Barbara McLachlan Takes On J. Paul Brown

Barbara McLachlan.

Barbara McLachlan.

A press release late yesterday announced the launch of a new challenge to GOP Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, whose swing HD-59 seat is considered a major pickup opportunity for Democrats hoping to grow their Colorado House majority in 2016:

Barbara McLachlan, celebrated former English and journalism educator and Teacher of the Year at Durango High School, announced her candidacy for state representative in House District 59, which includes Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray and San Juan counties.

“I am excited to be running for State Representative because I believe in a brighter future filled with opportunity for our Western Slope community,” she said. “I will use my experience as a teacher and educator to tackle the major issues facing our district: fighting for our fair share of school funding, working to bring more jobs and opportunity to Southwestern Colorado, and protecting our clean air and our water, which are central to our local heritage, culture and economy.”

“As a teacher in this district for 20 years, I have dedicated my life to ensuring a high quality education for the students in our community, and I’m running for state representative to continue that work,” Barbara said. “Our Western Slope school districts deserve our fair share of funding; I’ve seen firsthand the impact of shrinking budgets in our classrooms, and I know that when our schools have the resources they need, students learn and achieve more. We can do better, and we need to do better for our students and families in Southwestern Colorado.”

Barbara is also committed to bringing her experience to bear on other important issues impacting our community.

“A major focus for my campaign will be bringing more jobs and opportunity to House District 59,” Barbara said. “While the rest of Colorado has been feeling the effects of the recovery, our Western Slope community has lagged behind. Many families are still having a hard time making ends meet and being able to save for retirement and a higher education. We need to focus on policies that will help create good jobs for hardworking Coloradans and build a stronger regional economy.”

Rep. J. Paul Brown (R).

Rep. J. Paul Brown (R).

HD-59 has swung back and forth between narrow Democratic and Republican wins in recent years, with victory as much a function of how the respective parties are faring as anything else. With 2016 a presidential election year, past performance would indicate a good chance for Democrats to retake this seat. Rep. J. Paul Brown, who is defending this seat after beating Rep. Mike McLachlan in 2014 by a mere 168 votes, has tried hard to live down a bad reputation from his first term in 2010-2012–mostly by keeping his mouth shut instead of popping off with no regard for tactfulness about whatever politically unsightly notion pops into his head. Brown earned the nickname “64 and Brown” after being the only legislator in either party to vote against an uncontroversial homeless youth prevention program.

Mike McLachlan’s considerable health problems while serving in the General Assembly in 2013-2014 are what’s presumably keeping him on the sidelines for 2016, but Barbara McLachlan by all accounts will be more than capable of making her own case for election as an educator with deep ties to the district. McLachlan taught English and journalism at Durango High School for 20 years, and was made Teacher of the Year for the Durango school district in 2012. Some of the votes she’ll be asking for are from former students.

On the upside for Brown, 2018’s midterms are only three years away.

Fake Reporter Art Kane Back With Another Bogus Story

Art Kane.

Art Kane.

Local freelance “journalist” Art Kane came under heavy criticism last year after writing a series of news articles for the Denver Post that inaccurately disparaged the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, in Colorado. And these weren’t small inaccuracies, either, but wild factual exaggerations and totally unsubstantiated hearsay horror stories that fell apart under casual scrutiny.

Since then, Kane has taken up with a “news” outlet much better suited to his particular brand of hackery: the conservative website run by the Franklin Center for Public Integrity. The stories may not be any more accurate–but Kane’s new bosses aren’t concerned with, you know, accuracy.

Today’s Art Kane feature story on per diem pay for Colorado state legislators at Colorado Watchdog is an excellent case in point:

Colorado lawmakers who live outside the metro area will get a bump in their per diem next session, making that state’s reimbursements the second highest in the country and costing taxpayers an additional $35,000 next year…

The per diem rate for lawmakers living outside the metro area will go up to $195 a day next session; state law sets it at 85 percent of the federal government per diem for the Denver Metro area, which also increased this year. The cost to taxpayers is an additional $35,000 a year, legislative staff wrote in an email exchange with

Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky said he was upset when he learned from last week’s story the per diem expenses cost taxpayers so much money, and that raising the costs next year isn’t appropriate.

Gregory Golyansky.

Gregory Golyansky.

Setting aside Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky’s major credibility problems, with which our readers are very well acquainted, there’s a very large part of the story of this increase in per diem that Art Kane isn’t telling you:

National Conference of State Legislatures data shows the increase will skyrocket Colorado to the second highest per diem after Alaska, which pays lawmakers $235 a day if they live outside the capital area…

This year, Kentucky, Alaska and Tennessee had higher per diems, but Colorado will surpass those states unless their per diem rates increase. Expensive states such as Hawaii, New York and California reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado, NCSL data shows. [Pols emphasis]

As we read this story claiming that “expensive states” like Hawaii, New York, and California “reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado,” we remembered something very important: in Colorado, legislators don’t even make enough to survive. Here’s what the National Conference of State Legislatures really says about the salaries of lawmakers in the states listed above:

Base Salary

California: $90,526 per year
Hawaii: $57,852 per year
New York: $79,500 per year
Colorado: $30,000 per year [Pols emphasis]

This list doesn’t take into account which of these legislatures are “part time” versus “full time,” but that really doesn’t matter: Colorado legislators routinely draw per diem pay for events they attend throughout the year. Most of our lawmakers in either party will tell you that serving in the Colorado General Assembly is very much a full-time commitment. And that means except for the very young and very rich, it’s a huge financial hardship.

And in terms of their total compensation, which is of course the bottom line, Colorado lawmakers earn a tiny fraction of what legislators in these other states make. And that makes Art Kane’s latest big story…well, another steaming pile of bullshit.

Back in 2012, we were critical of a bill to raise per diem pay for legislators, mostly because at that time state employees had not received a raise in several years due to recession-forced pay freezes. Then-majority House Republicans rushing the bill through with no debate didn’t help the optics either. With that said, there’s no question that pay for lawmakers in Colorado is, at this point, a major disincentive to public service.

If Art Kane would like to write a factual story, perhaps he should start there instead.

Colorado Republicans cancel 2016 presidential caucus vote

Move makes Colorado only state to date to opt out of early nomination process

Colorado will not pick a Republican candidate for president in its 2016 caucus after party leaders approved a little-noticed shift that is likely to diminish the swing state’s clout in the most open nomination contest in the modern era.

The GOP executive committee voted Friday to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll at the caucus after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate that wins.

The move makes Colorado the only state so far to forfeit a role in the early nomination process, according to experts, but other states are still considering what to do.

“It takes Colorado completely off the map” in the nomination process, said Ryan Call, a former state GOP chairman.

More at

Wonder why… Are they 1) broke? 2) Afraid of Trump or 3) or still infighting in the Colorado Republican Party to care about their own caucus?

It Wouldn’t Be a Secret Society if you Talked About it, Kent Lambert


Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We do, we do!
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps? We do, we do!
Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do, we do!
Who robs cavefish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night? We do, we do!

        – “Stonecutter” theme song, via The Simpsons.

On Tuesday the environmental group Center for Western Priorities released a new report underlining the “anti-government extremism” behind renewed efforts to move federal public lands under state control. According to a summary of the report:

Last week, armed members of the Oath Keepers and other militias arrived at a mine in Montana, posting “no trespassing” signs on public land. The operation is the latest in a string of standoffs involving extremist groups that refuse to recognize the authority of the U.S. government, including incidents at the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon and Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada.

A new investigation by the non-partisan watchdog Center for Western Priorities has uncovered wide-ranging ties between those extremist groups and Western legislators involved in a coordinated effort to take our national lands from the American people. 

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Reporter Joey Bunch picked up on the report for the Denver Post, and he caught up with Colorado Springs state Sen. Kent Lambert for his response:

“They aren’t just supporting similar goals — they’re trying to pass legislation that goes directly to the demands and ideology of the Oath Keepers and Bundy Ranch supporters,” Aaron Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities, responded in an e-mail about the state-control advocates.

“When Kent Lambert mentions ‘posse comitatus’ during a floor debate, that’s a dog whistle to the Oath Keepers — there’s a tiny group of people who even know what the term means, much less cite it during the legislative session.” [Pols emphasis]

Lambert said he hadn’t heard of the Oath Keepers before Tuesday [Pols emphasis], so it wasn’t a dog whistle but a reference to the “Federalist Papers, No. 29,” a letter from Alexander Hamilton to the people of New York in 1788 to the clarify the role of state militia in enforcing provisions of the Constitution. Further, the often-cited 1878 Posse Comitatus Act limits the federal government’s role in domestic police matters. Lambert’s unsuccessful Senate Bill 39 would have recognized that state and local governments already has jurisdiction over U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and militia leader Chris Simcox.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and militia leader Chris Simcox.

We don’t know if Lambert is a card-carrying member of the Oath Keepers, but we have trouble believing he’s never even heard of this group before. Lambert is a well-documented supporter of usurping federal control over lands (and borders), and has openly consorted with militia leaders like accused child molester Chris Simcox in Arizona (photo right). The Oath Keepers have been in the news quite a bit lately for their bizarre attempt to “defend” Ferguson, Missouri from…black people, or something. Here’s what Mother Jones magazine says about the group:

Oath Keepers is one of the fastest-growing “patriot” organizations on the right. Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.

Hard to imagine these guys not being right up Lambert’s alley–Lambert or any number of other GOP Colorado legislators in both chambers. You might start with legislators who tag along for the Republican Study Committee of Colorado’s annual border “fact finding” junkets. But there’s at least a possibility that without the right secret handshake, you’ll never know for sure!

Might be worth keeping this angle in mind next session just the same.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Aug. 13)

Get More SmarterYou’re not the only one who fell asleep before the meteor shower last night. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).



Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), visited Durango on Wednesday to take arrows over a massive minewater spill in the Animas River. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, joined by her counterparts from New Mexico and Utah, is making not-so-subtle threats to sue the EPA over the the spill.

The river seems to be returning to pre-contamination levels, however. Colorado’s top gross-water tester, Gov. John Hickenlooper, drank directly from the Animas River on Wednesday to prove that the water is safe, contacting the Durango Herald 24 hours later to prove that he wasn’t dead.

► The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled — unanimously — that business owners do not have the right to discriminate at will. The court says that a Lakewood bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple violated state anti-discrimination laws. We still need a court to make it illegal to put disgusting fruit filling between cake layers.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


“Dr. Chaps” Says Drown Gay Boy Scout Leaders (Yes, Really)

UPDATE #2: The Colorado House LGBT caucus weighs in strongly:

“Gordon Klingenschmitt is inciting physical violence against scoutmasters for their sexual orientation, plain and simple. This type of language is hateful and certainly below the station of any elected official, especially in 2015.

“Moreover, Rep. Klingenschmitt has a history of using his platform as an online minister to spread vitriol and violence, especially against members of the LGBT community. Sadly, it is no longer a surprise to hear this type of sentiment from Rep. Klingenschmitt, but that history of hateful speech does nothing to blunt its effect in this particular instance. If House Minority leadership does not act, then they are condoning this type of conduct from one of their caucus members; House GOP leadership’s actions will speak volumes.”

In March, Rep. Klingenschmitt was stripped of his post on the House Health, Insurance, and Environment committee after saying, “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open,” after the brutal attack on Michelle Wilkins of Longmont.


UPDATE: Colorado LGBT advocates react angrily to Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s latest remarks, a statement from One Colorado moments ago:

“After making numerous comments over the past year attacking lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families, Representative Klingenschmitt just can’t seem to get enough. He recently called on the Boy Scouts of America to drown all gay leaders in its organization. Gay adults are involved in scouting for the same reasons everyone else is; to serve youth, and to help them grow into good, strong citizens. These comments are reprehensible – and he should be ashamed of himself for making them.

“One Colorado calls on the leaders of the Colorado Republican Party, and Republican leadership in the State House, to condemn Representative Klingenschmitt’s comments and affirm that no one should be targeted for violence just because of who they are, or who they love.

“While experience tells us we shouldn’t hold our breath for an apology from Mr. Klingenschmitt, an apology is exactly what is owed – not just to gay scouts and leaders across the state, but to the countless friends and family members who are tired of seeing their loved ones attacked just for being who they are. Simply put, Representative Klingenschmitt – the fair-minded people of Colorado deserve better.”

Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado takes it a step further, calling (again) for Klingenschmitt to resign–and for House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso to step up and take some responsibility for his caucus:

“Just how far is too far?” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “After Rep. Klingenschmitt claimed that a sitting member of Congress from our state wants to ‘behead Christians,’ and that the tragic attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont last March was ‘the curse of God,’ ProgressNow Colorado called for him to resign. Instead, House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso restored Klingenschmitt to his committee assignments as soon as the media stopped paying attention, and swept the matter under the rug. That was a huge mistake, and today Republicans are paying the price as Klingenschmitt once again brings shame upon the entire state of Colorado.”

“It would be easy to dismiss Klingenschmitt’s statements as the ravings of a deranged lunatic, except for the fact that he is an elected Republican legislator in the state of Colorado,” said Runyon-Harms. “By not acting to distance themselves from Rep. Klingenschmitt, Colorado Republicans are validating what he says. Every day that goes by with Klingenschmitt continuing to serve as a Republican legislator, his hatred speaks for them. It has to stop, and the only ones who can stop it are Klingenschmitt’s Republican legislative leaders.”

“It is months past time for Colorado Republicans to ask Rep. Klingenschmitt to resign,” said Runyon-Harms.


Raw Story’s David Edwards reports on the latest over-the-top emanations from the mouth of GOP Colorado Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt–and this one can fairly be described as a doozy. In all our time discussing Klingenschmitt’s wacky declarations about demons possessing President Barack Obama or Rep. Jared Polis wanting to “behead Christians,” we’re pretty sure he has never actually called for the various agents of evil in the world he identifies to be, you know, physically harmed.

Until now:

Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R) said on Monday that it would be “better” for the Boy Scouts of America to drown its gay scoutmasters in the “depths of the sea” instead of lifting a ban on them…

“If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get him out of there,” he warned. “Because what they’re going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods. And it will lead to child abuse… The children are in danger. It’s not about the sexual pleasure of the adults.”

Klingenschmitt pointed viewers a verse from the book of Matthew: “Whoever causes one of these to little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

“This is what Jesus said about child molesters,” the Republican lawmaker insisted…

Klingenschmitt goes on to say that gay Boy Scout leaders being drowned would be preferable to the wrath of the Almighty God “when he throws them into hell.” Klingenschmitt himself says he would rather be drowned than face God’s judgment for the molestations that must surely follow if the Boy Scouts let gay scoutmasters come out of the closet.

Got that? According to the elected Republican representative of Colorado House District 15, who never misses the chance to pose with big-name Republicans for a photo, and who was reinstated to his committee assignments by House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso after calling a vicious attack on a pregnant Longmont woman “the curse of God upon America,” murdering gay Boy Scouts would be doing them a favor.

To be honest, we weren’t sure how “Dr. Chaps” could ever top his previous outrages–but it looks like he just did.

Aurora Victim’s Parents Face Bankruptcy After Suing Online Ammo Dealers, Vow To Change Colorado Law

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Back in May, we took note of a particularly troubling development in the aftermath of the 2012 mass shootings at the Century Theater in Aurora. The parents of Jessica Ghawi, one of the theatergoers killed when James Holmes opened fire in a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, are facing dire financial straits after their lawsuit against online ammunition and body armor dealers who sold Holmes items used in the Aurora shooting was dismissed.

Under a Colorado law passed as a Republican “backlash” against stricter gun control measures following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, House Bill 00-1208, requires the immediate dismissal of any lawsuit brought against firearm or ammunition dealers, and further requires (using the term shall as opposed to may) that the judge order the plaintiffs in that lawsuit to pay the gun dealer’s legal fees. The problem in this case is that the suit filed by Lonnie and Sandy Phillips was not frivolous, investigating legitimate questions of liability arising from the online sale of ammunition and other dangerous products. Critically, the suit also sought no monetary damages–just a change in business practices by online gun and ammunition dealers.

Following another shooting incident at a theater in Louisiana last week, the Phillipses appeared on MSNBC’s News Nation with Tamron Hall, and disclosed that they now face bankruptcy over the $200,000 judgment against them. For all the publicity surrounding the Aurora shooting and trial underway now, the plight of the Phillips family has received very little press attention, and Hall expressed shock at learning the details of their case:

The main argument from supporters of the gun dealers seeking money from the Phillips family is that they were given legal assistance by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. They assert that the Brady Center should pay the gun dealers, since obviously it would not be very good press for said gun dealers to start seizing assets of the parents of someone their products were involved in killing. At the end of the segment, Sandy Phillips addresses this question with Tamron Hall directly, asking “would you be willing to pay one penny to the people who helped murder your daughter?”

Because further appeals of the judgment dismissing their lawsuit would only expose them to further liability, the Phillipses say they are dropping their appeal to seek a legislative remedy. Repealing Colorado House Bill 00-1208, or at least modifying its punitive “shall award” language to allow for the possibility of a legitimate case against gun dealers at some point in the future, could perhaps be called a happy ending.

With the obvious caveat that there are no happy endings to this tragic story.

Caption This Photo: “Dr. Chaps” Flings BS (Literally)

This weekend, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt participated in the El Paso County Republican Party Cowpie Throwing Contest at the El Paso County Fair. Unfortunately, El Paso County’s most (in)famous state representative did not win this prestigious competition, reportedly on account of his chunk of manure disintegrating in mid-flight–but his mere participation was enough to give the world a truly memorable image.


Fling it, “Dr. Chaps.” Fling that cowpie to the sky.

Rep. Klingenschmitt: Homosexuals “Want To Rule You”

Colorado’s most famous (or infamous) sitting member of the state legislature, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, uploaded a new episode of his Pray in Jesus’ Name Youtube “ministry” program today. Since taking office in January and for some time before, Klingenschmitt’s broadcasts have done a great deal to putrefy the Republican brand in Colorado, as well as make him a national symbol of the general intolerance and cluelessness of the contemporary religious right. Klingenschmitt was even punished by fellow Republicans after he claimed the horrific attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont last March was “God’s curse upon America,” though he was quietly reinstated to the committee assignment he lost just a couple of weeks later.

In today’s episode (clip posted above), Rep. Klingenschmitt launched into an unusually forceful tirade about the rights of gays and lesbians to participate in society, and what that means for “the Christian audience.” Transcribed:

KLINGENSCHMITT: And there has been this branding, this idea that oh, you know homosexual marriage and that movement is all about love. No. There’s a spirit of lust inside some people who are confused about their sexuality and they just lust, and they crave flesh, and it’s not selfless sacrifice or loving your neighbor, you can do that. A man can visit another man in the hospital and show them genuine compassion without lusting for them sexually. So it’s not the same as love.

It’s also not about equality. Oh, they say, oh, we just want equal rights. You already have the equal right to marry someone of the opposite sex. Everyone in this country already had for decades, for generations, the right to marry somebody of the opposite sex if they want to. And just because you don’t sexually prefer, doesn’t mean that you have now a legal right to marry someone of the same sex. That’s not a right, because rights come from God.

Finally, it is, if it’s not about love, it’s not about equality, what is it about? It’s about power. And, and when they push their agenda for the right to reeducate your children in their image, for the right to, uh, recruit or adopt, because they can’t have their own children they want the right to remake society in their own image, and force you to either shut up or shut down. And that’s why they’re trying to pass these ordnances against bakers and photographers and florists, to force you the Christian audience, or force Christian universities to endorse their sin or lose your tax exempt status as we talked about in the previous story. This is about power. They want to rule you. And we need to stand up against that and we need to disobey.

So, there’s plenty to ping the outrage meter with here–but if we had to pick, we’d say that somewhere between declaring that gays don’t experience “the same thing as love” and how they want to “recruit or adopt” the children of straight America, “Dr. Chaps” is burying the needle. Again.

We’ll ask again: how is it not news every time an incumbent Republican lawmaker says these things? He shouldn’t draw a pass in the media on account of frequency. We shouldn’t assume he’s offending his fellow Republicans too. He should be called out loudly, by friend and foe, every time.

Shouldn’t he?

Janet Buckner To Succeed Late Husband In Colorado House

The late Rep. John Buckner and Janet Buckner.

The late Rep. John Buckner and Janet Buckner.

As noted by the Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels:

Soon after Rep. John Buckner died, friends talked about his widow, Janet Buckner, taking his seat in the Colorado House. On Wednesday, she made it official.

Janet Buckner is seeking to be appointed to fill the vacancy in House District 40, which her husband has represented since 2013. The vacancy committee will meet on June 25.

From Janet Buckner’s statement yesterday:

“We are so thankful for the outpouring of love and support over the last few weeks – from John’s family, friends, colleagues, former students, and the community as a whole. Your support has meant so much to our family during this difficult time.

“My husband John was a true public servant. He spent his entire life helping others – his passion for policies that advance education and equity for all people guided his every decision. As his wife and life partner for 45 years, I know how deeply he cared about these issues, and how hard he worked every day to improve the lives of people in our community.

“House District 40 has lost an unparalleled leader and advocate, and I am committed to carrying on John’s legacy of making sure every child has access to a quality education and the opportunity to succeed. I am dedicated to honoring my husband and fulfilling the trust that the people of Aurora have put in him to work on their behalf. John and I moved to Aurora in 1975 — we raised our family here, and became part of the community. I hope to continue to give back to our community in Aurora and to have the honor of serving House District 40 at the legislature.”

Bartels reports that although some other Democrats had expressed preliminary interest in being appointed to HD-40, everyone was on hold to see what Mrs. Buckner would decide. Now that she has decided to seek Rep. John Buckner’s House seat, we expect she’ll encounter little or no opposition. HD-40 is best described as a safe-ish Democratic seat, taken by Buckner in 2012 from former Rep. Cindy Acree. In 2014, Rep. Bucker held the seat against Republican JulieMarie Shepherd by about two thousand votes, a larger margin than the total votes cast for the Libertarian also running there.

All told, a happy ending to a sad story from the end of this year’s legislative session.

#COleg 2015: Women Stepped Up

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As we looked over this year’s Legislative Scorecard, we noticed a trend; women voted in favor of conservation more frequently than men did. We crunched the numbers, and they confirmed this hypothesis; Colorado’s female legislators voted to preserve our air, land, water, and quality of life significantly more than their male counterparts. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Men in the Colorado Senate scored 42.6% on our issues as a group, while female senators scored an impressive 67.5%
  • In the House, women voted in favor of conservation 66.9% of the time, compared to 51.4% of the time for men.

This certainly doesn’t mean that men are categorically poor environmental stewards or that male legislators don’t care about the environment. Our 2015 Legislator of the Year, Matt Jones, boasts an impressive 100% lifetime pro-conservation voting record. Not only that, he has consistently backed up his votes by sponsoring proactive bills and testifying against ones that threaten Colorado’s air, land, water, and quality of life.

However, the fact remains that women’s commitment to conservation is a well-established pattern on both the state and federal level. According to a collaborative report from the League of Conservation Voters and Rachel’s Network, women in both chambers of Congress have consistently been stronger advocates for the environment than men have.

In general, women tend to vote in favor of the environment, whether they are in the legislature or at the ballot box, which reflects how problematic it is that our gender representation is so lopsided. Colorado historically ranked first in the nation in electing women. That declined after the 2014 midterms though we still lead among many other states. Nationwide, women account for only 23 percent of state legislators and 17 percent of Congress, making the U.S. 73rd in the world for gender parity in elected offices. Electing more women would be a step in the right direction not just for equality in the U.S., but for protecting our communities for future generations.

Former Head of Colo. GOP SuperPAC Gets Two-Year Jail Sentence

We all know that campaign finance laws in the United States are about as airtight as a cardboard submarine. But for the first time that we can recall, somebody is going to jail for violating campaign finance regulations — and that somebody is directly connected to the Colorado Republican Party.

Republican operative Tyler Harber was the ED of a Colorado GOP SuperPac in 2014.

Republican operative Tyler Harber was the ED of a Colorado GOP SuperPac in 2014.

As the Associated Press reports:

A Republican political operative was sentenced to two years in prison Friday after becoming the first person convicted of illegally coordinating campaign contributions between a super PAC and a congressional campaign.

Tyler Harber, 34, of Alexandria apologized at his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court. He said he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway because of his desire to win elections and his belief that the law banning such coordination is routinely ignored in the political world…

…Richard Pilger, director of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes branch, said a stiff sentence was needed as a deterrent because the crime itself is so difficult to detect that fear of a lengthy prison sentence may be one of the only ways to keep political operatives in line.

If the name Tyler Harber sounds familiar to you, it should. Harber’s name began to surface earlier this year in the context of the State Republican Party’s March election for State Chairman. Harber and his political firm, Harden Global, worked closely with former State Republican Chair Ryan Call in recent years; Call lost his bid for re-election to Steve House partially because of this dubious connection, which was once part of a plan touted as Call’s “brain child.”

Colorado media outlets largely ignored this story, for some reason, until they were criticized by the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review in February:

Ryan Call, Steve House.

Ryan Call (left) and current Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House.

Here’s why this matters. In Citizens United and other cases in recent years, the US Supreme Court has relaxed many of the rules surrounding campaign finance, with the result that outside groups like super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts to help or oppose a candidate. One of the remaining restrictions is that outside groups and official candidate campaigns can’t coordinate their efforts—but politicos have found novel ways to get around that rule. And the Federal Elections Commission, which is in charge of regulating such behavior, is gridlocked along partisan lines and hasn’t been able to agree on how to respond.

So, the fact that federal prosecutors have decided to get involved, and that they actually busted someone, is a fairly big deal.

At the same time, campaign finance can be arcane stuff, and the congressional campaign in question was in Viriginia. In many states, the news likely didn’t find a spot in the local, or even national, sections of the daily newspaper. 

But in Colorado, it should have. Tyler Harber, the man at the center of this story, was the person tapped last year by the state Republican Party to head up an independent expenditure committee—akin to a super PAC, though the party doesn’t use that term—with ties to the state GOP last year. [Pols emphasis]

Back in February, Call compared Harber’s misdeeds to getting a traffic ticket…an analogy that seems particularly absurd now that Harber is looking at 2 years in jail. It will be interesting to see if charges of illegal coordination begin to make their way through the ranks of the Colorado GOP, or if Harber was able to fall on the grenade entirely.

This is a big win for Colorado Ethics Watch, among others, but also for American voters in general. Campaign finance laws absolutely need to be improved; we’re moving in the right direction, at least, by actually enforcing the existing laws.

BREAKING: Hickenlooper VETOES Interest Rate Hike Bill

FRIDAY UPDATE: More coverage in today’s Denver Post and Grand Junction Sentinel.


UPDATE #3: The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela:

“While we certainly see the benefits of offering the loan and credit products that are considered in this legislation, it has not been clearly demonstrated that access to such loans is under threat,” Hickenlooper said in his veto letter.

The governor “was particularly struck” by testimony provided by the Attorney General’s office during a legislative committee hearing. That testimony included an analysis that indicated that changes to interest rate structures would not make these loans more available.

The bill sought to raise the maximum amount of interest charged for supervised loans from 21 to 36 percent for loans up to $3,000. Interest charges would spike from 15 to 21 percent on loans that carry balances of $3,000 to $5,000.

“These changes would result in a 200 percent increase in the loan amount allowed in the 36 percent interest rate tier and a two-thirds increase in the 21 percent interest rate tier,” Hickenlooper said. [Pols emphasis]

And the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus:

Consumer-interest groups rejoiced on Thursday after Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed legislation that they feared would have hurt low-income individuals applying for small loans…

“Prior to approving any increase in the allowable amount of interest charged, we believe it is necessary to more fully explore and substantiate the claim that a change in the law is necessary for these products to be accessible,” Hickenlooper wrote in his veto explanation. “Colorado’s consumers deserve this clarity as they will ultimately carry the expense that would result from this legislation.”

The governor also pointed out that the legislation moved quickly through the legislative process. It was introduced as one of the last bills of the legislative session – which ended May 6 – and sat on the calendar for only a week before it cleared both chambers. [Pols emphasis]


UPDATE #2: From the Bell Policy Center, who led the underdog opposition to House Bill 15-1390 from progressive nonprofit groups:

Today Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed a bill that would have increased loan costs for low- and moderate-income Coloradans. The Bell led more than a dozen organizations in asking the governor to veto this bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (House Bill 15-1390). We greatly appreciate the governor’s action to protect Colorado consumers.

HB15-1390, which was hurried through in the last week of the 120-day legislative session, would have increased the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The bill would have cost Coloradans more than $25 million in additional interest charges, according to a Center for Responsible Lending analysis of the two largest lenders in Colorado…

The governor’s veto represents a huge victory for hardworking Coloradans. This bill would have dramatically increased the revenues of very profitable lenders at the expense of families struggling to make ends meet. To learn more about why this bill was bad for Colorado, check out our fact sheet.

As the governor’s veto said, any additional conversations about this issue will need to include all stakeholders. If those conversations happen, the Bell will be closely involved and will do our best to ensure that all voices are included.


UPDATE: Gov. John Hickenlooper has released a letter explaining his veto of House Bill 15-1390. You can read it in its entirety here, and here’s an excerpt:


From a statement by ProgressNow Colorado, one of the groups who opposed this bill:

“House Bill 1390 was bad policy, introduced at the last possible minute to stifle debate, and written specifically to allow big lenders to hike interest rates on consumers who can least afford it,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “Increasing the total cost of a personal loan by almost 40% is not the way to help Colorado families get their finances in order. This legislation was sold to lawmakers in both parties based on misleading arguments and threats by big lending corporations that don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

“At a time when Colorado’s middle class families are just beginning to recover from the recent recession–a recession brought on in part by irresponsible predatory lending practices–the last thing they need is a 36% interest rate to borrow money,” said Runyon-Harms. “The truth is, personal lenders issued hundreds of millions of dollars worth of these loans in Colorado last year, and the subprime lending industry’s profits are skyrocketing nationwide. They don’t need to hike up interest rates on borrowers who can least afford it to ‘stay in business.’”


loanshark2We’ve just received word that Gov. John Hickenlooper will veto House Bill 15-1390 today, a hotly controversial bill to allow large interest rate hikes on subprime personal loans that passed in the final days of this year’s legislative session. Hickenlooper’s veto comes after an urgent campaign by a few progressive and consumer groups led by the Bell Policy Center against the legislation, after it passed with dismaying speed out of the Democratic-controlled House with most Democrats voting in favor. In the Senate, most Democrats opposed the legislation after advocates were able to sound the alarm.

As for the many Democrats who voted for this bill, the Democratic House leadership who allowed it to be introduced at the end of the session, and Democratic lobbyists who convinced them it would be okay? They’ve all got egg on their faces, and may well draw heat for their actions at upcoming town hall meetings from their constituents.

And you know what, folks? They should. This was truly a low point for Colorado legislative Democrats, a significant breach of faith with their base voters–and there should be a price paid to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage–a big victory for scrappy nonprofit groups, over both Republicans and backsliding Democrats in the General Assembly. And also a good day for Gov. Hickenlooper, who showed real independence from the corporate interests he is often criticized for being beholden to.

Sometimes the good guys actually do win. And that’s pretty cool.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 4)

Get More SmarterAfter a seven-day layoff, the NBA Finals finally kick off tonight. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).



► Let’s investigate! Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner want the Government Accountability Office to open an investigation into what went wrong with the still-under-construction Aurora VA Hospital (even though the GAO has already done this). Maybe they should ask Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) to investigate something; after all, Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► State Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) is considering a run for U.S. Senate (or Congress), but the more she talks, the more problems she creates for herself.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 3)

Get More SmarterColorado is purty. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).



► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) are asking the Veterans Affairs Department to dig into its own pockets to find the money to finish the VA Hospital Project in Aurora. One again, we remind you that Coffman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations for the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

► The runoff for Denver’s Municipal Elections is finally over. Kevin Flynn, Jolon Clark, Wayne New, and Stacie Gilmore were each successful in their respective races.

Get even more smarter after the jump…