Captionable: Marco Rubio’s Pass To The Next Generation


As recorded in Des Moines last night, bad but funny stuff just seems to happen to GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio when the cameras roll:

The pass, it should be said, was a fairly clean spiral from Rubio. It just missed the young boy’s hands and instead collided with his face.

The kid, the Rubio campaign said, was fine.

Afterward, Rubio and the youth shared a cool bottle of Poland Spring water! These two Rubio clips would make a great mashup: and depending on where Rubio goes in the GOP presidential primary, we might expect to see that in a campaign ad.

Not a friendly campaign ad, of course.

All of Colorado is (NOT) Contaminated

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Governor John Hickenlooper juggles a lot of different responsibilities as Colorado’s top elected official — which includes serving as Colorado’s chief tester of gross-looking water, which he did again last week in chugging a bottle of water from the Animas River in the aftermath of the Gold King mine wastewater spill.

Hickenlooper agreed to drink from the river at the request of several people in the Durango area in an effort to assure people that the water was safe — and the big sip made Hick plenty of friends as a result. From the Durango Herald:

John Hickenlooper was Johnny-On-The-Spot, clearing his schedule to be in town, see the Animas River firsthand, listen to concerns and offer the power of his office.

Then there was The Moment – when Gov. Hickenlooper took a bold stand for Durango and La Plata County. He defiantly raised a bottle of river water and downed it.

“If that shows that Durango is open for business, I’m happy to help,” he said.

Hickenlooper didn’t say whether or not the Animas River was tastier than the glass of fracking fluid he once quaffed, but the move nevertheless generated a bit of controversy. On Monday, Denver Post reporter John Frank Tweeted a link to his Sunday story about the Animas River, asking the question “Is [Hickenlooper’s] big Animas River sip a liability or political win?” Here’s what the Governor had to say regarding his motivation for drinking from the river:

“The point I was trying to make is that the river is back to normal,” Hickenlooper said in an interview after returning from Durango. “There’s a silver lining in all this. It doesn’t appear there is going to be lasting environmental damage or significant environmental damage, and what most of us were fearful of didn’t happen.”

Sunday’s Post story notes some vague disapproval from the likes of state Sen. Ellen Roberts, who offered her usual brand of WTF-flavored commentary, but you’d have to really squint your eyes in order to make out the downside of Hick’s demonstration. By swigging river water, the Governor was making a pointed effort to ease fears and tamper speculation about the extent of the pollution in the Animas River — and to make sure that misinformation didn’t cripple the tourism economy in Southern Colorado. (more…)

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Aug. 18)

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► Discussion over the Gold King mine spill into the Animas River continues to generate an overflow of nonsense political rhetoric. Make room on the grandstand!

Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) promised a congressional investigation into the minewater spill during an editorial board meeting with the Durango Herald. Elsewhere, Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson is scheduled to visit Durango today to shake his fist at the EPA and the federal government in general. Carson will tour the Animas River by helicopter before holding a “town hall” meeting at 2:00 pm. Perhaps someone can convince Carson to explain his position on abortion in some sort of logical answer.

► School is back in session in Jefferson County, and so is the awful management of the school district that prompted a November recall of three right-wing school board members.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Tuesday Open Thread

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

–Peter Drucker

Republican Animas River BS Reaches Flood Stage

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine. Photo credit: EPA

EPA treats wastewater at Gold King Mine. Photo credit: EPA

For nearly two weeks now, local and national headlines have been dominated by a spill of acidic mine wastewater by an Environmental Protection Agency work crew into a tributary of the Animas River near Silverton. Investigating longstanding but recently accelerated minewater pollution into Cement Creek, workers punched through debris blocking an abandoned mine entrance, unleashing a torrent of yellow water that flowed through Durango and into neighboring states. As of today, the Animas River has re-opened for recreation and irrigation, and work continues to determine the extent of the harm done–with a sense of heightened awareness of the tens of thousands of abandoned mines across the West, many leaking pollution into our precious water supplies.

On the other hand, for some politicians including many local Republicans, this disaster has become an opportunity to attack one of their foremost bêtes noires–an opportunity they’ve seized to the utmost, even at the long-term expense of their own credibility. As the AP reports via the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Authorities say rivers tainted by last week’s massive spill from an abandoned Colorado gold mine are starting to recover, but for the Environmental Protection Agency the political fallout from the disaster could linger.

The federal agency’s critics are already seeking to use its much-maligned handling of the mine spill to undercut the Obama administration’s rollout of major regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the nation’s power plants. [Pols emphasis] Members of oversight committees in both the House and Senate say they are planning hearings after Congress returns from its August recess…

For Republicans, it was an opportunity to put the EPA on the defensive.

“I think we have seen what happens when the EPA comes after private industry — they come after them with heavy hand,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and we have seen a lack of communication and coordination. … This goes to the core competency of the EPA.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

Some responses on the right to the spill, like from Koch-related conservative advocacy group Advancing Colorado, have been laughably ridiculous. But with this latest story, we’re beginning to see press coverage back away from the right’s early success at turning this spill into an EPA hatefest, and the beginnings of recognition that Republicans are misusing the Animas River minewater spill to undermine the EPA on totally unrelated issues.

“The House will continue to monitor the situation and the appropriate committees will conduct rigorous oversight to make sure the administration is assessing the damage the EPA has caused and taking action to clean it up,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “Now that his EPA has accepted full responsibility, I expect President Obama to demand full accountability for what happened here.”

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

With Republicans from House Speaker John Boehner on down piling on with ever more bellicose anti-EPA talking points, it’s necessary to return to what actually happened in the mountains above Silverton two weeks ago this coming Wednesday. This weekend, one of many excellent stories on the spill published in the Durango Herald got to the heart of the matter far better than most coverage we’ve seen. Contrary to what Boehner, Cory Gardner, and all the other Republicans hoping to exploit this spill for unrelated political gains are saying, the EPA was working to clean up pollution, not create it. The EPA did not “cause” the pollution in the mines above Silverton, private mining interests did.

In fact, the EPA has been trying to solve the problem for years. Who resisted? The local population of Silverton, and the mostly corporate owners of the mines doing the polluting.

Three million gallons of sludge rushed out of Gold King Mine last week, flooding the Animas River with higher levels of metals than usual, causing economic and environmental damage in three states. Yet in the wake of the disaster, many Silvertonians are redoubling their resistance to a Superfund listing the Environmental Protection Agency has long argued is necessary to deal with the town’s network of draining mines…

Tim Hewett said the “pro-Superfund forces are very vocal right now,” but the majority of the town’s residents still oppose any such listing on the National Priorities List, fearing the designation will ruin the town’s reputation, strangle credit and blight the local economy.

…But to the thousands of people living downstream of Silverton, the problem isn’t so much the EPA as it is Silverton residents’ decades-long refusal to accept that their mines require federal intervention. [Pols emphasis]

Mine water retention ponds near Silverton. Photo credit: EPA

Mine water retention ponds near Silverton. Photo credit: EPA

Here’s the bottom line: a few people in the small town of Silverton, along with mining companies like Canadian Kinross Gold who would someday like to restarting mining operations there, have deliberately fought off a Superfund designation for many years. Their fight to “protect” the town’s “reputation” and mining profit center from the EPA has endangered communities downstream along the Animas River that number in the tens of thousands–17,000 in Durango, almost 50,000 in Farmington, New Mexico.

It’s got to end, folks. The political abuse of this spill to attack the EPA on unrelated issues is a massive insult to the intelligence of the voters, and reporters and news outlets who subsidize this attack are grossly disserving the public. The true cause of this disaster, mining companies unwilling to clean up their mess, and local interests too fearful for the future of their almost-ghost town to make waves, is in no way the fault of the EPA. The EPA was up there trying to determine the extent of a problem everyone knew was getting worse. Blaming the EPA is like blaming the paramedic who arrives to treat your injuries.

Protect the jobs of hundreds, or the health and well-being of tens of thousands? That’s the real question at stake here, and it’s the question that opportunistic grandstanding Republican politicians, deep-pocketed polluter mining companies, and a few short-sighted residents of an old Colorado mining town hope you never ask.

Because the answer is obvious.

2016 Rematch: Zenzinger vs Woods in SD-19

Once-and-future Sen. Rachel Zenzinger?

Once-and-future Sen. Rachel Zenzinger?

In a press release this morning, former Arvada city councillor and appointed Sen. Rachel Zenzinger announces she will run again for the ultra-swing SD-19 seat she lost in 2014 by a razor-thin margin to Republican Laura Waters Woods:

Rachel Zenzinger, a former teacher and former member of the Arvada City Council, today announced her candidacy for the Colorado State Senate.

The former State Senator pledged that her No. 1 focus when she regains the seat will be to build a stronger middle class.
“While the economy may be stabilizing for some, many are being left behind,” she said. “True economic recovery means all hardworking Coloradans have opportunities for good jobs, with fair pay, and a chance to get ahead.”

A mother of two young girls, Zenzinger understands the effects of the rising costs of housing, food, and health care. She knows firsthand that families are still struggling, challenged by issues such as skyrocketing tuition and childcare rates, and the high cost of elder care.

“We need a Senator who will stand on the side of hardworking families, not bow to an extreme party fringe. My opponent voted to increase income taxes on our active duty military service men and women (HB 15-1181) and elevated lobbyists, special interests, and big business above middle class families (SB 15-078). Westminster, Arvada and the entire state deserve better.”

The loss of the highly competitive SD-19 seat in 2014 resulted in Republicans taking control of the Colorado Senate. In 2016, the situation is different, with revenge in SD-19 one of several paths for Democrats to retaking a Senate majority. With that said, SD-19’s narrow margin of victory for Woods, under 700 votes, makes a rematch with Zenzinger in a presidential election year very promising. We anticipate no primary challenger for Zenzinger, but we still haven’t heard if Republicans still nervous about Woods’ far-right-trending-looney political stands intend to mount another red-on-red challenge against her.

At this point, Democrats tell us they are happy, even relishing the chance to run against Woods, especially with Zenzinger as their candidate. Whatever happens, this will certainly be one of the marquee legislative races of 2016.

GOP Media Flacks Way Over Budget At Jeffco Schools

Novitas' Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

Novitas’ Michelle Balch Lyng (left), with former Jeffco comms director Lisa Pinto.

The Citizens For Responsible Education blog follows up on the contract between the conservative Jefferson County school board majority and Novitas Communications, a Republican-aligned public relations outfit headed by Michelle Balch Lyng, former vice-chair of the Denver Republican Party–a contract that appears to have run significantly over budget in its original five months:

An investigation into Jeffco schools PR expenses has revealed new information about the services and charges of Novitas Communications. The district signed a contract with Novitas back in February. The contract stated that services that weren’t to exceed $50,000 over a term of just under five months (02/9/15-6/30/15). This cap was apparently ignored. The district paid Novitas $67,082 over the course of the five-month contract and was 34% over budget…

The records also indicate that Novitas has taken over responsibilities regarding board correspondence in mid-July. These tasks are completed by Novitas employee Gabriella Mahan. According to the July invoice, her duties have included receiving and cataloging board correspondence as well as drafting responses. Novitas bills the district $60/hour for Ms. Mahan’s work. Novitas charged the district over $3,400 to handle board correspondence from July 14th to July 31st. In the past, responding to board correspondence was handled primarily by the Board of Education Secretary.

On average, the district has spent over $14,000/month with Novitas. Novitas employees provided approximately 40-50 hours of work per week to the district. Depending on who completes the work, the fee ranges from $50-$200 per hour. The district will spend over $168,000 per year if the district continues to retain the services of Novitas at its current pace.

You’ll recall that Novitas was brought in to “help” then-Jeffco communications director Lisa Pinto with district public relations. Pinto herself announced her resignation from her job with the district in late May, after a brief but highly controversial period of disastrous press for the board majority and revelations about the process by which this longtime local Republican operative had been hired over a number of apparently better-qualified applicants.

It had been suggested to us by knowledgeable sources that Pinto’s term as the district’s chief communications officer resulted in the departure of numerous veteran employees from that department. Novitas’ assumption of responsibility for routine correspondence between the public and the board, along with the hiring of another Novitas employee full-time by the district in addition to their contract, would seem to validate the contention that the board majority’s decisions have run the district’s PR office straight into the ground–to be replaced by a group of highly-paid GOP public relations workers. CRE reports that Novitas’ contract has been renewed for a two-month period for the same $50,000 as the prior five months, obviously in anticipation of a high workload during the upcoming recall election targeting the board majority that hired them.

Only problem? Blowing your press relations budget is itself very bad press, and the timing could hardly be worse.

Get More Smarter on Monday (Aug. 17)

Get More Smarter

Back to school, back to school…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).



► What do clean air regulations have in common with the Gold King minewater spill into the Animas River? Well, nothing, of course, but that hasn’t stopped critics of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from trying to duct-tape a connection in place. From the Associated Press:

The federal agency’s critics are already seeking to use its much-maligned handling of the mine spill to undercut the Obama administration’s rollout of major regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the nation’s power plants. Members of oversight committees in both the House and Senate say they are planning hearings after Congress returns from its August recess.

Meanwhile, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent takes a deeper dive in President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

► Famous rich person Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for President, revealed his policy proposal for dealing with illegal immigration over the weekend. One of the more controversial pieces of Trump’s proposal is to end “birthright citizenship,” which is an idea that is supported by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Monday Open Thread

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

–Albert Einstein

Weekend Open Thread

“We are very loath to believe what we are not able to comprehend.”

–Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Americans For Prosperity Eats Its Own, John Suthers Edition

Mayor John Suthers of Colorado Springs.

Mayor John Suthers of Colorado Springs.

We noted it in today’s Get More Smarter, but worth its own mention as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Billie Stanton reports:

Americans for Prosperity says no sales tax increase is needed to fix Colorado Springs roads, but Mayor John Suthers says that contention is based on “an incredibly uninformed analysis.”

AFP, a Republican political advocacy group, issued a news release Thursday saying a certified public accountant had reviewed the city’s budget and found Colorado Springs has “more than enough money” to fix its infrastructure without pursuing a sales tax increase…

So, here’s the thing about driving around in Colorado Springs: the roads are in very bad shape. We know you all regularly drive over rough patches in your commutes wherever you live, but in Colorado Springs, those rough patches are more like the whole road. As with just about every other public service in Colorado’s world-famous conservative mecca, the maintenance of the city’s ribbed backsides has always been carried out on a shoestring budget.

But forget all that, folks, this is the land of the Ronald Reagan Highway! And if a shining city on a hill like Colorado Springs were to vote to raise taxes on itself to pay for something done by the government, why, those pesky liberal blogs would never let them hear the end of it.

Americans for Prosperity.

Americans for Prosperity.

And that is how conservative Republican Mayor John Suthers of Colorado Springs, the state’s former attorney general, would up on the wrong side of Koch brothers-funded conservative astroturf group Americans for Prosperity.

Suthers said he had been in office about a week when Jeff Crank, formerly of AFP, asked if his budget expert could look at the city budget. But no one did, nor did they contact the city’s finance office or the citizens committee that’s studied city budgets for six years, the mayor said…

Suthers completely dismissed [AFP accountant Steven] Anderson’s recommendations, pointing out that sales tax money comes from more than city residents, [Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority] money is distributed as it should and tax rebate deals to promote development bolster the economy and create jobs. Furthermore, he said, the only entities excluded from city property taxes are churches, nonprofits and the military.

“Do you think the citizens of Colorado Springs would vote to tax churches and nonprofits? We’d be the only jurisdiction in Colorado that did that,” Suthers said. [Pols emphasis]

It’s tough to say how this one will play out. Groups like AFP are masters at pushing the precise messaging buttons needed to turn out the blind-charging anti-tax conservative base in droves, and the deep pockets to give them all T-shirts. Against that, you have the credibility of a popular conservative Republican mayor, asking for money to fix his city’s monumentally crappy roads.

The outcome will show who’s doing the proverbial wagging: the tail or the dog.

Or maybe AFP is the dog now.

Attention Team Coffman: Never Call a Woman “Shrill”

UPDATE #2: Count the Colorado Senate Majority Office in, it’s a male chauvinist dogpile:

Yes, that’s pretty much right, gentlemen! Seriously though, is Bill Cadman approving these?


UPDATE: EMILY’s List throws down:

It’s no surprise that Coffman surrounds himself with someone who would launch personal attacks against an accomplished state senator. Representative Coffman himself has a long history of supporting dangerous policies that hurt women and families, such as cosponsoring legislation that would weaken protections that ensure women don’t have to choose between having a child and having a job, twice voting against ending gender discrimination in pay, proudly opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and even wanting to ban some forms of birth control.

It’s clear that Mike Coffman doesn’t understand women, doesn’t care to help women tackle the challenges they face in their daily lives, and certainly doesn’t respect women.


Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela follows up this week’s exchange of rhetorical fire between Democratic CD-6 candidate Morgan Carroll and Rep. Mike Coffman over Coffman’s oversight role in the boondoggle-d (but still needed) VA medical center in Aurora. As we expected, Carroll’s lack of due reverence for Coffman’s supposedly untouchable record on military matters has his campaign surrogates more or less apoplectic.

Which may prove an easy way to get them in trouble.

In an interview with The Colorado Statesman Wednesday, Carroll, a Democrat, blasted the effectiveness of the Republican Coffman’s role in overseeing the workings of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Coffman sits on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“He was set up to be in a prime position to help shepherd and deliver the VA hospital to this district,” Carroll said. “It’s his district. He’s on the committee. He’s chairing the oversight committee. And what happened?

“It’s the poster child for a failed project. It’s failed leadership and failed oversight.”

Josh Penry.

Josh Penry.

Longtime paid Coffman campaign consultant Josh Penry fires back indignantly from the hip:

“Morgan Carroll is living up to her reputation and record as Morgan Carroll the legislator,” Penry said. “She is very partisan, very shrill and very liberal. [Pols emphasis]

“It’s incredibly disingenuous. No one is buying it; no one is believing it. My guess is she’s having a hard time keeping a straight face.”

Now first of all, as our readers know, Democrats and third-party groups have been chipping away at Coffman’s grandstanding on the Aurora VA hospital project for quite some time. No one is suggesting that the chairman of the VA Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is alone in responsibility, but he certainly shares responsibility for the failure to get the project completed–a liability that becomes more precarious for Coffman every time Republican leadership in Congress refuses to provide certainty. Yes, the new Aurora VA hospital is way over budget. But if you compare the overruns on this project to any number of vastly more expensive defense projects that have cost taxpayers billions (plural) more than expected, projects we could spend all afternoon making an incomplete list of?

You can see why Team Coffman is so prickly. Despite all the presumption on the issue Coffman has managed to cultivate in the local media, this could all very easily be turned against him by next summer–and his surrogates know it.

Having established all of this once again for the record, which we expect we’ll need to do many more times in the next fifteen months, we can turn to the matter of Josh Penry referring to Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll as “shrill.” Now, maybe Penry is purposefully trying to appropriate a little Donald Trump mojo here, but we’re pretty sure Penry knows it’s disrespectful in a gender-specific way to refer to a woman as “shrill.” Penry and fellow conservative haters on all things politically correct might not like it, but although you can get away with calling another man “shrill,” it has a considerably more offensive connotation when applied to a woman. And for that reason, it’s really much better to find another adjective when addressing one.

Either Penry wanted to stir the gender pot to rally the “men’s rights” Trump-loving demographic to Coffman’s standard, or he’s just this caddish in real life? We wouldn’t put either by him, but we really can’t rule the former out.

We don’t see how that ends well, of course, but it’s silly season.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Aug. 14)

Get More SmarterAre you ready for some Denver Broncos football? YEAAAHHHHHHH!!! 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).



► Back-and-forth accusations continue over the massive wastewater spill into the Animas River near Silverton. As the Denver Post reports, wastewater contamination from the Gold King mine may have been nearing a tipping point even before an EPA investigation inadvertently triggered last week’s river spill:

The EPA has yet to release its work order detailing precautions the crew was to take before the Aug. 5 spill. But other documents reviewed by The Denver Post show the EPA was acting on a growing awareness that state-backed work done from 1998 to 2002 on mines around Gold King had led to worsening contamination of Animas River headwaters.

The EPA was acting at Gold King after what, in an October document, the agency deemed a “time critical” effort to try to contain the increased toxic leakage — with elevated cadmium at 35 parts per billion, lead at 60 ppb and zinc at 16,000 ppb — from the nearby Red and Bonita Mine.

► We’ve started the “The Dropout Clock” on Colorado Pols as we try to gauge which Republican candidates for President are most likely to leave the race before the Iowa caucus. Our guess is that Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will be the first to go; “Republican insiders” tell Politico that they think former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the most likely candidate to fold up shop.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Friday Open Thread

“How many things there are concerning which we might well deliberate whether we had better know them.”

–Henry David Thoreau