Why Suthers Fought Marriage Equality To The Bitter End

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Monica Mondoza reports, the worst-kept secret in El Paso County local politics–with the possible exception of the “Shirtless Sheriff’s” sexual peccadilloes–is finally official: outgoing GOP Attorney General John Suthers is running for mayor of Colorado Springs.

Six months ago, Suthers met with Mayor Steve Bach to let him know that that mayor’s race was on his mind. Bach, elected the city’s first strong mayor in 2010, said in a recent interview that he had not decided whether he will seek re-election.

Suthers said Tuesday that he’s in the race no matter what Bach decides. He grew up in Colorado Springs, he said, and has watched it grow from a city of 40,000 to 440,000. He said loves that he can walk outside his home and be on a hiking trail with 30 minutes, he said.

But, he said, the city is desperate need of what he called “collaborative leadership.”

“I have, as others have, seen the city lose traction,” Suthers said. “We are somewhat stalled.”

As anyone familiar with Colorado’s cultural geography can tell you, Colorado Springs is the capital city of Colorado’s Bible Belt. With the headquarters of Focus on the Family and countless other evangelical Christian organizations either in or near the city, you can hardly throw a rock in the Springs without breaking a stained glass window. This is not to say that there are no godless heathens within the city limits of Colorado Springs; they just don’t usually decide elections.

With that in mind, it makes much better sense that Suthers has defended the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage far longer than attorneys general in other states. In fact, Suthers running for mayor of arch-conservative Colorado Springs is about the only thing that does makes sense. The protracted fight over same-sex marriage hasn’t helped fellow Colorado Republicans, who are now strongly in the minority of public opinion. It hasn’t helped Suthers’ nominated successor Cynthia Coffman, who has been campaigning under a cloud on the issue while her Democratic opponent Don Quick hammers away from the moral high ground. And to be honest, this dogmatic last stand over same-sex marriage has marginalized Suthers personally–at least where his political career might once have been on track for higher office.

But mayor of Colorado Springs? Perfect. And good luck keeping the lights on.

CO Republican Vice Chair Calls for Investigation into Tancredo Attacks

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

tancgov

On KLZ's nooner show Aug. 29, Freedom 560, Colorado Republican Party Vice Chairman Mark Baisley announced his support for an investigation into the Republican Governors Association's involvement (via the Republican Attorneys General Association) in attack ads against gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo.

Ken Clark: Quite frankly, you’re right about one thing. And that is simply that it was — Who was it? It was the CREW folks that actually did dig this up — and yes they’re left leaning and yes, and they did leak this information to Lynn Bartels. However, there is one problem with all that. It’s true!!!

Mark Baisley: It is true!

Clark: Yeah! The RGA got involved, the RGA, the establishment Republicans, the national establishment got involved in our election here in Colorado, manipulated it, and lied — flat out lied against Tom Tancredo. Now, did Bob Beauprez know this was happening? I doubt it. In this article that Lynn wrote, she claims that — or Ryan [Call] claims that he had no idea it was going on. Frankly, I don’t buy that, because right before the election, Ryan Call was putting out propaganda from the Party that used all of Bob Beauprez’s lingo on how he described himself. So, I’m having trouble with the idea that Ryan Call just didn’t know this was going on. Sorry, but he’s the chairman of the state Party

Baisley: Okay, and I don’t know the answer to that. Chairman Call and I have not spoken on this topic. And so, I’ll reach out to him today. But, regardless, the RGA has done something that is just wrong. And they obviously know that it’s wrong, because they took such great pains to hide their actions. And we need to come against them very strongly. So, I’m calling for the Republican Party in Colorado to stand up to the national influences and say, “Look, you SOBs! This is our state! We’re Western culture. We think rather independently. Stay the hell out of our world, here!” And let’s even– let’s have a local investigation. Let’s have the state Party denounce that kind of involvement and let us just do what we do best, get out the vote for our nominee, and go beat the Democrats. But stay out of our world! And yeah, even if there’s an investigation that needs to be done to bring out what were the dominoes that led us to this point, that would be great, too. I’d be all for that. [BigMedia emphasis.]

Clark: Well, yeah, because I agree with you, Mark. And you know what? I am very, very pleased to hear you come out so forcefully and strongly, and stand up and actually make the call for an inviestigation into this matter. Mark, I think that is huge. That’s the kind of leadership we’re looking for. Now, there’s a mealy mouthed press release we got from Beauprez. It really didn’t go that far. And I understand he is the candidate, but at the same time, if he didn’t know that these guys were doing this– and you’re absolutely right, Mark, they were doing everything they could to hide those dollars.

Listen to Mark Baisley on KLZ FREEDOM560 7.29.14

Suthers Finally Gets His Way (Sort Of) In Goal Line Stand Against Marriage Equality

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

As the Boulder Daily Camera's Mitchell Byars reports, the Colorado Supreme Court has put a stop to Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall's issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, finally delivering GOP Attorney General John Suthers a win after numerous embarrassing defeats in lower courts:

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, bringing an abrupt halt to gay marriages in the last Colorado county to allow them…

Jane Culkin, a communications assistant for the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder's Office, said Tuesday afternoon the office reviewed the file and has stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"We are not going to be issuing any more marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the time being," Culkin said.

Hall said in a statement Tuesday she was "disappointed" by the ruling, but she hopes the stay will be brief.

"Given the avalanche of recent cases determining that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, I am hopeful the stay will be short-lived and that we will be able to resume issuing licenses soon," she said.

In the aftermath of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling striking down the state of Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, Boulder Clerk Hall took advantage of admittedly strained legal ambiguity–claiming that the stay immediately issued by the court only applied to Utah–to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After Suthers' first attempt to stop Hall was rebuffed, Denver and Pueblo joined in issuing licenses–and Suthers' next several attempts to stop them in court were unsuccessful. The State Supreme Court's order to Denver to stop issuing licenses a little over a week ago, which Suthers used to force Pueblo to stop issuing licenses even though they weren't technically subject to the order, was the writing on the wall–the state Supreme Court's action yesterday was probably always inevitable.

These events are taking place against the backdrop of what most agree is the end stage of the national battle over marriage equality. With same-sex marriage bans being declared unconstitutional across the nation, the issue is set for final resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court–and the broad emerging legal consensus on the issue strongly suggests the Supreme Court will rule on the side of marriage equality. In the interim, the unresolved court battles have created temporarily messy situations, like the last few weeks of "legal chaos" (Suthers' term) in Colorado.

Assuming that ultimate victory, marriage equality proponents will have the moral high ground–enough to transcend criticism of a legally questionable rationale, since it will be remembered as the right thing to have done. On the other hand, even though Suthers is on legally defensible ground today, he and his office–to include Republican AG candidate Cynthia Coffman–will be remembered as the ones who fought against marriage equality to the end.

Politically, we know which side we'd rather be on.

Somebody Throw in the Towel for John Suthers, Cynthia Coffman

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Colorado AG John Suthers and chief deputy Cynthia Coffman keep marching toward the political abyss.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was dealt yet another blow in his ongoing and fruitless quest to defend a same-sex marriage ban in Colorado. From the Denver Post:

Federal and state judges have now declared the law unconstitutional, and Boulder's clerk continues to defy him by issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore rejected Suthers' request to halt proceedings in the case but stayed his decision until 8 a.m. Aug. 25.

That gives Suthers time to appeal Moore's decision to the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals — the same court that found a similar ban in Utah to be unconstitutional less than a month ago.

Moore's ruling marks the fourth time in two weeks that Suthers' efforts have been thwarted by a judge. The attorney general has repeatedly argued that the issuance of licenses continues to stir legal chaos in the state, even though Gov. John Hickenlooper and others have urged him to stop defending the marriage ban.

Lest you might think that Suthers is finally seeing the writing on the wall here, Suthers' office filed yet another appeal with the 10th Circuit less than an hour after yesterday's ruling. As we wrote on Tuesday, Suthers' obsession with defending something that neither the public nor the courts seem to agree with is going to hurt Republican candidates in 2014 — particularly Republican Attorney General candidate Cynthia Coffman, who is Suthers' chief deputy. This entire story is getting even more absurd for Suthers by the day — particularly with news that he has thrown Colorado into another legal challenge over same-sex marriage in Indiana. Really.

From the Indianapolis Star:

The attorneys general of 10 states have joined in Indiana's appeal of a federal judge's ruling that found the state law banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In a filing this week, the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah filed a friend of the court brief alleging it is not the judicial branch's role to determine whether same-sex marriage should be permitted…

…"The only question before the court is whether a rational person can believe that redefining marriage, so as to belittle it to no more than a status symbol or a congratulatory certificate, could damage the institution's longstanding and undisputed role in helping to encourage opposite-sex couples to stay together and raise the children they create" the attorneys general argue. [Pols emphasis]

That sentence above is sadly absurd — rhetoric that is a relic from a much different time in this country. Suthers has been busy filing losing briefs with various courts, so perhaps he hasn't had a chance to check out any of this summer's new TV shows. For example, the reality TV show "Married at First Sight," airing on something called the FYI channel, in which men and women agree to marry each other despite never meeting until the wedding ceremony itself. Because, you know, that doesn't belittle marriage or anything.

We don't see how this ends well for Suthers or Coffman, unless their real goal is to rack up a record number of losses in appeals court. If that's the case, well, good work. Or something.

Hickenlooper To Suthers: Stop The Same-Sex Marriage Appeals

UPDATE: Statement from LGBT advocate group One Colorado:

“By calling on Attorney General Suthers not to appeal Judge Crabtree’s ruling striking down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, Governor Hickenlooper has shown incredible leadership as a champion for all Colorado families. From the moment he took office, the Governor has stood up for LGBT Coloradans and their families every step of the way: signing legislation to fight bullying and make our schools safer for LGBT youth, calling a special session on civil unions and ultimately signing the bill into law, and lending both his support and his signature to legislation that protects against workplace discrimination and provides tuition equity to undocumented Colorado students – including many LGBT young people. The record is clear.

“As a proud supporter of marriage equality, Governor Hickenlooper joins the 61% of Coloradans who believe that everyone should have the freedom to marry the person they love. With three Colorado counties now issuing marriage licenses to loving, committed couples who want to protect each other and their families, there is no doubt that our state’s discriminatory ban is hanging on by a thread. That thread is Attorney General Suthers, who is the only person left standing in the way of equality for our families. It’s time to move on. It’s time for Attorney General Suthers to stop wasting taxpayer money defending this indefensible ban, and it’s time for the freedom to marry for all Coloradans."

—–

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols caught up with a traveling Gov. John Hickenlooper late last night, and obtained by far the strongest statement yet urging GOP Attorney General John Suthers to give up the fight to preserve Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage:

Late Thursday evening, Hickenlooper, who is attending meetings of the National Governors Association in Nashville, told FOX31 Denver that he supports Crabtree’s decision and is urging Suthers not to appeal it any further than the Colorado Supreme Court.

“I remain a strong advocate for marriage equality,” Hickenlooper said. “The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history.

“I have urged the attorney general not to appeal Judge Crabtree’s ruling. If he feels he needs to continue to defend this discriminatory law, I urge him to seek final resolution at the Colorado Supreme Court.” [Pols emphasis]

It was important for Hickenlooper to get out of the weeds of this issue and clearly take a stand. Now that he's done so, Suthers is in a much more difficult position politically–continuing to fight an unpopular wedge-issue battle against the wishes of the state's chief executive. The political damage this risks extends to Suthers' desired successor as AG, chief deputy Cynthia Coffman. Doing herself no favors, Coffman published an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette today where she defends the state's continuing appeals:

The issue of same-sex marriage divides very good people with strongly held opinions.

Public debates can be contentious and polarizing.

Indeed, it is more difficult to defend laws in the eye of this public policy storm than it is to succumb to personal and political goals.

However, unlike my opponent in the race for attorney general, I do not confuse my policy preferences with my duty to defend laws with which I may disagree. When I chose to run for attorney general, I committed to set aside my opinions of what the law should be in favor of a higher legal system that recognizes the pivotal role of voters and the courts.

Efforts to change the law on same-sex marriage are now moving rapidly but are not yet settled, and until they are, the attorney general has a duty to play his part and defend current Colorado law.

Bottom line: there is a growing possibility that the Attorney General's race this year will have a much higher profile due to the fast-moving issue of same-sex marriage equality–an issue on which Democrats like AG candidate Don Quick took a risk by focusing on early in their campaigns, but now appear to have been brilliant politically as the issue makes headlines and public support increasingly becomes lopsided on the side of marriage equality.

It is an issue that Cynthia Coffman is now wholly on the wrong side of, along with her boss.

Judge Denies Suthers’ Attempt To Stop Boulder Marriages

UPDATE #6: Pueblo Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz confirms, his office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples tomorrow morning.

Pueblo County acknowledges marriage equality and will begin issuing licenses at 8 am tomorrow.

—–

UPDATE #5: GOP Attorney General John Suthers announces his intention to keep fighting, with an appeal of today's ruling denying an injunction against Boulder County to the Colorado Supreme Court:

“It is the view of the Attorney General’s Office that the uncertainty that has been created by these recent Colorado court rulings as to the propriety of county clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses prior to final resolution of the issue, cries out for resolution by the state’s highest court. It is paramount that we have statewide uniformity on this issue and avoid the confusion caused by differing county-by-county interpretations of whether same-sex marriage is currently recognized. Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.”

—–

UPDATE #4: Correcting our previous report, Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz has not yet made a decision on issuing same-sex marriage licenses. His office is reviewing today's ruling now. We'll update soon.

—–

UPDATE #3: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver celebrates as her city begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses:

“Debra Johnson has acted quickly and decisively after today’s court ruling, and I fully support her efforts to offer marriage licenses to every Denver couple who wants to make that commitment. Marriage is challenging yet rewarding, and everyone deserves to have their relationship recognized under the law.

“Personally, I’ve dusted off my Universal Life Minister’s card and look forward to helping couples start their married lives together.”

—–

UPDATE #2: Outgoing House Speaker Mark Ferrandino:

“Today’s ruling is another step towards legal same-sex marriage in Colorado,” Speaker Ferrandino said. “It is time for Attorney General Suthers to stop blocking loving LGBTQ couples from being protected equally under the law.” 

Judge Hartman’s ruling follows yesterday’s decision by Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruling Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. 

“This ruling comes just one day after Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional,” Speaker Ferrandino said. “Together these two decisions prove that same-sex marriage is inevitable and continuing to argue against it in court is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

—–

UPDATE: In response to today's court ruling, Denver Clerk Deb Johnson has announced her office will begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses at noon today. Pueblo Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz announces his office will begin issuing same-sex licenses tomorrow morning is reviewing today's ruling as well to determine how to proceed (see update above).

With that, the proverbial wall is really coming down.

—–

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall.

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall.

As the Denver Post's Jordan Steffen reports, a huge, if still qualified win today for Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall in her fight against Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

A judge on Thursday said he would allow Boulder's clerk to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, rejecting a request from Attorney General John Suthers to issue an injunction.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall's office has issued more than 100 licenses to gay couples since the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Utah ban on same-sex marriages.

Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Hartman said in an order issued Thursday that the AG's office did not meet its burden in proving that Hall's decision to issue the licenses creates any kind of harm for the couples or the state.

A key portion of Judge Andrew Hartman's ruling notes that the ultimate validity of same-sex marriages performed by Clerk Hall's office rest on undecided legal questions about her actions. This decision denies the Attorney General's request for a preliminary injunction, ruling that the state did not make the case that Hall's issuing of same-sex marriage licenses amounted to "irreparable harm."

The State is asking this Court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the actions of an elected government official. As such, the State must meet a high burden at this early stage in the litigation. For the reasons set forth below, the State has not met its burden and the Court DENIES the motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. 

As a temporary measure to protect all those affected by this case, the Court adopts the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s recommendation and ORDERS that the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder identify all same-sex marriages and convey the information as part of its routine monthly reporting of nuptials to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Welfare, Center for Health and Environmental Information and Services, as well as to the Boulder County Vital Records Office in order to reduce any risk of irreparable harm. The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder shall forward the information prospectively and has up to and including July 17, 2014 to supply information on past same-sex marriages. These offices shall keep the information confidential.

In addition, as a temporary measure to protect same-sex couples, the Court further adopts the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s recommendation and ORDERS that Clerk Hall provide reasonable notice to prospective and past recipients of same-sex marriage licenses that the validity of their marriages is dependent upon whether a court would find that Clerk Hall had authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Despite that qualifier, no question that this is a major validation for Clerk Hall against Suthers–who appears increasingly isolated in his crusade against the inevitable. Democratic AG candidate Don Quick, who has championed overturning Colorado's Amendment 43 in his campaign, looks highly prescient, while opponent and current chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman inherits Suthers' baggage on the issue. With same-sex marriage bans falling across the nation, Colorado was falling behind the curve largely thanks to our obstinate right-wing Attorney General–until Hillary Hall decided to make her stand.

Whatever happens next, today Clerk Hall is a true hero to this cause.

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Appears Headed For Dustbin of History

John Suthers, Don Quick.

John Suthers, Don Quick.

​​As the Denver Post's Jordan Steffen reported from Adams County Court in Brighton yesterday:

The Colorado attorney general's office defended the state's ban on gay marriage on Monday, arguing that 15 state and federal judges who have struck down similar measures in other states were wrong.

But the judge hearing the case mocked the state's argument that Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage protects the "nature of marriage" and the ability to produce children…

"They all got it wrong?" Crabtree asked. "What am I supposed to do then when presented with this? Just punt?"

With same-sex marriage bans being ruled unconstitutional across the nation in rapid succession, Republican Colorado Attorney General John Suthers' stubborn insistence on defending Amendment 43, the same-sex marriage ban in the Colorado constitution, is becoming much harder to defend politically. The wisdom of Democratic AG candidate Don Quick in calling out Suthers early and loudly for continuing to defend Amendment 43 is becoming more apparent:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has faced criticism for his decision to defend the ban. Attorneys general have declined to defend against similar lawsuits in several other states.

That criticism of Suthers naturally extends to his chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman, who is the Republican nominee to succeed him. Every day the AG's office continues what is in all probability a futile effort to defend Colorado's same-sex marriage ban, they surrender moral and political high ground to Cynthia Coffman's Democratic opponent. The only real division on the issue of marriage equality today is within the Republican Party.

Bottom line: the days of remaining on the wrong side of this issue as a viable candidate for office–especially statewide office in Colorado–are numbered.

Audio: Did Suthers Just Dis Walker Stapleton?

An unintentionally hilarious quote from outgoing Attorney General John Suthers, interviewed this week on Colorado Public Radio:

JOHN SUTHERS: You know, if you can't handle the heat, and your sole objective in life is to cater to your political base, run for Treasurer, [Pols emphasis] run for something else but don't run for Attorney General.

Hey, wait a minute! We know somebody who resembles that remark.

stapletonban

Present treasurers excluded, right? Or not? Suthers is pretty careful about his choice of words, folks…

Suthers: Bob Beauprez For Governor

FOX 31's Eli Stokols, noted for the record:

Looking to build momentum one week after announcing his campaign, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bob Beauprez announced Monday that he’s won the endorsement of the most senior Republican officeholder in the state, Attorney General John Suthers.

“There is no question in my mind, as I look at the Republican field for Governor at this point in time, he is far and away the best candidate,” Suthers said in a web video released by the Beauprez campaign Monday morning…

Suthers, who is term-limited as Attorney General, also hinted at Beauprez’s ability to raise the money needed to run a competitive campaign.

The word we hear is John Suthers' endorsement of late GOP gubernatorial primary entrant Bob Beauprez has as much to do with Suthers' negative opinion of Secretary of State Scott Gessler as any honest estimate of Beauprez's viability. It's worth remembering, as Gessler is fond of pointing out these days, that Suthers won his statewide election in 2006, the same year Bob Beauprez was handed an historic 17-point defeat by Democrat Bill Ritter–undercutting the claim by Beauprez since then that 2006 just wasn't "a good Republican year." If Suthers' experience is any guide, 2006 was mostly a bad year for Republicans named Bob Beauprez.

With that said, after bearing witness to Scott Gessler's antics for the last three years as Suthers has, we would find it very difficult to endorse him for higher office either. So maybe there's that.

AG Candidate Quick Calls Out Suthers on Marriage Equality

John Suthers, Don Quick.

John Suthers, Don Quick.

AP's Ivan Moreno reports via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The Democratic candidate for Colorado attorney general says the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitutional rights of gay couples and that the law shouldn’t be defended.

Don Quick made the comments Tuesday morning, putting the issue into the spotlight in the state’s attorney general race months before voters head to the polls. Quick, the former Adams County district attorney and former deputy state attorney general, emphasized that those positions have a responsibility to defend state laws regardless of whether the officeholder agrees with them.

“But in extraordinary circumstances, extraordinary circumstances, when a Colorado law intentionally violates fundamental rights of its citizens, it’s the attorney general’s job to step up and stop that law,” Quick said.

As the Denver Post's Tom McGhee reports, outgoing GOP Attorney General John Suthers has a newly defensive response to the question of defending Colorado's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, in contrast to much less equivocal justifications in the past:

Suthers' spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said that her boss has little choice but to defend Colorado's Amendment 43, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It was approved by voters in 2006.

"The attorney general has an obligation to defend state laws until they are determined to be unconstitutional by the highest court, regardless of whether or not that puts the attorney general on the wrong side of history," Tyler said. [Pols emphasis]

Even an indirect acknowledgement that continue to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban places Suthers "on the wrong side of history" could be seen as a win for equality supporters. In a Washington Post guest opinion earlier this month, Suthers further explains his reasons for continuing to defend Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage–again, with no mention of his longstanding personal opposition to gay marriage:

(more…)

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Jon Caldara Skates on Fraud Charge: “Neener-Neener-Neener”

UPDATE: Colorado Ethics Watch director Luis Toro releases a statement:

"Considering the incredible amount of resources spent in a futile attempt to prove that voter fraud exists in Colorado and is perpetrated by non-citizens, it is a shame that the Attorney General's office has elected not to prosecute Jon Caldara for his highly-public vote in the El Paso County special election while maintaining a Boulder home to which he quickly returned after the election. Nothing increases cynicism in government more than the specter of a highly-lawyered, wealthy individual getting away with something that would be treated as a crime if committed by almost anyone else.

"Those who care about election integrity can take some comfort, though. Caldara's elaborate ruse, including signing a temporary lease in an effort to create the appearance of being a Colorado Springs resident, actually showed how difficult it is to vote in a different district by claiming a new residence without running afoul of Colorado's criminal law against false statements of residency while voting. While Caldara may walk, we fully expect the Attorney General to prosecute vigorously those who foolishly followed his example without all the careful staging that enabled Caldara's lawyers to suggest the existence of reasonable doubt. In the end, Caldara proved only that there is nothing wrong with Colorado's election laws that can't be solved by a dedicated prosecutor enforcing the law as written."

—–

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, Jon Caldara of the conservative Independence Institute will face no criminal charges, closing a three-month investigation by the Attorney General's office into his registering to vote in the El Paso County Senate District 11 recall election despite longtime residence in Boulder:

First Attorney General Robert Shapiro concluded in a letter to Caldara that there is "arguable ambiguity within some of the new legislation," which makes same-day voter registration legal in Colorado.

But the letter also made clear that Attorney General John Suthers office doesn't condone Caldara's behavior, the "legitimacy" of his living arrangement in Colorado Springs was "suspicious" and it was questionable that he ever intended to become an El Paso County resident.

"I told you what I did was legal," Caldara said Thursday, adding "neener-neener-neener."

He said the legislature, which convenes Wednesday, must address the problem of same-day voter registration. Otherwise he predicted "a Great Voter Migration of 2014." Republicans and Democrats could "move" from safe districts into swing seats where their votes could make a difference, Caldara said.

Asked about the attorney general office's comments questioning his sincerity in moving, Caldara said, "The law is not about how they feel. The law is about my intention that they have to prove or disprove. I followed the law."

Watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch was quick to respond via Twitter:

We haven't seen any other statements yet on the Attorney General's decision (see CEW's updated statement above), but we've already heard complaints that Republican Suthers' office is showing blatant partisan favoritism to well-known conservative troublemaker Caldara with this decision. It's tough to speculate without seeing the full letter from the AG's office, but these remarks about "suspicion" over Caldara's "intent" to relocate to Colorado Springs strike us as willfully ignorant of Caldara's stated intentions. Caldara's original press release announcing his plan to register to vote in SD-11 made it obvious he never had any intention of relocating to Colorado Springs, and was always intending to cheat the system. After the recall election, Caldara made a callous joke out of massive floods then impacting the state by using them as his excuse to "make Boulder his permanent home" after all.

As for those of you who thought Caldara, via this stunt to "legally" commit vote fraud or his excuses afterward, had finally gone too far this time? Today you have your answer.

"Neener-neener-neener."

Suthers Wants To Shut Down The Sheriffs

nramagsheriffs

As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reports:

The 55 Colorado sheriffs who filed a lawsuit against the state over two new gun-control laws don’t have standing to sue, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said…

“I know the sheriffs are asserting that they have the ability to assert the citizens’ Second Amendment rights, but they haven’t historically asserted other constitutional rights,” Suthers told The Daily Sentinel. “The sheriffs don’t file suits to protect your Fourth Amendment rights, your Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendment rights.” [Pols emphasis]

Still, removing the sheriffs won’t stop the suit from going forward, Suthers said.

“There’s plenty of other (plaintiffs), such as the gun shops, that clearly have standing,” he said.

The lawsuit against the two central pieces of gun safety legislation passed this year, House Bills 1224 and 1229 limiting magazine capacity and requiring background checks for most transfers of firearms, has been publicly fronted by Colorado county sheriffs ever since it was filed. Prior to that, the same county sheriffs very publicly opposed the bills during their debate in the legislature. The Independence Institute, whose research director Dave Kopel is the lead attorney in the lawsuit, has employed the sheriffs and the lawsuit as a fundraising vehicle, presumably with great success. At least one county sheriff, John Cooke of Weld County, has already used this campaign as a springboard to a run for a state senate seat.

An "agreement" a few weeks ago on the enforcement of House Bill 1224's magazine limits, essentially the same terms originally defined by Attorney General John Suthers after the legislation passed, has more or less reduced the scope of the suit to simple Second Amendment constitutionality. Colorado is not the first state to have passed either a magazine capacity limit or universal background checks, and legal experts we've talked to say the chances of this case even being heard by a high court are not all that great. That means the political (see: recalls) and PR value of the suit (see: magazine cover above) is, and always was, its principal reason for existence.

We can't imagine the sheriffs will be pleased if fellow Republican Suthers cuts them out of the action.

Cynthia Coffman Enters AG Race, but Where’s Waller?

Cynthia Coffman

PHOTO CREDIT: Colorado Statesman

Republican Cynthia Coffman has formally entered the race for Attorney General, joining Democrat Don Quick as only the second official candidate for 2014. From The Denver Post:

In her announcement, Coffman said she would campaign on protecting water rights; fighting the “federal government oversteps” on states rights protected by the 10th Amendment; and maintainin “the integrity of our criminal justice system” that she says “has been diminished by a flawed corrections system and unenforced death penalty.”

Cynthia Coffman has spent the last eight years working under current Attorney General John Suthers, who is term-limited in 2014. If she is on the ballot for the General Election, she will join husband Mike Coffman, the incumbent congressman from CD-6, in a rare husband-wife ballot combination.

Mark Waller, Attorney General Candidate

Hey, remember that time some people said I might run for Attorney General? Heh. That was cool.

Coffman's formal entry into the AG race is not unexpected, but it raises interesting questions about who (if anyone) might join her among fellow Republicans. By announcing her candidacy now, Coffman will have to file a brief fundraising report for the final weeks of June; this is one of the main reasons candidates rarely announce their intentions before the end of a fundraising period, because it's better to report on a full three months of raising money.

Perhaps Coffman announced early in order to get ahead of other potential candidates. Will 2010 Senate candidate and current Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck still entertain thoughts of entering the race? And what of House Minority Leader Mark Waller?

Back in April, Waller was being discussed as the potential Republican frontrunner for Attorney General. Perhaps the Democrats' unprecedented success in the 2013 legislative session put a serious dent in Waller's plans, but whatever the reason, he has gone from being near the top of the list to essentially an afterthought at this point.

 

BREAKING: Major, Misreported Developments In Gun Lawsuit

Colorado journalists

Colorado journalists “report” on House Bill 1224 (acorn courtesy Jon Caldara).

Yesterday, apparently under the radar of most local media, Gov. John Hickenlooper filed a motion in federal District Court requesting an injunction legally binding the enforcement of House Bill 1224, the bill restricting ammunition capacity to 15 rounds, to the technical guidance on the new law issued by the Attorney General a few weeks ago. Here's the key portion of the proposed injunction from Hickenlooper's attorneys:

The Technical Guidance is an “official written interpretation” of HB13-1224. It has been adopted by the Governor and the Colorado Department of Public Safety. Official written interpretations of criminal laws are binding and create an affirmative defense for individuals charged under those laws. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-504(2)(c) (providing an affirmative defense to criminal prosecutions contrary to “official written interpretation of the statute or law relating to the offense, made or issued by a public servant, agency, or body legally charged or empowered with the responsibility of administering, enforcing, or interpreting” it).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d), the Court hereby issues a preliminary injunction binding the Governor, and any of his officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys,to the conclusions of the Technical Guidance as the official interpretation of the chief executive and chief legal officers of the State of Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Here's the full text of Hickenlooper's proposed injunction, along with his motion for the injunction.

What this means pending the court's approval, as supporters on House Bill 1224 have long insisted would be the case, is that the new law will be interpreted under this order in the reasonable manner specified by Republican Attorney General John Suthers in his guidance when it takes effect at the beginning of next month. It means that the law will not "outlaw all magazines" as gun lobbyists and opponents like Dave Kopel and his boss Jon Caldara claimed and virally spread. Kopel actually admitted this development was a possibility at the bottom of a story by 9NEWS a few weeks ago:

David Kopel, the lawyer suing the state over HB-1224, says the technical guidance does not change the suit because the guidance can always be changed and constitutional concerns remain over having vague language on the books.

He did concede that the court may decide to adopt the guidance or set down other clarifications of the law in its ruling. [Pols emphasis]

That's exactly what's happening, folks. Yesterday's proposed order also requests a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court on the major components of the magazine limit law. What we will then have, assuming their answers are consistent with this guidance, is ironclad assurance that the extreme interpretations of House Bill 1224 promoted by opponents will never be what is enforced as law. All of which would severely discredit the manufactured outrage over the passage of this bill, which was principally based on such misinformation.

And that's good, because those interpretations were always ridiculous, and only had credibility so far as a lazy, and in some cases willingly complicit media gave it to them.

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