Pueblo Commissioner Candidate Believes Sandy Hook was a Hoax

Pols reader and diarist mamajama55 wrote earlier about debates for Pueblo County Commissioner last night that produced a plethora of interesting statements from various candidates.

But one moment in the debate was so completely ridiculous that we thought it deserved its own post. Republican Tom Ready, who is challenging incumbent Commissioner Sal Pace in Pueblo County, is apparently a believer in the absurd "Sandy Hook Shootings are a Hoax" conspiracy theory. If you are unfamiliar with this particular conspiracy theory, it revolves around the idea that the shooting of 20 students and 6 staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut was a hoax perpetrated by shadowy government figures in order to promote gun control policies. As the "theory" goes, hundreds of people in Newtown, CT were actually actors pretending to have children in school at Sandy Hook, and the reported attack in December 2012 never actually happened…or something like that.

As you can see in the video clip after the jump, Tom Ready is out of his damn mind:

There's some question about whether it really happened, Sal. If you recall, there were two men, walking in, (….) he was smiling and joking. When he walked over, he turned, and all of a sudden, he had tears in his eyes. Why? I question it. ……whether it's all true or not, it's open for discussion. Nothing wrong with discussion.

Um, yes, there is plenty wrong with discussing something with the intent of downplaying a horrible event in American history that has deeply affected the lives of so many people. We think Tom Ready is a complete fucking asshole — hey, nothing wrong with discussion, right?

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Personhood ties run deep in Jeffco GOP campaigns

(Dance with the ones that bring ya – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Laura Waters Woods

Laura Waters Woods

I wrote last week about how senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s support for Colorado's personhood abortion ban was part of his formula for winning the 2010 Republican caucus process, which was a big step to his being elected to Congress.

If you look at the State Senate races in Jeffco today, you see that the influence of key personhood backers persists, meaning that Gardner would likely face the same pressure to embrace personhood positions today as he did then. Gardner, of course, did not run in Jeffoco, but similar dynamics play out statewide.

The latest campaign finance reports reveal that Jeffco Republican candidates Tim Neville (SD-16), Laura Woods (SD-19), and Tony Sanchez (SD-22) all have notorious GOP strategic consultant Jon Hotaling on the payroll via his company, "Liberty Service Corporation.” Liberty Service Corporation was Sanchez's largest expenditure ($1,750) during the latest campaign-finance-reporting period and the second largest for Woods ($1,000) and Neville ($1,000).

Hotaling’s firm has worked over the years for Rep. Janak Joshi, gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, and other personhood supporters, most notably for Colorado For Equal Rights, which ran the pro-personhood campaign, fronted by Kristi Burton, in 2008, according to campaign-finance reports. In 2008, Hotaling collected about $12,000 from Colorado For Equal Rights.

Tony Sanchez.

Tony Sanchez.

​So a major consultant for Personhood is deeply integrated into the campaigns of the three Republican senate candidates in Jeffco. Neville, Sanchez, and Woods all support personhood, as defined by Colorado Right to Life, based on their responses to its candidate survey this year.

Using what Republicans themselves called unethical tactics, Woods and Sanchez hammered their Republican primary opponents on the abortion issue during their primary campaigns against Lang Sais and Mario Nicolais.

In one flyer produced by "Colorado for Family Values," Nicolais was pictured next to Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia doctor convicted of murdering babies. The caption read: “Kermit Gosnell and his ‘House of Horrors’ abortion mill operated in secrecy for 17 years before his murderous crimes became infamous. Ask Mario why he won’t publicly defend the unborn? Call Mario…”

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Truthers, Lies, and Clear Choices: Commissioner and Clerk Debates in Pueblo

UPDATE: The story of how Sal Pace outed Tom Ready as a conspiracy nut, who believes that the Sandy Hook school shootings never happened, has gone national, but you saw it here first. Here is a link to video I took of Pace and Ready's remarks, with apologies for the poor quality.

The professional-quality video will be aired by Comcast Channel 19 Community Access TV according to this schedule, starting September 22. If you were smart enough to have thought of recording it, you've got it. But you won't have the priceless audience reactions.

The Commissioner debate began at 6:00 pm.

Steve Henson of Chieftain, moderator, says that there will be no questions from the audience. Only those previously submitted by readers of the Chieftain or Action22 will be asked of the candidates.

No heckling. It is not a rule he enforces against the Ready and Head supporters, who boo, catcall, etc. , pretty much unchallenged, as you will hear and see from the video.

The County Commissioner debate, between incumbent Commisioner Sal Pace, and Republican challenger Tom Ready,  was a very wonky and respectful debate, discussing tax policy, land use, water regulations, jobs and economic development. Sal Pace gave himself some well-deserved props for progress on the Southwest Chief proposal, and a new arts initiative in Pueblo. Ready declined to go after Sal Pace about Pueblo's current County Commissioner email "scandal", for which one Commissioner was fired. This reticence on Ready's part surprised me – but Sal Pace had nothing to do with the emails, so perhaps that explains it.

It was all good – up until the point when Tom went off the rails. He started off by accusing Sal Pace of personally raising utility rates on Pueblo Customers. Sal Pace was a party to the unfortunate agreement that ensconced Black Hills Energy as the town's monopoly customer-gouger, but didn't actually personally throw the switch.  Then Tom went into why coal is cleaner than natural gas, and it kind of went south from there. Sal, appropriately, responded that if Tom wanted to get negative, how about those Facebook posts about how Newtown shootings were a hoax?

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Shocked at the Ray Rice elevator video? Don’t be.

I am not shocked at the NFL Ray Rice elevator video, which shows the Ravens running back punching his fiancee, then dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator.

I am not shocked at the NFL's ignoring the incident and its initial penalty for Rice: a two-game suspension.

I am not shocked at the sudden dramatic reversal in the NFL's treatment of domestic violence offenses – now, a domestic violence offense will be treated more severely than, say, pee tainted with marijuana. A six-game ban for a first offense, lifetime ban for a second.

I wish I could say I was shocked at Ray's then- fiance, Janae Rice, declining to press charges against Rice, and eventually marrying her abuser. I've been there, and I understand.  The average victim tries to leave her abuser seven times before she succeeds, if she succeeds before she is killed or permanently injured.  I think it took me nine incidents before I left for the last time. And for all of the little kids trapped in violent homes, keep in mind that they can’t leave. They are children, who more than likely will perpetuate the cycle of violence as adults because everything they have seen in their lives teaches them that family punch-outs are just the way things work.

The NFL’s waffling merely reflects the way we as Americans deal with domestic violence – we don’t see, we hide, we look away, we blame the victim, we tell couples to “patch it up”, we  promulgate the legal fantasy that “both parties are equally to blame”.  And if there are billions of dollars on the line (1.43 billion is the average worth of an NFL franchise), then why should a woman or two getting beaten steer this financial juggernaut off course?

Sports is big business, and it is a violent business. That is sort of the point. Concussions, traumatic brain and other injury – broadcasters spend thousands of well-paid advertising minutes discussing these finer points of each game.

But what happened on that elevator,  is a crime. It should be treated like any other aggravated assault – indictment, day in court, jail time or other punishment.  Not just being sidelined for a game or six.

Football fans, I have a question for you: Are you willing to allow  more severe penalties for criminally violent football players, even if this means fewer big stars, less violent games, or (horrors) that your favorite team may not win, if the MVP is grounded for battery and assault? Ray Rice was fired from the Ravens team. Does this now fix the problem of violence perpetrated on and off the football field?

Because I think that’s the conflict at the bottom of this.  How addicted are you to football violence? How ambivalent are you about your favorite blood sport? You bought the T shirt – hell, you probably bought all  your kids jerseys, too. Not to mention the season tickets, the team logo towels and mugs and jackets and souvenirs.  Fans make football what it is.

The NFL’s sudden decision to severely penalize players with domestic assaults is, in my opinion, a transparent attempt to woo back their female fan base, to get them to give the fan-franchise relationship a go one more time, to promise that things will get better, that the violence won't happen again, but let's just  keep the dollars flowing.  Will it work?

Real funny, guys: Gamers call in SWAT team via phony hostage call

Nothing could possibly go wrong with this:

Online gamer Jordan Mathewson  wasn't expecting to end his session on the floor with real guns trained on him.

Mathewson and the rest of his gaming collective apparently fell victim to a prank known as "swatting," where hoaxers force an armed police response by calling in a false report on rival gamers.

Mathewson was about two hours into a game of "Counter-Strike" at the collective's office in Littleton, Colorado, when he heard a commotion outside his door. A SWAT team was searching the place, and they were about to charge into his office. As seen in the video, he quickly picked up on what was happening.

"Uh oh, this isn't good," Mathewson said, pausing the game. "They're clearing rooms. What in the world? I think we're getting swatted."

Things got intense fast. The SWAT team stormed into his room, guns at the ready, shouting at him to get on the ground. When Mathewson did so, slowly, with the movements of someone who still didn't quite believe what was happening.

What if Jordan just happened to be a person of color?

"Don't you fucking move," another said.

The Littleton Police Department later told media it had received a call regarding a hostage situation in the building. "The caller claimed to have shot two co-workers, held others hostage, and threatened to shoot them. He stated that if the officers entered he would shoot them as well," the department's statement said, according to local outlet ABC 7News.

Let's see if these kids have to pay for the SWAT team expenses, a la Ferguson. Of face false report charges. My guess is they'll get a slap on the wrist.

Better than 6 live shots, two to the head.

Colorado Republicans Celebrate China’s Quickie Executions

Execution in China.

Execution in China.

​Debate over the death penalty in Colorado continues this election year, as Republican work to make Gov. John Hickenlooper's granting of a temporary reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap a campaign issue. A recent interview leaked by a conservative news outlet, as one example, quotes Hickenlooper as considering a full commutation of Dunlap's sentence–along with the governor's growing belief that the death penalty in Colorado (as elsewhere) is no longer a just punishment.

Republicans, aware that this is a divisive issue and that polling shows risk for Hickenlooper's new position, have pounced on the death penalty as a way to divorce independent voters from an otherwise likable candidate. Depending on how you spin it, Hickenlooper's temporary reprieve to Dunlap while he deliberates the efficacy and morality of capital punishment can be portrayed as thoughtful statesmanship or bumbling indecision. Naturally in an election year, Republican opponents are 100% of the opinion that it's the latter.

Yesterday, the Republican news site Complete Colorado reprinted an op-ed from former GOP. Gov. Bill Owens, written in 1993 not long after the Chuck E. Cheese murders. GOP social media surrogates were quick to spread it around:

But when we actually started reading Owens' 1993 Rocky Mountain News guest column, which we had never heard of before yesterday, the "shivers down our spine" were likely for reasons other than GOP operative Kelly Maher's.

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GOP’s Breakdown In Jeffco Increasingly Evident

Beneath the election season bravado.

Beneath the election season bravado.

Vic Vela of Colorado Community Media has an excellent summary of the state of play in Jefferson County legislative races, where Republicans hungry for a win in 2014 have been dealt a major setback via bungled candidate recruitment and insurgent hard-right primary wins. It's a story we've been talking about here for some months now, but as the primary winners for the Republican Party start campaigning for the general election, the problems facing Jefferson County Republicans are increasingly undeniable to even the fairest-minded of journalists:

A Senate seat win in Jeffco in November could flip party control in that chamber. String together a couple of victories in Jeffco House races and things get interesting there.

So why then, with so much on the line, have Republican candidates in Jefferson County been making news of late for all the wrong reasons?

Since June, three Jeffco Republican candidates seeking House and Senate seats have been accused of violating campaign finance disclosure laws — though the allegations at this point are unproven.

Meanwhile, another candidate in a House race has been tangled in a court battle over whether she's even going to be allowed on the November ballot — and that's after the previous Republican hopeful in that district withdrew his candidacy after his ties to white supremacism became known.

And political analysts have wondered since June whether Jefferson County primary voters were wise to pick candidates who might be too conservative to win Senate races in districts that are evenly split in party registration numbers.

Vela touches on a number of Jefferson County races where extremist candidates, unqualified candidates, and late replacement candidates trying to salvage the situation have hobbled Republicans out of the gate. There's HD-29, where Republican Robert Ramirez pulled out of the race at the last minute to be replaced by hard-right movie theater owner Susan Kochevar. In HD-23, where Republicans are still reeling from white supremacist Nate Marshall's aborted candidacy. And of course Republican Senate nominees Laura Waters Woods and Tony Sanchez, both distantly to the right of the mainstream in their swing districts after Rocky Mountain Gun Owners' support helped them defeat more electable contenders.

Right now, the bravado from Colorado Republicans as election season approaches is perhaps at the highest level we've seen at any point since Democrats took control of the state legislature in Colorado almost ten years ago. At the same time, even GOP stalwarts like former GOP chairman Dick Wadhams have flatly stated that candidates like Woods and Sanchez cannot win in competitive Jefferson County. The victory of RMGO's favored hard-right favorites could well result in a terrible disappointment for Republicans on Election Night as winnable races slip from their grasp. And the real twist? The "momentum" claimed by Republicans in state legislative races today is in large part due to gun rights hysteria whipped up by RMGO!

Either way, folks, the GOP is dancing with the ones that brung 'em. So there's not much to pity.

Chaos in Ferguson, MO after Police Shooting

UPDATE 8/16: Governor Nixon called for martial law, a midnight – 5 am curfew.  This was in response to increased looting and unrest. The Ferguson PD is still stalling on providing Officer Darren Wilson's photo or the shooting incident report. Citizens are frustrated. Media is confined by law to a "free speech zone". Some journos are still defying the restriction, using smartphones instead of professional cameras.  At midnight after curfew, about 75 protesters are still defying curfew and a heavy rain. New Black Panthers helped to clear the streets before curfew. At least police are keeping Captain Johnson's promise – no tear gas, no over-militarized response.

UPDATE 8/15: Captain Ron Johnson of the MO Highway Patrol did a great job in resetting the tone and relieving the fears of the community. He demilitarized the operation, and people were able to continue to peacefully protest.  Today, the Ferguson PD released the name of the shooter: Officer Darren Wilson. At the same time, instead of the actual shooting incident report, the PD released a store surveillance video which purports to show the victim, Mike Brown, robbing the store. Community reacted to this as an attempt to smear the victim without a trial. "I am Mike Brown" tribute song by rapper Gage is going viral.

 

UPDATE: Governor Nixon confirms that he will take peacekeeping duties out of the hands of the St. Louis County police force. Peace will be kept by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Federal Department of Justice will investigate the shooting.

 

Is this America?

It looked like a scene that should be shown in old black and white photos from the history books about the Civil Rights movement – lines of African-American citizens, crying, "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" (the above photo is from the Twitter feed of  Markia Holt. https://twitter.com/MarkiaHolt )

Facing them, grim lines of camo-clad and armored white police, throwing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets from tanks and armored vehicles.  Nobody talking. Nobody negotiating. Chanting: "What do we want? Justice!" Everyone else, grim, silent, running, hiding, ducking behind shrubbery. One man on a bullhorn appears to me to be a provocateur, cursing at the police. (about 5:40 into the KARG video)

Photo, below, of police forces confronting protesters. From the twitter feed of Ryan J Reilly, a Huffington Post reporter who was arrested yesterday: He tweeted: "Overkill in . Officer won't answer my question about why this is needed. " Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson said in an ABC interview that his officers were responding to violence and threats from protesters.

The scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, last night were brutal. Clouds of tear gas billowing over the streets. Reporters on live feed choking and unable to talk, continuing to cover and live-tweet the story. Brave journalists who refused police orders to "shut down your cameras", were tweeting from McDonald's restaurants  that police were rounding protesters up and forcing them into vans, while the protesters screamed and yelled for medical help. Then the journalists started getting arrested.

Flash-bang and stun grenades were thrown at unarmed protesters. You can see this about 11 minutes into the video. Almost all the police are white – what you can see of them behind the camo and the flak vests, helmets, shields.- and almost all of the protesters are black. The population of  Ferguson, a working-class  suburb of St. Louis, is 67% African-American, and complaints of police brutality and discrimination are common.  The Ferguson County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, is choosing to escalate, or doesn't know how to de-escalate, the situation. Meanwhile, according to Belmar, Anonymous hackers are threatening to shut down the police internet. Schools are closed until Monday. People from Gaza are tweeting the residents of Ferguson about how to deal with being tear gassed. 

How did it come to this?  Like the Trayvon Martin shooting, like way too many others, it started with the shooting of a young, unarmed black man.  He was shot by a policeman, and died on the street, where his body lay for hours. The police department closed ranks around its brother, denying the name of the shooter to media and to citizens. The ACLU has filed suit to get it. For five days now, peaceful protests of citizens demanding justice have been met with inaction and stonewalling from the Ferguson police department.

This is the account of witnesses:

On August 9, a young black man, Mike Brown, was walking down the middle of a quiet street, on his way to visit his grandmother, accompanied by his friend. A police car, driven by a cop who has yet to be identified, ordered the young men to move to the sidewalk. They were reluctant to comply, as they were almost at their destination. The cop didn't wait for them to comply. He drove up next to them and tried to open his door. When the door was blocked by one of the young men, the cop reached out, grabbed the kid by the throat, and almost immediately shot him. The child ran, making it 30 feet before he collapsed, face down, hands up, shot again six more times.

This is the police version:

The police gave the young men a lawful order to get out of the street, and they disobeyed. The larger of the two young men assaulted the officer, and tried to take his gun. So the cop shot him. An investigation is proceeding. Citizen witnesses, including the victim's friend, who escaped, have NOT been interviewed by the police to date.

A police chief commentator on Rachel Maddow's show said that "Everyone needs to ratchet it back down." He  said that this could probably have been avoided if the police had just given information, like the name of the police officer who shot Mike Brown, and followed procedure. Instead, decisions to stonewall have escalated into the situation you see now.

For five days, peaceful crowds have rallied and marched during the day, calling for justice. The young man's parents have called for calm and nonviolence.  There has been some looting and crime at night, from isolated individuals, but it was not widespread. The police response to this was way overblown. At least 70, per Huffpost  reporting, have come in to Ferguson, equipped with tanks, armored vehicles with gun turrets, body armor.. Police have pointed rifles directly into the crowds. Tear gas and rubber bullets appear to be how police are communicating and negotiating. Ferguson's police chief, Mr.  Tom Jackson, speaking on the Fox News Network. blamed "outside agitators" for the unrest. He has not called for a curfew.

I think the President needs to send in the National Guard to keep the peace. Otherwise, we'll see more discriminatory violence from poorly-trained police and militias who will flock to the scene.

Unfortunately,1/4  (27 out of 115) of the Missouri Sheriffs are Constitutional Sheriffs, sworn to resist Federal orders that they think are unconstitutional.  This includes Sheriff Oberkorm, President of the Missouri Sheriffs Association.  So that could be another ugly confrontation – between local and Federal authorities here. Interestingly, the Patriot groups, such as the Oathkeepers, who normally have been very vocal about police militarization and the coming confrontations to "take back America", have been silent on what is happening in Ferguson to citizens of color.

Instead of black and white, it is a scene in night vision green and black. And yes, to our shame, it is America.

 

Twitter feeds of reporters:

The best, most up-to-date reporting has been coming from social media and citizen journalists. Right wing commentators may decry liberal bias, but they have been, and continue to be, eerily silent on real-world government oppression of civilians in Ferguson.

#fergusonlivestream

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/9035483/events/3271930

@WesleyLowery @trymainelee @elonjames @mattdpearce @Yamiche @rembert @jbouie @ryanjreilly

http://www.vox.com/2014/8/11/5988925/mike-brown-killing-shooting-case-ferguson-police-riots-st-louis

http://thehairpin.com/2014/08/ferguson-on-day-five

http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution

https://twitter.com/hashtag/ajam

UPDATE 9/15/14: We are now three weeks into the Grand Jury investigation of the Michael Brown shooting. It is completely closed to the public. Per Dana Milbank's reporting in the Washington Post, Prosecutor McCulloch, as predicted, is looking not to charge Officer Wilson at all, and hoping to blame the lack of consequences  on the Grand Jury itself. McCullough has dumped the huge pile of conflicting evidence, including multiple new eyewitness reports onto the jury with no recommendations for charges of Officer Wilson.

New protests, more distrust between the police and the Ferguson community is being set up even as you read this. Poor choice, Prosecutor McCulloch.

Operation Choke Point – Denying the Dollars

Victor “Everyone Loves” Head is all choked up about a Federal program, Operation Choke Point (OCP). In an interview with Jennifer Kerns, Head claimed that credit card services for Pueblo Freedom and Rights (PFR) were suddenly cut off the week before the recall elections in 2013.  Other right –wing groups  also reported sudden and mysterious severance of their banking relationships, and an astroturf organization, USCC, has been set up to take reports of suspected OCP interference.  The funders of USCC are unknown, but have strong ties to conservative groups.

“Operation Choke Point” overreach is the latest generator of anti-Obama, anti-AG Holder outrage in the right wing blogosphere. Look for it to become the next big attack on the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder, with Pueblo’s own “grassroots hero”, Victor Head, prominently featured as the poster boy. Here is your daily requirement of irony: (Below, right, is Victor Head of PFR, a recall organizer, and current Pueblo Clerk candidate, posing  in 2013 with El Paso Sheriff Terry Maketa, himself recently the target of a failed recall for sexual and  administrative offenses.)

But…Is OCP  a real “scandal”? Is it “overreach”? Is OCP the bank version of NSA spying on ordinary Americans?

William Isaac , columnist for “The Hill” wrote:

The DOJ launched Operation Choke Point in 2013, working in concert with a wide range of agencies including the FTC, FDIC, OCC, CFPB, and FBI.  The stated goal of Operation Choke Point was to “sensitize” the banking industry to the risk of doing business with legal but “undesirable” businesses through the issuance of non-public FIRREA subpoenas ( as opposed to enforcement actions where the authority could be challenged).

Regulators and the DOJ highlight some two-dozen businesses that they consider “high risk” or “undesirable”, including ammunition dealers, producers of adult films, check cashers, short-term unsecured loans (commonly called “payday loans”), telemarketers, firearms/fireworks vendors, raffles, pharmaceutical firms, life-time guarantees, surveillance equipment firms, and home-based charities.

I am all for the DOJ monitoring some of these shady businesses, and if they find illegal action, stopping it. I’ve had hundreds of dollars deducted from my own bank account via a scam for a non-existent health insurance card company, prior to the ACA’s enactment. Had someone taken the money from my purse, there would have been criminal charges; however, because it took place in the obscure world of third-party bank businesses and fly-by-night internet scam artists, it proved impossible to stop or to get redress. I'll never get that money back.

 I don’t want felons and violent offenders to be able to order firearms online.  Pharmaceutical firms that market under-the-counter medications need some oversight to protect public health.  Online child pornography businesses need oversight of their bank transactions so that they can be shut down and punished. This is the DOJ appropriately protecting the public.

The grey area is that most of these are legal businesses, at least until there is proof of criminal activity. Where I agree with the right wing outrage, (and the possibility of being on the same side of any issue as Victor Head makes my own gag reflex kick in) is on this point:  there is little or no oversight on the overseers.  People are losing access to their own money, without a warrant, without a trial, without a civil action.

Liberals may applaud the restrictions on shady businesses, and on right-wing political groups that benefit from dark money. However,  there is no guarantee that the OCP’s possible overreach stops there. Like the IRS scandal, we may well find that progressive organizations are also targeted as much or more than conservatives.   How will the Department of Justice be made accountable and transparent, when the agency is now unaccountable and its transactions are hidden from the public?

The United States Congress has initiated legislation on this issue. House Bill 4986, the End Operation Choke Point Act of 2014,  was introduced with bipartisan support in June 2014. It was referred to the Committee on Financial Services, where it sits. Given the dismal history of Congress in passing legislation, govtrack.us gives it only a 26% chance of being signed into law.  I frankly don’t have the financial expertise to understand how or if this bill will provide oversight and transparency on OCP, so I’m not going to try to evaluate the legislation.

Given the people promoting the right wing outrage over OCP, most critical thinkers are justifiably skeptical of the claims of OCP overreach. Jennifer Kerns, aka California Partygirl, aka anti-recall spox, aka California Republican media consultant, now a Washington pundit, wrote in  “TheBlaze.com” that Operation Choke Point,  (OCP): “Evidence has emerged of Operation Choke Point targeting other Republicans on or before Election Day.”  Victor Head has a record of rummaging through post office trash for ballots to bolster his claims of possible election fraud.

Jennifer Kerns would be an expert on dark money funding of political organizations, from the inside – Magpul funded $150,000 for  the organization “Free Colorado”, which in turn funded  the recall efforts against  Senator Morse in Colorado Springs.  Free Colorado was promoted by the Koch brothers on the AFP-Colorado website. Kerns was the spokesperson for Basic Freedom Defense Fund, and helped to promote “Free Colorado”  anti-recall efforts.

I don’t find the outrage over OCP to be credible, because it comes from these sources. However, I’m aware of and concerned about NSA and IRS overreach, during the course of legitimate agency endeavors. Progressives shouldn't dismiss concerns about government stomping on privacy rights, just because they come from a conservative direction. I’d like to see more transparency and accountability of OCPs efforts to curtail borderline-criminal financial transactions. I just don’t quite know how that balances with civil-liberties concerns.

UPDATE:  A Huffington Post article by Zach Carter posits that OCP is an effective way to curb money laundering schemes.  Similar laws were put in place during the Bush administration, and resulted in, for example, Wachovia Bank paying $150 million to resolve charges that it laundered money from drug cartels.

Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkely, and Dick Durbin like the OCP program.

Sorry Gun Nuts, Colorado Tourism Is Booming

guns

​After the passage of gun safety bills in the Colorado legislature last year, Republicans and their gun lobby allies predicted, we'd even go as far as say hoped for, a crippling boycott of the state's vital tourism industry. This prediction quickly proved unfounded, as the most likely indicator of a boycott by pro-gun tourists–a reduction in hunting licenses–didn't take place. In fact, Colorado issued some 18,000 more licenses in 2013 than in 2012.

And as the Denver Business Journal's Ed Sealover reports, 2013 overall was a banner year for tourism in Colorado:

Colorado welcomed a full-year record 64.6 million visitors in 2013, experiencing boosts even in segments of travelers — such as business travelers — for which many other markets saw declines last year.

The Colorado Tourism Office announced Tuesday that a trio of studies it conducted on visitation found also that those travelers spent a record $17.3 billion in the state…

[T]he state bucked trends by welcoming a 4 percent increase in business travelers as well, despite an 11 percent decline in business trips nationwide, according to a study by Longwoods International. Those business travelers spent a total of $1.4 billion in the state — a 21 percent bump above 2012 levels.

Visitors came in larger amounts for a number of specific reasons, including trips to casinos, visits to cities, attendance at special events, relaxation at resorts and combined business-leisure trips, the Longwoods study found.

We'll say it again and again: the dire predicted consequences of the gun safety bills passed in 2013 never materialized. The new laws did not "ban gun ownership" as Sen. Kent Lambert ludicrously claimed would happen. If anything, the impact of the new laws has been exaggerated by both sides: recent news reports indicate that the estimates of how many background checks on private sales would be performed were significantly overstated by nonpartisan legislative staffers. And despite Jon Caldara's ridiculous scare tactics, you can still buy compliant magazines in Colorado for virtually any weapon–including Caldara's precious Glock pistol, for which he said he would "never be able to get a magazine again" if these laws passed.

When is the media going to revisit this story? Not so Greg Brophy can grandstand about good-faith estimates from nonpartisan staffers–but to explain to the public how all the crazy stuff the gun lobby predicted would happen if we passed these laws never happened?

If voters deserve one side of this story, they damn well deserve the other. Starting with Colorado's booming tourism economy even after "gun control" was signed into law.

El Paso County Cuts Off “Shirtless Sheriff” Maketa

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Matt Steiner reports, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa may have survived a recall attempt against him as he defiantly serves out his final days in office after an explosive sexual misconduct/cronyism scandal, but the county is done paying for the expensive legal representation he's been enjoying:

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa will be on his own if he wants to continue using high-profile defense attorney Pamela Mackey to defend recent accusations against him.

Senior assistant county attorney Diana May reiterated that the county would no longer pay for Mackey's services in a July 17 letter obtained by The Gazette that highlights ongoing friction between the county attorney's office and the Sheriff's Office. The county had agreed in early June to hire Mackey temporarily for a fee of $250 per hour with a cap of a $10,000. The county commissioners needed to approve anything above that amount.

"El Paso County did not authorize your retention past the initial $9,999 engagement," May wrote in a letter to Mackey. "That engagement has concluded."

Mackey, who previously represented professional athletes Kobe Bryant and Patrick Roy, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

It's not unreasonable for an organization to defend an employee in erstwhile good standing, but El Paso County Sheriff Maketa is serving out the last months of his term against the wishes of the county's leadership. After claims seeking almost $4 million in damages over Maketa's professional and personal improprieties, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners took a vote of no confidence in Maketa and asked for his resignation. Maketa's refusal to go away quietly after this massive disgrace has greatly worsened the embarrassment felt by his former political allies–from fellow sheriffs who followed his lead in last year's recalls and anti gun control litigation, to those who believed Maketa's political future beyond elected law enforcement was very bright.

Today they're just waiting for the end, which can't come soon enough for everyone except Terry Maketa.

Aurora Shooting Victim’s Dad Calls Out Mike Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

​Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the mass shooting at the Century Theater in Aurora, in which 12 people were killed and some 70 injured after a gunman burst into the theater and began shooting indiscriminately. Since that time, the debate over gun policy has raged in Colorado and across the nation, with both sides honoring the victims of gun violence while disagreeing about the solution.

But apparently, as this statement we received from the father of a victim of the Aurora shootings says, some politicians can't even be bothered to commemorate this tragic event only two years later. Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex Sullivan died in the Aurora theater shooting, has this to say about Aurora's representative in Congressman Mike Coffman:

One day before the two-year anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting – in which 12 people were killed and 58 were wounded – Representative Mike Coffman came back to Aurora to hold meetings with constituents.  But Rep. Coffman has not yet taken action to honor the victims of the Aurora shooting and keep guns out of dangerous hands. Tom Sullivan, the father of Aurora victim Alex Sullivan, released the following statement:

"Two years ago my son Alex was killed.  He wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time – he was at the movies to celebrate his birthday.

"I'm disappointed to see Rep. Coffman come back to Aurora the day before the anniversary, but not honor the tragedy with action.  He has not yet supported federal legislation that would do what we've already done here in Colorado – close the loophole that allows criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns without a background check.  We know this solution works because since the law went into effect last year, dangerous people are already being blocked from buying guns. 

"I hope Rep. Coffman does the right thing and honors the victims of that horrible tragedy with action in Washington, not more partisan excuses."

According to Coffman's Facebook page, he attended the Dragon Boat Festival at Sloan's Lake in west Denver on Saturday, as well as constituent meetings at MLK Library in Aurora. But in addition to Sullivan's point about Coffman having taken no action in Washington on gun safety as Aurora's representative, we can't find anything from Coffman acknowledging the 2nd anniversary of the Aurora shooting at all. There were several events this weekend, including a tree-planting event at Aurora's new Hope Park attended by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan–but Coffman wasn't listed as a guest. We haven't seen anything on Coffman's campaign or congressional websites, campaign or official Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, or anywhere else to indicate he commemorated the shooting anniversary in any way.

If Coffman did do anything to observe the most tragic event suffered by his district in many, many years, he apparently didn't want anybody to know about it. And we don't have a good explanation for that.

New NBC/Marist Poll: Udall Up By 7, Hickenlooper Up By 6

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

A new poll out today from NBC News/Marist has very bad news for Colorado Republicans–beginning with GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, who is now down by 7 points to incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, outside this poll's +/- 3.1% margin of error:

In Colorado’s Senate contest, incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., leads GOP challenger Cory Gardner by seven points among registered voters, 48 to 41 percent; another 10 percent are undecided.

In the state’s race for governor, sitting Gov. John Hickenlooper holds a six-point edge over Republican opponent Bob Beauprez, 49 to 43 percent, with 7 percent undecided…

A gender gap is helping the Democratic candidates…In Colorado, Udall is up by 12 points among female voters (50 percent to 38 percent), but he’s running neck and neck with Gardner among men…

Among Latinos – who make up 16 percent of registered voters in the Colorado poll – Udall has a 31-point lead over Gardner, 58 to 27 percent.

And also in Colorado, both Udall (by 50 to 34 percent) and Hickenlooper (by 52 to 35 percent) have the advantage with independent voters.

Here are the details on today's poll of Colorado voters.

The leads for Udall and to a lesser extent Gov. John Hickenlooper among independent voters are particularly dire for Republicans, who are counting on an agitated independent vote breaking their way this November. Udall's massive 31-point lead over Gardner with Latino voters shows Gardner's late attempts to appease this community by changing up his hard-line rhetoric on immigration reform have fallen flat. Combine that with Udall's double-digit lead over Gardner with women voters, and Gardner looks much worse off at this point than most news reporting on this race would suggest.

Hickenlooper has more ground to gain against GOP opponent Bob Beauprez, and that's likely to happen once Beauprez's long record of disqualifying looney-tunes statements since his last run for office in 2006 becomes more widely publicized. Hickenlooper's pundit-certified "tough couple of years politically" colors the narrative about this race, but even here there is good news: 52% of respondents say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who thinks laws governing gun sales should be more strict.

Opposition to the loosening of gun regulations is largely fueled by female voters, who say they are less likely to support a pro-gun rights candidate by 20 percentage points, while men are about equally divided on the question.

Meaning the biggest advantage Colorado Republicans have going into this election…is no advantage at all.

Bottom line: while nobody would suggest these hotly competitive races are over, a few more polls like this could change that. These are not numbers Republicans hoping for victory this November want to see.

Yes, Mayor Bloomberg, Colorado Springs Has Roads

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADowntown Colorado Springs. Photo via Wikipedia

UPDATE: Sen. Mark Udall responds via FOX 31:

“Not since New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attacked Colorado’s way of life has an east coaster gotten us so wrong,” said Udall spokesman James Owens. “Christie and Bloomberg should stick to what they know best: traffic jams and tiny sodas.

“Mayor Bloomberg is way off base about Pueblo and Colorado Springs, two of Colorado’s strongest and proudest communities.”

—–

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, an embarrassing gaffe from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has local Republicans up in arms today–and frankly, there's not much anybody can say to defend this:

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is popping off about Colorado in a new Rolling Stone interview and Republicans here, who have been blasting Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper for taking cues from Bloomberg on the state’s new gun laws, couldn’t be happier about it.

Asked about three Colorado Democrats being forced out of office by a recall movement that arose last summer after the legislature’s passage of laws expanding background checks and banning magazines of more than 15 rounds, legislation Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns lobbied hard for, the former mayor said this:

“The NRA went after two or three state Senators in a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s roads. It’s as far rural as you can get. [Pols emphasis] And, yes, they lost recall elections. I’m sorry for that. We tried to help ‘em. But the bottom line is, the law is on the books, and being enforced. You can get depressed about the progress, but on the other hand, you’re saving a lot of lives.”

As our in-state readers know, and we're happy to clarify for Mr. Bloomberg, Colorado Springs and Pueblo are pretty far from "as rural as you can get." The almost 450,000 residents of Colorado Springs, and 700,000 residents of that city's larger metropolitan area, do not get around on foot. And how many roadless places are home to the biggest steel mill in the Rocky Mountain West?

With that said, this kind of ignorant dismissal of the West by Eastern politicians isn't new–witness Chris Christie's nonsensical comments about "quality of life" in Colorado compared to (don't laugh) New Jersey, which the whole state condemned without partisan considerations. We expect there will be few if any Colorado Democrats to defend Bloomberg today, because what he said is plainly indefensible.

Republicans, of course, would like to turn this into a casus belli against all Colorado Democrats, but it's a weak case. Democrats are certainly aware that Colorado Springs and Pueblo have roads, and won't have a problem saying so. Bloomberg may have supported the 2013 gun safety bills, but that shouldn't stop Democrats from criticizing him for making these foolish statements. Bloomberg's own reputation in Colorado won't be helped by this, but the bottom line is, everyone likely to be alienated by Michael Bloomberg already has been in the last year and a half of political warfare over guns. Nothing Bloomberg says can change the fact that 80% of the public supports the state's new universal background check law, or that the courts have upheld the state's new gun safety laws as constitutional.

And lastly, if all politicians are to be judged by what their donors say, Republicans might come out the losers.

Woods: Become a fake Republican and vote in GOP primary!

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Laura Woods.

Laura Woods.

The day before the Republican primary, in which Republican Laura Woods triumphed over Lang Sias for the right to take on Democratic State Senator Rachel Zenzinger, Woods made the following comment on the KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado:

WOODS: “…tomorrow, if you’re an unaffiliated voter, and you don’t want more of the same, go down to the polling place, change to a Republican for a day or two, fill out a ballot, and then after the primary, if you don’t want to stay a Republican, you don’t have to stay. You can unaffiliate again. But you can be a part of the change right now by electing somebody who is going to stand up for the Constitution.”

Listen to Woods suggest unaffiliated voters briefly switch parties to help her win GOP primary 6-23-14

There's nothing illegal about Woods' suggestion, but the folks down at KLZ, including host Kristina Cook, are all about "principles."

How principled is it to try to win a Republican primary with the votes of fake Republicans? It doesn't appear that Woods' suggestion made any difference in the election, but if I were running the show at Grassroots Radio Colorado, I would have asked Woods about her idea that unaffiliated voters should join the GOP for "a day or two."

Or maybe Jon Caldara will invite her on his KHOW show and compare notes. In any case, it's done now.