Monday Open Thread

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”

–Groucho Marx

CU Student Government Revolts Over GOP Debate Access

CU-Boulder's Coors Events Center.

CU-Boulder’s Coors Events Center.

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Sarah Kuta reports:

University of Colorado students are frustrated that they won’t be able to attend the Republican presidential debate being held on their campus and are banding together this week to demand that more tickets be made available.

Late Thursday night, the CU Student Government passed a special resolution chiding the university, the Republican National Committee and CNBC, the cable news channel that’s broadcasting the debate, for making just 50 tickets available to the university community.

The Oct. 28 debate is being held at the Coors Events Center, which can seat more than 10,000 people. But the audience will be capped at roughly 1,000, with a small fraction of those seats going to university students, faculty and administrators…

The CU Student Government resolution calls for a “drastic” increase in the number of tickets available to students and the community and states that if the Republican National Committee and CNBC refuse to do so, the university should no longer be involved with the event. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve been watching the controversy over the highly limited seating available for the October 28th Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus build over the last few weeks like a ticking…on second thought, let’s go ahead and avoid that analogy. But as soon as it was announced that only a small fraction of the available seats at CU-Boulder’s Coors Events Center would be filled at all, and that of those few seats only a token number would go to CU students, we predicted that decision would result in much more controversy than it was worth to the GOP’s image.

That is, unless having an open and accessible debate full of CU students really would be a disaster for the GOP’s slate of presidential candidates. That’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the foremost reason this budding controversy is so bad for Republicans is that everybody knows why they’re not letting CU students attend in any significant numbers.

“We have requested more, but we anticipate that few, if any, will be forthcoming,” wrote CU-Boulder spokesman Ryan Huff in an email. “We understand that this is primarily a television event and CNBC has limited the audience of the 11,000-seat Coors Events Center to about one-tenth of capacity due to the set-up of the stage, lighting, camera equipment, etc.”

He said the university will soon be releasing information about a student watch party on campus.

Sean Spicer, chief spokesman for the Republican National Committee, reiterated on Friday that the debate is a televised event not meant for a live audience… [Pols emphasis]

Obviously, if the event is “not meant for a live audience,” why hold it in a stadium? Why have 1,000 mostly hand-picked people there at all? This excuse just plain doesn’t make sense, and the idea that the stage and broadcast equipment for the debate is going to fill up 10,000 seats in the Coors Events Center is silly on its face.

The Donald and Jeb!

The Donald and Jeb!

The real problem, as we all know, is that putting the current slate of Republican presidential candidates in front of anything other than a hand-picked audience of Republican Party loyalists risks demonstrating how out of touch many of them are–simply by hearing the audience’s reactions. As we’ve said, we don’t accept the argument that students would be inappropriately rowdy. This is about fully appropriate gasps and boos that would come in response to any number of recent on-record statements by Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb! Bush, and the rest of the crew.

The need to preserve a veneer of respectability for a group of presidential aspirants more of less devoted to embarrassing themselves, their party, and the entire nation in the eyes of the world–and folks, that is really what’s going on here, no hyperbole–is putting the University of Colorado in an ugly exclusionary position with their own students. The best choice would probably have been for CU President and GOP kingpin Bruce Benson to have passed altogether on bringing these clowns to the “People’s Republic of Boulder” under terms dictated by the Republican National Committee. Somebody in a strategy meeting had the super-crafty idea of holding a GOP debate in Boulder, and didn’t think through all the things that would mean.

But it’s too late now. The train wreck is underway.

Ken Witt Presents: How to Make the Case for Your Own Recall

Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt

Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt

Temperatures have been rising on the Jefferson County School Board ever since three right-wing members were elected to take over the Board majority in November 2013. As Colorado Pols readers are no doubt aware, these three Board members — Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams — are now facing a November recall election for a variety of reasons that we won’t rehash here (check Jeffco Pols for a more in-depth background into the Jeffco School Board controversies).

If you aren’t familiar with the controversies and issues that led to the November recall election, there was a moment at Thursday evening’s Jeffco School Board Meeting that perfectly encapsulates why the entire Jefferson County community has been in an uproar over the actions of Witt, Newkirk, and Williams. You can see the video yourself below, which better conveys the emotion of the exchange as Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper is nearly driven to tears out of frustration and anger in response to an incredibly disrespectful display from Board President Ken Witt.

“I am fed up with the way we are running this Board.”

— Jeffco School Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper

The back-and-forth discussion in question followed the introduction of a resolution proposing changes to the District Accountability Committee (DAC) Both Dahlkemper and Board Member Jill Fellman voiced their concern that Witt was forcing a vote on an item that the Board had not yet discussed, which is explicitly against the Board’s own policies. The resolution in question was sent around to Board members on Thursday afternoon — mere hours before the meeting was called to order — so Dahlkemper and Fellman asked Witt to schedule the vote for the following week so that the item could be discussed first.

“I don’t know how we can have a conversation and vote on something I saw for the first time 4 hours ago,” said Fellman. “I’m not willing to do that.”

Jeffco School Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper

Jeffco School Board Member Lesley Dahlkemper

Dahlkemper also noted that a discussion was pertinent because a volunteer committee of parents, teachers, and administrators had been working for months on changes to the DAC. Here’s what happened next:

LESLEY DAHLKEMPER: “At the very least, give us the time to read this, digest it, contrast it with what we have also been given by a committee that has spent more than three months analyzing state law and having conversations about this, to determine whether this is a good resolution moving forward. All I’m asking is that we follow board policy, we ask questions about this if we have any tonight, and then we put it on the agenda for the next Board Meeting to approve it. That’s all. That’s all I’m asking.”

KEN WITT: [Sarcastically] Ms. Dahlkemper, this has been read to you twice, but we can continue to go over it until you feel like you understand all of the terms. [Pols emphasis]

LD: Mr. Witt, don’t you dare speak down to me or disrespect me.

KW: I’m not…

LD: Yes, you have. And I’m sorry you don’t understand the difference between those two things…because I am done with it. [VOICE CRACKS] I can’t believe this…because I do not want to do this. But I will tell you – the mistake that you are making right now is that we have a policy on the table about how we govern. You are throwing governance right out the window because you have some agenda that you feel so critical that we have to vote on tonight…that even a simple request that is to say, “Look, our policy says we review it, and then we vote on it.” And don’t you dare insinuate that I don’t understand this policy. And stop talking down to people on this board, and also people who come forward. Enough. [Pols emphasis]

Policy disagreements are to be expected in any group of elected officials, but it’s inexcusable for Witt to a) Ignore Board policy at his own whim, and b) Display such blatant disrespect to a fellow board member. Witt’s behavior isn’t the primary reason why he, Newkirk, and Williams are facing a recall — but it’s near the top of the list.


Check out the video after the jump…



PPP: Planned Parenthood Crusade Political Suicide In Colorado

komen-planned-parenthood4-1A new survey from Public Policy Polling on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Colorado voters says that the Republican Party’s war against Planned Parenthood underway at the state and federal levels is a big, big mistake:

A new Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado voters find that voters oppose defunding Planned Parenthood and oppose shutting down the government over the issue. Voters would be less likely to vote to re-elect Representatives who supported shutting down the government to block Planned Parenthood funding.

Key findings from the survey include:

-55% of voters say they would view shutting down the government to block Planned Parenthood funding unfavorably. Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the idea- 72% of them oppose it, compared to only 23% who say support the idea. And it has opposition from critical independent voters- 55% are in opposed to 38% in favor. Overall 52% of voters oppose defunding Planned Parenthood whether or not a government shutdown is in play. [Pols emphasis]

-Voters would be less likely to vote to re-elect Representatives who voted to shut down the government to try and defund Planned Parenthood. 48% of voters say they’d be less likely to vote to re-elect those who stage a government shutdown, including 66% of Democratic voters and 52% of Independents. Just 35% of voters say they’d be more likely.

-Majorities of voters agree that attempting a government shutdown would reflect badly on the Republican Party. At least 50% of voters agree with each of the following statements: Shutting down the government to block any funding for Planned Parenthood would show that the Republicans in Congress put partisan politics ahead of what’s best for the country, that Republicans in Congress would go too far in catering to the extreme anti-abortion elements in their party, that Republicans in Congress are out of touch with the needs and concerns of women today, and that Republicans in Congress are too extreme in their policies and tactics.

Here’s the poll memo from PPP. It’s an obligatory caveat to note that PPP is generally considered a Democratic-aligned polling outfit, but they’ve received much praise over the years for accurately polling our state–including nailing last year’s U.S. Senate race as a two-point win for Cory Gardner in late September.

Given our state’s experience in the last government shutdown, which came just following devastating floods that impacted the Front Range and cost Colorado tourism towns millions after national parks and monuments closed, it’s no surprise to see local voters taking a dim view of another potential shutdown. But in addition to that, this poll shows truly resilient support for Planned Parenthood in our state–despite the release of numerous doctored undercover videos attacking the organization’s fetal tissue donation practices. Even after some of the videos depicted local Planned Parenthood employees with unflattering selective edits to their comments, a majority of Coloradans still oppose any attempt to cut off the organization’s funding.

That’s good news for all of you wondering if the onslaught of misleading videos was really moving public opinion–they’re not, at least not here–and bad news for Republicans who invested precious political capital in the hope that these videos would change the game on reproductive choice.

They didn’t. And Republicans are making the same old mistake once again.

My son deserves a school without hate

A banner hangs in the entrance to Pomona High School, where my son is a freshman this year: “A school without hate.” It’s a basic value he and his friends believe in.

In Jefferson County, those values are under attack. Click here now to find out how you can be part of the solution.

Right now, my neighbors in Jefferson County and I are working on recalling members of the Jefferson County school board who don’t believe in schools without hate. Each year, Jefferson County schools participate in a “Day of Silence” protest against bullying on campus. In response, board member Julie Williams posted a link to a protest against the Day of Silence, which referred to this important anti-bullying awareness event as “perverse indoctrination.”

That’s not who I want in charge of my son’s high school education.

It’s time for a school board in Jefferson County that truly cares about every student. Over the next few weeks the campaign to inform voters about the upcoming recall election is kicking into high gear. And we need your help to ensure success.

Click here to visit Jeffco United’s website and volunteer to help the recall campaign. The campaign needs volunteers for a variety of important jobs, from knocking on doors to answering phones. And of course, please donate whatever you can today.

The eyes of the nation are on Jefferson County today, but for me, it’s personal. This recall is about my son’s education, and over 85,000 kids who attend Jeffco public schools with him. This is about my son’s good teachers in Jeffco who are being driven out by a board that doesn’t value their work. And it’s about making sure that far-right political ideology doesn’t dictate what’s taught in our classrooms.

Thanks for standing up when it matters most. Right now.

Get More Smarter on Friday (Sept. 25)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218The federal government is still open, but you might not want to make any appointments for early October. 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).


► The big news today, obviously, is the announcement that House Speaker John Boehner will give up his gavel and resign altogether from Congress at the end of October. Boehner was first elected to Congress in 1990, and has served as Speaker since Jan. 5, 2011. Boehner was facing yet another revolt from the right wing in Congress, and whispers had grown louder in recent weeks that he might be challenged for his Speakership. Just last week, we wrote about Boehner’s future in this space and his friends (and foes) in the Colorado delegation; Boehner had been sounding increasingly exasperated about the job of trying to lead a terribly fractured GOP caucus.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is thought to be the early frontrunner to be selected as the next Speaker by the Republican caucus, though it would be a surprise if McCarthy was not challenged for the role. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is a favorite of the right wing, but Ryan has said publicly that he does not want the job.

► Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress on Thursday, telling lawmakers that “Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.” The Pope also spoke passionately about acting on climate change, welcoming immigrants, ending the death penalty, and fixing the widening gap between the lower and middle class and the richest 1% of Americans. The Washington Post has an annotated copy of the Pope’s speech available online.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


House answers reasonable questions on talk radio

After all he’s been through, you wouldn’t think Colorado GOP Chair Steve House would ever again breathe into a talk-radio microphone. But, lo, he’s made three recent appearances, taking questions from hosts and callers about topics ranging from the weedy (party finances) and the salacious (his alleged affair) to the elite (GOP debate at CU) and the ridiculous (Trump).

And, despite the hits he took recently from talk radio hosts, House even gives a shout out to radio itself, saying he “absolutely” thinks it’s a good medium (KNUS at 12:20).

Let me write about the alleged affair first, because why not? He denied it again, and, in fact, there’s still no proof he had one, and so what anyway? Edgar Antillon, who joined House during one interview, also discussed old rumors that Antillon had multiple wives, and Antillon and House said these private issues shouldn’t matter (KFKA, part 2, at 11 min).

Discussing the weedy, as in party finance issues, House claimed that things are getting better, with bills being paid down and a previously unsecured loan now secured (KFKA part 2 at 34:35). (GOP activists continue to distrust House on on financial and other matters, as you can read here.)

With respect to the CU debate, House said there’s a great after party planned, and the limited ticket offerings are due to the networks concerns about an unruly cowd (KFKA part 2 at 29:30)

OnTrump, House promised to support him if he wins the primary, though he sounds like he doesn’t support him.

House remains in the middle of a Republican brawl in Colorado, and, yet, he’s on the radio. I give him credit for that, and the hosts credit for conducting reasonable interviews. I’m looking forward to more.

Listen to Steve House on KNUS’ Rush to Reason and on KFKA’s Stacy Petty Show here.

Orange Era Ends: Boehner To Resign

UPDATE #4: Rep. Mike Coffman sounds much more conciliatory today with John Boehner than when he complained earlier this year about House leadership foot-dragging on funding for the Aurora VA hospital:

“Speaker John Boehner was under constant attack from conservatives who thought he did not do enough and from liberals who thought he did too much,” Coffman said.

Which one was Coffman, you ask? He’d rather not say.


UPDATE #3: Hard-right GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs says “don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you” to John Boehner:

“Although we did not always agree on tactics and methods, I appreciate that Speaker Boehner did his best to serve the American people,” Lamborn said. “I wish him well in the future and look forward to assessing the candidates who will step forward as the next nominees for speaker.”


UPDATE #2: We are working to confirm a report that now-outgoing Speaker John Boehner will appear at a fundraiser with Rep. Mike Coffman next Tuesday:

House Speaker John Boehner will campaign in Denver Tuesday for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora.

This was reported prior to Boehner’s announcement today that he will resign, so we have no way of knowing if this event will still happen. But Coffman’s difficulty juggling clear obligations to his district, from immigration reform to trying to get the wildly overbudget VA medical center in Aurora completed, with the often opposed interests of Boehner and GOP House leadership, has arguably been his greatest liability as he tries to hold on to one of the nation’s most competitive House seats.

And a visit from Boehner next Tuesday could throw that conflict into very harsh relief indeed.


UPDATE: Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado effusive in his praise for John Boehner:

“John Boehner is a devoted family man, an exceptionally talented public servant, and one of the proudest Americans I know. One of twelve children, he went from sweeping the floors at his father’s Cincinnati bar to walking the halls of the Capitol as the highest ranking official in Congress.”

“He has lived the American dream, and been an inspiration to many, including myself,” Gardner wrote. “From my time in the House to the current day, I am proud to consider John Boehner a friend and ally. I will miss his steady leadership — our country is better off for his service.”

We’re watching to see who else in our delegation agrees.


House Speaker John Boehner (R).

House Speaker John Boehner (R).

Stunning news out of Washington, D.C. this morning, The Hill reporting:

Speaker John Boehner told GOP lawmakers on Friday he will resign at the end of October.

The embattled Ohio Republican will resign from both his Speakership and his House seat, he told GOP lawmakers at a closed-door conference meeting…

“He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.”

Boehner’s decision comes as Congress struggles to find a way to fund the government.

Most sources report that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is the likely successor. With the dust still settling from this huge Friday announcement, we have yet to see reaction from our local Republican members, or any firm reports about what this means for the unresolved battle over funding the federal government past the looming October 1st shutdown deadline. Did John Boehner just defuse a metaphorical time bomb, or get himself out of the way of an impending train wreck? We’ll know soon.

Watch this space for updates on both of those angles as they come in.

Rep. Chaps: Mecca Pilgrims (Probably) Deserved To Die

UPDATE: Via 9NEWS, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt’s GOP House leadership is a profile in courage:

House Republican leaders decline to comment on this story at this time, caucus spokesman Joel Malecka told 9NEWS.


The Grand Mosque at Mecca.

The Grand Mosque at Mecca.

We’ve been following the tragic story of a stampede near the Muslim holy city of Mecca yesterday that killed hundreds of Hajj pilgrims near the end of their religious obligations. Yesterday’s stampede was the second disaster to befall the Hajj season this year, with the collapse of a construction crane in a heavy storm a few weeks ago having killed over 100 at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Now, we’re going to give our fellow humans the benefit of the doubt, and assume that most of you are appropriately sympathetic to the victims of these tragedies and their families. After all, most people would would tend to have that reaction to the news of hundreds of people being accidentally killed.

But unfortunately, as Right Wing Watch reports, “most people” doesn’t include GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs.

Earlier this month, a crane collapsed outside the Grand Mosque at Mecca during a storm, killing 107 Muslim worshipers, which Colorado Republican state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt declared on his “Pray In Jesus Name” show today was “the consequence of their sin” for “praying to Satan.”

“There are two different Gods,” he said. “There is the true God, Jehovah, the father of Jesus Christ, and there is a false god, Allah, who is the father of the false prophet Muhammad. Now which one were they praying to when an ‘act of God’ dumped this crane on their heads and killed 107 people? I think they were praying to a false god.”

“You could either say Allah wanted to kill them,” he continued, “or you could say this is the consequence of their sin when they were really praying to Satan.” [Pols emphasis]

In prayer after these comments, Klingenschmitt apparently did allow for the possibility that this was a natural act, or the result of “poor engineering of the crane”–but what’s really important is that we pray for these poor ignorant Satan-worshipping Muslims “bringing destruction on themselves.” Because surely God wouldn’t do something horrible like this, unless of course he did do it (we’re still pretty closely transcribing here), in which case it’s time to pray to God for mercy. Even though God evidently has already chosen not to show mercy based on the fact that all those godless Muslims are already dead! We haven’t seen an update yet, but presumably God help us all when “Chaps” finds out hundreds more Muslim pilgrims died yesterday in another, you know, “accident.”

Rep. Klingenschmitt, everybody! Bridging the divide between the People of the Book.

Longtime Local Political Fixture Katy Atkinson Dies

2010katySad news today from Lynn Bartels, blogging from the Secretary of State’s office:

Political consultant Katy Atkinson, who started out working for Republicans and eventually handled high-profile nonpartisan ballot measures, died today.

Atkinson was a sought-after spokesperson by reporters because she knew Colorado politics and she quickly returned phone calls.

“Katy Atkinson was smart and witty and just a delight to be around,” said Dick Wadhams, the former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party and a veteran political consultant. “That’s what made her just a great person to work with in politics. In the most intense situation, she could laugh.”

Atkinson had a long career in supporting roles for innumerable local political campaigns and stories. Generally associated with Republicans, Atkinson was a key part of a moment of bipartisan common sense in 2005 that culminated in the passage of Referendum C–a five-year timeout from the worst impacts of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) that helped the state recover from the post-9/11 economic downturn. Atkinson also helped a bipartisan coalition successfully fight the so-called “Bad Three” Doug Bruce-backed anti-tax ballot measures in 2010, Amendments 60, 61, and Proposition 101.

She’ll be missed on both sides of the aisle.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Sept. 24)

MoreSmarterLogo-300x218Can Ben Carson say something ridiculously stupid every day this week? He’s sure trying. 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).


► Congress has spent a lot of time doing very little since they returned from the August recess, and they may have to put in some overtime this weekend. As Mark Matthews reports for the Denver Post, lawmakers are calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to get a little tougher with his gavel:

Colorado’s three U.S. House Democrats joined with about 120 of their party colleagues this week in asking that Speaker John Boehner keep the lower chamber in session — every day — until a deal is reached to avert a government .

The request from Reps.  and  comes just days before an Oct. 1 deadline in which Congress and the White House must agree to a stopgap spending bill or else close down federal agencies.

Elsewhere, Politico is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preparing his “final strategy” for avoiding the second federal government shutdown in three years:

It’s make or break time for Republicans to avoid a government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday afternoon is expected to set up his end-game to avoid a politically disastrous lapse in government funding. He will likely make his move immediately after an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood fails in the face of Democratic opposition, according to sources briefed on his plans.

McConnell can also box out Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) from attempting a filibuster if the GOP leader acts quickly after the failed vote; otherwise Cruz could try to delay McConnell’s plans to jam House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) with a do-or-die vote on a clean stopgap spending bill, or continuing resolution. But Senate GOP leadership is confident they can rebuff any Cruz maneuvering.

We’ve probably said it before, but it deserves repeating: How can Sen. Ted Cruz simultaneously run for President while doing everything in his power to shut down the federal government? Ted Cruz for President: Because the Government Should Just Stop Altogether. 


► Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress on Thursday, telling lawmakers that “Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.” The Pope also spoke passionately about acting on climate change, welcoming immigrants, ending the death penalty, and fixing the widening gap between the lower and middle class and the richest 1% of Americans. The Washington Post has an annotated copy of the Pope’s speech available online.


► Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith is taking a serious look at running for U.S. Senate in 2016. The Republican sheriff is getting some good press out of D.C., particularly from National Journal and its daily “Hotline” political briefing. Smith is the first story in this morning’s “Hotline,” which notes that he has “a team of consultants already lined up.”


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Thursday Open Thread

“Those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”