Loveland Reporter-Herald Rips Sen. John Cooke

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

We took note earlier this week, as did gun safety activists, of remarks by Sen. John Cooke of Greeley during debate last week over Senate Bill 16-113–legislation that would repeal the state’s 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity passed in 2013. Sen. Cooke, making the argument that the magazine limit is not enforceable, explained that he tells his “people,” whom we assume to be his constituents to “go to Wyoming” to buy high-capacity magazines that aren’t legally sold in Colorado.

You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal.

Which, while technically true, doesn’t make it any less illegal to bring those high-capacity magazines back into the state of Colorado from Wyoming once you buy one. Sen. Cooke is surely aware of this, since in his previous job as Weld County Sheriff he was responsible for patrolling a significant length of the Colorado/Wyoming border to prevent illegal fireworks being brought into our state. Any way you slice it, Cooke’s encouragement to break the law and (most importantly) advice on how to break the law is not appropriate for a lawmaker–and not okay from a former sworn law enforcement officer.

We’re happy to report that, in a hard-hitting editorial today, the Loveland Reporter-Herald agrees:

Crossing the border into Wyoming to purchase items that are illegal in Colorado happens all the time. Flying and exploding fireworks are illegal on this side of the state line, so Coloradans who believe that this state’s fireworks regulations are onerous regularly take the risk of driving over the state line and purchasing fireworks that they may legally possess in Wyoming. Bringing them back across the border is illegal, and any elected representative who would encourage his constituents to do so could lead them to run afoul of the law and common sense.

Cooke has been an opponent of gun control measures passed in 2013, to the point of saying when he was sheriff of Weld County that he would not enforce those laws. He was within his legal right to do so.

Choosing not to enforce a law is one thing, but encouraging people to break the law is beneath the office of a state senator. [Pols emphasis] It would be as if a legislator in Nebraska who disagreed with marijuana prohibition encouraged Nebraskans to make their purchases in Colorado and return home with them, as some of Cooke’s opponents have pointed out.

It’s true, and the Reporter-Herald does make the point that Sen. Cooke has a constitutional right to tell his constituents it’s okay break the law–and even how to do it. But a constitutional right to say something does not make it a responsible thing to say, and a lawmaker can reasonably be held to a higher expectation where it concerns basic respect for the law. We would say the same of law enforcement officers like Colorado’s elected county sheriffs.

We’re pleased to see some accountability in the local press. However you may feel about Colorado’s gun laws, and we know there are strong opinions here, lawmakers encouraging citizens to break laws crosses a line.

How Ted Cruz Legitimized Dudley Brown

brownrnc

cruzslateSetting aside Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about how opponent Ted Cruz managed to completely dominate the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention from Colorado, we’ve already focused on the role of both local and national gun-rights organizations in organizing and consolidating the pro-Cruz delegate slate. With the state assembly in the books, it’s clear now that the threat of Trump’s nomination has produced an unlikely coalition of basically every other interest group in Colorado Republican politics–a shift could change the conservative political landscape in our state in lasting ways.

And as the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, not good ways:

Colorado’s Republican activist base had an inherent attraction to Cruz’s strain of conservative politics, and the Cruz campaign had a masterful understanding of how the delegate-selection process works in Colorado. Add a dash of anti-Trump (or #NeverTrump) sentiment into the mix and you saw a slate of Cruz-backers working toward the same goal even if they represented factions in Colorado politics that don’t often work together in elections. Dudley Brown, the head of the polarizing Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group, for instance, found his name on a flyer alongside that of Secretary of State Wayne Williams who represents a more mainstream faction of the state GOP.

The last few years have witnessed a state of more or less continuous infighting within the Colorado Republican Party, which has frequently boiled over into very public conflicts–the departure of former chairman Dick Wadhams under heavy fire from the conservative “Tea Party” grassroots, the defeat of Wadhams’ successor Ryan Call by Steve House, and the coup attempt just months later against House all being symptoms of the underlying problem. Much of this tension can be traced directly back to Dudley Brown and his stable of RMGO-owned candidates and legislators. Meanwhile, “establishment” Republicans have openly worked to distance themselves from Brown’s political machine.

To us, the veneer of separation between Brown and today’s Colorado GOP has been increasingly anachronistic, especially in the years since the 2013 pro-gun recall elections. The 2013 recalls were a watershed moment for the Colorado GOP–and an ascendant moment for Brown and RMGO that cemented their control of the party grassroots. Brown’s power was demonstrated once again with 2014 primary victories that elevated Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez over establishment-backed GOP candidates.

This weekend, Dudley Brown stood on stage with Secretary of State Wayne Williams to claim victory in Colorado for Ted Cruz in the desperate battle to stop Donald Trump. Brown himself was elected not just to the RNC as a national delegate as he has in prior years, but also to the national convention’s platform committee. Even though Brown’s favored U.S. Senate candidate longtime ally Sen. Tim Neville lost out after Darryl Glenn’s fiery convention speech, there’s no question that the present state of chaos in the Republican Party is working out very well for Dudley Brown.

And that is a story we could be talking about well after 2016.

Colorado Lawmaker: Here’s How You Break The Law

UPDATE: Colorado Ceasefire condemns Sen. John Cooke’s remarks yesterday in very strong terms:

Those who support the repeal of the ammunition magazine ban have repeatedly argued that the law inconveniences law-abiding citizens. “Sen. Cooke, as one of the leading supporters of the repeal, advocated that these same law-abiding citizens become criminals,” noted Jacqui Shumway, a board member of Colorado Ceasefire.

“What Senator Cooke doesn’t seem to understand is that the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed a high capacity magazine ban in order to save lives, and it is the law in Colorado. 82 people were wounded and 12 were killed in the Aurora Theater, where a 100-round drum was employed,” said Tom Mauser, also with Colorado Ceasefire. Mauser’s son Daniel was shot and killed at Columbine High School in 1999, where high-capacity magazines contributed to the carnage.

“Sheriff Cooke shamed himself and his state when he proclaimed he would not enforce the gun laws passed by the General Assembly in 2013. Now as a senator in that same Assembly, Cooke violates the expectations the people have of a lawmaker,” said Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action. “While he works to enact laws by day, in his off-time he is advising citizens to break them.”

Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado also fired up:

“Everyone knows the gun lobby dislikes Colorado’s magazine limit law, but it’s the law of the land,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “Sen. John Cooke has every right to introduce legislation to repeal a law his benefactors in the gun industry doesn’t like. But when Sen. Cooke encourages citizens to break existing law, even telling them to cross state lines to buy illegal products in another state, he is going too far.”

“As Weld County Sheriff, Sen. Cooke was responsible for policing the Wyoming border to stop illegal fireworks being smuggled into Colorado,” said Franklin. “Did Cooke tell Coloradans to ‘go to Wyoming’ for illegal fireworks? Would Cooke tell the citizens of Nebraska they have a right to take legal Colorado marijuana back across the border to a state where it is illegal?”

“Cooke’s flagrant encouragement of Coloradans to break the law, despite the risk of fines, jail time, and a criminal record, makes a mockery of his responsibilities as a lawmaker,” said Franklin. “If Cooke wants to advocate the breaking of Colorado law, he should not be in a position to either make or enforce our laws.”

It’s a big deal, folks. And it should be.

—–

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

Yesterday, the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate gave initial passage to Senate Bill 16-113, legislation that would repeal the 2013 15-round limit on firearm magazine capacity. After passing the Senate, the bill awaits certain death in the Democratic-controlled House, but the perennial repeal attempts of the 2013 gun bills are still as much of a rallying point as General Assembly Republicans get these days–except for abortion, of course, and with election season fast approaching you won’t be hearing much about that going forward.

The debate yesterday over Senate Bill 113 could become memorable in another way, however, after remarks by former Weld County Sheriff-cum Sen. John Cooke of Greeley sparked outrage from gun safety advocates. Here’s the audio, we’ll post video shortly:

COOKE: The good Senator from Castle Rock, mentioned, uh, if you’re law enforcement or in the military you can still get ’em, well, which is true. But what I tell my people is go to Wyoming! You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal. [Pols emphasis]

What happened here, as you can read very plainly above, is a Colorado lawmaker–indeed a lawmaker who was most recently a law enforcement officer–happily describing from the well of the Colorado Senate how he encourages other people to break Colorado law. Yes, it’s true that high-capacity magazines are available in Wyoming. So are, for example, illegal fireworks.

We’re pretty sure Cooke did not encourage people to “go to Wyoming” for their fireworks as Weld County Sheriff.

It’s possible that today’s politics have gone so far off the rails that nothing can shock the conscience anymore, but we are legitimately dismayed to see once again a Colorado lawmaker legitimize breaking Colorado law. We have to believe there was a time in history when that was not okay–when lawmakers, even when they disagreed with the law of the land, stood for the rule of law, and would never undermine the sanctity of the law for their own politics. Attempting to repeal a law you don’t like is fine. As a sworn lawmaker, telling your constituents not just that it’s okay but how to break the law is not acceptable behavior.

Make no mistake: this is not Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience, folks. This is George Wallace promising “segregation forever” as Governor of Alabama. It’s really important to understand that distinction. When Cooke admitted to doing was deeply wrong, and an affront to the most basic responsibilities of any lawmaker.

If you don’t agree, we’d say you should probably not be a lawmaker.

Phillips Family Blasts Bernie Sanders on Gun Immunity Law

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

We’ve noted several times in the last few years the sad story of Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was murdered in the July 20, 2012 mass shooting at the Century Theater in Aurora. After the Aurora theater massacre, the Phillipses sued online sellers of ammunition and body armor that the killer used to obtain thousands of rounds of ammunition, a high-capacity magazine, and body armor.

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips lost their suit–and under the terms of both state and federal laws shielding weapons dealers from liability for harm caused by their products, they were ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the ammunition dealers. Their story has provoked sympathy and some national press, though very little interest from local media.

But as 9NEWS reports today, the Phillips family is gaining visibility through the Democratic presidential primary–calling out pro-gun Sen. Bernie Sanders for his vote in favor of the federal law that helped ensnare them:

As the Democratic primary race turns to New York, where the gun issue looms large, Clinton will seize upon their story and those like it. The Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Ghawi, died in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Lucky Gunner was shielded from prosecution under a 2005 law that grants gun makers and sellers immunity from prosecution for crimes committed with their products. Sanders voted for the law, though he’s recently wavered over whether he supports it.

“We don’t have that much money to pay them, and they can take our house,” Phillips told USA TODAY. “Right now we’re living in a trailer traveling and speaking around the country trying to get people to understand how egregious this law is.”

“I don’t think he had any idea of the repercussions this law would cause,” Phillips said of Sanders. “I would like Bernie Sanders to at least apologize to us for the heartache this has caused.” [Pols emphasis]

After so many mass shooting events in recent years including the Aurora theater massacre, there’s no question that the debate over gun safety laws has shifted since 2005–at least within the Democratic coalition, where “pro-gun” holdouts like Sanders have had a harder time justifying their recalcitrance as victims and advocates have cried out for justice.

Regardless of who you support in the Democratic primary, you can’t help but feel sympathy for the Phillips family and their plight as we have since long before they became an issue in this race. Their political interest certainly can be justified by this law, which Sanders supported and has severely impacted their family as they sought justice in the wake of great tragedy.

And if we didn’t acknowledge what they’re going through, we would be playing politics.

Homophobic Williams to run for Chaps’ old House seat

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Constituents of House District 15 in El Paso County have been represented for almost two years  by a homophobic, gaffe-prone politician with ethical challenges:  Dr. Gordon Klingenschmitt, aka “Dr. Chaps“. Now, unless mass sanity strikes, they will probably be represented by another gay-bashing, hot-tempered, inexperienced  politician: David O. Williams.

“Chaps” announced that he would not run again for HD15; he is now running against Bob Gardner for  SD12,term-limited Senate President Cadman’s district. Chaps’ long-suffering constituents should have had a reprieve from embarrassing stories about their duly elected representative. Klingenschmitt’s greatest hits have included claiming that a brutal assault on a pregnant woman was God’s punishment, saying that Rep. Jared Polis wants to behead Christians, and being under IRS investigation for possible  financial misconduct.

david o williams

David O. Williams, candidate for HD15

Unfortunately, House District 15’s new Republican nominee, David O. Williams, looks to be potentially every bit as embarrassing as Chaps. Homophobia? Check. Lack of elected experience? Check. Hot temper – Shoot first, then aim? Check. Dubious financial history, only ever employed in his father-in-law’s business, kicked out of the only two positions he’s ever been elected to ? Check. Add to this access to weapons and $2,000 from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in 12/2013, and EPCO HD15 voters may have another embarrassingly rocky two years ahead of them.

David Williams is the son-in-law of his employer,  Doyle McAlister, who was a registered sex offender in 2013.  McAlister’s company, MKW Global Sourcing, is primarily in the Chinese export-import business.  MKW employs Williams as Program Manager.

Williams ran for HD15  in 2014, but Dr. Chaps got the nod from the El Paso County delegates. Williams’  homophobic behavior is well known, and has included booing a “Log Cabin” gay delegate; threatening someone else with an AR15; discriminating against funding of gay clubs as UCCS Student Body President, and fostering a climate of gay-bashing and bullying during his tenure, because of which he was finally impeached.

(more…)

Cory Gardner: Ready To Play Ball on SCOTUS Yet?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

In the weeks since the sudden death of conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner has had varying responses to the question of whether he would consider a nominee from President Barack Obama in the final year of Obama’s presidency. After an initial statement that appeared to leave an opening for an “acceptable” nominee, Gardner slammed the door on any consideration of a nominee from Obama well before Judge Merrick Garland was nominated.

In a meeting with the Grand Junction Sentinel’s editorial board yesterday, Gardner appeared firm on this latter obstructionist stance, even as the polls say it’s a huge political mistake:

Despite national polls indicating that even a majority of Republican voters say the Senate should hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, Gardner remains steadfast in his belief that confirmation should wait until after the election.

The American people deserve a voice in this process, Gardner said. Asked to consider that the American people have already spoken — twice — by electing Obama, Garner countered that voters have also given the Senate a Republican majority to “advise and consent” on the process as it chooses.

Why not hold hearings, even if just to reject the nominee?

“If it’s a political show, I’m not interested,” Gardner said.

So, if the will of the people is expressly important and Hillary Clinton becomes the next president, the Senate should forgo a lame-duck confirmation of Garland and wait for Clinton to nominate someone else — likely younger and more liberal than the moderate Garland?

“That’s exactly right,” Gardner said…

But as Politico reports today, the terrible reception from the voting public the GOP’s stonewalling of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has received, especially after the moderate and popular Judge Garland was nominated, could mean a very different outcome when the Senate returns from Easter recess next week.

With small cracks emerging in the Republican Supreme Court blockade — and private indications from some GOP senators that they’d likely back Merrick Garland if he ever did come up for a vote — the White House is preparing to press its perceived political advantage when senators return from their recess next week…

White House aides have expanded their universe of potential Republican “yes” votes from their original three-category breakdown of vulnerable incumbents up for reelection, moderates and older institutionalists. Their target list now includes the six Republicans who voted for Garland’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court in 1997 — including Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Mississippi’s Thad Cochran — and off-cycle Republicans in states where the other senator is a Democrat who can help carry the attack back home. That smaller list includes Indiana’s Dan Coats (who’s retiring, and also voted for Garland in 1997), Nevada’s Dean Heller and Colorado’s Cory Gardner. [Pols emphasis]

Polling clearly shows that Republicans overstepped by planting the flag against any Obama nominee before the nominee was even known, and the number of GOP Senators willing to at least meet with Judge Garland has continued to grow. Sen. Gardner, for his part, is very sensitive to such changing political realities, and much less dogmatically committed than, say, his successor in Congress Rep. Ken Buck.

If the GOP’s SCOTUS stonewall does come apart when the Senate reconvenes next week, watch for Gardner to keep himself on the winning side.

Tim Neville: Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby

Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville.

The Denver Post’s John Frank posted a short while ago about the unusual predicament GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser finds himself in, trying to appeal to the Republican primary electorate as just one face in a very crowded field:

“Democrats have shown time and time again that they have no respect for our Second Amendment rights,” [Keyser] wrote in an e-mail that asked for campaign donations to beat Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Keyser mentioned this in reference to a recent hearing in the Democratic-controlled House State Affairs Committee, in which a number of GOP-sponsored pro gun bills were killed. The problem is,

What Keyser didn’t mention: [Tim] Neville is a co-sponsor of four of the five bills. [Pols emphasis]

Neville is using his legislative seat to outline an agenda that dovetails with his Senate bid. He also raised campaign cash on the back of his gun bills — and recently gave away an AR-15 rifle to a campaign donor.

As with the GOP presidential race, the Colorado GOP U.S. Senate primary this year has been defined by the candidate most willing to make controversial statements that attract earned media. State Sen. Tim Neville’s strident legislative record and close ties with far-right Republican grassroots groups give him a natural leg up on the competition for primary voters. With voters for whom guns are basically their single political engagement issue–and thanks to the organizing work of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), that a lot of Colorado GOP primary voters–Neville has bonafides that none of his opponents can match. When he speaks to Republican voters or in debates, Neville is always careful to make sure that he talks about how he is already trying to do these things that all the other candidates are discussing; it’s a powerful message to be able to say, You don’t have to take my word for it — just watch what I’m doing.

All of which makes this story from Frank, which simply states the facts, very harmful to Keyser’s “17th Street insider”-driven campaign. At best, Keyser looks like he’s playing catch-up to Neville’s leadership on the issue.

And at worst, Keyser is covering up his record. Via Frank, Neville points to a vote in April last year in which Keyser sided with Democrats to defeat a longshot procedural attempt to keep a bill repealing the 2013 magazine limit alive. If Keyser manages to emerge from the “clown car” pack of Republican candidates and present a serious challenge for the nomination, we fully expect Neville and Dudley Brown to turn Keyser into a new Michael Bloomberg on the strength of that one single vote.

And it’ll work, too. This is what the Brown/Neville political machine does best.

Coloradans To Sen. Cory Gardner: #DoYourJob

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gardner-MorningJoe-22416With new polling released today showing the American public rejects the right-wing stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, delivered a petition with nearly 1,300 names and hundreds of comments from Coloradans to Sen. Cory Gardner demanding he do his job and give Chief Judge Garland a fair hearing.

“It was a risky gamble for the far right to vow to block any nominee President Obama put forward, and today the polls show the American people reject this latest act of partisan obstruction by the Republican Party,” said ProgressNow political director Alan Franklin. “The message we’ve heard from progressives in Colorado is loud and clear: we can’t wait until 2017 for a new Supreme Court Justice. It’s time for Republicans in the U.S. Senate to set aside their endless vitriol against America’s first black President and do their jobs.”

Here are just a few of the hundreds of messages to Sen. Gardner from Colorado voters received by ProgressNow Colorado:

Robert in Denver: “It is not unprecedented for a president to nominate a SCOTUS replacement during an election year. Do your job–you know, the one the tax payers are paying you to do, and carry out your Constitutional responsibility.”

Jacquelyn in Boulder: “It is not likely you will have the courage to do the right thing. I have yet to meet an independent Republican. You love to talk of the Constitution, but will not even give a nominee a hearing. It is disgraceful. If it were up to me, none of you would get your paycheck. Most of us would be fired immediately if we did our job the way your party does. I will spend as much shoe leather as I can afford to defeat you and your obstructionist colleagues.”

Sharon in Palmer Lake: “If it was good enough for Reagan to nominate someone for the Supreme Court during his last years…it is also good enough for President Obama to do the same thing. Shame on you and the others who are not willing to work together according to the U.S. Constitution.”

Curt in Denver: “Ronald Reagan was the last president to nominate a Supreme Court justice in the year prior to an election…it is ridiculous for Mitch McConnell to block a nomination to the Court by President Obama. Leaving the Court in limbo is unprecedented. Election year politics have no place in your obligation to advise and consent to Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”

Garrett in Pueblo: “I find it interesting for all of Republicans’ rhetoric about following the Constitution, that you are not willing to follow it in this case and give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing. No one is suggesting that you must accept his nomination–you can always vote ‘no.’ But to deny him a hearing and an ‘up or down’ vote is to disregard the Constitution and to make up the rules as you go along. We all have our jobs to do–now do yours. Give Judge Merrick Garland the hearing he deserves.”

To read more comments from Colorado voters to Sen. Cory Gardner, click here.

“The response from Cory Gardner and Republicans in Washington to the election of Barack Obama as President almost eight years ago has been to wage endless partisan warfare against him, which has done enormous damage to our nation and our politics,” said Franklin. A new poll today [1] shows that Republicans are rapidly losing public support for their refusal to even hold hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination. The message from Colorado voters to Cory Gardner and the Republican Party could not be clearer: do your job. If they refuse, November is coming fast.”

Federal Court Rejects Sheriff Gun Law Appeal

Guns.

Guns.

Apropos news from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, hearing the case of a bunch of elected Colorado sheriffs vs. Gov. John Hickenlooper, seeking to overturn the state’s landmark 2013 gun safety laws–in particular the laws requiring background checks on most private gun transfers, and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds. Tomorrow, the Senate State Affairs Committee will consider the second bill this session that would repeal the magazine limit.

Here’s the decision released earlier today. The 2013 gun laws remain the law of the land:

Several organizations, individuals, and businesses brought suit against Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, arguing the statutes violate the Second Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But it was clear from this litigation’s inception that the plaintiffs’ standing to assert these claims was less than assured; the parties litigated the issue at every turn. As the result of one of these bouts of jurisdictional wrangling, the district court concluded several Colorado sheriffs lacked standing to bring their claims and dismissed them from the case.

After a nine-day bench trial, the district court expressed skepticism that any of the remaining plaintiffs had established standing to challenge § 18-12-112 and § 18-12-302. Nevertheless, “with the benefit of some generous assumptions,” it found that at least one plaintiff had standing to challenge each statute. App. at 1762. After winning the jurisdictional battle, however, the plaintiffs ultimately lost the war; the district court entered judgment in favor of the defendant on all claims…

Because the plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of establishing Article III standing, the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider their claims. We therefore affirm the district court’s order dismissing the sheriffs’ claims and its denial of the subsequent motion to alter or amend that order; vacate the district court’s order granting judgment in favor of the defendant; remand with directions to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction; and dismiss the parties’ pending motions as moot.

The short version is that Independence Institute lawyer Dave Kopel and the county sheriff plaintiffs in this suit already lost their case against the 2013 gun safety laws on the merits in federal district court. Today’s appeals court ruling rejects the standing of the sheriffs and other plaintiffs to bring their suit to begin with, and vacates the sheriffs’ prior loss with an order to dismiss the case entirely.

Some proponents of the 2013 laws might have actually preferred that ruling upholding the laws on the merits stand, but there’s certainly nothing about this that helps the longshot legal case against laws for which ample precedent exists–an effort that is reportedly nonetheless very lucrative for the Independence Institute in terms of fundraising, if not so much a winner, you know, in the courtroom.

Don’t worry–this case, or some version thereof, has at least a couple good rounds of fundraising left in it.

SCOTUS Stonewall Going South For GOP?

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R), Sen. Morgan Carroll (D).

According to a new poll, The Hill reports, the decision by U.S. Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell to stonewall any Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama is shaping up to be a huge election-year mistake:

More than three-fourths of Americans say Senate Republicans are “playing politics” by refusing to take up President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to a Monmouth University Poll released Monday.

Overall, 77 percent of Americans say they think Republicans are “playing politics” by not allowing nominee Merrick Garland to get a hearing. That total includes 62 percent of surveyed Republicans…

“We think the important principle in the middle of this presidential election which is raging, is that the American people need to weigh in and decide who’s going to make this decision, not this lame-duck president on the way out the door, but the next president, next year,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News Sunday.

From Monmouth University’s polling memo:

“The GOP leadership say they won’t hold hearings on Obama’s nomination in order to give the American people a voice in the process in November. The American people don’t buy that argument,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Just 16% of the public agrees that the Senate Republicans are refusing to consider Garland primarily to give the public a say in the nomination. Fully 77% think the GOP leadership is just playing politics. Those who see this stance as mainly a political ploy include large majorities of Democrats (86%), independents (80%), and Republicans (62%).

Obviously, these are not good numbers for anyone hoping to defend the GOP’s decision to stonewall Obama’s nominee–especially now that the nominee is a known commodity, and politically not someone against whom Republicans can reasonably keep up fever-pitch opposition.

Although the battle over confirming Supreme Court justices necessarily plays out in the Senate, the debate could have an impact on other downticket races this year. In Colorado’s CD-6 race Democratic candidate Morgan Carroll has made Republican intransigence an issue, taking up the “Do Your Job” call:

Washington Republicans have already pledged to block any Supreme Court nominee until after the election.

This kind of obstruction is unprecedented. And Morgan Carroll is demanding Congress act to consider Merrick Garland immediately.

To be fair, her GOP opponent Rep. Mike Coffman had already gone there:

After his own sweeping election victories, FDR badly overreached when he tried to shape the Supreme Court in a way that elevated his short term political priorities over the system he served. While the facts here are different, the specter of presidential overreach is just as real today…

Obviously, Rep. Coffman’s reference to FDR’s “court packing” scheme of 1937 is ridiculous, and simply noting “the facts here are different” (seriously?) doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. But the point is this: just like on immigration or abortion, Coffman has cast his lot on a high-visibility issue with the side a majority of his constituents in swing CD-6 do not agree with.

And no one can get away with that forever.

“Militia Class” At Pueblo County Middle School?

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

Reporter Lena Howland of KRDO handles guns in a Colorado City middle school.

A reader forwarded us this rather alarming story from KRDO-13 out of Pueblo County yesterday, about a course offered to middle school students in Colorado City:

“It’s a lot of guns to have in a school, especially because you don’t have this many just at your house or something,” 8th grade student Courtney Proctor said.

[Jim] Heath, a state coordinator of Project Appleseed, brought the three day program to Craver Middle School. The course aims to teach people across the country how to fire weapons accurately and safely, with a foundation of American history…

Volunteers from Project Appleseed and the NRA worked with the students to eliminate the element of fear associated with guns.

At first blush, a course in gun safety and marksmanship doesn’t seem that out of place, especially in a small-town setting like Colorado City. In today’s climate of paranoia over even the slightest perception of being “anti-gun,” a public school’s course on gun safety in a small Colorado town is not something big-city Democrats would want to take the political risk of meddling with.

"Redcoat" Appleseed silhouette targets.

“Redcoat” Appleseed silhouette targets.

The problem is, if you look into this “Project Appleseed,” as the New York Times did a few years ago, there seems to be a lot more going on here than “gun safety.”

So far Appleseed has taught 25,000 people to shoot; 7,000 more will learn by the end of this year. Its instructors teach this skill not for the purpose of hunting or sport. [Pols emphasis] They see marksmanship as fundamental to Americans’ ability to defend their liberty, whether against foreigners or the agents of a (hypothetical) tyrannical government. Appleseed frames this activity as being somewhere between a historical re-enactment and a viable last resort…

Inside the Appleseed Project, the question of where an armed citizenry should draw this line remains open. [Pols emphasis] Later that week, as he sipped a Coke at a nearby McDonald’s, [founder Jim] Dailey flirted with an answer. “If you ever have to reach for your guns, you’ve lost before you started,” he said, and then doubled back. “Now, there are probably some narrow, hypothetical exceptions to that. Like if somebody in the government said, ‘We’re taking over the country.’ You might find there’d be a spontaneous. . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what it would be. And to be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn’t want to see it.”

…Dailey’s frustration with the government peaked during the 1990s after the fatal conflicts at Ruby Ridge and Waco. “Uncle Sam told 76 Americans to come out of their own house, lay down their arms and spread-eagle on the ground,” he says of Waco. “Does that sound to you like the sovereignty of the individual?” At that time, growing restive, he bought more than half a million pounds of rifle stocks at an army-surplus auction. He named his new venture “Fred’s,” after his dog, and wrote indictments of the Clintons and the “New World Order” that reached 94,000 readers. As the radical right gathered steam in the ’90s, Dailey’s anger fixated on the United Nations, which he saw as a metagovernment bent on covertly undermining American sovereignty. [Pols emphasis]

The Waco siege.

The Waco siege.

As you can see, Project Appleseed has motives, ulterior or not, that extend distantly beyond the stated goal of “eliminating the element of fear” about guns. In the photo you see above right from the 8th grade public school classroom the indoor portion of this course was taught in, there’s a list of grievances presumably shared by American colonists–including taxes, religious freedom, and “taking rifles away.” But to the founder of Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War is not some remote history lesson.

It’s something they train the kids to fight. And that is a dubious thing indeed to teach in a public school.

Regarding Sen. Tim Neville’s “Gun Giveaway”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jane Dougherty.

Jane Dougherty.

Colorado State Senator Tim Neville is promoting a gun give away to gin up support for his U.S. Senate campaign. The gun he is using to draw caucus goers is the AR-15 – the semi-automatic civilian version of the military M-16. There is much debate about whether the AR-15 is an “assault rifle” or a “sporting rifle.” Tim Neville tells us that “he believes the AR-15 is a great weapon,” and that people in Colorado are “pretty excited about it.” It is not hard to see based on Senator Neville’s legislative record that he is a gun extremist. Neville is a Second Amendment absolutist, championing guns for everyone, everywhere.

The idea of a sitting Colorado legislator using a powerful and deadly weapon to promote his candidacy is repulsive. I guess either Senator Neville is tone deaf or completely callous to the fact that there have been multiple shootings here in Colorado where the AR-15 has been used to take innocent lives. In the Aurora Theater shooting, 12 lives were taken and 70 others wounded by a depraved gunman with an AR-15. In the Colorado Springs shootings this past fall, the AR-15 was the openly carried gun that killed three innocent victims, and a similar weapon was used in the Planned Parenthood shooting taking the lives of three including a police officer, and injuring nine others including five police officers.

When I first learned of Senator Neville’s gun give away I was physically sickened. This is the gun that took my sister Mary Sherlach’s life at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This gun is not a toy to be dangled before constituents. I wonder if the Senator has given any thought to what could happen if the gun he is giving away fell into the hands of a dangerous person.

Using a deadly weapon for political gain is reprehensible. Is this the message a candidate for U.S. Senate should be sending in a state that has been torn apart by so much gun violence? I think not and I hope the voters of Colorado will agree.

What The Hell Is Cynthia Coffman Thinking?!

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene reports, GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman had a bizarre “Twitter meltdown” last week following the interview of the mother of Dylan Klebold, of one of the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting:

Ted Zocco-Hochhalter — father of a student who was paralyzed in the 1999 rampage — didn’t know what he’d feel when he learned that Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, was coming forward after 17 years to tell her family’s story.

Ire? Disgust? Outrage?

After having watched Sue Klebold’s interview, Zocco-Hochhalter’s response was yes to all of the above – though not toward Sue Klebold, he notes, but rather toward Coffman for weighing in with comments he describes as “incredibly ignorant and insensitive.”

Here are the Tweets AG Coffman fired off after Sue Klebold’s interview aired:

To which the father of Columbine victim Anne Marie Hochhalter says:

Nonsense, counters Zocco-Hochhalter, who lauds Sue Klebold for her candor about the guilt and responsibility she feels about the shootings her son helped carry out before he fatally turning his gun on himself. Sue Klebold spent much of her “20/20” interview acknowledging that she missed key signs of her son’s depression and urging families to learn how to spot kids’ mental health problems before desperation turns to violence. Those are the main points of her book, “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy,” the proceeds from which she’s donating to mental health causes.

“Here we have an Attorney General’s office publicly criticizing Sue Klebold for talking about mental illness as a factor in school shootings. That’s not only insulting to our intelligence, but it’s also flat-out wrong – showing a remarkable lack of knowledge and professionalism about the issue,” Zocco-Hochhalter tells The Independent.

Coffman’s reaction to ABC’s interview with Sue Klebold is very difficult to understand from just about any professional or even responsible point of view. Of course the story of how she missed warning signs that could have helped prevent the Columbine High School shootings should be told. Of course talking about mental illness is better than concealing it. And above all, seventeen years is long enough to wait to talk about it.

Isn’t it possible that telling her story could prevent another Columbine?

No one we have asked about this story has had a plausible theory for why Coffman would launch into this unprofessional outburst aginst Sue Klebold on her official Twitter account in response to a news magazine show interview. Coffman though her spokesman refused to answer questions, saying the Tweets “speak for themselves.”

That may be true, but they don’t say anything good about Cynthia Coffman.

Another Front Opens: Tom Sullivan Runs In SD-27


sullivanBig news out of Arapahoe County this morning, where Tom Sullivan, the father of an Aurora shooting victim and a frequent witness at the Colorado Capitol in support of gun safety legislation, is announcing his run for a Colorado Senate seat in SD-27–the seat now held by recently-appointed Sen. Jack Tate, opening an unexpectedly strong challenge in a district the one-seat Republican Senate majority most certainly cannot afford to lose.

From Sullivan’s press release:

Tom Sullivan, an Air Force veteran, recently retired postal worker, and long-time resident of Arapahoe County, launched his campaign for the Colorado State Senate seat in his home district today (SD-27) as a voice for struggling middle class families…

“I’m running for middle class families. Today you can work hard and not get ahead. We need an economy that works for everyone – not just the very wealthy and well connected,” said Sullivan. “My opponent has spent his political career siding with those at the very top. As your state senator, I promise to roll up my sleeves and get to work to create economy that rewards hard work and levels the playing field for middle class families,” Sullivan said, as he announced his entry into Colorado politics and the start of a campaign inspired by his personal experience and realization that working Coloradans need a stronger voice in government.

Sullivan, a private citizen, is nonetheless a familiar name and face to many Coloradans because his son Alex was one of the dozen people killed in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting while celebrating his 27th birthday with friends. In the wake of this personal tragedy, Sullivan became a vocal advocate — campaigning publicly for justice, victims’ rights, raising the minimum wage, equal pay, and paid parental leave.

Sullivan is running for the Colorado State Senate on his solid record of advocacy and action. The candidate promises: “My goal is to take my experiences and the things I have seen and been a part of and use it to make our community better. I believe that when we all stand together, we can be better together. I want to bring a voice of change and economic freedom to our community in Senate District 27 and for all Coloradans.”

Sullivan’s entry into this race is a very big deal, and could swing a district that might not otherwise be on the Democratic list of top targets. By contrast Sen. Jack Tate has no real advantage of incumbency being so recently appointed to the seat, and has liabilities that include sponsorship of last year’s defeated legislation jacking up interest rates on personal loans. As the father of an Aurora shooting victim, Sullivan has a powerful personal story to tell about his life since losing his son, and the stout defense of the 2013 gun safety laws he has led at the Capitol every year since.

With strong Democratic challengers emerging in state senate races across Colorado this year, what we’re seeing is a deliberate strategy to broaden the front against President Bill Cadman’s one-seat GOP Senate majority–providing a number of paths back to Democratic control of the chamber.

File this one at the top of the list.

GOP Already Caving On Scalia Stonewall? Watch Gardner

UPDATE #2: Sen. Cory Gardner’s comms director Alex Siciliano responds:

Apparently they missed this statement as you can see below. But to the larger point, we think we’ve figured out the trouble here, folks, and it’s pretty simple: Gardner’s “statement” means absolutely nothing. If the President sends the Senate an acceptable nominee, says Gardner, that nominee will be confirmed. As you know, that is how stuff already works per the Constitution. This could be a problem for Gardner’s friend Marco Rubio, who is on the presidential campaign trial right now assuring primary voters that Obama won’t get to pick Antonin Scalia’s replacement.

Then again, there is this whole other part in Gardner’s statement about waiting until the next President to replace Scalia because of what a bad guy Obama is–in fact that’s most of the statement. Might that be superceded by the brief aside about how the President could send them a nominee and that would be okay too? It seems like the answer could be a function of who Sen. Gardner is talking to at any given moment.

A series of statements from senior Republicans contradicted their own previously expressed views and seemed to question whether rank-and-file Republicans were completely on board with the plan from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to do nothing on a Supreme Court nominee this year and let the next president make the nomination.

If Mr. Siciliano or anyone ranking him would like to sort out exactly where Gardner stands as of this moment, it would be pretty easy to do! It’s worth noting that the GOP’s wall of opposition appears to be cracking all over, with lots of unsteady messaging as it does–so whatever you hear will most likely be subject to change.

It’s not easy being “Con Man Cory.”

—–

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio summarizes Sen. Cory Gardner’s latest statement sent to them:

President can either propose nominee who can win over Senate or defer to the voters.

If you’re wondering what the problem is in that case, since that’s always the case, so are we.

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

We’re beginning to detect what may be a softening in the Republican Party’s initial hard line after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last weekend against any nomination of a replacement under President Barack Obama, based on the simple tautological fact that Obama is the worst Kenyan President in American history. You’ll recall that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s first response on the matter was not in any way in favor of compromise:

“Our country is at a crossroads, and whomever the Senate confirms to occupy the vacancy will have a significant impact on the direction of our country for years to come,” Gardner said.

He then highlighted the position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said immediately after Scalia’s death that his seat “should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Said Gardner: “I join Leader McConnell and several of my colleagues in allowing for the American people to play a role in the selection process when they cast their ballots in November.”

The response to the GOP’s apparent stonewalling of President Obama with almost a year left in his term in the last few days has not been positive, with editorial boards around the country angrily calling for Republicans to give Obama’s forthcoming nominee a fair hearing. Outside a radicalized Republican base that is always ready to go to engage in scorched-earth partisan war with Obama on any subject, the GOP’s pre-emptive rejection of any nominee just plain looks bad. It looks like a petty disregard of the process spelled out by the Constitution to deal with these situations out of partisan spite.

And a presidential election is just months away.

With that in mind, we do find this update from Colorado Public Radio today to be more than a little curious:

So what gives? Where’s cocky Cory from the weekend? Behind the scenes, Republicans may be realizing that they’ve overplayed their hand. Washington Post:

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) told Iowa radio reporters that he had not determined whether to have hearings before the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. “I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decision,” Grassley, the committee chairman, said.

Another member of the Judiciary panel, freshman Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), noted that Republicans could not expect to have President Obama choose a nominee in the mold of Scalia, who for almost 30 years has been the ideological leader of the court’s conservative bloc, and must worry about being seen as merely obstructing the president… [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, this is not the hard line you hard from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–and it’s not what you heard from Gardner last weekend, either. Negotiations in Washington between the White House and the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate by all accounts continue, but they’re not happening in a vacuum. Voters are paying attention–and with Republicans defending some two dozen Senate seats this year, what voters think of this latest round of intransigence could count for a great deal on Election Day.

Whatever happens, Cory Gardner’s zigs and zags are an excellent canary in this coal mine.