9NEWS Truth Test Praises Udall’s First TV Spot

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman takes a look at the new ad from Sen. Mark Udall's campaign, hitting GOP opponent Cory Gardner on his longstanding support for banning abortion and the "Personhood" initiatives–and unlike his recent Truth Test of an Americans for Prosperity ad falsely attacking Udall, Rittiman finds Udall's ad to be largely truthful:

CLAIM: "Gardner sponsored a bill to make abortion a felony."

VERDICT: True.

In 2007, as a member of the state House of Representatives, Gardner was listed as a sponsor of SB-147.

The bill would have made it " a class 3 felony to perform an abortion," so the felony charge would have applied to abortion providers, not women who underwent abortions.

CLAIM: The bill Gardner supported would make abortion a felony in "cases of rape and incest."

VERDICT: True.

SB-147 did contain an exception to save the life of the mother. Aside from that, the bill would have outlawed abortion with no other exceptions…

As for the hardest-hitting claim in Udall's ad, that Gardner "championed an 8-year-crusade to outlaw (common forms of) birth control," referring to the "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives? This is where Rittiman gives Gardner a little more leeway:

VERDICT: Debatable.

Cory Gardner supported Personhood campaigns in Colorado, but this year he changed his mind. [Pols emphasis]

His campaign says Gardner wanted to ban abortion, not birth control, pointing out that the above-mentioned 2007 bill did include language to protect contraceptives.

The Udall campaign counters that it is dishonest for Gardner to claim he didn't know the Personhood questions could affect birth control, because supporters said that it would.

However, the Udall campaign was unable to provide evidence of Gardner on record directly saying he opposes birth control. [Pols emphasis]

We understand why Rittiman is making this distinction, but we also can see why others plausibly would not be so charitable to Gardner as he flip-flops on this issue. It was indeed common knowledge as far back as 2008 that the "Personhood" abortion bans would outlaw certain forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control–the Denver Post argued against Amendment 48 in 2008 for exactly this reason, and proponents who most certainly do oppose such forms of birth control campaigned on it. And while Udall might not have Gardner outright saying he wants to ban birth control, Gardner is on the record with his proud support for Personhood in 2010–years after these facts were common knowledge.

Bottom line: the worst Udall got was a single "debatable" rating for this ad, on what we'd say is still a very defensible claim. The rest of the ad is true. When you compare that to the unflinchingly mendacious (and now backfiring) ads from Udall's opponents…well, there's really no comparison, is there? Next time you hear someone complaining about those endless, grating political ads, maybe mention how it's considerably worse to endure them when they're not true. And then show them this Truth Test.

Media omission: Gessler says only he has the “guts” to fight rampant corruption in CO government

(Uh-huh – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

During a radio interview Saturday, Secretary of State Scott Gessler framed his gubernatorial campaign as a battle to save Colorado from the rot of corruption, saying our "state government is corrupt," and he's the only candidate who's had "the guts to stand up and say, 'No more.'"

"I’ve had the guts to stand up and say, 'I’m not going to tolerate this; I’m going to fight back,'" Gessler told KNUS radio-host Jimmy Sengenberger, citing his clashes with Democrats over his budget and ethics issues. "And no one else wants to because they’re afraid. They’re afraid that if a Republican gets criticized they can no longer win elections. And let me ask you, Jimmy, how has that worked out for us over the last ten years?"

"We are a party that needs to be bold," replied Sengenberger, whose show airs Saturdays 5 – 8 p.m. on KNUS. "I agree with you there–"

"I am the only guy who’s being bold on this stuff and what happens?" Gessler continued. "We have these fearful, weak-kneed, timid Republicans who are more interested in scoring political points against me than standing up for principle and saying, 'You know what? We have corruption in this state.'"

"Republicans need to stand up and understand that we have a corrupt state government. They shouldn’t buy into the corruption," he said.

During the interview, Gessler criticized members of the Independent Ethics Commission and called it "corrupt."

In June, the Independent Ethics Commission ruled that Gessler violated the public trust by using public money to attend a Republican political event. On the radio, Gessler was incensed by this decision as well as the Commission's dismissal last month of a complaint against Gov. John Hickenlooper

Gessler said at one point, referring to the Commission, "Let me tell you, Jimmy, this is a corrupt, corrupt government. And I will say ‘corrupt’ again."

Comparing the corruption he says he saw as a young man in Bosnia and Chicago to what he sees in Colorado today, Gessler said, "Where people no longer respect the law, we lose the foundation of our western civilization here. And we’re facing that in Colorado."

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Indep Institute blogger acknowledges health-insurance cancellations didn’t leave people bereft of health insurance

With more and more ads implying that Coloradans lost their insurance under Obamacare, and senatorial candidate Cory Gardner saying directly that “335,000 Coloradans…lost their health insurance” thanks to Obamacare, it’s worth a trip to the archive to see if conservative bloggers agree with fact checkers, like 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman, who noted that getting an insurance-cancellation notice due to Obamacare was “not the same thing as losing insurance.”

So I extend a good-on-ya to Todd Shepherd, who blogs for the conservative Independence Institute. Shepherd reported back in January:

Shepherd: Without question, 249,000 health care policy cancellations did not mean 249,000 Coloradans were left completely bereft of insurance coverage.

I’d prefer Shepherd use a contextual statement highlighting the renewals and new-and-improved insurance options available under Obamacare, but, still, Shepherd’s formulation is something closer to the truth than the simple words “lost” or “cancelled.”

Shepherd did not respond favorably to phone and email requests for comment.

Anti-Obamacare Strategy Leaving Republicans in the Cold

Republicans out in the cold on Obamacare

D’oh!

Longtime Colorado Pols reader Republican 36 posted a fascinating diary last night about Republican Rep. Mike Coffman raising money with a different message on Obamacare. You can read the entire diary here, but here's the key excerpt:

Today I received a letter soliciting a campaign contribution from Coffman that contained a "confidential memo from Tyler Sandberg, his campaign manager, deriding Obamacare and making the usual false claims that "350,000" (everyone else says its 335,000) Coloradans had their health insurance canceled (forgetting to mention 92% received renewal notices in the same envelope with the cancelation of last year's policy) and claiming Obamacare "will be a significant issue this election," and claiming "It is a very real issue causing very real harm to Colorado families." In other words, at least in Mr. Sandberg's opinion, he lines up with the "Old Coffman" and wants Obamacare repealed.

However, Coffman's cover letter takes an altogether different position on Obamacare. In his fear based plea for contributions, he tees off on Nancy Pelosi and makes the following statement:

coffmanletter

This is a subtle message from Mike Coffman's campaign that contains a startling reality: The incumbent Republican in perhaps the most competitive Congressional seat in America is no longer soliciting support based on a message of "repeal Obamacare." This is not a message that Coffman's campaign was likely to just toss out there without having numbers to back it up, which makes it very likely that Republicans are seeing polling numbers indicating that voters are getting tired of the anti-Obamacare message and looking for candidates to talk about how to "amend" or "reform" the law instead.

There's plenty of reason to believe that Coffman's move to an "amend and reform" message is not just a flash in the pan. As our friends at "The Fix" noted on Monday, President Obama is encouraging Democratic candidates to run with an overt pro-Obamacare message:

President Obama announced last week that more than eight million people had signed up for insurance via the federal marketplace, a surge of last-minute activity that not even the most optimistic administration allies could have hoped for. And, then there was the news from the Congressional Budget Office that the health-care law will cost $100 billion less than projected over the next decade.

Amid a (rare) victory lap on the law, Obama was asked whether the news of the past week meant Democratic candidates should run on the law this fall rather than away from it. His answer?  "I think Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact….we're helping because of something we did."

Late last month, after a series of anti-Obamacare ads were being debunked across the country, the Washington Post took note of what it called "The incredible shrinking Obamacare sob story." The problems with an anti-Obamacare message have continued here in our state; as Colorado Pols was first to report yesterday, the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity group is apparently having difficulty finding a "real" person who is a "victim" of Obamacare.

All of this is very bad news for Republican candidates in Colorado who were hoping to ride an anti-Obamacare message to victory in November. Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner, for one, is basing his entire campaign on trying to tie Obamacare to Sen. Mark Udall. If this message isn't working, Gardner won't be the only Republican looking for a new job.

Conservative talk-show hosts frustrated that Coffman isn’t talking to them

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Journalists should let us know more often when politicians are ducking them. Or when they only talk through spokespeople.

When a week or two goes by, and a public official refuses to talk, reporters should tweet it, if nothing else.

On March 28, KNUS radio's Steve Kelley and co-host Bill Rogan chose to talk openly about their difficulties landing Rep. Mike Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner.

Kelley: Congressman Coffman and Gardner are not talking, apparently.

Rogan: Ducking us. And I don’t like that.

Kelley: Well, that’s what it feels like at this point. So we’ll give them one more day, and then look, the clubs are coming out.

Rogan: They’ll come on Saturday, and we’ll do a special edition of Kelley and Company, just to accommodate Coffman and Gardner.

Kelley: See I don’t know.

Rogan: I’m not too happy with these two.

Kelley: At this point, I’m not either. We can say that. It’s a free country.

Strongly anti abortion, Kelley told me last week he'd been trying to reach both politicians since they flipped on personhood.

Gardner finally appeared on Kelley's conservative talk show, "Kelley and Company," last week. It turned out that Gardner had changed cell phones, and he shuffled press contacts, so it was all a misunderstanding, Kelley said on air.

Coffman, however, is still not returning calls from Kelley's producer, Kelley said, noting that Rep. Diana DeGette and Sen. Mark Udall don't return his calls either.

But Coffman's lack of response surprises Kelley, who sees his conservative KNUS show as a friendly audience for Coffman, even if he asks a challenging question on occasion, Kelley told me.

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Coffman flip-flops on Obamacare

(Wow – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

As everyone knows, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman is locked in a very competitive race with former Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff. Coffman's ultra conservative record includes scores of votes to repeal and defund Obamacare. In other words he wants to destroy the President's signature policy accomplishment. As late as March 26, 2014, less than a month ago, Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post reported that Coffman had joined U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in demanding Speaker Romanoff join them in calling for the repeal of Obamacare.

A lot has happened in the past twenty-seven days. Over eight (8) million people have found health insurance on the state and federal exchanges thanks to Obamacare. Millions of uninsured people now have basic health care under Medicaid and healthcare costs are rising at the slowest rate in over fifty (50) years and, as fr those skyrocketing premiums predicted by the hard right – it isn't happening. Where does that leave Mike Coffman and his insistence on repealing Obamacare because in his opinion it is a disaster? he facts and public opinion are now running against him and as usual he has now flip-flopped on the issue less than a month after he demanded that his opponent call for the repeal of Obamacare.

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Question for Gardner: how should a raped woman get an abortion, if not from a doctor?

Eli Stokols reports that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner is defending his co-sponsorship of a 2007 bill that would have banned doctors from performing an abortion for rape and incest.

Stokols reports:

When he was a state lawmaker, Gardner signed onto Senate Bill 143 as a co-sponsor — he did not carry the bill himself, his campaign points out.

The measure would have outlawed all abortions with the exception of cases that is “designed to protect the death of a pregnant mother, if the physician makes reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child in a manner consistent with conventional medical practice.”

Gardner’s campaign pushes back: “the bill only prohibited the performing of an abortion (with an exception for life of the mother). It specifically exempted women from prosecution: ‘A pregnant mother upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted shall not be guilty of violating this section’.”

Stokols did not tell us how Gardner thinks a raped woman should get an abortion, if not from a doctor?

Garnder’s push back is correct. His bill did not make it a felony for women to get back-alley abortions. But a doctor would face felony charges.

So Stokols or another reporter should find out where Gardner thinks a raped woman should get an abortion–and from whom?

Gardner assures radio host that his “pro-life” record “will always be on my record”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

On conservative KNUS radio last week, GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner assured listeners that he remains "pro-life" even though he recently un-endorsed the personhood amendment, which would ban abortion in Colorado.

"I remain a pro-life legislator who believes that my record actually speaks for itself while I’ve been in Congress," Gardner told KNUS radio host Steve Kelley.

If his record speaks for itself, does Gardner stand behind it? Because left out of the radio conversation was the annoying fact that Gardner's legislative record in Congress includes his endorsement of federal personhood legislation, which he has yet to un-endorse. His name is still right there, having joined as a co-sponsor in July of last year.

Gardner also told Kelley:

"If you look at my record, it is a pro-life record. And that will always be on my record, and continue to be a part of it. So, I think that that is something that we have not been trying to turn away from." [Bigmedia emphasis]

Gardner's "pro-life" record, which (in case you missed it) he says "will always be on my record," also includes co-sponsorship of bills in Congress aiming to de-fund Planned Parenthood and to re-define "rape" to include only the "forcible" kind. (Gardner later said his effort to redefine rape was a misunderstanding.)

His "always-on-my-record" record at the state legislature includes sponsorship of legislation banning all abortion, even for rape and incest, as well as other anti-abortion bills, like one mandating ultrasounds prior to abortion. These have yet to be un-endorsed.

Gardner's response to Kelley, touting his anti-abortion credentials to receptive ears, sounds like Gardner's statement at a Tea Party forum in 2009, when he was running for Congress for the first time.

Gardner was asked if he'd carry legislation banning abortion, and he replied, "Yes. And I have a legislative background to back it up."

Gardner later told journalists he would not carry anti-abortion legislation in Congress. Then he did it.

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Laura Boggs Running for State Board of Education

Laura Boggs

Laura Boggs

We've been documenting in this space the right-wing takeover of the Jefferson County School Board, a change that took place last November that was driven in part by onetime Jeffco School Board Member Laura Boggs. The far-right Boggs is now trying to move her voucher-loving education agenda to the state level, challenging incumbent Democrat Jane Goff for a spot on the State Board of Education in CD-7.

As Goff announced Monday in an email to supporters (full text after the jump):

This is the same former Jeffco school board member who warned that she would “tear this county apart.” This is the same former Jeffco school board member who threatened to derail a $32.8 million federal grant to support teacher leadership and development initiatives in the district. This is the same person who, during her single term on the Jeffco board, was censured twice for behavior unbefitting her position. (News coverage here and here.)  

While we are not surprised to see a pro-voucher, right-wing candidate emerge for State School Board, we are a little perplexed that it is Boggs herself. Conservative school board victories in Jefferson County were won in a below-the-radar fashion last fall, but Boggs will not slip by unnoticed; she is not so much a lightning rod for criticism as she is a full-on storm cloud. The presence of Boggs on the November ballot will likely do more to engage Jefferson County parents against Republicans.

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Those Wacky GOP Candidates – Where Are They Now?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado's Republican party has put up some rather entertaining candidates for the state legislature this year, and I just had to post some updates on them.

Nate Marshall posted an official withdrawal from the HD23 race on April 9, after being exposed as an active white supremacist. However, his campaign committee is still active. Is he hoping the outrage will die down? Marshall's latest post on his Facebook page links to an article positing that liberals are "purging Christians". Huh?

Right now, it appears that  Max Tyler won't have an opponent in HD23, as the committee of the other GOP candidate, Christopher Hadsall, is inactive.

 

(more…)

Tell Cory Gardner to Disclose “Good Life” Special Interest Ties

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

For a high-resolution photo, click here.

Today, ProgressNow Colorado brought a yacht to the Colorado Capitol, and called on Congressman Cory Gardner to disclose whether fellow passengers of the Good Life, a yacht connected to Gardner and a controversial 2012 Florida fundraising junket, have donated to Gardner’s U.S. Senate campaign.

"We call on Cory Gardner to stopping conning Colorado and immediately disclose the names of the lobbyists from his luxury junket aboard the ‘Good Life’," demanded ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Cory Gardner claims to be in Washington fighting for the people of Colorado, but his record tells a different story. Gardner has quickly become a creature of the Washington, D.C. insider crowd, taking advantage of every perk offered to him by corporate lobbyists and out-of-state special interests.”

In March of 2012, a CBS News investigative report disclosed a closed-door fundraiser held on behalf of Gardner and several other hand-picked Republican members of Congress. Special interest donors reportedly gave tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for access to Gardner and other members of Congress. Gardner even served as a “guest bartender” at a “happy hour” that required a $10,000 donation just to get in.

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Archbishop says atheists don’t respect “goodness of the human person”

(That's pretty broad, don't you think? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a recent radio interview, Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila compared Colorado's "godlessness" to Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia and said it portends a government that will "eventually fall."

Citing the growing number of atheists and agnostics here, Aquila also said godlessness in Colorado engenders a "lack of respect for the goodness of the human person."

Soon after making this bigoted comment against atheists like me, Aquila became the face of opposition to a bill, killed last week, that would have barred state and local governments from interfering with reproductive healthcare decisions.

An April 15 rally, led by Aquila, galvanized opposition to the bill and got saturation local media coverage.

Reporters cited a letter, signed by Aquila, which called on Catholics to "pray for the conversion of the heart and mind of those who support such irrational, unscientific, and a denial of conscience legislation."

Fair enough. His opinion. But if Aquila is going to jump up and down about science, journalists should cover Aquila's unscientific views, including his anger at the media for failing to cover Satan, who is "real."

KNUS' Dan Caplis asked Aquila on April 3 what's surprised him here in Denver, since he took over as Denver Archbishop in 2012.

Aquila responded that the "godlessness that is present here [in Colorado]" has been a "very real challenge."

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Colorado PERA’s Recent Use of Political Influence to Break Pension Contracts.

Fellow ColoradoPols readers, this morning, a post relating to the use of political influence by supporters of the 2010 Colorado PERA pension contract breach appeared on ColoradoPols.com.  The post suggests that proponents of the pension contract breach might attempt to politically influence the Colorado Supreme Court prior to the court's consideration of claims in the PERA pension lawsuit, Justus v. State.  In approximately six weeks, the Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments relating to the 2010 Colorado PERA pension contract breach.

(For readers new to this topic, in 2010, the Colorado Legislature enacted a bill, SB10-001, that retroactively eliminated Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits for which current PERA retirees had exchanged decades of labor and pension contributions.  The idea that the Colorado Legislature would grant private sector insurance companies similar authority to ignore contracted COLA benefits on annuities they have sold is of course, absurd.)

Given that our very identity as Coloradans rests on the rule of law in our state, the integrity of our Colorado courts, and the sanctity of our Colorado Constitution, I respectfully request that ColoradoPols.com promote my response below.

Here is the April 20, 2014 post on ColoradPols.com:

"The SecurePera.com (proponents of the PERA pension contract breach bill, SB10-001) has sent out a mass email announcing a teleconference next month, and the retiree lawsuit is one of the topics.  I suspect they'll encourage SB10-001 supporters to make their presence felt during the oral argument phase of the lawsuit on June 4 (during oral arguments before the Colorado Supreme Court.)

The spectacle of seeing some misguided (or intimidated) retirees supporting the breach of their own pension contracts is surely a dream come true to such uber right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers, and John Arnold, infamous for his role in the massive Enron fraud.

It wouldn't surprise me if a certain retired school principal, who is also both a SecurePera supporter and PERA ambassador, tries to rally a contingent of SB10-001 supporters.  This goes along with my supposition that a handful of high-end retirees (such as school principals) with 30 plus years of service make up the bulk of the retired SB10-1 supporters.  A 2% annual increase on a $100K plus benefit works for them."

Here is my response to the April 20, 2014 ColoradoPols post:

First, we do not know with certainty that the supporters of the 2010 PERA contract breach will attempt, or have actually contemplated, any sort of political demonstration (or political presence) during Colorado Supreme Court oral arguments in the case Justus v. State on June 4, 2014.

However, the proponents of the Colorado PERA pension contract breach did indeed use political maneuvering, and the force of purchased lobbying influence, to achieve their desired outcome before the Colorado General Assembly in 2010.  What arrogance they had in 2009/2010 to assume that the property of others can be casually taken in Colorado, that one board of Colorado state government is somehow exempt from the strictures of the Colorado Constitution, that government debts can legally be shifted onto elderly pensioners.

Colorado PERA pension administrators, and Colorado PERA Board members CAN indeed buy lobbying muscle at the General Assembly with our PERA trust fund dollars.  But, Colorado PERA administrators and Board members CANNOT buy influence at the Colorado Supreme Court.

Perhaps the group of PERA contract breach advocates will try to "make their presence felt" in the Colorado Supreme Court Chambers, but such a step would be misguided.

Colorado PERA's Board and their hired lobbyists used politics to push the COLA-taking bill, SB10-001 through the legislative process in 2010.  Ultimately, 27 lobbyists reported positions in support of SB10-001 to the Colorado Secretary of State.

From Chalkbeat.org in 2009:

"PERA is 'obviously gearing up for some heavy-duty lobbying,' one observer noted.  The agency has hired two lobbyists from the firm Colorado Communique, Collon Kennedy and Steve Adams, former president of the Colorado AFL-CIO.

The pension system also has hired Mary Alice Mandarich, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who formerly was chief of staff for Senate Democrats and who worked on campaigns for former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, former Gov. Roy Romer and gubernatorial candidate Gail Schoettler.

Coalition members have their own lobbyists, and the well-staffed higher education lobby is sure to be involved in this issue as well."

http://co.chalkbeat.org/2009/10/22/pera-woes-loom-large-for-education/

But, the Colorado PERA retiree COLA lawsuit, Justus v. State, does not address a political question.  It addresses a legal question.  Can Colorado public pension contracts be abrogated in order to minimize taxation in the state with the lowest per capita state taxation in the nation?  The Colorado Supreme Court is confronted by a legal question.  Can the court ignore our foundational document to achieve a desired political outcome?

The Colorado Court of Appeals has found that the Colorado Constitution is beyond the reach of purchased lobbying muscle at the Colorado Legislature.  I sincerely hope that all Colorado courts will continue to defend the Colorado Constitution and public pension contractual rights.

I believe that the Colorado Supreme Court must proceed with extreme caution to prevent all political considerations from infecting litigation of the case, Justus v. State.

I recognize that one current (and in my view, quite talented) member of the Colorado Supreme Court has previously represented Colorado PERA for the Colorado Attorney General's Office (I expect that she will not participate in this case.)

I recognize that another current Colorado Supreme Court justice did not participate in the court's earlier action in this case.

I recognize that a third (newly appointed) member of the Colorado Supreme Court has previously worked at a firm that has represented Colorado PERA for many years, and was a colleague (and a shareholder at the firm while PERA was a client) of the long-time party lawyer who represented Colorado PERA in the current lawsuit, Justus v. State.

http://coloradopols.com/diary/51026/congratulations-to-our-new-colorado-supreme-court-justice

Finally, I recognize that in 2009, the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees hired a former Colorado Supreme Court Justice to draft a legal memorandum that would support PERA pension contract breach.  For some reason, the Colorado PERA Board sought out this former Colorado Supreme Court Justice (who is not a specialist in public pension law) rather than seeking out an attorney who has spent a lifetime in a public pension legal practice.

Why did the PERA Board seek out this former Colorado Supreme Court Justice, whose practice does not specialize in public pension litigation?  Why seek out this former Colorado Supreme Court Justice in lieu of an attorney with decades of experience in public pension litigation, such as Cindy Birley, a proponent of the PROSPECTIVE pension reform bill, SB12-149 adopted by Colorado Legislature in 2012?

http://coloradopols.com/diary/39652/colorados-statutory-double-standard-on-public-pension-contracts

In 2009, the PERA Board hired this judicially connected (and accomplished) former Colorado Supreme Court Justice to create a legal rationale by which the Board and their union collaborators might seize assets that belong to PERA pensioners.  It is incomprehensible that this former Supreme Court Justice chose, at the end of an impressive legal career, to be part of a scheme to break public employee contracts.

See this article:

http://coloradopols.com/diary/39311/jean-dubofsky-one-of-a-dwindling-breed-of-unabashed-liberals

When the Colorado PERA Board hired former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Dubofsky to create a PERA contract breach rationale did they disclose to her the fact that PERA's own representatives identified the PERA COLA benefit as a contractual PERA liability at the inception of the "automatic" PERA COLA benefit?  That is, did PERA fully inform their hired attorney?  If so, why have PERA's current attorneys shifted from their original "actuarial necessity" legal defense strategy espoused after receipt of the Dubofsky COLA-taking product, to their current "DeWitt-based" legal strategy?  Why are they now ignoring the Dubofsky memorandum?  For that matter, why are they ignoring the legal writings of their own current Executive Director and former General Counsel Greg Smith on the contractual nature of PERA pension benefits?

March 24, 1993 (1:32 PM – 2:28 PM)

Rob Gray, Director of Government Relations, Colorado PERA testifying to the Legislature's House Finance Committee in regard to the "automatic" PERA COLA benefit under consideration [in House Bill 93-1324]: “The PERA Board does support this bill.”  “We felt like it is something that is good pension policy . . . that it makes sense . . . THAT IT IS MAKING PERMANENT CHANGES, and also that it does help employers which is one of the goals of the bill.”  Rob Gray states that the proposed COLA "adds predictability for current and future retirees, people looking at leaving might look at this and say now I know how my future increases are going to be determined . . .”.  Rob Gray characterizes the "automatic" PERA COLA benefit as a Colorado PERA liability: “when a change in benefits is added, like this bill, it extends out the period for paying off that unfunded liability.” If you listen to the recording of this meeting, you will also hear a member of the House Finance Committee refer to the Colorado PERA COLA provision under consideration as a pension benefit that is “guaranteed,” “now and in the future.”  [Note that the contracted PERA COLA benefit adopted by the committee was in later years improved by the Colorado General Assembly to flat 3.5 percent level, constitutionally permissible as this "improvement" did not impair PERA pension contracts.])

In 2012, the Colorado Legislature adopted PROSPECTIVE, legal pension reform for Colorado county governments (administrative arms of the state.)  The bill, SB12-149, allows Colorado county governments to alter THE RATE OF FUTURE ACCRUAL of pension benefits in order to shore up county pension trust funds.  The Colorado Legislature is perfectly capable of adopting similar legislation that will apply to Colorado PERA, shoring up the PERA Trust Fund without retrospectively impairing existing PERA pension contracts.

Why was such PROSPECTIVE pension reform legislation not adopted for the Colorado PERA pension system in 2010?  This PROSPECTIVE pension reform legislation was not adopted in 2010, because it was not the POLITICAL PREFERENCE of PERA pension administrators and board members, hired PERA lobbyists, union lobbyists, some conservatives who were happy with any PERA pension cut, as well as corporate lobbyists glad to jump on the PERA contract breach bandwagon.

For all of these reasons, I expect that the Colorado Supreme Court will closely adhere to established Colorado public pension jurisprudence in this case, Justus v. State.

Editor did right thing to post Coffman info but decision to pull original article was wrong

Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett wrote a blog post yesterday titled, “No Facts Hidden From Coffman Story.”

The most effective way to convince us that no facts were hidden would be for Plunkett to explain his thinking as well as re-publish the entire Coffman article, which Plunkett removed from The Post’s website Tuesday night. The article, which offered new information about Coffman’s abortion stance, is readily available on the web anyway.

But in two blog posts, yesterday’s and in one the day before, Plunkett has instead been offering up key facts from the article, and to Plunkett’s credit, all the new information contained in Kurtis Lee’s original article is now living on The Post’s website. That’s good.

What’s still inexplicable, is Plunkett’s logic in spiking the article in the first place.

In trying again yesterday to explain his decision to remove the article, which was newsworthy for eight big, fat reasons, Plunkett wrote:

When I discovered near our print deadline that Coffman had been on the record for months with some of the same information we gained in a recent interview, I had to act quickly.

It’s true, Coffman supported an anti-abortion House bill, allowing for abortion-for-rape-and-incest, even though he’s opposed this exception throughout his career.

And at the same time Coffman continued to be on record (for years) in support of the personhood amendment, which bans abortion-for-rape-and-incest. He didn’t un-endorse personhood when he decided to support the House bill.

Given the totality of Coffman’s anti-abortion record, you’d still conclude that Coffman was opposed to abortion-for-rape-and-incest, even though you found out he voted for the House bill.

That is, until Post reporter Kurtis Lee asked Coffman about it on Saturday and wrote his deleted article, which was headlined: “Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest.”

In his blog post Wednesday, Plunkett suggested The Post might “write a different story,” based on the Coffman interview.

That’s a good idea, particularly if the article would go deeper into Coffman’s thinking about abortion, getting into why such a passionate anti-abortion advocate could have such a serious change of heart, as well as explaining what Coffman’s abortion position is now.

What do Teacher Union Leaders Get in Return for Supporting Breach of PERA Pension Contracts? Unnecessarily Stingy K-12 Funding.

Rhode Island Court: "Upon retirement, under Rhode Island law, COLAs and pension benefits are one and the same, providing retirees with a vested interest in the benefits which may not be altered retroactively."

Just as politics was in the driver's seat in 2009/2010 during the Colorado PERA pension contract breach (SB10-001), politics was in the driver's seat in Rhode Island during the 2011 Rhode Island pension contract breach attempt.

In Rhode Island, State Treasurer Gina Raimondo hoped to ride the pension contract breach she championed all the way to the Rhode Island Governor's mansion.

(Note that unlike Colorado's public sector unions, public sector unions in Rhode Island sued the state over their Legislature's attempted pension COLA-taking.)

Colorado public sector unions sold their soul in 2009/2010 by going along with an attempt to let Colorado state and local government employers off the hook for their contractual obligations to pay accrued PERA pension benefits.  Colorado teacher union officials let PERA-affiliated employers off the hook for their failure to pay annual PERA pension bills for a decade, for their failure to make PERA actuarially required contributions (ARC), identified by PERA's own actuaries.

Colorado public sector union leaders agreed with (or initiated?) the attempted PERA pension contract breach in SB10-001.  What thanks have union-represented Colorado teachers received for supporting breach of PERA pension contracts in 2010?  Here is their answer:  Minimal state legislative support for restoration of K-12 funding as the Colorado economy continues to improve, unnecessarily minimal buy down of the K-12 "negative-factor" by the Colorado Legislature.

Here's what union-represented teachers agreed to in 2010: teacher union leaders agreed to the attempt to shift state and local government financial obligations onto the backs of "fully-vested" PERA retirees, breaking written, statutory PERA contracts.  For many, since this backroom deal tarnished the spirit of the U.S. Labor Movement itself, and took money from the state's elderly to keep taxes low in our state, the deal was hard to swallow.

So, how have teachers been repaid?  In return, in 2014, the State Legislature is providing minimal support for K-12 education going forward, and with lots of strings attached to the proposed miserly funding effort.  Such a deal!!

What Colorado politician has the stones to stand up and publicly state the obvious?  TABOR is crushing our state.  TABOR does not sanction breach of state contracts!

A few days ago a Rhode Island court confirmed the contractual nature of public pension COLA benefits in Rhode Island.  Here is media coverage of the Rhode Island court decision, from Plansponsor.com:

"In its opinion, the court rejected the state’s argument that no contractual relationship existed between it and the plaintiffs at the time the pension reform was enacted.  The court noted that under Rhode Island law, retirees are provided benefits and cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) which may not be altered retroactively."

"The court found that in exchange for the offer, the retirees had fully performed their duties as public-sector employees for the required number of years and had already retired before the reform was enacted.  'Plaintiffs’ pension benefits constitute part of their compensation for the services which they have already rendered to the State,' the opinion says."

http://www.plansponsor.com/RI_Retirees_Pension_Reform_Challenge_Moved_Forward.aspx

More press coverage:

"In her ruling, Taft-Carter found that there is 'an implied in-fact contract' between the state and the public employees challenging the pension overhaul."

http://ripr.org/post/taft-carter-rejects-state-motion-dismiss-pension-lawsuit

"In deciding Wednesday to reject the state’s 2012 motion to dismiss the case, Taft-Carter noted that the plaintiffs had served the public and contributed the required amount toward their pensions."

http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140416-judge-denies-motion-to-dismiss-lawsuit-over-r.i.-pension-overhaul.ece

Link to the recent Rhode Island court's opinion on a motion to dismiss:

http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SuperiorCourt/DecisionsOrders/decisions/12-3166.pdf

Excerpts from the Rhode Island court opinion:

"The General Assembly, in November 2011, enacted the RIRSA, which overhauled the public pension system.  Specifically, the legislation reduced the pension benefits, including the COLA, for retired employees."

"It also provides that no annual COLAs will be paid to retired teachers and state employees until the retirement system is eighty percent funded, which is not estimated to occur for about sixteen years."

(Note that the union plaintiffs in Rhode Island are also defending rights to "partially-vested" pension contracts until an 80 percent pension funding ratio is reached, unlike Colorado where "fully-vested" pension contracts were targeted in 2010 until a ridiculous and unnecessary 100 percent pension funding ratio is achieved.)

Court decision:

"This Court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on September 13, 2011, holding that the plaintiffs had a unilateral implied-in-fact contractual right arising from their partial performance by working at least ten years."

"Plaintiffs urge the Court to follow its analysis in Pension I, wherein this Court found that vested employees possessed implied-in-fact contract rights to their pension benefits."

"It is well-settled, however, that these doctrines may not be used by government simply 'as a means to escape from contracts that it subsequently concluded were unwise.'”

"Specifically, 'a statute is itself treated as a contract when the language and circumstances evince a legislative intent to create private rights of a contractual nature enforceable against the State.'”

"Accordingly, this Court will consider whether the State made an offer to the Plaintiffs, whether the Plaintiffs accepted the offer, and whether the offer and acceptance were supported by consideration and a valid contract."

"There is no doubt, however, that in Rhode Island pensions are not gratuities of the State."

(As we have seen, the Colorado Constitution prohibits the payment of gratuities.  If a PERA pension COLA benefit is a gratuity, it is unconstitutional.)

"Indeed, the only difference between deferred compensation and contract theories is the time at which pension rights vest."

"Upon retirement, under Rhode Island law, COLAs and pension benefits are one and the same, providing retirees with a vested interest in the benefits which may not be altered retroactively."

"Courts have long accepted the importance of pension benefits as a 'term and condition of public employment.'"

"Here, Plaintiffs accepted the State’s offer of pension benefits by beginning their employment with the State and continued their service for the required time."

"Through Plaintiffs’ faithful service, the State had already received the full benefits it expected from creating the ERSRI.  Plaintiffs’ pension benefits constitute part of their compensation for the services which they have already rendered to the State."

"Because there has been a bargained-for exchange, supported by consideration, this Court finds that there is an enforceable implied-in-fact contract between Plaintiffs and the State."

"Furthermore, our Supreme Court’s jurisprudence supports a finding that Plaintiffs possess protected contractual rights in receiving a pension and a COLA."

"Here, having retired, the Plaintiffs have fully performed.  A valid contract exists between Plaintiffs and the State, entitling Plaintiffs to their pension benefits."

Visit saveperacola.com, defend the Colorado Constitution, defend public employee contracts.  Colorado is better than breach of contract.