History Lesson: How Mike Coffman Does “Accountability”

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Last week, it was announced that former Kansas Gov. and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will resign, to be replaced by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Sebelius leaves with an admittedly mixed record after presiding over the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama's namesake Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace website–even though a late surge in enrollment ultimately allowed the administration to claim success, meeting the initial goal of seven million insurance signups by the end of March.

Sebelius' legacy as head of HHS during the rollout of "Obamacare" is linked to the success of health care reform, and it's a good bet that she'll be remembered more fondly as the early failures of the program fade from memory. For today, though, let's take a look at the response to Sebelius' resignation as announced Friday by embattled GOP Rep. Mike Coffman:

I learned this very early on during my time in the military — no organization can operate effectively in the absence of accountability.  The sad truth is, until today, there has been zero accountability for the broken websites, the broken roll-outs and the many broken promises that have swamped Obamacare. In the military, the business world, or any other walk of life, Secretary Sebelius would've been shown the exit long, long ago…

Okay, full stop. We're not sure how many readers remember the story of Coffman's former Elections Director from his time as Secretary of State, a gentlemen by the name of Dan Kopelman, but if you know Kopelman's story, Coffman's remarks about Sebelius can be easily cast as hypocritical. Dan Kopelman was caught in 2007 running a partisan elections data business on the side while working for Coffman at the Secretary of State's office. The obvious conflict of interest made for months of terrible press for Coffman, and forced Coffman to implement a "new policy" prohibiting SoS elections employees from holding "an official position in a partisan organization or political party" or working "for or against a candidate for a partisan office."

Which you'd think would be obvious.

Despite Kopelman's clear violation of C.R.S. section 24-50-117, which states that "no employee shall engage in any employment or activity which creates a conflict of interest with his duties as a state employee," Coffman didn't show Kopelman "the exit" at all–simply transferring him within the Secretary of State's office "to a job where he does not have access to voter data."

What's the difference, you ask? With Sebelius, the headlines are much bigger! And, as with so much of Coffman's long history in politics, the Kopelman episode was so many years ago–2007, ancient history–that he's counting on nobody remembering it ever happened. But we do, and as long as the Rocky Mountain News' archives stay online, Coffman will earn blowback over Kopelman every time he gets preachy.

Stay Classy, Victor “Everyone Loves” Head

Sometimes, one's campaign swag leaves little to the imagination. Definitely the case with 2013 recall organizer-turned GOP Pueblo County Clerk candidate Victor Head:

everonelovesheadWe're trying to figure out what's worse: that Mr. Head thinks "Everyone Loves Head" is an appropriate slogan for a serious campaign for office, or that only females are wearing this shirt in the photo on Head's Facebook page?

Yes, the answers to these questions are obvious, and eww.

Media should not report Satan is real

​(Um – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dan Caplis.

Dan Caplis.

Everyone's a media critic, including Archbishop Sam Aquila who told KNUS radio host Dan Caplis last week the media is distorting Pope Fancis, in part by failing to report that Satan is real.

Aquila on Pope Francis press coverage: [Pope Francis] has a deep love for those that are in need, for those who are poor, and reaches out to them, and so, the media never reports on his very real support for Catholic teaching and the understanding of Catholic teaching. They never report on – he’s one of the few popes that, at least in my lifetime, who has referred to the devil in his homilies and his catechesis. And rarely do you hear the secular media reporting on that – that there is evil in the world, that there is – that Satan is real, the devil is real and he can really draw you away from the gospel message. And, of course, in a secular world that denies God, they’re going to deny the evil one, too. And so it gives free rein to the evil one and that is really problematic because it is not good for humanity. Also, he is really one who embraces those who are sick or suffering. And I watched a video yesterday on Blessed John Paul II[…]. And so Francis, too, has that goodness about him, and people really do see that he loves them and cares for them. But he’s also very challenging. When he – you know, the fact that he warned members of the mafia in Italy that they could go to hell if they continue to pursue their abuse of power and their murdering of people, and all of that.

I understand Archbishop Aquila is an Archbishop. And I understand Dan Caplis is a social conservative, and I understand I'm a biased atheist.

And we're all entitled to our beliefs, truly. But the media should report that Satan is real?

Here’s how The Denver Post would look if it really hit the bottom

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On the Center for Western Priorities' bog Friday, Erin Moriarty spotlighted a special advertising section that looks very much like the actual Denver Post.

Moriarty wrote:

Even the most seasoned Denver Post readers can be fooled by a new advertising ploy from oil and gas front group Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), in which fake, industry-sponsored news stories are being published as part of a special “Energy and Environment” section on the newspaper’s website.

Each CRED-authored story uses the same font and layout as real Denver Post articles from real Denver Post reporters, undoubtedly attempting to pass CRED’s message off as real news. But, it’s not. It’s yet another paid effort that CRED is using to validate its now-dwindling credibility.

CRED is no stranger to promoting its message through paid advertising, as can be seen by the television, radio, online, and bus advertisements that the group has been running since its inception in September 2013. This time, the ad on Denver Post’s website boasts “news” about oil and gas development in the state, when really, the group is just peddling its own version of facts. In the “Energy and Environment” section on the Denver Post’s website, CRED’s advertorial features several stories on natural gas exports, local control amendments, and other energy issues Coloradans have been following for months.

The online version of the CRED ad is labeled in large letters across the top, "This Advertising Section is Sponsored by [CRED logo]." And "Advertising Supplement to The Denver Post" appears on top, in small, but not tiny, font.

Post reporter Mark Jaffe did the right thing by tweeting readers a warning about the fake content last week.

"Faux Denver Post. Industry group's paid article looks a lot a Post story — it isn't," Jaffe tweeted April 9.

The six-page print version of the ad supplement, which appeared March 16, doesn't even have the headline, "This Advertising Section is Sponsored by," and is over-the top deceptive, with the by-lined "articles" and news format, even though "Advertising supplement to The Denver Post" appears on top of each page in font equal to the size of the date.

(more…)

GOP State Assembly Open Thread

UPDATE #2: An interesting twist in the gubernatorial primary, FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

In a bit of a surprise, former state Sen. Mike Kopp narrowly won the top line on the June GOP primary ballot in the fight for the chance to challenge Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall.

Kopp took 33.6 percent of the vote, eking out a win over Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who also made the ballot with 33.1 percent support at the state GOP assembly here…

“I am tired of weak-kneed Republicans who believe every Democratic attack means disaster. They roll over instead of standing up,” Gessler said.

In other gubernatorial news, Sen. Greg Brophy nets a disappointing 18%, and Steve House and Roni Bell Sylvester say goodbye. In the Attorney General primary, both Cynthia Coffman and Rep. Mark Waller make the ballot, though Waller's bare-minimum 30% total may have suffered due to ballots reportedly being handed out while he was still speaking. Cory Gardner nets 73% of the vote, enough to keep Randy "The Stache" Baumgardner off the U.S. Senate primary ballot.

—–

UPDATE: The Denver Post's Kurtis Lee:

Congressman Cory Gardner took to the stage at the state assembly Saturday calling for new leadership in the U.S. Senate, telling delegates he's the best candidate to create economic growth, lower taxes and spur more energy development.

"Everyday I see faces that are result of the failure of Washington," Gardner said. "Faces of failed leadership. … People who have lost their doctor, who are out of work."

Gardner quickly took aim at incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, saying the he "just went along for the ride" with President Barack Obama on the Affordable Care Act, a measure polling far from favorably in Colorado.

"Obamacare is the biggest and worst boondoggle this country has ever seen," Gardner said.

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To be updated from today's Republican Party state assembly at the CU Coors Events Center in Boulder.

Weekend Open Thread

"Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent."

–Napoleon Bonaparte

Renfroe Beats Buck At CD-4 Assembly

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

Sen. Scott Renfroe (R).

​As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

State Sen. Scott Renfroe beat Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck for the top spot on the ballot in the race to succeed Congressman Cory Gardner, but both made the ballot Friday.

Renfroe, who was called a "statesman" by several supporters, took 54 percent of the delegate vote while Buck won 46 percent at the 4th Congressional District assembly, where abortion and "personhood" were mentioned…

Delegates cheered both Kirkmeyer and Renfroe when they said they were pro-life and supported personhood and would never change.

The dig was clearly intended at Buck, but it also implicates Gardner, who recently said it it was a mistake to support personhood, which gives rights to fertilized eggs. Gardner said he still opposes abortion but agrees with critics who say personhood also bans certain forms of birth control. [Pols emphasis]

Bartels reports that Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, who is petitioning on to the CD-4 primary ballot, released her delegates to vote for other candidates–which may well have helped Sen. Scott Renfroe come out ahead of Ken Buck. Despite the "backroom deal" alleged to have paved the way for Buck to step into the CD-4 race as incumbent Rep. Cory Gardner moved up to the Senate race, we see an "anybody but Buck" scenario emerging, where Buck's opponents collude where necessary Survivor-style to ensure he doesn't prevail in June. The team hit on Buck, and collaterally Gardner, over flip-flopping on the "Personhood" abortion ban seems tailored to have that effect.

A poll follows–who will win this red-on-red battle?

(more…)

Wadhams says CO Tea Party is now “part of the Republican establishment”

(That's not a compliment, is it? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dick Wadhams.

Dick Wadhams.

An important storyline for reporters to track coming out of the Republican Party's state convention this weekend is, simply, how are Colorado Republicans getting along with each other these days?

To hear former state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams tell it, historic divisions between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the party are now over because the Tea Party is now "part of the Republican establishment:"

Wadhams: All those new activists that brought so much vitality to our party since 2010, this is now their third election cycle of being involved. They're part of the Republican establishment now! [Laughs] After they've been involved three times, they've been elected country chairs. They've been elected party precinct committee people. They've been involved in the party. The fact is, they are playing as big a role in the party as the establishment is. Where the breakdown occurs, Dan, is when we nominate candidates who can't win a general election. [BigMedia emphasis.]

…I do think there was a misperception when the Tea Party first became such a force in 2010, that there was a process that basically shut them out of nominating candidates, that there was some kind of small power group that determined who the candidates were going to be. Nothing is further from the truth.

The nominating process of the Republican Party is as open and fair as you can think, because the people who show up at precinct caucuses and the people who show up and vote at the Republican primary, are the people who nominate candidates, not a handful of people sitting in a back room. In fact, we did some things when I was state chairman to empower that grassroots movement.

That's what Wadhams told KNUS yapper Dan Caplis April 3, without addressing, among other GOP-establishment power plays, the epic backroom deal that cleaned the Republican senatorial primary field for Cory Gardner.

Wadhams also said, if there's any animosity within the Republican party–over divisions about the 2005 Referendum C tax increase, for example–Tea Party activists should just get over it:

Wadhams: If Republicans are still talking about that, they need to get over it. First of all, that's also an attack on former Governor Owens. Fine, disagree with Governor Owens and his administration on Referendum C. But give the guy credit. He's the only guy to win the governorship in 40 years. So he had something special that a whole bunch of other candidates didn't have.

This weekend's state Republican convention will illuminate whether Wadhams is right about oneness within the state GOP, and, whether he's right or wrong, this will likely be the biggest story that emerges from the convention.

Bob Beauprez: Repeal the 17th Amendment

The latest example of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez getting downright wacky during his years out of the spotlight. In this August 2010 interview on WWL Radio in New Orleans, Louisiana, Beauprez talks with host Spud McConnell about repealing the 17th Amendment–the century-old provision mandating the direct election of Senators by popular vote:

MCCONNELL: Forty states to my knowledge, so I mean there's several states looking at this, but also many many states who are looking at this, uh sending, uh, have already sent resolutions to the Beltway to say, re-read the 10th Amendment, you're overstepping your grounds. And in a discussion I had about that, I had a constitutional law professor on say, when Louisiana does that, we should include in there that we want to go back to where states actually elected their Senators…

BEAUPREZ: Oh yeah.

MCCONNELL: And sent them up there, and then that way, the state legislature, if there was some stuff going on in Washington they didn't like, they could actually, uh, withdraw their Senators, bring them back like an ambassador is brought back for consultations, and, and keep them out of any elections or any votes that are going on up there so that I think would give the states considerably more power inside the Beltway. What do you think about that?

BEAUPREZ: I couldn't agree more. [Pols emphasis] I think states lost an enormous amount of their leverage, their accountability, when the 17th Amendment–I think I've got my numbers right…

MCCONNELL: I think it's 17th, I didn't say it because I couldn't remember…

BEAUPREZ: Was passed and, there is, I think it's, and I don't know that there's enough focus and enough attention on it yet to really get it changed back to the way it was, but I think it's a growing movement, I agree with you Spud.

Repealing the 17th Amendment was a goal of the Tea Party in 2009-2010, albeit not as popular as the move to interpret the 10th Amendment as the only one that matters (excepting the 2nd Amendment of course). Ken Buck was at one point a supporter of repealing the 17th Amendment, until he realized fairly late in his 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate that wanting to get rid of the very same election one is competing in doesn't exactly ingratiate one's self with the voters.

It's another fringy moment to add to the growing collection, like Beauprez's 2012 interview where he claims President Barack Obama is "pushing the boundaries" toward "civil war," his "birther" pandering in 2010, writing in his 2009 book that climate change is "a complete hoax foisted on most of the world,", and more recent comments about how Sharia law is "creeping in" in Colorado.

Are there more? Probably, folks. In fact, we're willing to bet on it. We would consider just about any of these to be completely disqualifying in a general election. The question is, are sane Republicans paying attention now?

It’s The One Thing Cory Gardner Does Well

gardnerryancash

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

AP's Nick Riccardi:

Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner's campaign is reporting it raised $1.4 million during the first three months of the year, almost all of it in March, following his surprise announcement he would challenge Democratic Sen Mark Udall.

Gardner raised $1.24 million in March and has $2.1 million in cash available. Udall raised more than $2 million during the first quarter of the year and has $5.9 million available. But the senator was raising funds for the full three months. Udall campaign spokesman Chris Harris said Wednesday that the campaign raised the majority of its total, $1.4 million, in March.

It makes sense that Sen. Mark Udall would have raised the bulk of his $2 million in March, after Cory Gardner's entry into the race moved Colorado up on everybody's lists of priorities. Gardner's $1.2 million in a month of fundraising keeps pace with Udall from his moment of entry, and that's why he was recruited for this race. Gardner's long train of issue baggage doesn't distinguish him from the other Republicans he pushed aside to get in this race, but his ability to raise all the money he'll need certainly does.

The other part of the Gardner fundraising dynamo story, who's giving, won't be available until his quarterly report is published in detail. But we suspect that will also be noteworthy.

GOP Caucus Crackup? Anti-Priola “Coup Attempt” Fails

UPDATE: Here's a clip of Rep. Kevin Priola from yesterday's debate over Rep. Jim Wilson's amendment to House Bill 14-1292. The tension then brewing over Priola's opposition to this mostly GOP-supported amendment is clear in his voice:

​—–

GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

GOP Reps. Kevin Priola and Chris Holbert.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports this afternoon:

House Republicans met for 30 minutes Thursday morning after Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, called a meeting with the goal of replacing Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, as the caucus whip.

Priola had alienated many of his fellow GOP colleagues a day earlier when he declined to support an amendment to the Student Success Act sponsored by Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, that most Republicans supported.

Priola hadn’t paid Wilson, one of the more popular members in the caucus, the courtesy of informing him ahead of time that he wouldn’t be supporting his amendment related to a transparency website to show how school districts spend public money.

The Denver Post's Anthony Cotton has a little more reaction from Republicans:

According to the Republicans, part of Priola’s job as Whip is to determine where the membership stands on the issues and help align support within the party–on Wednesday, party members say, Priola not only failed to do that, he argued on the floor in favor of Hamner’s amendment over Wilson’s.

When Hamner’s amendment was passed in a close vote, it led to Thursday’s move by Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, to have Priola removed.

“We were shocked and disappointed that happened,” Holbert said. “He should have let us know his position and we could have made adjustments.”

In the end, despite the push from Rep. Chris Holbert to remove Rep. Kevin Priola from his Minority Whip position on the spot today, minority caucus chair Rep. Kathleen Conti scuttled the move by ruling the motion out of order–as Priola hadn't resigned, the position technically wasn't "vacant." This would clearly indicate that Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso  was not on board. Originally, as Stokols reports, an angry GOP caucus was prepared to oust Priola, as indicated by an initial vote against adjourning the meeting of the caucus. After Conti ruled the whole business out of order, a second vote to adjourn passed.

So what really happened today? For the best clue available, we turn to Rep. Frank McNulty:

The attempted coup, whatever vote precipitated Thursday’s meeting, has been a long time coming, according to several House Republicans who describe a widening gap between the caucus’s moderate and conservative wings.

“This isn’t about the amendment yesterday,” said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch. “This is about personalities.”

By all accounts, this has been a very frustrating legislative session for the conservative wing of the GOP House caucus. After the success of last year's recall elections against two sitting Senators and the resignation of a third, conservatives expected to vigorously oppose Democrats at every step, setting the stage for a clear election season distinction. Instead, as we've recounted in this space, the base GOP outrage they hoped to sustain into this year has fizzled, and the GOP caucus took heavy criticism for dead-end ideological flights of fancy like the abortion ban bill. This incident over a relatively obscure Democratic amendment supported by Priola–which apparently didn't even pass on clean party lines, with several Democrats voting against along with most of the GOP–appears to ripped the scab off of a much larger intra-caucus disagreement.

Judging from the unsatisfying end of today's blowup, we've probably not heard the last of it either.

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