GOP Setting Up Metro State For Election Year Grandstand?

FOX 31’s Eli Stokols reports:

Republican Attorney General John Suthers issued a formal opinion Tuesday afternoon that Metro State College of Denver cannot legally create a new, lower category of tuition for undocumented students.

The school’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 earlier this month to do just that, reigniting the debate over tuition equity just a couple of months after state lawmakers again killed a bill that aimed to make college more affordable for qualifying illegal immigrants…

Metro State’s President, Dr. Stephen Jordan, and Trustee Melody Harris are set to meet Wednesday afternoon with the Joint Budget Committee at the Capitol after Chairwoman Cheri Gerou requested a meeting to determine how the school decided to move ahead with its proposal.

“My goal is not to make this any more political than it already is,” said Gerou Tuesday. “I just want to find out what Metro’s thought process was, why they decided to do this, because they never hinted they were going down this road when they presented to us before.”

As the state’s only 4-year open enrollment “college of opportunity,” downtown Denver’s Metro State would always have been one of the more affected schools from any legislation or policy change easing the burden on undocumented students. Metro’s comparatively low tuition, and relatively high dependence on state funding compared to other institutions, make the school naturally more vulnerable to the political whim of legislators holding the purse strings.

Proponents say there is legal precedent for Metro’s policy change, and point to a California Supreme Court decision, Martinez vs. Board of Regents of the University of California, which held that “exemption from nonresident tuition did not violate statute prohibiting education benefits to unlawful aliens on basis of residence.” An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

Regardless, after Attorney General John Suthers’ non-binding advisory opinion yesterday, there is a great deal of attention focusing on this afternoon’s meeting of the legislative Joint Budget Committee. GOP JBC chair Rep. Cheri Gerou has come uncomfortably close to making threats to Metro State’s funding in news coverage of Metro State’s original decision. There are differing opinions as to the range of options Republicans on the JBC might entertain to deal with this “problem.” But given the free-wheeling lack of discretion with legislative power we’ve seen this year, it’s probably wise to not rule anything out in advance of today’s meeting.

Suthers Forces Lower North Fork Fire Bill Compromise

The AP reports via the Durango Herald:

Colorado legislators agreed Thursday with a compromise suggestion from Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican who chastised members of his own party in the state House for seeking a way to give victims of the Lower North Fork Fire compensation beyond the $600,000 allowed under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

Some Democrats agreed with Suthers, setting up a potentially ugly political confrontation in the closing days of the Colorado Legislature. Suthers’ proposal was to keep the liability cap, but add state-set fires to the exemptions.

The proposal would allow fire victims to seek amounts greater than $600,000 while preserving the overall liability cap, which is in place to protect state taxpayers from unlimited payments in damage claims.

So ends what might otherwise have been an ugly fight between a Republican Attorney General and the GOP-controlled Colorado House. We’ve said all along that there was a powerful case for fairly compensating the victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, but to do so with legislation that only pertains to the one event would be unfair, cheap, political–and as Suthers says, illegal.

With this solution, these and future fire victims in similar circumstances will be fairly compensated, and we’re a bit baffled as to why the House GOP didn’t come up with it originally.

But this whole GOP in favor of bigger damage awards thing is kind of weird for everybody.

Suthers Tries To Screw Shut McNulty’s Can of Worms

The AP reports via the Durango Herald:

The Colorado Attorney General’s office issued a firm warning to lawmakers Tuesday, saying a Republican bill to compensate victims of a deadly wildfire could violate constitutional provision aimed at preventing favoritism.

Assistant Solicitor General Frederick R. Yarger said what lawmakers are considering “cannot possibly be applied to any other class of individuals,” putting the legislation at “significant risk” of violating state law.

That law banning special legislation is “intended to curb favoritism” from lawmakers and block unnecessary laws for limited circumstances.

Yarger’s letter comes on the day the House gave initial OK to the bill. It would create a commission to hold hearings on the events surrounding the Lower North Fork Fire last month and recommend payments to victims.

Our view on this bill hasn’t changed: Republicans have a powerful emotional case on their side for the state abandoning the $600,000 liability cap on damages payable from the Lower North Fork Fire, which began as a controlled burn but ended up destroying homes and killing three people. There is no question with whom the overwhelming majority of voters will sympathize.

The objection from GOP Attorney General John Suthers, in our view, sums up the real problem for Republicans supporting this bill–whether out of genuine compassion, a cynical vote-buying exercise, or whatever the reason is. Why should these victims, as legitimately aggrieved as they may be, be treated differently than any other victim in a similar situation?

First answer that question, then there will be more questions. Should the state have a liability cap at all? What about all the liability caps in the private sector the GOP supports? This is what happens when you jettison your principles for an knee-jerk political grandstand.

Those principles come back to bite you.

In Which Frank McNulty Opens a Can of Worms

9NEWS’ Jeffrey Wolf reports:

Exactly one month after the Lower North Fork Fire started, Colorado House Republicans introduced legislation late Thursday aimed at compensating victims…

“We’re going to move forward, the governor can catch up with us when it gets to his desk,” Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty said on Tuesday while announcing a plan by House Republicans to ignore established limits on what the state will pay.

The state caps liability claims at $150,000 per person and a total maximum of $600,000 per incident…

One fellow Republican strongly disagrees.

“Needless to say they’re not happy with me,” Attorney General John Suthers (R-Colorado) said. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea and I’m not going to say it’s otherwise because they happen to be Republicans.”

Suthers says lawmakers should raise the cap if they don’t think it’s fair, not ignore it for high-profile cases, because the hard truth is it’s not that uncommon for people get hurt or die because of something the state did. [Pols emphasis]

We were quite surprised on Tuesday to see a release from the Colorado House GOP announcing this bill to compensate victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, a state-conducted controlled burn that got out of control, killed three people, and destroyed dozens of homes near Conifer–above and beyond the $600,000 cap on the state’s aggregate liability under the Colorado Government Immunity Act. The biggest reason this move didn’t make sense is the way it undermines a host of other Republican arguments in favor of limiting liability.

Now that the House GOP has opened that discussion in a desire to capitalize politically on this disaster, other Republicans, like Attorney General John Suthers, are understandably getting nervous about where this is going. For one thing, the commission is charged with “investigating” the circumstances of this specific fire. Isn’t that redundant to the investigations that have already been carried out or are underway? And if there’s going to be an independent investigative body looking into the disaster, shouldn’t it be…independent from the state?

In fact there are a whole slew of procedural questions that come to mind, which like we said on Tuesday is very hard to morally oppose. But above all, why shouldn’t this process be taking a harder look at the Government Immunity Act, like Suthers suggests above? We’ve already agreed on principle that these victims should be adequately compensated for their loss by the state. Why shouldn’t this “opportunity” be used to fully examine the Colorado Government Immunity Act, to see if this arbitrary cap on liability is fair on a fundamental level?

No, folks, the Lower North Fork Fire might not be where it ends. Why should it be?

And what about Colorado’s other notorious damage caps in all kinds of personal injury and wrongful-death cases, known as “some of the strictest damage cap provisions of any state?” Do McNulty’s sweeping statements about “responsibility” not apply to the private sector?

When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why John Suthers is freaking out, isn’t it?

On Radio, McNulty says ASSET isn’t ok under federal law, but Suthers says it is

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

On KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty tried to make the argument that it’s illegal to give undocumented college students a more affordable tuition rate.

Citing federal laws, McNulty said he doesn’t support “picking and choosing which laws we follow and which laws are okay to ignore.”

“Sure,” McNulty told co-host Craig Silverman.  “I get pulled over for speeding. I get a ticket. I pay my ticket. I have points taken off of my license. So there are penaltties there for ignoring the law.”

“Right,” Silverman responded. “But if your kid is in the car, he doesn’t get a ticket.  You do.”

“Well, that’s true,” McNulty answered and quickly tried to move the conversation back toward picking and choosing laws.

It was a good point by Silverman, and he made it better than I could have, on a show that’s become more and more one-sided these days, when it comes to political topics.

Silverman could have sharpened his questioning earlier in the interview, when McNulty said:

McNulty: “And you know what?  I get it!  I get that these kids are here through no fault of their own. And I understand that that is, that that has a level of compassion that many of us share.  But the bottom line is, the law is the law.  And to say that we’re going to ignore the law in this one simple case, flies in the face of what our nation was founded on and is the main reason why I’m opposed to it.”

Neither Caplis nor Silverman pointed out that the legislation has passed in 13 other states, including Texas.

And even Colorado Attorney General John Suthers admitted on KOA’s Mike Rosen’s Show March 12 that the ASSET bill would be permissable under federal law, though Suthers said he didn’t like the way the bill was devised, saying it was “a complete run-around these two federal statutes.”

Suthers: As I say, twelve states have enacted similar legislation:  Texas, California, Utah, New York, Washington, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Connecticut.  Two cases have been filed.  In California, students paying out-of-state tuition attending California universities filed a lawsuit saying this is just an end-around and I’m still being discriminated against.  The District Court in California said, “No.”  The California Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit.  But in November of 2010 the California Supreme Court upheld this method for providing in-state tuition, and said it did not conflict with federal law.  And on June 6, 2011, the United States Supreme Court denied cert in that case.  A similar case was brought by a Missouri resident who was attending college in Kansas, saying that they were being denied the status, and it was unlawful discrimination under federal law, and that case was dismissed for lack of standing, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined cert, way back in June of 2008.

Suthers called ASSET “lawyering at its finest, or worse, depending on your perspective,” but he said it’s legal.

So next time McNulty or another Republican is on Caplis and Silverman, and he or she says how sympathetic they are toward the poor undocumented kids, but, like McNulty said, sorry, the law is the law, so nothing can be done, Caplis and Silverman should pipe up and say, yes, the law is the law, and ASSET is legal.

What are your other reasons for opposing it?

For this year, though, it’s too late to correct McNulty and open the door for him to be the compassionate man he wants to be.

Suthers doesn’t like a federal mandate unless it’s done his way

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was all over the media last week, talking about what a terrible thing it would be if the federal government forced Americans to buy health insurance.

But in an email back in 2010, Suthers told The Denver Post’s Vincent Carroll that it wasn’t the federal health insurance mandate itself that bothered him, from a legal perspective, but how the mandate was instituted.

In the email, obtained via that Colorado Opens Record Act by Colorado Ethics Watch, Suthers wrote to Carroll:

“The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it,” Suthers wrote.

There’s nothing wrong with a lawyer wanting things done in accordance with how he sees the law, but let’s be clear that Suthers’ federal incentives, if they’re devised to “mandate health insurance,” as Suthers suggests, are simply a more polite form of Obama’s Commerce-Clause mandate.

Conservative objections about alleged federal intrusion or alleged lost individual freedom would,  as a practical matter, be nearly identical if the health-insurance mandate were the result of federal incentives or federal powers under the Commerce Clause.

Either way, it’s federal action, which makes you wonder why Suthers gleefully told KNUS’ Steve Kelley in November:

“Federalism has been on life support for 30 years. We are going to decide if the Court is going to pull the plug or resuscitate it. That is what this case is all about.”

Really? How does that square with Suthers’ view that the feds could accomplish the health-care mandate with incentives?

Anyway, in his media tour last week, Suthers told KHOW’s Craig Silverman that “it shouldn’t be the federal government pushing this down our throats.” But again, this sounds hollow when you know that Suthers simply wants federal throat-pushing of a different manner.

Suthers also told Silverman that the expansion of Medicaid under Obmamcare, as a vehicle to cover uninsured people, is a state burden that’s “so coercive as to violate federalism.” Yet, he told Carroll that a health-care mandate could be achieved with state incentives. If he believes the incentives are constitutional, then you’d think he’d have to believe the Medicaid expansion would be constitutional as well.

In the broader picture, and this is the take-away from Suthers’ behind-the-scenes correspondence with Carroll, conservatives should not be fooled into thinking that Suthers, by joining the lawsuit to stop Obamacare, is taking a principled stand against an alleged loss of individual freedom. He’s clearly not. It’s just this legal pathway he dislikes.

For Suthers, it’s the form, not the substance.

Email exchange between Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, March 23, 2010

Suthers: Vince, I’m curious. I understood from my conversation with Alicia Caldwell that the editorial board doesn’t think there is anything unprecedented about Congress using the Commerce Clause to sanction economic activity and force you to buy a product or service it deems beneficial. Even the Congressional Budget Office told Congress that was unprecedented. If Congress can sanction your commercial activity and force you to buy a product, where does it end? Can you enlighten me a bit?

Carroll: I am not sure what our official position will be regarding whether forcing Americans to buy health care insurance is an unprecedented action by the federal government. As you know, though, the Post’s editorials have repeatedly backed a universal mandate, so it is extremely unlikely that the page would now argue that what it has been advocating is unconstitutional. Like many people, I too worry about what a court decision upholding the legislation would say about the reach of the commerce clause. But given recent legal precedents, I suspect the court would uphold the law.

Suthers: One last point. The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it.

“Obamacare’s” Big Week

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Our friends at the Washington Post report:

The Supreme Court began its constitutional review of the health-care overhaul law Monday with a fundamental question: Is the court barred from making such a decision at this time?

After decisions on other cases were announced, the justices started hearing 90 minutes of argument about whether an obscure 19th-century law – the Anti-Injunction Act – means that the court cannot pass judgment on the law until its key provisions go into effect in 2014.

It is the rare issue on which both sides agree: the Obama administration lawyers and those representing the states and private organization challenging the new law argue that the Supreme Court should decide the constitutional question now.

The question being argued today is just a preliminary match to the main event, of course:

At the heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the requirement that almost all Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

But first they’ve got to figure out of they can do that before someone actually has to pay that penalty. Since both sides agree they would rather not wait until 2015, we assume the Supreme Court will agree that the penalty isn’t a “tax” in the formal sense. This concession to expediency, largely by the Obama administration who could have argued that nothing can be challenged until such a penalty had actually been levied (that is, well after re-election), might have repercussions down the road–but the administration’s decision to press for a Supreme Court decision is said to reflect their confidence that the court won’t upend decades of Commerce Clause precedent to strike an admittedly massive blow against an incumbent President in an election year.

Opponents including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers very much hope they would do that–and would happily pick up the pieces of federal law later.

Safe to say, the immediate political stakes are rarely this high. A poll follows.

Do you believe (not hope, honestly believe) the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate will be overturned?

View Results

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AG Suthers supports PILLS that KILL

Nonmedical use of painkillers in Colorado is 19 percent higher than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TO ILLUSTRATE THE “EPIDEMIC” NATURE OF OPIOID ABUSE, THE CDC SAID ENOUGH OF THE PAINKILLE…RS WERE SOLD IN 2010 TO MEDICATE EVERY AMERICAN ADULT WITH A TYPICAL 5-MILLIGRAM DOSE OF HYDROCODONE EVERY FOUR HOURS FOR A MONTH.…


Will someone explain to me why the Attorney General is focused on pot when his Big Pharma campaign contributors are killing Coloradoans at an alarming rate?

Will someone explain to me why people are in jail for choosing to smoke pot to ease pain?

Will someone explain to me why we are so supportive of whatever Big Pharma makes billions of dollars on, yet we choose not to protect the public?

On radio, Suthers says legal mandate to give undocumented kids public education is bogus

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

KOA’s Mike Rosen agreed with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers Thursday that the legal decision forcing states to offer a grade-school education to undocumented children is bogus.

If you don’t think this tidbit deserves to be my first blog post of the week, you would be wrong.

The federal requirement to give a basic education to all children, regardless of immigration status, is a long-settled legal matter.

No reporter, no teacher, no chef, no mom, no dad, not even a Republican talk-radio host, should let Colorado’s top-dog lawyer trash this Supreme Court decision in favor of undocumented kids without any discussion or scrutiny whatsoever.

Too much is at stake. We’re talking about grade-school education for some of the most vulnerable children in our country. And Suthers’s unsympathetic tone on Rosen’s radio show seems to indicate that it’s not just the legal issues that bother him, but the notion that children of illegal immigrants should be offered a public-school education in the world’s richest nation.

Here’s what Suthers had to say on the topic, which came up during a discussion of  the ASSET bill, granting a tuition break to children of illegal immigrants, which Suthers called the “a complete run around” of two federal statutes.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers: For some incredible reason, in 1982, the United States Supreme Court in a case called Plyler v. Doe, I think it was a San Antonio case, said any child regardless of immigration status is eligible for a free primary or secondary education. I’ve never been able to find that in the United States Constitution, but they said it’s in the 14th Amendment.

Rosen: Yes, which was all about slavery by the way, but that’s another story.

Rosen should have Suthers back on his radio show to illuminate more details on this topic, and, meanwhile, Rosen should bring a guest on air who will defend the basic humanity — and legal reasoning — for giving undocumented children a public-school education.

Gessler Goes “Rogue Attorney”–On Attorney General Suthers?

In the little over one year that Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been in office, we’ve heard a few times–strictly in anecdotes, or on background–about real tension between Gessler and other Republicans at high levels in state government. You might remember, for example, that Gessler abandoned his plans to “moonlight” at the Hackstaff Law Group (formerly Hackstaff Gessler) just after he received an opinion on the matter from Attorney General John Suthers. That opinion, as privileged advice, hasn’t been disclosed.

It’s not a secret that, following Gessler’s fairly unexpected win in 2010, there was some concern even among Republicans that Gessler would not be able to set aside his partisan election lawyer past, and might discredit the office (and the party) by going hog-wild in his official capacity stacking the election-law deck for the GOP a la 2006’s Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. If you recall, Dennis went so appallingly over the line in last-minute rulemaking against Democrats that it embarrassed the GOP, and blown out of the water in court–all on Scott Gessler’s advice.

So yes, folks, Gessler is a potential worry for more than Democrats. And check this out:

This is a notice filed by Gessler yesterday in his case against Colorado Common Cause and Colorado Ethics Watch, requesting that he be added as recipient of filings. This is the case over whether Gessler has the authority to raise the disclosure threshold for political issue committees from $200 to $5,000, presently on appeal after Gessler’s loss.

Now, your first logical question is going to be, “why is this necessary? Isn’t he the defendant?”

And of course, yes, Scott Gessler is already the defendant in this case. But Gessler is represented in this case, as with others, by the Colorado Attorney General’s office. Gessler has access to all the filings in these cases, but they are communicated to him through Attorney General John Suthers’ office. And that’s what makes this filing very curious to us.

There are several possibilities, and we want to be absolutely clear that some are benign–and some are not. Gessler may simply want to see the filings made in this case in real-time. But that could mean Gessler doesn’t think he’s getting information fast enough through Attorney General Suthers’ office. And if Gessler were to decide he doesn’t like how the AG is representing him? Well, he’s the GOP’s crack election lawyer, remember?

This is something you would logically do if you’re going to represent yourself, isn’t it?

There’s nothing we can say beyond presenting this range of possibilities explaining what everyone we’ve talked to agrees is an unusual move by Gessler–obviously, we’re not mind readers, and we’re not going to jump to any possible conclusions without evidence. But if this does become more significant, we’ll be reminding you that you heard it here first.

Doug Bruce Sentenced: 6 Years Probation For Tax Evasion

UPDATE #2: Full press release from the Attorney General’s office after the jump. We’ll take odds on Bruce violating his probation at some point, given his history of refusing to turn over records and this line from the press release:

As part of his probation, Bruce will have to meet 20 additional conditions including, making his computer files, state and federal tax returns, banks accounts, and every real estate or other financial transaction open to the probation department.


UPDATE: Tweets Joe Hanel of the Durango Herald, Doug Bruce to the pokey after all–sentenced to 180 days total on the tax evasion and influencing a public servant charges.


Details coming shortly.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that a Denver judge has sentenced Colorado Springs resident Douglas Bruce (DOB: 8/26/1949) to 180 days in the Denver County Jail and a six-year probation sentence for tax evasion during the 2005, 2006 and 2007 tax years. As part of his probation, Bruce will have to meet 20 additional conditions including, making his computer files, state and federal tax returns, banks accounts, and every real estate or other financial transaction open to the probation department.

A Denver jury convicted Bruce of three felonies and one misdemeanor in December 2011.

Bruce’s sentence stems from a four-count indictment, filed in April 2011, that charged Bruce in the tax-evasion case. Bruce attempted to evade his tax responsibilities by funneling his income into the coffers of Active Citizens Together, a nonprofit he created in 2001, and failed to report such income to the Department of Revenue. For example, Bruce deposited $2 million in an account for Active Citizens Together. This account earned interest in the amount of $38,000 in 2005, $55,000 in 2006, and $85,000 in 2007, which Bruce failed to report to state and federal taxing authorities as income. During those time periods, Bruce used these funds as his own.

Bruce also was indicted for filing a false tax return on income he earned during the 2005 tax year and failing to file a tax return concerning income he earned during the 2006 and 2007 tax years.

Bruce will be required, as part of his sentence, to pay his back taxes and the cost of his prosecution.

Looper/Stephens Primary Already Getting Nasty

UPDATE: Majority Leader Amy Stephens fires back today with a lengthy polemical release titled “Marsha’s Mandate is Health Care Hypocrisy.” Full text after the jump:

Question: Why is Marsha Looper attacking Amy Stephens?

Answer: It’s the best way to hide Marsha Looper’s Health Care Mandate and an inconsistent conservative record.


The mail has already begun in what promises to be a bitter primary fight between Republican Reps. Marsha Looper and Amy Stephens. You might recall Stephens as one of the GOP’s most far-right members, though she apparently vacated that title permanently by drawing the ire of the Tea Party over her support for health care reform legislation that has since been dubbed “AmyCare.”

John Schroyer of the Colorado Springs Gazette has the scoop on Looper’s first mail piece bashing Stephens for her health care legislation support, and it’s a doozy. Click to see the PDF of the piece.

Marsha Looper’s Misleading Attacks Hide Looper’s Real Record

Marsha Looper’s Insurance Mandate is Health Care Hypocrisy

For Immediate Release

January 24, 2012  

Monument, CO – Question: Why is Marsha Looper attacking Amy Stephens?

Answer: It’s the best way to hide Marsha Looper’s Health Care Mandate and an inconsistent conservative record.

Marsha Looper’s Mandate is Health Care Hypocrisy

It’s amazing that Marsha Looper would attack Amy Stephens’ for passing a free-market health care solution-an idea developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation (Heritage Fact Sheet)-when Marsha Looper voted for Centennial Care Choices (SB08-217), a bill that paved the way for:

An Individual Mandate in Colorado that would have forced people to buy health insurance;

Increased Spending by subsidizing health insurance up to 300% of the poverty level, which means a family of four making $67,050 would have other taxpayers subsidizing their health coverage (;

Creating a New Tax to force people to comply and help pay for it.

Amy Stephens opposed Centennial Care Choices because it opened the door for an individual mandate, significantly increased spending and subsidies, and required a tax hike to be implemented.

The Denver Post’s editorial page endorsed Marsha’s Mandate saying, “This is a study with a difference, aimed at providing the foundation for universal health care coverage in 2010,” (Editorial, “Health care bill should be OK’d,” The Denver Post, 4/10/08).

The Denver Post went on to say that under Centennial Care Choices, “Failure to purchase such insurance could subject residents to a penalty on their state income tax. The state would subsidize poor people.”

The Post continued, “SB 217 [Marsha’s Mandate] would thus work well in tandem with federal efforts to expand health care coverage, should they come. Democrat Hillary Clinton has recommended a Massachusetts-style initiative much like the program envisioned by SB 217,” (Editorial, “Health care bill should be OK’d,” The Denver Post, 4/10/08).

“Marsha Looper’s mandate is health care hypcocrisy,” said campaign spokesman, Dustin Olson.

“On one hand, Amy Stephens fought to opt Colorado OUT of Obamacare (HB11-1273) and passed a free-market health care solution that asserts our state rights, an idea developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation-the same group Rush Limbaugh promotes on his show,”

“On the other hand, Marsha Looper voted for Centennial Care Choices, which paved the way for an individual mandate, higher spending, and a tax hike to enforce it,” continued Olson.

“Amy Stephens is a fighter and has every right to stand up to Marsha Looper’s misleading and hypocritical attacks,” Olson concluded.  

In 2008, the Colorado Union of Taxpayers said of Centennial Care Choices:

“Colorado does not need a heavy handed bureaucratic program which enslaves its citizens and unduly burdens its economy. Rather the state should move to the freedom of more choices in health care,” which is one of the reasons Marsha Looper had a 48% CUT rating that year-the lowest rating ever for either candidate in the race (“2008 Report” Colorado Union of Taxpayers).

Centennial Care Choices “ties Colorado citizens to the tracks of the compulsory insurance locomotive,” said policy analyst Brian Schwartz in a blog post on Patient Power Now (Brian Schwartz, “Response to Moe Keller on health insurance,”  

Writing an opinion piece for the Independence Institute and the Colorado Daily, Brian Schwartz adds:

“Even if the single-payer bill does not pass, proposing it could make an equally bad policy seem more “reasonable”: mandatory insurance. It’s law in Massachusetts, and it has gained traction in Colorado through the 208 Commission and Senate Bill 08-217,” (Brian Schwartz, “Politicians Cannot “Guarantee” Health Care,” The Colorado Daily, 3/8/09 and The Independence Institute, 3/11/09 ).

Linda Gorman of the Independence Institute compared Centennial Care Choices to the failing Massachusetts health care plan and pointed out the waste created by Centennial Care Choices:    

“It [Centennial Care Choices] creates yet another Commission to study raising Colorado health care costs by importing the failing Massachusetts health care reform plan. According to the revised April 26th fiscal impact statement accompanying the bill, this Commission will cost taxpayers at least $519,300 over the next two years,”(Linda Gorman, “Legislative Business As Usual: Take Money from Roads to Increase Health Care Costs,” The Independence Institute, 5/8/08).

An Individual Mandate is at the Center of the Lawsuit Against Obamacare

It is highly hypocritical to attack Amy Stephens’ free-market health care solution when  Marsha Looper voted for Centennial Care Choices and its option for an individual mandate–a policy that is at the center of the lawsuit against Obamacare.

As a plaintiff and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit against Obamacare, Attorney General John Suthers and the National Federation of Independent Business-the largest organization representing small businesses in the country-are two of the key players taking on Obamacare.

John Suthers Endorsed Amy Stephens & NFIB Named Stephens “Guardian of Small Business”

John Suthers has endorsed Amy Stephens for re-election, saying “Amy Stephens has stood beside me in defending the interests of Colorado and opposing Obamacare.”

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) named Amy Stephens a “Guardian of Small Business” for her work to protect and preserve the future of free enterprise and small business.

Ultimately, for most voters Marsha Looper’s vote for Centennial Care Choices that allows for an individual mandate is inconsistent at best and misleading at worst–a trait seen all too often in the typical incumbent politician.

For press inquiries, please contact Dustin Olson at (888) 414-1805. The following Fact Sheet will provide more background and research.  





The Legislation As Passed Acknowledges And Allows For The State To Impose Health Care Mandates On All Coloradans:


(“Senate Bill 217,” Colorado General Assembly,

The Centennial Care Choices Panel Report Concluded That An “Individual Mandate” Including “Enforcement Through Tax Penalties” Would Be Necessary In Order For Centennial Care Choices To Work:

“The Report Also Recommended Requiring All Coloradans To Obtain Insurance In Order For Centennial Care Choices To Work.”  

(Bob Mook, “Now May Not Be The Time To Subsidize Health Coverage,” Denver Business Journal, 4/2/09)

According To The Panel’s Report The Program Would Not Be Affordable Without An Individual Mandate:

“Proposed plans have attractive primary and preventive benefits; however, for the lowest income uninsured residents of our state, none of the VBPs (Value-Benefit Plan) would be affordable without an individual mandate, guaranteed issue requirements and a significant state subsidy.”  

(“Centennial Care Choices Final Report,” Department Of Health Care And Financing,, 3/2/09)

The Panel Concluded That The Next Step Would Be To Explore And Prepare To Implement An Individual Mandate: “1. Explore what a mandate means and how to implement it When economic conditions allow for provision of subsidies, considerations about how to implement the accompanying individual mandate should be fully researched and ready to implement.”  

(“Centennial Care Choices Final Report,” Department Of Health Care And Financing,, 3/2/09)


In Order For The Program To Work, Subsidies For Health Insurance Would Be Needed For Families That Make Up To 300% Of The Poverty Level; Requiring Funding From Multiple Revenue Sources:

The Bill Asserts That The State Of Colorado Should Work Toward Providing Insurance By “Developing A Balanced Partnership Between Private And Public Sectors.”  

(“Senate Bill 217,” Colorado General Assembly,

To which the Colorado Union of Taxpayers said, “It acknowledges that the State lacks the funds for such a program of universal coverage, so it looks for Federal funds as well as public/private partnerships, health care providers, and any one else under the sun for its conception.”  

(“2008 Report,” Colorado Union of Taxpayers, 2008)

“The Proposal, Known As Centennial Care Choices, Is Aimed At Coloradans Who Earn Too Much To Receive Medicaid But Who Aren’t Covered By Private Insurance.”

(Bob Mook, “Now May Not Be The Time To Subsidize Health Coverage,” Denver Business Journal, 4/2/09)

“The Report, Prepared By The Centennial Care Choices Panel, The Department Of Health Care Policy And Financing And The Colorado Department Of Regulatory Agencies, Said The State Would Need To Fund The Vast Majority – If Not All – Of Premium Costs To Encourage Enrollment In The Plans For People With Incomes Under 300 Percent Of The Federal Poverty Level.”  

(Bob Mook, “Now May Not Be The Time To Subsidize Health Coverage,” Denver Business Journal, 4/2/09)

In 2011, 300% of Poverty Level was $67,050 for a family of four (


The Legislation As Passed Acknowledges That If An Individual Mandate Is Imposed A Change The State Tax Laws Will Be Needed For Enforcement:


(“Senate Bill 217,” Colorado General Assembly,

In 2009, The Centennial Care Choices Panel Found That The Program Would Not Be Viable Without Tax Penalties:

“Enforcement is necessary to achieve gains in coverage under an individual mandate, but it is also important as a matter of fairness to the overwhelming majority of those who already have coverage or who voluntarily comply.”  

(“Centennial Care Choices Final Report,” Department Of Health Card And Financing,, 3/2/09)


AG’s Lobato Appeal Pits Positive Rights Against Negative Rights

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

I recently opined that Judge Rappaport’s Lobato ruling was a yawner. I still think the long run outcome and analysis will demonstrate that it is a yawner, especially given the storied history of education finance litigation nationally. Nevertheless, elements of this litigation hit upon an utterly fascinating question of law, especially after Attorney General John Suthers’ appeal. In particular, how do positive rights rank against negative rights? And, does there exist a hierarchy among Colorado’s constitutional guarantees?

AG Suthers’ appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court specifically targets Judge Rappaport’s decision to exclude evidence of “the General Assembly’s non-educational constitutional mandates and appropriations, as well as TABOR’s revenue restrictions.” His appeal questions Judge Rappaport’s order to exclude this evidence because of her determination that “while fiscal pressure [i.e., TABOR, etc.] may explain why students’ rights have been violated, it has no bearing on the issue whether  students’ rights have been violated.”

With his appeal, the Attorney General asks the Supreme Court to pit a positive right against a negative right: a state constitutional guarantee to a “thorough and uniform” system of public schools (positive right) versus TABOR, i.e., the right against excessive state taxation (negative right). Here, it is worth noting that the positive right in question accrues generally to society, while the negative right protects individuals against taxation above a specified limit. (Note: I focus here on TABOR as opposed to the other “non-educational constitutional mandates” because in the absence of TABOR many of these mandates would become moot.)

So, what right trumps in this instance? Will the Supreme Court consider “why” and not just “whether” students’ rights have been violated? If so, what hierarchy of rights will it choose?

I would argue that because of public education’s broad societal benefits that accrue to all Coloradans young and old, taxpaying and non-taxpaying alike, a legal determination should imbue this powerfully positive right with greater heft than the right to save a few dollars or cents on a tax bill.

The Colorado Pols Politico of the Year for 2011

We like to spread out our end-of-year retrospectives so that 2012 gets a little reflection time. It is with that in mind that we present the awards for Colorado’s Top Politico (and Worst Politico for 2011, as well a look at who had a good and bad year in the last full year of human existence.

Read on, er, readers…

COLORADO’S TOP POLITICO, 2011: Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs)

For possessing the political and policy chomps to do what made sense while most of his Republican colleagues cowered indecisively in fear of the Tea Party, Rep. Massey is our Colorado Politician of the Year for 2011.

The Poncha Springs Republican took on a stronger leadership role in 2011 and almost singlehandedly helped salvage whatever is left of the GOP “brand” in the state legislature. As Chair of the House Education Committee, Massey received bipartisan kudos for his efforts to protect $67 million for public education while other Republican figureheads blathered on uselessly about how much they cared about our schools. Massey correctly understands the difference between what you believe and what you can reasonably accomplish,  but that doesn’t mean he shies away from voicing his opinion; he told the Pueblo Chieftain that funding education should be a priority over preserving the Senior Homestead Extension, a refreshingly blunt position compared to colleagues who complain about everything but make decisions about nothing.  

Massey’s moderate conservatism likely hasn’t endeared him to right-wing Republicans, but much like former Republican Rep. Don Marostica, Massey legitimately seems interested in legislating as opposed to just tossing grenades from January through May. If Republicans had more elected officials like Massey, they’d be much better positioned to win future statewide races than they are today.

Honorable Mention: House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). When Rep. Sal Pace stepped down as the Democrats’ leader in November in order to focus on his Congressional run, Ferrandino was unanimously elected as the new House Minority Leader. If Democrats can re-take the House in 2012 – a distinct possibility given favorable reapportionment numbers – Ferrandino will likely become Colorado’s first openly gay Speaker of the House.

COLORADO’S WORST POLITICO, 2011: Secretary of State Scott Gessler

It’s quite possible that this “award” could end up being permanently named for Gessler, who isn’t likely to be much less of a disaster in 2012 than he was in 2011. Gessler has been WTF-awful since he was first elected in November 2010, using what has historically been a benign position to cause all sorts of unnecessary problems all across the state. Just how has Gessler erred? Let us count the ways:

  • Unilaterally (and illegally) attempting to change a variety of campaign finance rules. Nonpartisan officials wasted little time rejected Gessler’s efforts, and the Colorado legislature will have to clean up his mess in January.
  • Telling Congress and anyone else who would listen that Colorado has a huge problem with illegal immigrants casting ballots, despite literally no evidence to support his claims. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, a Republican, notable asked what the hell Gessler was talking about. Gessler later claimed that his charges were not intended to be factual, despite, you know, telling Congress all about it.
  • Making wildly-irresponsible claims of voter fraud that he still has yet to back up. On the few times he has been directly challenged on his assertions, Gessler just shrugs and says things like “I don’t know, it might be fraud.…
  • Gessler sued the City of Denver in a blatant attempt to reduce voter turnout because he didn’t like so many mail ballots being delivered. Pueblo County eventually joined the lawsuit on behalf of Denver (Pueblo County’s Attorney said that Gessler’s interpretation of the law was just “plain wrong”) and numerous other counties ignored Gessler’s declarations in favor of actually trying to encourage Democracy.
  • Infamously agreeing to take part in a fundraiser for the Larimer County Republican Party to help them pay off debts incurred for campaign finance violations that are the purview of the Secretary of State’s office. Gessler’s help included agreeing to sit in a dunk tank, a plan that organizers eventually abandoned after a slew of negative press. What made this ethical lapse even more disgusting was that Gessler had earlier decided to ignore what could (and should) have been hundreds  of thousands of dollars in fines incurred by the Larimer GOP in 2010.
  • Lobbying the Colorado legislature to give him authority to purge the Colorado voter rolls as he sees fit. Legislators told him to get bent.
  • Publicly stating that he is in office to further the conservative viewpoint, which came as news to voters who thought they had elected him to oversee elections and business filings in Colorado.
  • Whining that his new job as Secretary of State didn’t pay enough ($68,500?) and asking if he could moonlight for his old law firm. Even fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers couldn’t figure out a way that Gessler could possibly justify a clearly conflicting second job.

    Dishonorable Mention: Speaker of the House Frank McNulty. Whether it was helping to completely bungle reapportionment for Republicans or doing little to fulfill Tea Party promises, McNulty proved incapable of leading the GOP caucus in the State House. His problems with The Homestead Exemption and public school funding are a prime example of how he’s stuck between reality and rabid conservatism with no game plan for finding a way out in 2012. McNulty will have a hard time keeping his one-seat majority in the House, and even if he does, he can probably expect a challenge for the Speaker’s role.


  • Democratic election law attorneys. Democrats ran embarrassing circles around Republicans at every step of the reapportionment and redistricting process. The GOP legal strategy of relying on an argument of “minimal disruption” was incredibly foolish, sure, but the Democrats did an excellent job of keeping Republicans stuck in their logic corner. Both reapportionment and redistricting created advantages for Democrats overall, which will be incredibly important over the next 10 years.
  • Republican Congressman Cory Gardner. The freshman congressman had his bumps in 2011 (such as his ill-explained support of the Ryan Plan), but the year couldn’t have ended much better for Gardner. While redistricting made re-election tougher for fellow Republicans Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, adjustments to the boundaries of CD-4 did nothing to prevent Gardner from what should be a relatively easy re-election in 2012.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper. While Democrats have been less than thrilled with Hickenlooper’s first year as CEO of Colorado, he finished 2011 as the most popular governor in the country and was getting national press as a potential Presidential candidate in 2016. His term as governor won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but the former Denver Mayor had a pretty stress-free 2011.

  • Republican Congressman Mike Coffman. His congressional district lines moved so much that they are now as unrecognizable as a botched plastic surgery patient. Coffman went from representing a safe Republican seat in 2010 to what will be one of the most competitive races in the country in 2012. That would be enough to make 2011 a bad year for any politician, but Coffman had numerous other problems that will only be exacerbated by his new district makeup. He may have said more controversial (and unnecessarily-so) statements in 2011 than any other Colorado politico, from calling Social Security “A Ponzi Scheme” and famously criticizing the Peace Corps to his weird efforts to repeal parts of the Voting Rights Act and his ideas for essentially destroying Medicare. Coffman alienated so many different constituencies in 2011 that perhaps he’s almost (almost) better off with an entirely new set of voters.

    And lest we forget, the icing on the cake for Coffman’s 2011: He agreed to become Colorado Chair of the Presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making the announcement right as Perry’s campaign was cratering.

  • Incumbent legislators. The Holidays were a mixed bag for a dozen incumbent legislators who were drawn into districts with fellow incumbents of the same party, leaving them with the choice of a difficult primary or walking away from their seat altogether. Many legislators chose the latter, but there will be a couple of heated battles in 2012 as a result of reapportionment.
  • Rich Coolidge, Spokesman for Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Coolidge held on to his job in the SOS office after also serving under Democrat Bernie Buescher. We used to think well of Coolidge, who was helpful and humorous during the 2010 election season, but in 2011 he tossed all credibility out the window. He flat out refuses to respond to critics, no doubt at the wishes of his boss; while this may help him keep his current job, it won’t do much to help his future employment opportunities.
  • State To Appeal Lobato vs. Colorado Loss

    A fully expected development, given the enormous fiscal implications of the decision against the state regarding its constitutional obligation to provide a “thorough and uniform” public education system in the Lobato vs. Colorado suit. From a press release this morning:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper released this statement today about the Lobato v. Colorado court case:

    “It is clear after closely reviewing the judge’s decision in Lobato v. Colorado and consulting with Attorney General John Suthers that a final resolution of the constitutional and legal issues involved in the case require an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

    “The judge’s decision provided little practical guidance on how the state should fund a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education. Moreover, while the judge focused on the inadequacy of state funding, she did not reconcile this issue with other very relevant provisions of the Constitution, including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23.

    “There are more appropriate venues for a vigorous and informed public debate about the state’s spending priorities. We look forward to a swift decision in this case so the people of Colorado and their elected representatives can participate in the school funding conversation.”