Things You’re Not Supposed To Admit, Chris Holbert Edition

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

Sen. Chris Holbert (R).

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported Saturday on the death earlier this month of Senate Bill 15-118, a bill that would have upped the incentive for Colorado middle class families to save for college tuition via the CollegeInvest program:

Senate Bill 118 concerned Coloradans who save for college through a not-for-profit state agency called CollegeInvest, where money is put into what are known as 529 plans.

As amended, the proposal from Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat, would have eliminated the state income tax break for those earning more than $500,000 a year, while doubling it for those making less than $150,000 a year. Coloradans earning between $150,000 and $500,000 would still receive some tax break.

The bill died March 5 on a 3-2 party-line vote in the GOP-controlled Senate Finance Committee, where Sen. Chris Holbert made a statement that stunned Democrats and bill supporters.

We’d say on an objective scale, this was pretty stunning.

“I represent a part of a county that has the sixth-highest income demographic in the nation,” the Parker Republican said. “The people who elected me and who I represent, many are in those upper-income brackets.” [Pols emphasis]

So-called “529” plans like Colorado’s CollegeInvest program enable tax-deferred investments to save for a designated beneficiary’s college education. In Colorado, families can also claim a tax credit against their state income tax for the amount they invest in 529 plans. Under Merrifield’s bill, wealthy 529 plan investors would still benefit from their tax-advantaged status, but wouldn’t qualify for the additional state income tax credit unless their income is under $500,000 per year.

Republicans at every level of government face a significant message setback when trying to justify policies that either disregard the interest of or actively work against the middle class voters who make up the bulk of the electorate. We’ve seen this manifest over and over in the last few years, with phrases like “attacking job creators” and “class warfare” nervously appropriated by Republicans to avoid having to say simple declarative things like “I represent the rich people.”

Politically this is not difficult to understand, since there are simply not enough rich people to form an electoral majority–and even among the Republican rank-and-file, blind fealty to the upper class is breaking down as middle class incomes stagnate while the rich get richer.

That is why this statement we assume Sen. Chris Holbert made without any hesitation is so shocking. Republicans work hard to pigeonhole Democrats as the party that represents the only very poorest Americans–those “other” Americans it’s broadly assumed are “lazy” and “not pulling their weight.” Democrats respond that they have the interests of the middle class at heart–in this case families saving for college–and that Republicans have become the party of only the very rich.

And here you have the deciding vote on a bill to help the middle class candidly admitting it. The political significance of that, even if you’re not surprised, should be very great indeed.

Mag Limit Crazy Talk: A Trip Down Memory Lane

UPDATE #2: As expected, Senate Bill 15-175 passes the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate. After one more roll call vote, the bill heads to the House to die.


UPDATE: Debate now underway:


Today, the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate is set to debate and pass on second reading Senate Bill 15-175, legislation repealing the 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in 2013. A lively floor debate is expected to begin shortly.

As we have documented in this space, the gun lobby and allied Republicans have consistently relied on wildly hyperbolic predictions about what the magazine limit law would do in order to fire up public opposition and derail the national debate over gun safety. Today, as the Senate debates the repeal of the magazine limit, we’d like to share few clips of video about the magazine limit bill that we want to see, you know, justified.

Here’s one to start with: in March of 2013, then-Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman proposed that the Department of Natural Resources be “shut down,” since hunters will not be coming to Colorado–“because you can’t bring your weapons here.”

As we know back here in reality, the number of hunting permits issued in Colorado has surged since the passage of the 2013 magazine limit. It would appear that hunters figured out that what Cadman was saying wasn’t true in the least.

And then there’s Sen. Kent Lambert, who claimed in 2013 that “we have banned, effectively banned gun ownership, from the citizens of the state.”


BREAKING: Steve House Ousts Ryan Call

MONDAY UPDATE: A telling “Retweet” from ousted GOP chairman Ryan Call says it all:


And with that, Ryan Call washes his hands of you. FOX 31:

Just four months after helping to engineer the Colorado GOP’s first big statewide victory in 12 years, Chairman Ryan Call is out of a job.

Steve House was elected over Call by more than 400 Republican delegates at the party’s the annual meeting in Douglas County by the Republican State Central Committee.

Call, who was seeking a third term, was ousted as a result of frustration from both the grassroots and establishment sides of the party.


Call said the party still faces serious challenges going into the 2016 elections, and he wished House “the best of luck.”

Even though the party is coming off its best election in years, some Republican activists say results could have been better with someone else in charge.

Last November, Colorado saw 100,000 more Republican votes than Democratic votes. But Democrats hung on to the governor’s office and the state House.


UPDATE 12:00PM: Steve House’s victory over Ryan Call now official, reportedly a 57-43% margin. House now giving his victory speech.


Word just reaching us from the Colorado Republican Party’s reorg meeting–former Adams County GOP chairman Steve House has defeated incumbent Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call on the first ballot. We’ll update shortly with coverage.

And remember, you heard it here first.

Monday Open Thread

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”

–Nikos Kazantzakis

BREAKING: Ted Harvey New Exec. Director of Colorado GOP

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R).

Former Sen. Ted Harvey (R-Douglas County) will be the new Executive Director of the State Republican Party.

Colorado Republicans today selected former Adams County Republican Party Chair Steve House to replace Ryan Call as State Republican Party Chair (this outcome was first predicted by Colorado Pols on Thursday).

As part of the State Party reorganization, Republicans intend to change their bylaws so that Party Chair is no longer a full-time salaried position (which was how the GOP used to operate before making the Dick Wadhams exception last decade). This means that the top full-time job with the Republican Party will revert back to the role of Executive Director…which is apparently going to be filled by former State Sen. Ted Harvey.

Harvey has been telling folks at today’s Republican reorganization meeting that he will assume the role of Executive Director as soon as Monday. Harvey is an interesting choice, to say the least; he is a somewhat polarizing figure among Republicans who has been recently working to raise money for the controversial “Scam PAC” Stop Hillary PAC. We’ll have more to say about that in the coming days.

We’ll update as we learn more, but as always, you heard it here first.

Radio host accidentally leaves clues about who wrote document trashing votes by Thurlow

(Oops! The Nevilles appear busted – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

GOP Reps. Patrick Neville, Dan Thurlow.

GOP Reps. Patrick Neville, Dan Thurlow.

On his Facebook page yesterday, KLZ AM-560 radio host Ken Clark posted a document and posed the question, “This is Dan Thurlow’s voting record so far, what do you think?”

Clark freely acknowledged that he didn’t write the piece, which criticizes Thurlow, a Republican who’s been voting against his caucus, for nine votes opposing right-wing legislation. For example, Thurlow’s vote for a ban on “conversion therapy” is noted in the document with the comment: “Thurlow thinks that is a great idea and was the only R in the entire house to vote for it.”

The document states that Thurlow is an “idiot” for voting against a bill that would have allowed the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to allow “transfers of machine guns, destructive devices, and certain types of firearms” if the transferee met certain conditions, loosening the current regulator regime. 

In describing Thurlow’s vote against the machine-gun-transfer bill, HB 1086, Clark’s secret-source states: “This was my bill, it would have mandated CBI sign off on form 4s for NFA license packets if the person passes a background check.”

So judging from this “my bill” line in the document posted, and other comments about email, Clark’s source appears to be a legislator who sponsored HB 1086.

Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville.

And Clark acknowledges in the comment section that Clark deleted a reference in the anonymously-authored document to HB 1171 as  “my freedom of conscience protection bill.”

The sponsors of both those bills are Rep. Patrick and Sen. Tim Neville. (See HB 1171 here and HB 1086 here.)

So, while we can’t be sure, it looks like Clark’s source is either Rep. Patrick Neville or Sen. Tim Neville.

Asked about the situation, Clark said it was “an editing error on my part.”

In any case, it’s a lesson for all of us who receive leaked or anonymously-authored documents. Read them carefully before posting them to avoid disclosing your sources or giving hidden clues to bored bloggers who love to expose anonymous sources.

Get More Smarter on Friday (March 13)

Get More SmarterFor the second month in a row, the 13th falls on a Friday. 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 Republicans will meet tomorrow to select their State Party Leaders for the next two years. As first reported at Colorado Pols yesterday, incumbent Chair Ryan Call is expected to lose his job to challenger Steve House. Click here for more on tomorrow’s election.

► Excuse me, but is that an IUD you are wearingJohn Frank of the Denver Post reports on the newest “aborti-fashion,” as Republicans might call it, taking place at the State Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


DO NOT Help Doug Bruce Cheat Taxpayers

Doug Bruce. Mug shot courtesy Colorado Department of Law.

Doug Bruce. Mug shot courtesy Colorado Department of Law.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Monica Mendoza reports, the recall election against embattled Councilwoman Helen Collins will proceed:

Colorado Springs City Clerk Sarah Johnson, with input from Colorado Springs Municipal Court Judge HayDen Kane, ruled Thursday that recall petitions are valid and voters in District 4 will be asked on the April 7 ballot if they want to recall Collins, who also faces an investigation by the city’s Ethics Commission that alleges a questionable real estate deal with tax-limitation author and felon Douglas Bruce…

[N]o matter how the election ends, Collins faces an ethics complaint that alleges she participated in a real estate deal with Bruce that helped him avoid payment of a nearly $7,600 court judgment he owes the city.

The complaint, brought against Collins by the Colorado Springs City Attorney’s Office, was filed with the city’s Independent Ethics Commission on Jan. 21. After a 70-minute closed-door meeting March 5, the commission found that the complaint against Collins was within the panel’s jurisdiction and wasn’t frivolous and therefore should be investigated.

Via the Colorado Springs Independent, recall organizers are eagerly moving ahead–from their statement yesterday:

Her unethical and possibly illegal real estate deal with convicted felon Doug Bruce, as reported by the news media, may have cheated Colorado Springs taxpayers out of thousands of dollars. [Pols emphasis] It is the most telling example yet of the possible corruption she has brought to City Hall.

With an ongoing ethics probe and possible criminal investigation hanging over her, it would be best for our district and the entire city if Helen Collins would step down now. City government faces enough challenging issues just ahead of next month’s election without having to deal with this cloud of controversy a day longer.

As the author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), Doug Bruce is an icon of the conservative movement to ratchet down the size of government. TABOR’s many convoluted provisions capping revenue, and complicating elections to raise taxes–far beyond the publicly salable requirement that voters approve tax increases–have seriously compromised the state’s ability to provide for basic responsibilities like roads, education, and health care.

That this central conservative policy achievement is the brainchild of a convicted felon tax cheat is something Republicans aren’t as eager to discuss. After Bruce was appointed to the Colorado legislature, his bad mannered antics led to a rare censure, and he was “euthanized” by HD-15 voters in 2008 in favor of Rep. Mark Waller. In December of 2011, Bruce was convicted of felony tax evasion and attempted bribery charges, and served just over 100 days in jail.

Honestly, is there anyone reading this who would be surprised that Doug “Mr. TABOR” Bruce is still cheating taxpayers? Didn’t think so!  All we can say is, the continuing follies of convicted tax cheat Doug Bruce ought to be a message problem for more Republican politicians than Helen Collins–or at the very least, raise basic questions about the true motives behind TABOR.

Don’t you think?

More Journalists Were Needed to Sort Through the Madness of GOP State-Chair Race

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Last Call for Ryan Call?

Ryan Call.

UPDATE: Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols offers an excellent closing analysis of the race here: “GOP Chairman Ryan Call facing revolt led by AG Cynthia Coffman.”


One thing is clear in the home stretch of the battle between Ryan Call and Steve House to be the next leader of Colorado’s Republican Party.

The race could have used a few more reporters like the Colorado Statesman‘s Ernest Luning covering it. As it is, “coverage” of the race has mostly been left to a bizarre and sometimes toxic shooting gallery of talk radio, Facebook, more Facebook, progressive bloggers (including outcasts like me), and whisperers and more whisperers. Honestly, this situation, set against a backdrop of intense GOP anger and madness, doesn’t serve Republicans or the rest of us.

The candidates have spoken directly to lots of the Republican activists who will be voting Saturday, which is good, but the race for Republican chair is an excellent example of what won’t be covered at all by real journalists as the profession fades. And we all lose from that.

Luning has provided the most even-handed and in-depth coverage of the Republican leadership race, and he’s out with a new story yesterday that included new allegations against Steve House, who’s challenging Ryan Call. Luning reports:

A group of former Adams County Republican officers circulated a letter on Wednesday slamming House for his tenure leading the county party and calling his character into question.

The letter, signed by former county chairs Patty McCoy and Clark Bolser, former vice chair Patty Sue Femrite and county finance chair Maria del Carman Guzman-Weese, alleged that House quit the post half way through his term in order to run for governor after promising he wouldn’t do just that. What’s more, the Adams County group charged, he left the county GOP in a shambles and it was Call who came to the rescue to rebuild it.

“Steve definitely has charisma and personal ambition, and he certainly knows how to give a good speech,” the group wrote. “He’s personally likeable. But his record of unfulfilled commitments, multiple broken promises, and overall poor performance as County Chairman left many of us in Adams County disappointed, extremely frustrated, and with unwelcome extra work during a critical time.”

Steve House spokesman Mike McAlpine (of Hudak-recall fame) denied the accusation, telling Luning it was dirty politics and, in fact, Adams County Republicans actually helped flip the Colorado Senate in 2014.

In any case, in addition to his reporting of this flap, Luning nicely summarizes the House-Call contest as we head into Saturday morning, when the final vote will occur at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock.

Denver Municipal Races: Fundraising Update

Back in January we sifted through the various races for the May 5th Denver Municipal election. As we said at time time, some of the Denver races were still just beginning to shake out; with new fundraising number available, it’s time again to take a look at the very large field of candidates.

The fundraising numbers below were compiled through publicly-available reports that can be accessed via the website of the Denver Clerk and Recorder. While anyone can access campaign finance data and make their own spreadsheet — heck, we do it all the time for state races — we did not actually pull all of these reports on our own. Most of the work was done by Denver political consultant Matt Derrington (Derrington Consulting), who compiled this data on his own and kindly shared it with Denver Pols to re-purpose here. For more on the latest Denver fundraising numbers, check out Jon Murray at the Denver Post.

Okay, let’s get to it. We’ll take you through the numbers, race-by-race, after the jump…


The Last Call, Well and Truly: GOP Expected to Oust State Chair

Ryan Call, Steve House.

Ryan Call (left) and his likely replacement, Steve House.

If you have any clever puns to play off of the name “Ryan Call,” now would be the time to use them.

Republicans will convene on Saturday to select their Party leadership for the next two years, and from everything we hear, State Party Chair Ryan Call will almost certainly lose his re-election bid to challenger Steve House. The conclusion is so forgone, in fact, that Call has apparently already come to terms with his fate and is now just hoping to keep the final tally from turning into a rout for House.

Colorado Republicans had a pretty good year at the polls in 2014, but as we told you back in December, the knives were coming out for Call anyway. Republican insiders have never been comfortable with paying a hefty salary to a State Party Chair, and it was this concern over the State GOP budget that got the ball of change rolling. Call has since been plagued by stories of shady campaign finance connections, and the Chair’s race has taken on the kind of bizarre paranoia that Colorado Republicans do best. The list of grievances aimed at Call continues to grow.

House is a former Adams County Republican Chair, and 2014 candidate for governor, who in many ways was an ideal candidate to put forth to challenge Call. House is independently wealthy and doesn’t need the salary that Call has been collecting, which makes it easy for him to push for the GOP to return to a pre-Dick Wadhams era when Party Chair wasn’t a full-time paid gig.

With Call likely to lose on Saturday, the story now turns to Senator Cory Gardner, who has publicly and privately supported the two-term GOP Chair. Gardner is reportedly collecting proxies from around the state to support Call on Saturday, and a loss for Call will be a serious black eye for Gardner’s image. National media outlets praised Gardner as a rising star following his November defeat of Sen. Mark Udall, but how will they gauge Gardner’s inability to get his own State Party Chair re-elected? Gardner is already reeling from backlash over the infamous “Dear Iran” letter, and soon he’ll be asked to explain why the GOP faithful in Colorado have already tuned him out.


GOP vice-chair candidate says Republicans aren’t “cool” and once labeled them “almost human”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Derrick Wilburn.

Derrick Wilburn.

A former talk-radio yapper, Derrick Wilburn, is running for Vice Chair of the Colorado Republican Party.

Wilburn once co-hosted a CO Springs radio show called, “Black, White, and Right,” which aired on KZNT 1460-AM. Wilburn, who’s African-American, represented the “black” part, while former congressional candidate Robert Blaha wore the “white” mantel. And both were right–as in tea party, as opposed to “correct.”

To give you an idea of  the depth of Wilburn’s tea-party-ness, during one radio show a couple years ago, Wilburn gave “Almost Human” honors to Republicans generally, and he added that GOP chairman Ryan Call is emblematic of Republicans. So he sounds about as mad at his fellow Republicans as other party leaders leading up to Saturday’s election, and the division has even crept into the marriage of Mike Coffman and Cynthia Coffman, who might be mad at each other over it.

Maybe Wilburn’s almost-human critique of his fellow Republicans is connected to another gripe: Wilburn says his fellow Republicans aren’t cool.