Amy Stephens Makes National Lists…for Ineptitude

You can't run a Senate campaign with pocket lint.

You can’t run a Senate campaign with pocket lint.

UPDATE: From a press release sent out by the Colorado Democratic Party:

[A]ccording to Roll Call, Amy Stephens' $51k was beaten by 150 out of 166 House candidates in high profile races around the country who raised in the third quarter of 2013. 


If you missed the news on Friday, it was by design. Colorado Republican Senate candidates quietly reported their fundraising numbers on Friday, hoping against hope that nobody would notice. There's a truism in politics that you save bad news for Friday afternoons, and that was definitely the plan for Ken Buck, Owen Hill, and Amy Stephens.

We'll break down all of the fundraising reports in a later post, but the last quarter was particularly awful for Stephens, who laid a bigger egg than the Broncos on Sunday. In her first fundraising quarter as a candidate for Senate, Stephens raised $51,000. Yes, you read that correctly. $51,000. For a U.S. Senate campaign.

To put that in perspective, Stephens was outraised by Democrat Irv Halter, who brought in $55k in his second fundraising quarter as a candidate for CD-5 (Rep. Doug Lamborn). No Democrat has come close to winning the solidly-Republican CD-5, yet Halter would appear to have more support in his darkhorse bid than Stephens could find in a weak Republican field for Senate. Stephens' poor numbers caught the eye of national political news outlets such as Politico:

Stephens, a former Colorado House majority leader, is seen by some in the the GOP establishment as their best hope of knocking off Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. But in the fourth quarter she raised a measly $51,000. Udall, meanwhile, brought in $1.1 million and has $4.7 million on hand.

Stephens’s poor performance is bound to raise fears among the chunk of Republicans who fear Ken Buck, a former Weld County district attorney who waged a disastrous, gaffe-prone 2010 Senate campaign, will again be the nominee. Buck raised $154,000 last quarter.

Ugh. Note also how Politico categorizes Buck's 2010 Senate campaign as "disastrous."

Even the conservative press can't help but criticize Stephens. Here's what "The Hotline" (National Journal) had to say in calling Stephens one of the fundraising quarter's big losers:

Stephens has gotten some buzz as a Republican who could mount a real challenge to Democratic Sen. Mark Udall if she could win the GOP primary–no easy task, given that she sponsored the legislation creating a state health care exchange. But her fourth-quarter totals (her first in the race) were far from impressive: She raised just $51,000, a paltry sum particularly considering Udall's $4.7 million war chest. She'll have to do much better than that to get past 2010 GOP nominee Ken Buck in the primary, let alone take on Udall.

Stephens has been claiming that the NRSC preferred her candidacy to those of Buck and Owens, but it's hard to see how national Republicans could still feel positive about a candidate who had such a terrible quarter. As we've said time and time again, early money indicates support, and Stephens is clearly lacking a base of backers. Stephens says she has a new fundraising committee hard at work, but at this point time is as much an enemy as her empty bank account; she's going to need hundreds of thousands of dollars just to petition onto the Primary ballot in June, let alone money to operate her campaign or buy time on television. If it is true that the the NRSC once preferred Stephens, they are likely now having conversations about whether they should even bother with trying to unseat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall.


Mark Udall’s Son Arrested

This just in from the Boulder Daily Camera:

Jed Udall, the 26-year-old son of Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, was arrested Wednesday after Boulder County sheriff's deputies say he broke into three cars in Eldorado Springs and was found with heroin in his pocket…

"Maggie and I are deeply distressed to learn of our son's arrest," Sen. Mark Udall said in a statement to the Daily Camera. "We love our son and stand with him in his commitment to getting the treatment he needs. We appreciate the private space to deal with this as a family."

Not much else you can expect Sen. Mark Udall to say, but in the present acrimonious political climate it's a safe bet that Udall's opponents will try to use this against him politically in some fashion. We'll update this story as warranted.

Less Than 27,000 Coloradans Received Health Care Cancellation Notices

How many Coloradans REALLY received insurance cancellation notices?

How many Coloradans REALLY received insurance cancellation notices?

Colorado Republicans, particularly U.S. Senate candidate Amy Stephens, have been working hard over the last month to damage the credibility of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in regards to the Affordable Care Act. In late 2013, Udall's office began questioning the accuracy of a number put out by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) that indicated some 250,000 Coloradans received notices that their health insurance policies would be cancelled in 2014. As we wrote last week, this "scandal" is little more than an attempt by Republicans to make a ridiculous number (250,000) stick in the minds of reporters and other media outlets:

But in this case, not only is their "scandal" weak, its unraveling is actually a very bad thing for the GOP. The facts here are very simple: Of the roughly 250,000 policyholders sent "cancellation letters" in Colorado, 96% of them were actually offered renewals for 2014. It's critical to understand that Colorado's implementation of the Affordable Care Act always allowed these plans to be renewed, and this was essentially what President Barack Obama subsequently allowed nationwide to compensate for the troubled rollout of the exchange.

Bottom line: if 250,000 Coloradans had actually lost coverage on January 1, we're pretty sure the outrage would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But it didn't happen. In Colorado, many affected by "cancellation notices" no doubt simply renewed their plans like the letter said, and then wondered what the hubbub was. Thousands of "cancellation notices" were flat-out sent in error by sloppy insurers like low-rated Humana. And most importantly, the new insurance exchange has signed up tens of thousands of people.

In a story two days ago from the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee, the 250,000 number was again used in a story about Udall's office and the Affordable Care Act:

Kelley's announcement comes after her office did not provide information on a panel last week that cleared Udall staffers of accusations they bullied division of insurance staffers to change a November report noting 250,000 Coloradans would have individual policies canceled due to the Affordable Care Act. DORA oversees the division of insurance. In an internal e-mail, a division director, Jo Donlin, said a Udall staffer was unjustly trashing the number. Donlin has never spoken about the matter publicly.

It's more than a little ridiculous that the Post continues to use the 250,000 number — particularly when you consider that the same newspaper already ran a story refuting those numbers. Here's former Post reporter Michael Booth investigating the number back in November:


Stephens says she was fighting for CO, & Amycare opponents were maybe tweeting or “getting a tattoo”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Conservative activist Kelly "ish" Maher, who was a guest host on KNUS' Kelley and Company Friday, asked U.S. Senate candidate Amy Stephens a question that's been an obsession on conservative talk-radio lately:

Maher: "Potentially, let's say, you make it out of the primary. And you are in a primary with some people whom many here consider to be friends. But once you get to that point where you are theoretically running against Udall, how are you going to separate yourself from him and create a contrast because a lot of people are putting the exchange creation on you. As soon as you announced that you were running, Twitter blew up and called it Amycare. So that's an important contrast. How are you going to clarify that for people."

Stephens: "…I'm not sure with my opponents–I don't know if they were tweeting. I don't know if they were getting a tattoo. Or whatever. I was in the weeds, you know, with John Suthers and others, trying to make the best decision for the people of Colorado." [BigMedia emphasis]

If you know Maher, you know she self-identifies as a seeker of the lighter moments in politics, and so you have to be surprised that Maher didn't jump all over Stephens' "getting-a-tattoo" line.

Does Stephens think her Tea-Party opponents, like KLZ talk-show hosts Ken Clark and Jason Worley, are tattoo-covered? Is there a correlation between tattoos and Tea Party types?

Or was it simply the tweet-tattoo alliteration that Stephens was going for? It sounded like Stephens may have been reaching for a joke. But why tattoos?


For the Love Of…STOP USING AURORA SHOOTING PHOTOS for Political Stories

What is it with right-wing political commentators and their complete inability to do a simple search on the origin of a photo? We pointed this out, again, when radio talk show host Peter Boyles used a photoshopped image from a moment during which elected officials were greeting each other somberly after the Aurora theater Shootings.

The right-wing outlet "The Daily Caller" is attempting to drub some kind of scandal into Sen. Mark Udall's research into claims that hundreds of thousands of Coloradans received incomplete notices about changes resulting from Obamacare — a "scandal" that has already been debunked as nonsense on numerous occasions.

Sen. Mark Udall at the Aurora Theater Shooting site in 2012.

Sen. Mark Udall and President Obama at an event held in the aftermath of the 2012 Aurora theater shootings.

Naturally, whenever right-wing outlets are trying to create a scandal out of thin air, they always like to imply that President Obama is somehow involved as well. That's probably why "The Daily Caller" used the picture on your right in their story.

Here's the caption for the photo at right, as supplied by Saul Loeb of AFP/Getty Images:

President Obama, joined by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., tells a story he heard from one of the shooting victims about holding her fingers on her best friend's neck to stop the bleeding. The president spoke during a visit to the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo.

It's not overly difficult to do a Google image search and check the source of your picture. This picture misuse isn't nearly as bad as the more commonly-photoshopped picture that also includes Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper (here's one of the most egregious examples), but it's still an inappropriate use of a photo taken during a terrible time in Colorado — and around the country. Whatever emotions the reader might infer from this picture are unfair to a lot of people.

“Amycare” Isn’t Stephens’ Only Problem

Amy Stephens.

Amy Stephens.

A great story from the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic late Friday explores another significant problem for GOP U.S. Senate primary contender Amy Stephens. Despite a growing amount of support for Stephens from local GOP insiders (and, most suspect, DC-based Republican heavies like the National Republican Senatorial Committee), Stephens' candidacy has failed to gain traction with rank-and-file Republicans. A major reason for this is Stephens' support in the Colorado legislature for Senate Bill 11-200, the bill that created Colorado's new health insurance exchange. Even though Colorado's health insurance exchange appears to be working well after a rough start, and was supported by business interests across the state in addition to Democrats, its origins as a key part of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare has made the insurance exchange a critical liability for Stephens with GOP primary voters.

And as Tomasic of the Independent reports, "Amycare" isn't the only base relations hurdle for Stephens:

It’s in [the context of "Amycare"] that, when Udall announced at the end of last year that he had helped negotiate the end to the rough eight-year battle around the U.S. Army’s proposal to expand its Pinon Canyon training site in southeastern Colorado, the Stephens campaign must have breathed a sigh of relief. Because, as far as conservative Colorado voters go, Stephens was on the wrong side of that litmus-test issue, too.

Ranchers have worked the wide brushland around Pinon Canyon for generations. And for nearly a decade, they watched with grave concern and growing anger as the Army sought to acquire enormous swaths of the area for its expansion plans. The ranchers had good reason to be wary.

The existing 240,000-acre maneuvering ground was seized by the Army in the 1980s through eminent domain from residents who refused to sell. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time but it seemed only an early small dose of a larger toxic prescription when in the mid 2000s the Army floated a proposal to gobble up 7 million more acres and establish the largest training site in the country. The plan would have bought out or seized acreage from an estimated 17,000 landowners, according to government documents…

State legislators introduced bills aimed at prohibiting the Army from using eminent domain to condemn and seize land around the site. In 2009, a bill to prevent the state from even leasing land in the area split Republicans at the capitol. Stephens, an El Paso Republican, was one of only 17 members of the House to vote against the bill. [Pols emphasis]

Tomasic cites the example of then-GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, who also sided back in 2009 with El Paso County military supporters against landowners in southeast Colorado to support the expansion of Pinon Canyon. We took note of McInnis' choice of the Army over private property rights at the time, and McInnis' primary opponents hammered him over the issue with Republican voters. Local voters in turn promised to never support McInnis. And this 2009 vote wasn't the only stand taken by Rep. Stephens against landowners in Pinon Canyon. In 2007, Stephens was one of just a few representatives to vote against House Bill 07-1069, a bill withdrawing the state's consent for Pinon Canyon to expand. That bill was signed into law by Gov. Bill Ritter.


Republicans Agree with Udall on NSA Spying

Colorado Democrat Mark Udall

Sen. Mark Udall

The Republican National Committee today passed a resolution condemning surveillance programs of the National Security Agency, a move that will certainly make for a nice TV advertisement for the re-election efforts of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Udall has been in front of the efforts to pull back on the NSA's domestic spying programs, and the RNC's agreement on the issue will help Udall supporters cast him as a bipartisan leader.

It doesn't hurt that the RNC's language in their resolution is remarkably similar to Udall's messaging. From The Hill:

The committee criticized the government’s bulk collection of records about all phone calls, which emerged as one of the most controversial programs revealed in leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. That NSA effort “is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the RNC said in the resolution.

Now here's Udall speaking about the issue with NPR a few weeks ago:

"We shouldn't codify a program that violates Americans' privacy, raises questions about the Fourth Amendment and is, in the end, not proven to be effective. … It violates Americans' privacy and may well be unconstitutional."

It looks like we know where the eventual GOP Senate nominee will be on the NSA spying issue…just maybe with a little different language.

Stephens touts her gender as asset but she shares Buck’s extreme anti-abortion stance

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In an article yesterday, The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reports Rep. Amy Stephens' response to Ken Buck's comment Monday comparing pregnancy with cancer:

"It's Ken again being Ken," Stephens, who is among several Republicans vying to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, insisted Thursday. "Just like in 2010, we have high-heels comments, we have alcoholism and homosexuality, now we've got cancer and pregnancy."

Buck in 2010 was the nominee for U.S. Senate against Democrat Michael Bennet. His statement on "Meet the Press" comparing homosexuality to alcoholism was considered the turning point in a campaign he had been expected to win.

Before telling Lee about "Ken again being Ken," Stephens was on KNUS' Dan Caplis Show Wed., where she made her opinion of Buck's candidacy even more clear, saying she does not believe Colorado Republicans will unify around Buck if he wins the nomination, and saying, based on what Buck's offered so far, it would be the "definition of insanity" to run Buck again.

Stephens @10 min: I am not convinced Ken has given us an argument as to why we should go down this path again. And I call the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over with the same results….

I also believe nationally, and I have heard this in my travels, that there is not going to be — You know, when somebody wins a primary, people rally, come around. The party goes, whatever. I do not believe that's going to happen should Ken be the nominee. I do believe this would happen should I become the nominee, because I think there will be a lot more interest in this race and a lot more support. [BigMedia emphasis]

Listen to Rep. Amy Stephens tout herself as a woman and slam Buck on KNUS 1-15-14

On the radio, Stephens went on to say that she'd be better able to "take on Sen. Udall on issues that they normally love to hit our men with, and I think as a woman, I have a very strong voice to speak about."

But as Caplis should have pointed out, Stephens' anti-abortion record, including ten years on the staff of Focus on the Family, sets herself up for the same criticism Buck has faced.


Sen. Udall Raises Another Million Dollars

Colorado Democrat Mark Udall

You’d be smiling, too, if you were outraising your opponents this much.

The campaign for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall won't officially file its fundraising report for another few weeks (end-of-year reports have longer deadlines than quarterly reports), but news about another strong quarter is already leaking out. Udall raised more than $1.1 million in Q4, ending the year with a hefty $4.7 million cash on hand. Udall finished 2013 by raising more than $1.1 million in every single quarter.

For comparison's sake, Republicans Ken Buck and Owen Hill didn't raise $500,000 combined in Q3, and both need to have had a much better Q4. Fundraising numbers from Q4 will also be the first look at the potential strength of state Rep. Amy Stephens, who entered the Senate race in October.

Stephens, GOP “Go Benghazi” Over Udall Cancellation Flap

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall.

As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reported Friday afternoon:

State Rep. Amy Stephens on Friday asked the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to investigate reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Udall's office pressured a director at the state Division of Insurance to change the number of insurance policies her office said were canceled because of the Affordable Care Act.

"I am deeply concerned about recent reports that U.S. Senator Mark Udall and/or Senator Udall's staff exerted inappropriate and undue pressure on the Colorado Division of Insurance," Stephens, a Republican from Monument, wrote in a letter to DORA executive director Barbara Kelley. "I am requesting that you investigate these reports to determine the level of coercion by Senator Udall and/or his staff, and whether any laws or rules were violated as a result of this conduct."

Politico's Emily Schultheis also filed a report Friday on the kerfluffle over Sen. Mark Udall's attempts last November to clarify disproportionately high figures reported by the state Division of Insurance as "policy cancellations."

In an interview with The Denver Post, Udall, who is up for reelection in November, said it’s “really important to correct the record” on the 250,000 figure, calling it “only 4 percent of the story.”

“I put my team to work to find out whether those numbers would stand up to scrutiny,” he said.

Republicans are jumping on the issue, saying Udall and his team are working to manipulate the numbers so they don’t look as bad for Obamacare.

State Rep. Amy Stephens, one of the Republicans challenging Udall, said his and his staff’s attempts to update the numbers are “appalling and shameful.” State Sen. Owen Hill, another GOP candidate, wrote on his Facebook page that it “looks like Mark Udall tried to ‘cook the books.’” And a spokesman for GOP candidate Ken Buck’s campaign said Udall “seems to be more concerned about the political damage to himself than the damage caused to the 249,000 people who received cancellation notices as a consequence of his vote.”

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

As we discussed on Friday, Republicans are pushing the rhetoric to the max against Sen. Udall, with former Colorado GOP chair-turned advisor to GOP Senate U.S. candidate Amy Stephens Dick Wadhams going to far as to pronounce this "scandal" worse than the trouble New Jersey Chris Christie is in over politically-motivated traffic problems on the George Washington Bridge.

Sen. Udall has long been considered off the table as a viable take-out target for Republicans in 2014, and it is only recently, after a tough off-year for Colorado Democrats ramped up media speculation, that conventional wisdom has begun to entertain the possibility this race could be competitive. As a result, Republicans are keen to exploit anything they can use against Udall to the maximum possible extent.

But in this case, not only is their "scandal" weak, its unraveling is actually a very bad thing for the GOP. The facts here are very simple: Of the roughly 250,000 policyholders sent "cancellation letters" in Colorado, 96% of them were actually offered renewals for 2014. It's critical to understand that Colorado's implementation of the Affordable Care Act always allowed these plans to be renewed, and this was essentially what President Barack Obama subsequently allowed nationwide to compensate for the troubled rollout of the exchange.

Bottom line: if 250,000 Coloradans had actually lost coverage on January 1, we're pretty sure the outrage would be on the front page of every newspaper in America. But it didn't happen. In Colorado, many affected by "cancellation notices" no doubt simply renewed their plans like the letter said, and then wondered what the hubbub was. Thousands of "cancellation notices" were flat-out sent in error by sloppy insurers like low-rated Humana. And most importantly, the new insurance exchange has signed up tens of thousands of people.

Today, Republicans are exploiting a lack of hard information to scare people. A common-sense look at the underlying claims makes it obvious that Sen. Udall's math is closer to the truth than the over-the-top figures, and implied human misery, that Republicans claim. Once these facts are all out in the open, it's not going to be Udall who looks bad, so Republicans are going full-throttle on Udall while they can. In underperforming GOP contender Amy "Amycare" Stephens' case, her possibly unresolvable conflicts with the GOP base on health care oblige her to rage hardest of all.

At some point, the facts will catch up with them. For Sen. Udall, the sooner the better.

Udall’s “Cancellation” Kerfluffle: Old GOP Talking Points Die Hard

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

Colorado Republicans are attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for “bullying” the state’s Department of Insurance to revise its estimate that nearly 250,000 Coloradans had their health insurance policies cancelled as a result of Obamacare…

The emails, first published by the conservative news website “Complete Colorado,” center around the department’s estimate that 249,000 Coloradans saw their policies cancelled as a result of the new health care law.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong,” [Division of Insurance director of external affairs Jo] Donlin wrote in the Nov. 14 email to Vincent Plymell, a spokesman for the Dept. of Insurance. “Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.”

…The following day, Nov. 15, a Denver Post story appeared that highlighted Udall’s contention that most of the people categorized as having had their plans cancelled had actually been offered renewals.

“We reached out to the Dept. of Insurance because 250,000 cancellations was radically different than the number we were hearing from the insurance industry,” Udall spokesman Mike Saccone told FOX31 Denver on Thursday.

We took note of the Denver Post story in question back in mid-November, in which Sen. Mark Udall and staff laid out their contention that most of the "cancellations" of health insurance in Colorado really weren't. In almost all cases, participants were indeed allowed to renew their policies for another year under state regulations–and this was the case before President Barack Obama made the announcement that similar renewals would be allowed nationwide. Also, as other reports we cited at the time demonstrated, thousands of Coloradans were sent cancellation notices in error from their insurers that were later confusingly retracted. What Sen. Udall was trying to do was cut through the confusion to determine what real outcomes were shaping up to be.

But it is precisely that sense of confusion in this debate that Republicans are seeking to exploit. For some months, Republicans have promoted a running tally of policy "cancellations" that has "grown" to some five million–which sounds pretty bad. That's where Republicans would like to freeze the issue in the public consciousness, but that's not the whole story. In Colorado, our disproportionate number of "cancellations" relative to population–which is what attracted Udall's attention to begin with–were almost all offered a renewal of their existing plan in 2014 in the same "cancellation" letter. Once the administration allowed what Colorado was already doing nationwide, many more "cancellations" were eliminated. Most importantly, millions have found affordable coverage on the new insurance exchanges, which if you haven't been paying attention recently, are working now.

In short, Republicans frame the present situation as one where their dubious "five million cancellations" not only were really cancelled–which in most cases both Colorado and nationally were not–but are still without insurance today. All manner of misleading comparisons are being made, like exchange signups versus their number for "cancellation notices," with the express purpose of making it seem as though the Affordable Care Act has left these people without insurance. For all of the above reasons and more, that's just BS. Udall is absolutely right to push back.


Is the NSA spying on Sen. Mark Udall?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Mark Udall has been one of the most consistent critics of the NSA and CIA over the NSA's spying, the CIA's torture policies, and various other national security issues. This is a good thing and anyone would agree it's difficult to criticize a National Security Establishment that is more costly and more powerful than ever, and that has quite obviously abused its funds and power against the very citizens it seeks to protect.

All this power, money and sophisticated technology has done very little for our national security, as President Obama's review panel recently found the NSA did not stop any terror attacks while using these vast, unchecked resources.

As a further response to the many stories of NSA spying overreach and incompetence, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont decided to ask another key question.

Is the NSA spying on congress?

"Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?” Sanders asked in a letter to Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director. “Spying” would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business?”

Now, the NSA has been known to lie before. Its Director, Keith Alexander, most likely lied to Congress about its phone tapping capabilities, which is a felony.

So, we might be wary of the agency's pledge to be fully open with congress on the matter. And what of the non-denial non-denial in response to Bernie:


Tragedy and Farce: A Few Words About Waterboarding

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Reuters' Patricia Zengerle reports via the Huffington Post on the latest work by Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado to expose and repudiate the practice of extreme interrogation methods used by American intelligence services, including "waterboarding."

A member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday disclosed the existence of a secret Central Intelligence Agency document that committee members believe supports their conclusions in a study highly critical of "waterboarding" and other harsh counterterrorism practices.

Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, demanded the document – a CIA study of the interrogation techniques – at a confirmation hearing for Caroline Krass, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the CIA's general counsel.

Udall said he would not support Krass' nomination until the previously undisclosed document was provided, raising the possibility that he might use a "hold" to stop the nomination…

During the hearing, Krass told Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the committee, that she did not believe members of the Senate panel had the right to see documents that provide the legal basis for CIA actions, such as waterboarding.

Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins said she was "troubled" by Krass' answer.

It's worth noting that the CIA general counsel nominee, Caroline Krass, reportedly did agree that the interrogation practice known as "waterboarding" amounts to torture, which would presumably mean she considers it illegal under U.S. law. If you accept that, this is a dispute about congressional oversight more than the underlying policy. Either way, Sen. Udall has consistently pushed for greater accountability on a variety of intelligence matters, including the major revelations this year of continued and even expended domestic PATRIOT Act-justified surveillance under President Barack Obama. Here then is another case of Udall's willingness to push back on his own party's administration in defense of principle.

Sen. Steve King (R).

Sen. Steve King (R).

With all of that noted for the record, we had meant to call attention earlier to another recent invocation of "waterboarding," albeit metaphorical, by a politician from Colorado–and this seems as good a place as any. As KUNC's Bente Birkeland reported late last week:

For conservatives, last session wasn’t pleasant. 2013 saw the passage of stricter gun laws, civil unions, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, same day voter registration and renewable energy standards for electric coops.

“Last session was the absolute worst session,” said Senator Steve King (R- Grand Junction). “It was like waterboarding, it seems like every time I caught my breath we were in the middle of more torture.” [Pols emphasis]

Folks, here we have an example of one of the rarer breeds of Republican–one who admits "waterboarding" is torture. Sen. Steve King can forget all about campaign donations from Dick Cheney! Maybe King could get a little love from John McCain if that's really how he feels, except that's the kiss of death in Republican politics.

Of course, knowing Sen. King as we do, he probably didn't mean "torture," you know, in a bad way.

Conservative talk-radio host gets all excited about critique of Republican Senate candidate

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

KFKA talk-radio host Amy Oliver urged Republicans last week to read a Facebook post by former State Senator Shawn Mitchell, in which Mitchell wrote that he's "somewhere between distressed and appalled that GOP luminaries think it's a good idea for [Rep. Amy Stephens] to bear the party's standard into a campaign for federal office in 2014."

Stephens is one of six GOP candidates vying to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Udall next year.  Also running are Tea Party favorite and recycled Senate candidate Ken Buck, mustachioed state Senator Randy Baumgardner from northwestern Colorado's District 8, state Senator from El Paso County Owen Hill, as well as Jamie McMillan and Tom Janich.

Oliver, who doubles as a staffer for the libertarian Independence Institute, was really excited about Mitchell's Dec. 9 Facebook post, telling listeners that "the entry of Amy Stephens in the race, and some of the subsequent endorsements that she has received, have got conservatives saying privately what Shawn Mitchell put out publicly."


Fix It, Don’t Repeal (Or Break) It

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall.

The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports on discussions in the U.S. Senate, which appear to now involve both Colorado U.S. Senators, on possible "fixes" to solves problems associated with the troubled rollout of the new Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces:

Senate Democrats facing tough reelections say President Obama has not done enough to fix the botched rollout of his healthcare law and are vowing to repair it themselves.

The Senate Democratic leadership is not on board with lawmaker plans to begin rewriting ObamaCare and have urged for more time to assess the changes made by Obama and his team, lawmakers say…

“The [ObamaCare implementation] upgrade has been significant, but there’s more work to be done,” said [Sen Mark] Udall.

“Sen. Landrieu, Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Shaheen and I are all working on a package that would incorporate our ideas,” he added.

Shaheen wants to extend the enrollment period for the ACA; Landrieu wants to mandate that insurance companies continue to offer plans that people like, even if they don’t meet the law’s requirements; and Udall wants to expand the pool of people included in the individual insurance marketplace.

Last month, Sen. Mark Udall's proposal to temporarily allow Americans to renew health insurance plans not in compliance with the Affordable Care Act's reforms raised some eyebrows, and this ongoing discussion about changes to the law isn't likely to sit well with many health care reform proponents. Just after Udall's first proposal came out, research from Udall's own office found that the vast majority of "cancellations" in Colorado actually weren't–most of the affected consumers on the individual market had indeed been given the option to renew their existing coverage into 2014. Nonetheless, the slow pace of marketplace insurance signups in Colorado and elsewhere, still more attributable to technical problems than any other factor, is growing increasingly urgent as deadlines approach.

To a certain extent, there's a need now for Democratic proponents of health care reform to accept that the protracted startup problems for the exchanges are causing real problems for citizens, that may indeed require fixes beyond what the Obama administration can do without Congress. That doesn't mean any of these current ideas from swing-state Senators will become law, between defensive Democrats and belligerent Republicans determined to not help fix a law they believe to be inherently evil. We also like the sound of what Udall is proposing based on this report better than Sen. Mary Landrieu's idea to simply allow noncompliant health insurance to be sold in perpetuity. But between the legitimate problems that exist today and the GOP's dogmatic resolve to kill the entire health reform law by any means necessary, a middle ground desiring to fix, but not repeal Obamacare, may well emerge as the political sweet spot in this debate.

The one other point we'll note from this Hill story is the role of Colorado's junior Sen. Michael Bennet in these discussions. Though considered a centrist, Bennet's close relationship with the White House, and status as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, signal to us that these discussions have at least a liaison talking to the Obama administration. Politically, the thing to keep in mind is that Sen. Udall is on the ballot in 2014, not Obama–and though we absolutely believe they share a common goal of successful health care reform, a little judicious triangulation off Obama and the recent troubles with Obamacare may not be such a bad idea.