Browns Canyon: Colorado’s Newest National Monument

UPDATE: Warm if somewhat qualified words from Sen. Cory Gardner, recognizing the role of his predecessor in today's news:

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) called Browns Canyon a "national treasure with a long history of bipartisan support in Colorado."

"Senator Udall in particular was a champion of this beautiful site, and his legacy of protecting Colorado's landscapes is to be commended," Gardner said. "This monument will stand in lasting tribute to his public service. My preference is always to work through the legislative process, and in the coming days I will be introducing legislation to ensure that Colorado's state and local interests have a seat at the table in discussions about Browns Canyon."

—–

Browns Canyon.

Browns Canyon.

As the Denver Post's Mark Matthews reports, President Barack Obama is set to make former Sen. Mark Udall a belatedly happy man:

President Barack Obama this week plans to name Browns Canyon, in central Colorado, a national monument, a designation that adds a new layer of federal protection to the popular spot for whitewater rafting…

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and then-U.S. Sen. Mark Udall tried to pass legislation that would have preserved a similar area near Salida, but the bill failed to advance through Congress.

It's President Obama's second national monument declaration for Colorado, the first being Chimney Rock in September of 2012. Preservation of Browns Canyon was a long-sought goal of former Sen. Udall, but staunchly opposed by local GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn and perennially stillborn as legislation in a Republican-controlled Congress. When Obama declared Chimney Rock a national monument in 2012, local Rep. Scott Tipton managed to at least offer lukewarm praise for the decision. But this time, Lamborn and fellow arch-conservative Rep. Ken Buck are more or less foaming at the mouth:

"My message to the president is cut it out. He is not king. No more acting like King Barack. That is not how we do things in the U.S.," Buck said in a statement.

Lamborn struck a similar tone.

"I am outraged," he said in a statement. "This is a top-down, big-government land grab by the president that disenfranchises the concerned citizens in the Browns Canyon region."

Got that? The Antiquities Act has been on the books for more than a century, but it's "not how we do things in the U.S." Glenn Beck bluster aside, tourism-focused businesses from Buena Vista to Salida are delighted by this move, which they've sought for years to protect this popular destination and raise its profile. And they had no delusions of getting this designation from Congress.

We encourage you to raft the new Browns Canyon National Monument! We've done it and it's a blast.

Columbia Journalism Review Slams Local Media For Ignoring SuperPAC Coordination Guilty Plea Story

UPDATE: Finally, some local coverage–The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus reports this evening:

Tyler Harber, 34, pled guilty on Feb. 12 to coordinated federal election contributions and to making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the case. Sentencing is scheduled for June 5. He faces a maximum of sentence of five years in prison for each count.

Harber served as executive director of the Colorado Republican Party’s recently-formed Super PAC, or independent expenditure committee, until the party terminated its contract with Harber shortly after the November election.

“We all sometimes make mistakes and put our faith in folks who perhaps we shouldn’t,” said Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, who appointed Harber.

Call described the decision to end the contract with Harber as a desire by the party to simply head in another direction….

And to think, last August this thing was Ryan Call's "brain child." 

—–

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

We wrote last week about a guilty plea in a Virginia federal court by one Tyler Harber, a Republican campaign consultant, to charges of illegal coordination between a congressional campaign he worked for and a "SuperPAC" he helped create that received hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack his campaign's opponent. Harber's SuperPAC coordination guilty plea is of particular interest to Colorado political observers, as Harber is a friend of Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call–and a key consultant for the Colorado Republican Party's own "uncoordinated" SuperPAC.

But as Corey Hutchins of the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review reports, local media didn't think any of this merited news coverage. From his story, titled "Colorado journalists miss local angle in super PAC case":

Here’s why this matters. In Citizens United and other cases in recent years, the US Supreme Court has relaxed many of the rules surrounding campaign finance, with the result that outside groups like super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts to help or oppose a candidate. One of the remaining restrictions is that outside groups and official candidate campaigns can’t coordinate their efforts—but politicos have found novel ways to get around that rule. And the Federal Elections Commission, which is in charge of regulating such behavior, is gridlocked along partisan lines and hasn’t been able to agree on how to respond.

So, the fact that federal prosecutors have decided to get involved, and that they actually busted someone, is a fairly big deal.

At the same time, campaign finance can be arcane stuff, and the congressional campaign in question was in Viriginia. In many states, the news likely didn’t find a spot in the local, or even national, sections of the daily newspaper. 

But in Colorado, it should have. Tyler Harber, the man at the center of this story, was the person tapped last year by the state Republican Party to head up an independent expenditure committee—akin to a super PAC, though the party doesn’t use that term—with ties to the state GOP last year. [Pols emphasis]

Last year, the Colorado Republican Party was forced to defend the creation of the Colorado CORE independent expenditure committee from a lawsuit by Colorado Ethics Watch, who argued sensibly that "a political committee cannot be ‘independent’ and controlled by a political party at the same time." A judge later ruled that the party could set up an "independent" expenditure committee, since the Colorado Republican Party's internal rules appeared to safeguard against such coordination. From that decision:

CEW…argues that the IEC coordinates with CRP because Chairman Call and other agents and representatives of CRP will be soliciting contributions to the IEC, but offers no evidence in support of this allegation. CEW admits that the IEC’s Standing Rules require that, beyond the initial appointment of the Executive director and management committee members, the management and development of any plans, projects, expenditures, or activities of the IEC will be conducted independent of any CRP official or staff member, including the State Chairman. CEW believes, but has offered no evidence that the IEC will, in the future, not abide by its own rules. [Pols emphasis]

Well, folks? Would you say a guilty plea to the charge of coordination by the executive director of the Colorado independent expenditure committee might have given this judge pause?

Naturally, Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, locked in a tight battle for re-election, sees no problem:

In a phone call, Call said Harber is no longer involved with the state party or its independent expenditure committee—and that anything the consultant did in another state is no more relevant here than if Call was given a traffic ticket while driving through Washington, DC.

A…traffic ticket? Seriously? Illegal coordination of donations between the "hard" and "soft" sides of political spending is at the heart of Harber's guilty plea. It's exactly what Ethics Watch sued the Colorado Republican Party over in response to their formation of this "independent" expenditure committee. Call's dismissal is laughable with these facts in view–and yet we have to assume that it was enough to deter local reporters. After all, there's no story.

Hutchins reports that most local reporters didn't even respond to the CJR's queries. One who did answer, AP's Nicholas Riccardi, actually claimed that "people here in general don’t seem very interested in the ins and outs of political maneuvering and machinery as they are in other states." Well hey, what the hell do we have political reporters for at all then? Isn't it great how he's made this decision for all of his readers? Has it occurred to Mr. Riccardi that as a journalist, his own self-fulfilling presumption helps make that true?

Sorry to be so blunt, but it's ridiculous. And illustrative of a much larger problem.

Kudos to CJR for following up–and for the well-deserved shaming of local reporters who apparently couldn't be bothered to do their jobs. There is a story here that the public deserves to know, to include Republicans getting ready to choose their next party chairman.

“Condo Construction Crisis?” Don’t Believe The Hype

Construction defect.

Historic construction defect.

Quite a bit of coverage last week of the introduction of legislation restricting the rights of homeowners to sue over faulty construction. As the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover reported:

A bipartisan pair of senators introduced a long-awaited construction-defects reform bill in the Colorado Legislature Tuesday, starting the clock on an 85-day effort to try to win over opponents who have killed similar efforts in each of the past two sessions.

Supporters of Senate Bill 177, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, unveiled a wide-ranging coalition of backers that includes municipal leaders, builders, economic developers and affordable-housing advocates…

But that coalition did not include any of the groups that opposed Ulibarri's 2014 bill, supporters acknowledged, leaving legislative sponsors needing to find a way to convince homeowners and trial lawyers that they should accept having a tougher path to file a lawsuit in exchange for a solution that many say will do little to spur the building of new condos. [Pols emphasis]

The push to "reform" Colorado's multifamily residential construction defects law has been widely forecast to become one of the most contentious issues the General Assembly will debate this year. Proponents argue that the current state of Colorado law creates a legal disincentive for developers to undertake these kinds of construction projects. The Denver Post's John Aguilar:

Reform advocates contend that the condo market has dried up in Colorado because construction-defects law has increased the liability — along with insurance premiums — for builders to the point where owner-occupied multifamily projects are not viable.

According to the market research firm Metrostudy, condos accounted for more than 20 percent of all housing starts (more than 4,000 units) in late 2005 but only 3 percent through most of 2014.

Beauvallon, a Denver construction defect horror story.

Beauvallon, a Denver construction defect horror story.

In short, lobbyists for developers say that Colorado law exposes builders to unacceptable liability for construction defects, and that's why there aren't enough condos available in Denver's red-hot housing market.

But is that really what's going on? A group representing homeowners in Colorado says the situation is much more complicated than risk of lawsuits over defects–and has data to back it up. The DBJ reported in January:

Economic conditions following the recession have contributed to a market in which buying a home is more difficult and expensive than it used to be, the study says.

Higher fees, required credit scores and home prices, as well as wage stagnation, unemployment and lower marriage rates have all kept potential buyers out of the market, said Pat Pacey, principal at Pacey Economics, during a conference call Tuesday.

Higher student-debt loads have also contributed to the younger generation holding off on buying a home, she said…

The findings are in direct opposition to the narrative put forward by developers, brokers and politicians in recent months, who say that the state's construction defects law is to blame for the lack of condo development, which many say has put a chokehold on the lower end of the home buying market across the metro area. [Pols emphasis]

But perhaps the best argument against weakening the rights of homeowners to "spur" condo construction is this: Colorado's slump in multifamily construction is not unique to Colorado.

The Colorado builders complain that “condos accounted for more than 20 percent of all housing starts (more than 4,000 units) in late 2005 but only 3 percent through most of 2014.” And, “in 2014, 5 percent of all new housing stock in Colorado was condominiums.”  Yeah, well, take a number.  Nationally, in November 2014, multi-family starts were down 11% from the same time last year. Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census, its August 2014 report showed a “steep 31.7 percent decline in multifamily production.” 

Bottom line: the hurdles faced by the next generation of Colorado homebuyers are more complicated than proponents of this legislation suggest. To buy their argument is to ignore the crushing burden of student debt faced by young people today, stagnation and even decline of real incomes for today's workers, and the tighter lending requirements buyers face today as opposed to before the recession of 2008. Not to mention that this is just the latest attempt by developers to shield themselves from liability, part of a years-long strategy–and at this point, the possibility that political objectives are factoring into business decisions should be considered.

Once you understand that the roots of the problem are much more complex than liability of builders for construction defects, the whole campaign to weaken homeowner's rights to sue over those defects falls apart. The fact is, buying a home is one of the biggest, if not the biggest investment most working families will ever make. To force homeowners into arbitration and hobble HOAs trying to get justice for their members deprives Coloradans of basic and entirely reasonable protections for their most valuable asset.

Honestly, it's hard to imagine a greater disincentive to buying a condo than this bill.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Feb. 17)

Get More Smarter

Still hung over from celebrating the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington? It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Consumer groups are worried that Colorado's Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) may not be reauthorized for the first time since its founding in 1984. The OCC was created to represent consumers in front of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) whenever rate hikes are sought by energy and telecommunications companies.

► Following on the heels of one of the least effective sessions of Congress in history, Republicans continue to struggle to get anything done on Capitol Hill. As the Los Angeles Times explains:

After six weeks in session and 139 roll call votes in a House and Senate that feature some of the largest Republican majorities in generations, one of the most telling statistics from the new Congress is this: President Obama's veto threats outnumber the bills Congress has been able to send him.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Tuesday Open Thread

"The wise are instructed by reason, average minds by experience, the stupid by necessity and the brute by instinct."

–Marcus Tullius Cicero

DeGette Skipping Bibi Netanyahu’s Speech

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu.

Controversy is building in Washington over an address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled for March 3rd–just weeks before Israeli elections, and not invited by President Barack Obama as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Netanyahu's address, pertaining to negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program, is controversial in Israel for the same reason, with a majority of Israeli voters saying the speech should be cancelled. Reuters:

The speech has caused controversy in Israel and the United States, where the Democrats and the White House are angry that the Republican speaker, John Boehner, invited Netanyahu to speak at a sensitive time in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six big powers including Washington, and only two weeks before Israel's closely fought March 17 election.

Following complaints from opposition parties, election chief Salim Joubran decided that Netanyahu's address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan…

President Barack Obama, at odds with Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister's criticism of the nuclear talks, will not meet him during his visit, saying it is a breach of protocol to receive a foreign leader before an election.

As of now, most members of Colorado's delegation reportedly plan to attend Netanyahu's speech, including all the Republicans, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Jared Polis. Rep. Ed Perlmutter hasn't made a public announcement yet. The one Colorado representative who has said she will not attend Netanyahu's speech is…well, we just gave it away, it's Rep. Diana DeGette. Rep. DeGette has a scheduling conflict on March 3rd:

Congresswoman DeGette will not be able to attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. She has had a long-standing scheduling commitment that morning to address a clinical research group about her 21st Century Cures initiative, and we just learned this morning that the Prime Minister’s speech is scheduled for 11:00, which creates a conflict for her.

Other than a highly one-sided report in the Boulder Jewish News, DeGette's decision to not attend Netanyahu's address hasn't received much press. We expect that will change as long as the speech isn't cancelled, that others will be given many chances to comment, and that Rep. Perlmutter's decision whether or not to attend will be closely watched. It's a longstanding presumption in American politics that categorical public support for Israel is mandatory for any real political viability. The problem with this address to a Republican-dominated Congress is that Netanyahu is making a partisan issue out of something that historically hasn't been. And it's forcing a conflict of loyalties that American supporters of Israel haven't been made to reckon with.

In Israel, Netanyahu has been roundly criticized even by some of his right-wing allies, mostly for appearing to put his ties to the Republican Party ahead of the close relationship Israel has always had with the United States. [Pols emphasis]

It should be noted that attending a speech is not the same thing as agreeing with it. But insofar as Netanyahu is involving Colorado politicians in Israeli domestic politics without their consent, we're obliged to point out that not every friend of Israel is a Likudnik.

Or, for that matter, a Republican.

Denver Police Union Calls For Chief White’s Resignation

Defaced Denver Police memorial.

Defaced Denver Police memorial.

In a development sure to have political ramifications, 9NEWS reports on a fresh war of words between the Denver Police Protective Association and DPD chief Robert White after a vandalism incident during a large anti-police brutality protest march Saturday:

The head of Denver's police union wants Chief Robert White gone.

He says officers were told not to take immediate action when protesters defaced a memorial for fallen officers.

"We will no longer follow him as we move forward," said Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association. "He is not our chief."

Saturday, demonstrators aiming to protest what they perceive as police brutality threw red paint on the memorial, which sits outside of Denver Police headquarters. Rogers says DPD brass told officers not to take immediate action.

As 9NEWS reports, Denver Police under Chief White have followed a less-confrontational policy when dealing with protest marches, identifying individual lawbreakers for later arrest as opposed to charging into crowds to break up illegal activities on sight. Our understanding is that in a life-threatening situation, police would still wade into a protest to restore order, but not for (as in this case) preventing petty vandalism committed by a small number of protesters. Two suspects have already been arrested over Saturday's incident.

We get up early to beat the crowds.

“We get up early to beat the crowds.”

Such a policy becomes more important to strictly adhere to, though we'd say it always should be important, when police respond to a protest against police brutality. In addition to the nationwide headlines in recent months over the issue of police killings and beatings of unarmed citizens, DPD itself has a long and unsettling record of police brutality–and a culture of mutual silence and protection among police officers accused of misconduct that has made cracking down on the problem very difficult. Repeated, well-publicized instances of obvious misconduct by Denver police, both in the commission and concealment of violence against undeserving citizens, have severely eroded the trust of the community they serve. Accountability for Denver police accused of misconduct remains slow, uneven, and too often dependent on the media forcing the hand of officials.

Bottom line: everything we have heard about Chief White suggests that he is genuinely committed to reforming both the public image and internal culture of the DPD, and this reflects creditably on Mayor Michael Hancock for appointing him. However emotional police officers may be about this memorial to fallen officers–and we don't want to disparage that legtimate sentiment–it would absolutely have been the wrong decision to break from established policy and violently charge into this crowd over what amounts to petty vandalism.

Chief White told rank and file that he found the vandalism "abhorrent" but said "I believe the decision we made was appropriate."

Rogers says the actions send a different message.

"The message I got was you, as a police officer, are not as important as our image," Rogers says.

In early December, several Denver Police officers were injured, one critically, in an unrelated car accident that followed a large walk-out of students from East High School protesting against police brutality. The same Denver police union at that time circulated rumors that students had jeered the injured officers, which was not corroborated by any of the numerous media outlets on scene or witnesses other than Denver police. The story made for good mythmaking on FOX News, but locally, it wasn't good for the police union's credibility. In this case, calling for the chief of police to resign for following his established policy, and not giving in to emotion where it could make his job harder in the long run, makes Chief White look like a hero.

As for the Denver Police Protective Association? Maybe it's time they reflect on who they're really supposed to be protecting. Because whether they realize it or not, this is not the "image" they want.

“Thanks, Obama,” Says the President in Hilarious Buzzfeed Video

Yes, we know that President Obama is a polarizing figure, but put your politics aside for less than 2 minutes and check out this Buzzfeed video. Love him or hate him, you've got to at least appreciate that the man is still able to laugh at himself in his seventh year in office.

 

It’s Okay, Because Mad Mike Coffman Was in the Military

Arrggghh!!! Mike Mad!!! Mike SMASH!!!

Arrggghh!!! Mike Mad!!! Mike SMASH!!!

FRIDAY UPDATE: The White House talks to 9News reporter Brandon Rittiman about Coffman's antics, calling him a "pretty aggressive antagonist."

—–

Washington D.C. has been abuzz about a spat between Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Veterans Administration Secretary Bob McDonald during a House Committee hearing yesterday. Coffman was grilling McDonald during a meeting of the House Veterans Affairs Committee when McDonald took exception to Coffman's grandstanding on the issue of a new VA Hospital in Aurora. From the Associated Press:

McDonald was defending the VA's budget at a hearing when he and Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman tussled over construction delays and cost increases at the long-delayed hospital project. After a few minutes of arguing, McDonald snapped at Coffman: "I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?"

Coffman, an Army veteran, did not respond at the hearing. But the four-term lawmaker said in a statement later that he could tell McDonald a few things he hasn't done.

"I have never run a federal agency that tolerates corruption the way the VA has. I've never built a hospital that's years behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget. And I've never been a shill for inept bureaucrats who allowed American heroes to die on a medical waiting list," he said.

Conservative media outlets are all up in arms that someone would dare question Mad Mike Coffman because Coffman is an Army and Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and it's his job to be a raging asshole, or something (more on that in a moment). We transcribed the relevant section of the hearing below, but it's important to watch the video so you can see the context in which this occurred. It's also important tor remember this key fact: a former Proctor and Gamble CEO, McDonald was sworn-in as the new VA Secretary on July 30, 2014 (following the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki), which means he's only been in office for 6 months. Knowing this, read the transcipt and watch the video, and then see if you can tell us why you wouldn't have had a problem with a Congressman telling you that you are not going to do your job:

Rep. Coffman: This is a department mired in beaurocratic incompetence and corruption. And I've gotta tell you, I think the pubic relations is great today. But there's no substance. There is…no…substance…

Sec. McDonald: I'm highly offended by your comments, Mr. Coffman…

Rep. Coffman: [Holds up a hand and says, "Let me finish..."] I fundamentally believe, that as unfortunate as it is, that at the end of the day — at the end of this President's term — that you will not have made a difference in changing the culture of this organization…by virtue of the fact that you continue to gloss over its problems.

Sec. McDonald: I am offended by your comment. Actually, I've been here 6 months. You've been here longer than I have. If there's a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.

I found it ironic that when I went out to L.A. [Los Angeles] to solve a 4-year-old lawsuit, you were busy calling for a hearing to discover what happened five years ago. I'm working on the future, sir, and I'm going to correct the past. But I'm working on the future, because that's what our veterans want.

Rep. Coffman: For you to say that you are going to the Army Corp of Engineers to advise you as to how to correct the extraordinary problems…let me tell you, I think what you need to do is focus on providing the healthcare benefits that the veterans have earned, and get out of the construction management business…and to cede it to the Army Corps of Engineers…Each major construction project is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and you are behind schedule. That's a problem.

Sec. McDonald: We work very closely with the Corps of Engineers. General Bostwick…he has told us he does not want total responsibility for all of the VA's construction. We're going to work with him. We're going to find out the right balance of that. We're doing that in Denver, as you know, and we appreciate your help to get that building finished, and get it finished for a good value for taxpayers.

Rep. Coffman: I hope…I hope you can make a difference. I hope you can.

Sec. McDonald: Maybe I'll give you my cell phone tonight, and you can answer the calls, and see if I'm making a difference for veterans, and see what they say. Or go on the websites — see what the veterans are saying on the websites. Ask the VSOs in the next group…I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?

Rep. Coffman: The fundamental challenge is for this organization to reflect your values, and I'm not sure that that's going to happen and I hope that it does.

As you can see in the video (after the jump), Coffman was trying to interrupt and doesn't appear to have initially heard Sec. McDonald when the latter said, "I've run a large company, sir. What have you done?" Coffman's office later issued an angry statement in response, and then the Concerned Veterans for America (a group funded by the infamous Koch Brothers) started stomping their feet and demanding that Sec. McDonald apologize to poor old Mad Mike:

Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, said McDonald was “disrespectful” of Coffman, who is the only member of Congress to serve in both Iraq wars, and demanded an apology…

…“Not only did Secretary McDonald attempt to shift blame for VA hospital construction delays and cost overruns for a facility in Rep. Coffman’s district, but he then unbelievably spouted, ‘I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?’ to a 22-year Marine Corps and Army veteran who served in both Iraq wars,” Hegseth added…

Hegseth said it’s Coffman’s job to ask questions related to VA oversight, and said Coffman has pointed out several VA management failures over the last several years. [Pols emphasis]

Let's see if we can get this straight: Rep. Coffman tells the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that he is not going to make a difference in changing the culture of the VA (even though McDonald has only been in office for 6 months), and it's McDonald who should apologize because Coffman is a veteran? And don't forget — Coffman has "pointed out several VA management failures over the last several years." Great work, Congressman!

We respect Coffman's military service, but serving in Iraq doesn't give him a free pass to berate anyone who dares challenge him. Mad Mike Coffman was often on display during debates last fall with Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff, demanding respect for his military record — which Romanoff always made a point to applaud — while criticizing Romanoff for having an Ivy League education. Arizona Sen. John McCain famously overplayed his own military background during his 2008 campaign for President, and Coffman doesn't have a fraction of McCain's story to tell. If McCain, a decorated Navy pilot and Prisoner of War, can go too far in using his military record as an excuse for everything…well, so can Coffman.

(more…)

Colorado Republican “Brain Child” Architect Pleads Guilty

UPDATE: A local grassroots conservative blog adds some interesting–alleged, we must note–details on the relationship between Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call and Tyler Harber of Harden Global, who pled guilty this week to federal coordination and false statement charges:

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call’s handpicked board member for the Colorado Republican Party Independent Expenditure Committee (IEC) has plead guilty in a federal prosecution case to illegally coordinating a Super PAC he created with the campaign of Congressional candidate Chris Perkins, for whom he served as a campaign manager…

This admission of guilt seriously calls into question Ryan Call’s creation of the Colorado Republican IEC, which he has always denied coordinates with individual candidates and campaigns. Like the Super PACs on a federal level, independent expenditure committees under Colorado law are exempt from Colorado’s campaign finance restrictions so long as they do not coordinate their activities with specific candidates. At this time, there has already been one campaign finance complaint filed against the Republican IEC by campaign finance watchdog organization, Campaign Integrity Watchdog. That matter is still pending.

The board of directors of the Colorado Republican IEC, including Harber, was appointed by Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call. Harber also served as the registered agent for the Colorado Republican IEC. The Colorado Republican IEC has paid tens of thousands of dollars to Harden Global, Harber’s Washington D.C. based consulting company since its inception in 2013. Yes—Harber served on the board of directors that authorized to spend tens of thousands of dollars to his own company. Apparently Chairman Call saw nothing wrong with that.

So where and how did Harden Global spend the tens of thousands of dollars that the Republican IEC paid it? No one knows, but one could reasonably assume much of it went back into the pockets of Tyler Harber…

Could things be about to get messier than expected for Call, just as the endorsements are starting to lock down? Stay tuned.

—–

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

A press release from the Department of Justice yesterday announces a guilty plea entered by one Tyler Eugene Harber, a D.C.-based Republican political consultant:

A campaign finance manager and political consultant pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Virginia for coordinating $325,000 in federal election campaign contributions by a political action committee (PAC) to a Congressional campaign committee.  This is the first criminal prosecution in the United States based upon the coordination of campaign contributions between political committees…

“Campaign finance laws exist to guard against illegal activity such as coordinated campaign contributions,” U.S. Attorney Boente said.  “The citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia can rely this office enforce federal campaign finance law.”

 “Today, Mr. Harber took responsibility for violating federal election campaign laws by illegally coordinating payments between a super pac and a candidate’s campaign committee,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “The FBI will continue to investigate allegations of campaign finance abuse which are in place to ensure openness and fairness in our elections so the people’s interests are protected.”

Tyler Eugene Harber, 34, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of coordinated federal election contributions and one count of making false statements to the FBI before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 5, 2015.

Tyler Eugene Harber is/was (we're not sure what the status is today) a partner in the political consulting firm Harden Global, whose website has suddenly gone down for maintenance in the wake of Harber's guilty plea. Locals will remember that Harden Global is the contractor who developed the website for the Colorado Republican Party Independent Expenditure Committee last summer. Originally billed as a "well-financed, multiyear effort by Republicans in Colorado," the IE committee's centerpiece "research site" fell into obscurity after being lampooned for using stock photos from Utah and Arizona–a lethal faux pas in Colorado politics.

While we haven't heard allegations of impropriety related to the Colorado Republican IR committee's activities last year, as Tom Tancredo can tell you, Colorado is no stranger to Byzantine political dealings involving shady Washington GOP-allied political types. Also, we do note that the website Harden Global built for the Colorado GOP was originally represented as chairman Ryan Call's "brain child."

So, you know, hopefully Call gets the password from Mr. Harber before sentencing.

Fix The Health Insurance Exchange Glitches. Now.

winnerisyou

Not long after an expose by 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman of a significant error at the Connect For Health Colorado insurance marketplace website, one that had resulted in several thousand insurance policyholders not having their coverage renewed for 2015, Rittiman is back with another maddening glitch impacting customers through no fault of their own–and has unfortunately been met with a less-than-praiseworthy response from exchange public relations staff.

The Affordable Care Act is turning out to be less affordable than it's supposed to be for many people in Colorado, thanks to a glitch uncovered by 9NEWS.

The problem affected an untold number of plan subsidies through the state health exchange, though multiple industry sources told 9NEWS it's more widespread than the renewal glitch we recently reported on which hit up to 3,600 plans on Connect for Health Colorado, the state exchange…

Colorado's Department of Public Health and Finance (HCPF) and Connect for Health confirmed the income-doubling glitch to 9NEWS.

The glitch itself is not in Connect for Health, but rather the state's new "Shared Eligibility System" or SES.

The problem appears to be a simple error in which an applicant's annual income for 2014 was being added to their 2015 income estimate. That has the obvious effect of overstating the applicant's income, which greatly reduces the subsidy granted to the applicant to help purchase insurance.

Before and since the rollot of the insurance exchange in late 2013, its supporters have had to contend with a vast amount of misinformation in many cases spread by mainstream media outlets–intended to drive down support for the law and plant the public perception that the Affordable Care Act is a failure. One of the worst examples was a series of articles by freelance reporter Art Kane for the Denver Post, which were riddled with totally unjustifiable falsehoods that the Post only occasionally saw fit to correct. As we discussed with Brandon Rittiman's last story on glitches in the Colorado insurance exchange, this long history of false and half-true attacks on "Obamacare" has left many Democrats highly defensive, and reflexively wary of any criticism.

In this case, we think Democrats need to lead the charge. Rittiman's due diligence to police the exchange for glitches is nothing like the disreputable hackery Art Kane produced for a willing Denver Post, and Democrats should not be put off by it. What Rittiman is finding appear to be very real problems, problems that are negatively impacting thousands of health insurance customers. There's no question that the insurance exchange is proving to be a good system overall, and has contributed to a marked drop in the rate of uninsured Coloradans since coming online in October of 2013. The glitches Rittiman has uncovered still only affect a small percentage of the policyholders who have obtained insurance through the exchange.

But it's got to be fixed. Democrats cannot allow a defensive mindset regarding "Obamacare," however justified by past events, to blind them to real problems being uncovered by impartial journalists. Everyone who supports the concept of reforming health care delivery has an interest in seeing the insurance exchange efficiently serve the public. Every problem that is not swiftly acknowledged and corrected gives opponents of reform room not just to complain, but to recycle their own arsenal of falsehoods.

If you want to gripe about shoddy reporting, you'd better acknowledge when they get it right–even if it's not the news you want.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Feb. 13)

Get More Smarter

Today is Friday the 13th, the first of 3 such "unlucky" days in 2015; there's another Friday the 13th in March and again in November. 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.


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Legislation to regulate abortion clinics in Colorado failed in a State House committee yesterday. Super-conservative Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt voted with Democrats to kill the bill on Thursday, apparently because he was concerned that the legislation would give state approval for abortions.

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Wheat Ridge) introduced legislation on Thursday that would ban the use of red-light cameras across the country. FOX 31's Eli Stokols speculates that the bill may be an early sign of a potential Perlmutter campaign for Governor in 2018. Rumors of Perlmutter's interest in the Governor's Mansion have been on the rise since Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election last November. Former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is a likely 2018 candidate as well.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)