What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump… (more…)

Reporters should expect to have to dog Walker Stapleton for answers

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Update: Colorado Independent reporter Nat Stein’s answer to my question of whether Stapleton’s office gave her a reason for declining comment: “His comms guy pretty much hung up on me, and three emails went unanswered,” tweeted Stein. “I just wanna talk!!”

———-

When a public official starts to develop a reputation for stonewalling the media, the trend should be highlighted, especially now that fewer reporters are out there to ask public officials anything at all. Every reasonable question should be cherished. And every denial called out.

No long ago, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton declined to take questions from the evil Denver Post about why he withdrew his support from a bill aimed at making money for PERA, the state’s public retirement program. Then Stapleton shamelessly called the resulting article “completely misleading,” even though he’d refused to talk to the reporter about it.

Now Stapleton declined to comment on a softball request by the Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein about a #BlackLivesMatter campaign to change the name of the Stapleton neighborhood, because former Denver mayor Benjamin Stapleton was a member of the KKK.

Stein reports:

The Stapleton legacy — or its name, at least — still lives on in state government. Republican Walker Stapleton is currently serving his second term as state treasurer. His press office declined to comment on this article.

And as for the obvious question — well, what should Stapleton be named instead? — Pullen said Black Lives Matter 5280 hopes Stapleton could be renamed after a woman of color who made significant, historical contributions to Denver.

Nat Stein did not respond immediately to a request via Twitter to explain why Stapleton’s office refused to address questions about his family’s KKK history. My suggestion is to push harder for an answer.

Sorry, Walker Stapleton: Price of Gold Plunges

ChartBuilderIn 2010, as the nation was in the grip of a major economic downturn, right-wing candidates capitalized on uncertainty about the economy by seeking to outdo each other with frightening predictions about the future–and what they would do to save us. In the case of then-candidate for Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, he responded to a question in a primary debate about the economy by suggesting the state invest in gold to hedge against what he foresaw as a “hyperinflationary environment.”

STAPLETON: The Treasury’s portfolio has not changed markedly in the last eight or ten years under Treasurer Mike Coffman, under Treasurer Mark Hillman and now under Treasurer Cary Kennedy. And that’s been okay, it’s weathered the storm fairly well. The problem is that we, I believe we are entering a hyper-inflationary environment. We’re going to need to shorten the duration of a lot of the state’s investments, the duration of the portfolio to adjust to a hyper-inflationary environment…

And I think hedging, using using gold to hedge against inflation or another precious metal is something the state needs to investigate. It’s something we haven’t done in the past, and it could be an effective method of dealing with a hyper-inflationary environment.

Fast-forward to today’s news:

“We see further downward pressure on gold prices, possibly stabilising at an eventual rate of US$1,000 a troy ounce,” said Mr Howie Lee, a Phillip Futures investment analyst. “It seems to be an end of an era for the precious metal. Even in a crisis, it has not picked up much appeal.”

Amid the recent turmoil in Chinese markets that spread to bourses across the globe, gold prices have remained weak. According to a Bloomberg survey on Jul 29, traders expect gold prices will drop to US$984 an ounce before January next year. That would be the lowest since 2009.

One factor weighing on the outlook for the yellow metal is a US Federal Reserve rate hike expected later this year that will push the greenback even higher and raise the opportunity cost of holding gold, which carries zero interest.

The traditional sales tactic for gold and other precious metals involves spreading fear about the economy to motivate investors to “hedge” their investments against uncertainty. Since Barack Obama became President in 2009 in the midst of a recession he did not create, a natural alliance has formed between Obama’s political enemies and gold trading companies. Republicans set themselves up for victory in 2010 by making voters believe that the world was about to end, which boosted gold trading companies as rattled Americans bought up gold to survive the coming Obamanation.

But between Stapleton’s dire predictions of “hyperinflation” and today, something else happened: the American economy didn’t collapse after all. In 2010, the U.S. economy was already emerging from the depths of recession, a process that has continued to this day. The economic fears that prevailed in 2010 have slowly dissipated, and as a result the price of gold has plunged by hundreds of dollars in the last few years (see chart above right). There are predictions now that the price of gold could fall even more, below $1,000 per ounce and perhaps much farther.

Safe to say, thank goodness Colorado didn’t fill the state treasury with gold!

Now that the price of gold is dropping like a rock, we’d say the question of what Walker Stapleton was thinking in 2010 is even more relevant. Why did this supposed financial expert make such wildly inaccurate predictions about the economy, and then propose a remedy that now appears absolutely foolhardy? We know there are plenty of theories–we want to hear it from Stapleton personally.

Because as much as everyone rushes to excuse yesterday’s “Tea Party” nuttiness, it happened. He said it.

Throwback Thursday: Walker Stapleton Says “Buy Gold!”

Five years ago, now-Treasurer Walker Stapleton was locked in a tense primary battle against J.J. Ament, son of longtime Colorado political fixture Don Ament. In 2010, more or less all Republican candidates for office were working hard to prove their “Tea Party” mettle, which in practice meant the enthusiastic embrace of a smorgasbord of really extreme ideas–things that would sound just plain nutty in, say, 2015.

As you can see in the clip above, Walker Stapleton was no exception:

STAPLETON: The Treasury’s portfolio has not changed markedly in the last eight or ten years under Treasurer Mike Coffman, under Treasurer Mark Hillman and now under Treasurer Cary Kennedy. And that’s been okay, it’s weathered the storm fairly well. The problem is that we, I believe we are entering a hyper-inflationary environment. We’re going to need to shorten the duration of a lot of the state’s investments, the duration of the portfolio to adjust to a hyper-inflationary environment…

And I think hedging, using using gold to hedge against inflation or another precious metal is something the state needs to investigate. It’s something we haven’t done in the past, and it could be an effective method of dealing with a hyper-inflationary environment.

It’s important to remember the political climate on the right during the summer of 2010. The recent passage of the Affordable Care Act had been spun into a B-movie nightmare in which your grandmother and Sarah Palin’s disabled son were about to be put to death. The recent recession, which resulted from problems that began long before Barack Obama became President, was viewed as a precursor to a “socialist takeover” of the economy. Glenn Beck, then at the peak of his influence, warned right-leaning Americans of all these things and more–and urged them to buy gold to protect their wealth from destruction at the hands of the liberals subverting America.

And it all sounds…well, incredibly stupid now doesn’t it? Contrary to Stapleton’s dire predictions on the primary campaign trail, a “hyper-inflationary environment” never materialized. In fact, the overall economy has recovered strongly from the Great Recession. And it’s a good thing Stapleton never kept his pledge to buy gold with the state’s money, since gold has lost over a third of its value since its peak in 2011.

In all the years since, Stapleton has never been asked to explain these nutty remarks, but incidents like this help explain his amateurish flopping like a fish over a bill to shore up the state’s public employees retirement system–a bill he supported before the right wing made it known that he shouldn’t have.

There’s a good chance that Walker Stapleton simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and substitutes whatever he hears on talk radio for financial expertise.

At someday, that may well catch up with him.

Stapleton Kicks Off Taxpayer-Funded “Statewide Tour”

Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Fresh off an avalanche of bad press for absurdly denying having backed legislation to shore up the state’s public employee retirement system when questioned about it on right-wing talk radio, Colorado Treasurer Walker “Bush” Stapleton is heading out on a “listening tour” of all 64 counties in Colorado–including the counties with basically no people in them. From Stapleton’s press release:

Today, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton announced the kick off of a 64-county tour across Colorado. The goal of this summer-long road trip is to update civic and community leaders on what is happening at the State Capitol, and to hold meetings with county elected officials to get a better understanding of the issues impacting local communities…

“As I begin my second term, it is important to step out of the office, hit the road and continue to listen to the needs of people across our state,” said Treasurer Stapleton. “When I was in the private sector, I found it immensely useful to go out and talk to customers and co-workers. That’s where the good ideas come from, the people, not the boardroom. But you have to be willing to put in the legwork.”

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reports that Stapleton claims the trip has been “in the works” since March–apparently he’s more willing to talk to Bartels about this trip than her colleague John Frank about the recent controversy over the Public Employees Retirement Association bill. We don’t doubt that Stapleton was planning this tour for longer than he has been in hot water over his backpedaled support for legislation to reduce the unfunded liability owed by PERA, but we can’t see how this helps him either.

Setting aside the PERA gaffe, Stapleton’s aspirations for higher office are very well known, and this “fact-finding tour” to every county in the state can easily be portrayed as an improper campaign (or at least pre-campaign) activity paid for with taxpayer dollars. It’s one thing when the Governor tours the state for “fact-finding”…but the Treasurer? Coming from a politician everybody knows is angling for a run for higher office in three years, this kind of self-serving junket is just too easy to criticize.

Enough that it’s likely to cost Stapleton–politically, since you’re the one paying–more than it was worth.

Irony Watch: Stapleton Trashes Denver Post Article After Declining Interview

(Nobody shoots their own foot quite like Walker Stapleton — promoted by Colorado Pols)

If you’re a journalist, this is the kind of  irony that makes you want to jump into the raging Platte River: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trashing a Denver Post article as “completely misleading” even though Stapleton refused an interview request from the reporter who wrote the article that Stapleton is so upset about.

Over the weekend, The Denver Post’s John Frank reported that Stapleton caved to pressure from conservatives and withdrew his support from legislation aimed at making money for PERA, the state’s public pension system.

Frank sought Stapleton’s comments for his article, but alas, as Frank reported:

John Frank: “Michael Fortney, a spokesman for Stapleton, declined to make him available for an interview and blamed the media for spreading falsehoods about the legislation.”

So John Frank dutifully did the best he could anyway to piece together Stapleton’s best response to the substantive issues at play. But this wasn’t good enough for Stapleton, who trashed Frank’s reporting on KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show yesterday:

 Stapleton (@5:40 below): “John Frank’s reporting, which was lacking to be diplomatic, was completely misleading, never once illuminated my track record of suing the pension system, lowering the [assumed] rate of return, leading the defeat of Amendment 66, the largest tax increase in Colorado history, because the money was going to back fill obligations in the pension system. I mean, the notion that somehow I’ve become sideways, because I’m in league with the pension system–the facts don’t quite bear that out.”

That’s not what the article said at all, but Stapleton went further, telling KLZ host Ken Clark that he thinks The Post has a bias against “statewide elected Republicans,” and so he’s “really isn’t surprised” that The Post’s coverage “has been not accurate.”

Stapleton (@1:30 below): “The Denver Post, their coverage of this, has been not accurate and misrepresentative of my position from the beginning, which really isn’t surprising as a statewide elected Republican.”

You can add another layer of irony to this accusation, because one of the state’s most conservative/libertarian journalists, Vincent Carroll, wrote that Stapleton “migrated into incoherence” when Stapleton previously attacked The Post’s coverage of the PERA legislation…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 20)

MoreSmarter-RainThe Denver Nuggets ended up with the exact results expected in last night’s NBA Draft Lottery, which gives Denver the #7 pick in the June Draft. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► It’s hard not to read the panic between the lines of Rep. Mike Coffman’s latest statement regarding potential delays at the Aurora VA Hospital project. As 9News reports, Coffman has found yet another person to blame for the fiasco:

With precious few days left to avert another work stoppage at Colorado’s VA hospital construction project, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) is making an unusual move: publicly calling into question the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner on the issue.

“I’m disappointed in the VA for their mismanagement. I’m disappointed in the speaker, for in my view, not showing appropriate leadership so far,” Coffman told 9NEWS in an interview Tuesday. “I hope I can convince [Boehner] to understand that our veterans should not be the casualty.”

We’re just going to keep repeating this because it’s so important: Mike Coffman is the CHAIR OF THE OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Guess who should have “oversaw” this coming?

► The editorial board of the Denver Post blasts the Jefferson County School District for its nonsense claims that they couldn’t host Gov. John Hickenlooper for a bill signing ceremony because of last-minute security concerns:

It is difficult to believe a school where Super Bowl halftime entertainer Katy Perry performed would have had that much of a problem hosting the governor.

Jeffco swears Hick is welcome to come any other time. But for now, this rejection looks bad.

Hickenlooper ended up signing the bill yesterday at Lakewood Heritage Center, which somehow managed to to provide a secure building at the last minute.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Another instance of Stapleton caving under pressure from righties

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

Walker Stapleton.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton apparently caved to pressure from conservatives earlier this month, when he claimed not to have supported legislation that he helped draft and later promoted.

It was a weird reversal–but not the first time Stapleton has walked back a moderate position after hearing from his conservative allies.

In January, in an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, Stapleton clearly stated he was open to not returning TABOR refunds.

Asked by Warner if he would support “something that you felt was responsible and meant the state held on to the TABOR refunds,” Stapleton answered:

Stapleton: “Absolutely. TABOR is the popular whipping post, but Gallagher and Amendment 23 have also created a Gordian Knot of automatic ratchets in the budget and we need to free ourselves of automatic ratchets and get more control over where we spend dollars and more results-oriented spending for our budget going forward in the future. But I’m not opposed reflexively to anything, other than I’m opposed to anything that doesn’t give taxpayers a voice in where their money is being spent.”

Sounds kind of reasonable, doesn’t he, like he did in supporting a common-sense bill to bolster Colorado’s public retirement system. That is until conservatives got to him.

Same thing happened to his reasonable attitude toward TABOR. It disappeared.

(more…)

Radio Interview Provides More Info on Stapleton’s PERA Bill Hypocrisy

(Ain’t talkin’ yer way outta this one, Walker – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: Walker Stapleton takes fire from left and right and questions about his double dealing grow:

“No matter where you stand on the issue of protecting our state’s retirees, one thing is clear: you can’t trust Walker Stapleton,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “State employees who worked their whole lives preparing for retirement on their PERA pensions deserve better than a treasurer who pays lip service to the state keeping its promises–but then sells them out to protect political loyalties.”

“The far right is working hard to destroy public pensions, and Stapleton’s political alliances are directly in conflict with his responsibilities as Treasurer of the state of Colorado,” said Runyon-Harms. “By attacking legislation he once supported, and then lying about it, Stapleton has cost himself friends on both sides of the aisle. It doesn’t matter how you feel about PERA, the only thing that matters today is Treasurer Walker Stapleton can’t be trusted to lead on the issues that matter most to his office.”

—–

dealinwalkerfinIf you’re a reporter, it’s tough to be fair when the person you’re writing about won’t talk to you, but The Denver Post’s John Frank did the best he could in an article Sunday about State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Stapleton, who declined to be interviewed for Frank’s story, is clearly on record supporting legislation this session allowing him to issue bonds to make money for the state’s public retirement system. But speaking on conservative talk radio after the bill died, Stapleton denied ever supporting the legislation. The question is, why?

Frank points out that one reason for Stapleton’s about-face is pressure from conservatives who are wary of debt. That’s charitable to Stapleton. Actually, Stapleton admitted on the radio that he was under pressure from conservatives who want only to reduce expenses of retirement programs (higher age of retirement or contribution, lower pay outs). Stapleton’s bill intended to increase PERA’s revenue, so that the retirement system would be stronger and have a better chance at functioning as promised. This pissed off the conservatives, whose apparent underlying goal is to weaken or kill public pension programs.

Stapleton’s own explanation for his apparent hypocrisy is, as Frank reported, that he “supported the bill to give him the authority to issue bonds but not the issuance of bonds.”

This didn’t impress The Post’s Vincent Carroll, who wrote last week:

Actually, the legislation had everything to do with issuing bonds. You don’t give the state authority to do something unless you anticipate that it will exercise that power at some point and are comfortable with that possibility. And this bill wasn’t a permanent authority. It expired on Dec. 31, 2018, roughly when Stapleton will leave office. Obviously the bill contemplated Stapleton himself signing off on bonds at some point.

Frank produced evidence showing that Stapleton thought actually issuing the bonds was a good idea if “done in a prudent and conservative manner.”

On KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show, hosted by Ken Clark, Stapleton got even more specific, identifying a financial window during which he was prepared to issue the bonds.

“We had a provision that we would not even consider issuing the bonds if the arbitrage wasn’t at least a two-point spread.” (Listen to the KLZ interview at 4:25 below.)

You don’t need to know what an arbitrage is to see that Stapleton was happy and ready to consider issuing the bonds under very specific circumstances–if the arbitrage was at least a two-point spread. Case closed.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 18)

MoreSmarter-RainJust in case you needed any more of a reason to stay away from motorcycle gangs. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republican State Treasurer Walker “Wasn’t Me” Stapleton continues to show the political agility of a blind skiier. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Stapleton has turned a minor controversy into a major avalanche:

Days after the legislative session closed, Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trying to distance himself from a controversial effort to issue billions of dollars of pension bonds to bolster the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association fund.

The two-term treasurer told a conservative talk radio host that he didn’t support the move, despite the fact that records show he signed up twice to testify in support of legislation that would give him authority to issue the bonds…

…Stapleton’s shift is an attempt to quell friendly fire from conservatives taking aim at him for supporting a debt venture they consider too risky. The attack threatens to undermine the 41-year-old treasurer’s conservative fiscal reputation, one that has boosted his political prospects for higher office.

We noted Stapleton’s ridiculous claims last week, which adds more evidence to our analysis from last fall that Stapleton would be an absolute disaster for Republicans if he seeks higher office.

 

Agriculture and business groups from around the state are pushing Republicans to do something on immigration reform. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is promising more grandstanding, if that helps (hint: it doesn’t).


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 14)

Today’s forecast calls for possible sightings of the sun. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) joined fellow Republicans in voting to approve a 20-week abortion ban. Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

► The Senate passed a measure yesterday to move forward on votes for President Obama’s trade deal. From the Huffington Post:

“The announcement [Wednesday] will drive home the importance of the message that the pro-trade Democrats sent yesterday,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who helped craft the compromise after he helped filibuster the trade bill that he supports. “That enforcement, enforcement of the trade laws is a prerequisite to a modern trade policy, a trade policy that sets aside once and for all the NAFTA playbook. Suffice it to say that was the message conveyed yesterday by pro-trade Democrats.”

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) offered joint support for medical marijuana legislation. As Mark Matthews of the Denver Post reports:

The proposed Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act would lift federal prohibitions across the country on using marijuana strains that are medically beneficial to prevent certain seizures.

Gardner, a Republican, and Bennet, a Democrat, announced the bill with Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Johnny Isakson of Georgia at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.

Because of federal prohibitions, some families who are seeking the help are forced to relocate to such states as Colorado, where they can obtain the medicine, the lawmakers argue.

What, no cool acronym for this bill? The THMAA?


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Walker Stapleton Shows (Again) Why He’ll Never Make it to Higher Office

dealinwalkerfin

This is State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Colorado’s “gold standard” when it comes to the stereotypical, fast-talking, bullshitting politician. Stapleton has made such a caricature of himself over the last couple of years that it he hardly seems real. Surely, you think, nobody can truly be this transparently smarmy and exist as an actual human politician…or can he?

The State Treasurer doesn’t traditionally generally get a lot of press in Colorado, and Stapleton has been no exception to the norm. But when Stapleton’s name does end up in the news, the odds are pretty good that it’s because he did something stupid. Stapleton is good at stupid.

It seems that Stapleton is back to one of his favorite tricks — lying through his teeth to cover a dumb mistake — and this time he even managed to piss off the reliably-Republican Denver Post editorial page editor Vince Carroll, which is no small feat. Yesterday Carroll dedicated an entire column to Stapleton, who he says has “migrated into incoherence” in trying to pretend that he ever supported legislation that would have made some changes to PERA:

Stapleton knows he authored an April 28 letter to legislative leaders in which he said “the Treasurer’s office has identified an opportunity to refinance a portion of the State’s debt owed to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) through the issuance of Pension Obligation Bonds (POBs)…

…He also knows he testified in favor of HB 1388 before the House Finance Committee on April 29 (and again later before Senate Finance), at which he carefully laid out risks but also confirmed that POBs are “one of many tools, if the proper guard rails are in place, that can be employed responsibly to address PERA’s unfunded liability.”…

Our editorial page opposed HB 1388, but it is no disgrace to have been on the other side. And if some in your party get on your case about your stance, so what? You take the heat. You don’t distort your role to the point you sound like someone needing treatment for amnesia.

The entire column is worth a read, and it really makes you wonder (again) why anyone in the Republican Party might think that Stapleton could be a good candidate for Governor or U.S. Senate some day. Why would you make such an effort to lie about supporting a bill that few people understand? Why would you try to lie when you are already repeatedly on record taking a different position? Why???

Stapleton is pretty good at fundraising, largely because of his family connections (he’s directly related to the Bush family), but he’s otherwise a complete political dunce who frequently stumbles into obvious potholes. Stapleton was re-elected as State Treasurer in 2014, but it was an unexpectedly close race due entirely to his own idiocy; when an open records request revealed that Stapleton rarely bothered to show up at his office, he made ridiculous excuses and then wouldn’t stop talking about it.

We wrote after the November election that Stapleton’s panicky errors and laughable TV ads should remove his name from future discussion about higher office; since then, Stapleton has done nothing to prove us wrong. Democrats can only hope that Stapleton is someday the Republican nominee for Governor or Senate.

Oops! (Inaugural Program Guide Edition)

Today is swearing-in day for Gov. John Hickenlooper's second term, and also the first day for our new Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Treasurer Walker Stapleton takes the oath of office for his second term as well.

Via Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee, either there was a mix-up at the printer for this year's inaugural ceremony program guide, or our constitutional officeholders are playing musical chairs:

musicaljobs

We've seen Freaky Friday, stranger things have happened.

Coffman(s) for U.S. Senate?

Mike and Cynthia Coffman. And dog.

Will Mike Coffman run for Senate in 2016? What about Cynthia? Or the dog?

The D.C. publication Roll Call has an interesting story today probing around about Republicans looking for their next statewide candidate to potentially challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016, and it leads with the possibility that the GOP nominee may eventually have the last name of Coffman. But which one? Rep. Mike Coffman, or his wife, newly-elected Attorney General Cynthia Coffman?

This Senate race could make for interesting dinner conversation in one Colorado household.

Republicans say battle-tested Rep. Mike Coffman and his wife, Cynthia Coffman, the state’s newly elected attorney general, are two of the party’s top prospects to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016…

…In a Sunday phone interview with CQ Roll Call, Cynthia Coffman said she had asked her husband if he was going to run for Senate, but he had not asked her.

“He seems to be committed to being in Congress,” she said. “I think we’re both excited about what we’ve got to do over the next two years.”

Cynthia Coffman said it was “fun” and “flattering” to be mentioned, but for now she is “so excited to be attorney general.” She said she “would consider” a bid for a House or Senate seat one day, but not necessarily in 2016 — though she did not explicitly rule it out. She said by watching her husband make the commute back and forth between Washington, D.C. and Colorado, she had “realized what a drain it is,” and would know exactly what she was in for if she were to do it.

We'll forgive reporter Alexis Levinson for her lede above, since she is probably unaware that the Coffmans have maintained separate residences for years in Denver (click here for the strange back-and-forth living and voting arrangements for the Coffmans). We'd be shocked to see Cynthia run for Senate in 2016; Roll Call mentions her wide margin of victory in the race for Attorney General in 2014, but that had more to do with the fact that she was a Republican running for a low-interest race in a mid-term Presidential year. The Coffman family dog could have posted strong numbers running as a Republican in 2014.

But what about Mike Coffman?

Well, you never say never,” Coffman told CQ Roll Call outside the House chamber early last month when asked about a Senate bid, “but I’m focused on my House race.”

dealinwalkerfin

As the GOP field stands today, Mike Coffman currently tops the Colorado Pols Big Line 2016 as the most likely Bennet challenger in 2016, but that's largely because we can't think of anyone else to put at the top. Coffman is a career politician who doesn't have a personal fortune to fall back on should he run for Senate and lose. For now, we've heard that Coffman is reluctant to take a serious look at the 2016 Senate race because he is focusing on moving up in Congressional leadership. He is also a little gun-shy about a top statewide race after his brief foray as a candidate for Governor in 2005; Coffman had made it known for years that he planned on running for Governor in 2006, but Republican Bob Beauprez had no trouble kneecapping Coffman's campaign after only a few weeks.

The Roll Call story also mentions two other potential GOP candidates for Senate in 2016: Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. It's far too early to talk about Brauchler as a candidate for anything while the Aurora theater shooting case has yet to be settled; the outcome of that case, more than anything, will probably decide Brauchler's potential as a future candidate.

We've also heard Stapleton mentioned as a potential candidate in 2016, but it's far more likely that Stapleton remains where he is in order to run for Governor in 2018. Stapleton did win re-election in November as State Treasurer, but not before nearly bungling the race altogether with his own missteps and excuses. Stapleton's connections to the Bush family (he's a cousin to George W. or George H.W. or Jeb or something) and his ability to raise money will always make him a potential candidate for higher office, but he could probably use a few more years to do something of value as State Treasurer to wash that Dealin' Doug-style TV ad out of your brain.

We've got a long way to go until 2016, but the campaigning for U.S. Senate will begin in earnest in the next 6 months or so. Mike Coffman looks today like the strongest possible Republican challenger, though there is no guarantee that he'll actually run. The Coffman family dynamic is fun to talk about, but there's no way Cynthia is going to be the GOP nominee in 2016.

Auctioning Access: You Think This Was a Bad Idea? Maybe?

AG-elect Cynthia Coffman.

AG-elect Cynthia Coffman.

Associated Press reports–oops!

A Colorado business group on Tuesday said it would back out of a lunch with the state's new attorney general after questions were raised about it winning the meal at an auction.

The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association won the lunch with Cynthia Coffman after bidding $500 at an auction at the Colorado Lincoln Club's holiday gathering, which it hosted at its Denver offices last week. On Tuesday, however, association president Tim Jackson said he would give the lunch away to another organization or person. He said the group bid on the meal solely to help out the Lincoln Club and did not need special access to Coffman, a Republican…

The auctioning of access to Attorney General-elect Cynthia Coffman by the GOP-aligned Lincoln Club of Colorado's annual holiday party was originally reported last week by the Colorado Statesman's Ernest Luning. And Luning reports that Cynthia Coffman was not the only Republican politician selling off personal access at this party:

The top bids went for lunch with State Treasurer Walker Stapleton after two competing consortiums, led by former Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan and Lincoln Club board member Barb Piper ramped bidding up to $725 for the honor, at which point Wiens and Stapleton decided he’d have lunch with each group for that sum…

The club also auctioned off lunches with state Sen.-elect Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and state Rep.-elect Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, who was joined by neighboring state Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, to sweeten the deal. State Rep.-elect Jon Keyser, R-Evergreen, was called away on duty with the Air Force Reserves so was unable to take part in a planned live auction, though lunch with the new lawmaker was sold in the silent auction.

As for Tim Jackson and the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, according to Luning he did have an agenda for his lunch with AG-elect Coffman, before the whole idea of it became…well, you know, scandalous:

Jackson told The Colorado Statesman that he plans to take the opportunity to discuss the importance of automobile dealerships with Coffman, part of a continuous outreach effort with policy-makers and elected leaders. A full 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue is generated from the sale of new and used cars, Jackson noted…

Well now! That would have been rather productive lunch after all. Of course, no one is alleging that the Republicans who auctioned access to themselves to the highest bidder did so for personal financial gain. But just so everybody's clear about what the Lincoln Club is, from their own "About Us" page:

The Lincoln Club of Colorado is Colorado's oldest Republican Organization.  Based on the humanitarian principles of President Abraham Lincoln and founded in 1918, the club's mission has always been to promote the educational and social programs of the Republican party and to support the election of Republican candidates.

Bottom line: it may not be illegal, or even unprecedented, but the optics of lobbyists bidding for access to GOP politicians to fund a GOP campaign organization are about as bad as it gets–and CADA was wise to immediately cancel once word got out about it. If the other GOP politicians named in this story have any sense, they'll follow suit quickly.

Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said he did not know if the meals were legal, but he said it was inherently questionable. "It is literally paying for access," he said. [Pols emphasis]

Next time, just hold an old-fashioned fundraiser.