Maddow Rips Megyn Kelly Over Colorado Ballot Fiction

We took note last week of FOX News evening anchor Megyn Kelly's Tuesday night opening segment, in which Kelly breathessly declared that a "new law" in Colorado has "opened the door to potential voter fraud." Specifically, Kelly claimed, Colorado voters now have the ability to "print ballots on their home computer." This statement struck us as very odd, mostly because we knew right away it was false: other than overseas and military absentee voters who had the ability to do this before Colorado's 2013 election modernization law, nobody can print up a ballot from their home computer.

What's even more surprising to us–not apparently to regular FOX News watchdogs, but we're surprised–is that days later, nobody at FOX News has corrected this blatantly false claim by one of that network's highest-rated news anchors. Because Colorado residents either already know or can easily find out from their county clerk that the story is false, the opportunity for harmful effects on our elections is limited. But if you're a FOX News viewer in another state, listening to that network's almost-daily warnings of imminent election fraud across the nation, this story is going to rightly freak you out: especially when it goes uncorrected.

As Mediaite reported this weekend, the pressure on FOX News to do something about this bogus report is getting louder:

First, 9News anchor Kyle Clark drew attention to Kelly’s remarks and said, “We normally reserve our truth test for political ads, but that claim is misleading.” He explained that the only voters allowed to print out and turn in ballots that way are military and overseas voters. No other Coloradans will be allowed to vote that way.

And then, Friday night, [MSNBS host Rachel] Maddow took a turn going after Kelly, bringing the issues with Kelly’s reporting into the national spotlight. Maddow mocked how seriously Kelly was reporting on this revelation “that they made up.” She explained that other states have similar laws about at-home ballots for service members, but “Fox has now decided that in the state of Colorado, that’s terrifying, even if it doesn’t terrify them anywhere else in the country.”

Call us Pollyannish, but how in the hell can a mainstream news outlet–yes, that includes FOX News–report something so blatantly false, and not correct it all these days later? It's one thing to get facts wrong in a news story. This happens for all kinds of reasons, and a lot of the time it's not the fault of the journalist. Even when it is, a correction is the bare minimum a news outlet can do to ensure that their historical record is accurate. Corrections are still frustrating, since they generally are never seen by as many people who saw the original error, but it's something.

What does it say when the nation's highest-rated "news" network allows blatant lies to go totally uncorrected?

Whatever's going on here, it's as far from "journalism" as you can get.

Where’s SoS Gessler when Voter Fraud being committed by James O’Keefe?

Secretary of State Gessler warns us about voter fraud all the time. Now, we know he's most likely in the back pocket of the Koch Brothers and ALEC and fully intends to disenfranchise Democratic voters as his primary goal in this oh-so-noble effort. But, what if we were to give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he would enforce the integrity of our elections even as they are attacked in real time by Fox News provocateur James O'Keefe?

As Mother Jones and Colorado Pols have reported, the convict has been performing his special kind of reporting lately, which has been dutifully reported by Fox News and admirably debunked by our own 9News and others. With these reports it seems quite apparent the James O'Keefe is intent on manipulating Colorado's elections in this critical election year. 

And so, if SoS Scott Gessler doesn't see a problem with these manipulations, maybe we should make sure he knows that we don't appreciate what O'Keefe is doing. And maybe we should contact our Secretary of State now to implore him to stop James O'Keefe and have AG Suthers prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. 

And one must wonder if O'Keefe is violating his parole from that earlier conviction.

SoS contact page here. Other info below:

Elections & Voting

Suite 200
303-894-2200
303-869-4861 (FAX)
elections@sos.state.co.us

Campaign Finance 
303-894-2200 & press 3
cpfhelp@sos.state.co.us

Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
SCORE
Voter information
 

Elections Staff Directory

Even More Right Wing Ballot BS Debunked By 9NEWS

Kudos again to 9NEWS' excellent reporting in the last 24 hours, discrediting a flurry of alarmist nonsense from conservatives about Colorado's mail ballot system. Last night, reporter Brandon Rittiman debunked another truly bizarre lie about Colorado elections, broadcast to millions of FOX News viewers across America yesterday by lead anchor Megyn Kelly:

Tuesday's episode of a Fox News host Megyn Kelly's program incorrectly told viewers that Colorado voters are now able to print ballots using their home computers and vote by turning them in…

The host described it as a "first of its kind election law: a set of rules that literally allows residents to print ballots from their home computers, then encourages them to turn ballots over to 'collectors' in what appears to be an effort to do away with traditional polling places."

While traditional polling places are a thing of the past because of the law, the claim that it allows for home-printed ballots is simply false…

Once again, none other than Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is obliged to confirm the news that any voter conversant with the process already knows: this is completely bogus. Other than overseas deployed members of the military, who had the option of being emailed a ballot before last year's election modernization bill, nobody can "print a ballot from their home computer."

It's important to remember that this was not intended to cause controversy locally, since locals know that you can't print a ballot from your computer. The purpose of this very deliberate lie from FOX News is to generate even more vote fraud mythology to reinforce the beliefs of a segment of the electorate who already believes it's happening. Just like James O'Keefe's baiting low-level campaign workers to recite an unworkable fraud proposal, the facts simply do not support the hysteria. Because we think FOX News either knows or should know such elementary facts about Colorado voting law before broadcasting them, the only reasonable conclusion is that the hysteria is an end unto itself.

Watch the video above and tell us we're wrong.

James O’Keefe Helps Debunk Mail Ballot Fraud Myths

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

Conservative media lit up yesterday after conservative provocateur James O'Keefe released a video from his recent "vote fraud" sting attempts in Colorado. Last weekend, we got reports that O'Keefe was in the state attempting to bait Democratic field campaign workers into endorsing fraudulent acts involving mail ballots. Word spread fast from there, but evidently O'Keefe had been on the ground for some time before his presence was publicized.

In the end, it does appear that O'Keefe got what he wanted: out of presumably dozens of attempts where he was informed that his proposal would be felony vote fraud, it looks like he found two people willing to follow his bait into a very, very bad idea: collecting unused mail ballots from students who have moved or transferred, completing them, and turning them in.

Before we go any further, everyone does realize that is a serious crime, right? Good. Let's be very clear about what happened here: O'Keefe was able to lead a couple of low-level table staffers into saying some eye-poppingly stupid things. One agreed with him that turning in other people's ballots would be morally okay, the other actually volunteered "ghetto Aurora" as a good place to collect unused ballots. In both cases, what these staffers for nonprofits Work for Progress and Greenpeace respectively said was absolutely termination-offense unacceptable. We'll go a step further and say the one who got all racial about helping out O'Keefe with his fraud designs must, for the common good, never work in politics again. But in neither case is there any suggestion that these staff would have come up with the idea to do this were it not for O'Keefe's prompting. There's no actual plan by anyone to do what he suggests.

And there's a good reason for that: as our local media has done a good job explaining since O'Keefe's video broke yesterday, the ballot fraud O'Keefe is proposing simply would not work. 9NEWS reports that even GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler can't defend O'Keefe's allegations:

"I can't promise people that it will happen," Sec. of State Scott Gessler said. "I can't promise people that it can't happen. But what I can say is we've got a pretty good system and we're always trying to make it better." [Pols emphasis]

County clerks are required by law to verify signatures on ballots. Gessler says there is a loophole in that law allowing signatures to go unverified if a witness signs the ballot.

But clerks contend witness signatures are rare, and they still have the power to scrutinize those ballots if they seem suspicious.

Witness-signed ballots are indeed rare–and as the Denver clerk's office explains, you can't just fish a ballot out of somebody else's mailbox and send it in. It will be caught:

"That check of signature verification is really the stopgap to prevent ballots that are being filled out by people who are not the voter," said Amber McReynolds, the director of Denver's elections division.

About 1.5% of the ballots turned into the Denver clerk's office so far have been flagged for signature verification according to this story. That doesn't mean they're fraudulent, of course, it just means that the signature on file with the Denver clerk didn't match the signature on the ballot envelope closely enough to mass automatic muster–or weren't signed at all. Affected voters are notified and given the opportunity to "cure" their ballot by verifying their signature. That's how the system has always worked for absentee and mail-in ballots, and it actually works well. Without anything to go on, what's a fraudster supposed to do to fake someone's signature?

Yes, there's probably some elaborate scheme that could be concocted to obtain examples of signatures of voters to believably forge on mail ballots. If we were to think about all the ways we could violate, you know, just about any law, there are elaborate Rube Goldberg machine ideas we could come up with to pull it off.

But nobody's doing these crazy things to commit vote fraud. It's much cheaper to get out the vote in legal ways.

In a sense, it's good that O'Keefe gave our county clerks a chance to explain how voting by mail actually works in Colorado. It won't mean much to the right wing media breathlessly reporting on O'Keefe's "proven vote fraud" video, or the consumers of said media who aren't really interested in facts that might render them less agitated. But the people who matter–Colorado voters–can be assured that our system does work.

When even Scott Gessler grudgingly admits it, you can feel pretty confident.

Field Campaigns Win Elections

votebutton

AP's Nicholas Riccardi has an insightful story about the storied Democratic combined field campaign effort, swinging into action again this year as the polls in Colorado's marquee U.S Senate race look a lot like they did in 2010:

The relentless ground game to inspire voters to cast ballots has helped Democrats dominate Colorado under even the most difficult political circumstances. Four years ago, the strategy helped Sen. Michael Bennet’s come from behind to win re-election. Now Bennet is directing the Senate Democrats’ national campaign arm, testing whether a $60 million get-out-the-vote effort — named, “The Bannock Street Project,” for his old Denver campaign office — can do the same for Udall and other Democrats defending their Senate majority…

Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner has led Udall in recent public polls. Bennet didn’t lead in a single public poll in 2010. [Pols emphasis] Udall’s campaign is modeled on Bennet’s — but with a get-out-the-vote operation three times larger. The incumbent may also benefit from Colorado’s new elections law, passed last year by its Democratic-controlled legislature over Republican objections, that sends mail-in ballots to all voters and allows citizens to register until Election Day.

There’s no guarantee Democrats will dominate on the ground this year. Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation have upped their focus on getting out the vote. But GOP and conservative opponents know the ground game remains a potent Democratic weapon.

In 2012, the Republican coordinated campaign had serious problems with a new integrated field campaign system called "ORCA," which resulted in widespread breakdowns in their get-out-the-vote operation. We've heard that at least some of the lessons from that failure have been learned by the GOP in time for 2014, but the fact remains that Democratic field campaign efforts have done this successfully over and over in Colorado. Democrats have a degree of experience with getting out the vote in Colorado that the right simply has no analog for in recent elections.

One big variable this year is the impact of the 2013 election modernization legislation, House Bill 13-1303, which resulted in both mail ballots being delivered to every registered voter and the ability to register and vote through Election Day. Consistent with past elections, Republicans are leading the early mail ballot returns. Democratic ballots will come in as they're canvassed, and historically Democrats dominate early voting. 

Just like in 2010, it's going to be very close. But Cory Gardner's steady three-point October lead in the U.S. Senate race, given 2010's experience, is nothing for Republicans to feel good about.

Stand By Your Man: Tom Ready’s Domestic Violence Known to GOP since 1991

(Yeesh – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Most of Colorado now knows about Tom Ready, the Pueblo County Commissioner candidate who promoted the idea that the Sandy Hook school massacre was just a "hoax" perpetuated by people who want more gun laws. The Pueblo County Republican Party has been deafeningly silent about Tom Ready's extreme views, refusing to condemn them, and blaming Ready's opponent, Sal Pace, for bringing it up. Ready half-heartedly "apologized" in the Denver Post, but made it clear that he considered himself to be the real victim.

But it isn't the first time that the Pueblo GOP has chosen to "Stand By Their Man" in the face of reports of horrific behavior. Twice, in 1991, and in 2009, a woman asked the courts for a protective order against Tom Ready. 

Yet nothing was done – Ready was the Pueblo Republican Party Chairman for ten years, and was sent to represent the party nationally in 2009. Now, he is the party's candidate for County Commissioner. 

The Republican Party of Pueblo has always stood by Doctor Thomas Ready, even when his wife publicly accused him of five years of battering, culminating in a violent incident on March 15, 1991.

On that day, the Pueblo Chieftain wrote, Mrs. Ready came home to find a moving truck and crew at their shared home, and Dr. Ready supervising the moving out of the couple's shared property.

When she arrived, according to her statement, the couple argued. She claims Ready knocked her down in the driveway and broke her sunglasses. Mrs. Ready contends that, when she entered the home and tried to call police, he shoved her away from the phone, knocking her down again.

Mrs. Ready also alleges that Ready kicked her several times after one of his bows was broken when he shoved her into an archery display at the home. When she broke free, she said, she ran and asked the moving men why they hadn't called the police.

She said the men laughed and said, "You married him, not us."

Mrs. Ready said that, when Ready came out of the house, he said, "I never touched her, guys. You saw her kick me."

So,  after reading that,  once your blood stops boiling, understand that the fine folks of the Pueblo Republican Party read the same article. And Pueblo's a small large town. Most people know what's going on with everyone else. Half the people are related to each other – the other half went to the same high schools.

And after reading in Pueblo's conservative daily paper, the Pueblo Chieftain, about Ready's beating  his wife for five years, culminating in an assault which left her bruised and bloody,  the Pueblo GOP re-elected him chairman, as they did for the next nine years. In fact, as a special honor, they sent him to the National Republican Convention in 2008.

(more…)

A letter to vacillating volunteers, from Abraham Lincoln.

CONFIDENTIAL.

To Messrs. —

Gentlemen:—In obedience to a resolution of the Whig State Convention, we have appointed you the Central Whig Committee of your county. The trust confided to you will be one of watchfulness and labor: but we do hope the glory of having contributed to the overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country, will be a sufficient reward for the time and labor you will devote to it. Our whig brethren throughout the Union have met in convention, and after due deliberation and mutual concessions have elected candidates for the Presidency and Vice presidency, not only worthy of our cause, but worthy of the support of every true patriot, who would have our country redeemed, and her institutions honestly and faithfully administered.

To overthrow the trained bands that are opposed to us, whose salaried officers are ever on the watch, and whose misguided followers are ever ready to obey their smallest commands, every Whig must not only know his duty, but must firmly resolve, whatever of time and labor it may cost, boldly and faithfully to do it.

Our intention is to organize the whole State, so that every Whig can be brought to the polls in the coming presidential contest. We cannot do this, however, without your co-operation; and as we do our duty, so we shall expect you to do yours[.]

After due deliberation, the following is the plan of organization, and the duties required of each county committee.

(more…)

Pueblo Chieftain Smears “Bo” Ortiz for Political Revenge

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Poor Bo. He just can't catch a break from the Pueblo Chieftain.  To inform the public,  Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz voluntarily advised the Pueblo Chieftain about  faulty driver's licenses distributed by  a Colorado Revenue Department vendor, MorphoTrust. The state IDs and licenses were supposed to have a black band across the top, identifying those ineligible to vote, but 524 of these IDs were sent out without the flag. 

The Chieftain chose  to run the ID story on page one, next to a photo of Ortiz, with the banner headline, "Faulty ID Cards Issued", on September 16, 2014. . The teaser subheading on the online edition read, "No concern for voter fraud." Who issued the faulty IDs? Who is unconcerned about voter fraud?  Judging by his photo under the headline, a reasonable reader would infer: Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

(more…)

Monsanto Operatives Threaten Lawsuit, Illegally film Citizen Panelists

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Proposition 105, the GMO Labelling Initiative, will be on your Colorado ballot in November 2014. Proposition 105 is not a ban on GMO products – it asks voters if foods modified or treated with genetically modified materials should be labeled “Produced With Genetic Engineering” starting July 1, 2016. To view the official ballet language visit www.righttoknowcolorado.org.

As part of the initiative review process, a Citizens Initiative Review panel was selected, and began meeting in September 2014.  The intent of the CIR process is to produce a nonpartisan "voter guide" with pro and con statements about a given ballot initiative. 

Then, Monsanto sent in a camera crew and legal representatives to film citizen participants, possibly to gain material for their own anti-Prop 105 advertising. Here's the story as told on the Natural Grocers blog.

(more…)

Truthers, Lies, and Clear Choices: Commissioner and Clerk Debates in Pueblo

UPDATE: The story of how Sal Pace outed Tom Ready as a conspiracy nut, who believes that the Sandy Hook school shootings never happened, has gone national, but you saw it here first. Here is a link to video I took of Pace and Ready's remarks, with apologies for the poor quality.

The professional-quality video will be aired by Comcast Channel 19 Community Access TV according to this schedule, starting September 22. If you were smart enough to have thought of recording it, you've got it. But you won't have the priceless audience reactions.

The Commissioner debate began at 6:00 pm.

Steve Henson of Chieftain, moderator, says that there will be no questions from the audience. Only those previously submitted by readers of the Chieftain or Action22 will be asked of the candidates.

No heckling. It is not a rule he enforces against the Ready and Head supporters, who boo, catcall, etc. , pretty much unchallenged, as you will hear and see from the video.

The County Commissioner debate, between incumbent Commisioner Sal Pace, and Republican challenger Tom Ready,  was a very wonky and respectful debate, discussing tax policy, land use, water regulations, jobs and economic development. Sal Pace gave himself some well-deserved props for progress on the Southwest Chief proposal, and a new arts initiative in Pueblo. Ready declined to go after Sal Pace about Pueblo's current County Commissioner email "scandal", for which one Commissioner was fired. This reticence on Ready's part surprised me – but Sal Pace had nothing to do with the emails, so perhaps that explains it.

It was all good – up until the point when Tom went off the rails. He started off by accusing Sal Pace of personally raising utility rates on Pueblo Customers. Sal Pace was a party to the unfortunate agreement that ensconced Black Hills Energy as the town's monopoly customer-gouger, but didn't actually personally throw the switch.  Then Tom went into why coal is cleaner than natural gas, and it kind of went south from there. Sal, appropriately, responded that if Tom wanted to get negative, how about those Facebook posts about how Newtown shootings were a hoax?

(more…)

AFL-CIO LAUNCHES KOCH SISTERS CAMPAIGN

This morning the AFL-CIO launched a campaign to target the Koch brothers called the Koch Sisters. The campaign features the Koch sisters, two middle class women from union families who are a stark contrast to the right wing Koch brothers. The ads highlight the conversation around how these billionaires are influencing our politics for the worse.

The AFL-CIO would like to encourage you to check out the website and ads as well as to share news stories via social media.  

Website: http://www.kochsisters.org

30-second ad, which will begin airing today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7BbC5V8BAU

Link to the 60-second spot featured on the website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DXCAsqkecs

Gessler, Brauchler, Still Can’t Make Facts Fit Illegal Voter Narrative

Noooooo!!! Oh, nevermind.

Noooooo!!! Oh, nevermind.

As Election Day gets closer and closer, so, too, does the end of Republican Scott Gessler's contentious term as Colorado's Secretary of State. Perhaps one day we will all look back at this period of time and laugh to ourselves in disbelief that Gessler could have actually been in charge of voting in Colorado.

Back when Gessler first took office in January 2011, he told everyone who would listen that Colorado had a massive problem with illegal voters casting illegal ballots. In fact, Gessler testified before Congress that he was aware of at least 16,270 illegal voter registrations in Colorado, including 5,000 who illegally cast a ballot. Those numbers, of course, never held up to even the slightest level of scrutiny. In July 2013, Gessler's office produced a list of 155 people — yes, just 155 — who were suspected of having registered to vote illegally. What happened to the other 16,115 that Gessler boldly proclaimed to Congress as illegal voters? Perhaps someone in the Secretary of State's office just accidentally cut-and-paste the same names 110 times.

Last November, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, a very partisan Republican DA, announced that his office had indicted a grand total of 4 (four) people alleged to have been involved in illegally registering to vote. In June, charges were dropped in one of those cases, and yesterday, a judge tossed charges in a second Brauchler case. From CBS4 Denver:

A judge dismissed an election-fraud charge against an Aurora man on Wednesday after prosecutors said they could not prove he was the one who illegally registered himself to vote.

Tadesse G. Degefa, who is not a U.S. citizen, had been charged with procuring false registration for allegedly signing up to vote in 2012.

District Attorney George Brauchler said the secretary of state’s voter registration website does not have safeguards to prevent someone from illegally registering someone else to vote.

According to CBS 4, charges are still pending against one canvasser and one noncitizen. In other words, out of Gessler's original claim of 16,270 cases of illegal voter registration, we may (and only possibly) end up with just two people who may have not even intentionally been involved with illegally registering a voter. And guess how many people look to have actually voted illegally?

At this point, none. As in, zero.

So, Scott Gessler was pretty close in his estimation of voter fraud — give or take 16,270 people.

Wayne Williams Thanks God For Friendly Press

El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams.

El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, El Paso County clerk and Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams is returning a contribution made improperly to his campaign, from a Republican group that isn't properly set up to donate to candidates:

Colorado Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams says he will return a $550 campaign contribution from a federal group because it wasn't an appropriate donation under the state's campaign finance rules…

The issue is how the RSLC is registered in Colorado.

Currently, the group's Colorado arm – the Republican State Leadership Committee-Colorado Account – is a 527 political organization, which can receive unlimited contributions from its federal namesake but cannot contribute directly to a candidate…

"We let people know what the rules are ahead of time and we thought everything was fine when we accepted it," [Pols emphasis] Williams said of the donation. "When we followed up with them, it didn't meet all the technical requirements so we're sending it back to them."

But as Williams' Democratic opponent Joe Neguse fires back in a press release today, the only reason Williams "followed up" with this donor from June is because he was contacted by the media about the donation. Since it's likely that either Neguse's campaign or somebody allied with them gave the information about this improper donation to the press, they'd be the ones to know:

Joe Neguse's campaign manager Elisabeth Mabus released the following statement, "We need a Secretary of State that understands campaign finance laws.  Wayne Williams' campaign was perfectly happy to keep this donation until the media pointed out the issues with it, and only then did he agree to return an improper campaign donation from this shady out of state Republican organization." [Pols emphasis]

Fortunately for Williams, the friendly local newspaper allowed the story to be about Williams' returning the contribution, not the fact that he took an improper donation to begin with. That's kind of strange, since normally newspapers bust politicians in these circumstances instead of helping them put the story to bed. And given that we're talking about a candidate for the state's chief elections officer, don't these details matter more?

They should matter–and Williams shouldn't get a pass for this.

Operation Choke Point – Denying the Dollars

Victor “Everyone Loves” Head is all choked up about a Federal program, Operation Choke Point (OCP). In an interview with Jennifer Kerns, Head claimed that credit card services for Pueblo Freedom and Rights (PFR) were suddenly cut off the week before the recall elections in 2013.  Other right –wing groups  also reported sudden and mysterious severance of their banking relationships, and an astroturf organization, USCC, has been set up to take reports of suspected OCP interference.  The funders of USCC are unknown, but have strong ties to conservative groups.

“Operation Choke Point” overreach is the latest generator of anti-Obama, anti-AG Holder outrage in the right wing blogosphere. Look for it to become the next big attack on the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder, with Pueblo’s own “grassroots hero”, Victor Head, prominently featured as the poster boy. Here is your daily requirement of irony: (Below, right, is Victor Head of PFR, a recall organizer, and current Pueblo Clerk candidate, posing  in 2013 with El Paso Sheriff Terry Maketa, himself recently the target of a failed recall for sexual and  administrative offenses.)

But…Is OCP  a real “scandal”? Is it “overreach”? Is OCP the bank version of NSA spying on ordinary Americans?

William Isaac , columnist for “The Hill” wrote:

The DOJ launched Operation Choke Point in 2013, working in concert with a wide range of agencies including the FTC, FDIC, OCC, CFPB, and FBI.  The stated goal of Operation Choke Point was to “sensitize” the banking industry to the risk of doing business with legal but “undesirable” businesses through the issuance of non-public FIRREA subpoenas ( as opposed to enforcement actions where the authority could be challenged).

Regulators and the DOJ highlight some two-dozen businesses that they consider “high risk” or “undesirable”, including ammunition dealers, producers of adult films, check cashers, short-term unsecured loans (commonly called “payday loans”), telemarketers, firearms/fireworks vendors, raffles, pharmaceutical firms, life-time guarantees, surveillance equipment firms, and home-based charities.

I am all for the DOJ monitoring some of these shady businesses, and if they find illegal action, stopping it. I’ve had hundreds of dollars deducted from my own bank account via a scam for a non-existent health insurance card company, prior to the ACA’s enactment. Had someone taken the money from my purse, there would have been criminal charges; however, because it took place in the obscure world of third-party bank businesses and fly-by-night internet scam artists, it proved impossible to stop or to get redress. I'll never get that money back.

 I don’t want felons and violent offenders to be able to order firearms online.  Pharmaceutical firms that market under-the-counter medications need some oversight to protect public health.  Online child pornography businesses need oversight of their bank transactions so that they can be shut down and punished. This is the DOJ appropriately protecting the public.

The grey area is that most of these are legal businesses, at least until there is proof of criminal activity. Where I agree with the right wing outrage, (and the possibility of being on the same side of any issue as Victor Head makes my own gag reflex kick in) is on this point:  there is little or no oversight on the overseers.  People are losing access to their own money, without a warrant, without a trial, without a civil action.

Liberals may applaud the restrictions on shady businesses, and on right-wing political groups that benefit from dark money. However,  there is no guarantee that the OCP’s possible overreach stops there. Like the IRS scandal, we may well find that progressive organizations are also targeted as much or more than conservatives.   How will the Department of Justice be made accountable and transparent, when the agency is now unaccountable and its transactions are hidden from the public?

The United States Congress has initiated legislation on this issue. House Bill 4986, the End Operation Choke Point Act of 2014,  was introduced with bipartisan support in June 2014. It was referred to the Committee on Financial Services, where it sits. Given the dismal history of Congress in passing legislation, govtrack.us gives it only a 26% chance of being signed into law.  I frankly don’t have the financial expertise to understand how or if this bill will provide oversight and transparency on OCP, so I’m not going to try to evaluate the legislation.

Given the people promoting the right wing outrage over OCP, most critical thinkers are justifiably skeptical of the claims of OCP overreach. Jennifer Kerns, aka California Partygirl, aka anti-recall spox, aka California Republican media consultant, now a Washington pundit, wrote in  “TheBlaze.com” that Operation Choke Point,  (OCP): “Evidence has emerged of Operation Choke Point targeting other Republicans on or before Election Day.”  Victor Head has a record of rummaging through post office trash for ballots to bolster his claims of possible election fraud.

Jennifer Kerns would be an expert on dark money funding of political organizations, from the inside – Magpul funded $150,000 for  the organization “Free Colorado”, which in turn funded  the recall efforts against  Senator Morse in Colorado Springs.  Free Colorado was promoted by the Koch brothers on the AFP-Colorado website. Kerns was the spokesperson for Basic Freedom Defense Fund, and helped to promote “Free Colorado”  anti-recall efforts.

I don’t find the outrage over OCP to be credible, because it comes from these sources. However, I’m aware of and concerned about NSA and IRS overreach, during the course of legitimate agency endeavors. Progressives shouldn't dismiss concerns about government stomping on privacy rights, just because they come from a conservative direction. I’d like to see more transparency and accountability of OCPs efforts to curtail borderline-criminal financial transactions. I just don’t quite know how that balances with civil-liberties concerns.

UPDATE:  A Huffington Post article by Zach Carter posits that OCP is an effective way to curb money laundering schemes.  Similar laws were put in place during the Bush administration, and resulted in, for example, Wachovia Bank paying $150 million to resolve charges that it laundered money from drug cartels.

Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkely, and Dick Durbin like the OCP program.

First Woman to Run for Sheriff of Mesa County…..What !?!

2014 July 9 Media Blast

I am running for Mesa County Sheriff as a Write in and have been running since I announced my candidacy in public at the Cinco de Mayo Main Street fair on May 4, 2014.  Why did you not know about my candidacy?

I have been totally ignored by all Grand Valley media.  It is unheard of for a woman to run for the top “man’s” job.  It is unheard of for a Registered Nurse to have the audacity to run for Sheriff.  Being a woman and a Registered Nurse gives me the foundational knowledge to be Sheriff.  Being a “Write-In” candidate was a difficult choice but I wanted nothing to inhibit the essential reasons a woman and a Nurse should run, i.e. impartiality, objectivity and independence.

Of all the men that are still running, none have my years of public service.  None have my supervisory experience.  None have my budget control experience.  None have lived and worked in a war zone and prepared for casualties.  None have worked for better care for our local vets.  None understand life and death decisions and working with families as I have.  I have had a patient-centered career. I have had a community outreach career.  I have lived and worked in a multi-national and multi-cultural setting successfully.  I have worked almost a decade inside a US government agency, the Veterans Hospital and I understand this community and its needs for now and the future far better than any other candidate.

I was President of Mesa County Western Colorado Congress for over 2 years and unfortunately, one of only a handful of Republican members.  In that time I scrutinized, probed and prodded the present and future issues our county will be facing.  The cultural diversity of our county is an enormous strength and a bane if misunderstood or mishandled.  Trust is imperative.

King is under investigation.  Trust will be a problem for him.  There are three men “petitioning” on to the ballot, two of which chickened out on running until King was under investigation.  Trust and courage is a problem.  Only one petitioner started before the primary and is still collecting names.  One other “write-in” couldn’t find the Ute Water building for the Mesa County Sheriff Association forum that was pre-scheduled weeks in advance, now has a “Tea Party” endorsement.  He is not a long term planner by any stretch of the imagination and most of what he talked about at the forum when he did get there was his own lack of knowledge about how to run a Sheriff’s office and using dogs.

I have a vision for the Mesa County Sheriff’s position.  Without trustworthy, committed and sure-footed leadership, this county will suffer.  Leadership requires projecting planning into the future and trying to anticipate, as much as possible, unforeseen situations that could have an adverse effect on our community.

The Grand Valley is a unique area, in a geologically unique position between two of the Southwest’s biggest cities.  If those cities call for more power or more water, the Sheriff’s Office will bear the impact from ramifications that could occur.  An example to easily visualize is a blackout due to lack of electricity.  A community left in the dark is a vulnerable community.  Prevention is the key.  As in healthcare, prevention reduces costs and ensures stable longevity. 

Despite the media’s efforts, I have been and will continue to run a grassroots effort to be elected by Mesa County citizens.  I will put my efforts into achieving a long term plan to ensure a viable, safe and healthy community.  Who better to put your trust, then in a Registered Nurse?

A real choice for Sheriff, Write-In Benita Phillips for Sheriff.  If you want to help me please email me at ranchita3553@gmail.com.