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.

It Would Be Difficult to be a Worse Politician than Doug Lamborn

Doug Lamborn (R).

Rep. Doug Lamborn must work harder in order to do the minimum.

Fundraising reports for the first quarter of 2014 became available this week, and Colorado's own Rep. Doug Lamborn has reached a new pinnacle of shittiness: No incumbent Member of Congress raised less money than Lamborn in the first three months of the year. Nobody. In the entire United States.

Lamborn raised a grand total of $38,253 in Q1, an amount so miniscule that the four-term Congressman had to loan his campaign $100,000. As Megan Schrader of the Colorado Springs Gazette reported on April 15:

Lamborn was forced into an unexpected primary last week when Republican challenger Bentley Rayburn won support from enough state delegates to get his name on the June 24 primary ballot.

Rayburn, who entered the race late, won't be required to file a quarterly report showing his campaign finances to the Federal Elections Commission until after the primary election. Rayburn said he'll begin filing his official candidate paperwork in late May.

In the meantime, Lamborn may also be feeling pressure from Democratic candidate Irv Halter, a retired Air Force major general, who last quarter brought in $165,095 in contributions and had $217,432 cash on hand at the end of March. Records indicate Halter has given himself about $32,000 since he entered the race.

We've been wondering aloud if 2014 might be the year that Lamborn's overall ineptitude (both as a candidate and a Congressman) catches up to him. Lamborn has survived challenges from the right, left, and everywhere between since he was first elected in 2006, so perhaps it is hard for him to really gear up for election season. But there is no reason for Lamborn to be this bad at raising money — so bad that he has to guarantee a $100,000 loan to his own campaign. Keep in mind here that Lamborn is not independently wealthy, so a $100k loan is a very real amount of money for him that is a bit of a risk; if Lamborn doesn't win the June Primary, he's going to have a hell of a time trying to convince anyone to give him donations to help pay off his campaign debt. All of this could have been avoided had Lamborn just taken a little time each quarter to raise money and build up a modest warchest larger than the $123,000 he had in the bank before his loan.

Maybe Lamborn defeats Rayburn and holds off Democrat Irv Halter to win re-election in November. But what Lamborn is doing is exactly how an incumbent ends up losing an otherwise safe seat.

It only requires a little bit of effort to maintain your hold on a district like CD-5. Lamborn has yet to reach that minimum.

Eight reasons why a Denver Post reporter’s scrubbed blog post was newsworthy and should be re-posted on Post’s website

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Here are eight reasons why Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee's blog post, quoting Rep. Mike Coffman about personhood and abortion-for-rape-and-incest, was newsworthy and should not have been deleted from The Post's website.

1. It was news! The core of Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett's written explanation for scrubbing the piece is that it was basically old news. But Lee's piece advanced our understanding of Coffman's thinking both on the personhood amendment (he opposes it under any circumstances; see number four below.) and on abortion-for-rape-and-incest (he supports it beyond his previous narrow support of it in a specific piece of legislation; see number three.)

2. It was the first time Coffman made a public statement himself about un-endorsing the personhood amendment and withdrawing his longstanding opposition to abortion-for-rape-and-incest. These are major flips, and journalism is all about providing a record of actual statements by public officials, not their mouthpieces.

3. Lee's deleted piece, for the first time, informed the public that Coffman has completely changed a long-held position and now broadly favors allowing a woman raped by her father to have an abortion. Last year, as Lee noted in his piece, Coffman supported a provision in a bill allowing abortion for rape and incest. But this anti-choice bill focused narrowly on banning abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, and no news outlets covered Coffman's position. It was completely unknown, until Lee asked Coffman about it, if Coffman favors broad rape-and-incest exceptions to his overall extreme opposition to abortion. It turns out his flip was complete. So Lee's headline for his post reflected actual news: "Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest."

4. Lee's deleted piece reported, for the first time, that Coffman is opposed to any version of the personhood amendment, even of it were narrowed. In his deleted piece. Lee reported that "Coffman said there is no language he would change in the ballot initiative that would make him support it." This advances Lee's March 25 story, which quoted Coffman's spokesperson, Tyler Sandberg, as saying only that Coffman did not support the personhood amendment in 2012 or this year, and the matter is settled because voters rejected it (not that Coffman's thinking had changed).

(more…)

Denver Post Pulls Story with Coffman Interview on Personhood

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: In a very unusual development, the story referred to in the blog post below has been taken down by Denver Post politics editor Chuck Plunkett. In a post this afternoon on The Spot blog, Plunkett explains:

Tuesday night I pulled a story from The Denver Post’s online edition that had been up for several minutes. The story dealt with the abortion stances of Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman.

It shouldn’t have run. I had it taken down because a key piece of information that came to us late contradicted the original point of pursuing the story…

[T]he story launched with an important fact that I had not been privy too. That fact is that on June 18, 2013, Coffman’s office issued this statement in a press release available also to the public on his congressional webpage that clearly complicated my earlier understanding of our story.

“I voted today in favor of H.R. 1797 to limit late term abortion,” Coffman said in the statement. “I strongly support the exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother that have been included in this legislation.”

Had I known about that public statement, my news judgment would have been different.

This explanation is strange to say the least, since the story by reporter Kurtis Lee (now deleted) does refer to Coffman's 2013 vote for H.R. 1797:

Over the weekend, in a brief interview at the state GOP assembly, Coffman broadened his position on abortion, saying he now supports it in cases of rape and incest — a position he did not voice in 2012, when he supported abortions only to protect the life of the mother. In 2013, Coffman backed a House bill and noted his support for exceptions in the case of rape and incest. [Pols emphasis]

We also took note Coffman's June 2013 vote for a late term abortion ban when it happened, and how it represented a marked shift from his prior opposition to all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. This is not new information, and nothing in Lee's now-removed story is invalidated by this detail. Coffman previously supported banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and now he doesn't. That's the story.

We do not understand Plunkett's reasoning here at all–unless he simply, in his capacity as political news editor of the Denver Post, did a favor for Mike Coffman. Needless to say, that would be a big problem.

If so, it was also a big mistake, because now he has drawn even more attention to the real story here.

Original post follows.

—–

Mike Coffman.

Mike Coffman.

The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee has done what no other reporter in Colorado could manage to do for three long weeks since Rep. Mike Coffman's spokesperson sort of told Lee that Coffman had un-endorsed the personhood amendment–sort of because it hasn't been clear if Coffman opposes personhood per se, or just the amendment.

And, after reading Coffman's comments to Lee, it's still not clear, though it appear Coffman still supports the personhood concept, at least to some degree, but not the amendment.

Lee tracked down Coffman at last weekend's Republican assembly and asked him to confirm his new-found opposition to the personhood amendment and to explain why his stance had changed:

Coffman: "There are parts of it that are unintended. … I think it's too overbroad and that the voters have spoken."

Lee noted that Coffman received high praise from personhood organizers in the past. (It's true, plus personhood supporters don't point to any elements of their amendment that are unintended, and Coffman didn't point out any unintended consequence less than two years ago, when he was last lauded by personhood organizers.)

Lee also asked Coffman whether he opposes abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. Coffman has never personally backtracked from his steadfast opposition to abortion under these circumstances.

In fact, Coffman went out of his way in the past to underline his opposition to rape-and-incest exceptions.

But he told Lee that he now supports abortion for rape or incest victims, putting an exclamation point on an about-face that started last year when, as Lee points out, his office put out a statement saying Coffman supported such exceptions in a House bill. Still, this is the first time Coffman has talked about his flip himself.

Lee described his Coffman interview as "brief," and there are still big questions hanging out there for the next reporter that manages to snag Coffman. These include: What is Coffman's current abortion stance, beyond being "pro-life?" Does he support Roe v. Wade? Does he support the personhood concept? If he still believes life begins at the zygote (fertilized eggs) stage. Does he oppose forms of birth control, like IUDs, that threaten zygotes?

The headline of Lee's article reads, "Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest." Trouble is, we still don't know what his abortion stance is, except he opposes a women's right to choose pretty much all the time.

“Both Ways Bob” Makes The Ballot–Barely

UPDATE: FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Beauprez, who had just three weeks to get the 10,500 signatures required to make the ballot after entering the governor’s race in late February, initially appeared to have fallen just short, despite spending upwards of $200,000 on the petition collection effort. The Secretary of State’s office decided to do an additional review late Tuesday and found that Beauprez had enough valid signatures after all.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who is running for governor himself, was “walled off” from the certification process, but sources indicate there was consternation within the office about the “optics” of Gessler’s office ruling Beauprez’s signatures insufficient to make the ballot and an intense effort to ensure that the petition review process was accurate…

To collect enough signatures in just three weeks, Beauprez spent around $250,000, according to those close to his campaign.

Other sources, however, indicated that the total expense may have been closer to $300,000.

—–

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

A press release from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office confirms, failed 2006 gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has qualified for the 2014 Republican primary ballot:

Today Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert announced Bob Beauprez’s petition to appear on the Republican primary ballot for governor was found sufficient as required by statute. Primary Election Day is June 24. 

On March 31, 2014, Beauprez submitted 23,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s office began a line-by-line review of the signatures. Beauprez was required to gather 1,500 valid signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts for a total of 10,500 valid signatures.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler formally delegated authority over the petition verification process to Deputy Secretary Staiert.

Of the roughly 23,000 signatures submitted by Beauprez's campaign, only 12,209 were deemed valid, with a whopping 10,791 signatures thrown out. In addition to the total number of signatures, candidates are required to turn in at least 1,500 signatures from each of the state's seven congressional districts. In CD-1, a total of 1,524 signatures were validated–a perilously thin margin.

By contrast, Tom Tancredo turned in fewer gross signatures than Beauprez, but made the ballot with room to spare and a far higher validity rate. This is attributable to the "Pueblo model" petition campaign his volunteers and paid operatives conducted, drawing on the experience gained in the Senate District 3 recall election where petition signers were cross-checked in real time against the Secretary of State's list of registered voters.

Rumors are widespread that Beauprez paid an absolutely confiscatory rate per signature to make the ballot, as much as $18 dollars per signature or more. If that's true, we would hope that he's only paying for valid signatures, because it's clear that his paid gatherers were signing up anyone they could without any meaningful screening. Either way, you'd think the embarrassment of having almost half of your signatures deemed invalid would motivate petition gatherers to adopt the Pueblo model.

But that's Bob Beauprez, folks. Always a little behind the curve.

Not From Metro Denver? It May Not Be Possible to Win a Statewide Race

Some Colorado politicos were surprised when state Sen. Greg Brophy failed to generate enough support to make the Republican ballot for Governor last weekend, but it makes plenty of sense when you consider recent electoral history in our state. Brophy hails from Yuma County in Eastern Colorado, an area that is home to only about 10,000 residents. Brophy may have had the support of Republican delegates from Yu18 years in Coloradoma County, but that number would be just a fraction of the votes he needed at the GOP State Convention.

Congressman Cory Gardner, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, is also from the Yuma area. Gardner succeeded Brophy in the State House when the latter was appointed to the State Senate in 2005. Gardner had no trouble winning the GOP nomination for Senate last weekend, primarily because he did not face the same crowded field of gubernatorial candidates that stood in front of Brophy. But Gardner still needs to figure out how to solve what we’ll call his “Yuma Problem” if he hopes to win a General Election matchup with Senator Mark Udall…and history is not on Gardner’s side.

The last time Colorado voters elected a statewide candidate who did not hail from the Front Range of Colorado? That was in 1996, when Loveland-based Rep. Wayne Allard was first elected to the U.S. Senate (Loveland was much smaller in 1996 than it is today — the population has doubled since the 1990 census).

Cory Gardner, Bob Schaffer.

Can Cory Gardner (left) break a trend that former CD-4 Rep. Bob Schaffer could not?

It has been 18 years since Colorado voters last elected a non-incumbent candidate who did not have roots along the Front Range, and particularly, the Denver Metro area.

Check out the numbers from the 2012 election, when a total of 2,584,719 ballots were cast in the race for President. Nearly 80% of those votes came from the Front Range of Colorado, between Ft. Collins and Pueblo. More than 1 million votes were cast in just four Denver Metro counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, and Jefferson.

There was a time in Colorado when grizzled political veterans of any political party agreed on one thing: That a Denver-based politician could never win a statewide office. That old yarn was repeated as recently as 2006, finally dying out for good when former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter was elected Governor.

Population shifts in Colorado over the past 20 years have dramatically altered the landscape of statewide politics, to the point where the old saying about Denver politicians has been flipped on its head. In fact, it may no longer even be possible to win a statewide race if the candidate is not from the Denver Metro area – or at the very least, from somewhere along the Front Range.

With so many media outlets concentrated on the Denver Metro area, local politicians have a significant advantage when it comes to earned media and building name recognition. It’s difficult for a rural Congressman such as Gardner to generate name ID when the Greeley Tribune is the largest media outlet in his district.

You’ll hear a lot of different statistics and historical patterns around the 2014 election, including predictions based on how candidates typically fare in the 6th year of a Presidency. But this Colorado pattern is more than a trend – it represents a fundamental shift in the electorate that would be difficult for any candidate to overcome. Check out our graphic of all statewide candidates since 1996 after the jump…

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Another GOP Obamacare Udall Hit Rates “Mostly False”

mostlyfalse

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, Politifact's Truth-o-Meter snags another one:

"Mark Udall has voted with the president 99 percent of the time. He lied to us about our health care. He increased our taxes. He voted against the Second Amendment. He cast the deciding vote for Obamacare," [GOP Senate candidate Cory] Gardner told Jefferson County Republicans during their assembly in March.

PolitiFact, a Pulitzer-prize winning enterprise of the Tampa Bay Times, checked out the claim. PolitiFact researches statements and rates the accuracy on what it calls its "Truth-O-Meter." The ratings are True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.

"Because Udall had consistently sided with the Democratic leadership in votes related to the act, he was not among the handful of undecided senators who (Majority Leader Harry) Reid had to wrangle as the vote was approaching," PolitiFact wrote.

"We rate this claim Mostly False."

As Bartels reports, Cory Gardner's campaign didn't react well to the news.

"It looks like Politifact's pants are on fire this time," he said…

Rather than get sidetracked by the Gardner campaign's eyerolling dis on a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact checker, let's look at Politifact's patiently redundant analysis of Gardner's claim that Sen. Mark Udall "cast the deciding vote for Obamacare." We're pretty sure we've covered this same semantic silliness at least once or twice since 2010:

[Udall] consistently sided with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in votes relating to the health care law, and he offered several amendments to the bill either as a sponsor or a co-sponsor.

By contrast, then-Sen. Ben Nelson was widely considered a holdout whose late-in-the-game announcement of support was key to the vote’s success…

59 senators…also voted to end debate — and the exact same thing could be said about them. [Pols emphasis] Because Udall had consistently sided with the Democratic leadership in votes related to the act, he was not among the handful of undecided senators who Reid had to wrangle as the vote was approaching. We rate this claim Mostly False.

So yes, folks, this is mindless rhetorical gameplaying. Every Democratic Senator "cast the deciding vote for Obamacare." To be perfectly honest, we would rather see Politifact take a stand on on the much more misleading statement from Gardner they cite from a recent FOX News interview, that "335,000 Coloradans lost their health insurance." As we have explained over and over in this space, that statement is grossly deceptive, since over 90% of those "cancellation notices" were in fact renewal notices, thousands found better deals via the Obamacare marketplace, and–most importantly–we now know that the number of insured Americans has gone up, not down, since the rollout of Obamacare.

Bottom line: arguing over who cast "the deciding vote for Obamacare," like building one's entire case for election on attacking Obamacare, is a waste of everyone's time, and that includes Cory Gardner. While the fact checkers hammer away at the falsehoods, voters can see with their own eyes now that Obamacare is not the disaster they've been told it would be. Obamacare won't be the message Cory Gardner campaigns on this fall–because if it is, the race will be long over.

Why Aurorans Want and Need Andrew Romanoff in CD6

(Warning: long)

My friends remember in 2009 when I supported Senator Michael Bennet in his bid to run for the United States Senate. At that time, he was an unpopular candidate among Colorado Democrats because he was appointed by then Governor Bill Ritter, rather then elected by a vote of the people. Ritter bypassed Colorado Democratic hometown hero Andrew Romanoff  to appoint the Denver Public Schools Superintendent. As most readers will recall, a bitterly divided primary ensued when Andrew Romanoff threw his hat into the race against incumbent Bennet. As a neighborhood leader, I chose to stand with my Senator (who was later elected democratically for a second term). At that time, I felt, as many other Coloradans also did, that it was important to support the Democratic Senator we already had, and to work with him to get things done. Four years later, I am proud to stand with both Senator Michael Bennet, and Congressional District 6's Candidate for the United States Congress, Andrew Romanoff. 

Many of the most densely populated portions of Congressional District 6 lie within the city of Aurora. My family and I moved near Mike Coffman's neighborhood in Aurora, CO 23 years ago from the midwestern college town where my husband received his PhD. When we moved into our first home, a rental, I was stunned by the six foot wooden fences, the prevailing libertarian attitudes of the high planes, and the lack of support for worker's rights. It was a foreign landscape for a young wife from a working class neighborhood just outside of Detroit. We had moved from an international student community (similar to DU in some respects), where I organized weekly family shared meals with my neighbors from Japan, Israel, Korea, Russia, Jordan, Mexico, Thailand, Finland and many other places, as well as a babysitting co-op for new moms. My toddler son had already been exposed to hundreds of different languages in that college (bubble) community, and though we could not afford to travel (we could barely afford to eat), every conversation was a lesson in geography and culture.

When we arrived in southeast Aurora, the first neighbor I saw simply said, "Keep your kid away from the fence. My dog hates kids and will eat him."

I called my mother sobbing. "Mom, have you seen the movie 'Dances With Wolves?", I asked.

To which she replied, "Yes. Why?"

"That's where I moohoohooved!", I wailed into the phone.

In the months to come, I was greeted with political notes on my doorstep inviting me to protest the local high school health care clinic (they gave students resource information for contraception), and I was told by a neighbor that Democrats insert tiny computer chips into infant babies' scalps at the hospital to control their every move. I was asked over and over, "Are you coastal?", which to the non-Republican translated means, "You're not liberal, are you?" 

Even the synagogue we attended in Denver had some right-wing members living in the 'burbs who tried to persuade us to join their ranks — a very unusual experience considering it was as true then, as it is now, that more than 2 out of 3 Jews nationwide are Democrats. I felt like I landed on Mars. Many of the hard-working, politically-moderate neighbors we came to know were simply not interested in politics, and truth be told, as a young mother, I had no time for it either. Over the years, our Congressman Dan Schaefer handed the baton to nationally-known immigrant-hater, Congressman Tom Tancredo, who loved his job so much he wouldn't leave it for five terms!

Fast forward 23 years, two more children, and two house moves later, and we live about three miles south of that first rental home. We grew to understand the ways of the west — from planning one's weekly calendar around Broncos games, to taking time off work to see the National Western Stock Show Parade. We came to love the SE Aurora/ E. Centennial area so much, we have made it our forever home. The six foot high wooden fences took some getting used to, but I found people are really very similar all over the world.. Our first neighborhood was receptive to my babysitting co-op idea, as well as organized play dates, and shared meals for new moms. The Cherry Creek schools our sons grew up in and where I volunteered often were, and are, outstanding. The Parks and Recreation programs in Aurora are among the best in the country. More than that, my family and I ventured out to the rest of Aurora, where we found the diversity we loved — and so dearly missed. 

Aurora is now Colorado's most richly diverse city, with more than 80 ethnic restaurants and markets, and more than 90 languages spoken in its public schools (much to Tom Tancredo's frustration, I'm sure). In a single afternoon at the Central library, one can hear dozens of languages spoken, from Russian, to Ethiopian, Chinese, Korean, African, Somalian, Nigerian, Spanish, French, etc. In the summer months, the Aurora Arts Festival and Cultural Events make it one of the most exciting places to be in metro Denver. If you listen to the stories of Aurorans, you will learn they came to America for good schools, for an opportunity to make life better for one's family, and to become an American citizen in order to pursue the American Dream. They want what Coloradans have wanted for hundreds of years — a peaceful place to raise their children, a chance to work hard and make a fair wage, and a sense of community alongside other Coloradans from all over the nation, and all over the globe.

The dreams of the newly-arrived immigrants in Aurora are identical to the dreams of my ancestors who arrived to this country in previous centuries. The only difference is, many of the newer immigrants dress in orange and blue jerseys, wear cowboy hats, and love to watch American Idol-type programs on television. The old Aurora, Mike Coffman's Aurora, contributes its western charm and historic cowboy heritage with the New Aurora, to create a uniquely Colorado experience. 

In 2008, as Colorado's Secretary of State, Mike Coffman attempted to shut-down the dreams of immigrant families and people of color in Aurora when he purged countless new voter registrations, most of which were collected by liberal out-of-state groups assisting in the Obama campaign effort. Coffman knew the groups like Mi Familia Vota, Common Cause, SEIU, MoveOn.org, etc., were targeting people of color and new citizens in Aurora to register them to vote, and he wanted their voices stopped so badly, his office gave inconsistent instructions on how to fill out the forms (I know this because I led a team of voter registrars in Aurora that summer, and they personally gave me incorrect information a number of times). Coffman had the audacity to continue to purge those registrations even after he was ordered not to do so by a federal judge.

Andrew Romanoff understands the New Aurora. Andrew's grandparents were Russian-Jewish immigrants who worked hard to make sure their children and grandchildren could go to college. Andrew seldom boasts about his most-inspiring qualifications for the United States Congress — working with communities the world over to accomplish truly impressive goals through democratic means. Andrew Romanoff has shown visionary leadership not just influence (as Coffman had done) — he brought together Democrats and Republicans to repair Colorado's schools, wrote laws to protect women from domestic violence, focused on services for mental health care, and expanded affordable housing. Andrew fought to protect children and the elderly from neglect and abuse, and taught high school students in rural Central America. He worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center for civil rights, and fought for low-income women's equal pay and education. At IDE (International Development Enterprises), Andrew led efforts to teach people to start businesses and become successful farmers — giving people a hand-up rather than a hand-out. Andrew's efforts have been recognized all over the world as ideas that will work anywhere, including in Aurora, CO.

All Aurorans share another, sadder common experience. Aurorans came together from every neighborhood of its 143 square miles to comfort each other after the Century Theater Shooting. Many volunteers spent last summer visiting the make-shift Aurora memorial site comforting strangers, cleaning up broken glass, providing water bottles, and pruning flowers left in memory of the victims – myself included. We made thousands of tiny black and blue memorial ribbons and passed them out to the grieving and the curious. Among the leaders who became most involved in the healing was Representative Rhonda Fields, who became the voice for many survivors wishing to make all of Colorado's City streets safer. Rhonda faced obscene name-calling, death threats, personal attacks and political savagery for insisting on common-sense gun restrictions. Who stood with Aurora's beloved Representative Rhonda Fields and the majority of Aurorans? It wasn't Congressman Mike Coffman. He was nowhere to be found in protecting Colorado's cities and towns from overly-lax weapon regulations. The person who stood up for Rhonda and all of Aurora was Andrew Romanoff.

There is only one candidate in the race for Congressional District 6 understands the blending of New Aurora with Old Aurora to become Strong Aurora. There is only one person who understand the modern challenges Aurorans face as their city increasingly becomes one of the New West's most interesting destinations. That person is Andrew Romanoff.

Please help us this summer in registering new voters in diverse North Aurora. Aurorans of every color, of every language, of every nation of origin, deserve to have their voices restored — voices stolen from them at one time by former Secretary of State Mike Coffman. When Aurorans vote, they will remember what happened in 2008 and they will vote for Andrew Romanoff.

Republican Insiders: Tancredo, Beauprez Frontrunners for Gov. Nomination

UPDATE #2: FOX 31's Eli Stokols updates with further response from Tancredo, who insists he is neither looking at the Jeffco superintendent's job nor an exit from the gubernatorial race:

Tancredo responded to this story Tuesday afternoon, telling FOX31 Denver that he’s not the least bit interested in the Jefferson County superintendent’s job, or looking for an exit.

“The state government would be a hell of a lot easier to run than the Jefferson County School system,” Tancredo said. “And there’s no way in hell we’d be busting our butts and spending all this money getting signatures if we weren’t committed.

“I’ve said all along that if there’s someone who emerges who’s polling better and more competitive with Hickenlooper than me, I’ll hand them the baton,” he added. “But I don’t see it right now. I think I’ve got as good a shot of winning as anyone.”

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UPDATE: Speaking with conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics, Tom Tancredo denies rumors of being in the running for superintendent of Jefferson County Schools:

“Absolutely false. Joked that running the state of CO would be easier than running Jeffco schools. My guess this is someone (party insiders) wants to slow my momentum.”

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Beauprez, via The Colorado Statesman.

Like him or not, Republicans see Beauprez as a frontrunner for the nomination.

Fox 31's Eli Stokols takes a good, long look at the four-person field seeking the Republican nomination for Governor. As Stokols reports, according to a host of Republican insiders, Tom Tancedo and Bob Beauprez are the frontrunners for the GOP nomination following Saturday's Republican State Convention. Top-line winner Mike Kopp is still a long-shot and Scott Gessler may be beginning to fade:

A number of top Colorado Republicans, who all spoke candidly to FOX31 Denver in exchange for remaining anonymous, agree that each of the four candidates has a path to winning the party’s nomination, but that two in particular have an inherent advantage.

Even after his surprise top-line victory Saturday, former Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp has his work cut out for him if he wants to finish on top when the primary votes are counted. For now, he is still viewed as having longer odds to secure the nomination than former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who has a deep base of support, and former Congressman Bob Beauprez, who has the deep financial resources to be the last man standing…

…“Tancredo remains the frontrunner in a four-candidate diffused field,” one Republican said. “He starts with a 25-30 percent base vote in a Republican primary, so unless one of the other three can emerge as the Tancredo alternative, he wins by default.” [Pols emphasis]

Rumors abound that party bosses are looking for a way to get Tancredo out of the race, and even that Tancredo may be listening. One rumor circulating Monday is that the Jefferson County School Board, won by a conservative majority last November, may hire Tancredo, a former teacher, as superintendent.

The rumor that Tom Tancredo might be interested in becoming Jefferson County Superintendent was first reported here at Colorado Pols.

Tancredo’s Tea-Party Position on Education Aligns with Jeffco School Board

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tom Tancredo.

Tom Tancredo.

ColoradoPols has called on gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo to address rumors that "GOP power-brokers" are pushing for him to be Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools.

Pols didn't get into whether Tancredo, who's currently leading the gubernatorial GOP primary field, would be a logical selection for the Tea-Party-controlled Jeffco School Board. No need to fall off your chair because yes, unfortunately, Tancredo's views on education are thoroughly right-wing.

He's not only a consistent supporter of diverting public-school funding to private schools through vouchers, but he also sees the public school system as a way for public officials to control the small minds of America's children.

Tancredo: "Why we can’t at least give kids in those [poverty] circumstances, a key to that door – called a voucher. Tell me, why it is so important to keep them locked into a government school system. Well, we know why they want to. They want to determine how those kids view the world, as we just got done explaining."

Where's the evidence that public-school education is about anything but freedom from indoctrination? Teachers wouldn't tolerate it. They don't want to indoctrinate their students. They want to teach them to understand how the world works and ask questions about it. American public education is about mind control?

Tancredo expressed these views on the Peter Boyles show April 1, with Chuck Bonniwell subbing for Boyles.

Jeffco teachers, supported by community members, are at an impasse with the Jeffco board, whose current leaders would certainly applaud Tancredo's views, as expressed here:

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Is Tom Tancredo Considering Jefferson County Superintendent Job?

Tancredo for Governor

Tom Tancredo for…what?

UPDATE: We hear that a friend and advisor of Tancredo is discreetly asking questions about the possibility of Tancredo being approved as Jeffco Schools Superintendent. This would be a clever move for one of Tancredo's gubernatorial opponents — to leak that he is looking at dropping out of the race — but that doesn't seem to be the case thus far. Perhaps only Tancredo can answer this question now.

—–

Republican Tom Tancredo has been the frontrunner for the GOP nomination for Governor from the day he announced his campaign, consistently producing stronger fundraising numbers than his Republican counterparts and demonstrating his lead dog status by skipping Republican debates.

Tancredo's momentum continued last week when he was endorsed by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin a few days before his name was certified for the ballot after submitting the requisite number of petition signatures. In a four-person field for the Republican nomination (along with Bob Beauprez, Scott Gessler, and Mike Kopp), Tancredo would appear to be in the driver's seat as we steam towards the June Primary.

And yet…rumors persisted over the weekend that Tancredo is being pushed by some GOP power-brokers to consider accepting a job as the new Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools (should it be offered to him). Tancredo is by no means an obvious choice to lead the largest school district in Colorado, but it is entirely possible that the unpredictable and unabashedly-partisan Jeffco School Board could decide that the former high school teacher would be a good partner in their efforts to push the school district in the same far-right direction as their counterparts in Douglas County (remember that Tancredo was mentioned as a potential candidate for Douglas County Superintendent a few years back).

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