Gardner Defends Federal “Personhood” By Making Stuff Up

UPDATE: Media critic Jason Salzman arrives at the same conclusion.

The Life at Conception Act aims to redefine the definition of a person in the Fourteenth Amendment, and apply the 14th Amendment’s protections to zygotes, hence banning all abortion, even for rape, as well as common forms of birth control that endanger, or even potentially endanger, fertilized eggs. It would give legal protections to fertilized eggs. In a word, personhood.

Reporters should not let Gardner, or his spokespeople, mislead the public about the aim of the federal personhood bill that he co-sponsored last year. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews buries the lede in today's story about the issue of birth control in the U.S. Senate race, but nonetheless delivers a bombshell. After weeks of attacks, GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner finally attempts to defend his continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act in Congress after having disavowed his longstanding support for the "Personhood" abortion ban initiatives in Colorado:

Gardner supported personhood in Colorado, but he said in March that he no longer backed the approach — calling it a "bad idea" because of the "fact that it restricts contraception."

…Not that Udall's campaign is letting him off the hook. They point to Gardner's continued sponsorship of similar personhood legislation in Congress as evidence his views haven't changed.

In response, a Gardner spokesman said the federal bill is different than the Colorado initiatives. "The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges," Siciliano said. [Pols emphasis]

We're pretty sure that Gardner's spokesman just badly screwed his boss. Let's compare, as we have in the past, the language of the federal Life at Conception Act abortion ban legislation and the Colorado Personhood intiatives. H.R. 1091's pertinent language reads like this:

The terms "human person" and "human being" include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, [Pols emphasis] cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

And here's the text of 2008's Amendment 48, the Colorado Personhood abortion ban ballot measure:

Person defined. AS USED IN SECTIONS 3, 6, AND 25 OF ARTICLE II OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION, THE TERMS "PERSON" OR "PERSONS" SHALL INCLUDE ANY HUMAN BEING FROM THE MOMENT OF FERTILIZATION. [Pols emphasis]

As anyone who has followed this issue knows, it is the language conferring rights from "the moment of fertilization" that would have the additional consequence of outlawing certain commonly used forms of birth control–the ones the pro-life community considers "abortifacient." This is the "unintended consequence" Gardner cited when he told reporters he had abandoned his prior support for the Colorado Personhood measures. Despite that, Gardner remained a sponsor of the Life at Conception Act in Congress, and today we finally learn that he has no intention of removing himself as a sponsor.

The problem is simple: Gardner is making a distinction that does not exist. There is nothing in the language of the Life at Conception Act that would treat birth control differently than the Colorado Personhood initiatives. Either Gardner doesn't realize that, in which case he looks clueless, or he does realize it–and is hoping to lie his way out of an irreconcilable contradiction.

Folks, we don't think Gardner is clueless.

Thou Doth Protest Too Much, Cory Gardner

A hard-hitting new ad from the Senate Majority PAC, targeting U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's longstanding support for banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest, is provoking an outraged response today from Gardner's campaign:

Senator Udall took his campaign to a disgusting new low today as he watched one of his top supporters spread malicious lies about Cory Gardner in a new television ad. Senate Majority PAC, which has run numerous false and misleading ads against Cory, is once again broadcasting more dishonest attacks.

“After nearly 20 years in politics, Senator Udall should be ashamed to stake the last stage of his career on a blatant falsehood,” campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano. “This ad is outrageous and makes multiple false claims…"

In a separate release, Gardner surrogate Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) responds similarly:

“There is such a thing as going too far in political advertising and Senator Udall and his allies have done it in this new ad. Rape victims should not be used as a political football and the fact that Senator Udall and his allies are content with exploiting rape victims to win reelection should cost him the support of women for using tragic circumstances as a tool for his gain. This ad lies about Cory Gardner three times in thirty seconds and uses the word ‘rape’ five times to lie about the Congressman’s record. It’s extremely disappointing to see a Senator from Colorado and his allies resort to these shameful and divisive tactics in an attempt to further his political ambitions. The ad should be removed from Colorado’s airwaves immediately.”

Gardner's campaign asserts "multiple" false claims in the ad, but the only claim they actually attempt to refute is the line about Gardner having sought to "redefine rape to mean only forcible rape." This claim refers to Gardner's cosponsorship of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in 2011. Politifact rates a similar claim made by Rep. Gwen Moore as "Mostly False." Here's what Politifact concludes, and you can judge for yourself:

Moore said House Republicans "tried to change the definition of rape."

Her statement contains an element of truth, in that GOP members sought to change when federal money for abortions could be used in cases of rape, by using the term "forcible rape."

But the claim ignores critical facts that would give a different impression — the House Republicans’ effort was not to change the definition of rape, per se, but rather to restrict the use of federal funds in abortions.

We find this interpretation overly charitable to Republican sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, since they most certainly were trying to change the meaning of the term "rape" in existing law–to require the rape to be "forcible" in order to be eligible for abortion funding. As the ad says, that would mean many rape victims would not be considered victims for the purposes of abortion funding. But since Politifact decided this claim is dubious, and we have generally considered Politifact to be authoritative, we're obliged to note all of this for the record.

With that said, Sen. Roberts' claim that this ad "uses the word ‘rape’ five times to lie about the Congressman’s record" is plainly meant to deceive. The ad talks about Gardner's longstanding support for banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Other than Roberts' misleading attempt to attribute all use of the word "rape" to the one claim about H.R. 3 the Politifact story deals with, Gardner's campaign makes no attempt to refute that allegation.

The reason is simple: it's true. Gardner has consistently supported banning all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, throughout his political career. No amount of surrogate outrage and semantic misdirection can change that. Knowing that helps explain the increasingly shrill response from Gardner's campaign, intended to provoke an emotional rejection of the claim before the audience ever gets the chance to think about it.

Once they do, as the polls show, Gardner has a big problem.

Udall Fronts Hobby Lobby Fix While Gardner Says “Make ‘Em Pay”

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

​The Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports from yesterday's press conference on legislation, introduced by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, to undo last week's Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling relieving many corporations of "Obamacare's" obligation to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans:

Senator Mark Udall joined women’s health advocates today to discuss his newest bill, which would effectively overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing “closely held” private companies, specifically craft store Hobby Lobby, to opt-out of employee health coverage that violates their religious beliefs.

“With up to 90 percent of American companies considered ‘closely held,’ the Hobby Lobby decision means that millions of working Americans’ access to crucial health care services may be threatened,” Udall said. “These corporations employ about half of all American workers. That means half of our bosses can now pick and choose which contraception and other health care services work best for our families.”

Udall’s bill, “The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” clarifies that the law the Supreme Court based their decision on — The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — cannot be used to allow for-profit corporations to limit any legal health care service.

“The men and women who went to work for Hobby Lobby signed up to work at a craft store, not a religious organization,” Udall said. His bill would not impact the coverage exemptions already granted to some non-profit religious organizations like churches.

As the AP reports, Sen. Udall's response to the Hobby Lobby ruling comes in stark contrast to that of his Republican opponent Cory Gardner. Partially in hope of squelching Gardner's longtime support for the Personhood abortion bans, but now viewed in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling, Gardner has called for birth control now available only by prescription to be purchasable over-the-counter. But as Udall notes, that's not a good deal for women compared to what they can get now–and still will, even after Hobby Lobby, from the majority of employers who will choose not to impose their religious views on their employees:

Democratic Sen Mark Udall is skeptical of his challenger's proposal to make birth control pills available over the counter, without a prescription.

Udall on Friday said paying retail prices for the pill could actually increase the cost of contraception. Currently, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to provide cost-free birth control to women. [Pols emphasis]

We assume Gardner doesn't consider cost-free birth control to be a priority, since he wants to repeal the law that makes it possible. But the reason the Affordable Care Act provided for cost-free birth control as guaranteed coverage was to ensure it is available to everyone–even to cash-strapped families who might otherwise make the choice to go without one month to make ends meet. In family planning terms, that can be a very costly choice.

Since neither Gardner's proposal nor Udall's legislation are going anywhere before this year's elections, the choice on display here is for the women of Colorado to decide this November. And despite Gardner's work to, in the words of one Republican consultant, "muddy it up enough to take it away from Udall," there remains a very distinct choice on this issue.

Gardner un-cosponsored legislation in 2011, showing how he can un-cosponsor federal personhood bill now

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

One of the biggest election-year hypocrisies hanging out there, waiting for a civic-minded reporter to jump on, is the fact that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner remains a cosponsor of federal personhood legislation, even though he's told the world, both in interviews and even in a paid advertisement, that he's "learned more" about "personhood" and changed his mind about supporting it.

To un-cosponsor the federal personhood bill, the Life at Conception Act, Gardner must give a speech from the floor of the House of Representatives. Why hasn't he done this?

Now is the time for the aforementioned civic-minded reporter to jump in and remind Gardner that he's trotted down to the floor of House and un-cosponsored at least one bill before.

Back in 2011, Gardner, along with fellow Colorado Congressmen Coffman and Tipton, cosponsored legislation offering tax credits for natural-gas-powered vehicles.

But the oil-loving Koch brothers caught wind of the legislation, and pressured co-sponsors of the bill to withdraw their names.

As the Sunlight Foundation reported at the time:

But some companies, led by the oil refining conglomerate owned by the politically influential Koch brothers, have campaigned against the legislation, according to a report in The Hill newspaper. Their efforts have resulted in 14 members of Congress withdrawing their support for the bill.

Gardner, Coffman, and Tipton apparently felt the Koch pressure, and speaking from the floor of the House, one by one, they asked that their cosponsorship of the natural-gas bill (HR 1380) be ended. Click at the bottom of the page here, on "Show cosponsors who withdrew."

(more…)

New Romanoff Paid Web Ad Hits Coffman Hard on Choice

So-called "web ads" running longer than the usual 30 seconds are often released by candidates with no paid exposure, in the hope that they'll be picked up by blogs and spread by individuals on social media. "Viral" spread of compelling content is a frequent goal of online campaign organizers, but rarely achieved.

Qualitatively, this web ad from Democratic CD-6 candidate Andrew Romanoff does seem like a good candidate for virality, taking a hard shot at Rep. Mike Coffman's record on reproductive choice. But in addition to hoped-for viral exposure, the ad is being run as a "preroll" spot on Youtube, Hulu, and other video content sites, where it will see many thousands of targeted views:

From the Romanoff campaign's press release:

Andrew Romanoff’s campaign today released a new online ad on reproductive rights — one day after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major setback to that cause. The video highlights Mike Coffman’s 25-year-long effort to deny Colorado women the right to make reproductive decisions. 

“Who decides? That’s the question at the core of this debate — and a key difference in this race,” Romanoff said. “I believe women should have the right to make their own choices, rather than surrender the most personal decisions to their employers, politicians or anyone else.”

The web video, which will appear online and in a paid advertising campaign on social media channels, details Mr. Coffman’s long record of strict opposition to a woman’s right to choose. The congressman supported the Personhood amendment, voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood, and co-sponsored a bill to redefine rape.

For campaigns looking to maximize exposure in the online space in a way that still allows for traditional video content production, online preroll buys are increasingly popular. They are cost-effective, can be launched with a comparatively small investment, and offer much more precise targeting than broadcast commercials. This isn't the first election cycle for preroll online video ads, but with each election more of the voting public is watching online video on a daily basis–more than broadcast TV in many cases. Smaller and lower budget campaigns should make more use of online video spots, and we expect that this year that will happen: especially with all the broadcast ad time being snapped up by the big campaigns and PACs.

It helps to have potent material too, which Romanoff has on Coffman.

Where does your state legislator stand on women’s issues?

 Women's Lobby of Colorado Legislative Scorecard.  See how your legislators are rated.

It's a ten page document, and posting pdfs is a pain, so you can look it up yourself. But you may find some surprises.

My SD3 candidate, and current HD46 rep, Leroy Garcia, has 100%.

My Senator, George Rivera, has 64%, which was higher than I thought he would have.

My current HD47 rep, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, is rated 36%. I guess that's what happens when one's market brand is being "business friendly".

By the way, "women's issues" are not just reproductive rights issues – economy, healthcare, education, and opportunity are also women's issues. Sorry, Laura Carno, larger magazine size on full auto guns didn't make the list.

 

 

Why do Beauprez and Gardner support personhood at the federal but not the state level?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

​On 9News' "Balance of Power" show Saturday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez confirmed his continued support for a federal personhood law but said he doesn't support a state personhood amendment.

In so doing, Beauprez aligned himself with U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner, who's withdrawn his support for a personhood amendment in Colorado but is still a co-sponsor of federal personhood legislation.

The simple question reporters should ask both these candidates is, "What's the difference?" The simple fact is, there is no difference.

If either were passed, the impact in Colorado would be identical: a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, as well as an end to the legal sale of some forms of contraception. That's what happens, among other things, when you give fertilized eggs (otherwise known as zygotes) legal rights.

But this fact didn't stop Beauprez from telling 9News' Political Reporter Brandon Rittiman Saturday that "we have to draw the line" at a state personhood "amendment."

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rittiman: Early on in the primary, Democrats pushed back on you for supporting, while you were in Congress, a federal version of personhood. And you're admittedly a pro-life guy. How do you reach out to a middle-ground female voter who feels that this is her rights that you're messing with?

Beauprez: "Well, let's be very clear. I am a pro-life Catholic. I voted that way. I've got a pro-life voting record. I believe that life begins at conception. But I also believe, as does my good friend and my Archbishop, who used to be in Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput… [who said] a “The personhood amendment, and that’s where we have to draw the line, the personhood amendment might have identified the right issue, but the very wrong solution”

Back in March, Rittiman asked Beauprez if he ever supported personhood, which would ban all abortion in Colorado.

Beauprez: "No. I got a hundred percent pro-life voting record, as you probably know, so I'm very much pro-life. But personhood as my dear friend and my Archbishop Charles Chaput, our previous archbishop here in Denver, said 'that's not the way to do it."

(more…)

Cory Gardner: The Great Con Is On

UPDATE #3: Rep. Diana DeGette fires back at Gardner in a new Denver Post op-ed:

In 2006, Gardner offered an amendment in the Colorado statehouse to prohibit emergency contraception birth control pills under the state Medicaid program. A year later, he was one of only nine members of the statehouse to oppose emergency contraception birth control pills for sexual assault victims. In 2010, Gardner voted against a bill that required insurance policies that cover complications of pregnancy and childbirth to also provide coverage for contraception, including "the pill."

Since he came to the U.S. Congress in 2011, Gardner has repeatedly voted to restrict employees' access to insurance coverage for birth control if their employer objects. Among the first pieces of legislation he co-sponsored was a bill to do just this, and a year later, he signed a letter with other Republican congressmen urging the Department of Health and Human Services to reverse a rule that guaranteed contraceptive access to women as part of basic health insurance coverage. Despite these objections, there is now a requirement that says most insurance plans must cover birth control, including "the pill."

Last September, Gardner joined his Republican colleagues in demanding that the contraceptive coverage guarantee be overturned, and Gardner and others attempted to make this demand a bargaining chip during last fall's federal government shutdown…

Given this record, as a woman and an elected official, I am offended that someone would put forward a proposal that transparently contradicts long-held positions. [Pols emphasis]

—–

UPDATE #2: MSNBC's Steve Benen:

Yes, one of Congress' most conservative members on the issue of reproductive rights is now, a long-time culture warrior who's spent much of his career on the far-right side on the issue – in 2011, Gardner even tried to redefine "rape" in order limit federal funds for abortion coverage – is all of a sudden a liberal when it comes to access to the pill.
 
The chutzpah necessary to even try a move like this is simply breathtaking.
 
"This is really getting ridiculous," said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. "As a state legislator, Cory Gardner voted against the Birth Control Protection Act. Gardner even voted against a bill to allow pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception. He voted to strip contraception funding from the state Medicaid program. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood, which serves women in rural Colorado. He opposed covering contraception as part of preventive health care without a co-pay. Today, he decided the best way to cover women's health is to insult the intelligence of every voter in Colorado."

—–

UPDATE: Think Progress:

Three weeks after Gardner announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, he came out in opposition to personhood efforts. “The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position. I’ve learned to listen. I don’t get everything right the first time,” he said at the time. Planned Parenthood Votes, a super PAC affiliated with the national women’s health organization, has accused Gardner of attempting to “whitewash” his past positions on reproductive health, pointing out that he still co-sponsors personhood initiatives on the national level. Gardner’s op-ed was published on the same day that the group released an ad criticizing his history on personhood.

Planned Parenthood isn’t impressed with Gardner’s new call for over-the-counter birth control, either. “If Cory Gardner thinks he can delete his long record of restricting women’s access to health care with one op-ed, he clearly doesn’t respect the intelligence of Colorado women,” the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Votes, Dawn Laguens, said in a statement, adding that the GOP candidate has “spent his career trying to deny women access to birth control.”

—–

No really, trust me.

No really, trust me.

​As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner is plowing ahead with his audacious campaign to reinvent himself on issues of importance to women voters, the latest move being a Denver Post op-ed published yesterday in which Gardner endorses making oral contraception available over the counter:

Gardner responded Thursday with an Op-Ed in the Denver Post charging Udall and Washington Democrats with using women’s health issues as a wedge to divide voters and offered his idea: allowing women to buy birth control pills over the counter without getting a prescription from a doctor, something he says can save families time and money…

Gardner’s well-written Op-Ed is smart politics but it did not include any promise to sponsor legislation or take other action to spur the Food and Drug Administration to re-classify birth control pills to be available over the counter.

And it opened the floodgates for Udall’s campaign and Democrat-leaning organizations to stay on their favorite subject, to remind voters about Gardner’s past votes, including a 2007 vote as a state lawmaker against requiring hospitals to inform survivors of a sexual assault of the availability of emergency contraception. [Pols emphasis] The bill exempted health care professionals who objected on religious grounds and would not require a hospital to provide emergency contraception to a survivor not at risk of becoming pregnant.

Much like Gardner's original sort-of reversal on the Personhood abortion ban, where Gardner disavowed his prior support for the Colorado statewide ballot initiative while remaining to this day a sponsor of equivalent federal legislation, or Gardner's less-publicized but equally important reversals on such issues as gay adoption and immigration, the response from Democrats has been, in a word, incredulous.

“Congressman Gardner has a disturbing record of supporting radical measures to limit, and even outlaw, women’s access to contraception. His flailing efforts to remake his image serve as an admission that his extreme beliefs and reckless agenda are out-of-step with mainstream Colorado values,” said State Rep. Angela Williams in a statement blasted out by Udall’s campaign.

“Cory Gardner is trying to re-write history and erase his record on women’s access to contraception,” [Pols emphasis] said Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. “He voted against contraceptive access time and time again in Colorado. In Congress, he’s still a co-sponsor of the Personhood bill, which would outlaw many forms of contraception.

“Colorado women know the truth. We can’t trust Cory Gardner to stand with us and protect out rights on contraception and reproductive health.”

The stakes in this fight to define Gardner for voters couldn't be higher: in 2010, then-GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck narrowly lost his challenge to appointed Sen. Michael Bennet, in a race where women voters were so much the decisive factor that it's been a point of study ever since for political scientists across the nation. Gardner came into this race with a heavy load of baggage on reproductive choice, principally because all of his prior campaigns have been for safe Republican seats.

Gardner's solution to this problem may too go down in history, especially in the event it is successful. Gardner's strategy to drop his long-established hard line positions on abortion like a hot brick, hoping to neutralize the issue before the general public tunes back in to politics this fall, is without hyperbole one of the most audacious political gambits we have seen in our years covering politics. Gardner is not just flip-flopping, he is trying to cast himself as the enemy of his former self on issues he knows are losers with the statewide electorate. It goes well beyond "politics as usual," and that point is critical for Democrats to drive home in the coming weeks.

(more…)

Planned Parenthood Rips Gardner In New Ad

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic:

Gardner is unlikely to come out ahead in the web war. His performance in his ad is stilted expository. He says he “changed his mind on personhood” but he hasn’t. He backed a slew of anti-abortion bills over the last decade and as an officeholder and he supported personhood ballot initiatives in the state two-election seasons in a row. More to the point, he still says he is adamantly anti-abortion and he is a current co-sponsor of the main personhood bill on the docket on the Hill, the “Life at Conception Act.” Gardner’s ad has the “I didn’t do it” feel of a man who has been caught and put against a wall and asked a question point blank.

The series of ads on Gardner and personhood — or women’s health more generally — poses a question: What’s to stop Udall from doing this to Gardner repeatedly on a host of issues? What’s next, immigration-policy reform? Gay rights? The prospect raises another question: What’s to stop all Democratic candidates in the state running in swing districts or for statewide offices from “Gardnering” their opponents this way on the same set of issues, where majorities of voters solidly embrace Democratic positions?

—–

A press release this afternoon announces Planned Parenthood's new ad, attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner for his sort-of-but-not-really reversal on the "Personhood" abortion bans–and noting that Gardner remains a co-sponsor of virtually identical federal legislation:

In the ad, which will run online across Colorado, the narrator reads: “Meet Congressman Gardner’s new favorite key,” as the camera scans a keyboard and settles on “delete.” The narrator continues, “Congressman Gardner is trying to erase part of his record,” highlighting his support for the Life at Conception Act. The narrator ends with “Congressman Gardner still wants to take medical decisions away from you, and your doctor.”

“Colorado voters won’t be fooled by Cory Gardner’s cynical attempts to whitewash his dangerous record on women’s health issues. When he went to Washington, Gardner continued his long-standing support for extreme measures that would interfere with a woman’s personal medical decisions — including the ‘Life at Conception Act,’ a nationwide so-called ‘personhood’ measure,” said Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado Vice President of Public Affairs, Cathy Alderman.
 
“One thing remains clear: Cory Gardner can’t be trusted. That’s why we’ll be working around the clock to make sure Colorado women and families know the high stakes for women’s health and rights this November. We know that Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations are a trusted source of information and that women listen to us when we speak out to them about issues that affect their health and rights. We know what it takes to win, and we’re in it for the long run,” said Planned Parenthood Votes Executive Vice President, Dawn Laguens.

Gardner's continued sponsorship of the federal Life at Conception Act, which contains the key similar language from the Personhood abortion bans about rights conferred "at the moment of fertilization," is one of the biggest reasons it is so baffling to see Gardner publicly defending his flip-flop on the Colorado Personhood measures. For Gardner to remove himself as a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, a recorded action is needed–and without that, his flip on the state Personhood measure can be easily portrayed as thinly veiled deception.

There's nothing Gardner can do to honorably extricate himself. There are no principles on display here, only political calculation. Taking his name off the federal Personhood legislation at this point, after struggling with this self-inflicted wound for months, will only underscore what everyone knows: Gardner cares about saving his political skin, and basically nothing else.

Reminder: In CD-4, Flip-Flopping is Still Bad

A new ad from GOP CD-4 candidate Scott Renfroe brands fellow Republican primary contender Ken Buck as a flip-flopper for his ill-fated abandonment in 2010 of the "Personhood" abortion ban:

The primary election is just weeks away, but this ad is an example of how the battle to succeed Rep. Cory Gardner in staunchly conservative CD-4, which will be decided June 24th, may well an uncomfortable period of time for Gardner. Gardner's own reversal on Personhood four years after Buck–which Gardner says had been coming ever since Buck "discovered" on the 2010 campaign trail that Personhood could ban certain forms of birth control, despite still being a sponsor of equivalent federal legislation–is one of his biggest liabilities, and there's nothing about his successors bickering over the issue that helps Republicans move on.

On the other hand, it is what it is, and Renfroe will have his share of CD-4 primary voters to make the point.

Politifact Rates Udall’s First Ad “Half True”

Pulitzer Prize-winning fact checker Politifact, operated by the Tampa Bay Times, has kept a close eye on ads in this year's U.S. Senate race in Colorado. Having reported in detail on Politifact's hammering of ads against Sen. Mark Udall as factually untrue, we'd be remiss if we didn't note their analysis of Udall's first ad against GOP opponent Cory Gardner, now playing widely–the most aggressive claim in which is rated "half true."

In 2006, Colorado Right to Life asked all politicians running for office if they supported the Right to Life Act in Congress, "recognizing that personhood begins at fertilization." Gardner, then a first-term state representative answered yes.

Udall’s campaign provided a television news story from March 17, 2008, that appears to briefly show Gardner in a room with several Republican colleagues signing on to the petition to put personhood on the Colorado ballot (around the 1-minute mark).

Gardner’s campaign did not respond to questions about his support of the 2008 referendum. His campaign did, however, acknowledge that Gardner supported the referendum efforts in 2010 at a candidate forum.

In a video clip from the forum, Gardner says he signed the petition and circulated it at his church. He also said the measure "backs up my support for life," but did not mention contraceptives or birth control.

News stories from Colorado papers in 2008 and 2010 mention the debate over contraceptives involved in personhood legislation. In fact, Ken Buck, the 2010 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado, backed away from his previous support of the personhood referendum because he said it could impact some forms of birth control. So contraception was a live issue at the time.

But Cohen, the Harvard professor, told PolitiFact that "it is unclear that the Colorado 2008 and 2010 referendums were intended to ‘outlaw birth control in Colorado’ — that's what the word ‘crusade’ seems to imply. It is more clear that the language of those amendments might have outlawed some forms of birth control, whether that was the goal or not."

In other words, Gardner may have been in favor of the amendment, but for reasons other than curbing contraception.

This is the same ad that 9NEWS Truth Tested late last month, concluding this same assertion that Gardner "championed an eight-year crusade to outlaw birth control here in Colorado" is "debatable." The debate over this question seems to hinge on whether a ban on certain forms of so-called "abortifacient" birth control was the intention of proponents. In some cases, it demonstrably was the intention, but a reasonable person might give the benefit of the doubt and allow for the possibility that it was not in all cases.

The problem is, by 2010 when Gardner backed Amendment 62 in a televised debate, and even helped circulate petitions, the consequence–either intended or unintended–of banning some forms of birth control was common knowledge. This had been the principal argument against "Personhood" two years before. This means that even if banning birth control was not Gardner's purpose in supporting Personhood, he cannot escape responsibility for those consequences. He either supported that outcome, or viewed it as acceptable collateral damage.

Do the full facts of this make the Udall's campaign's claim that Gardner "championed an eight-year crusade to outlaw birth control" debatable? Yes. Reasonable people can debate the full extent of that. But there's certainly enough of an argument on Udall's side to have that debate–and no amount of time spent debating this is helpful to Cory Gardner.

Congressional Speech Required for Gardner to Flip on Federal Personhood

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Unanimous consent.

Unanimous consent.

Rep. Cory Gardner un-endorsed Colorado's personhood amendment last month by telling The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels he changed his mind.

But if Gardner is going to un-endorse federal personhood legislation, which he cosponsored nine months ago, he'll have to trot down to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and ask for "unanimous consent" to have his name removed from the legislation, which would ban all abortion, including for rape and incest.

"A member has go to the House floor and technically ask for unanimous consent to remove their name as co-sponsor of the bill," said Sarah Binder, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. "And you can do that up until the point at which the committee reports the bill to the floor."

If you're completely bored and you feel like reviewing the "Life at Conception Act," which is a federal personhood bill, you'll find Gardner's name is still listed as a cosponsor, having signed up nine months ago.

So it appears Gardner hasn't un-endorsed the bill yet, but calls to the Gardner's office and to the office of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) were not returned.

Gardner still has time to remove his name, because the House committee hasn't reported on the bill, which means the committee hasn't voted on it.

During an interview on CBS4 Friday, Gardner suggested that he may not take back his support of federal personhood legislation. And he defended his anti-abortion record in Congress during a recent radio interview as well.

“In the state of Colorado, the personhood initiative, I do not support,” Gardner told CBS4 Political Reporter Shaun Boyd.

Boyd should have asked Gardner if he has plans to withdraw his cosponsorship of federal personhood and, if so, when.

"It's somewhat rare for members to feel compelled to take their names off bills," said Binder, but she could understand how the pressure of a state-wide campaign would put "heat" on Gardner.

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Cory Gardner’s Personhood Debacle Shows Inexperience, Problems Ahead

Cory Gardner's Personhood twist

Rep. Cory Gardner demonstrates the Personhood Pretzel move.

Look, we get it. We understand the idea here. Rep. Cory Gardner was obviously concerned that his longtime support of the Personhood issue — both in Colorado and in Congress — would be a significant problem in his quest to defeat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in November. From a broader perspective, it probably seemed like a wise move to try to distance himself from his Personhood past. But Gardner and his campaign team didn't spend enough time thinking this through.

Not only has the Personhood issue failed to fade for Gardner, but his clumsy handling of the flip-flop has actually made things worse for his candidacy. And from what we hear, some high-level Republicans are quietly growing nervous about Gardner's silly mistakes.

There is plenty of evidence that it isn't working, but the most damning piece of evidence is Gardner's own posturing and kneading of his position. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow recently dedicated an entire segment of her show to discussing Gardner's flip-floppity on Personhood. You can argue the level oif impact that Maddow may have on Colorado's Senate race, but that's not really the point. If Gardner hadn't spun himself dizzy over Personhood in the last 6 weeks, Maddow would not be devoting an entire segment to Gardner right now. You've read this line before on Colorado Pols, and it's a truism in politics that applies well to Gardner's situation: This didn't have to happen this way.

Gardner dropped his Personhood flip-flop bombshell on Friday, March 21, clearly hoping that a late Friday news dump would give him some cover for his astonishing change of heart on an issue that he once "supported" so wholeheartedly that he boasted in 2010 that he carried petitions to his church in support of a Personhood ballot measure in Colorado. In a letter from his Congressional office sent to a constituent on March 17 — just four days before his flip-flop — Gardner was reaffirming his support for Personhood.

How do you know when your strategy to avoid a difficult subject has failed? When you are still talking about it six weeks later.

In an interview with Shaun Boyd of CBS4 that aired last Friday, Gardner was asked again about his position on Personhood. He responded with a very specific qualifier:

On abortion, Gardner has voted for bills with and without exceptions for rape and incest. He also sponsored the “Life Begins At Conception Act” and once supported Personhood in Colorado, something he no longer supports.

In the State of Colorado, the Personhood Initiative I do not support,” said Gardner. [Pols emphasis] “I came to that opinion because of a number of issues including the fact that it would ban common forms of contraception.”

Note the bold part of the sentence above, where Gardner says, "In the State of Colorado…" The reason for the very specific wording in his answer is that Gardner has be a sponsor of the "Life Begins At Conception Act" in Congress, which is basically Personhood with a longer name. Gardner is saying, "In the State of Colorado…" because he is trying to patch a gaping self-inflicted wound that was clearly not well thought-out when he first went public with his flip-flop in March. As we wrote a day after Gardner's big flipperoo, trying to dump Personhood may not have been the no-brainer idea that some robotic political commentators once opined:

Put it this way: Gardner's campaign is in a worse position today than it was on Friday morning. Not only did Gardner not solve his "Personhood" problem, but he unnecessarily created new concerns for himself. He has now opened himself up to the always-effective "flip-flopper" attack, which will be particularly devastating for Gardner because there is video of him supporting "Personhood" with his own words. That problem boxes him in on a whole host of other difficult issues where his record won't align with moderate voters. From here on out, Gardner can't try to adjust his position on anything without feeding more fuel into the "flip-flopper" fire; that's very important, because the next stop after "flip-flopper" is "untrustworthy," which is extremely difficult to overcome.

It's worth pointing out, again, that Cory Gardner has won but two significant "elections" in his career, and both of them were decided by Republicans (a narrow 7-5 vacancy committee victory in 2005 that gave Gardner a safe State House seat, and a 2010 GOP Primary for the right to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey in a heavily-Republican CD-4). Gardner has never even been a candidate in a highly-competitive General Election, and that lack of experience, combined with one of the most partisan records in recent memory, is proving the be exactly the problematic combination that we thought it might.

Nowhere has this played out more clearly than with the Personhood issue; not only has Gardner failed to put the issue behind him, he has actually raised more questions about where he stands on an issue that 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly rejected. To make matters worse, Gardner has sufficiently angered a very active and vocal part of his Republican base — which, again, was unnecessary. What Gardner is now learning, which should have been obvious, is that you can't take a soft position on Personhood. You can't be "sort of" in favor of the idea that life begins at conception — particularly when you have sponsored similar legislation as recently as last summer. You are either in favor of Personhood, or opposed to Personhood; given Gardner's background on the issue, which Sen. Udall's campaign has documented in an infographic (after the jump), there was no way he was ever going to be able to convince people that his position had truly evolved.

The scary thing for Gardner supporters is not that their candidate has ineffectively tried to change his position on Personhood — it's that he keeps trying to explain himself, as he did with Shaun Boyd last week. Gardner opened this box of worms all on his own, and there's no closing the lid now.

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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.

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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