Monday Open Thread

"The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face."

–William Makepeace Thackeray

Making a Joke of the IRS “Scandal”

WCSLogo

As reported by the UK Daily Mail's U.S. political editor David Martsoko from the Western Conservative Summit this weekend in Denver–apparently, Centennial Institute director and WCS organizer John Andrews has found a slick way around his group's pesky 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity status, which ordinarily would not allow the WCS to talk about political candidates and the upcoming 2014 elections:

'Sirloin' and 'tofu' have become code words for 'Republican' and 'Democrat' in Colorado, and a former right-wing state legislator assigned liberals the role of pressed bean curd during a conservative convention in Denver.

John Andrews, president of the Colorado state Senate until 2005 and now Director of the Centennial Institute – an affiliate of Colorado Christian College – told a crowd estimated at 3,000 that speakers at the three-day session would not be permitted to talk about candidates, parties or elections…

'You have probably noticed that as we brought out Bob Beauprez and Cory Gardner, that something was missing,' he said. 'Something was not said about them or by them about how they're spending 2014.'

'I can give you the reason why in two words: Lois Lerner.'

'…So let's just make this agreement … If you form a mental association between "Republican" and "sirloin," and between "Democrat" and "tofu," and I was to say to you that every time I whiff Bob Beauprez or Cory Gardner it makes me wanna eat more sirloin and less tofu, you would know what I was talking about, right?' [Pols emphasis]

Note how Andrews invoked Lois Lerner, the former IRS official vilified by the right as part of the scandal over conservative-leaning groups "singled out" for scrutiny of their tax-exempt status applications. The truth of that story is not nearly so simple, or in the end controversial–many left-leaning organizations faced the same level of scrutiny as conservative ones. Nonetheless, it's become a part of the vast body of anti-Obama mythology accepted on faith by the conservative base today.

But never mind all that, because John Andrews just made a joke of the whole thing! It's tough to imagine a better way to justify IRS scrutiny than to start your 501(c)(3) "nonprofit" convention by explaining the event's partisan political code language. Might the IRS decide that's too ridiculous a pretense to ignore? Would Andrews still claim he's being persecuted if the IRS asks for a little clarification?

Hopefully. And probably.

Everybody And Their Mother Comes Out Against Local Control

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Mark Jaffe reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper's press conference yesterday kicking off the opposition campaign against two local control ballot measures championed by Rep. Jared Polis left no confusion about where the governor stands–as if there ever was any.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday said two ballot measures aimed at giving local governments more control over oil and gas drilling would damage the state's economy and must be defeated…

"It is clear these initiatives will kill jobs and damage our state's economy," Hickenlooper said. "These measures risk thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in investment, and millions of dollars in tax revenue."

…Hickenlooper said Initiative 88 is the opposite of local control, for it sets a "arbitrary limit" across the state with no room to adjust it locally.

As for Initiative 89, Hickenlooper questioned whether local governments would have "the sophistication" to enforce it.

Via Gannett's Raju Chebium, Rep. Polis responds:

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis said one measure he wants to include on the state's November ballot would give local governments the power to approve or reject fracking operations without fear of reprisal from the oil and gas industry. Another measure would allow residents to decide how far fracking wells should be from their homes and businesses.

Fracking may be appropriate far from residential neighborhoods and in rural and industrial areas, but communities must have the ultimate say over whether the wells can sprout up nearby, he said.

"It's perfectly reasonable for residents to feel that it shouldn't be in residential neighborhoods. That should be up to them if they want it," Polis said. "If Loveland residents want fracking, they should be able to have it. If Fort Collins residents don't, they shouldn't be sued." [Pols emphasis]

Our understanding is that despite the swift closing of ranks against these initiatives on the part of Democratic insiders, Rep. Polis remains fully committed to passing them. The fact is, whatever fear has been put into establishment Democrats about consequences from running these initiatives, Polis can defensibly argue he is simply representing his district–where three cities have already passed moratoria, and in the case of Lafayette an outright ban, on hydraulic fracturing. That's a point getting lost as Democrats across the state–Mark Udall, Andrew Romanoff, Ed Perlmutter, and many others–fall in line behind Hickenlooper in opposition to these ballot measures, and the chattering class groupthink ramps up against them.

One of the most popular arguments against these initiatives aimed at Democrats is the assumption "certainty" that they will hurt Democratic electoral prospects this November, either directly or indirectly from the resources expended in the fight. We continue to see a plausible scenario wherein Democrats benefit from these initiatives by stoking turnout, even as individual Democratic candidates give themselves cover by opposing them. Today, as Democrats disappoint conservationists with their stand against local control, they still know Democrats are closer to their position than Republicans will ever be. While these initiatives might be setting up 2015 for a divisive blue-on-blue fight over the issue, that doesn't mean the damage will be felt at the polls this year.

And it wouldn't be the first time the voters proved bolder than the leaders.

Democrats Call Out Beauprez’s “47% Moment”

A press release from Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio this morning:

"Clearly Congressman Beauprez thinks he's better than Colorado's seniors, veterans, firefighters, students and hard-working families in our great state," Palacio said. "Instead of apologizing for his ridiculous and derisive comments, Congressman Beauprez stood by his remarks claiming that half of the population are freeloaders who are "perfectly happy" that someone else is paying the bill," said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio.

There are lots of politically self-destructive on-record moments for Bob Beauprez awaiting publicity, and although we've discussed a few of them in this space, the majority of that material has not been seen by Colorado voters. Democrats are right to zero in on Beauprez's "47% speech" early, given the similarity of his remarks to those made by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. For Romney, this was a gaffe from which his campaign arguably never recovered, and in hindsight was probably his fatal mistake. It's just too easy, as Colorado Democrats show in this video, to alienate such politicians from ordinary voters by explaining how, whether they realize it or not, they are either part of that 47% or know someone who is.

Once that sinks in, it's easy to make the case that Beauprez–like Romney–doesn't have their best interests at heart.

Friday Open Thread

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones."

–John Maynard Keynes

Steve King Running Out of Timecards to Punch

State Sen. Steve King (R), man of many time cards.

State Sen. Steve King (R), man of many time cards.

Republican State Sen. Steve King officially withdrew from the race for Mesa County Sheriff on Tuesday, a decision that had become largely unavoidable and may end up being just the beginning of a larger investigation. As the Denver Post reports, King has yet to explain how he was able to juggle three different government jobs at the same time:

The investigation now includes timecards for his work as acting coordinator of campus security and training at Colorado Mesa University from July 2012 to December 2013.

Timecards show King worked as many as 194 hours a month at the university while also working as a Republican state senator and working part-time at the sheriff's office. He had been an investigator for the sheriff's office before he was elected to political office as a representative for District 54 in 2006 and then as a senator for District 7 in 2010.

While those of you outside of the Grand Junction area may not be particularly interested in who becomes the next Mesa County Sheriff, King's sloppy shenanigans may yet ensnare more public officials. For years officials at Colorado Mesa University (formerly Mesa State University) have been suspected of providing a safe landing spot — or a place to cool their heels until the next campaign — for Republicans such John Marshall, Bob Beauprez's campaign manager in 2006, as well as various family members and friends of former State Sen. Josh Penry.

It's telling that the editorial board of the Grand Junction Sentinel didn't mince words in saying good riddance to King:

That’s not even taking into account an ongoing criminal investigation by a special prosecutor. The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office is looking at whether King committed any crimes while he was employed by three different publicly funded entities: the state Legislature, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Mesa University. The Sentinel’s examination of King’s timecards and claims for reimbursement paints a troubling picture, to say the least…

…With the criminal investigation hanging over his head, it’s doubtful King will ever hold another government job. But that’s the least of his worries. We’re just glad he’s dropped his bid to be our next sheriff.

We've no doubt that King's time-card shuffle was making a lot of Republicans nervous as it drew more attention to the practice of hiring so many "at-will" positions at Colorado Mesa University. King's withdrawal from the sheriff's race may end this particular line of questioning, but his candidacy in general may have opened a few doors that were intended to remain closed.

Democrats Outraising Republicans 5-1 in Key House Races

Earlier this week we took a look at the bizarre string of late-entry and replacement candidates that Republicans have fielded in a number of key State House races. In order to gain control of the State House, Republicans need to win at least 5 seats this fall — without losing any incumbent legislators — which is a mountain that may be too tall for the GOP to climb in 2014.

As a Colorado Pols analysis of fundraising results in key House districts shows, Democrats are raising significantly more money in competitive House districts compared to their Republican counterparts. We took a look at 12 of the top House districts (you can argue that your list of top races would look a little different, but you get the point), and through July 1, 2014, Democrats had raised more than $500,000, while Republican candidates combined for just a tad more than $100,000.

While so-called "soft money" from third party groups, PACs, and other special interests will certainly get involved in many of these House races, the disparity in fundraising is quite stunning. Take a look at the chart below — there is not a single Republican candidate who has raised even close to the totals compiled by their Democratic counterparts.

GOP-House-Fundraising3-2

Video: Hickenlooper Plays The Banjo at Red Rocks

hickbanjo

From last night's concert of Old Crow Medicine Show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Did you know Gov. John Hickenlooper could play the banjo? Because we didn't.

Love him or not, you've got to admit that's pretty cool.

Senate Q-Poll: Gardner 44%, Udall 42%

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Today's poll from Quinnipiac University of the Colorado U.S. Senate race, like the Q-poll released released yesterday showing Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and GOP challenger Bob Beauprez in a statistical dead heat, puts Democrats on notice that a long, hard election season most likely awaits:

The closely-watched U.S. Senate race is tied with 44 percent for U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican challenger, and 42 percent for Sen. Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Another 10 percent are undecided. 

This compares to the results of an April 24 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University showing Sen. Udall at 45 percent to 44 percent for Rep. Gardner…

Colorado voters give Udall a negative 42 – 46 percent job approval rating, his lowest net approval ever and down from a 42 – 42 percent split in April. Voters say 49 – 40 percent that Udall does not deserve to be reelected, tying his lowest score on that measure…

"This race shifts back and forth a point or two and remains too close to call. There's a whole lot at stake as Sen. Mark Udall runs neck and neck with U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, the GOP challenger, in a marquee race that could tip the balance of the Senate," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

While not the direction Democrats want to see the polls moving in, it should be noted that the shift in this poll from Quinnipiac's April survey is considerably smaller than the putative swing Beauprez has enjoyed in the gubernatorial race. Both races are much too close to call, but Udall's race has remained locked in a tighter range. Also, although we consider Quinnipiac as reliable a pollster as the next, this might be a good time to remember that Quinnipiac consistently showed Mitt Romney ahead of Barack Obama in Colorado in 2012. Obama carried the state by five points. Like Beauprez, there is a large body of negative material on Gardner that voters have not been exposed to yet, whereas Udall has been getting pummeled over a course of years as an incumbent Senator. The poll shows that Udall has a solid advantage over Gardner on reproductive choice and other "issues important to women," which suggests that the one issue Gardner has taken fire on, abortion, has hurt him. Now it's time for Democrats to segue into the other stuff in the oppo book.

The biggest winners in this poll? Reporters who'd prefer to call a horse race instead of unpacking the issues. It's shallower and easier, and it looks like that's going to be the narrative for the time being.

Local Control Special Session Officially Dead; Voters To Decide

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports, Gov. John Hickenlooper is giving up on the idea of a special session of the legislature this year to pass legislation giving local communities greater control over oil and gas drilling. That means two measures supported by Rep. Jared Polis to increase setbacks from drilling and establish an "environmental bill of rights" for Coloradans, are likely a go for this November's ballot:

Talks aimed at brokering a compromise to allow increased local control over oil and gas drilling operations have failed, Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D-Colorado) office reported Wednesday.

The governor's office says there will be no special session – as Hickenlooper had hoped – to pass a compromise law on fracking.

"Despite our best efforts and those of other willing partners," the governor said in a written statement. "We have not been able to secure the broader stakeholder support necessary to pass bipartisan legislation in a special session."

That news all but ensures Colorado voters will have the opportunity to weigh in with a statewide vote on fracking this year, a follow-up to local ballot questions which have halted the practice in four Front Range communities.

With the special session now dead, as many observers expected, Sen. Mark Udall was quick to announce his opposition to the ballot measures:

"Fracking can be done safely and responsibly," Udall wrote shortly after the governor's announcement. "I believe that Colorado can and must do better, which is why I oppose these one-size-fits-all restrictions."

Undaunted, Rep. Polis announces he is moving ahead:

“I have said from the beginning of this debate that my one goal is to find a solution that will allow my constituents to live safely in their homes, free from the fear of declining property values or unnecessary health risks, but also that will allow our state to continue to benefit from the oil and gas boom that brings jobs and increased energy security,” Polis said.

“I stand by this goal, I am confident that the majority of Coloradoans share this goal, and I am committed to continuing to work to protect our Colorado values.”

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports that the American Petroleum Institute, which plans to spend a great deal of money fighting these initiatives, hardened opposition among Republicans and the oil and gas industry against a compromise with a poll indicating they can beat the ballot measures. On the other side, proponents have polling that says the measures can pass–even after respondents hear the industry's arguments against the measures.

Stokols speculates once again about the measures "potentially jeopardizing the reelection of Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall — and, by extension, Democratic control of the senate." As we've said previously, that is a dubious suggestion at best. We also don't believe that high-profile Democrats steering clear of these initiatives hurt either the initiatives or their re-election campaigns–there's a lot more driving those campaigns than this one issue, and by disavowing the initiatives early, there's nothing to use against Udall or Hickenlooper even if they do go badly. As for Rep. Polis? The FOX 31 story a week ago, trying to cast CD-2 Republican candidate George Leing as a credible opponent–which even most Democrats opposed to Polis on this issue found laughable–makes it pretty clear he doesn't have much to worry about. That said, we expect the industry will do whatever they can to extract a cost from Polis for his "impertinence."

In November, all of these assumptions will meet their ultimate test–and somebody's going to be wrong.

Lakewood City Council Punts on Pot; Question Goes to Ballot

As the Denver Post reports, the Lakewood City Council voted 7-4 on Monday to ask voters to decide on whether to allow retail marijuana stores…even though voters have already made their voice clear on this issue:

In a room packed with opponents of any retail marijuana operations, Ward 1 Councilwoman Ramey Johnson warned that marijuana is a $1 billion a year industry and the "gates of hell will open" with outside money influencing Lakewood voters on the November ballot question.

Lakewood voters approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana possession and allowed for retail sales, 60-40 in 2012…[Pols emphasis]

Mayor Bob Murphy said he voted "no" on Amendment 64.

He supported the November ballot question and said it would answer once and for all the will of the voters: Were they voting strictly for recreational use with no desire for retail stores? Or were they saying "yes" to both?

"All we're doing is asking voters, and that's democracy," Murphy said. "And in my opinion, that's what we were elected to do. I think it's our duty to clarify the issue with voters."

Monday's discussion by the Lakewood City Council reminds us of using a credit/debit card to buy groceries or other items; how many times do you need to answer "Are You Sure?" before you can sign the receipt and be on your way?

Obviously there is a generational gap related to this discussion in Lakewood — witness Ramey Johnson's ridiculous hand-wringing about "industry" lobbyists — but it's disingenuous for the city council to punt on an issue that they are elected to make decisions about. Whether or not you agree with Amendment 64, the issue has already been decided by voters and should not be going to the ballot again. Lakewood's City Council should be working on implementing Amendment 64, not on asking voters if they were really, really, really sure that they want recreational marijuana sales in Lakewood. With respect to Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy, putting questions on the ballot is absolutely not the primary job of the city council, nor should it be. Putting this issue on the ballot in November is a waste of time and money; if the vote comes back largely in favor of recreational marijuana, which is likely, then this entire exercise will have been pointless.

This non-decision is particularly absurd when you consider that nearby cities such as Denver, Wheat Ridge, Mountain View, and Edgewater are already moving forward with retail marijuana operations. To whatever extent there may be a negative impact on the community from recreational marijuana sales, restricting it from Lakewood is not going to keep it out of Lakewood. The only thing that Lakewood would not receive is tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales; residents of Lakewood who want to buy marijuana will just drive a few more miles and then bring their purchase back home.

There are certainly plenty of people who disagree with the idea of legalizing marijuana, but that ship sailed a long time ago. The Lakewood City Council should be working on implementing the law instead of asking the same questions again and again.

Gardner Defends Federal “Personhood” By Making Stuff Up

UPDATE: Media critic Jason Salzman arrives at the same conclusion.

The Life at Conception Act aims to redefine the definition of a person in the Fourteenth Amendment, and apply the 14th Amendment’s protections to zygotes, hence banning all abortion, even for rape, as well as common forms of birth control that endanger, or even potentially endanger, fertilized eggs. It would give legal protections to fertilized eggs. In a word, personhood.

Reporters should not let Gardner, or his spokespeople, mislead the public about the aim of the federal personhood bill that he co-sponsored last year. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews buries the lede in today's story about the issue of birth control in the U.S. Senate race, but nonetheless delivers a bombshell. After weeks of attacks, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner finally attempts to defend his continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act in Congress after having disavowed his longstanding support for the "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives in Colorado:

Gardner supported personhood in Colorado, but he said in March that he no longer backed the approach — calling it a "bad idea" because of the "fact that it restricts contraception."

…Not that Udall's campaign is letting him off the hook. They point to Gardner's continued sponsorship of similar personhood legislation in Congress as evidence his views haven't changed.

In response, a Gardner spokesman said the federal bill is different than the Colorado initiatives. "The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges," Siciliano said. [Pols emphasis]

We're pretty sure that Gardner's spokesman just badly screwed his boss. Let's compare, as we have in the past, the language of the federal Life at Conception Act abortion ban legislation and the Colorado Personhood intiatives. H.R. 1091's pertinent language reads like this:

The terms "human person" and "human being" include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, [Pols emphasis] cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

And here's the text of 2008's Amendment 48, the Colorado Personhood abortion ban ballot measure:

Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION. [Pols emphasis]

As anyone who has followed this issue knows, it is the language conferring rights from "the moment of fertilization" that would have the additional consequence of outlawing certain commonly used forms of birth control–the ones the pro-life community considers "abortifacient." This is the "unintended consequence" Gardner cited when he told reporters he had abandoned his prior support for the Colorado Personhood measures. Despite that, Gardner remained a sponsor of the Life at Conception Act in Congress, and today we finally learn that he has no intention of removing himself as a sponsor.

The problem is simple: Gardner is making a distinction that does not exist. There is nothing in the language of the Life at Conception Act that would treat birth control differently than the Colorado Personhood initiatives. Either Gardner doesn't realize that, in which case he looks clueless, or he does realize it–and is hoping to lie his way out of an irreconcilable contradiction.

Folks, we don't think Gardner is clueless.