GOP Caucus Crackup? Anti-Priola “Coup Attempt” Fails

UPDATE: Here's a clip of Rep. Kevin Priola from yesterday's debate over Rep. Jim Wilson's amendment to House Bill 14-1292. The tension then brewing over Priola's opposition to this mostly GOP-supported amendment is clear in his voice:


GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports this afternoon:

House Republicans met for 30 minutes Thursday morning after Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, called a meeting with the goal of replacing Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, as the caucus whip.

Priola had alienated many of his fellow GOP colleagues a day earlier when he declined to support an amendment to the Student Success Act sponsored by Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, that most Republicans supported.

Priola hadn’t paid Wilson, one of the more popular members in the caucus, the courtesy of informing him ahead of time that he wouldn’t be supporting his amendment related to a transparency website to show how school districts spend public money.

The Denver Post's Anthony Cotton has a little more reaction from Republicans:

According to the Republicans, part of Priola’s job as Whip is to determine where the membership stands on the issues and help align support within the party–on Wednesday, party members say, Priola not only failed to do that, he argued on the floor in favor of Hamner’s amendment over Wilson’s.

When Hamner’s amendment was passed in a close vote, it led to Thursday’s move by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, to have Priola removed.

“We were shocked and disappointed that happened,” Holbert said. “He should have let us know his position and we could have made adjustments.”

In the end, despite the push from Rep. Chris Holbert to remove Rep. Kevin Priola from his Minority Whip position on the spot today, minority caucus chair Rep. Kathleen Conti scuttled the move by ruling the motion out of order–as Priola hadn't resigned, the position technically wasn't "vacant." This would clearly indicate that Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso  was not on board. Originally, as Stokols reports, an angry GOP caucus was prepared to oust Priola, as indicated by an initial vote against adjourning the meeting of the caucus. After Conti ruled the whole business out of order, a second vote to adjourn passed.

So what really happened today? For the best clue available, we turn to Rep. Frank McNulty:

The attempted coup, whatever vote precipitated Thursday’s meeting, has been a long time coming, according to several House Republicans who describe a widening gap between the caucus’s moderate and conservative wings.

“This isn’t about the amendment yesterday,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “This is about personalities.”

By all accounts, this has been a very frustrating legislative session for the conservative wing of the GOP House caucus. After the success of last year's recall elections against two sitting Senators and the resignation of a third, conservatives expected to vigorously oppose Democrats at every step, setting the stage for a clear election season distinction. Instead, as we've recounted in this space, the base GOP outrage they hoped to sustain into this year has fizzled, and the GOP caucus took heavy criticism for dead-end ideological flights of fancy like the abortion ban bill. This incident over a relatively obscure Democratic amendment supported by Priola–which apparently didn't even pass on clean party lines, with several Democrats voting against along with most of the GOP–appears to ripped the scab off of a much larger intra-caucus disagreement.

Judging from the unsatisfying end of today's blowup, we've probably not heard the last of it either.

Ryan Budget Barely Passes; Colo. GOP Delegation All Vote Yes

UPDATE: Mike Coffman's Democratic opponent Andrew Romanoff responds:

The Ryan budget does not reflect the values most Americans share. It would force middle-class families to pay more in taxes, students to pay more for college, and seniors to pay more for health care. The House I led balanced the budget every year. But we didn’t do so on the back of the middle class. Some estimates suggest the Ryan plan would cost the country as many as three million jobs. Among the other casualties: 170,000 at-risk children, who would lose access to Head Start.

The winners? Those in the highest income bracket, pharmaceutical manufacturers and corporations that offshore their employees.

If you’re serious about growing the economy, you don’t eliminate job training. You eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

If you’re serious about balancing the budget, you allow Medicare to negotiate deeper discounts in prescription-drug prices – instead of sticking seniors with higher bills.

If you’re serious about strengthening the middle class, you vote against the Ryan budget. 


Gardner Ryan Budget

Cory Gardner loves him some Paul Ryan

As the National Journal reports, the latest "Ryan Budget" has passed the House (barely). All of Colorado's Republican Members of Congress voted 'YES' on the budget — Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

The House on Thursday narrowly passed Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican budget carrying $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years without closing tax loopholes, as Ryan and other GOP leaders averted a potentially embarrassing defeat on the bill because of party defections.

The measure passed 219 to 205, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no. A swing of just seven Republican votes would have defeated the measure…

…Even some Republicans acknowledge passage of the Ryan budget is more an aspirational declaration of their party's priorities and vision of government spending.

But the vote Thursday showed that it is not necessarily a reflection of all House Republicans' vision. Some conservative defections were anticipated.

Having already flip-flopped on major issues such as Personhood, we're a little surprised to see both Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman sticking with Rep. Paul Ryan on a vote that will almost certainly hurt them with General Election voters.

Sad Truth About the Vanishing Middle in Congress

As our friends at "The Fix" report:

In the last three decades, the number of members in the middle in the House dropped from 344 (79 percent of the House) in 1982  to four (.9 percent of the House) in 2013.  As the slide suggests, redistricting — the decennial re-drawing of the nation's Congressional lines — plays a major role in that decline. The last two nationwide re-draws have largely been incumbent protection efforts, making Republican districts more Republican and Democratic districts more Democratic. Self-sorting — the growing tendency of people to live around like-minded people — is also a major factor in the disappearance of the ideological middle in the House…

Taken together, there are four — FOUR — members of the ideological middle out of the 535 members of the House and Senate combined. That comes out to approximately .7 percent of the entire Congress. In 1982, by way of comparison, more than 75 percent of Members of Congress were part of the ideological middle. So, in the last 30 years, the middle has lost 74 percent of its membership in Congress.

To underscore this point, check out the graphic below:





Thursday Open Thread

"Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids."

–John Steinbeck

Another Big, Empty “Change of Heart” From New Coffman®

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee:

Democrats assailed Coffman, a military veteran who serves on the House Armed Services committee, for his previous votes in opposition of repealing the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred gays from serving openly in the military. Indeed, Coffman is against same-sex marriage.

“In his time in Washington, Mike Coffman has clearly learned the art of manipulation. While he’s eager to take credit, he fails to back up his talk with action. Despite his claim to support employment non-discrimination legislation, Congressman Coffman is hardly a champion for gay and lesbian rights. Not only does he oppose marriage equality but he voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio.

Palacio added that it’s “yet another of Coffman’s attempts to wipe away his record of extremism and hide from Colorado’s voters.”



A press release a short while ago from leading LGBT advocacy group One Colorado announces that vulnerable GOP Rep. Mike Coffman is joining Democrats in support of a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), to protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination:

Today, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation that would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In response to this announcement, Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado – the leading statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Coloradans and their families – released the following statement:

“Protecting against discrimination in the workplace isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s common sense. Congressman Coffman’s announcement today in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act brings his views in alignment with a strong majority of Americans who believe that workers should be judged on their job performance alone, and nothing else. As a non-partisan organization, we welcome Congressman Coffman’s announcement and commend support for equality across the ideological spectrum. It’s time for Congress to move forward and pass ENDA now, to extend the same basic workplace protections we’ve already passed here in Colorado to all LGBT Americans.”

Rep. Coffman's record on rights for LGBT citizens, like immigration, abortion, and other issues he has recently fled to the center on, is very clear–and dismal from the point of view of any LGBT rights supporter. In 2011, Coffman joined with Rep. Michele Bachmann and other social-issue Republicans to call for a ban on military facilities being used for gay marriages. Coffman voted against ending the military's reviled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and supported the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Coffman even served as Texas Gov. Rick Perry's state campaign chair while Perry ran widely criticized ads disparaging the fact that "gays can serve openly in the military."

So what gives? For one thing, says Politico, the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign is courting House Republicans in an attempt to line up support for that body possibly taking up ENDA. But the chances of that remain very, very remote according to everyone we've talked to, most likely ending up as a message opportunity about support growing for the legislation–which we expect will continue to grow, even in the probable event that John Boehner's House never takes up ENDA at all this election year.

That Coffman is one of the first Republicans coming out in support of ENDA is no surprise, and it highlights another step in his political evolution. The Colorado Republican has reversed positions on immigration and abortion in recent months as he tries to fend off an challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s competitive sixth district.

“I see this legislation as the workplace equivalent of the Golden Rule — do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,” Coffman said in a statement to POLITICO. “In the workplace, in 2014, we should judge employees the way we would want to be judged — based on our qualifications, our contributions and by our character, period.”

For Coffman, much like immigration, ENDA becomes another opportunity for reinvention without consequence–since ENDA is very unlikely to come up for a vote in the House, Coffman can say whatever he wants. Short of demanding House leadership bring the bill up for a vote, Coffman will never have to put his record where his mouth is, all the while reaping the positive press from his untested "change of heart."

Does this mean Democrats should be angry with gay rights activists for giving Coffman an opening to meaninglessly pander? Certainly not–any more than Dems should be with immigration rights supporters about Coffman's pandering to them. If your goal is issue progress, you welcome support wherever you can get it.

But it needs to be tempered by reality–and Coffman's anti-gay record raises more questions than this answers.

Another Big Haul For Romanoff: $600,000 in Q1

Andrew Romanoff.

Andrew Romanoff.

A press release from Democratic CD-6 candidate Andrew Romanoff moments ago:

Andrew Romanoff, candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, raised $603,520 in the first quarter of 2014, bringing his total contributions to more than $2.6 million. Romanoff ended the quarter with nearly $2.1 million in cash on hand.

Romanoff recorded his strongest fundraising period to date. FEC reports indicate he has now outpaced every other House challenger in Colorado history.

“Coloradans want to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class,” Romanoff said. “That means creating clean-energy jobs, making college more affordable, ensuring equal pay for equal work – exactly the kind of priorities I’ll pursue in Congress.”

Romanoff does not accept contributions from special-interest groups. His support reflects a broad cross-section of Coloradans:

The campaign has received contributions from 10,043 supporters to date, including 4,020 donors in the first quarter of 2014.
More than 91 percent of the campaign’s first-quarter donors live in Colorado.
More than 84 percent of the campaign’s first-quarter contributions were $100 or less.
The campaign has raised $2,607,982 to date and ended the first quarter with $2,098,619 on hand.

We haven't heard from GOP incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, widely known as a fundraising powerhouse, but Romanoff beat Coffman in the final two quarters last year–a momentum-changing development all by itself that this latest strong performance will only reinforce. It's worth restating how Romanoff's strong fundraising comes despite self-imposed handicaps we ourselves have criticized, and is even more impressive as a result.

We'll update when we hear from Coffman, who won't do himself any favors by coming in second again.

The Tanc Makes The Ballot

UPDATE: 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman:

Assuming Beauprez' petition is also valid, a maximum of five possible candidates can appear on the June 24 primary ballot.

Up to three candidates can gain ballot access at the state GOP assembly on Saturday by winning the support of 30 percent or more of the delegates there.

Tancredo tells 9NEWS he will not seek delegates at the Assembly now that he has gained access to the ballot. Beauprez has said he will not attempt to win delegates either.



The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels makes it official:

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo has made the ballot for governor, according to the secretary of state’s office.

In order to petition onto the ballot, Tancredo’s campaign had to collect 1,500 signatures from registered Republicans in each of the state’s seven congressional districts. The petitions were due March 31. Tanacredo on March 27 was the first governor’s candidate to to turn in his signatures.

With Tom Tancredo safely on the ballot, it will be interesting to see what becomes of any assembly delegates who may have pledged to him–Tancredo did receive at least some amount of support at the GOP caucuses, after all, though we can't say how much since many precincts did not conduct preference polls. A poll of our own follows.


Will 2014 Be Rep. Doug Lamborn’s Final Year in Congress?

Doug Lamborn (R).

Doug Lamborn (R).

As Megan Schrader of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Retired Gen. Irv Halter, Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District, has released his latest campaign figures ahead of the deadline, and the show that he's brought in just over $165,000 in the first quarter of 2014…

[Campaign Manager Ethan] Susseles said – to date – the campaign has raised almost three-times more than any of Lamborn's other general election challengers. Halter has raised a total of almost $341,000.

Halter will have $217,432 cash on hand when the official campaign finance report is filed with the Federal Election Commission on April 15, Susseles said.

Fundraising reports in the Republican-dominated CD-5 are starting to become hotly-anticipated, particularly with Republican Bentley Rayburn now challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn for the GOP nomination. Lamborn ended 2013 with just slightly more cash-on-hand than Democrat Irv Halter, but he had to scramble to get there when you consider that his campaign had a measly $28,000 in the bank after Q2 (2013).

But why might Lamborn lose in 2014 when he has fought off challenges before? It's simple: there's too many hurdles to overcome this year.

Retired military officers have eye on CO-5

Irv Halter (D-left) and Bentley Rayburn (R-right).

Lamborn has always had to fight off challenges since he was first elected in a six-way Republican Primary in 2006, but this year he faces perhaps the greatest threat to his re-election efforts. The Republican-led Congress is the most-disliked institution in the history of polling, and Lamborn has certainly earned his place in the lowest tier of the lowest tier when it comes to effectiveness. Lamborn is also hampered by being absolutely terrible at raising money, and now he's going to have to work extra hard to bring cash in the door with an unexpected June Primary just around the corner (assuming Rayburn makes threshold at the CD-5 Republican assembly). 

There's absolutely no arguing that CD-5 is a solid Republican district that the GOP should never lose (at least until the next redistricting in 2021). If a Democrat were to win in a General Election, the seat would almost certainly fall back into Republican hands in 2016. But we think there is a real chance that Lamborn could lose his seat in 2014. Lamborn has been more dysfunctional than usual in the last 12 months, and his support for shutting down the government last fall will definitely hurt him at the polls (in both June and November). With such a large military presence, no Congressional district in Colorado relies as much on the federal government for employment — and negative ads hitting Lamborn for siding with Party over District will be devastating.

Lamborn has dealt with Rayburn as a Primary foe in both 2006 and 2008, but there were always other candidates to split voters. This year Rayburn will face Lamborn mano-a-mano, and that scares Lamborn for two reasons: (1) Lamborn would probably have lost a 2008 Primary if either Rayburn or Jeff Crank had dropped out of the running, so there is a precedent for concern, and (2) the very fact that Rayburn could enter the race just two weeks before the CD-5 assembly is evidence of how little love there is for Lamborn among even Republican caucus-goers. In any other Congressional district in Colorado, it would be ludicrous to think that someone could pose a serious challenge to an incumbent by entering the field so late in the game; that this is even possible in CD-5 speaks volumes about Lamborn's approval in the district.


Banning Red Light Cameras, Anyone?


As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports, a bill to prohibit red light cameras in Colorado is gaining some bipartisan momentum:

A proposal introduced in the Senate late last week would bar cities and counties from using automated vehicle-identification systems that pinpoint drivers committing traffic infractions.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, has introduced similar legislation the past two years, though unlike in previous sessions, he has strong support this go-round from House and Senate Democratic leadership.

"These cameras just create revenue for cities and don't actually increase public safety at our intersections," said Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, the bill's prime House sponsor. "I think we should be focused on making people safe, not raising money." [Pols emphasis]

As Lee reports, local governments are raking in millions in fines from relatively low-overhead automatic camera enforcement at intersections. Not surprisingly, the Colorado Municipal League doesn't like this bill one bit–though they cite the public safety considerations, not the revenue. At the end of the day, money talks: and the badly needed revenue these cameras provide may prove reason enough to keep them with no further debate needed.

What say you, Polsters? Red-light liberty, public safety, or cash?

New Koch Ad, Same Tired Obamacare Spin

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Pro-Obamacare group Protect Your Care responds:

"Coloradans won’t be fooled by these deceptive ads. Obamacare opponents like the Koch Brothers and their allies have no plan to help Coloradans get health care, so they keep repeating the same lies that have been debunked over and over," said Laura Chapin, Colorado state director of the pro-Affordable Care Act group Protect Your Care. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Coloradans with pre-existing conditions now have health insurance. Mental health care is covered, which is critical in a state like ours where suicide is the leading cause of death for young people.  Colorado women can get mammograms and birth control with little or no out of pocket costs.

Affordable Care Act opponents like the Koch Brothers and their allies have no alternative for the 277,000 Coloradans and 7 million Americans who have signed up for health insurance, which is 7 million more people than they care about. And running ads can’t cover up that fact.”


The Washington Post reports on a new ad from another arm of the Koch brothers family of conservative attack groups, now running in Colorado against Sen. Mark Udall on a reported $650,000 buy:

A Virginia-based nonprofit that served as the main funding arm of a political network backed by the conservative Koch brothers in 2012 is running attack ads directly for the first time, launching television commercials Tuesday against two Democratic Senatorial candidates.

The spots by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce attempt to link campaign donations from the health care industry to Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, suggesting they gave “special favors” to insurance companies by backing Obamacare.

“The hypocrisy is shocking,” says a female narrator in the Udall ad…

In this year’s midterms, Freedom Partners is bringing in-house many of the functions it financed through other groups in the last campaign. The organization’s elevated role speaks to how the Kochs are exerting more control over the political activity they fund, a strategy that provides more accountability to fellow conservative donors who want to know how their money is being spent.

The Sunlight Foundation's Jacob Fenton adds a little more detail about this group at the Colorado Independent.

For an organization that supposedly is more directly accountable to the Koch brothers than others, we can't say the content of this ad is any more defensible than other anti-Obamacare ads that have been exposed as factually misleading. The vague allegation that Sen. Udall "worked with health insurance companies to pass Obamacare" doesn't fit with the usual anti-Obamacare attacks, but seems even more ripe for blowback. According to Open Secrets, Udall's opponent Cory Gardner has taken piles of money from health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and other health industry sources. But here's another question: why would health insurance companies be donating to Udall if Obamacare is destroying the health care system? It seems contradictory to the whole case against Obamacare Republicans are trying to make.

The ad concludes with a reference, once again, to the supposed "335,000 Coloradans facing health insurance cancellations," a talking point that has been debunked so many times it's…well, not surprising to see it again in a new ad, but for anybody who knows the facts, it's more than a little frustrating. At this point, everyone with more than a casual involvement in this debate knows that statistic is grossly misleading. There's no plausible way to claim ignorance when this has been so exhaustively explored and repudiated.

But here's another $650,000 invested in that bogus message nonetheless.

Local Control Initiative TV Spot Running in Denver

A brief release from RBI Strategies yesterday:

Coloradans for Local Control today aired their first cable TV ad. The ad focuses on the proximity of fracking to homes and playgrounds, and the need for local control.

Fracking is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years spreading into the residential communities located on top of the Niobrara. Local governments must be able to listen and respond appropriately to community concerns and balance industrial activities with residents' quality of life, health, property values and long-term economic vitality.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

The spot focuses on the proximity of oil and gas wells to schools and homes and asks viewers: “Would you want to live here? Want your kids to play here?

“Right now, you and your neighbors can’t stop it,” the female narrator continues. “With local control of oil and gas drilling, you have the tools to protect your neighborhood.”

As FOX31 Denver first reported last month, Congressman Jared Polis, D-Boulder, is putting his considerable wealth behind the campaign, which is likely to make life more complicated for two of his fellow Democrats on the ballot this fall…

As the likelihood of a ballot measure allowing local communities to regulate industrial land uses including oil and gas drilling within their boundaries increases, we're seeing previews of the likely opposition approach: driving a wedge between conservationist Democrats and top-line Democratic candidates, and the false conflation of a local control measure with an "all-out ban" on fracking statewide. Addressing the former, we would argue that Gov. John Hickenlooper is much more compromised on energy than Sen. Mark Udall, yet even Hickenlooper will be seen as sufficiently preferable–on a wide range of issues–to whoever wins the GOP gubernatorial primary to turn out the Democratic vote just fine. As for Udall, he can demonstrate a stark contrast with his opponent on energy issues favorable to conservationists, and is perfectly safe staying neutral on this "state issue" if he chooses.

The second attack on this initiative is frankly much more dangerous, and as we've discussed in this space, deceptively conflating a local control initiative with an unworkable statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing in the public's mind is becoming an everyday occurrence. It's easy to understand why: a total statewide ban on fracking won't pass. Colorado is an energy producing state, and that's not going to change. This measure is about local communities, at their option, protecting themselves. Just like a number of Front Range residential cities have already done.

If the voters can be made to understand what the initiative actually does, it will pass.

Governor’s Office Releases Transcripts of Oddly-Biased Ethics Investigation

We wrote last summer and fall about the political tactic of using independent ethics investigations as campaign fodder — regardless of whether the investigation has any merit whatsoever. As Fox 31's Eli Stokols reports today, someone needs to investigate the ethics of the investigator hired by the Independent Ethics Commission (got that?):

Bill McBean

Bill McBean

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office released an outside report Monday investigating whether he violated the state’s ethics law — a report that isn’t being accepted by the Colorado Ethics Commission because of questions about the investigator’s fairness.

Compass Colorado, a conservative group charged with targeting Hickenlooper, a Democrat who faces reelection this fall, filed a complaint last year alleging that the governor violated the gift-ban provision of Amendment 41 by allowing the Democratic Governors Association to pick up his costs for a conference last summer in Aspen.

In March, the Ethics Commission hired Acclaim Investigations to find out what happened at the Aspen conference last July, where participants — mostly oil and gas industry executives — donated at least $10,000 to take part in discussions and private dinners with Hickenlooper and a few other governors, according to the report released Monday.

Bill McBean, an investigator employed by Acclaim and contracted by the commission to investigate, appears to have mis-characterized Hickenlooper’s own answers when interviewing his staffers, possibly in an effort to trip them up with a number of leading questions.

You really should read the entire story to see the full extent of the absurdity from this "investigation" by Bill McBean. The Governor's office wisely released a bunch of documents today showing transcripts of interviews with McBean, and they are pretty ridiculous. On multiple occasions, McBean straight-out tells his interview subjects that he thinks the Democratic Governor's Association Summit was a "pay-to-play" event; McBean is supposed to be an "independent" investigator, but it's hard to see anything but bias when he makes direct accusations of misconduct during the investigation process.

The Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) is scheduled to meet on April 14th to make a decision on the complaint filed against Hickenlooper. But even if the IEC rules that Hick did nothing wrong, McBean's biased words will almost certainly show up in negative ads against the Governor this fall, and that's wrong — particularly when Republicans such as Attorney General John Suthers have already publicly stated that the investigation is ridiculous.

Full press release from the Governor's office after the jump.