Cory Gardner Delivers Turd (As Promised!)

Suppose someone promised you that in June 2016, they would come to your house and kick you in the shins.

Now suppose it is June 2016, and this same person has just kicked you in the shins. Would you be upset over your newly-bruised legs, or would you congratulate that person for doing what they said they were going to do one year earlier? We like it when people keep promises, in part because it helps to validate our opinion of that person, but the contents of the promise are still important. Should we still applaud someone for keeping a shitty promise?

Enter Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), who introduced legislation today that he first outlined during the 2014 Senate race. As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post explains:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner today made good on his promise to push for over-the-counter contraceptives, introducing legislation to encourage drug manufacturers of “routine-use contraceptives” to file an application with the FDA to sell their products over the counter.

The Yuma Republican first brought up the idea last year in an opinion piece published in The Denver Post. At the time, the congressman was trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat…

…Planned Parenthood Votes claimed at the time that Gardner’s over-the-counter proposal actually took away coverage for birth control. When Democrats questioned Gardner on his positions about women and reproductive rights, he would point to his op-ed and say he didn’t want to place restrictions on contraceptives but expand access to them. But critics noted he still sponsored the federal Life Begins at Conception Act, which would ban common forms of birth control and abortion.

Planned Parenthood was not impressed with Gardner’s idea in 2014, and they’re still not happy about it. In a press release, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, had this to say:

“This bill is a sham and an insult to women. It would give women fewer birth control options and force women to pay twice for their birth control.”

Opposition to Gardner’s bill from the left has always been about the specific proposal, and not about agreement or disagreement with increasing access to birth control. Gardner’s bill would actually end up making contraception less available and affordable for women by making it too expensive: In order to make more options available over-the-counter, the bill first removes the requirement for insurance to cover birth control. Under Gardner’s bill, you might not need a prescription for certain contraceptives — you just won’t be able to afford them. Problem, not solved.

But hey, he did what he said he would do! 

Hooray, or something.

Is Michael Bennet part of the New Dem/Elizabeth Warren strike team?

I sure hope our Senior Senator, the Esteemed Michael Bennet, isn't part of this bull:

Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.


The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she's a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it's going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

This is truly laughable. Or cryable.

And if the abject failure of this continued Democratic Triangulation away from its own natural base is not clear to any of those people, then their competence to address politics in any form is reaching nil.

Gabe Horwitz of centrist Third Way told The Hill, “In the last election, Democrats, as a party, offered a message of fairness. Voters responded, and they responded really negatively … Democrats offered fairness, and voters wanted prosperity and growth.”

Actually, Gabe, most analyses said the Democratic message wasn't. The biggest policy gains that would've helped our losing candidates were ignored and the president who ushered them in was given no credit. A prime example of the failure of Third Way's strategy is our own Mark Udall.

“For Colorado, there are some different dynamics in place. We have a fast-growing state, we have growing Latino, millennials and youth populations. That, together with the right message, should help our nominee. At the same time we are going to be fully cognizant that we have got to appeal to middle-class, working-class voters, and we can’t allow Republicans to increase their share of the vote there. The message has been a little challenging. We really need to be talking about where the two parties are different and focus on the economy in terms of job creation and pocket-book issues.”

This is where Warren comes in, from the Digby post:

The Hill notes that the NDC's policy proposal is aimed at pushing back against a progressive agenda announced last week by Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The Facebook video of Warren discussing the plan and hammering the unfairness of the current economy for hard-working Americans has received just short of 2 million views.

Hey, that's what Udall and Bennet did in 2010.

Colorado’s two freshman senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, are part of a self-described centrist group of 15 Democrats meeting regularly “seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill,” according to an account in Roll Call.

The group has a “shared commitment to pursue moderate, mainstream and fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, and energy policy,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the group.

(I should start getting royalties from that link any day.)

Those results should also speak for themselves. They succeeded in their own short-sighted goal, hamstrung the president from the time he took his first oath, and guaranteed that our economy would be moribund for the next 8 years. Huzzah!

Michael Bennet has remained eerily quiet this whole time, despite his term ending soon and the new campaign beginning – if only in its planning stage. Though he did make sure to deflect the blame for his horrible shot at DSCC Strategist-in-Chief.

And yet the New Democrats, Third Way-ers and Blue Dogs persist, despite red flags everywhere.

Warren speaks to kitchen-table issues in plain English working people understand.

My wife spoke last month with a Fox News-watching brother of a friend. He's white, registered unaffiliated, disenchanted with both parties, and didn't bother to vote in the 2014 mid-terms. Neither party has done anything for the working man for 40 years, he told her. Yet he liked "that woman" who's taking on the big banks. He couldn't name her, but thought it a miracle that she's still alive.

(That's Warren he's talking about.-ed.)

He's a conservative from North Carolina, where Third Way's Kay Hagan — running an Obama-style field campaign, but selling herself as the "most moderate" senator — narrowly lost her U.S. Senate seat to "Typhoid Thom" Tillis.

Centrist Democrats, don't be too proud of that political battle station you're constructing.

Word to the wise. And to the blinkered centrists who think Bipartisanship is the solution and that Republicans will start acting rationally any time soon and can be counted on to complete a triangle of equal policy and political dimensions.


Top 10 Stories of 2014: The Final Four

We are finishing up our Top 10 Stories of 2014 by posting the final four all at once.

As we realized while writing the first six entries, there isn’t much that we can say about the biggest stories of 2014 that hasn’t already been written in this space. With 2015 already upon us, it’s time to close this series out.

With that, we give you the entire list of our Top 10 Stories of 2014. Follow the links below for the first six entries, or follow the jump to read the final four in its entirety.

#10: Colorado’s Two-Headed Electorate
#9: Unfinished Business in Jefferson County
#8: Cory Gardner Runs for U.S. Senate
#7: Frackapalooza!
#6: Colorado GOP Goes WTF
#5: So Much for Those Recalls
#4: Republicans Battle Each Other But Take Control of State Senate (below)
#3: Coffman Crushes Romanoff in CD-6 (below)
#2: Hick Finds His Groove, and Another Bad Loss for Beauprez (below)
#1: Gardner Wins Senate Seat, Ending Long Career for Mark Udall (below)



Top 10 Stories of 2014: Cory Gardner Runs for U.S. Senate (#8)

Republican Cory Gardner

Next month Republican Cory Gardner will be sworn-in as Colorado's newest U.S. Senator. This story is not about that.

In fact, let's forget about the outcome of the 2014 Election altogether (at least for the purposes of the words that follow). Regardless of what happened in November, one of the biggest political stories in Colorado in 2014 was Gardner's surprise decision to jump into a Senate race that Republicans had no hope of winning against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner's candidacy for Senate changed the entire election cycle and re-aligned the Republican ticket up and down the ballot, for better or worse. This is not to downplay the significance of Gardner's victory in November; no matter how the results shook out, Gardner's decision to run for U.S. Senate was important and impactful enough on its own to warrant a place in our Top 10 Stories of 2014.

It was late February when Gardner announced his Senate run, and within a matter of weeks he had already cleared a crowded field of candidates on the Republican side. That the seas parted so easily for Gardner (with some holdout from Owen Hill) is testament to the fact that he was clearly the best candidate Republicans could find in 2014. But it wasn't just that Gardner was an appealing candidate on his own; like being the most attractive person in a small room, Gardner was an exciting choice for Republicans who were otherwise stuck with an historically-bad field of candidates. It's easy to forget today just how bad things looked for the GOP one year ago.

Rep. Amy Stephens and Sen. Owen Hill.

Amy Stephens and Owen Hill were not so good at running for U.S. Senate.

The three top GOP contenders for Senate (Ken Buck, Amy Stephens, and Owen Hill) finished the Q4 2013 fundraising period by raising about $200,000…combined. Buck, Stephens, and Hill ended up posting 3 of the 10 worst fundraising quarters in Colorado since 2000. To put these numbers in perspective, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman spent more money in Q4 than the three top Republican Senate candidates managed to bring in the door (here's the chart if you want the details). Dig a little deeper, however, and the numbers got much worse; including outstanding loans and debts, Stephens actually finished 2013 with a negative balance of $11,000 (Gardner even offered to help pay off Stephens' debts as part of the deal to get her to drop out).

Gardner wasn't just the best chance that Republicans had in 2014 — he was really the only option. Gardner's sketchy record on policy issues was irrelevant when it was clear that he was the only GOP candidate who could rub two nickels together. Republicans would have eventually raised money for whomever emerged from the June Primary, but Gardner was the only candidate who could raise enough money to support a real statewide field effort for the GOP — something which would benefit every other race down the ballot. Even if Gardner had failed to win the Senate race, his candidacy was critical for Republicans in general; it's probably fair to say that Republicans could not have taken control of the State Senate without Gardner's cherubic mug churning out both dollars and voters. Resources aside, Gardner's candidacy also gave Republicans a feeling of confidence that they hadn't felt since former Gov. Bill Owens was coasting to an easy re-election victory in 2002.

Gardner's candidacy also shifted the priorities of Colorado Republicans. Bob Beauprez would probably not have been the GOP nominee for Governor if not for his ability to partially self-fund a challenge to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper; Republicans certainly wanted to defeat the incumbent Governor, but it was more important for Beauprez's campaign to support — or at least, not harm — Gardner's bid for Senate. There are many reasons that Ken Buck lost his 2010 Senate race against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet, and the absurd candidacy of Republican Dan Maes for Governor sits near the top of that list. With Gardner in the race for Senate, Republicans felt a new urgency to make sure that Tom Tancredo was not their nominee for Governor, lest his well-known and divisive positions poison the electorate. At times, Beauprez's campaign for Governor almost became an afterthought, with the outcome justifying the strategic approach; Colorado Republicans would take a Gardner win and a Beauprez loss 10 out of 10 times.

Finally, Gardner's Senate candidacy made room for other prominent Republicans in 2014. Gardner backed Buck to replace him in CD-4, and the GOP's erstwhile Senate "frontrunner" had little trouble winning a crowded Primary to win a seat that was virtually impossible for Democrats to challenge in a General Election. After the November election, Buck was voted by his peers as the "President" of the freshman class of Republican Members of Congress, which should only benefit other Colorado Republicans. Buck also went on to hire GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Brophy as his Chief of Staff, giving the former State Senator someplace to land within the Republican infrastructure.

Cory Gardner's ascension to the U.S. Senate is the biggest political story in Colorado in 2014 (spoiler alert). That he decided to run for Senate at all is a Top 10 story in itself.

Top 10 Stories of 2014: Unfinished Business in Jefferson County (#9)

The Taj.

The Taj.

Jefferson County, Colorado has long been considered a bellwether–for the state of Colorado, and increasingly as a place where national political trends can be seen in action contemporaneous to or before they take hold elsewhere. The result in Jefferson County has predicted the winner in Colorado statewide races for long enough that the rule of "as Jefferson County goes, so goes Colorado" has become axiomatic for politicos in this state.

This year, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner narrowly defied this rule, losing Jefferson County by under 1,000 votes but winning the election statewide. The reasons for this have more to do with dynamics across Colorado that hurt Democrats, a hardening of partisan battle lines that robbed Mark Udall of swing independent and moderate Republican votes other Democrats in recent elections have won over. Looking at Udall's performance compared to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who carried Jefferson County and the state by a much greater margin than Gardner, there's a case to be made that Udall's collapse in September and October was more attributable to Colorado voters rejecting him personally–or at least his campaign's heavy focus on abortion–than Democrats generally.

In Jefferson County, the 2014 elections took place against the backdrop of major unplanned controversy created by a new conservative school board majority. The 2013 election's big story in Colorado was the absolute slaughter at the polls of Amendment 66, an education tax increase. Amendment 66, in turn, turned out conservative voters all over the state, including in Jefferson County where three hard-right conservatives were elected by a landslide to form the new majority on the Jeffco's five-seat school board.

The new Jeffco school immediately set to work on a sweeping, highly politicized agenda of conservative reform proposals. After butting heads with the teacher's union over pay issues, the new board pushed through the hiring of a new superintendent from Douglas County–the same far-right dominated union-busting school district presently mired in court battles over their insistence funding religious schools that the new school board promised would not be their "model" for "reforming" Jefferson County Public Schools.


Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

In September, the conflict in Jefferson County went national–in fact international–when word surfaced of a proposal from board member Julie Williams to review the district's AP history curriculum to ensure that it "promotes citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respects for authority and respect for individual rights, [does] not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and presents "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." Williams is the sister-in-law of Sen.-elect Tim Neville, one of the most conservative incoming (and former) members of the Colorado legislature. With the power of the new majority, some of the fringiest actors in Colorado politics stood ready to impose their wacky will on one of the state's highest-performing public school districts.

As anyone who followed this story knows, thousands of students from across Jefferson County stormed out of class in massive and well-organized demonstrations against Williams' curriculum review proposal. At one point, the protests stretched for 22 miles along Wadsworth Boulevard, Jeffco's busiest surface street. Ultimately a weakened version of the curriculum review proposal was approved by the board without Williams incendiary language, but still one that gives Williams' political allies lots of board-sanctioned ability to make trouble. In the meantime, students and teachers are talking about the daunting logistics of recalling the new board majority, with a newfound understanding of the threat they represent.

So what does this mean for politics in Colorado's "political bellwether" county? It means something, for sure–but the full impact of the battle over public education in Jefferson County was not felt in 2014. This is not to say that Democrats didn't do their damndest to link the antics of the new school board with Republican candidates on the ballot–we documented numerous examples of hard-hitting TV spots and mailers linking Julie Williams to Neville, Laura Waters Woods, Tony Sanchez, Larry Queen, and others. It's likely that those ads made a difference, even if Neville and Waters Woods still won their races. It's clear that the prospect of having these protests turned against Republican candidates in Jeffco frightened GOP strategists at any rate, who responded with mailers intending to co-opt the protesters' message that were so desperate and shameless they left jaws agape.

In the end, 2014 was a year when the midterm political background noise may have helped conceal the long-term damage being done to conservatives in Jefferson County. In the worst electoral climate for Democrats in Colorado in many elections, Democrats actually did pretty well, enough to where Jefferson County if anything looks like less of a bellwether this election. If one bets that 2016 will not be the perfect storm for Democrats that 2014 was, and we believe that's a good bet, then key Jeffco races in 2016, like Sen.-elect Waters Woods in SD-19, would seem to be very ripe for flipping back to Democratic control. As for those thousands of student protesters? Many of them will be voters by 2016, at least some helped along by Colorado's new law allowing 16 year olds to pre-register to vote. Whether or not the conservative school board majority can be recalled is one question–but we expect their actions to ripple negatively for Jeffco Republicans for years to come regardless.

Bottom line: the role of Jefferson County may grow to something more than a bellwether in the coming years. As the state's fourth largest county by population, this is an electorate with enough heft to swing elections in Colorado–and this year, it's a county that (albeit narrowly) bucked the trend. That's not the same thing as a bellwether exactly, but in 2016, Democrats may have reason to celebrate Jeffco's bluer trajectory.

Top 10 Stories of 2014: Colorado’s Two-Headed Electorate (#10)

How many fingers am I holding up?

Today we kick off our annual list of the "Top 10 Stories of the Year" in Colorado politics. We start, appropriately, with #10: Colorado's Two-Headed Electorate.


The 2014 Election was unlike the 2012 Election in Colorado.

You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to have come to that conclusion, but the 2014 Election did indeed confirm a suspicion that arose following the results of 2012: There are two distinct electorates in Colorado.

In 2010 and 2014, Colorado experienced similar results to states around the country as part of a Republican “wave” election (though you can argue that 2014 wasn’t really a wave year, but that’s another subject for another time). In fact, Colorado post-election 2014 looks incredibly similar if not for the collapse of Republican Ken Buck’s Senate campaign in the closing weeks of 2010. This might be understandable as a trend if we ignored Presidential election years, but there’s no question that Democrats were stronger at the polls in 2008 and 2012.

It is not a groundbreaking theory to suggest that Colorado has two different electorates that vary from Presidential to mid-term election years, but in 2014 we saw the extension of a very distinct pattern in Colorado that dates back to President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Perhaps this pattern will break in 2016 with a different group of Presidential candidates, or perhaps this is a new modern reality in American politics. Everything we’ve seen suggests the latter. Here's why:


Expert Analysis: What Happened in Colorado in 2014?

The good folks at Hilltop Public Solutions, one of the leading Democratic-aligned political consultant firms in Colorado with offices across the nation, have put together a fascinating presentation analyzing the results of the 2014 elections in Colorado. We had the opportunity to view their presentation this week, and obtained permission to use their slides and data in a post. We doubt we can explain in a blog post as well as Craig Hughes and team can tell the story, but we'll try to give readers a sense of their conclusions. This is largely a data-driven explanation, but to be clear, it does come primarily from the perspective of Democrats.


This slide dispels one of the major misconceptions about the 2014 elections. The fact is, Democrats turned out the votes they believed were necessary to win in Colorado, and did so in greater numbers than they had in the last midterm election in 2010. What Democrats didn't count on was a national political climate that Colorado has slowly caught up with in the years since President Barack Obama's election. In 2010, Democrat Michael Bennet won substantially more right-leaning independents and even Republican votes than Mark Udall did in 2014. Combine that with the sudden erosion of support for Democrats in formerly reliable blue areas of the state–Pueblo and Adams County–and you can account for much of the difference between Bennet's narrow win and Udall's narrow defeat.

Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-3 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-4 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-5 Hilltop-Public-Solutions-2014-Election-Results-Analysis-7

What you can see in these slides is analysis of the "surge" vote in 2014 midterms–voters who did not vote in the last 2010 midterms elections but did this year. As you can see, Democrats performed well among these lower-propensity voters, and it wasn't really what you'd call a "Republican wave" at all. But it wasn't enough to overcome the large Republican base in Colorado, which was much more unified behind Cory Gardner than the GOP was united behind Ken Buck in 2010.


Senate Passes “CRomnibus,” Another Tea Party Tantrum Backfires

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The Hill reports on somewhat unexpected passage last night in the U.S. Senate of the $1.1 trillion "CRomnibus" spending deal, which funds most of the federal government through next September but contains provisions upsetting to both the left and right:

The debate exposed divisions within the Democratic and Republican caucuses on both sides of the Capitol and sets the stage for what could be a year of internecine squabbling in 2015. 

Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership.

Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)…

As Politico reports, the vote on the spending bill yesterday came after "Tea Party" Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee demanded the Senate remain in session this weekend to vote against President Barack Obama's recent immigration executive order–this after Senate leadership had agreed to wait until this week to finish debating the divisive "CRomnibus" spending bill. Seeing an opening, Sen. Harry Reid took advantage of the tactical mistake to pass "CRomnibus," and also move ahead on another major Democratic priority: confirming Obama's many stalled nominees.

In the end the Senate passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, 56-40, but not before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to begin moving forward on 24 of the president’s nominations, including controversial figures like Vivek Murthy to be the new surgeon general, White House adviser Tony Blinken to be the deputy secretary of State and Sarah Saldana to head Immigration and Customs enforcement and a dozen federal judges to lifetime appointments.

Republicans fought Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for months to block these nominees from moving forward and many believed as late as Friday that they’d won as the holidays approached. But when Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee took to the floor on Friday night to call for a vote on the president’s executive action on immigration and demand their colleagues stay through the weekend to do so rather than adjourn until Monday, they allowed Reid to exploit a procedural quirk and get the nominations rolling…

Had Cruz and Lee agreed to Reid and McConnell’s deal, the conservatives could have received the same constitutional point of order vote on Monday, though they attracted extra attention from both their colleagues and political watchers by forcing the Saturday session. But the point of order was defeated, so the result was the same: The omnibus was sent to the president without defunding the immigration order — and Obama appears set to win quicker approval of his nominations.

With Obama, Reid, and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell all in support of the spending package, its passage in the Senate was always assured, despite the anger over the bill's campaign finance, banking rule, and environmental protection rollbacks from the left in both the House and Senate. Those objections are much more legitimately aggrieving to progressives than anything the right has been asked to swallow in this spending deal. Still, Cruz and Lee's antics allowed Reid to get the jump on Republicans on the issue of Obama's stalled nominees, which could in the long run prove the bigger win.

Both Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted to approve "CRomnibus" yesterday, again expected though it won't please liberals who followed the rancorous debate in the House last week and are aware of the bill's many compromises. But especially in the larger context of Reid moving the President's stalled nominees, that vote can now be plausibly chalked up as a win for Obama and Democrats–which seems to be the prevalent media spin today. Looking ahead, we do think this debate was good for progressive Senate leaders with higher career aspirations who opposed it, foremost Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

But the big loser here is the Tea Party, whose pointless sound and fury has once again backfired.

Colorado Politicos React To Torture Report

UPDATE: National Journal reports on a fiery speech from Sen. Mark Udall today, again demanding the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan:

In a career-defining speech, Sen. Mark Udall took to the Senate floor Wednesday to discuss a largely classified internal CIA investigation into the agency's Bush-era "enhanced interrogation techniques," and call for the current CIA director's resignation.

Udall, an outbound Democrat from Colorado, began highlighting key conclusions from the CIA's so-called Panetta Review, written in 2011 and named after then-agency Director Leon Panetta. Its critical findings, in addition to the agency's attempts to prevent the Senate from seeing it, Udall said, demonstrates that the CIA is still lying about the scope of enhanced interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration.

That deceit is continuing today under current CIA Director John Brennan, Udall said.

"The refusal to provide the full Panetta Review and the refusal to acknowledge facts detailed in both the committee study and the Panetta Review lead to one disturbing finding: Director Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture."

Obama, Udall said, "has expressed full confidence in Director Brennan and demonstrated that trust by making no effort at all to rein him in." Udall additionally referred to Brennan's "failed leadership" and suggested that he should resign.

The Denver Post's Mark Matthews:

He also blasted President Barack Obama on Wednesday for breaking his word to shine light on what Udall has dubbed a "dark chapter of our history."

"The White House has not led on this issue in the manner we expected," the Democratic lawmaker said. "This administration, like so many before it, has released information only when forced to."


Waterboarding torture.

Waterboarding torture.

Responses from more Colorado members of Congress to the release yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee of a damning report summarizing abuses committed by the Central Intelligence Agency in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and asserting for the record that the torturing of captured enemy combatants did not produce useful intelligence. The Colorado Independent has a statement from Rep. Jared Polis:

“The release of the Senate CIA torture report today reveals a dark and shameful chapter in American history,” Polis said in a release. “Under the guise of patriotism, the CIA conducted wholly un-American behavior that failed to secure our nation, but did much damage to our credibility and standing at home and abroad. The activities described in the report demonstrated a flagrant and frightening disregard for domestic and international law, offering a glimpse into the mindset of an agency that clearly believes it can play by a different set of rules.

“This report is a good first step towards bringing much needed accountability to our intelligence community, but it alone is not enough to change the culture that led to these lasting and continuous violations of international law and American values. I am calling for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to double down on their oversight of the intelligence community to ensure that these types of activities never happen again and that those who work at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don’t trample on the very constitution they seek to protect.”

But Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, via the Durango Herald, doesn't have anything positive to say:

“Congressman Tipton is in the process of reviewing the Senate report, but shares the concerns of House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers that its release could put Americans’ lives at risk around the world,” said Josh Green, a spokesman for Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. “He supports transparency and also believes that prudence should be exercised in terms of what sensitive national security information is released so that it doesn’t jeopardize American lives or incite violence.”

Meanwhile from Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, a full-throated endorsement of torture. We're sorry if you naively expected any better from him:

"The partisan conclusions reached in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA enhanced interrogation techniques is designed to humiliate our nation and the intelligence community.  It also has the potential to endanger the lives of Americans.  I believe in transparent government, but I also believe in a government that is able to use all the tools at its legal disposal to protect American citizens.  There should be no doubt that harsh interrogation techniques produced actionable intelligence from a handful of terrorists that could not have been obtained any other way." [Pols emphasis]

We haven't seen any statement yet from GOP Reps. Mike Coffman or Cory Gardner about the release of the torture report. Gardner's view is of particular interest, since he just unseated one of the U.S. Senate's leading critics of intelligence excesses post-9/11, Sen. Mark Udall. It's hard to imagine Gardner being anything like the force on civil liberties and human rights in wartime that Udall has been his entire career in Congress, but some kind of statement from Sen.-elect Gardner would give us an idea of just what has been lost on these issues with Udall's defeat.

Our guess is, more than the Denver Post's editorial board will want to admit.

Tensions High As CIA Torture Report Nears Release

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

UPDATE #3: Republicans angrily pushing back against the Intelligence Committee's report, MSNBC:

GOP members of the committee who withdrew their support for its investigation released their own 167-page “minority views” response to the Democratic report, arguing that the detention and interrogation program “saved lives and played a vital role in weakening al Qa-ida.”

The dissenting committee members – Sens. Saxby Chambliss, Richard Burr, Jim Risch, Daniel Coats, Marco Rubio and Tom Coburn – are just some of the many Republican lawmakers up in arms over the comprehensive review of controversial CIA interrogation techniques, which they warned would lead to violent reprisals that would endanger American personnel and jeopardize intelligence interests.

“I cannot think of a greater disservice to our men and women serving in the military and in our intelligence field than to hand terror groups like ISIL another recruiting tool and excuse to target them,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn said in statement issued Tuesday. “Due to the political calculations of some, the American people and our allies across the globe are less safe today than they were before.”

The CIA and it supporters also went on the offensive Tuesday, with the publication of a pro-interrogation op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by former CIA Directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden, as well as the creation of a website, “CIA Saved Lives,” by former agency officials.


UPDATE #2: Here's the report.


UPDATE: Sen. Mark Udall via Twitter responds to today's report:

Udall's full statement:

Mark Udall, who led efforts to hold the White House, CIA and intelligence agencies accountable to the American people, welcomed the declassification today of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's exhaustive study of the CIA's brutal, ineffective and misguided detention and interrogation program.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of the report today following months of negotiations with the White House and CIA — a process Udall fought to keep moving forward. Udall also had threatened to take any step necessary to get the truth out if negotiators for the committee and executive branch could not reach an accord that kept faith with the important transparency the report represents.

"The release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's study of the CIA's detention and interrogation program is an historic victory for our nation, the Constitution, and our system of checks and balances. This study ensures that the truth about the CIA’s brutal torture program finally comes out and that the agency can learn from its repeated missteps and start to restore its integrity," Udall said. "My goal from day one has been holding the CIA accountable, shedding light on this dark chapter of our history, and ensuring neither the CIA nor any future administration would make these grievous mistakes ever again. The report released today achieves those goals and affirms that we are a nation that does not hide from its past, but learns from it.

"We can protect our national security without compromising who we are as Americans. This landmark study — and the millions of pages of agency documents and testimony it is based upon — shows that torture is not effective and does not make us safer."

Udall has been the leading proponent of swiftly declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee's exhaustive study on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. Following the Senate Intelligence Committee's vote this spring to declassify the study, Udall called on the White House to speed declassification of the study and prevent the CIA from interfering with its public release.

Udall also has aggressively pushed back on intelligence officials and anonymous leaks that have sought to discredit the Senate Intelligence Committee's study and prevent the truth about the CIA's brutal torture program from coming out.



So Long, Landrieu–2014’s Last Senate Race Ends Predictably

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).


Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu lost her Senate runoff race Saturday night, felled by the red tide that's swept the South and ties to an unpopular President that she couldn't shake.

CNN called the race for her Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy a little over a half hour after the polls closed. Republicans picked up nine Senate seats this election cycle and will have control of 54 seats in the chamber next year.

Once seen as Democrats' strongest incumbent, Landrieu ended up such a long-shot in her runoff with Cassidy that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cut its investment in the state, a move that Landrieu decried as leaving "a soldier on the field."

There's no nice way to say it, really: Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate campaign to hold on against the 2014 Republican wave was an embarrassment as well as a setback to Democrats. Culminating in a last-ditch effort to pass legislation forcing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dividing Democrats across the nation, and by all accounts angering the White House who promised a veto, Landrieu seems to have decided that the only way to survive politically in a Republican wave year is to become one. Looking back, Landrieu's efforts to scuttle the so-called "public option" during debate over the Affordable Care Act–not to mention the infamous "Louisiana Purchase"–made her less than popular with the left and a poster child for Republicans hyping the case against Obamacare.

As of this writing, Landrieu is losing to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy by twelve points. So it's safe to say that stuff didn't work. The decision by Michael Bennet's Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to effectively pull out of the runoff election weeks ago only acknowledged reality.

There are important lessons in Landrieu's demise for 2016, but they are different lessons from Sen. Mark Udall's much narrower loss here in Colorado. Facing an unexpectedly stiff challenge from Cory Gardner, Udall made mistakes–but not the mistake of pandering to the right, or selling out his party's agenda. Say what you will about Udall, and what he chose to emphasize on the campaign trail, but he ran on consistent values.

And that makes Udall's less than two-point loss much more honorable than Landrieu's shellacking.

Recount Requested by Republicans in Adams County?

According to rumors emanating from Adams County, the Republican Party has requested a recount of the vote in all of Adams County.

Per Colorado's Revised Statutes, today is the last day that an "interested party" can request a recount of the General Election results (at their own expense, of course). We are trying to confirm these rumors, but if true, this could open up one hell of a can of worms related to candidates up and down the ballot.

Turnout in Adams County was incredibly low in 2014. For example, Democratic Rep. Joseph Salazar was re-elected to his post in HD-31 with 11,501 votes (compared to 11,280 votes for Republican Carol Beckler). It's no surprise that turnout in 2014 would be lower than in a Presidential year, but the drop-off here was particularly head-scratching. Check out the vote totals from the last three election cycles in HD-31:

2010: 30,462
2012: 31,101
2014: 22,781

Again, voter turnout could reasonably be expected to be low in 2014 compared to prior years…but a drop of nearly 30% is a different story. Also interesting to note: Former Adams County District Attorney Don Quick lost his bid for Attorney General to Republican Cynthia Coffman by a margin of 44.83% to 48.11%. There are other explanations for how Quick could have failed to carry his own county despite having won two terms as Adams County DA, but it is a question mark nevertheless.

We'll update this post as more information becomes available.

Mark Udall talks tough on torture, but has even better reason to act tough

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Come on, Mark. Do what's right. With no hesitation. Without dithering.

Scott Raab: Your loss is seen as symbolic of the midterm sea change. How does it feel?

Mark Udall: It stings and I feel liberated. . . . I don’t like losing. I don’t like being turned back from the summit of a mountain—I’m a mountain climber—but I have always found that the mountains I didn’t climb (that sounds stupid. Did he mean "summit"? -z) are the ones that taught me the most. So I’m taking that attitude towards this election loss. . . . But it’s been hard to be here for the last couple of weeks. When you get fired, usually it’s “Clean your desk out and go,” and I’ve got two months of work left to do. We do have some things I’m working hard to get accomplished. I want to get the CIA Torture Report declassified.

SR: I’ve been puzzling through this. You’ve talked about how Edward Snowden should come back.

MU: Yep.

SR: But he’s gonna be charged with crimes that could put him behind bars forever. And you’re in a position to read this into the public record.

MU: Sure. Yeah.

SR: Is there any reason not to do that? Not do what Mike Gravel did with the Pentagon Papers? What is the tightrope there? You got a $40 million 6,300-page report, right?

MU: Yes.

SR: And all the pressure’s on you right now to—

MU: I have made it clear over the last couple of weeks—if the report is not declassified in a way that’s transparent and shines a bright light on what we did, then I will consider using all and any options.


Gumming Abortion To Death, Part II: Joke’s On You, Ladies


One of the central issues of the 2014 elections in Colorado was the battle over abortion policy–both at the federal and state levels, where GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner outlasted months of withering attacks on the issue, and voters again rejected a "Personhood" abortion ban ballot measure. Colorado has a long history of support for women's reproductive rights, and the lopsided margins by which Personhood has been defeated here in recent years have made the issue toxic for Republican politicians who used to proudly campaign on their support for banning abortion.

In 2014, however, Republicans successfully blunted the issue of abortion in Colorado–more than that, they managed to turn the debate back on Democrats, successfully countering that liberal "social issue warriors" were wrongly obsessing about a non-issue. Conservative go-to foil on women's issues Laura Carno wrote an op-ed suggesting that the entire question of abortion rights in this year's elections was overblown–declaring flat-out, despite the many avowedly pro-life GOP candidates on the ballot, that Colorado womens' "right to an abortion is not in jeopardy." In the Denver Post's endorsement of Cory Gardner, they claim with no supporting evidence whatsoever that "Gardner's election would pose no threat to abortion rights." Next month, one of the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate's top priorities is a 20-week abortion ban.

In 2006, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez promised to sign an abortion ban in Colorado that would make no exceptions even for cases of rape or incest, and was happy to explain in detail exactly why he thought that was the right thing to do. This year, Beauprez's message on abortion was a complete about-face: "I respect people's opinion, women's right to that choice."

Because Beauprez was defeated, and Democrats retained at least partial control of the state legislature, the question of what Republicans in full control would do on abortion isn't going to be tested here. But what's going on elsewhere, in the wake of the GOP's huge gains in state legislatures across America? As Politico's Paige Cunningham reports, all that stuff you heard before the election about abortion rights not being in jeopardy–it's simply not true.

The big Republican gains in the November elections strengthened and enlarged the anti-abortion forces in the House and the Senate. But it’s the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions that are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion…

Abortion rights advocates have had setbacks in the states for several years, with a surge of legislative activity since 2011. [Pols emphasis] Women seeking abortions may face mandatory waiting periods or ultrasound requirements. Clinics may face stricter building codes or hospital admitting privilege rules they can’t satisfy. Dozens of clinics have shut down in multiple states. Texas, for instance, has fewer than 10 abortion clinics now. A year ago, it had 40.

Republicans now hold two-thirds of the state legislative bodies, after winning control of 11 more chambers. They completely control the legislature in more than half the states, adding Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia to that list earlier this month. And they gained two more governor’s seats, so they will hold 31 next year.

Steady Democratic control of Colorado in recent years means we haven't seen the same kinds of proposed restrictions on abortion that have passed in many other states, and the ones that have been introduced have been defeated with enough fanfare to render them political liabilities for Republicans. Despite this, 2014 marked the greatest challenge to Democratic control by Republicans since Democrats took the legislature in 2004–and before the ballots were fully counted, Republicans had a few glorious moments when control of the Colorado House, Senate, and Governor's Mansion were all at least hypothetically in reach.

Today, even with Republicans only in narrow control of the Colorado Senate after last month's elections, a program credited with reducing teen pregnancy by 40% is already in jeopardy. Without more power, there's not much that Republicans in Colorado can do legislatively to further restrict abortion and contraception access–but now that the election is over, it's time to recognize that the downplaying of abortion by the GOP and accommodating local media was enormously deceptive. The truth is, restrictions on reproductive choice are passing across the nation–and if Republicans had taken control of this state as they did so many others in the last two midterm elections, restrictions on abortion rights could well become law in Colorado too.

In that event, a lot of local pundits and media types would owe you an apology.