Tuesday Open Thread

"An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot."

–Thomas Paine

Colorado’s WORST Political Ads (2014)

Here's our list of Colorado's WORST Political Ads in 2014. Click here to get back to the introduction page.

Colorado's WORST Political Ads (2014):

1. "Neighborhood," Bob Beauprez (R) for Governor [30 Seconds]
We never understood the decision by Bob Beauprez's campaign to start attacking Gov. John Hickenlooper on public safety issues by making the absurd argument that Coloradans are in harm's way because of Hickenlooper. Beauprez's late strategic change reeked of desperation, but this was a bad approach regardless of the timing. The message is ridiculous and over-the-top, earning a rebuke from the Denver Post editorial board ("Beauprez dives into gutter with new ad.") and almost certainly backfiring on Beauprez to some extent. For the cherry on this turd sundae, this ad also failed the "Watch it Three TImes" test; if you weren't looking directly at the television, you would glean nothing from this ad because there is no audible narration.

*Note: The ad below is the original version. This link shows the "corrected" spot following complaints from the Post.


2. "No Higher Calling," Cynthia Coffman (R) for Attorney General [30 Seconds]
Where's Norton and Frickey? This is a terrible TV spot that is almost indistinguishable from the cliche "people in suits walking up stairs" law firm commercials that run endlessly on late-night television. This could have been an advertisement for just about anything, frankly. Coffman is bland and boring in front of a camera, and her stale speech isn't helped by flashing inane buzzwords like "integrity" on the screen. Rounding out the problems with this ad brings us back to the title, which Coffman explains herself at the end of the spot when she says that there is "no higher calling" than being Colorado Attorney General. Really? Colorado Attorney General is the absolute pinnacle?


3. "Experience Matters," Wayne Williams (R) for Secretary of State [30 Seconds]
This is shit. There isn't a high school A/V class anywhere in Colorado that couldn't have made something better than this awful spot from Wayne Williams. The production value is terrible — the narration sounds like something you'd hear on the "welcome" channel when you flip on the TV at a hotel and conference center — and what's with Williams doing his stand-up speech in front of a green screen? Is there some reason Williams couldn't go outside and stand in front of something…real? And why is there no video of Williams? For most of the ad, we just see zoom shots of still photos instead of a live Williams interacting with constituents or family members. Is it possible that Williams actually died some time ago, and Colorado elected a corpse that will be rolled around Weekend at Bernie's-style?


4. "Say Yes to [The Dress] Bob Beauprez," College Republicans for Bob Beauprez [1 minute]
This spot is so brutally awful that you almost don't notice that they mispronounce "Beauprez" repeatedly. None other than TIME magazine called this "the most sexist Republican ad of the year," which is really saying something. We wrote about this ridiculous ad when it first appeared in late September as one of several cookie-cutter spots produced by the "College Republicans" (who need more college, apparently) — a takeoff on the TLC reality show "Say Yes to the Dress." The College Republican group defended their ad by saying that it was meant to start a conversation — it didn't work, to say the least. As we wrote before, this ad seemed to have come out of some kind of brainstorming idea where it sounded fun at first mention but didn't really hold up as more than just an idea. But they made it anyway.

Walker Stapleton

Yeah, um, you’re not going anywhere.

5. "Stapleton for Colorado," Walker Stapleton (R) for State Treasurer [30 seconds]
This ad was not bestowed a creative one-word name like, "Leadership," but it deserves a better title than "Stapleton for Colorado." We'll call it, "Douchebag," because that's how Stapleton comes off at the end. Yes, this ad was produced to help Stapleton win re-election as State Treasurer, but It's no secret that Stapleton has been trying to position himself for a bid for Governor in 2018 (or even U.S. Senate in 2016), and that's where this becomes a disastrous FAIL. If you are a Republican seeking higher office in the next four years and you need to bypass Stapleton, just show the last :15 seconds of this ad to potential donors (or show them the GIF at right); nobody could watch this with a straight face and say, "yeah, that guy could be Governor someday." The combination of this ad and the devastating reports that Stapleton doesn't bother to show up at his office mean that Stapleton has just found his political ceiling.


6. "Mountain," Andrew Romanoff (D) for Congress [30 seconds]
Andrew Romanoff's first TV ad for his run in CD-6 was very well-produced and looked great…but the message was a strange choice for an introductory TV spot for a Democratic challenger. There are probably hundreds of similar ads across the country that were produced over the years for Republican candidates, but this doesn't work at all for Romanoff. The whole "Congress shouldn't spend more money than it has in the bank" shtick is rote and forgettable — you probably have socks that aren't this worn out — and it does a terrible disservice to Romanoff by marginalizing his intellect and charisma in exchange for something that probably looked good in polling results but isn't going to move a single voter to take action. This spot might have looked better if it was in the middle of the rotation for Romanoff's campaign, but not as the first ad introducing you to voters.

7. Americans for Prosperity Obamacare Ad with Photo from Aurora Shooting Press Conference [30 seconds]
When you have to pull your own ad because of negative press, you have a bad spot. In this Obamacare ad, Americans for Prosperity used a photo of Sen. Mark Udall and President Barack Obama taken at a press conference after the Aurora theater shootings in 2012. There's no excuse for this.

Lamborn’s Bad Idea is Kind of Ironic, Though

Doug Lamborn (R).

Doug Lamborn (R).

We wrote last week about a new piece of legislation to be introduced by Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, which would disallow federal contracts from being awarded to companies who engage in boycotts against any nation with which the United States maintains a free trade agreement. This would have the perhaps-unintended consequence of making it harder for some Americans to protest against bad things that happen in a number of countries around the world, like Middle Eastern monarchies that brutally put down their local Arab Spring revolts, but in his announcement Rep. Lamborn kept the focus squarely on Israel and potential boycotts in support of the Palestinians.

Which leads to, as the Colorado Independent's Susan Greene reported on Friday, an ironic twist:

Lamborn touts Israel as “the only true democracy in the Middle East, a place where all men and women enjoy freedom regardless of their faith or ethnicity. In fact Jewish owned factories and companies in Israel and in Judea and Samaria are among the chief employers of the Palestinian community. Palestinian workers get equal pay and equal treatment and enjoy benefits.”

The question of whether Palestinians are treated equally in Israel is a matter of much debate.

But Lamborn has it right about Israel’s broad and progressive workplace protections. [Pols emphasis] That country’s 1988 equal opportunity law says an employer “shall not discriminate among his employees or among persons seeking employment on account of their sex, sexual tendencies, personal status or because of their age, race, religion, nationality, country of origin, views, party or duration of reserve service.”

Closer to home, Lamborn’s views on workplace protections are vastly less progressive. He has voted against several key worker-protection bills, including the 2007 Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

We've never really thought of it this way, but it's true: workplace discrimination protections in Israel include protections that Lamborn has voted against, and which many conservatives staunchly oppose as "special rights" for a "lifestyle choice" that doesn't deserve protection. Now, we're hopefully past the era of Amendment 2-style overt anti-LGBT activism in Colorado–and whether we are or not, it's a fact that things have changed since 1992. Either way, it's instructive to keep in mind that Lamborn's bill would make it harder for anyone with a vocational or even potentially family tie to a federal contract to protest policies they don't like in other countries via a boycott–in Israel, Mexico, Bahrain, or anywhere else America has a free trade treaty with.

And yes, we get that a religious conservative boycott of Israel over gay rights is not found in the Book of Revelations, and therefore rather unlikely. We are, you know, hypothesizing. And it's a point worth making.

Monday Open Thread

"Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; an argument an exchange of ignorance."

–Robert Quillen

About Ken Buck’s Super Classy Obama Sighting…

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Last Thursday, Rep.-elect Ken Buck described to his social media followers an encounter with President Barack Obama at the Washington, D.C. pizza joint We The Pizza. As you can see above, Buck had a pretty negative reaction to the mere sight of the President, which can be reasonably interpreted as not encouraging partisan gridlock-wise. You might also reasonably ask what exactly about the nation's first President of color elicits such a physical reaction from Rep.-elect Buck, to which he and his defenders will respond indignantly. Why should Buck even dignify that with a response?

Judging from just this Tweet, we expect most will have a reaction based mostly on their pre-existing view of Ken Buck. If you like him, you'll be inclined to interpret this charitably. If you don't–maybe you remember from the 2010 Senate when he said being gay is like alcoholism, or the story about that rape victim's "buyer's remorse"–you're probably doing to assume the worst.

On Facebook, it should be noted that Rep-.elect Buck elaborated a little more:

Perry and I were having lunch at We The Pizza near the Capitol before catching a plane. Secret Service shut down the restaurant and Pres Obama joined us for lunch. Obama was preceded by 20 Hispanic students for a photo op. Lost my appetite [Pols emphasis] but got a great story to share. Obama needed 35 Secret Service agents for a piece of pizza. I hope Michelle doesn't find out the Pres was eating bad food.

So, we're going to be as charitable as we feel we possibly can be, and give Buck the benefit of the doubt that the "20 Hispanic students" had nothing to do with his loss of appetite? Let's leave that at "we hope so." Some of our readers will not, and we honestly don't blame them. 

Unfortunately, there is a more basic problem here.

As the AP reports, those "20 Hispanic students" were not Hispanic.

Hours before addressing the nation on immigration, President Barack Obama left the White House for lunch.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were taking in a midday meal with young people from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota. [Pols emphasis] They were dining on pizza and burgers at adjoining restaurants on Capitol Hill; We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery.

That's right, it's the age-old pitfall for the racially insensitive, the brown skin=Hispanic fallacy! Knowing this little detail makes the charitable interpretation of Rep-elect Buck's comments we theorized above, about losing his appetite at the sight of Barack Obama and/or whatever relationship his loss of appetite may have had to those 20 Hispanic Native American students, substantially more difficult. There's really no way Buck comes out of this without some kind of ugly side in plain view–it's just a question of how ugly.

And he hasn't even been sworn in yet, folks.

Weekend Open Thread

"The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones." 

–Cheryl Hughes

Former Governor Bill Owens Shamelessly Offers Colorado PERA Management Advice.

Governor Bill Owens, Pioneer of Colorado PERA Pension Mismanagement, Now Shamelessly Offers PERA Management Advice.

In a recent Denver Post opinion piece, former oil and gas lobbyist and Colorado Governor Bill Owens supports the latest corporate campaign attacking the Colorado PERA public pension system (11/20/2014 Denver Post):


As per usual, corporate representatives see evil in the use of taxpayer dollars for deferred public pension compensation, but have no problem with Colorado's diversion of billions of these taxpayer dollars to unearned corporate welfare. Indeed, the elimination of the Colorado PERA public pension system would free up even more taxpayer dollars that could be targeted by corporate lobbyists. (This activity of persuading elected officials to give away public resources can be quite lucrative, see the Colorado Department of Revenue's "Colorado Tax Expenditure Report,"


In reading the recent Bill Owens Denver Post opinion piece I wondered, is the hypocrisy of Colorado politicians infinite? Do our politicians secretly compete with each other in a clandestine hypocrisy contest? Is reaching the pinnacle of hypocrisy a common life goal among politicians?

An excerpt from the Bill Owens Denver Post opinion piece:

"While PERA highlights its average retiree benefits — $3,068 monthly, according to the latest data — this statistic hides the fact that a few retirees make far more than that and the vast majority make far less. Quite simply, the benefit structure, set by the state legislature, is skewed to benefit a minority of public employees at the expense of the rest."

My reaction: This is rich. Bill Owens laments the fact that some Colorado PERA members receive greater public pension benefits than others. Allow me to explain the hypocrisy I see associated with Bill Owens' "concerns."

While in office more than a decade ago, Bill Owens championed the "Bill Owens Colorado PERA Service Credit Fire Sale" scheme (HB00-1458.) Service credit (years of service) in the Colorado PERA pension system were sold, at his urging, at a fraction of their actuarial cost. This Bill Owens scheme represents perhaps the most consequential pension mismanagement event in the history of the Colorado PERA pension system. This mismanagement increased the Colorado PERA pension system's unfunded liabilities (and thus contractual obligations borne by Colorado taxpayers) by billions of dollars. I do not blame Colorado PERA members for taking advantage of this opportunity made available to them in Colorado law at the time. (Indeed, representatives of the Colorado PERA pension system encouraged PERA members to make purchases of "service credit" in those years.) I blame elected officials and members of the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees for acquiescing to this fiscally irresponsible, political ploy. Under the "service credit purchase" scheme, a number of Colorado state legislators (including Bill's political buddies?) were able to buy years of service credit in the Colorado PERA pension plan on the cheap. They then, conveniently, found themselves moving from low-paying state legislative positions to lucrative appointments in the Administration. Thus, their ultimate Colorado PERA retirement benefit was calculated based on the higher final salaries of jobs in the Administration. Since Bill Owens was the prime mover behind this "Colorado PERA Service Credit Fire Sale," I find it astoundingly hypocritical that Bill Owens now has the temerity to complain about the fair distribution of Colorado PERA retiree benefits.

While Governor, Bill Owens persuaded (pressured?) the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees to endorse his "service credit fire sale" scheme, which they obediently and unanimously supported. Bill Owens' goal, at the time, was to rid Colorado state and local government of "expensive" older employees, encouraging them to buy these cheap years of "service credit" and qualify for early retirement. Thus, public employee labor costs were shifted from state and local governments to the Colorado PERA pension system, raising system unfunded liabilities.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently decided to ignore the evidence of Bill Owens' mismanagement of Colorado PERA (and in fact all evidence in a Colorado PERA pension lawsuit) in order to facilitate a reduction of Colorado PERA's unfunded liabilities through breach of contract. Of course, the Colorado Supreme Court necessarily ignored the Colorado and US Constitutions in the process. This transparent political favor provided by the Colorado Supreme Court (to the Colorado Legislative Branch) has tarnished the Colorado Judiciary, and diminished the careers of Colorado judges who actually believe in the Rule of Law. In reading the Decision in the case, Justus v. State, judges on the Colorado Court of Appeals see the true colors of the politically motivated Colorado Supreme Court. If the Colorado PERA pension system had been responsibly managed by past Colorado state legislators and Governors, the Colorado Supreme Court would never have found itself in a position where it was tempted to abandon constitutional principles, Colorado case law, and its integrity.

Given his history, Bill Owens' recent posturing in the Denver Post as a person even remotely qualified to offer public pension management advice lends insight into his character.

An astute observer has noted that:

"Owens dipped into PERA funds through the back door, moving state employees at the top ends of the pay grades from state paychecks to PERA paychecks. In other words, Owens reduced state costs by shifting them to PERA at the same time he reduced the state's contribution percentage, starting the slide from 107% funded to current levels. Granted the slide was accelerated by the economic downturn, but it began when the state figured out how to supplement the general fund by raiding PERA. Last year's SB-1, if upheld by the court opens the front door to PERA resources. Now, any time legislators decide they need PERA funds, they can pay for reducing further the state's contribution by reducing benefits."

(For the record, we should also note that Colorado's public sector union leaders, in supporting SB-1, held open "the SB-1 front door" for Colorado state legislators. In an unprecedented act, in 2010 these union leaders facilitated the elimination of the contractual public pension rights of their own public employee members.)

It may be that (fair or unfair) media coverage during the Owens Administration diverted attention from the responsible management of the Colorado PERA pension system. But, if media reports and blogger comments from that period of Colorado history reflect reality, the hypocrisy of our GOP "family values" Governor extends well beyond the realm of public pension management.

Ed Quillen:

"Owens moved out of the governor's mansion for a while because he and his wife, Frances, had agreed on a separation. Then they reconciled. After he left office, they divorced. There were all sorts of juicy rumors, among them one about a love child growing up in Texas, but if anyone called for Owens to resign, I missed it."

"This may have stalled Owens's national political career, which had looked promising. One right-thinking publication had touted him as America's best governor and there was serious talk of the vice-presidency or even the Oval Office."


Free Republic:

"Owens, a devout Catholic, has touted family values as a cornerstone of his administration. Some immediately questioned what impact it would have on Owens' political career if the couple were to divorce. Owens has been mentioned by conservative Republicans as a potential presidential candidate, even though he has never publicly said he is interested in running."

Comments on the article published at FreeRepublic.com:

"I have always heard that this guy is ultra career minded. He has a PAC in Washington right now, presumably to set up his 08 bid. He also chaired the GOP Gov's Conference, and was an officer with the National Governor's Association."

"Gang, Governor Owens has had an on-going affair for many, many years. It is well known in Republican circles. You can be sure that no high ranking Republican would encourage Bill to pursue any sort of public office under any circumstances. The Party is reeling from a record number of scandals in the ethics area and is quietly getting rid of the worst offenders. You will begin to see Republicans focusing less on family values and more on fiscal and governing issues. One thing the party has realized is that a large percentage of those who loudly tout family values are the worst offenders. Please pray for Frances and the kids, all of whom spent many years home alone. Believe me, they won’t notice much of a difference after the separation."


"Hmmm, obviously these Owens fans aren't from Colorado. It's quite well known here that Owens' personal picadillos [sic] make Bill Clinton look like a saint."


Conservative Columnist Vince Carroll of the Denver Post Condemns the "Bill Owens PERA Service Credit Fire Sale," July 31, 2013 Denver Post:

"The administration of Gov. Bill Owens, in a major blunder, lobbied for the fire sale as a shortsighted way to encourage early retirement and infuse new blood into the bureaucracy."

"Guessing the answer, I asked (Congressman Mike) Coffman if he had purchased years of service from PERA once upon a time. And, sure enough, he replied, 'I did purchase years of service.'"


(Governor Owens, Rep. Coffman has admitted to participating in your PERA "service credit fire sale" by buying years of service credit. You have a chance to be as forthright as Rep. Coffman and answer the question. Did you purchase PERA service credit in the "fire sale" yourself?)


"As (Vince) Carroll notes, this problem was known as early as 2005, when David Milstead of the late, lamented Rocky wrote about it: 'But the deal got sweeter. Gov. Bill Owens, then in the early part of his first term, wanted to streamline government and bring new employees into the state work force. In 2000, with his encouragement – some say pressure – PERA cut the already-low price of purchasing extra years by 14 percent, to 15.5 percent of salary.'"


"Colorado’s state income tax rate was a flat 5 percent until it was lowered to 4.75 percent in 1999 and to 4.63 percent in 2000, under Gov. Bill Owens."


Silver and Gold Record, May 12, 2005:

“Befort also noted that several years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Bill Owens decided to encourage higher-paid employees to retire early. Payroll expenses went down for the state, but PERA’s costs increased, he explained.”


Friends of PERA (an organization that supported SB10-001) in "PERA Quick Facts":

"Laws passed in 1999 and 2000 to reduce the cost to purchase years of service and to provide for earlier retirement were initiated by Governor Owens' office and legislators who wanted to encourage long-term state employees to retire. At the same time that the benefit rules were made better, the employer contribution rates were reduced and the rate employees paid remained the same. These changes were made by the Executive and Legislative branches, not by the PERA board.”



"(Henry) Sobanet also served under former Gov. Bill Owens and was intimately involved in the crafting of SB10-001, the bill passed in 2010 to shore up PERA."


Denver Post:

"Hickenlooper, a Democrat, named Henry Sobanet, formerly a budget director for Republican Gov. Bill Owens to do the same job for him."

"Sobanet worked for the Office of State Planning Budgeting as deputy director from 1999 to 2004, when former Owens appointed him as director."


Governing article in 2006:

"In Colorado, at least some of Bill Owens' pension problem was self-inflicted, the result of his pressuring PERA to sell discounted 'service credits' to public employees, allowing them to buy more time on the job."  "Owens hoped that state employees would retire early, helping his efforts to streamline government." "Because pensions are, by their nature, a long-term problem, it's difficult to get public officials–classic short-term thinkers–to pay them serious attention even when the bills are coming due."


GAO report, the Colorado Legislature Has Increased Colorado PERA Pension Benefits Without Paying for These Benefits:

"This was also the case in California and Colorado where pension benefit increases in the late 1990s and early in the 2000s helped drive liabilities higher."

From Friends of PERA:

"PERA has been fully funded only two years in its 75-year history – in 1999 and 2000. When it was fully funded, Governor Owens immediately pursued cutting the employer contribution rate and unwisely pushed the Board of Trustees very strongly to reduce the cost to purchase service credit. This action resulted in a very large unfunded liability increase to the fund. When PERA tried to pursue legislative changes to remedy the situation, Governor Owens vetoed the legislation because it did not include a 'defined contribution option' for state employees."


The complete story can be read here at the Denver Post:


Discover the true nature of Colorado government at saveperacola.com.

Latinos Slam Hickenlooper’s “Path To Citizenship” Dismissal

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports, the controversy over Gov. John Hickenlooper's remarks earlier this week, in which he appeared to dismiss the aspirations of immigrants to obtain American citizenship, appears to be growing. After giving Hickenlooper a suitable period to retract his comments, the Colorado Latino Forum has run out of patience, issuing a strongly-worded statement this afternoon:

As the nation's Hispanic community Friday celebrated President Obama's executive order sparing 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Colorado Latinos expressed their frustration with another politician — the state's Democratic governor…

"The Colorado Latino Forum is extremely disappointed in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's recent statement regarding Latinos and citizenship," the statement began.

"The Colorado Latino Forum has long underscored that access to a path to citizenship is a key value that must be included in any meaningful future comprehensive immigration reform package that Congress debates.

"We are disappointed that immediately following his narrow re-election in which our community voted overwhelmingly for Governor Hickenlooper, his first comments regarding Latino issues demonstrate that he is out of touch with our community's priorities and values."

What we've heard is that just about every Latino interest and immigrant rights group in the state has called Gov. Hickenlooper's office to express their displeasure over what he said, and there has been no satisfactory response. The fact is, an eventual pathway to American citizenship for otherwise law-abiding, long term immigrants is a central goal of immigration reform proponents–who are deeply skeptical of the various "guest worker" programs that have been proposed as alternatives. We don't think Hickenlooper was trying to disparage immigrants' motives, but his statement that the "vast majority" of immigrants simply want to "get paid over the table" and "don't care about a pathway to citizenship" could be interpreted disparagingly. Either way, it's directly at odds with what immigration reformers are advocating for.

Whatever his intentions, this comment — and a wealthy, white politician purporting to tell a minority community what they really want — isn’t sitting well with Colorado’s Latino community…

Bottom line: the pressure may be off Hickenlooper electorally for four years, but since his re-election we've been wondering if that might result in more rigorous accountability from his left–on a variety of issues where Hickenlooper has run afoul of base Democrats, or even good politics. There has been a tendency this election season to pull punches on Hickenlooper, so as to not assist Bob Beauprez's campaign.

As of today, it looks like Hickenlooper's second honeymoon is over.

GOP Responds to Obama Immigration Action…With Lawsuit About Healthcare

We wrote earlier this week about the immigration issue and President Barack Obama's pending executive order to address the topic as Congress refuses to act. Here's the final paragraph from our post on Wednesday:

There's no way around it for the GOP: When they take control of both the House and Senate in January, they can either move forward with immigration reform or not. There is nobody left for Republicans to blame if they don't take action themselves. The GOP painted themselves into a corner with inaction on immigration, and the only way out is to make their own footprints. Ultimately, if Republicans don't actually move on the issue, 2016 voters aren't going to care why they failed to act with their Congressional majority — as Yoda might say, there is only "do" or "do not."

Facepalm city in Congress

Sigh. As CNN reports, House Speaker John Boehner just…WTF?

House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he has sued the Obama Administration in federal court over its decisions to make changes to the President's health care law, which congressional Republicans argue were unconstitutional.

The move was expected for months — the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to approve the lawsuit in July. But Boehner had trouble retaining a law firm that would take the case because of the political furor over the controversial health care law…

…News of the lawsuit came just minutes after Boehner held a press conference on Friday to respond to the President's plan to circumvent Congress in order to make sweeping changes to the nation's immigration system by executive order.

The one-two punch from Boehner marks a new era of tension between Republicans who will officially take over Congress in January, and the President who has signaled that despite his party's losses in the midterms, he plans to proceed with his agenda without GOP cooperation. [Pols emphasis]

As CNN points out, Boehner struck out — twice — on trying to find a law firm to sue over Obamacare until convincing a George Washington law professor to take the case. But the very fact that Republicans would allow this lawsuit to become their de-facto response to Obama's executive order on immigration absolutely boggles the mind.

Aside from making some folks in the Tea Party happy, what do Republicans possibly think they can accomplish here?

Get a Handle on Colorado’s Fiscal Challenges With ’12 Charts’

As legislators begin to write the budget, state economists are projecting that General Fund revenues will exceed the TABOR/Ref C limit. It has been more than a decade since Colorado last hit the TABOR limit, but the consequences are clear: Colorado will be returning tax dollars before restoring the cuts made to vital services.

This is not a new problem in our state, and it's not the first time we've weighed in and said we need to have a statewide conversation about both our fiscal challenges and the kind of state we want to be. But this seems like a good time to say it again. And we've brought visual aids — Colorado's Fiscal Challenges — in 12 Charts.

Structural problems in the state's tax code increasingly undermine the state's ability to support the public structures that underpin our quality of life. From a flat income tax that does not capture significant tax revenue from the highest income brackets to an obsolete sales tax structure, Colorado's fiscal structures need a tune-up. With TABOR rebates on the horizon, we believe a statewide conversation must start with renewed energy. We hope our 12 Charts educate and engage decision-makers, advocates and allies to address both our unavoidable short-term challenges and our impending long-term ones.

 We think these charts tell a compelling story – that Colorado must act now to preserve its high quality of life.


Who Did The Shutdown Hurt Most? Colorado Springs.


As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Wayne Heilman reports–we've talked at length in this space about the harm done to Colorado's economy during the GOP-engineered shutdown of the federal government in October of 2013. At one point late last year, it seemed as though the shutdown was going to do real damage to Republican electoral prospects in 2014. The issue did come up in the recent elections, but the principal target Rep. Cory Gardner overcame whatever damage those ads may have done.

In tourism-dependent communities like Estes Park, the shutdown of the national parks cost the local economy millions of dollars from cancelled bookings. The shutdown resulted in some delays in the federal government's response to the devastating September flooding along the Front Range. And, says the Gazette today, furloughed soldiers and federal employees in government-heavy Colorado Springs lost income, which cost the entire region economically:

The area's income per person rose just 0.2 percent, or $81, from 2012 to $41,250, according to a report released Thursday by the agency. In 2012, per-person income rose 2.1 percent from 2011.

The national average for 2013 was $44,785; the Colorado Springs number is $3,535, or 7.9 percent, lower – the biggest gap between local incomes and the national average in data since 1969.

The prime reason for the area's poor showing: a $110.8 million decline in earnings by military personnel and civilian federal employees, largely the result of furloughs and other cost-cutting measures put into place during the federal government shutdown in October 2013.

The area has about 36,000 troops on active duty and 13,500 federal civilian workers. About half of the civilians were off the job without pay during the shutdown.

The irony of staunchly Republican El Paso County taking one of the hardest hits from the October 2013 shutdown is obvious. And the numbers don't lie: this is a much bigger economic hit than Colorado's tourism economy took. That this clearly destructive and preventable action did not have any discernable impact on the 2014 elections, either in El Paso County or across the state in the U.S. Senate race, reflects one of the great conundrums of American politics today (see: Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas?).

We don't have the solution, but here is one of the clearest examples of the problem you're likely to ever see.

Talk-radio hosts broadcast from Denver, but where do their hearts reside?

If you live in Denver or send your kid to public school or get involved in our community in even the most limited way, you probably know families who will benefit from Obama's announcement to stop the deportation of some undocumented immigrants with family ties to our country. And you know we'll be better for it, our humanity, our economy, our soccer teams. It gives you hope.

The Republican radio hosts, quoted below, broadcast their shows from Denver, but you wonder if their hearts reside somewhere else:

KHOW's Michael "Heck-of-a-Job" Brown Nov. 19:

Brownie: The people who are, you know, mowing your yards, or fixing your roof, or doing whatever they happen to be doing – those low-skilled workers. I ran into one today over at the Sonic, bless her heart. I’m not sure she could read or write, but she managed to get the order straight, so I guess I should be happy, right? Listen to Brown 11.19.14

KOA 850-AM's Mike Rosen Nov. 19:

Rosen: I think the chip [Obama] has on his shoulder is that he doesn’t want to be pushed around by these white Republicans in the House when they had a majority, and now he doesn’t want to be pushed around by white Republicans in the Senate, now that they’ll have a majority in January. He’s looking at so much of this through a racial prism, and I think that’s his hangup. Listen to Rosen 11.19.14

KNUS 710-AM's Dan Caplis on Wednesday:

Caplis: But we have the President now on the brink, on the brink of essentially tearing up the Constitution. Looks like that “tearing up ceremony”– you know, we get so upset, as we should about flag burning. You know, this president is just going to burn the Constitution. And it’s going to be formally scheduled Friday in Las Vegas. Listen to Caplis 11.19.14

To be fair, most outraged talk-radio hosts say they want something done about immigration, just like many of the Republicans in Washington.

Rosen: We’ve waited so long to address the problem of the 11 or 12 million people who are here illegally, we can wait a little longer. We can wait another year. And a year should give us time to make some real progress on border security. Once that’s done, then the Republicans will be willing to compromise.

Nothing Obama did yesterday stops Congress from passing immigration-reform legislation, Mike. Meanwhile, this allows some families to be home together for the holidays and then get back to work without fear of their lives being torn apart.

People Testify to Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force

 "Our children should not be expected to be test subjects," said Angela Kirkpatrick, mother to a Greeley elementary school student. Greeley has allowed numerous oil and gas wells next to public schools, even while  COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) admits that there are "data gaps", and no long term health studies about the effects of breathing benzene and methane on children's health.

In Loveland, Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Task Force heard public comments from noon until 8 pm. I took notes on the last hour and a half of the public comments. Around four hundred people packed the Meeker Building in the Ranch Events complex, to listen and to speak.

(Below, fracking rig located next to Greeley Weld School District 6 stadium in Greeley, CO)

Testimony that I heard ran about 2:1 for slowing oil and gas production until public health impacts are known, for stronger regulation and enforcement, and for  communities to control how much oil and gas production they will allow. The tradeoff in quality of life vs. the economic boom was a continuing theme. Many expressed concern about earthquakes in Weld County, probably caused by injection of fracking fluids under pressure. Audio links to public comment are here and here

Denver Post "Colorado oil, gas task force gets earful from elected officials" by Mark Jaffe

Durango Herald article, "Gas and Oil Task Force Looks at Local Control, "by Peter Marcus

Greeley Tribune article (behind paywall)

My notes on public comments:

"Privatizing the profits, socializing the costs" – Martin Lind

Maydean Worley: Northridge HS site in Greeley, with leaks near the school. At the proposed elementary school site, the drilling company was "stunned into silence" when residents requested an air quality monitor.

Nick Johnson: concerned member of Lafayette community. (which voted to ban fracking) " We understand that it's an economic boon – we also understand that it's a public health issue.We need to give more authority to our local communities."

What is being proposed is a land plan- set up land use standards before communities are built. – He's talking about how earthen berms were built to shield neighborhoods from noise and . (unknown speaker)

Rod Brueske – This commission, if they want to have legitimacy, needs to have a grand jury investigation of the COGCC, COGA, b/c of their interpretation of state regulations. These orgs have allowed reduced or no fines or fees for violations. They are acting with criminal negligence, and I highly recommend an investigation of this pattern of violations.

Jennifer ? – personal story about living next to holding tanks. I feel that I live in an industrial area now. Lights, sound, natural gas, open flames, truck traffic. Ugly, smelly, bright, noisy. Little info about long term exposure – I feel that my family are test subjects.

Shane Davis: I’m a miner. There are epic failures of the state and COGCC to abide by its mission . 40% of all spills in Weld County have already resulted in groundwater contamination. And contamination statewide.  You have to look at the failures to know what you have to do in order to keep them from happening again.  Please recuse yourselves because of a conflict of interest.

Mizraim Cordero: C3, representing business interests across the state. Mission is to keep state’s economy going. All industries, ag, construction, etc, not just oil/gas. Much discussion about local control. Regulating business on a municipal level results in unstable and inconsistent policies. “Patchwork of regulations”.

Chris Guttormsson

Property rights, mineral rights, etc. People don’t understand who actually owns the minerals. They don’t have control of surface. When you make recommendations, please consider helping public be better informed on this.

Dr. Judith Boyle I live in Highland Farms. I’m not against anyone’s right to develop their minerals. I am disturbed by the increased rampant drilling which seems to be happening without apparent forethought or a plan in place.  Regulations of oil and gas haven’t kept up with the technology. EX horizontal drilling.

Kristen Allen – homeowner in Windsor. Near proposed site with drilling within 500’ of people’s homes. Impact on their property values was negative per realtor’s appraisal when they wanted to sell.

Earl Pittman: – I’m Republican, pro-drilling. Brags about how low his gas mileage is.  I ask the task force to recommend local control. (cites long numbered rule). Great Western is the driller at issue. Colo State Dept of Health wants GW to move well site away from residents, but GW is ignoring it. It’s not a political issue, it’s a safety issue, and quality of life issue. They’ve lost our trust.

Robert Winkler: risk management consultant: I’m concerned about health and quality of life issues associated w oil and gas development.  We’ve voiced our concerns to local officials. They are unwilling to evaluate independent research data. Please recommend a comprehensive health impact assessment at the next legislative session.

Maggie Burns: sharing a story.  Grew up on Western slope. Economics does matter. There is a way to balance the interests of health and all the other concerns, but don’t forget that economics matters.

Andrew Browning: with Consumer Energy Alliance. We’re a national organization. We want to increase production of domestic energy, to promote jobs and increase energy security. Banning energy production not viable, not collaborative, bla bla.

Steven Olson: Loveland resident. Lot of rhetoric, movie Gasland was sensational, misleading. Loveland energy project, pro-development group. Technology has advanced to enable safe and responsible development.

Karen Dike: Retired RN from Loveland. Here on behalf of my grandchildren. Gov Hickenlooper, you are making those of us who live in Colorado into lab rats for the oil and gas industry. You are asking us to prove that breathing benzene, methane, et, are not harmful to our children. Your moral and ethical responsibility is to …..It is time to say enough to this industry.

Steve Juhan  My grandfather did a lot of mining and development. Long-ass bio, with no discernible point.  Oil and gas creates jobs. Thank you.

Michelle Smith -  I’m on the board of (two organizations) runs an organic farm. We are losing small farmers in CO. Our hay costs tripled.  Leasing our mineral costs 2X helped us pay for our hay. Better education on MOU is the answer. Property rights should be respected.

Michael Lozinski  Disgruntled homeowner in Firestone area. Noise level was unbearable. I support America being self-reliant, but we can’t do it being irresponsible. COGCC didn’t do anything to ENCANA. I’m a homeowner without any rights. Rules are not enforced. This favors big oil. Need to fix COGCC so they will enforce the rules.

Kaye Fissinger from Longmont. President of Our Health, Our Future. In reading the directive, B1 and B2 has made health and wildlife subservient to the interests of the oil and gas industry. This is a moral issue. A constitutional and statutory and regulatory error. Task force has an opportunity to correct these wrongs.  Can make regulations more stringent than those adopted by local government. Should be able to place moratoria as Longmont did.

Judith Blackburn –  Also from Longmont, a “ban promoter”. Current laws and precedents need to be challenged. Because its legal doesn’t mean that its right. It’s impossible to promote oil and gas and still protect the rights of workers and neighbors. Disingenuous ads from energy companies do not promote trust. Questions of inspection and enforcement aside, we are all in some sort of experiment here. No one knows the long term effects…….

David Quave  During the oil embargo, I learned how important it is to be energy independent. When I moved, I loved working my farm, living in nature, safe haven. I propose that we all work together for optimal pad placements, respect rights of surface and mineral rights owners.  I want to enjoy sitting on my porch.

John Clarke: Former Larimer County Commissioner, former Ft Collins —- No municipality has tools they need to properly regulate oil and gas. Costs to taxpayers would be high. Talks a lot, says little. Fracking is just like construction. Right…..

 Ken Stone:  I work for a local O&G production co. Story of his life. Without O&G production, this economy won’t hold up.

Angela Kirkpatrick parent of a Greeley elementary school student. COGCC agrees that there are “data gaps” which “warrant further study”. We know the effects of benzene. Children are more vulnerable. The effects of being exposed to multiple volatile compounds are still unknown. Our children should not be expected to be test subjects. It’s COGCC’s responsibility to prove to safe to the community. It is not the community’s responsibility to prove that it’s safe to the COGCC.

Tim Reams from Earth Guardians. We need to know what the fracking chemicals are. When there is demonstrated risk to health standards, shut the wells down. There is violation after violation, one company 70 different times. When the state is not doing its job, local communities have to have the private right of action. This guy got the most applause of anyone yet, prompting a stern “no applause” warning from the moderator.

I took video of the last half hour of testimony, and will add it to this diary as time permits.

The task force will continue meeting  today, Friday, November 21, until 12 pm. The task force is  expected to recommend legislation in the next legislative session.

The public made its wishes known. Overwhelmingly, people want public health and quality of life prioritized over oil and gas profits. We know that the task force members will listen, as they did just that for over twenty hours so far. But will they hear? And hearing, will they act to protect public health and the environment?

Will public concerns about health and quality of life have a greater impact on policy than energy dollars? That remains to be seen.