Urban Myth Becomes “Clown Car Caucus” Legislation

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Last Tuesday, we took note of a spoof story on a satire "news site," The National Report, hilariously breaking the scandalous news of food stamps being accepted at Colorado's new retail marijuana stores:

“If you are a tax payer in Colorado, you get to pay for welfare recipients, a majority of whom are Democrats of course, to smoke pot now,” stated Denver resident Paul Horner.  ”Where will this all end?  First it was Obamaphones, then Obamacare, now Obamaweed?  Will we be paying for tattoos, manicures, body piercings, gay marriages and porn next?”

Store owner JC Franco defended his decision to accept EBT cards in an interview with National Report:  “Everyone should have access to marijuana. If a user is not able to afford their buds on a limited budget then having taxpayers help cover the shortage is only fair.  This isn’t a right only for the wealthy.”

So, as most readers of this piece were quickly able to determine, this didn't really happen. The National Report's website clearly disclaims that "all news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news." Unfortunately for the Douglas County Republican Party, as we discussed Tuesday, this story was lifted and reprinted on a number of real, non-spoof conservative websites as fact. It subsequently picked up with no disclaimer by lots of conservatives, including the Douglas County GOP's Twitter feed. It was our assumption that a little good-natured ribbing of our gullible friends in Douglas County would be the end of it.

weedopenBut as AP's Kristen Wyatt reports via CBS4, that's not the end of the story after all!

Food stamps for a pot brownie? It’s an urban myth in Colorado, but state lawmakers want to make sure that doesn’t happen. [Pols emphasis]

A bill proposed this week by several Republicans would add marijuana dispensaries to liquor stores, gun shops and casinos as places where recipients of public assistance payments and food stamps can’t use their electronic benefits cards to access cash.

There haven’t been any reports of public EBT cards being used at marijuana dispensaries. But lawmakers say pot shops should be added to the law to make clear it’s not legal.

“We need this bill, if for nothing else, as a statement,” said Rep. Jared Wright, R-Grand Junction… [Pols emphasis]

That's right, folks! Senate Bill 14-037 is actual legislation meant to ensure a satirical news story never "comes true." Senate Bill 37's sole Senate sponsor is the infamous Sen. Vicki Marble. In the House, the bill is sponsored by pretty much the entire "clown car" caucus of downright wacky and frequently-embarrassing GOP representatives: Reps. Jared Wright, Dan Nordberg, Perry Buck, Steve Humphrey, and Lori Saine. If they could just get Bob Gardner and Janak Joshi to sign on, it would be pretty much a perfect caricature.

Dispensary owners say they’ve been debunking rumors about food stamp use in marijuana shops.

According to Wyatt, the Marijuana Industry Group hasn't yet taken a position on Senate Bill 37. To be fair, they also haven't taken a position we've seen on the Daily Currant's shocking headline from last week, "Marijuana Overdoses Kill 37 in Colorado On First Day of Legalization." There are probably a few other spoof stories about marijuana in Colorado they haven't taken a stand on. Which makes sense once you know they're fake.

Back in reality, only specific qualifying food items can be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. Retailers who want to accept these funds must apply and be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We feel pretty confident that any licensed retail marijuana merchant who tried to accept SNAP funds for the purchase of marijuana, or anything containing it, would be frog-marched to the federal prison in Englewood faster than you can say "pass the bong." With lines around the block full of eager buyers with pockets full of cash, the idea that any marijuana retailer would need or want to try this is simply laughable.

With that said, AP reports that recipients of Social Security for Disability and certain other assistance funds that are deposited to the same account can be used essentially as cash for those funds–our understanding is that items are allotted to different funding pools from the same card at the point of sale. This has led to legislation prohibiting these cards being used at casinos and liquor stores. Those aren't "food stamp" funds at all, of course, but the outrage a good conservative feels at the mere thought of public assistance funds being spent in such disreputable places motivated them to be absolutely certain those immoral entitlees use an ATM across the street.

We suppose that alone might give this bill some pro forma utility–a "statement," like Rep. Wright says. What urban myth do you suppose our intrepid "clown car" caucus should tackle next? We open the floor to suggestions.

Bill of the Week – Hidden Guns for Everyone!

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Wasting no time with their pledge to make every day about guns during the 2014 session, Reps. Wright and Holbert are first up to bat with HB14-1041, a bill for an act:

"CONCERNING ALLOWING A LAW-ABIDING PERSON TO CARRY A CONCEALED HANDGUN WITHOUT A PERMIT, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, PRESERVING CURRENT LAWS RESTRICTING THE CARRYING OF CONCEALED HANDGUNS ON CERTAIN PROPERTY INCLUDING SCHOOL GROUNDS."

This bill does two things. I'd address them in order of crazy, but I can't honestly decided which is which. 

First, the bill basically says that anyone who would be able to lawfully possess (notice: "Possess", not "purchase") a gun in the State of Colorado automatically has the right to concealed carry without a permit. 

The word possess is key here, especially as the Republicans work to loosen the Universal Background Check restriction put in place in 2013. If the bill limited the provision to people who could legally purchase a gun in Colorado, this would be slightly less insane, but only slightly.

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Journalists Should Have Corrected Caldara’s Declaration that AG Letter Proves him Innocent

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Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

Much of the media coverage of the Colorado Attorney General's decision not to prosecute Jon Caldara, President of the libertarian/conservative Independence Institute, for voter fraud featured a quote from Caldara that the Attorney General's non-action proved his innocence.

For example, there's this memorable Caldara quote from The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels' story: "I told you what I did was legal," Caldara said Thursday, adding "neener-neener-neener."

Bartels and others reported that the AG's letter did not "condone" Caldara's stunt, but no journalist corrected Caldara's mistaken belief that AG letter is proof of his innocence.

While the letter did say there is "arguable ambiguity within some of the new legislation," and Caldara should not be brought to trial, it certainly did not say Caldara's actions were legal, and reporters should have said so categorically.

I asked Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch, for his comments on whether the Colorado Attorney General's letter was proof of Caldara's innocence.

Toro: The AG’s office did not declare Caldara innocent. The prosecutor correctly noted the ethical obligations of a prosecutor when making a charging decision. These include an obligation not to file charges without sufficient evidence to support a conviction. Evidence that could raise reasonable doubt included signing a lease at an address in the district, changing his driver’s license to the Colorado Springs address, and actually staying at the address where he claimed to reside when he voted through Election Day. Caldara’s lawyering up and extensive preparation to raise reasonable doubt only proves that gaming the system is not as easy as he pretends. His attempt to prove that anyone in Colorado can show up anywhere on Election Day, claim to reside in a district, and legally vote ended up proving the opposite…"

The real reason not to charge is, in the prosecutor’s words, Caldara’s “choreographed actions that were designed by him to create a record that he used to support his stated intention that at least on September 7, 2013 through September 10, 2013 he was an El Paso County resident and thus was permitted to be a registered elector.” Caldara only proved that without elaborate “choreographed actions” and top-notch legal representation, someone who shows up on Election Day and falsely claims residence in a given district will be charged and convicted.

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Any Wonder Why Colorado Legislature is More Effective than Congress?

With approval ratings for Congress at an all-time low (as in, no other organization has ever been so disliked in the history of polling), it's safe to say that the public is not particularly enamored with Republican House Leadership trying to spin as a positive the fact that they don't do anything. And coming off a record year of doing-nothingness, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is actually planning to do even less. From the New York Times:

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, is quietly playing down expectations for any major legislative achievements in the final year of the 113th Congress, which passed fewer laws in its first year — 65 — than any single session on record. The calendar, drawn up to maximize campaign time ahead of midterm elections in November, is bare bones, with the House in session just 97 days before Election Day, the last on Oct. 2, and 112 days in all.

In 2013, the House was in session 118 days before November and 135 in all.

In other words, the House is not even going to end up working a full year in 24 months, which is all by Republican design. Democrat Irv Halter, who is challenging Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn in CD-5, issued a statement this week criticizing the decision:

"When I was active duty in the Air Force, I didn't work for 97 days a year and then call it quits, but that seems to be a full year for Congressman Lamborn.  Spending time campaigning instead of addressing our problems is an embarrassment for our district, our state and this great nation."

The U.S. House may end up working just 112 days in 2014. The Colorado Legislature, which opens today, is in session through early May for a total of 120 calendar days. To be clear, all legislators aren't going to work full eight-hour days on the weekends, but many probably will come close. Depending on scheduling, the Colorado Legislature will likely do more work in 4 months than the U.S. House will do in a full year.

2013′s Top Story: The GOP (Temporarily) Strikes Back

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The 2012 elections sounded another new low for the Colorado Republican Party. Angered by the GOP state house majority's extraordinary measures to kill LGBT civil union legislation at the end of the 2012 session, voters threw out the single-seat Republican majority, restoring Democrats to full control of the General Assembly by a healthy margin. The 2010 round of legislative reapportionment is considered by most observers to have gone badly for Republicans as well, with a large number of newly competitive districts ill-suited to the staunch conservative candidates favored by the GOP primary process.

With the exception of the 2010 "Republican wave" election, in which Republicans still fell short of their goals but managed to take the state house by a single seat, the GOP has been losing elections in Colorado since 2004. The reversal of Republican fortunes from their dominance in the late Nineties through 2002 to Democratic dominance at every level of state government since then has been the subject of books like Blueprint by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer. Safe to say, the past decade has been very, very tough for the morale of Colorado Republicans.

And then last year, an opportunity to strike back presented itself.

manholdingwomensignIn the wake of mass shootings in 2012 in Aurora, Colorado and in Newtown, Connecticut, support grew among Colorado Democrats to introduce gun safety legislation in the 2013 session. On the morning of the Newtown shooting, Gov. John Hickenlooper was quoted by the Denver Post as having had a change of heart from the aftermath of Aurora in the summer–when he basically said that new gun laws wouldn't help. The news later that day powerfully reinforced Hickenlooper's new view.

As we documented in this space, the campaign to pass gun safety legislation in 2013 turned into the biggest political battle in the Colorado legislature in recent history. Democrats were besieged by pro-gun activists and agitated gun owning members of the public. Crowds of people turned out to testify against the bills, overwhelming hearings, while others drove around the state capitol continuously sounding their horns. Gun owners were in many cases duped by falsehoods about the proposed legislation, being explicitly told by GOP legislators and gun-rights activists that the bills would "ban gun ownership in Colorado." Other alarmist falsehoods, like claims that legislation to limit magazine capacity would "ban all magazines," were pushed by gun activists and uncritically reported by a thoughtless local media.

The result of this misinformed free-for-all was a bitterly angry segment of voters willing to work full time to defeat Democrats responsible for gun safety legislation. As a result of the intense campaign of misinformation by the gun lobby and allied Republicans, a huge gap emerged in public opinion between polled opposition to the vague concept of "gun control," even as they register support–in some cases overwhelming support–for the bills actually passed by the Colorado General Assembly.

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More Cheap Ballot Tricks, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff Edition

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R).

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R).

Back in October, we took note of claims by a Jefferson County GOP Colorado House candidate, attorney Jon Keyser, that he had "received two mail in ballots" for the 2013 elections. Keyser took to social media right away with photos of his "two ballots," pronouncing them evidence of a "failed system" for voting in Colorado. Keyser's "two ballots" came at a time when Republicans were doing and saying anything they could to undermine confidence in the election process, principally to cast doubt on 2013's election modernization bill House Bill 1303.

As it turned out, Keyser was engaged in a cheap deception to reinforce GOP claims that the election system is "broken." The second ballot Keyser received was for a tax district special election related to property Keyser owns on the West Slope. At no time did Keyser receive two ballots with duplicate ballot questions that would allow him to vote twice, which was his clear implication. After the source of Keyser's "second ballot" was tracked down to Delta County, Keyser claimed to have shredded the ballots. By that time, the game was already up.

Well folks, as the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reported late last night, Jon Keyser may not have been the only Colorado Republican politician playing games with their ballots:

Lawmaker Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff represents one of the state’s most competitive districts, House District 47. She held a fundraiser cocktail party tonight at the Warwick Hotel here that surely attracted many of the state’s top Republican politicos. The list likely includes Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The two are friendly. Navarro-Ratzlaff endorsed him for governor this summer, and Gessler sent out a tweet earlier in the day recruiting fundraiser attendees. It’s a safe bet the two worked together to fire up the Warwick cocktail crowd by talking about the need to guard against voter fraud. It wouldn’t be the first time they worked together to stoke heat around an issue that galvanizes Republican voters in the state.

Gessler and Navarro-Ratzlaff were the exclusive sources for a 2012 version of what has become a fairly regular series of headline-grabbing but loosely reported election-integrity stories pushed by the right-wing blogosphere to bolster arguments that laws that encourage voting by making it easier to cast ballots — like those that allow for same-day registration and universal mail-in ballots — should be repealed and replaced with stricter voter ID laws.

Channel 5 KOAA in Pueblo reported that some voters in the county had received duplicate ballots. It later came out that double ballots went out to roughly 200 of the county’s 60,000 registered voters…

Navarro-Ratzlaff said she was one of the voters who received two ballots.

“It makes you question how valid each election is, and elections are very important to the state of Colorado and Pueblo in general,” she told viewers. “So it’s very concerning.”

…KOAA didn’t report that Navarro-Ratzlaff was running for the statehouse in a competitive swing district that year. And Navarro-Ratzlaff didn’t tell viewers that the reason she received two ballots was because she had registered under two different names in a two-week period after moving to Pueblo the year before. [Pols emphasis]

According to Bent and Pueblo county documents reviewed by the Independent, Navarro-Ratzlaff registered on September 30, 2011, as Clarice Yvette Navarro, her maiden name, and on October 14, 2011, as Clarice Yvette Ratzlaff, her married name.

Now according to the Independent, Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff claims she has "no idea" why she apparently registered twice under her maiden and married names. The Bent County clerk interviewed for the story says that these sort of mistakes happen, generally as a result of the voter's mistake, saying "people are often distracted when filling out the forms." The problem is, Navarro-Raztlaff told the Independent she's been married for ten years, that her married name is what's on her license, and she can't explain the use of her maiden name in any voter registration.

So what gives? With Mr. Keyser's example to guide us, we have a theory.

This incident took place during a heated court battle between Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz and Secretary of State Scott Gessler over the delivery of mail ballots for the 2011 elections. Along with the as-yet unknown number of duplicate ballots mistakenly sent to voters, later determined to be about 200 and which were all identified and caught, it's easy to understand how Gessler could have used a little, you know, extra boost for his case in the media against "Bo" Ortiz. Then candidate, now Rep. Navarro-Ratzlaff was happy to oblige.

By the look of things today, it seems she was a bit too happy.

2013′s Top Ten #4: Democrats Don’t Overreact to “Overreach”

Earlier this week we discussed the "Lie of the Year" in Colorado politics, the persistent nonsense that Democrats were out to "take your guns" in 2013. That narrative continued into the September recall elections, the result of which saw two Democratic Senators ousted (though two other recall attempts failed to reach the ballot altogether). Following the Sept. recall results, we saw plenty of lazy analysis blaming Democratic "overreach" in the 2013 legislative session — analysis that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation.

Even Dawson doesn't cry this much.

Even Dawson doesn’t cry this much

Republicans were using the term "overreach" long before the recall elections, both during and after the legislative session in an effort to spin what was a successful session for Democrats. Following miserable losses at the polls in 2012, the GOP once again faced a legislative session as the minority party in both chambers, and the only play in their playbook was to be obstructionist. When that failed to work, Republicans turned to saying that Democrats were "overreaching" in doing their job as legislators. What really happened is a perfect example of why Democrats have continued to win elections in Colorado in the last decade: they went to work on the issues they were elected to tackle. Or as Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon told the Denver Post in late April:

Overreaching? No. I think we've been listening to the people of Colorado and they've told us, 'We put you in charge and we want you to get something done.'

This is a lesson that Republicans have not been able to grasp for more than a decade in Colorado, and it is the fundamental reason why they lost control of the legislature back in 2004: Colorado voters want their elected officials to lead and to get things done, and Democrats have figured that out. As we wrote back in May, when the GOP "overreach" spin was in full tilt:

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2013′s Top Ten #6: The Lie of the Year in Colorado Politics

The BS stops here.

One of the stories we've followed over the years here at Colorado Pols has been the steady decline in both the quality and quantity of local political news reporting. In the early years of our writing about Colorado politics, the state benefited greatly from a competitive and robust local media, most importantly the competition between the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. 

After the Rocky's closure in early 2009, the immediate and arithmetic reduction in political news coverage was obvious. The surviving newspaper of record, the Denver Post, not only had a smaller and greener staff to work local political stories, but gradually became more susceptible to partisan influence in their news coverage through a variety of means. Editing and fact-checking began to suffer. To varying degrees, the same economic pressures squeezing Denver newspapers have affected smaller media outlets across the state, many of whom we've tried to promote the good work of outside their more limited distribution. Television political journalism in Colorado has seen deleterious turnover of highly experienced and discerning staff like 9NEWS' iconic Adam Schrager.

In 2013, the paucity of good journalism in Colorado had significant and lasting effects. In the time we've been covering Colorado politics, it was perhaps the worst year ever for objective facts. Our primary interest is not media criticism, but we've found it necessary more than ever this year just to keep basic facts straight in the permanent record. Of all the bogus storylines in the Colorado press we've had to debunk in 2013, one stands out.

The central issue of this year's legislative session was gun safety, with Democrats taking legislative action in the wake of mass shooting events in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado in 2012. Colorado, a Western state with a long tradition of gun ownership, served as a test of whether very limited and modest action on gun safety could be accomplished outside traditional urban Democratic strongholds. Colorado Democrats introduced a range of proposals, and it was clear from the beginning they were not all intended to pass. So-called "flanking measures" regarding guns on campus and assault weapon liability were intended to provide negotiating space for the highest priority bills, requiring standard background checks for most private gun sales and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

Opponents to these bills responded with an avalanche of false claims about their supposed consequences. Colorado legislators circulated bogus National Rifle Association talking points claiming that Democrats were trying to "outlaw private transfers of guns." But the most egregious falsehood spread by opponents of this year's gun safety bills, not just repeated but actively encouraged by members of the local media, and what we today christen the 2013 Lie of the Year in Colorado Politics, is this:

"If this law passes, almost all guns in Colorado will never be able to get a magazine again."

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2013′s Top Ten #10: Rep. Libby Szabo vs. Common Decency

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Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino took control of the state House of Representatives after the 2012 general elections, in which Republicans were resoundingly swept from their one-seat House majority. One of the biggest reasons for that multiple-seat pickup victory in 2012 was the conduct of GOP legislative leadership at the end of the 2012 session. Legislation to create civil unions for LGBT couples in Colorado stood at the brink of passage with bipartisan support, only to be killed by GOP House leadership using extraordinary legislative tactics to prevent a vote on the bill.

After retaking the House in 2012, Colorado Democrats found themselves with two years of stymied and backlogged agenda items, at the top of the list of which was civil unions. The signing into law of this year's civil unions bill was hailed not just by Ferrandino, who happens to be gay, but a host of Republican officials and activists eager to turn a new page and walk back their party's intolerant image.

As we'll discuss in other 2013 recap posts, Republicans fought back in 2013 with a fury not seen since they began reliably losing elections in Colorado in 2004. One of the major message vehicles used by the GOP was legislation known as "Jessica's Law," named after a young Florida girl murdered by a previously convicted sex offender, and mandating long sentences for sex crimes even on a first offense. Although this law is on the books in many states, Colorado already has very severe sentences for such crimes. Law enforcement and advocates such as the Colorado District Attorneys' Council and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault opposed the bill as unnecessary. Being a political weapon first and foremost, GOP backers of a Colorado "Jessica's Law" were undeterred.

And then last February, Bill O'Reilly of the FOX News Channel took it a step further.

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Introducing The First Pointless GOP Grandstand of 2014

Reps. Dan Nordberg and Jared Wright (R).

Reps. Dan Nordberg and Jared Wright (R).

As announced yesterday by your Colorado House Republican minority press office:

Today, House Reps. Dan Nordberg and Jared Wright announced their plans to introduce legislation during the 2014 legislative session to create a tax deduction for Coloradans to offset the federal tax penalty for not purchasing health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
 
The Healthcare Liberty Act will provide a state tax deduction for Coloradans, in an amount equal to the federal tax penalty, levied against them for failing to purchase health insurance as mandated by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
 
“Millions of Americans are learning they will not be able to keep their health insurance under Obamacare even though the President promised they could,” said Nordberg (R-Colorado Springs). “Congress has failed to act and the President has declined to lead, it is time the state legislature step up and help our constituents deal with the surging costs of Obamacare.”

“Many Colorado families are relying on us as their elected representatives to try to mitigate the adverse impacts of Obamacare.  I hope my friends across the aisle will work with us in a bi-partisan manner to provide some relief to the thousands of Colorado families who have been negatively impacted by this law,” said Wright (R-Fruita). “Our bill is an appropriate response to the tax penalty and will help people in Colorado who simply cannot afford this expensive new government health insurance mandate.”

What this legislation would target is the $95 per person penalty that some Americans will pay in 2014 if they don't have health insurance. High income earners who lack insurance may pay a little more, and these penalties are set to increase over the next few years to a maximum of $695 per adult or 2.5% of income (whichever is greater). The penalty for dependent children is half the amount charged adults. There is an additional limit on the tax penalty for failing to purchase health insurance, set at the annual cost of the least expensive plan available from the taxpayer's state's health insurance exchange. Also, if the most affordable available health insurance option amounts to more than 8% of your income, you're exempt from any penalty. The individual mandate is one of the most basic functions of the Affordable Care Act, and it's important that everyone knows how it works.

For many months now, and especially since the troubled rollout of the insurance marketplaces give them fresh ammunition, Republicans at every level have been busily preparing legislative attacks on the Affordable Care Act. You're going to see legislation like this in just about every state house in America next year. We haven't heard if this specific legislation is pre-written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but it wouldn't surprise us in the least if it were. In some states, legislation to directly undermine the Affordable Care Act of this kind will most likely become law next year–much like the "proud" refusal by many conservative state governments to join the ACA's expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor.

But in Colorado next month, this spiteful little bill goes directly to the "kill committee." As politically expedient as Republicans may find a stillborn grandstand against "Obamacare," it's also quite risky as the outlook for the insurance marketplaces slowly improves. With the narrative of the insurance exchanges belatedly but inevitably turning positive, this could be a "solution" that debuts after the problem is already solved.

And then, Republicans just look like jerks–who want the health care reform that the voting public still thinks is necessary, and still would rather see repaired than repealed, to fail.

Conservative talk-radio host gets all excited about critique of Republican Senate candidate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

KFKA talk-radio host Amy Oliver urged Republicans last week to read a Facebook post by former State Senator Shawn Mitchell, in which Mitchell wrote that he's "somewhere between distressed and appalled that GOP luminaries think it's a good idea for [Rep. Amy Stephens] to bear the party's standard into a campaign for federal office in 2014."

Stephens is one of six GOP candidates vying to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Udall next year.  Also running are Tea Party favorite and recycled Senate candidate Ken Buck, mustachioed state Senator Randy Baumgardner from northwestern Colorado's District 8, state Senator from El Paso County Owen Hill, as well as Jamie McMillan and Tom Janich.

Oliver, who doubles as a staffer for the libertarian Independence Institute, was really excited about Mitchell's Dec. 9 Facebook post, telling listeners that "the entry of Amy Stephens in the race, and some of the subsequent endorsements that she has received, have got conservatives saying privately what Shawn Mitchell put out publicly."

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Common-sense gun safety is making Colorado better

This year, Colorado passed important, common-sense gun safety laws to reduce gun violence–without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Just yesterday, the Colorado Department of Public Safety released new information showing that these laws are working: in just the first few months, the new law requiring criminal background checks for most transfers of guns in Colorado has stopped dozens of criminals from illegally obtaining guns. And every bit as important, thousands of law-abiding citizens are continuing to buy and sell guns with minimal inconvenience. Despite all the dire predictions from the extreme right, common-sense gun safety in Colorado is a success.

Click here to send a message to our Colorado legislators, thanking them for standing strong in the face of vicious personal attacks to protect our communities from gun violence.

According to the Department of Public Safety, between July and the end of November of this year, 4,792 background checks were conducted on prospective private gun buyers. Of those 4,792 background checks, 72 sales of guns were were blocked due to a criminal record or restraining order in effect. The remainder of background checks, over 98%, were completed successfully and the transfer of the firearm went forward. [1]

The smear and retaliation campaign by the extreme right against progressive legislators who backed this year’s gun safety reforms has taken a terrible toll. But they were right to not give up. Now we can see the reforms they fought for are working–preventing guns from being sold to people who shouldn’t have them–while allowing law-abiding citizens to go about their business. Common-sense gun safety in Colorado is making our state better.

Take a moment right now to thank progressive Colorado legislators for doing the right thing in the face of tremendous pressure. We’ll deliver your names and comments to legislators and the press.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “what you don't do can be a destructive force.” In response to the tragedies of 2012 in Aurora and in Newtown, Colorado legislators took necessary action. They need to know that the people of Colorado stand with them, and can see through the lies now that the new laws are proving effective. Thank them for their perseverance, and then forward this message to your friends and neighbors.

More Data Shows Universal Background Checks Are Working

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A press release a short while ago from the Colorado House Majority Press Office:

Dozens of criminals have been prevented from buying a gun under a 2013 law that closed the loophole that allowed private sales of firearms to proceed without a background check on the buyer, official statistics show. 

Stats released by the state Department of Public Safety at the request of lawmakers show that from the time the background check law went into effect in July through the end of November, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation performed nearly 4,800 background checks on private sales in the state. 

After those 4,792 background checks, 72 sales were blocked because the would-be buyer was convicted of or charged with a serious crime, or was under a domestic restraining order. The crimes include homicide, sexual assault, assault, dangerous drugs and larceny/theft. The other 98 percent of the sales were to law-abiding citizens and went through without a hitch. 

The data also show an upward trend in the number of private-sale background checks in the first five months the law has been in effect. 

“Dozens of criminals would be walking around with a gun right now if not for the new law,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), who sponsored the background checks law with Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver) and Senate President-designate Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora). “Our intention was to make our communities safer and make it harder for criminals to get guns. We now have five months of data that prove that the law is working.”

The data supplied by the Colorado Department of Public Safety shows a steady increase each month in the number of background checks conducted for a private sale or transfer of a gun as mandated by this year's House Bill 1229. Just over 550 checks for private sales were conducted in July, increasing to a total of 1,327 last month. The denial rate, with the exception of a small uptick in September, has held steady at just under 2% of transactions being rejected due to a disqualifying criminal record.

Those two percent of denied purchases were due to a number of reasons we'd consider very tough to argue with: four with restraining orders, a dozen people who had committed assault, five who committed burglary, and at least one rejected for a homicide conviction.

When the very earliest figures were released showing the first month of background checks had stopped ten criminals from purchasing guns in private sales, Republicans like Sen. Kevin Lundberg claimed that the number of denials was "not persuasive at all" that the law was working. We were reminded then of a 2012 bill from Rep. Mark Waller, now a candidate for Attorney General, to eliminate "redundant" state background checks by the CBI entirely. CBI checks became the law after a Castle Rock man bought a gun in a purchase that state checks would have prevented due to a restraining order, and then killed his children. Waller argued that this "one act" is the reason why have those "redundant" state checks.

Well, as of today, House Bill 1229 has prevented six dozen guns from ending up in the wrong hands. Every month there will be more such denials, even as 98%+ of the lawful gun buying public has no problems. Is preventing some quantifiable number of guns from being sold, to people nearly everyone agrees shouldn't have a gun, worth a few minutes of time and a few bucks from law-abiding citizens?

Folks, excluding a few shrieking lunatics and the elected officials goading them on, this is a no-brainer.

Rep. Jared Wright, “Audit” Thyself

Rep. Jared Wright (R-Fruita).

Rep. Jared Wright (R-Fruita).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports:

Rep. Jared Wright is calling for an audit of the state’s new health insurance exchange.

But the Fruita Republican isn’t asking the Office of the State Auditor to look into why the exchange is far behind its goal for signing Coloradans up for health insurance.

Wright wants State Auditor Dianne Ray to look into how the exchange is managed, and what it’s doing with the millions of dollars in federal money it’s received.

The freshman legislator’s audit request was sparked by a recent request by the president and chief executive officer of the exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, to its governing board for a pay raise and bonus for her and her management staff.

That CEO, Patty Fontneau, already makes more than $190,000 a year.

“This is an appalling and extraordinarily audacious request, especially considering that the program which Ms. Fontneau oversees has spectacularly underperformed, failing to meet the minimum goals and standards of even the worst-case projections,” Wright says in his letter to Ray, which he sent on Thursday. “Despite receiving $177 million in federal grants to fund the exchange through mid-2016, its enrollments are far below what officials predicted. It is disturbing that the person in charge of a program with such a dismal record of performance is paid more than the governor.”

We'll start by acknowledging that freshman Rep. Jared Wright's questioning of the Colorado health insurance exchange isn't quite as wacky as longtime Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, who made an ass of himself by obsessing about racy ads from a nonprofit group that had no affiliation whatsoever with Connect for Health Colorado. And we'll agree that the flap about bonuses for CEO Patty Fortneau and her staff was very ill-timed given the startup troubles the system has had. We're happy to see they've tabled that discussion until the exchange is working well enough to at least remotely justify it.

But folks, to have freshman Rep. Jared Wright of all people leading this call to "audit" Connect for Health Colorado is the surest way to make a joke of the whole thing. Rep. Wright, as our readers know, was the subject of a concerted effort by fellow Mesa County Republicans to persuade Wright to pull out of the "race" for his safe GOP seat. That push came after revelations that Wright resigned from the Fruita Police Department after allegations of "milking the clock"–radioing in to "start his shift" while still at home. Soon after, Wright's personal 2011 bankruptcy case made headlines: not because he had a tough financial stretch like many others in recent years, but due to the extravagant "muscle car/tanning booth" lifestyle he had apparently been leading on a rookie cop's salary.

This is the guy who's all up in arms today about how the health insurance exchange is spending its money?

Our readers understand that a large undertaking like the launch of the health insurance exchange is going to require spending: on staff salaries, on public relations people, on all kinds of things that might be cast unfavorably depending on larger narratives. It's standard politics, especially when an opening appears like the exchange's rollout problems, to exploit it to the fullest–as the saying goes, to "drive the bus."

Next time, Republicans should look for a less hypocritical bus driver.

Klingenschmitt vs. Right Wing Watch: Round Two

UPDATE 12/10/2013  Right Wing Watch had their Youtube Account restored, and their lawyer has sent a "Cease and Desist" order to Mr. Klingenschmitt. Klingenschmitt, for his part,  has declared that he has no intention of stopping his harassment of Right Wing Watch.

In the never-ending, but somewhat entertaining saga of Statehouse Candidate Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt's war vs. sanity, Right Wing Watch (RWW) won a round and is down for round two.

David Edwards, rawstory.com

RWW's mission is  "monitoring and exposing the activities of the right-wing movement". Hence, they often report on some of the weirder nonsense preached by would-be representative Klingenschmitt:

(left) Dr. Gordon Klingenschmitt, HD15 candidate, by David Edwards, rawstory.com, 

 

Six year old gender-bender Coy Mathis and her parents filed (and won) a lawsuit for Coy to use the female bathroom in her Fountain elementary school.

Below: Coy Mathis, holding parent's hands, after her civil rights hearing, photo by RJ Sangosti, Denver Post, article by Kieran Nicholson

Coy Mathis, after winning her lawsuit: Credit: Denver Post, RJ Sangosti

Coy's victory was enough for Klingenschmitt to claim that the transgender rights movement has a "demon of rape…. to violate your daughters".

Right Wing Watch  publicized Klingenschmitt's latest diatribe against little Coy and her parents, and, in retaliation, Klingenschmitt has again complained to youtube that RWW is infringing on his copyrights.

This was round two of the RWW vs. Dr. Chaps battle over bogus copyright claims. In round one, youtube went through its usual process of determining Fair Use, and while they were deciding this, RWW's youtube site was made inactive. Finally, youtube decided that RWW had not in fact infringed any copyrights, and RWW's youtube account was restored. 

The next day, Klingenschmitt again made bogus claims against RWW, and succeeded in shutting down RWW's youtube account.This is currently being appealed, and if you like, you can sign a petition in support of the appeal.

Klingenschmitt fundraises from his 350+youtube videos, all of which have a donate button. I found his charity "pray in jesus name.org" on  this site, on which Klingenschmitt appears in a Navy Chaplain's uniform, which, according to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, is illegal, since he was discharged for cause. Dr. Chaps' explanations of his finances, which extend to at least 3 separate profit, non-profit, and political corporations, are  convoluted, but his 501c3 charity, Persuade the World Ministries,  seem to bring in an average of 50,000 per year since 2010.

Klingenschmitt, a discharged Navy chaplain,  has  bragged about "performing exorcisms" of the "demons" in gay men and women, and also complained that a West Point Chapel  had been "Desecrated By 'Acts Of Sodomy' Performed On The Altar" when two gay men were married there. 

Klingenschmitt must go to more exciting weddings than I do- hardly any of them actually consummate the marriage in public anymore.

But I digress.

Here's the scary part: Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt is a serious Republican candidate for House District 15, a north-east Colorado Springs district,created in 2011 redistricting, currently represented by Republican Mark Waller. Waller won with 73% of the vote in 2012,  but has set his sights (and his $63K fund)  on campaigning for Attorney General in 2014. Also running for House District 15: Allison Hunter (D), an independent candidate, "Bishop" and Republicans Michael Kuhn and David Williams.  It's remotely possible that Waller could win the Republican nomination for Attorney General, or, as Pols wrote, be a distraction and an embarrassment for Republican candidates.  So, yes, the "exorcise gay demons", persecute-little-kids-for-fun-and profit guy could be your representative, if you live in northeast-ish Colorado Springs.

Klingenschmitt has an extensive youtube account for his religious sermons and speeches. Apparently, though, Dr. Chaps believes in separation of church and state. He definitely doesn't want these religious video clips to interfere with his secular bid for political power. He especially doesn't want voters in House District 15 to know how bigoted, extreme, hateful and bizarre his views actually are.

All  links in this post are either widely available on public media, or used in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine, and links point to proper attributions to original authors.