Yes, Bennet’s Keystone XL Triangulation Is Stupid

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet

This week, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This legislation would have short-circuited an ongoing State Department review of the project, and trumped court proceedings in the state of Nebraska over the legality of eminent domain takings to build the route. Obama had repeatedly threatened to veto the bill, and the administration has become increasingly ambivalent about the Keystone XL project overall as global oil prices have plummeted, domestic oil production has surged, and grassroots opponents have waged a highly effective publicity campaign.

As we've discussed in this space many times, the case to build Keystone XL, even years ago when these intervening pressures weren't yet a factor, has been consistently overhyped by its proponents. Last year, Cory Gardner insisted on the campaign trail that Keystone would result in "thousands of Colorado jobs," a number that was inflated somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%. The truth is, Keystone XL won't enter the state of Colorado, won't produce a significant number of jobs in our state, won't produce more than a few dozen permanent jobs anywhere once the pipeline is built, and will result in an increase in local gas prices due to the routing of Canadian oil supplies to Gulf Coast export terminals. Even ardently pro-oil Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees with Obama's decision to veto the bill.

With these facts once again established for the record, 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports:

They come from different political parties, but Colorado's US Senators both voted for legislation to authorize building of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner both also confirm to 9NEWS they will vote for a veto override, which is being planned by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That Sen. Michael Bennet planned to vote for the Keystone XL pipeline was never in question. He's voted for it before, including late last year during ex-Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate attempt to get Keystone XL passed during her runoff election campaign. Bennet says he thinks Keystone should be "part of a bigger solution" to climate change, a statement that we'll admit makes very little sense to us.

But voting to override the President's veto makes even less sense. Politically, this doesn't win Bennet any supporters who would actually support him against a viable Republican. But worse, Bennet's unapologetic thumbing of his nose at Keystone XL opponents further drives an emerging wedge within the Democratic coalition in Colorado. Even if he got a green light from the White House to vote this way since the override has no real chance of succeeding, this is insult added to injury for Bennet's Democratic base–and has no political upside that we can see.

Though assailed by the GOP as a monolithic party of anti-energy environmentalists, the uneasy truce among Colorado Democrats over support for the oil and gas industry is in fact extremely fragile. Too many Democrats at high levels have convinced themselves that they can openly triangulate on the issue, and keep the Democratic coalition that has mostly dominated elections in this state since 2004 together.

Our response, delivered with increasing urgency: there's a limit.

Senate Close to DHS Budget Deal; Republicans are Screwed


Republican Rep. Ken Buck is probably a little less enthusiastic about pressing these buttons this week.

As Politico reports:

The Senate is moving quickly to break a weekslong impasse that has threatened funding for the Department of Homeland Security and paralyzed the Capitol, putting pressure on House Speaker John Boehner on the brink of a shutdown of the national security agency.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid announced Wednesday afternoon that they would move forward on a “clean” $39.7 billion DHS-funding bill — free of provisions targeting President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. McConnell agreed to relent after Reid’s caucus filibustered a House-passed bill on four separate occasions, demanding that Republicans strip the immigration provisions or risk a shutdown of the department.

The Senate voted 98-2 to open debate on the House bill, setting the stage for a last-ditch scramble for Congress to act before DHS funding expires on Friday.

Politically-speaking, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically just punted the ball back to House Speaker John Boehner. The story of this funding bill has largely been about dissention among Republicans than about anything Democrats have proposed, and it's hard to see any scenario where the GOP doesn't lose on this one. The House can hold firm on Tea Party principles and refuse the Senate version, but if they do that and refuse to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for political reasons related to immigration reform, they will hand Democrats the undisputed title of "Party that gets to say it cares more about protecting Americans from terrorism."

And for what? It's not like Congress is just going to stop funding for DHS forever. Republicans have majority control of both chambers of Congress, which limits the number of fingers they can point, and even trying to toss this onto President Obama's shoulders isn't going to save them; Obama is in his seventh year in office and his approval ratings are starting to rise as he nears the end of his stay in the White House.

Whatever happens, this isn't going to end well for Republicans. The only question yet to be answered is this: Just how bad will it get for the GOP?

Localvores, Pick Up Your Forks! Oil and Water Don’t Mix.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

By @ColoFarmFood, crossposted at 

Attention has been focused on Denver, as Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force finishes its work, mostly avoiding the contentious issues that surround the industrial realities of oil and gas—noise, pollution, traffic, and impacts to land and existing uses—which led to its formation 18 months ago. 

Many of Colorado’s farmers, and the farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, wineries and sundry other businesses along those lines, meanwhile, were thinking instead of the weather.  Glad for snow, and the hope for a decent water year.

But watching the weather on the advent of spring does not mean many were not also watching what came out of the Task Force, and paying attention to oil and gas development generally, especially where it impacts or threatens business and operations.  And they always have an eye on their water.

Earlier this month concerned valley residents packed the Paonia High School to learn about and comment on the proposed Bull Mountain natural gas drilling and fracking project planned in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, and the source of most of the area’s irrigation water. 


PAONIA — North Fork Valley residents are rallying again to try and stop oil and gas development involving tens of thousands of acres, but in this case face a daunting challenge because the land already is leased.

Some 200 people turned out at a Bureau of Land Management meeting at Paonia High School regarding SG Interests’ plan to drill up to 146 natural gas wells in the upper North Fork Valley, with many in attendance indicating their concern about the project.

…Residents Tuesday voiced concerns including possible air and water impacts, heavy truck traffic on Highway 133, the potential for harm to the Paonia area’s burgeoning organic farm industry, and whether the local economic benefits are enough to justify the risks. 

…“There’s no reason to use clean water for dirty energy extraction,” Jere Lowe, who owns a local organic farming supply company, said Tuesday.


The Bull Mountain Master Development Plan proposes almost 150 new natural gas wells.  In addition to their potential impacts on the valley’s water supplies, they would lie along the world-famous West Elk Scenic Byway in the heart of its aspen country.  

From there, public lands—many that could face future oil and gas development—stretch across Clear Fork Divide, Springhouse Park, Mamm Peak, and over into the Battlement Mesa area, where residents are raising similar concerns. 


Among those concerned about both her water and the earthquake risk are Williams’ mom and Gardner’s aunt, Alberta Payton. She lives on a ranch that has been in her family since 1892, and uses her well for drinking and domestic uses. It’s also used to provide water for cows on her property.

Indeed, all across the state—from the San Luis Valley to the Four Cornersthe increase in oil and gas development is bringing businesses, agricultural operators, rural (and other) communities face to face with questions about where this activity is appropriate, and about how much input local communities ought to have in deciding the where, when, and how it occurs.  

Promoting Colorado Agritourism means Protecting the Value of Place

In Colorado, a growing number of businesses and communities rely directly on the health and beauty of the land, and on an abundant supply of clean water.  This includes numerous agricultural operators, organic growers, ranchers, wineries, and those that produce or sell food and drink: chefs, restaurants, breweries, markets and manufacturers. And rural communities across the state that rely on maintaining the quality of ingredients for products, also are recognizing the amenity that healthy lands and clean water represent in situ, as the character of place. 

Agritourism is already a significant and potentially huge market, with everyone from the Western Slope pro-business lobby group Club 20 to the Colorado Legislature touting the benefits promoting the downhome, scenic, relaxed qualities a visit to rural Colorado can offer.  But talk can be cheap.  Increasingly communities are worried that looming industrial development, seemingly against their will and beyond their control, might hamper this economic development. 

The Paonia Chamber of Commerce weighed into the oil and gas project staring down at the North Fork, with this guest column from its president: 


Over the past 35 years, a new economic dynamic has developed around agriculture and will be a stabilizing balance against the boom and bust cycles. The North Fork is now home to the largest concentration of organic farms in Colorado, according to the USDA. This new dynamic … also includes increased recognition of the North Fork as an agritourism hotspot, dubbed Colorado’s “farm-to-table capital.”

In the last 15 years the North Fork has emerged as an award-winning federally designated wine region, one of only two in Colorado. The arts, music, and theater scene has flourished — with the entire North Fork designated by Gov. John Hickenlooper as the state’s only multi-jurisdictional Creative District.

All the recognition is paying off. Events like Ride the Rockies and other bicycle organizations now see the North Fork as a great place to bring their event and revenue…  However, huge traffic spikes on our two-lane highway and other impacts from heavy industry could nip our growing activities in the bud.

Solutions are possible that acknowledge some places should not be drilled

The Roan Plateau looms above the Colorado River across the valley from Battlement Mesa, where the residents’ current battle is with the county and state that has jurisdiction there.  And while the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force recommendations appear to have somewhat missed the mark as far as strengthening the ability of local communities to have meaningful input into oil and gas development, that should not deter communities from exercising their voices.   

One famous saying is: “Don’t agonize, organize.”  And there is still plenty of space to get things done. For one thing, the state’s role is really only half of the story.The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also has a critical role, as many of the resources—both public lands and publicly-owned subsurface minerals—are under its jurisdiction. The story of the BLM lands and resources at Roan Plateau show that there can be movement forward, in that case a settlement between conservation groups, oil and gas companies, and the BLM. 

For public lands and minerals under its jurisdiction, the BLM can act to make sure local concerns are addressed in projects moving forward.  Important public and community resources must be safeguarded.  Some important public lands are simply better managed for purposes other than as an oil and gas field.

In Colorado’s South Park Basin, headwaters to the South Platte and the source for much of Metro Denver’s water supply, the BLM has committed to starting a Master Leasing Plan later this spring before considering further oil and gas leasing. 

This step provides another layer of input and can allow local communities and good science to ensure more responsible oil and gas development and keep it out of those places it does not belong. 

Back in the North Fork, while the BLM has agreed to consider the local community’s North Fork Alternative Plan that, when adopted, will provide strong protections for the public lands and resources in the valley for now many in the valley are looking to the Bull Mountain proposal.  Residents are urging that the BLM ensure it truly takes a big picture and ‘hard look’ at its proposed actions.  As the guest column from the Chamber of Commerce president notes:


We all want the North Fork to thrive. To many of our existing businesses, farms and ranches, and residents, a huge spike in drilling in our small valley is not a good fit, to say it mildly. We hope that like other places that started in conflict, such as Roan Plateau, we can reach a solution in the North Fork.

…For oil and gas development in general, that means accepting that communities must have more say in where, how, and when this activity occurs. Most of the North Fork agrees that new, large-scale industrial activity is a tough fit for Colorado’s Farm-to-Table Capital.  

The BLM has made progress in its efforts to better involve and give meaningful consideration to local communities and the need to protect resources, uses and values other than mineral development. 

But the agency needs to do more and there remains a need for Coloradans and local communites to stay engaged. 

For those that care about good food, good drink, and scenic rural landscapes, now is a critical time to consider what is happening with oil and gas drilling in Colorado.  




Fracking Task Force Falls Flat: Smart Next Steps Needed

UPDATE: Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst slows down talk of a ballot measure, in a new statement that seems to walk back her comments to the Denver Post's John Frank:

“There have been reports that I may favor a ballot initiative. At this time, I believe a ballot initiative conversation is premature and not an avenue I am interested in pursuing. I look forward to continuing conversations with all parties involved, including mineral rights and surface rights owners, industry, environmental organizations, and local governments and communities on how we can best address the tensions caused by industrial activities in local communities.”

As a reminder, here's what Speaker Hullinghorst told the Post earlier today:

“We may just have to go to an initiative on this — I’m not averse to do that,” she said. [Pols emphasis]

None of this can be considered the definitive word, but you can guess that there are some interesting conservations going on right now behind the scenes. As soon as we have new insight on the state of play here, we'll share it. Original post follows.


Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

Fracking near a high school in Greeley, Colorado.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports on the failure of Gov. John Hickenlooper's task force on local control of oil and gas drilling to make any substantive recommendations, a disappointing outcome we forecast last week:

After half a year of meetings, all the state’s oil and gas task force could agree on to address the question of local control was the low-hanging fruit.

Nine of some 40 policy proposals received the required support from two-thirds of the task force, on which the oil and gas industry and a contingent of pro-local control homeowners and conservations were equally represented.

Those ideas, which the Gov. John Hickenlooper can choose to enact largely in the regulatory arena without lawmaker approval, include allowing local communities to offer input earlier in the process; increasing staff at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry; creating an information clearing house; and taking steps to include truck traffic around well sites.

As we heard would likely be the case, the final recommendations from the task force do not include any significant statutory changes to oil and gas drilling regulations in Colorado–only token "input" from local governments in a basically unchanged permitting process. For stakeholders who had gone into this process with good faith, this is more or less the worst-case scenario. Conservation Colorado's Pete Maysmith echoed the disappointment felt by just about everyone involved not employed by the oil and gas industry in a statement yesterday:

“Five months after the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force convened, the recommendations put forward lack the substance needed to protect Coloradans and our environment from drilling and fracking. Today’s outcome had some gravy, but forgot the meat and potatoes. This despite the fact the Task Force heard loud and clearly from Coloradans in communities across the state that are being impacted; from to Durango to Rifle to Greeley — communities are asking for something to be done.

We appreciate the hard work of Task Force members who spent countless hours attempting to come up with solutions to this critical issue and share their frustration that the job was not done.”

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.

Anticipating the failure of the commission to put forward robust proposals to enhance local control over oil and gas drilling, proponents of a wholesale ban on the practice of hydraulic fracture drilling ("fracking") held a rally yesterday, announcing their intentions to put a measure on the 2016 to ban the practice statewide. This is where we need to say again, perhaps displeasing some readers: as a major energy producing state, a statewide ban on fracking in Colorado is simply not realistic. In fact, energy industry surrogates regularly use the threat of a total statewide ban on fracking in Colorado to scare away moderate opponents who might support other proposals–to increase setbacks, or give local governments real authority in oil and gas land use decisions.

With all of this in mind, where is the true middle ground? As the Denver Post's John Frank reports, Colorado Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst is working on it:

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst struck a different tone than the Democratic governor in describing the task force’s report, a day after it voted to advance nine recommendation that avoided many of the thorny issues surrounding oil and gas drilling.

“This may be a matter of cognitive dissonance. I think he may be a little more pleased than I am with the results of the task force,” the Boulder Democrat told The Denver Post in an interview. “I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get further along on the real crux of the issue which is local control — the ability for local residents and property owners and communities to have more of a say on oil and gas development that is very close to them.”

…Hullinghorst said the House will consider additional legislation outside the task force’s report but may have to go to voters to get tougher local control measures approved. [Pols emphasis]

Last summer, Rep. Hullinghorst worked with Congressman Jared Polis during negotiations that led to the establishment of this task force, and in exchange the removal of setback and "environmental bill of rights" measures supported by Polis from the 2014 ballot. Rep. Polis is reportedly exploring all options in the wake of the task force's failure, and we expect that whatever he chooses to do will be in close partnership with Hullinghorst and the northern Front Range communities Polis represents–many of whom led the way into this fight by passing local fracking moratoria and bans.

For those interested in achievable progress on this issue, here is your ray of hope. Stay tuned.

Did Ryan Call abandon two GOP candidates who could have won close races?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Ryan Call, Steve House.

Ryan Call, Steve House.

It's not easy to fact check some of the allegations flying around in the contest between Ryan Call and challenger Steve House to become chair of the Colorado Republican Party. But it's worth a try, especially when the salvos appear in the media.

On public television Friday, for example, the Independence Institute’s Dave Kopel reported an “allegation” that Call could have put two state legislative candidates “over the top” if he’d helped them pay for advertising during the “last couple weeks” of their campaigns, as they were "fighting hard" for a victory. But Call refused, and they lost.

Kopel (Watch at @1:30 here): House’s particular claim against Call is that Call refused to provide the support for two candidates who ended up losing very close state legislative races, Tony Sanchez, who was almost elected to the state senate, and Susan Kochevar, who almost won a house race, and her win would have put the House in Republican hands. So the argument is that they were close. They were fighting hard, and Ryan Call wouldn’t do a mailer for them in the last couple weeks that could have put them over the top. I don’t know the details of that. But that would be the allegation. Certainly, any chair of major party has to be able to work with all the groups of the party, the sincere moderates, the squishy moderates, the hard-core ideological people—and then have strategies to help them all get elected. [BigMedia emphasis]

Yes, you’d want a major party chair to work with all sides, but is the allegation true? Did Call screw his own party up?

Kopel, a Democrat who made the statement on Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out, told me via email that he was “just summarizing House's campaign speech” and does not know “know what went on” in the Kochevar and Sanchez races.

Asked about Kopel’s statement, Sanchez did not respond, but Kochevar emailed me a Feb. Facebook post in which she wrote that she lost by 1,500 votes, and she “did not receive any money from the state party.” Kochevar was selected by a vacancy committee in July, after Robert Ramirez dropped at the last minute.

Sanchez lost to Sen. Andy Kerr by about 1,000 votes.

“Shortly after Dec. 31 [after the election], I received a phone call from Ryan Call informing me that if I did not fire my campaign finance company, the Republican Party would not have campaign funds for a future campaign.  I perceived this as a threat. I find it reprehensible that a party chairman would threaten a viable candidate,” Kochevar wrote on Facebook. “My campaign finance reporting was handled by Campaign Integrity Watchdog, which is owned by Matt Arnold. Steve House will not let personal grudges interfere with party success. He understands limited govt and will unify all factions within the party.”

Call did not return an email seeking comment, but his backers say the GOP state chair invested strategically, with limited funds, in the most promising races statewide. The decisions were tough, but in the end the GOP did better than it’s done in a decade or more, they say. In Jeffco itself, the thinking goes, Larry Queen had a better shot than Sanchez and Kochevar, who were both expected to receive big-time support from RMGO. And both Sanchez and Kochevar were seen, with no grudges involved, as weaker candidates.  I’m not saying I agree with this logic, but I’m offering it in the absence of a statement by Call himself.

In any case, it appears that the allegation, repeated by Kopel, that Call did not do invest in the Sanchez and Kochevar campaigns, even as the races appeared to be close, is true, at least in Kochevar's case. What role personality clashes played or whether more cash or support would have made a difference in the races is not known.

Republicans vote March 14 on whether to retain Call for a third two-year term.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 25)

Get More Smarter

BIll O'Reilly would have signed the Declaration of Independence, but he overslept. 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).


► Late yesterday, the Governor's Oil & Gas Taskforce released its "recommendations" for dealing with fracking…and they were about as anti-climactic as skeptics had expected. After months of meetings, the task force submitted a handful of small proposals to Gov. John Hickenlooper, though the most robust proposals for promoting more local control failed to move forward. Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith said the taskforce produced "some gravy, but forgot the meat and potatoes"; Noble Energy Vice President (and task-force member) Dan Kelly told the Denver Post that he thinks the group's recommendations "will address the issue." Congressman Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) was blunt in his assessment that "the oil and gas industry proved they weren't interested in a compromise or solving problems." So, that went well.

► Despite holding majority control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans continue to fight amongst themselves over whether to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before Friday's deadline. As Politico reports, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Tanning Bed) are pretty well hosed:

McConnell has been quiet for weeks about his next steps. But his new proposal on Tuesday — to extend DHS funding through September while advancing a separate plan to block a portion of Obama’s immigration proposal — signaled that he’s nervous a shutdown could damage his party politically. Twenty-four GOP senators are up for reelection next year.

Boehner is in an even tighter jam: Any sense that he is caving to the White House could further erode confidence in his leadership among the far right, which is furious at Obama’s immigration push. Boehner has not directly addressed whether he’d put a stand-alone funding bill on the floor, and several Republican leadership sources say they favor several short-term measures to try to keep the heat on the White House.

Get even more smarter after the jump…



► Did we mention that Republicans control both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives? We did? Good, so explain this one: While the GOP flails about trying to figure out which foot to shoot over DHS funding, Arizona Republican/Tea Party Rep. Paul Gosar is laying all blame…on the Democrats, of course. What did you expect Republicans to do with their Congressional Majority? Govern?

Colorado Democrats found funding for a 2013 bill to allow illegal immigrants to apply for a driver's license. Senate Republicans, who dislike the legislation but don't have the support to repeal it, are still trying to figure out a way to keep it from being funded.

► As expected, President Obama issued the first major veto of his Presidency on Tuesday when he scribbled the "big V" on legislation authorizing the Keystone Pipeline. This made Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) very sad. Gardner said that the President's veto "ignored the will of the American people." In response, the American people said, "What the hell is a Keystone Pipeline?"

► Contraception helps to prevent teen pregnancy. If you don't understand why, then you are probably not pleased that a House committee voted to continue providing state money for contraception yesterday. Joey Bunch of the Denver Post reports on the bipartisan legislation that will now move to the Senate, where Sen. Kevin Lundberg's head will explode:

The rationale is that providing contraceptives to low-income teens saves public assistance money later on by avoiding unwanted pregnancies.​ The state health department estimates a $5.85 savings for every dollar in the program.

The health department reported that before the program started, only 1 in every 170 low-income women in Colorado had access to a contraceptive device. By 2011, the program had helped cut that number to 1 in 15.

"By providing access to contraceptive devices we are giving Colorado women and families the most effective means to make decisions about when to start a family," said Rep. KC Becker, D-Boulder, who is sponsoring the bill with Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.

► Palcohol, schmalcohol. A State Senate committee has approved a temporary ban on powdered alcohol.

► "Pray Away the Gay?" No way, say House Democrats. As Eli Stokols reports for FOX 31:

Legislation that would prevent Colorado youths from undergoing gay conversion therapy — programs run mostly by religious organizations to steer gay and lesbian teens back toward a heterosexual orientation — passed its first test at the Capitol Tuesday. After more than 90 minutes of emotional testimony, a House committee approved the bill on a 7-6 party-line votes, with the panel’s Democratic members all voting in favor of the proposal.

It faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate, should it eventually pass the full House.

► The Jefferson County School Board will vote next week on a plan intended to help a handful of struggling schools in the district. 

► Today is the NARAL Pro-Choice America National Day of Action.



► Campaign finance scandals plaguing State Republican Party Chair Ryan Call are now infecting others. As the Colorado Springs Independent reports, the famous Broadmoor Hotel is listed as a $5,000 donor to an Independent Expenditure Committee that is at the heart of the problem.

► Xcel Energy wants to charge Coloradans more money for their electricity. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) agrees, as it usually does.

► Denver Mayor Michael Hancock should have no problem winning re-election in May. Jon Murray of the Denver Post demonstrates why, in the form of an impressive list of supporters for the first-term mayor.

► Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn likes words.



► FOX News host Bill O'Reilly has taken to threatening a New York Times reporter as he continues to drown in his own nonsense. The latest problem for O'Reilly: It appears as though he made up a story about his investigation into the assasination of President John F. Kennedy.

► Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to be President some day, though it will take a long walk to get there. During a press conference following a meeting of the National Governor's Assocation on Monday, Jindal demonstrated his "Presidential" qualities by declaring that President Obama is "unfit to be commander in chief." This bears repeating: Jindal made this statement literally in front of the White House. This is sort of equivalent to being invited to a dinner party and pooping on the rug before you leave. Classy!


Cliven Bundy-Loving AFP Spox Lands Colorado Senate GOP Job


Sean Paige.

Sean Paige.

The local arm of national conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity has made a lot of noise in the last couple of years, which is to be expected for a well-funded and staffed group set up by the Koch Brothers to organize the "conservative grassroots." In the last year, though AFP Colorado has run into frequent trouble with our local media–from fact checks of their anti-Obamacare ads that didn't even try to be truthful, widespread condemnation of the group's misuse of photos from the aftermath of the Aurora shooting in a political ad against Mark Udall, and also a bizarre incident last year involving the Nevada standoff between the federal government and rancher Cliven Bundy.

In mid-April of last year as the standoff in the Nevada desert between Bureau of Land Management officials and Bundy raged, AFP Colorado joined its Nevada counterpart in a vigorous defense of Bundy's "right" to graze his cattle on federal land without a grazing lease. A few days later, Bundy launched into a nationally televised rant about "the Negro" that precipitated a dramatic loss of support. Not long after, AFP Colorado deleted the Tweet you see above supporting Bundy along with several others, and for good measure several complete months of their Twitter history–including their defense of using the aforementioned Aurora shooting photos in their ads.

The spokesman for AFP Colorado at that time was longtime Colorado Springs conservative activist and sometime radio host Sean Paige. AFP Colorado and Paige's Twitter accounts were often posting the same items simultaneously in those days, but that ended after the Cliven Bundy mass deletion incident–and sometime after that, Paige himself and AFP Colorado parted ways.

Fast forward to today, as the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

That's right, folks! The very same Sean Paige is now the press secretary for Bill Cadman's Colorado Senate Republican majority. At first blush, you might consider this to be a big mistake on the part of the Senate GOP–whose media operation is already hard-pressed to run cover for the antics of members like Vicki Marble, Kent Lambert, Laura Waters Woods, and Kevin Lundberg while they push "Anti-Vaxxer Bills of Rights" and other such publicly repellent agenda items. Is Paige really the right man for this job?

And that's when it hits you–of course he is.

Who Is Paying 2013 Recall Spox To Tell Tall Marijuana Tales?

GOP spokesperson Jennifer Kerns.

GOP spokesperson Jennifer Kerns.

Longtime readers will remember the name Jennifer Kerns, the California-based public relations flack hired by the recall campaigns against two Colorado state senators in 2013. Although the recall elections were successful, Kerns herself failed rather spectacularly in her role as spokesperson after claiming that mail-in ballots "from Chicago" were fraudulently being turned in for the recall elections. Surprised inquiring journalists were, safe to say, not impressed with Kerns' basically nonexistent justification for this–as if we need to tell you–thoroughly bogus assertion.

Since then, we haven't heard too much from Jennifer Kerns. In October of 2013, Kerns announced a recall campaign against legislators in California over that state's gun safety laws, though the effort appears to have fizzled since then. But it looks like Ms. Kerns has a new gig–spreading some pretty outlandish stories about the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado. This morning, Kerns published a guest column on the right-wing news site The Blaze titled Colorado’s ‘Pot Pregnancies’ Birthing New Generation of Crack Babies, which is provoking fierce discussion today:

Colorado health professionals are coming forward to report an emerging trend: expectant mothers who are addicted to pot.

The emerging health crisis is creating what is undoubtedly our generation’s version of 1980s “crack babies.”

Health practitioners specializing in the field of Obstetrics & Gynecology spoke to me on condition of anonymity to report an alarming rise in pregnant patients showing up in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices and presenting mysterious complications including abdominal pains, cold sweats, shakiness, insomnia, weight loss and a host of psychological problems…

In order to treat symptoms as well as help alleviate the pain of the withdrawal process, the physicians in Colorado report they have had to reintroduce doses of THC to expectant mothers, which of course leaves their babies susceptible to addiction and the complications above which often must be treated in neonatal units.

The emerging situation is not unlike babies who are addicted to crack. [Pols emphasis]

Now folks, we don't want to be accused of trying to cover up any legitimate problem that may be created/worsened by the legalization of marijuana. Beyond the revenue it generates for our badly cash-strapped state government, we have no stake in the issue one way or the other. We would of course be concerned if there were evidence that marijuana legalization had created a real public safety problem in the state, but there is no evidence we have seen anywhere to suggest that it has. Recent public polling shows that Colorado voters do not regret the decision to legalize marijuana in 2012, even though not as many Coloradans have made the personal choice to partake in newly-legal marijuana as some pre-legalization predictions. As a result tax revenues from legal weed, although a welcome boost for the state's bottom line, have not kept pace with expectations.

So, those are the facts we know about marijuana in Colorado. What we have not seen anywhere, and we're pretty sure that there are better qualified local sources than Jennifer Kerns, is any evidence whatsoever of an epidemic of marijuana-addicted pregnant mothers. For starters, there is no evidence to suggest that cessation of marijuana smoking causes "violent or painful withdrawal" in the manner of crack concaine. We can't imagine anyone suggesting that smoking pot while pregnant is a good thing, but there's no evidence that it causes anything like the major withdrawal symptoms and lasting health effects experienced by so-called "crack babies."

The biggest problem for Kerns is, much like her preposterous warning of ballots being mailed "from Chicago" in the 2013 recalls, she doesn't have any sources to back up her claims. These doctors Kerns, a California-based Republican political spokesperson, is allegedly talking to…don't want to talk to the local press? Because we feel confident that if anything like what Kerns describes was actually happening, those doctors would find a better (or at least a real) news outlet to tell their stories to. In the absence of a credible source, we have to assume this is as bogus as Kerns' last Colorado fish story.

The only question that remains for us is, who is paying Kerns to write this crap? Because as a professional paid spokesperson, somebody is.

Rep. Doug Lamborn Supports Small Government*

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs).

The Colorado Springs Gazette's Tom Roeder reports on GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn's speech yesterday to the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance:

In an annual address to area business leaders, Colorado Springs U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn pledged to block attempts to close bases and to continue his efforts to grow the Pentagon budget… [Pols emphasis]

Lamborn faces concerns at home over defense cuts that have driven downsizing, including a proposal to cut up to 16,000 of Fort Carson's 24,000 soldiers. With defense spending making up about 50 cents of every payroll dollar in the Pikes Peak region, Lamborn said boosting the Pentagon budget is a top priority.

To get more cash into military coffers, Lamborn wants to exempt the Pentagon from automatic cuts that Congress approved in 2011.

"We should continue the spending caps, but not at the expense of defense," he said.

Lamborn also pledged to squash Pentagon efforts to trim spending by closing bases.

"That's a nonstarter," he said.

One of the fascinating contradictions inherent to representing the arch-conservative but also economically government-dependent El Paso County is the need to give lip service to "small government" conservative fiscal ideology, while simultaneously working to ensure there are no cuts of any kind to the government presence most important to El Paso County–that is, defense spending. After all, cuts to even totally unnecessary and obscure defense projects are more likely to affect Lamborn's defense industry supporters than anybody else. That's how you get a speech vowing to slash taxes and repeal health care reform, but won't even consider the smallest reductions in the nation's enormous defense budget.

It's good that Colorado Springs has Rep. Lamborn, who doesn't sweat the contradictions they live by.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Feb. 24)

Get More Smarter

Put down the snowman and get back to work. 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).


► Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss regulating "unmanned aerial vehicles," more commonly known as "drones." Don't tell Vice Chair Kevin Lundberg, but staff at the Capitol expect to be regaled by testimony from tiny little pilots.

No Homeland Security funding for you! Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to figure out what to do after the Senate voted for a fourth time to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because Republicans are still mad that President Obama tried to do something about immigration. Congress has until Feb. 27 to approve appropriations to continue funding DHS. From the Durango Herald:

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has warned that an agency shutdown would result in 75-80 percent of staff members being forced to work without pay, as their jobs are deemed vital to national security. An additional 30,000 would be furloughed.

Get even more smarter after the jump…



► The editorial board at The Durango Herald tees off on "right to discriminate" legislation, firing heavy criticism at two bills being sponsored by Republican lawmakers:

House bills 1161 and 1171 would extend constitutionally protected religious liberties far beyond those that hold them, so much so that such liberties could compromise the safety, health and access to goods and services of others…

…Neither bill is appropriate for Colorado and would be a disheartening retreat from the anti-discrimination advances the state has made in recent years. The Legislature should swiftly and decisively kill HB 1161 and 1171.

► The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear arguments today on whether or not Colorado should ban powdered alcohol, which is still awaiting federal approval to be sold in stores. The State House has already voted in favor of a ban.

► Politicos are still buzzing about Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress at Sunday's Academy Awards presentation. Arquette used her time on stage to speak out against pay inequity in America.

► Freshman Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) gets an early lesson on the political perils of "triangulation".

► Ace political reporter Eli Stokols is leaving FOX 31 for a job with Politico in Washington D.C.

► After a two-hour meeting in executive session last night, the Aurora City Council emerged with noe decision on whether to get rid of embattled City Manager Skip Noe.

► Tomorrow is the NARAL Pro-Choice America National Day of Action, which comes as Colorado Republicans prepare to debate yet another bill that looks a lot like Personhood.



► If you swallow a watermelon seed, you will not grow a watermelon in your stomach. If you swallow your gum, it will not stay inside your body for 7 years. If you swallow anything, it will not end up in your vagina. Just so we're clear, because Idaho Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri wasn't sure about that last one.

► Guess which Colorado city is asking residents to respond to a "Resiliency Survey?" If you guessed Boulder, well, duh.

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) have asked the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to hold a hearing at the Denver VA Medical Center in Aurora. Hopefully the meeting will also address adding more words to the VA center's name. We suggest "Denver VA Medical Center in Aurora, which is in Colorado in the United States." 



► Republican Senate candidate Darryl Glenn needs to work on his definition of a policy statement.

Alaska is now officially the third state to legally sell recreational marijuana.



State-funded Science Institutions Host Keynote by Fringe Anti-Science Guy

(Seriously? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The wires are abuzz about the latest example of fossil fuel influence attempting to bend science, another Climate Change Denialist hero has been shown as seriously besotted by sooty cash, but failed to note the connection.  His ‘science’ was—in fact—“deliverables” to dirty energy powerhouses, from utilities, coal, oil and gas, the Kochs.

Meanwhile in western Colorado, the Energy Forum & Expo is also creating a stir. 

This annual event hosted by Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College, and the John McConnell Math & Science Center (along with the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Club 20, and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado) is known to include a lot of industry cheerleading.  

The purpose of the Energy Forum & Expo CO's is to educate Colorado citizens on the role we can play in meeting our energy needs today and into the future. 

That the ‘Energy Forum & Expo’ of Grand Junction organized, hosted and sponsored as it is,revolves around Old Energy boosterism is not a new realization, but this year it is something else that is attracting criticism. 

This year the keynote is being given by a fringe climate change denier (and ‘earthquake predictor’), who is a favorite on the Tea Party circuit, wingnut radio, and whose ‘expert opinions’ populate articles, between ads for gold, testosterone boosters, and bunker supplies on sites like NewsMax.

The Energy Forum & Expo is a private event, sponsored by a broad range of energy companies and associations, business groups, and educational institutions.   According to a  letter to the editor that ran in the Grand Junction Sentinelthe speaker was selected by a small group that included long-time oil and gas enthusiast Kathy Hall and Bonnie Peterson, head of AGNC and former director of Club 20. 

But here’s the thing.  Even in a ‘Forum & Expo’ clearly geared toward promoting the energy industry and opportunities of western Colorado, the quality of the information ought to be of top concern. Especially with prominent hosts being the local university, a regional college, and an educational science center. And in that regard the event fails, and badly.  The author of the letter above writes of the keynote speaker:

He has a couple of “reports” linked at the bottom of this page… One of them was “pal-reviewed.” 

Richard Alward, a local scientist-for-real and a commissioner on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, recently raised his concerns in a Sentinel guest column, writing about Casey:

…  he provides no evidence on this website that he obtained any education in engineering or climate science, or that he has been awarded any engineering certifications, or that he has published any research of any kind in any scientific journal.

Rather than a resumé of qualifications, Casey promotes a book he self-published in 2011, provides links to two amateurish “reports” that have never been published outside of his website, and devotes two pages of his website to cataloging five-years of press releases.

Alward blasts the Casey keynote, presented at an event that claimed education:

This is unfortunate, disturbing, and insulting.

All three things are true.  It is unfortunate that an opportunity to provide real education appears squandered.  It disturbing that state funded and other public institutions are 'host' to such a charade. And it is insulting to real science and efforts to offer quality information around critical issues facing Colorado. 



Huge loss for Denver as Stokols departs from Fox 31

(We'll miss him – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Eli Stokols.

Eli Stokols.

Denver journalism sustained a body blow yesterday, when Fox 31 political reporter Eli Stokols announced he's leaving for a job at Politico in Washington DC.

Quoting a memo from Fox 31 news director Holly Gauntt praising Stokols, Westword's Michael Roberts reports:

Contacted via e-mail, Stokols confirms the move while stressing the difficulty of the decision to take the leap.

"For a political reporter, Colorado is fertile soil," he writes. "I've been lucky to have had strong support from Peter Maroney and my bosses at KDVR Fox31 to focus on that beat year round, even when it wasn't campaign season and a lot of producers would probably have preferred to have me chasing snowstorms or shootings."

He also makes reference to his hosting duties on #COpolitics: From the Source, a public-affairs show that launched last year; to read his preview of the program for Westword, click here.

"I couldn't have asked for more in this job: opportunities to launch a weekly show that has devoted serious air time to serious, substantive conversations about politics, policy and broader issues; opportunities to anchor newscasts five nights a week, something I've actually had a blast doing alongside Aristea Brady on KWGN Channel 2; and opportunities to write longer pieces about Colorado politics for other outlets," he points out.

Stokols covered the day-to-day grind of politics like a newspaper beat reporter, producing daily stories, often about political developments that are seen as too boring for television news. This quickly earned Stokols the admiration of attention-starved partisans on both sides of the aisle.

He pushed out large volumes of information on multiple platforms, making Fox 31 easily one of the go-to sources of political news in Colorado. On top of that, he freelanced long-form pieces for 5280 and op-eds for Politico.

During the last election, Stokols earned the respect of his peers for his direct questioning of Cory Gardner regarding his support of a personhood bill at the federal level but his rejection of personhood amendments in Colorado.