ICYMI: What the Hell Are You Doing, Douglas County?

As FOX31 Denver reports:

The Douglas County School District has purchased 10 long rifles for its armed security officers.

The Bushmaster long rifles will not be housed on school grounds. They will be locked up at the district security office and bus depot along Highway 85.

“The weapons currently every day will be inside of a locked safe in a secured room inside the security department. They’ll be deployed into a locking mechanism that is inside our patrol vehicles very similar to the locking mechanisms that are inside law enforcement patrol vehicles and they will only be deployed if there is a situation where they need to be deployed,” Director of Safety and Security Rich Payne said.

The long rifles and equipment cost the district $12,300.

What? Why? This is fucking insane.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 19)

gmssharkThe sharks are circling at the Colorado Capitol! 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…

► Embattled GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is gearing up to formally challenge Colorado’s delegates to the Republican National Convention in July after Ted Cruz’s backroom sweep of the Byzantine state GOP caucus process. The Denver Post’s John Frank:

Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign’s convention strategist, said Sunday his team is putting together a legal case to challenge the state’s 34 delegates — which are all supporting Ted Cruz.

“We’ll be filing protests,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “Missouri, we’re going to be filing protests. Colorado, we’re going to be filing protests.”

He continued: “You saw in Colorado last week where the voters were left out of the process — a groundswell of support against the system.”

We assume he’s referring to last Friday’s pro-Trump rally at the Colorado Capitol, the actual attendance at which failed to amaze. Perhaps nobody’s told The Donald yet?

► On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders’ strong showing at that party’s state convention last weekend leaves his campaign with bragging rights, overcoming the superdelegates to post a clear win in Colorado–but the math adding up to the nomination remains elusive.

► Today is “Loan Shark Day” at the Colorado Capitol–the first hearing for a late bill to jack up interest rates on personal loans. Consumer advocates led by the Bell Policy Center plan lively opposition at a “shark attack” rally ahead of the 2PM hearing and during testimony in the Legislative Services Building across from the Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Q1 Fundraising Winners and Losers

We have a long tradition at Colorado Pols of examining “Winners and Losers” from key fundraising periods, and the Q1 reports that were due on April 15th represent probably the most important three-month period since Colorado moved its Primary election to June prior to the 2014 election cycle.

The first (and last) full quarterly fundraising cycle before the June 28th Primary ended at midnight on March 31, but federal campaigns weren’t required to submit their complete Q1 reports until April 15th. Campaigns for the U.S. House are required to file fundraising reports electronically, but Senate campaigns can drag out the public disclosure period for days (and sometimes weeks) by filing their fundraising numbers (literally) on paper and mailing the reports to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

We’ve been anxious to compare fundraising numbers for Q1, particularly from the 5 remaining Republican Senate candidates; for most of the GOP Senate field, the Q1 numbers are about the only objective information we have to go on right now in terms of evaluating a campaign’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ll update this post in a few days (or weeks) as new information becomes available, but with most campaigns announcing their fundraising hauls late Friday or over the weekend, we can still sketch out a pretty good list of “Winners and Losers” already.

For this “Winners and Losers” list, we are only comparing fundraising numbers for the U.S. Senate race and CD-6. In most Congressional districts in Colorado, the full slate of candidates wasn’t even known until Democrats concluded their caucus process with Saturday’s State Convention in Louisville.

Q1Fundraising-2016-Chart

NOTES:
*Cash-on-hand totals for Graham, Blaha, Keyser, and Frazier may not account for any outstanding balance owed to petition signature-gathering firms…or for most staffing expenses, for that matter. Campaigns typically hold off on making significant expenditures until the day after the end of the fundraising period so that they can “report” a larger cash-on-hand amount.

**We don’t yet know how much money Glenn has in the bank, but we do know that he doesn’t have any six-figure balances owed to petition-gathering firms. Because Glenn made the Primary ballot through the caucus/convention process, his expenditures will naturally be significantly less than his opponents.

Click after the jump for our “Winners and Losers” of Q1…

 

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A Few Words on that Child Abuser/DPS Board Appointee

standholmes

MiDian Holmes.

MiDian Holmes.

We wanted to make sure the recent controversy on the Denver Public Schools board, in which a newly-appointed school board member connected to the corporate-backed education “reform” group Stand for Children was exposed in the media as having been convicted of child abuse, didn’t get too far in the rear-view mirror without a mention. Eric Gorski and Melanie Asmar at Chalkbeat Colorado reported last Thursday:

MiDian Holmes announced on her Facebook page Thursday night that she would not accept her appointment to the Denver school board, saying she did not want to be a distraction after details of a misdemeanor child abuse conviction became public…

In 2005, she was charged with “wrongs to minors” in violation of the Denver municipal code. Documents explaining what led to the charge were not immediately available. Holmes was sentenced to a year of probation, after which the case was dismissed.

In 2006, she was charged with child abuse in violation of state law. Documents reveal that Holmes left her three young children — age 7, 6 and 2 — home alone for more than eight hours while she was at work. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse and again was sentenced to probation.

FOX 31 reported more details from MiDian Holmes’ second child abuse case, which Holmes was reportedly not completely honest about with the DPS board that appointed her:

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Yes It’s “Pandering,” And It’s Really Common Too

Jon Keyser holds an M-79 "blooper" grenade launcher in Afghanistan.

Jon Keyser holds an M-79 “blooper” grenade launcher in Afghanistan.

Over the past few days, the issue of Colorado Republican candidates for office relying heavily on their service records and using photos of themselves in uniform in campaign materials has heated up considerably. Jason Salzman took note of Republican state assembly winner and U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn slamming opponent Jon Keyser for parading his Bronze Star commendation around on the campaign trail.

As 7NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reported late Friday evening, a number of Republican candidates are treading very close to the limit of Department of Defense rules about using the uniform to campaign–and in some cases expressly violating them:

Denver7 checked the website and social media presence for military members running for federal office from Colorado. The Department of Defense requires that any photograph of a military member in uniform “must be accompanied by a prominent and clearly displayed disclaimer that neither the military information nor photographs imply endorsement by the Department of Defense or their particular Military Department.”

Congressman Mike Coffman has a photo of himself in uniform as his profile photo on his campaign’s Facebook page and on his Twitter account. The photo has no disclaimer…

Zelinger also checked Jon Keyser’s website, who added further disclaimers after Zelinger’s inquiry about why the images of Keyser in uniform aren’t “clearly” disclaimed as DoD regulations require. And another ex-military Republican candidate, admittedly a minor candidate running against Ed Perlmutter, had no disclaimers on his website whatsoever:

“My entire adult life, I’ve served in uniform, so how do I tell people about myself if I can’t use any photos in uniform?” said [George] Athanasopoulos. “No one wants to see photos of me when I was at Wheat Ridge High School.”

After being contacted by Denver7, he put a disclaimer on the photo…

Sure it’s embarrassing to break DoD rules, but what’s the real issue here? That brings us back to Darryl Glenn, and his criticism of Jon Keyser’s heavy reliance on his service record as a U.S. Seate candidate. Glenn is himself a retired United States Air Force officer. Glenn in fact retired as a lieutenant colonel, a higher rank than Keyser, after more than two decades of active and reserve military service.

Denver7 found no photographs of Glenn in uniform. [Pols emphasis]

Much as it did when opponent Robert Blaha obliquely questioned Keyser’s military credentials, Keyser’s campaign responded irately to Glenn’s criticism–but with no mention of Glenn’s own longtime military service. Glenn’s creditable rejection of military service as a campaign tool, especially given his personal qualifications to engage in such pandering if he chose to, presents straightforward questions about all the politicians who do trade on their service record.

It’s possible that someone with his own sterling military credentials like Glenn was always necessary to call out political abuse of military service with credibility. But now that he has as the winner of the GOP’s state assembly in the U.S. Senate race, it’s an issue that Republicans up and down the ticket will need to answer for.

And as you can see, that might not go over so well.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 18)

MoreSmarter-RainFrom Snowmageddon to Slushpocalypse. Try not to get too squishy today. 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…

► Because April 15th fell on a Friday this year, today is Tax Day in the United States (unless you are a huge corporation, in which case today is just like any other day). Good luck scrounging up some stamps from your desk drawer.

 

► The legislature gave final approval to the 2016 state budget on Friday, but not without controversy. A last-minute request from the Governor’s office to give $3 million to the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a privately-run prison that apparently cannot exist without government help — nearly upset final negotiations on the “Long Bill.”

 

► Colorado Democrats didn’t let something like a little Snowmageddon keep them from turning out to various Congressional District Assemblies on Friday nor the Democratic State Convention in Loveland on Saturday. Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders performed well, as expected, and can lay claim to 39 of Colorado’s 66 Democratic delegates.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Colorado Budget: Private Prisons Get Their Pound of Flesh

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Strescino reports, the Colorado state legislature gave final passage to the 2016 budget on Friday–but not before a last-minute request from the Governor’s office, supported by Senate Republicans, almost derailed the deal yet again:

A last-minute request by the governor to keep afloat a private prison — and help a rural economy — held up the final budget deal until the state Senate approved it Friday.

The budget, $25.8 billion, is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

Hickenlooper requested at the last minute to spend $3 million to boost payments to a private, for-profit prison company that is threatening to close the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a move that stalled the budget bill after Senate Democrats raised complaints…

Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has more on the $3 million to subsidize operations at the Kit Carson Correctional Center just east of Burlington, which is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America:

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, noted that the state gave Corrections Corporation of America a cash infusion four years ago to keep the facility open and now it’s back asking for more money. At the same time, other parts of the state budget are facing cuts or no new funding increases. [Pols emphasis]

Johnston said the timing of the request — just as budget negotiations finished — amounted to “blackmail.”

“It’s not in the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.

In the end, the $3 million for Corrections Corporation of America was not enough to blow up the long negotiations that led to this year’s budget compromises–which include hotly-contested line items like funding for the state’s groundbreaking IUD contraception program, a big win over the objections of the Senate’s far-right “Hateful Eight” caucus. But that doesn’t mean this “bailout” of an underutilized private prison was a good thing, as a statement from the state’s public employee union Colorado WINS makes very clear indeed:

According to WINS Executive Director, Tim Markham, “The for-profit prison industry is built on exploitation. They exploit our criminal justice system, they exploit their workers, they exploit the communities in which their facilities are located and they exploit Colorado taxpayers.

Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers. And they do not provide stable, community-building jobs – these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.

Colorado WINS has long stood publicly against the for-profit prison industry. This latest bailout is just one more example of why Colorado should extricate ourselves from this predatory and morally corrupt industry.” [Pols emphasis]

“Extrication” of Colorado’s prison system from for-profit corporate interests that have little regard for the state’s actual needs, unlike state employees who could be redistributed throughout the system and–key point–are much more qualified professionals who contribute far more to their local economies than the CCA’s low-wage employees, is a debate that will have to wait for another year. But these threat-laden “requests” for infusions of cash to a for-profit corporation under threat of closing underused prisons and “killing jobs,” this being the second such request in four years, is not at all what the private prison industry promised in the early 1990s: a happy arrangement in which private capital took the risk of operating the prisons and the public benefitted from “lower costs.”

Since that logic has now been turned on its head, we’d say it’s appropriate to question the state’s whole relationship with the private prison industry.

“Trumpmageddon” Protest Fizzles

Photos from this afternoon’s much-balleyhooed pro-Donald Trump rally at the Colorado Capitol are coming in via social media, and, well…time to revise those lofty crowd estimates downward, friends.

trumpprotest1

trumpprotest2

Organizers had told the press to expect a thousand or more participants, especially given the way Donald Trump was personally hyping the event on Twitter:

But the crowd estimate for today’s rally ranged from about 100-300 people depending on how generous a count it was. Certainly these are not photos we would expect to see Trump Tweeting out later this evening in celebration. With that said, one large sign stood out in particular at today’s protest, and gathered reporters didn’t miss it:

trumpprotest3

That would be all the Republicans these protesters say they won’t vote for after Trump lost the state assembly! Just another reason for every Republican in Colorado not on the Trump Train to breathe a sigh of relief over today’s unexpectedly paltry pro-Trump crowd.

Hopefully this means Steve House can come out of hiding soon.

Loveland Reporter-Herald Rips Sen. John Cooke

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

We took note earlier this week, as did gun safety activists, of remarks by Sen. John Cooke of Greeley during debate last week over Senate Bill 16-113–legislation that would repeal the state’s 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity passed in 2013. Sen. Cooke, making the argument that the magazine limit is not enforceable, explained that he tells his “people,” whom we assume to be his constituents to “go to Wyoming” to buy high-capacity magazines that aren’t legally sold in Colorado.

You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal.

Which, while technically true, doesn’t make it any less illegal to bring those high-capacity magazines back into the state of Colorado from Wyoming once you buy one. Sen. Cooke is surely aware of this, since in his previous job as Weld County Sheriff he was responsible for patrolling a significant length of the Colorado/Wyoming border to prevent illegal fireworks being brought into our state. Any way you slice it, Cooke’s encouragement to break the law and (most importantly) advice on how to break the law is not appropriate for a lawmaker–and not okay from a former sworn law enforcement officer.

We’re happy to report that, in a hard-hitting editorial today, the Loveland Reporter-Herald agrees:

Crossing the border into Wyoming to purchase items that are illegal in Colorado happens all the time. Flying and exploding fireworks are illegal on this side of the state line, so Coloradans who believe that this state’s fireworks regulations are onerous regularly take the risk of driving over the state line and purchasing fireworks that they may legally possess in Wyoming. Bringing them back across the border is illegal, and any elected representative who would encourage his constituents to do so could lead them to run afoul of the law and common sense.

Cooke has been an opponent of gun control measures passed in 2013, to the point of saying when he was sheriff of Weld County that he would not enforce those laws. He was within his legal right to do so.

Choosing not to enforce a law is one thing, but encouraging people to break the law is beneath the office of a state senator. [Pols emphasis] It would be as if a legislator in Nebraska who disagreed with marijuana prohibition encouraged Nebraskans to make their purchases in Colorado and return home with them, as some of Cooke’s opponents have pointed out.

It’s true, and the Reporter-Herald does make the point that Sen. Cooke has a constitutional right to tell his constituents it’s okay break the law–and even how to do it. But a constitutional right to say something does not make it a responsible thing to say, and a lawmaker can reasonably be held to a higher expectation where it concerns basic respect for the law. We would say the same of law enforcement officers like Colorado’s elected county sheriffs.

We’re pleased to see some accountability in the local press. However you may feel about Colorado’s gun laws, and we know there are strong opinions here, lawmakers encouraging citizens to break laws crosses a line.

Nothing But Crickets on Fundraising Report Deadline

UPDATE: Numbers now coming in (summarized by the Denver Post) , and it’s not looking good for “insider pick” Jon Keyser at all:

Graham’s campaign said Friday that he raised about $341,000 and enters the homestretch of the GOP primary with about $942,000 cash-on-hand — a warchest that was inflated by a $1 million loan from Graham, a political newcomer who once served as CSU’s athletic director…

Keyser, a former state lawmaker, will report about $300,000 raised in the first quarter with about $200,000 cash-on-hand. He loaned his campaign $100,000.

Without question this tiny haul for Keyser is very bad news for his campaign. A powerful Q1 for Keyser was the one only thing everyone was looking for to elevate him above the pack of Senate candidates, because he’s been a pretty poor candidate in every other aspect. Having to loan his campaign 100k just to get close to Jack Graham’s total won’t get that done. This underwhelming fundraising performance for Keyser is great news for Graham, Darryl Glenn, and Ryan Frazier, who can all spin it as a big victory over the GOP establishment.

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YodaCricketsToday is April 15th, which is normally the deadline for submitting your taxes; but because the 15th falls on a Friday, you have until Monday the 18th to finish your frantic search for deductibles.

Unfortunately for those Coloradans running for political office, there is no extension for submitting Q1 fundraising reports, which are due today. Congressional candidates should be submitting their reports electronically to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), but Senate campaigns often choose to mail their fundraising reports to gain a few extra days before they become publicly available.

We should know by early next week how the fundraising numbers stack up in various high-profile races in Colorado, and as we wrote in late March, Q1 numbers could absolutely make or break some of the campaigns for U.S. Senate. But the complete lack of information (thus far) on potential fundraising outcomes for the first quarter of 2016 send a rather obvious signal that none of the Republican Senate candidates are particularly confident about their numbers. 

It is fairly common for big statewide campaigns to announce fundraising numbers on their own timeframe, and in years past we would have heard some of these numbers by now as the campaigns announce them with a chest-beating press release. Frankly, we can’t remember a comparable time in which none of the challengers in a big race announced their quarterly results early. Friday afternoons are always good days to dump bad political news (particularly when they land on the eve of a potential snowstorm), so we’re definitely keeping an eye out for any announcements today that attempt to float under the radar.

For an idea of what to expect, here’s a quick rundown of the five GOP Senate candidates (you can go back to our earlier fundraising post for more details):

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