trying to get House to resign from the position he was elected to serve on March 14th.

Mike and Cynthia Coffman pose with the elephant in the room.

The Coffmans pose with the elephant in the room.

We continue to hear that a federal investigation is underway in the Coffmangate Scandal. Based on the information that has already been made public, it seems inevitable that Coffman will ultimately be forced to resign as the state’s top law enforcement official; at the very least, Cynthia’s ability to serve as AG has been compromised by her involvement in the alleged blackmail scheme. As Lynn Bartels wrote last week for the Denver Post, Congressman Mike Coffman is inevitably going to be caught up in the Coffmangate net — particularly since Cynthia has publicly talked about how often she and Mike discuss politics and strategy in private. As we wrote last week:

There has been no indication thus far that Mike Coffman was at all involved in the ill-planned coup attempt against House, but a cloud of suspicion and cover-up will continue to follow him around like he was Charlie Brown, and he has no good options for avoiding the storm.

National Republicans are already keeping their distance from the Coffman clan, which is certainly playing a factor when it comes to local GOP attempts at re-framing the scandal with Steve House as the Problem-in-Chief…which leads us back to today’s strange Politichicks story. Follow along after the jump as we dig in “From Bedrooms to Boardrooms”:

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Colowyo Carping Conceals Credible Climate Concerns

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, a much-anticipated confrontation between backers of a northwest Colorado coal mine and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this weekend didn’t go off with quite the bang expected:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell reassured northwest Colorado officials and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., that the U.S. Department of the Interior will complete work on a study needed to keep open the Colowyo coal mine.

“We believe the best way to deliver certainty to the Colowyo mine and the people who work there is to fix the deficiencies,” Jewell told more than a dozen county commissioners, city councilors and others at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge on Friday night. “I’m confident we’ll do it within the 120-day deadline.”

A Sept. 6 deadline looms for an Interior Department agency, the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, to complete work evaluating the mine’s contribution to global warming.

The study was required by U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson, in a case in which an environmental organization, WildEarth Guardians, challenged the agency’s approval of the mine, which employs 220 people from Moffat and Rio Blanco counties

“We feel we are ground zero for your department,” said Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid.

Ever since a federal judge ordered the Department of the Interior to complete a required environmental assessment of the effects of expanded coal mining at two mines near Craig that supply a major coal-fired plant there, ruling that Interior failed to follow environmental analysis procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act, local politicos and energy-industry benefactors have been irate about the possibility that a judge could overrule the expansions retroactively, jeopardizing several hundred mining jobs.

The potential loss of 220 jobs at the Colowyo mine in northwest Colorado amounts to the equivalent of 50,000 jobs in Denver, he said.

Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush.

Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush.

We’re not sure what kind of wacky math Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid is using there, but let’s take a look at the actual ruling from Judge R. Brooke Jackson that’s causing all this supposed uncertainty:

The Court declares that [Office of Surface Mining] violated NEPA by failing to notify the public of and involve the public in the preparation of the Colowyo and Trapper EAs and by failing to notify the public once the EAs had been completed and the [Findings of No Significant Impact] had been issued. OSM also violated NEPA by failing to take a hard look at the direct and indirect effects of the increased mining operations before determining that there would be no significant impact on the environment. The Secretary of the Interior violated NEPA by approving both of these mining plan modifications in spite of these defects.

There’s a big piece of the story of these mine expansion approvals and the subsequent lawsuit against them that’s missing from most news reports: the expansions environmentalists sued over were approved in 2007 by George W. Bush-era Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Incidentally, this was the same year that Kempthorne was awarded the “Rubber Dodo Award” for the distinction of having protected the fewest endangered species of any Interior Secretary in American history. Like his predecessor Gale Norton of Colorado, Kempthorne and the Interior Department under Bush were repeatedly criticized, and eventually sued, for disregarding crucial environmental considerations when making decisions about energy development.

Such as whether or not expanding coal mines in western Colorado would hurt the environment? Suddenly this story starts to make a very different kind of sense, and the politicos demanding the process be appealed and/or short-circuited don’t look so altruistic.

Since the ruling in May, energy industry mouthpieces have been shrieking at the top of their lungs about the possibility of a few hundred coal mine jobs being lost if the Colowyo and Trapper mines were to close, demanding President Barack Obama’s Interior Department appeal this ruling that the previous administration’s Interior Department broke the law. For reasons that appear quite sensible with all the facts in view, Obama’s Interior Department declined to do so, and is instead working to properly complete the required assessment in accordance with NEPA. Coal industry supporters have tried to make this about the environmental group that filed suit, even trying to organize a boycott of companies that support the group in question like New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins.

Well folks, if you can think past the wall of contrived weeping and gnashing of teeth, it looks like a very legitimate concern is being raised here–and a court ruling that agrees does not mean it’s time to boycott one of Colorado’s best breweries. The environmentalists involved with the suit say they don’t want the mines shut down, at least not tomorrow–they want the environmental assessment that approved their expansion to be conducted in accordance with the law. And that’s what the Interior Department says it wants, too. According to Secretary Jewell, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

So…shut up and let it happen.

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 20)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Depending on where you stand on conspiracy theories, today is the anniversary of the day that the U.S. government released footage from the first pretend moon landing in human history. Let’s 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…

► There’s a lot of buzz today about State Sen. Morgan Carroll (R-Aurora) after her appearance on the 9News show “Balance of Power” on Sunday, where she provided a preview of her campaign for Congress in CD-6 against incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman.

Today is inauguration day in Denver. Mayor Michael Hancock will be sworn-in for a second term, and many new city council members will also mark the official beginning to their first term in office.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

 

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