Get More Smarter on Monday (May 23)

Get More SmarterIf you were in Canada, you’d probably have the day off — Happy Victoria Day! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The ongoing petition fraud story surrounding Republican Senate candidate Jon Keyser is now in its third week, and there is no indication that this scandal is going away anytime soon. ICYMI, here are some of the headlines about the GOP disaster of a Senate race from the last couple of days:

Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger wonders why the City of Denver can verify petition signatures while the Secretary of State’s office apparently cannot.

♦ The Colorado Independent tries to piece together the entire mess that is the Republican field of candidates for U.S. Senate.

Kevin Krug of Denver7 examines Ryan Frazier’s bid to remain on the June 28th Primary ballot.

♦ Republican Senate candidate Robert Blaha talks to 9News about his “brash style” in general and his complaints about the petition gathering process.

 

► It is definitely not a good time to be Jon Keyser, but the month of May has also been particularly rough for Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Monday Open Thread

“People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.”

–Alice Walker

Inside Mike Coffman’s Cognitively Dissonant “Evolution”

dreamactcoffman

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

We’ve been very excited about the work done over at Denver7’s Politifact Colorado project, working with the Pulitzer Prize-winning national Politifact to provide some desperately-needed critical thinking to the wild claims tossed back and forth by our local crop of prevaricating politicians. It’s yet more evidence of our bellwether swing-state status to see high-profile outfits like Politifact shining a light on Colorado politics.

With that said, it was inevitable that veteran reporter Alan Gathright at Politifact Colorado would write something we need to take issue with at some point. That happened last week with the publication of their latest fact check, “Is Rep. Mike Coffman ‘with Trump’? Coffman says not yet.” This fact check addresses the question of Rep. Mike Coffman’s support for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, both formally and essentially by supporting fundamentally similar positions on issues like immigration reform.

Within this broad question lies some stuff we need to unpack.

Coffman certainly is hedging on his campaign’s previous statement that he would support the GOP nominee, who is now almost certainly Trump.

But do the two candidates line up issue-wise?

The Colorado’s Voice news release pointed to Coffman’s position on immigration legislation. “Colorado already knows Coffman supports the Trump agenda on immigration. He voted … multiple times to deport DREAMers by ending the DACA program. He opposes DAPA, the policy that offers a modest but critical step forward for the parents of U.S. citizens.”

…Here, too, Coffman’s position isn’t cut and dried.

As Gathright explains, Coffman voted against the 2010 DREAM Act, famously declaring “The Dream Act will be a nightmare for the American people.” When Coffman originally ran for Congress, Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District was composed of arguably the most far-right electorate in the state of Colorado, and had repeatedly elected Tom Tancredo to represent them despite his status as a national icon of the nativist anti-immigrant neo-Confederate (you name it, literally) movement.

And then something happened in 2011. We’ve talked about it in this space over and over. And frankly, the whole question of whether Coffman can be accurately said to be “not with Trump,” or anything other than the far-right successor to Tancredo’s extremism, hinges on whether you believe what happened after 2011 was legitimate.

But Coffman’s immigration positions softened in 2011, when his district was redrawn and its population became 20 percent Hispanic. He began taking Spanish lessons to better communicate with his constituents, and in January 2013, he introduced the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act, which sought to provide immigrant children an opportunity to serve in the U.S. military and gain a path to citizenship…

“There’s a narrative out there about Republicans being not just anti-illegal immigrant, but anti-immigrant,” Coffman told the Wall Street Journal in January. “It was very important to me to break the narrative.”

There is no question that redistricting in 2011, which reshaped Coffman’s political universe from Tancredo’s old stomping ground to the enormous cultural and economic diversity of Aurora, presented Coffman with the greatest crisis of his long political career. But it’s important to remember that Coffman did not at first realize how this new electorate would respond to the kind of rhetoric that came so easily before. In 2012, the same year Coffman was caught on camera claiming President Barack Obama “is not an American,” Coffman very nearly lost his seat to an underfunded Democratic opponent.

Since that time, it’s true that Coffman has made many superficial gestures to his newly diverse constituency, including taking some lessons in Spanish so as to debate opponents in the language. But his votes and statements on immigration reform have been far from consistent. His support for allowing DREAMer students to join the military is offset by other votes against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as a whole. Immigration reform advocates are looking for votes, not accountability, so any time they get the smallest concession from a Republican, they are of course obliged to publicly rejoice.

Bottom line: notwithstanding the backpedaled statement from Coffman’s spokesperson, Politifact’s contention that it’s wrong to say Coffman is “with Trump” on the issues rests more or less entirely on the contention that “the congressman’s views have moderated.” But Coffman’s detractors say the evidence for that is inconsistent at best, and could be reasonably assessed as a deceptive campaign to feign support for reform without offending the Republican base. And even when Coffman does make a token vote in favor of sensible immigration policy, the Republican leadership in the House he helps keep in power ensures that nothing remotely close to what the immigration reform movement wants will ever happen.

Respectfully submitted as grist for the fact-checking mill.

Gail Schwartz Making Scott Tipton Sweat

Gail Schwartz.

Gail Schwartz.

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports on former state Sen. Gail Schwartz’s budding campaign against incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tipton–a race that is turning heads as a potential second Dem congressional pickup in Colorado this year:

[Monday], Schwartz, who is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, announced she was among 14 candidates the DCCC moved from a list of “Emerging” races, to its top group of “Red to Blue” candidates. Red to Blue is a list of targeted House seats held by Republicans that Democrats hope to flip in November.

Schwartz joins state Sen. Morgan Carroll of Aurora on the list. Carroll is challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the Sixth Congressional District, in what has been the most watched House race in Colorado.

Schwartz said today that the boost “adds to our momentum in working to unseat Congressman Tipton. We will win this seat by continuing to connect with Coloradans who support my approach to public service, which is putting community interests before special interests and partisanship.”

Democrats are increasingly excited by Schwartz’s campaign, which could well result in Tipton’s toughest race since winning the seat in the 2010 “GOP wave election.” As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports today, the race is tougher on paper than Democrats’ top pickup opportunity in Mike Coffman’s swing CD-6–but Schwartz may have the right combination of strengths to nullify the district’s built-in GOP advantage:

Her announcement in April led the Cook Political Report, an online service that analyzes elections, to change its rating of the seat from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican.”

The district swings between Republicans and Democrats, though it currently favors a Republican candidate. Republicans make up about 34 percent of the district, while Democrats comprise about 29 percent.

With 35 percent of the sprawling district identifying as unaffiliated, tens of thousands of votes are potentially up in the air.

“We always take every race seriously,” Tipton, from Cortez, told The Durango Herald on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to stay focused on doing our job standing up for our district’s interests.”

Tipton’s going to need to stay focused. Marcus reports that Schwartz has hired respected consultant firm OnSight Public Affairs run by veteran operative Mike Melanson to work on her race. Schwartz also has a great relationship with local Democratic donors after serving in the Colorado Senate. Combined with her listing in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) “Red to Blue” program, we don’t foresee money being a problem.

With that said, no one should be under any illusions that Schwartz will face an easy time unseating Scott Tipton. Tipton has handily bested the opponents he has faced since 2010, most recently walloping Abel Tapia of Pueblo in 2014 by a very comfortable margin. If it’s going to be different this time, a convergence of circumstances–Schwartz’s strength, Tipton’s newfound weakness after taking heavy fire for letting energy interest campaign donors write “his” legislation, and the broader weakness of the Republican ticket in this unique election year–will be what makes the difference.

In short, it’s a big lift–but rule Schwartz out at your peril.

Jon Keyser Defined by Petition Fraud and His Response

Republican voters know Jon Keyser as the "ballot fraud" candidate.

Republican voters know Jon Keyser as the “petition fraud” candidate.

Earlier this month we wrote that the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Jon Keyser was “basically finished” in the wake of the then-still growing scandal over fraudulent petition signatures used by Keyser to make it onto the June 28th primary ballot. As we said at the time, the stories of ballot fraud coupled with Keyser’s disastrous response to the problem were rapidly defining Keyser’s entire campaign. Keyser entered the Senate race with pretty low name ID among even Republican voters, which made it even more difficult for Keyser to avoid the shadow being cast by his petition problems.

This week we updated our assessment of Keyser’s campaign from “basically finished” to “cratered,” the obvious next — and final — stop when your fellow candidates are calling on you to drop out of the race. A story today in the Loveland Reporter-Herald shows again why Keyser is not going to recover from this scandal anytime soon:

Loveland residents were among the signers of U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser’s petition, and the statewide controversy surrounding fraudulent signatures elicited a variety of reactions.

Nancy Rumfelt, executive director of the conservative group Liberty Watch, was one of the signers of Keyser’s petition. Rumfelt signed it at the Larimer County GOP assembly.

“I just signed on to support his ability to get on the ballot,” Rumfelt said, adding that she supports anyone’s ability to get onto the ballot through any legal method available.

The options, she said, are available to anyone who wants to run for office, which is a daunting task in and of itself, and it doesn’t make sense to place a stigma on any of the methods.

Rumfelt said she wasn’t sure if she was going to vote for Keyser, but after his mishandling of “the media and his response” to the issue of fraudulent signatures, she said she’s definitely not going to support him now. [Pols emphasis]

Mail ballots go out to Republican Primary voters in a little more than two weeks, and that last quote above is a pretty strong condemnation of Keyser’s Senate hopes. Keyser is the “petition fraud” candidate now — it defines him as a candidate even among active Republicans — and he has neither the time nor the money to be able to shake that image before ballots are counted on June 28th.

There’s probably not a lot that Keyser can do to make things much worse than they already are, but if anyone can find a way to double-crater, it’s Keyser. Before this petition scandal broke a few weeks ago, Keyser’s campaign was still trying to figure out how to present him as an authentic Colorado candidate when the bulk of his support came from establishment Republicans and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which had selected Keyser as its top contender back in January.

As the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) was happy to point out today, Keyser skipped out on a Colorado debate in order to attend meetings in Washington D.C.:

Keyser was a no-show at another debate on Thursday night, instead opting to meet in Washington DC with fellow robot Marco Rubio.

On the bright side, Keyser is serving as a valuable real-life example for future Colorado Republican candidates; if you plan to seek a top elected office in the coming years, just make sure you do the opposite of whatever Keyser is doing.

 

Friday Open Thread

“We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.”

–Ayn Rand

Sucks To Be Wayne Williams

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank:

“In retrospect we could have done a better job on the review of the individual lines and I think we all admit that,” said Judd Choate, the elections director in the secretary of state’s office. “And that’s why we are trying to develop better policies.”

At the same time, state election officials acknowledged that the scope of the controversy involving forged signatures is still unknown. The secretary of state’s office has not yet conducted a review of other petitions submitted by the same collector who submitted the questionable signatures for Keyser. [Pols emphasis]

“We haven’t looked at it,” Choate said.

“We haven’t looked at it.” That’s encouraging. Maybe the Secretary of State’s office can get around to doing their job later this summer.

—–

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The office of Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a press conference today, to respond to this week’s shocking update in the ongoing scandal over forged petition signatures submitted on behalf of Senate candidate Jon Keyser: the revelation that Williams’ office was made aware of a deceased voter who had “signed” Keyser’s petition over a month ago, weeks before a local liberal group exposed the initial forgeries on May 3. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Chris Harrop reports:

Judd Choate, state election director in the Secretary of State’s office, addressed an array of questions Thursday, May 19, over the petition process after U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyer’s campaign became embroiled in a controversy over forged signatures discovered on his petitions.

One signature in particular — that of Judy DeSantis, who died in January — was found on Keyser’s petition, dated March 28. An elections worker was notified of the anomaly in April, but the issue was not brought to the attention of Secretary of State Wayne Williams until Tuesday, May 17.

“Under state law we are permitted to evaluate the content of a signature … we are not permitted under state law to compare signatures,” Choate told reporters, explaining that the reporting procedures at the time did not call for checking the date of the signature against the date of the voter’s death.

“We would have no reason to believe they have done anything wrong here,” Choate said, later adding that “the assumption was that they had died after signing the petition.”

liarliarkeyserReaders will be pleased to learn that the Secretary of State’s office is moving to correct this rather stupefying gap in their signature verification process for petitions. Again, what we’re talking about is routine verification of a voters’ identity and valid signature that already occurs with actual ballots–just not with petition signatures. We know exactly what needs to be done to catch fraud like the forgeries in Keyser’s petitions, it simply wasn’t done due to the “cost and effort” involved. And because, well, the law didn’t say the Secretary of State had to.

From there, things got a bit more defensive:

As to the larger issue of signature verification, Choate said that his office is prohibited by law from taking that step while some county elections officials — such as those in Denver — have implemented signature verification under their county charters.

“It would require a change in law, we would need a statutory change … we have very, very limited authority to pursue someone for a violation like this,” Choate said.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels added that the office does not have criminal prosecutorial authority. The forgery complaints to date have been referred to the Denver and Jefferson County district attorneys, respectively.

The problem is, the Secretary of State’s office is not who referred the overwhelming majority of evidence to prosecutors–a “liberal attack group” did that. The only item “referred” to investigators by Williams’ office to our knowledge was the deceased voter they reportedly knew about for a month, and we seriously doubt we would have ever heard about that were it not for the larger scandal. Excepting that action the Secretary of State’s office has mostly outright defended Jon Keyser, making assumptions about the case that investigators have in no way determined, and reaffirming with a shrug that Keyser is “on the ballot” regardless of any evidence of fraud that has been or might be uncovered.

In short, Williams has done very little to help resolve this situation, and a great deal to make it worse. He made it worse though his own ill-advised defense of Keyser, coupled with the belated admission his office failed: not just to catch these forgeries, but to heed warnings about forgeries and even dead voters coming from their own workers looking at Keyser’s petitions. And we can’t help but wonder what else may be out there we don’t yet know.

Everyone needs to do better next time, starting with the Secretary of State.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 19)

Get More SmarterIt’s still not raining! It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is working on new rules and regulations in the wake of numerous examples of petition fraud uncovered by reporters such as Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger.

 We’ll have more on this story as it develops.

 

► Buying an electric car is now cheaper in Colorado.

 

► The Washington Post takes a look at the “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees released by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump (a list that includes Colorado Supreme Court member Allison Eid).

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Who Hasn’t Jon Keyser Blamed For His Forged Petitions?

Jon Keyser.

Jon Keyser.

An hilarious press release from the Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Chris Meagher today seems comprehensive, but you never know:

Denver, Colorado – Remember when Jon Keyser himself said that “we double and triple checked our petition signatures”? Well, it seems like he’s unwilling to take personal responsibility for what happens in his own campaign, even after revelations that the Secretary of State’s office was informed about potential forgeries a month ago.

Since it has been easy to lose track of everyone and everything Jon Keyser has blamed for his campaign’s submission of forged signatures to qualify for the ballot (it seems only his dog Duke escapes blame), we decided to compile a helpful list. One person in particular though is conspicuously missing from the list—himself:

List of everyone Keyser has blamed for his signature snafu:

Employee of a subcontractor of a company of a company his campaign hired

Mitchell (Marshall?) Zelinger

Democrats

“the media”

Sinfulness

ProgressNow Colorado

He’s on the ballot

He’s taking the bark off Michael Bennet

George Soros

Anyone but himself“Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser said Tuesday he won’t quit his campaign if it’s found his primary bid was marred by fraudulent petitions to get him onto the ballot.”

Hey, they missed George Soros! Oh wait, no they didn’t. It’s worth nothing, with the possible exception of blaming Michael Bennet and liberal attack groups, that this string of excuses from Jon Keyser’s campaign over allegations of petition fraud has mostly come in just the past few days that Keyser has been willing to discuss the subject at all. And even as Keyser has begrudgingly acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, he continues to throw shade at the “liberal media” as if he hadn’t acknowledged anything.

Putting it all together like this really helps show how Keyser has flailed away with excuses instead of taking what everybody wanted to see: on ounce of responsibility, for forgeries that appear to have directly helped qualify Keyser–and just barely at that–for the 2016 U.S. Senate primary ballot. Had he done so immediately and forthrightly, we might be having a very different conversation today. But after two weeks of some of the worst press we have ever seen in Colorado politics, it’s too late for that now.

As much as the crime itself, Keyser’s refusal to take ownership of this scandal is what killed him.

Cory Gardner’s Kiss of Death to John McCain

Fresh off his game-changing endorsements of Marco Rubio and then Ted Cruz, Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner is putting his trademark plastic charm to work helping Arizona Sen. John McCain–who is facing the toughest challenge of his long career from Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick:

We hope this ends better than “Marcomentum”–or failing that, at least there’s lots of time between now and November to forget about this, like Gardner’s ill-fated endorsement of Personhood. At some point, it’s just simple odds that Gardner is going to endorse someone who wins.

Or, maybe he gains a reputation for endorsements one should do without.

Keyser says “liberal media is not going to give up”

(It’s kind of pathetic – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Jon Keyser.

Jon Keyser.

U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser has proven to be a horrible media critic, threatening a reporter with his dog and saying the media is out to get him, without offering any evidence for his anger. In fact, I can’t identify a single question from reporters that’s been unfair to Keyser or unreasonable given the facts on the table.

If anyone doubts this, I offer the following exchange between Keyser and KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis, beginning at 28:50 May 18 Hour 2 here.

Caplis: Obviously you’ve been getting a lot of questions over the way you handled an interview with a particular reporter from Channel 7. Give folks your perspective of that conversation through your eyes.

Keyser: The interview that you’re talking about, it actually took place during the middle of a debate. We were in a debate, a candidate debate. We took a five-minute stretch-your-legs break, and then of course this guy  [Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger] came and shoved a camera in my face. We were in the middle of the debate!

You know, I think it takes a lot of discipline to stick you your guns and say, ‘Here’s what I know. I know that I’m on the ballot. The Secretary of State has looked at that. A judge has looked at that again and again.’

And it takes a lot of discipline to not give the left what they want, which is — it’s not the 24-hour news cycle anymore–it’s something that will feed into the 24-minute news cycle.

They wanted me to misspeak, or they wanted to have me say something that they could run with or that would hurt me later. But I was focused on not stoking that fire, because, frankly, that is a very serious thing. And we wanted to make sure that we had the truth, that we knew exactly what happened. And that takes a little while sometimes. Now that doesn’t satisfy 24-minute news cycle.

But, you know, I think it was important that I stood in there, and frankly, we got to have a Republican who can stand there and take the punches, because the liberal media is not going to give up. They are not going to give me a free pass. That’s for sure. So, I’ve got to be able to stay on message, stay disciplined and be able to take the punches. And I’ve shown again and again that I can. I’ve answered more questions in the four months that I’ve been running for the United States Senate than Michael Bennet has in 4 years…

Caplis: This reporter who went to your home during the day?

Keyser: Yeah, certainly I think there are boundaries. And like any dad, I’m protective of my family. And if it seemed in that interview that I was agitated or somewhat upset, it’s because I was! It’s because I’m a dad. I’m very protective.  He scared my kids. My baby cried for another hour after they left. Nobody’s jumping out of Michael Bennet’s bushes to ask him questions.

Keyser is correct. The media isn’t going to give up. Why should it, when it’s just doing its job?

Five Questions We All Should be Asking About the Health Insurance Mega-Mergers

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This month, Denver Post health care reporter David Olinger laid out the debate around the Anthem-Cigna merger. Insurance Commissioners and Attorney Generals across the country are reviewing this merger, along with another merger of Aetna and Humana, according to state laws that govern the consumer protections around health insurance.

While millions more Americans now have insurance, the prospects of everyone getting quality affordable health care—particularly in underserved communities—is are still unclear. Many people underutilize their insurance because the process is too complex. Some stop paying for their insurance plans shortly after they get covered. Colorado’s health exchange recently went through a shutdown of the non-profit health care co-op and the departure of United Health Care from the market.

So amidst all of this complexity, how are we to figure out whether these health insurance mega-mergers going to impact the average person?

Here are five questions that should be answered before the merger is approved or denied by the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), which regulates the insurance industry in our state.

(more…)