Get More Smarter on Tuesday (June 23)

Get More SmarterIf you blink this week, you’re going to miss a big story. 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…

► Slowly but surely, the mainstream media is picking up the second phase of the Coffmangate story. News reports today confirm that Colorado GOP chairman Steve House has contacted both local and federal prosecutors about being allegedly blackmailed by a group of Republican politicos headed up by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. AP’s Nick Riccardi:

A lawyer for the Colorado Republican Party has spoken with prosecutors about the state party chairman’s accusation that the attorney general and others tried to blackmail him into resigning, a spokesman said Tuesday…

The scandal has roiled Colorado Republicans and cast a shadow over the party’s hopes for a successful 2016 election in a pivotal swing state. It’s also damaged Coffman, a rising star in the party.

Meanwhile, a conservative blog posted a story claiming to “expose” House’s alleged affair, but we also received a lengthy audio clip of the same person denying the affair categorically. Neither of which really matters, since extortion is still illegal even if you’ve cheated on your wife.

► President Barack Obama’s controversial trade agenda caught a break from the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate (and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado):

The trade bill advanced by a 60-37 margin, with the minimum votes needed to break a Democratic-led filibuster against so-called Trade Promotion Authority. Thirteen Democrats sided with GOP leaders on the vote, and five Republicans, including presidential contenders Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, voted against the legislation.

► An hour after we helpfully brought it to his attention, Rep. Ken Buck announced yesterday that he will return donations from a white supremacist believed to have helped inspire the Charleston church shooter.

Ellen Roberts, in an act of mercy towards her gaffe-prone self, opts out of running for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Ellen Roberts, Save(s) Thyself

Ellen Roberts can finally stop arguing with Ellen Roberts now that she is no longer considering a U.S. Senate run.

Ellen Roberts can finally stop arguing with Ellen Roberts now that she is no longer considering a U.S. Senate run.

Today State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) made her first logical statement to the press in literally weeks when she announced that she will not run for U.S. Senate in 2016. This is, undoubtedly, the wisest political move she has made in a month filled with ridiculous self-inflicted political wounds.

As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reports on the Roberts announcement:

State Sen. Ellen Roberts announced Tuesday she won’t seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate next year, saying the “hurdle of immediate, massive fundraising” was the single biggest factor in her decision.

“A Senate race would also require full-time attention for the next 16 months and I am committed to carrying out well my existing duties this interim,” Roberts said in a statement…

Roberts was seen as an attractive candidate in part because she is a woman and also she has bipartisan support in southwestern Colorado. But even some party members questioned whether she was ready for prime time after a couple of gaffs. She told a conservative talk radio host she never said she was a “pro-choice Republican,” prompting the liberal blog ColoradoPols to display a video of Roberts on the Senate floor saying she was a pro-choice Republican. [Pols emphasis]

In case you missed the video clip mentioned above, here’s the original post “Seven Seconds That Could End Ellen Roberts’ Political Career.”

Roberts really wanted to run for Congress or U.S. Senate in 2016, but she proved to be spectacularly bad when trying to move to a larger stage. From the time she first publicly floated her name in early May, telling the Durango Herald that she was a “long-shot” candidate, Roberts made one silly gaffe after another, flip-flopping on abortion like a spawning salmon, and her hometown Durango Herald eventually jabbed her for taking part in political theater that was “not compromise, but Kabuki.

Democrats were admittedly nervous about a potential Roberts campaign against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, but it was always a “theoretical concern,” since nobody really knew how she might handle a statewide run. Once Roberts started actually talking about running for higher office, she torpedoed her own career before Democrats could even lift a finger.

But, hey, it could be worse.

Tuesday Open Thread

“If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.”

–Carl Sagan

Mystery Character #4 Revealed in Coffmangate Scandal

Cynthia Coffman

Coffmangate apparel.

On Saturday, Colorado Pols was first to report details about the rapidly-growing Coffmangate scandal involving Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and a handful of other Republicans (for more background on this rapidly-evolving story, see the links at the bottom of the page). One of the revelations from our Saturday post was about the emergence of another key player in this scandal:

Player #4 Has Entered
Apparently there is a fourth person who was heavily involved in the alleged extortion attempt of House; as of now, only Cynthia Coffman, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Pueblo County Republican Party Chair Becky Mizel have been publicly named. It would be a logical guess to say that former state Sen. Ted Harvey will be pulled into this before long — Harvey’s desire to be appointed Executive Director of the State Party has reportedly been a key piece of the extortion attempt — and perhaps he is the so-called “fourth person” now involved.

We can now report that the fourth “mystery player” is in fact Tea Party activist Mike McAlpine, who was in charge of the 2013 recall attempt against Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak. From what we hear, McAlpine may have played a key role in potentially manufacturing evidence to be used in an effort to convince Steve House to resign as GOP Chair. For what it’s worth, McAlpine also has close ties to State Sen. Laura Waters Woods (R-Arvada), who won the SD-19 seat in November 2014.

(Note: This doesn’t mean that Ted Harvey was not involved — it seems logical that he is, given that he was the topic of the reported threats — but only that Harvey is not officially the “4th person as we had previously described on Saturday.”)

So when does the big hammer of an investigation/indictment come crashing down? It could be as soon as tomorrow, from what we’re hearing, though it might be pushed into Wednesday. We hear that law enforcement/prosecutors are taking a little extra time to make preparations for what will undoubtedly be a media circus when all is revealed.

Need to get caught up on Coffmangate?

♦ More background on how this scandal started with an attempted coup of State Republican Party Chair Steve House.

♦ Read up on why Cynthia Coffman’s political career is already over.

 As always, you heard it here on Colorado Pols first.

The Charleston Shooting: Six Degrees of Earl Holt

UPDATE: One hour and twenty minutes after this post went up, 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports:

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) will part with money he received from the leader of a white supremacist group which appears to have inspired the shooter who killed 9 people in an attack on an historically black church in South Carolina.

We’re happy to have brought this to his attention five years after the fact.

—–

Earl Holt.

Earl Holt.

Politico’s Nick Gass has a story today that, it’s safe to say, a number of Republican candidates for President don’t want you to read–but you probably should:

The leader of a white supremacist group mentioned by Dylann Roof in his alleged manifesto has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns in recent years.

Earl Holt, president of the St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens, has given to prominent 2016 candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum over the years, among others, while provocative statements in his name were posted online over the years, including on the conservative news site The Blaze, under the user name Earl P Holt III…

“If you think you can educate them, or embarrass them, or reason with them, or that your Christian compassion will be reciprocated, then you are the kind of person who will be completely baffled when they kill you, rape your entire family, and burn your house to the ground,” Earl P. Holt III wrote in a comment last year.

According to one account of a witness’ report, Roof said before opening fire, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country.” Roof stands charged with the murders of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last Wednesday night.

According to this story, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz intends to return his donation from the Council of Conservative Citizens’ Earl Holt, as does Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Rick Santorum’s quote doesn’t expressly say he’s returning the money, but we’d be surprised if he didn’t at this point. With South Carolina Republicans (and even Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado) calling for the Confederate flag’s removal from the state capitol grounds in the wake of last week’s shootings, to not return these severely tainted moneys would be politically suicidal.

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

The local connection: a quick search of donations also reveals a donation from the same Earl Holt to–you guessed it–Ken Buck’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2010! We haven’t found any other donations from Holt to Colorado candidates, but we can’t call ourselves surprised that Holt took a shine to Buck’s unrepentant far-right Senate campaign. Heck, now that we know Buck can’t tell the difference between “Hispanic” and Native American students, he seems even more up Holt’s alley! We’d assume that the present controversy following last week’s tragic shooting would motivate even Buck to return Holt’s donation.

Then again, it is Ken Buck we’re talking about. So maybe he keeps it in, you know, Freedom’s™ name.

EXCLUSIVE: Coffman-Gate Scandal is About to Go Nuclear

Cynthia Coffman

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman may soon be waving a white flag instead.

MONDAY UPDATE: We’ve heard from a number of people regarding a potential special election, which we originally noted could be held in November 2015. Should Cynthia Coffman resign in the near future, State Statutes indicate that Gov. John Hickenlooper would appoint a temporary replacement Attorney General until the State Senate reconvenes in Jan. 2016 (the Senate is required to approve an appointment), and a special election for the final two years of Coffman’s original 4-year-term would be held in November 2016.

Original post follows (6/20/15 at 4:38 pm):

—–

The “Coffman-Gate” extortion/blackmail scandal was first coming to light late last Monday evening, and by Tuesday afternoon it was already clear that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman had essentially ended her political career by stabbing former ally Steve House in the back — twice — over a span of about 12 hours. When we wrote that Coffman’s political career was over, we figured that she’d likely finish her four-year term before declining to run for re-election or finding herself defeated in a Republican Primary in 2018.

We may have been too optimistic. It now seems possible that Coffman will not make it through the summer as Attorney General…and that might be the least of her concerns.

Player #4 Has Entered
Apparently there is a fourth person who was heavily involved in the alleged extortion attempt of House; as of now, only Cynthia Coffman, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Pueblo County Republican Party Chair Becky Mizel have been publicly named. It would be a logical guess to say that former state Sen. Ted Harvey will be pulled into this before long — Harvey’s desire to be appointed Executive Director of the State Party has reportedly been a key piece of the extortion attempt — and perhaps he is the so-called “fourth person” now involved.

Federal Investigation Coming?
Behind the scenes, there has been a flurry of action involving the “Coffman-Gate” scandal over the past few days. We’re hearing that all parties involved are lawyering up in anticipation of a full-fledged criminal investigation — perhaps even a federal investigation (the FBI often handles investigations involving high-level elected officials, and we are talking about the top law enforcement officer in Colorado here). We’re still trying to gather details about the exact nature of a potential investigation, but it would almost certainly involve Coffman.

It now seems possible that Coffman will not make it through the summer as Attorney General…and that might be the least of her concerns.

The fact that everybody is scurrying for legal representation may indicate that someone involved in the extortion scandal is trying to make a deal ahead of any potential prosecution. It also explains why Coffman, Tancredo, and Mizel were being so cagey all week about the exact nature of their “grave and serious concerns” regarding House’s leadership of the State Party.


Significant Evidence
We’re also hearing that there is “significant evidence” (our phrase) that could elevate this case even further. From what we understand, there is a sizable amount of evidence indicating that the alleged extortion scheme was much more elaborate than has been reported. Depending on the type of evidence available, we could be talking about serious felony charges.


November Special Election Possible

Coffman’s political career is over — it’s really just a matter of how and when at this point. Coffman would almost certainly have to step down as Attorney General if she is facing felony charges, and replacing her would not be as simple as an appointment by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Coffman hasn’t even reached the 6-month mark of her first term in office, so her resignation would likely trigger a new, special election in November for Attorney General. Both Republicans and Democrats would likely have to find candidates and put together a full-on campaign sprint for the rest of the year.

 

We’ll continue to update this story as it develops, but you heard it here first on Colorado Pols.

Get More Smarter on Monday (June 22)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218You think it’s hot outside? You should be in Cynthia Coffman’s office today. 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…

Coffmangate is about to become international news. ProgressNow Colorado is asking the Attorney General’s office to preserve all official records related to the blackmail scandal engulfing AG Cynthia Coffman. The Associated Press, meanwhile, examines how the scandal may impact the 2016 election season for Republicans.

► Denver celebrated its 40th PrideFest over the weekend, and as Anthony Cotton writes for the Denver Post, the GLBT event takes on particular relevance with the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule on gay marriage any day now.

► Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of more than 5,000 people in Denver as part of his bid to become the Democratic Presidential nominee. Our friends at “The Fix” try to break down what it means that Sanders could attract such a huge crowd this early in the race:

Here’s what we know for sure: That Sanders — and the populist, anti-big business message he is championing — is driving more excitement in the Democratic base than I certainly thought it would.  While polling suggested that there was a growing bloc of liberals who wanted a liberal candidate to fully embrace their agenda, that the rallying behind Sanders among that group has happened so quickly is surprising.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Thousands Flock To See Sanders In Denver

Photo via TriLakes Dems

Photo via TriLakes Dems

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports on last night’s big rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont’s upstart presidential campaign, which drew his largest crowd yet to the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center:

The 73-year-old Independent spoke for an hour and hit a nerve on economic issues as he advocated for an end to income inequality as well as a higher minimum wage, pay equity for women and more government spending on infrastructure.

“What we are doing tonight is we are sending a message to the billionaire class and that is: You can’t have it all!” Sanders said, shouting to a crowd that filled a University of Denver gymnasium and spilled onto a nearby lacrosse field. “The unquestionable greed of the billionaire class is destroying this nation and it has got to end.”

The size and energy of the crowd — which gave Sanders numerous standing ovations and repeatedly chanted his name — reflected a craving among some in the Democratic Party for an alternative to 2016 front-runner Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady.

There’s a temptation in the media today to use the growing popularity of Sanders’ campaign as evidence of a groundswell against the likely 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But we don’t see an insurgency against any particular candidate being expressed by Sanders or his supporters as much as a desire for better policies–if you will, more traditionally Democratic policy priorities, like a higher minimum wage, affordable education and health care, and a robust social safety net.

Over the last few decades, and especially since the election of Barack Obama as President in 2008, much of the traditional Democratic platform has been pushed out of “the mainstream” by successful conservative domination of the limits of the debate. The “Overton Window” theory, which originates with a conservative thinktank in Michigan, helps explain the range of mainstream political proposals at any given moment–and how that range of acceptability is itself manipulated by the media and the pundit class. In recent years, this process has not been well grounded in reality, as the right became increasingly unrealistic about their own agenda, and the vilification of Obama exaggerated distantly beyond anything he has actually accomplished as President.

If you accept that the chances of Sanders winning the Democratic nomination for President are not good, which you should and he does, then his campaign makes another kind of sense: kicking the “Overton Window” back in the direction of progressive policies from the last few decades of skewing heavily to the right. This means rallying the public around progressive policy solutions, and pushing the Democratic frontrunner to embrace a more progressive agenda.

Objectively speaking, it’s hard to see how this is a bad thing. For anyone.

Weekend Open Thread

“If some great catastrophe is not announced every morning, we feel a certain void. Nothing in the paper today, we sigh.”

–Lord Acton

Rep. Klingenschmitt: Homosexuals “Want To Rule You”

Colorado’s most famous (or infamous) sitting member of the state legislature, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, uploaded a new episode of his Pray in Jesus’ Name Youtube “ministry” program today. Since taking office in January and for some time before, Klingenschmitt’s broadcasts have done a great deal to putrefy the Republican brand in Colorado, as well as make him a national symbol of the general intolerance and cluelessness of the contemporary religious right. Klingenschmitt was even punished by fellow Republicans after he claimed the horrific attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont last March was “God’s curse upon America,” though he was quietly reinstated to the committee assignment he lost just a couple of weeks later.

In today’s episode (clip posted above), Rep. Klingenschmitt launched into an unusually forceful tirade about the rights of gays and lesbians to participate in society, and what that means for “the Christian audience.” Transcribed:

KLINGENSCHMITT: And there has been this branding, this idea that oh, you know homosexual marriage and that movement is all about love. No. There’s a spirit of lust inside some people who are confused about their sexuality and they just lust, and they crave flesh, and it’s not selfless sacrifice or loving your neighbor, you can do that. A man can visit another man in the hospital and show them genuine compassion without lusting for them sexually. So it’s not the same as love.

It’s also not about equality. Oh, they say, oh, we just want equal rights. You already have the equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex. Everyone in this country already had for decades, for generations, the right to marry somebody of the opposite sex if they want to. And just because you don’t sexually prefer, doesn’t mean that you have now a legal right to marry someone of the same sex. That’s not a right, because rights come from God.

Finally, it is, if it’s not about love, it’s not about equality, what is it about? It’s about power. And, and when they push their agenda for the right to reeducate your children in their image, for the right to, uh, recruit or adopt, because they can’t have their own children they want the right to remake society in their own image, and force you to either shut up or shut down. And that’s why they’re trying to pass these ordnances against bakers and photographers and florists, to force you the Christian audience, or force Christian universities to endorse their sin or lose your tax exempt status as we talked about in the previous story. This is about power. They want to rule you. And we need to stand up against that and we need to disobey.

So, there’s plenty to ping the outrage meter with here–but if we had to pick, we’d say that somewhere between declaring that gays don’t experience “the same thing as love” and how they want to “recruit or adopt” the children of straight America, “Dr. Chaps” is burying the needle. Again.

We’ll ask again: how is it not news every time an incumbent Republican lawmaker says these things? He shouldn’t draw a pass in the media on account of frequency. We shouldn’t assume he’s offending his fellow Republicans too. He should be called out loudly, by friend and foe, every time.

Shouldn’t he?

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 19)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218It’s hotter than a stolen tamale out there. 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…

► Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton smacked Donald Trump hard over Trump’s campaign announcement speech yesterday, in which The Donald made some typically outrageous statements about [insert ethnic group here]. Politico:

“We have to have a candid national conversation about race and about discrimination, prejudice, hatred,” Clinton said in an interview with KNPB’s Jon Ralston. “But unfortunately the public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger people who are less than stable.” [Pols emphasis]

“For example,” the former secretary of state added, “a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable. You don’t talk like that on talk radio. You don’t talk like that on the kind of political campaigns…”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump told the audience. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”

Cynthia Coffman is not running for the U.S. Senate, and she really wants you to know she decided that before she started blackmailing people. Meanwhile, Steve House remains chair of the Colorado Republican Party, and rank-and-file Republicans are trying to figure out what the hell is going on since no one in the know will tell them. Like Dick Wadhams says, it’s time to “put up or shut up.”

► The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement is moving again through Congress after a close House vote. Rep. Jared Polis joined with most Republicans in the Colorado delegation to pass the legislation, with Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Ken Buck voting against.

► State Sen. Mike Johnston’s letter to a local African Methodist Episcopal church in the aftermath of the Charleston shooting is getting lots of attention today:

“By Sunday morning America could blanket these churches with such overwhelming expressions of love that no one could walk through the doors of an AME church without feeling a flood of love and support from white men whose names they don’t know, whose faces they can’t place, but whose love they can’t ignore,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, it’s increasingly clear that the Charleston shooter, described as a “strong conservative,” was motivated by racial hatred–making it harder to downplay his actions as simple insanity.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Friday Open Thread

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

–Warren Buffett

BREAKING: Cynthia Coffman Declines 2016 Senate Bid

UPDATE: 9NEWS Brandon Rittiman reporting, Cynthia Coffman sticks to her story about the timing of her decision not to run for the U.S. Senate:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman confirmed to 9NEWS Thursday she will not run for US Senate, saying it’s a decision she made before this week’s news of her participation in an attempt to oust the new state GOP chairman.

“I have said it repeatedly to anyone who will listen,” Coffman said in an email to 9NEWS. “The party knows it; I told the chair many weeks ago.”

As further evidence that the decision was made prior to this week’s public ruckus over party leadership, Coffman said she informed another Colorado media outlet of her political plans before the dust-up occurred.

Bottom line: it’s certainly possible that Mrs. Coffman told a few reporters or fellow GOP insiders that she wouldn’t run for the U.S. Senate next year–but it really doesn’t matter that much. If Coffman wants to tell the world how no, she really did decide not to run before she started blackmailing people, she’s free to do so. That won’t change the perceptions, and if anything could drive more attention to the story.

Regardless of the timing of Mrs. Coffman’s decision, there’s an easy reason she felt the need to go public about the Senate race today: the same reason she is getting national press right now to begin with. And it’s not a reason that makes her, or fellow Colorado Republicans, look in any way good. Original post follows.

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Former Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call, AG Cynthia Coffman.

Former Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call, AG Cynthia Coffman.

We can’t call it a surprise after the disastrous week Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has had in the wake of nationally publicized allegations that she participated in the alleged attempted blackmail of Colorado GOP chairman Steve House, but as National Review’s Alexis Levinson reports:

Colorado attorney general Cynthia Coffman will not run in the state’s upcoming Senate race, she tells National Review.

“I’m not running,” she said. “I thought about it for half a minute. I like being in Colorado, and I love my job. This is where I want to be.”

Cynthia Coffman made headlines earlier this week for her role in what has been described as an attempted coup against the Colorado GOP leadership. The chairman of the party, Steve House, has said that Coffman called a meeting with him where she and two other Colorado Republicans asked him to resign. House has alleged they threatened to publicly accuse him of having an extramarital affair if he did not do so. Coffman, in a statement released Wednesday evening, denied making any such threats. House ultimately declined to resign.

Colorado Republicans say Coffman’s prominent role in what has become a messy, public dispute could damage her political future… [Pols emphasis]

In today’s story, Cynthia Coffman claims to have reached this decision before the scandal over the attempted shakedown of House dominated local political headlines this week, but that’s not consistent with what we were hearing as recently as Monday. Chatter among Republicans in the last couple of weeks about a Cynthia Coffman run for the U.S. Senate was much too widespread to be accidental, and ramped up right after state Sen. Ellen Roberts faceplanted in the national media explaining her shifting views on reproductive choice. Another possible 2016 Senate candidate, Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, committed a major social media gaffe earlier this month that helped create space for Mrs. Coffman to get in the race.

As of today? Back to the drawing board, Colorado Republicans. Cynthia Coffman’s brief time in the limelight is over.