Calling For Rep. Chaps’ Resignation (After Helping Elect Him)

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman finally gives freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt the feature profile he deserves in the Denver media market–and it's pretty brutal stuff:

Klingenschmitt got blowback from both parties before he was ever elected after he compared US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) to ISIS.

He later explained that this was supposed to be hyperbole to make a point.

Now that he's sworn in to office, Klingenschmitt is still making his satellite TV show and upsetting groups people with what he says…

"I know our state legislature is part time, but I didn't realize Dr. Chaps would continue his comedy career while in office," Polis told 9NEWS. "I will continue to pray for him to return to reality from his delusional state. I'm not offended so much as I am concerned for him."

Klingenschmitt has continued posting his Pray In Jesus' Name Youtube shows after his swearing in as a Colorado legislator. Last week, Rep. Klingenschmitt celebrated the repeal in December of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that he claimed was intended to "put Christians in jail." Klingenschmitt's latest show, picked up by Right Wing Watch, features an interview with anti-Muslim activist Bill Warner, who declares that President Barack Obama is "the face of Islam in America."

So, like we said, Rep. Chaps isn't toning down the crazy to serve. We never expected him to, of course, but it's no longer a hypothetical.

Perhaps most interesting about Klingenschmitt's 9NEWS profile are statements by his predecessor, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller. Waller is now more or less calling for Klingenschmitt to resign:

Waller agreed that at some point soon the freshman legislator is going to have to choose to be Dr. Chaps or be Rep. Klingenschmitt, but he can't be both.

"I just don't think he can do that and be successful," said Waller, adding that if Klingenschmitt is not willing to part ways with Dr. Chaps, "then, perhaps maybe the best thing for the people of the state of Colorado and for the constituents of house district 15 would be for him to step aside and let somebody else take on that challenge."

The contrast between what Waller says today and what he said before the 2014 elections is fairly important to understand:

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," Waller said. [Pols emphasis]

That's what Waller said last August. At least then, which was well after "Dr. Chaps'" special brand of crazy was broadly understood, Waller was still more interested in securing a Republican majority in the Colorado House than protecting that institution–and Waller's own constituents–from the embarrassment Rep. Klingenschmitt is currently visiting upon them. Of course, now that Klingenschmitt has beaten his Democratic opponent, the GOP faithful of HD-15 could pick a replacement for him if they succeed in pushing him out. Failing that, Klingenschmitt might be targeted in a GOP primary next year, much like Waller himself did against infamous appointed Rep. Doug Bruce in 2008.

The biggest problem? Rep. Klingenschmitt won his seat by almost 70% of the vote. No matter how disastrous he may be for the Republican brand, the results of last year's elections are a pretty strong argument that "Dr. Chaps" doesn't need to listen to Waller or anyone else

On radio, Buck says the “middle” is not where he’ll be in Congress

(Don't act so surprised – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck.

Rep. Ken Buck.

You can't win if you're Rep. Ken Buck and you go on Tea-Party radio, just after you've voted to retain Tea-Party anathema John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House.

You've already been called out for treason on Facebook, and you have to say that's wrong. On the other hand, you have to show that you understand why liberty listeners hate Boehner so much.

Under tough questioning by guest-host Nancy Rumfelt on KFKA last week, here's how Buck threaded the needle.

Buck (at 12:40): “I want to face people.  And especially the people that thought they were being cute in putting ugly things on my Facebook.  You know, if you want to say something nasty to me, say it to my face.  Don’t put something on Facebook.  What happened yesterday was just a disgrace.  You know, go to Trey Gaudy’s town hall meeting and call him traitor. Say that he committed treason. It’s just ridiculous.  And yes, we voted for John Boehner.  We thought it was the best path forward, but it is not an act of treason.  And it’s just silly to use those terms.”

But don't even think Buck will slide toward the middle:

Buck (at 6:50 below): "Speaker and the leadership team know that they cannot count on me when they move to the middle, that I will be voting against leadership's efforts in certain areas, especially is true when it comes to the fiscal issues, the appropriations bills and the regulatory issues. And I include Obamacare in that. But absolutely. The people in the 4th Congressional District can count on Ken Buck to be with the conservative votes when it comes to the bills that are coming up in the future."

Listen to Ken Buck on KFKA's Amy Oliver Show, Jan. 7, 2015, guest hosted by Nancy Rumfelt.

“Major Confusion” Coffman Does it Again on Immigration

Mike Coffman takes all sides

Go ahead and roll the dice — “Major Confusion” Coffman has every side covered.

Fox 31’s Eli Stokols has the rundown on today’s Congressional immigration battles, and Republican Rep. Mike “Major Confusion” Coffman is picking up kudos after a handful of conflicting votes and mismatched public statements:

[Coffman] voted against the amendment that seeks to end the Deferred Action program and the final bill, which included the amendment.

“The President’s executive actions are clearly unconstitutional and I strongly oppose his unilateral decisions on immigration but my party needs to stop just saying what we are against and start saying what we are for when it comes to fixing our broken immigration system,” said Coffman in a statement.“Under the DACA amendment that passed, young people who were taken to this country as children, who grew up here, went to school here, and often know of no other country but the United States, would not be allowed to renew their status and would face deportation. We should have had an opportunity to pass a version of the DACA program into law.  Moving forward, immigration reform should be about securing our borders, growing our economy and keeping families together and we need to do it all the constitutional way – through Congress.”

Immigration policy is confusing enough without Coffman's help, so stay with us here – this is about to get silly.

Congressman Coffman is a former U.S. Marine. If you’ve spent any time around Colorado politics, you are almost certainly aware of this; Coffman never misses an opportunity to mention his military career and call upon related clichés such as “boots on the ground.” We do not have a negative word to say about Rep. Coffman’s service record. To borrow a phrase from Democrat Andrew Romanoff, Coffman’s General Election opponent in 2014, Rep. Coffman’s military career should be applauded and respected.

His rank as a citizen lawmaker perhaps should be adjusted, however, to include the title “Major Confusion,” because that seems to be Coffman’s strategy when it comes to dealing with the issue of immigration.

While nothing ever actually happens on immigration reform, “Major Confusion” always makes sure to take credit for specific immigration votes while at the same time making sure to so obfuscate his position that it seems like he’s always on your side on the issue (Coffman even issued a statement in Spanish today about how he totally supports DREAMers). This is a pretty clever political tactic, actually, even if it is completely meaningless.

Take a look at this blog entry from Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry, who is consistently one of the most understandable and understanding journalists in Colorado, and you’ll see what we mean about the strategy of “Major Confusion.”

Coffman, a Republican, voted against a broad bill what seeks to undo the ability of illegal immigrants brought here as children to find a permanent home in the United States.

Good for you, Congressman. It was an impressive and important move. The vote was nothing but a flagrant political slap to President Barack Obama as retribution for seeking administrative ways to solve immigration problems. But it passed, 236-191 because other Republicans don’t have the temerity and good sense Coffman showed.

If you’re going to slap Coffman on the back here, it’s important to draw the distinction between being a “vote maker” and a “law maker.” Congress is in the business of making laws – or as House Speaker John Boehner routinely crows, not making laws. “Major Confusion” Coffman did indeed cast several votes today on immigration reform, but the votes were contradictory and his actions did absolutely nothing to contribute to “making laws” on immigration. Coffman split his votes on various controversial amendments, which is the real-world equivalent of flipping a coin and calling both “heads” and “tails.”

A press release issued by Colorado immigrant rights and Latino advocacy groups had a different perspective on what took place on Capitol Hil today:

Today, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a DHS funding bill, which included a collection of the harshest anti-immigrant amendments seen in years. The bill would not only overturn the sensible executive actions from last November, but also end the DACA program for DREAMers and maximize the deportation of all 11 million undocumented immigrants settled in America.

While Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) voted against final passage of the bill and an amendment to end the 2012 DACA program, he lined up with his party on a critical amendment that tainted and defined the entire bill.  The Aderholt amendment, which Coffman supported, would block the President from expanding DACA to others who came to this country at a very young age.  The amendment also prevents the Department of Homeland Security from allowing individuals who have lived in the U.S. for years, raising children who are U.S. citizens, to come forward and apply for temporary immigration papers…

…Immigration reform champion and Coffman ally, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), characterized the GOP votes this week, saying “Only three words describe the Republican approach to immigrants: deportation, deportation, deportation. The ‘deport them all’ contingent in the Republican Party has the pen and the gavel in the House.  I know the Republicans will stop at nothing, but I didn’t think they would start with everything.”

"Representative Coffman may think that his split vote puts him in a moderate position, but voting to keep DACAmented youth while, at the same time, voting to deport everyone else is a bad political statement,” said Carla Castedo, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund- Colorado State Director. “This is a full-blown assault on immigrants and lays down the marker for the anti-immigrant, ‘self-deportation’ legislative agenda of the new Republican-controlled Congress.”

Obviously there remains plenty of disagreement about how to move forward on immigration reform efforts. We’re not going to say that Coffman is wrong in his votes and statements today, because we don’t want to confuse the bigger point: obfuscation is Coffman’s immigration platform. Or, as Patty Kupfer of America’s Voice explained, “Today, Mike Coffman voted on an amendment to end the President’s executive action and released a statement saying he ‘strongly opposes’ it.”

If you disagree with everything you just read, we have one simple request: Explain Coffman’s position on immigration reform and what he actually proposes to do about the issue.

Really. Go ahead…we’ll wait…

…No luck, eh? That’s the idea. Remember, this is the same Mike Coffman who said throughout 2014 that he did not support a comprehensive immigration reform measure. Oddly enough, “Major Confusion” penned an Op-Ed that appeared in the Denver Post in July 2013 in which he declared, “The time for comprehensive immigration reform is now.” Less than a year later, “comprehensive” was systematically scrubbed from Coffman’s biographical materials as though it were a dirty word.

There’s really no reason that “Major Confusion” can’t just lay out an immigration policy that is both consistent and logical. Coffman has made definitive calls in Congress before (such as demanding the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in the wake of various VA scandals last summer), but that is clearly not the strategy when it comes to immigration reform.

Make some votes. Say some things. Feign concern when nothing actually happens. If you can think of a better way to sum up Coffman’s immigration positions, we’d love to hear it.

New SoS Williams’ Agenda: Bold Solutions In Search of Problems

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Nothing you shouldn't have expected from Colorado's freshly sworn-in Secretary of State Wayne Williams, but national liberal blog Think Progress reports on Williams' priority as Secretary of State: whatever voter ID law he can get.

Wayne Williams (R) was sworn in this week as Colorado’s Secretary of State, and has already begun pushing for laws to make voters show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. “I think most Coloradans are honest and law-abiding and follow the rules, but I think it’s important to have the processes in place to protect the election system so that people have confidence in it,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio in an interview over the weekend.

He added that because Democrats still control the governor’s mansion and state house, passage of such a law is unlikely, but offered that he’d be willing to settle for rules requiring a photo ID for Coloradans taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration. “This is someone we’ve never seen before. We don’t have any proof they are who they claim to be,” he said.

Studies show such a law targeting same-day registration would disproportionately impact voters who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized.

There have been no reports to suggest any problem with the execution of Colorado's modernized election laws in 2014, including the administration of same-day registration. Even Williams' predecessor Scott Gessler, one of the most vocal critics of the 2013 legislation that revamped Colorado's election system, grudgingly admits that the system overall worked pretty well. With that in mind, nothing about same-day registration overcomes the well-documented problems with requiring a photo ID to carry out the constitutional right to vote. In the absence of any actual problem, there's simply no reason to impose this burden–except to make it harder to vote.

But as Think Progress continues, Williams is all about making it harder to vote, even where that means breaking campaign pledges:

Williams’ campaign centered on his reputation as a “champion of access and transparency in government” and his promise to “ensure voter access to the polls” — though he did express support for voter ID laws during his run for office. He also often touted his record of making voting more convenient as a county clerk: “We have worked with all parties and groups to ensure that our polling locations are located in easy to reach locations and we’ve exceeded legal requirements by opening more locations and opening them for longer hours. As a result of these efforts, more citizens have voted than ever before in my county.”

After winning the race, he flipped on this point as well, telling Colorado Public Radio that too many polling locations were open for too many hours in this past election. “That’s not really a very cost-effective way and there certainly wasn’t a demand for it,” he said, adding that he hopes to give counties “flexibility at the local level” to decide when and where polling locations should be available.

During the 2013 recall elections, Williams came under fire for severely limiting voting locations and hours in Senate District 11. After mail ballots for the recalls were disallowed in court on a technicality, having convenient locations and hours for voters to cast ballots became far more important. Despite this, Williams' polling centers in El Paso County opened days after their counterparts in Pueblo–and in Manitou Springs, a stronghold for recalled Sen. John Morse, a vote center didn't open until the Monday before the election.

In that case, anyway, the "flexibility" Williams wanted was flexibility to game the system.

Bottom line: Williams gets a little space as a new Secretary of State to get his agenda together, but we can't forget that this is the same Wayne Williams who made a nationwide joke of himself last October–reaching for excuses to question mail ballots that were simply laughable. Suffice to say, whatever Williams ends up proposing had better be backed up with hard evidence or it will go nowhere. After Williams' embarrassing failure to gin up scandal on FOX News–not to mention four years his predecessor spent making wild allegations about vote fraud in Colorado that were totally unfounded–he starts with basically zero credibility.

And we have a strong suspicion that is where he will remain.

Talk-radio host blames grieving family for being booted from church funeral service

One line of thinking, on talk radio, in response to the funeral of a lesbian woman being booted from New Hope Ministries in Lakewood is: blame the grieving friends and family!

Check out this excerpt from KNUS' Kelley and Company, with hosts Steve Kelley and Krista Kafer yesterday:

KRISTA KAFER:  Well, at first blush, it sound like those that wanted to put the picture [of the lesbian married couple kissing] up really are the ones that are at fault here.  You know, churches have rules.  I mean, – we have had a conversation for the last week about, you know, the Muslim church is saying you have to cover your hair if you want to come in.  Organizations, places have rules about how you – you know, you go into certain schools, for example, you can’t wear t-shirts that have emblems on them or messages on them.  Different organizations have different rules about what you can publicly display.  They did not want a picture of her proposing to her wife.  They didn’t think that was appropriate because it is antithetical to the scriptures.    This is a Christian church.  That would be antithetical.  Why would you necessarily want to have that up?  I can understand that they’ve got these rules, and they ask that people abide by them.

STEVE KELLEY:  [reading from, or referring to a report of the incident]  […]  [Gary] Rulando, who is the pastor, says it’s a shame that Collier’s friends are using her death to push an agenda.  But her friends are angry.  They believe more than 100 people – including Collier’s family—will show up to this rally.  Uh, arg, I – you know, somebody died, here, and you — [sigh of exasperation]

KAFER:  I think the blame, obviously, is with the friends for pushing an agenda.  They could have had a very dignified funeral at this church.  The church has specific rules in accordance with their scriptures, and you have to remember that the church  exists because of those scriptures.

KELLEY:  We’ve got to call this church!  We have to understand what are some of the nuances to this.  Was she a member of the church?  About this video, or was she – was the family a member of this church?  And why – and I don’t want to be critical of a family, especially after the loss of their relative – but why would you not make that known? I don’t know, logistically, if you’re going to say – if you’re going to look at a video and she’s proposing to another woman, and so forth.  And then the church, I think, has a responsibility as well, to have vetted this to some extent duri— right before the service is to begin, to have this –

KAFER:  Maybe that’s when they got the video.  Maybe  they hadn’t had a chance to vet it beforehand.  And again, I think the fault lies with the friends.  And there is a bit of a trend, here, where people want to force Christian institutions – be it the church, be it Christian owners of a business like Hobby Lobby, be it Jack the Baker – where you want to force other people  to condone, celebrate, you know, go along with – more that go along with – actually celebrate and be part of decisions that they disagree with.

KELLEY:  Something that is antithetical to their belief system, or whatever.  And everybody is entitled – at least, this was a free country.  I don’t know over the last six years, anymore.  Chad, can we make an attempt to reach out to this pastor Rulando at this church?  Okay? And, this would be the New Hope Ministries in Lakewood.  Let’s get a call out there and talk about — and respectfully, if you would ask about the Vanessa Collier funeral and this related rally, here.  Since he was willing to talk to 9news, I can only imagine that he would be willing to talk to us here at 710 KNUS.

KAFER:  Don’t you see a trend?   I mean, they would like to force this church to air that video.  Right?  Or to have aired that video during the funeral.  I see individuals and organizations out there that want to push an agenda, and want to force businesses to, you know – ‘celebrate’ is not the right word, but to condone, to actively push or promote,–

KELLEY:  To accept, basically, in essence.  “Accept.”

KAFER:  Yeah and it—well, and it’s more than – it’s actually ‘promote’.  It’s not – I mean, this church was willing to say, “You know what?  I understand she was not living a Biblical lifestyle, but we want to honor her life.  We want to make sure that we have a beautiful funeral for her, and they made that choice.  But please, please keep this side of her life — .  We can’t promote it.  It’s antithetical to our scriptures.  We can’t have this piece in the video.  We want to send the whole video, but – or air the majority of the video – but we can’t have this picture because it promotes something that is antithetical for our very existence.  The reason that church exists is because of those scriptures.

KELLEY:  This is – it’s similar but much different than Jack Phillips at the Masterpiece Cake Shop.

KAFER: Well, similar in the sense that he has many people who have same sex attractions, many homosexual customers that come in and buy cookies and cakes.  But he says, “You know what?  I don’t want to actively promote same sex marriage because that is not the Biblical definition of marriage.  And I feel it that it would be antithetical to my mainstream Christian values.”

KELLEY: In the context of weddings.  So, here we are – weddings and funerals, two of the highest esteemed ceremonies in humanity, arguably.  I mean, you have various brisses and so forth.  But, in essence, culturally, weddings and funerals.  So, here we are with Jack Phillips saying, “I’m not going to participate.  I’m not going to use my God-given talent because it’s my – it violates my internal faith system.” And he has been roundly criticized, and threatened basically to be run out of business through regulation.  And he has had to—uh, he is not acquiescing, by the way.  It would be helpful, in the context of this too, but now we have a funeral—

KAFER: Well, I —

KELLEY: –where a church is saying, “No! You’re going to have to edit this video.  We cannot.”  How does this promote sexual—I mean, sexual promiscui—or homosexuality? — playing a video at this woman’s funeral?

KAFER: I think they had rules and the family and friends weren’t willing to actually accept those rules.  You have to remember that tolerance means that we are able to coexist peacefully with those with whom we disagree.  Um, tolerance does not mean that we get to coerce people into promoting things that they disagree with.

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?

Wednesday Open Thread

Great wisdom is generous; petty wisdom is contentious.
Great speech is impassioned, small speech cantankerous.

–Zhuang Zhou

Records Request Reveals Investigation of Pueblo GOP Chair For Election Document Theft

(Nothing up her sleeve! Not sneaky enough - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

WEDNESDAY POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post's editorial board weighs in:

Chostner's letter says the "evidence would support filing a misdemeanor election offense," but he declined to do so. Why? Undermining election security is a serious matter, and DAs need to impress that upon everyone.

—–

POLS UPDATE: The Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper reports:

Becky Mizel, chairman of the Pueblo County Republican Party, received a stern letter from District Attorney Jeff Chostner last month that said video evidence showed she took confidential election records from a Nov. 18 county election canvass board meeting — a misdemeanor charge that Chostner said would not be filed against her because Mizel argued it was inadvertent.

Chostner's letter, dated Dec. 10, acknowledged that Mizel insisted the episode was an accident, but the letter clearly challenged that, citing video records of the meeting…

Chostner's letter said Ortiz provided the canvass board with a "direct recording election" report and an abstract report of results to review. Ortiz advised those at the meeting that those reports could not leave the room.

Chostner's letter said video showed Mizel later putting the documents in her satchel, attempting to leave by a different door than the rest of the people at the meeting, only to find that door locked.

—–

ProgressNow Colorado, the state's largest online progressive advocacy organization, today called on Pueblo Republican Party Chair Becky Mizel to publicly apologize and explain her apparent theft of a confidential election document. ProgressNow Colorado obtained video and documents in an Open Records Act request regarding elections procedures and meetings in Pueblo County.

According to video [1] and documents obtained from the Pueblo District Attorney and Clerk & Recorders offices, available from ProgressNow Colorado upon request, Mizel only narrowly avoided criminal charges related to the disappearance of a document from an election certification meeting on November 18, 2014. The document contained confidential information from ballots cast in person on voting machines.

"The kind of shenanigans we're learning about in Pueblo are shameful and unacceptable," said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. "As an elected official representing the Republican Party, Mizel should be held to a higher standard. At the very least, Mizel is guilty of juvenile nonsense unworthy of any legitimate stakeholder in our elections. At worst? The Pueblo GOP is not above cheating to achieve their goals."

Records obtained by ProgressNow Colorado reveal that the document in question was discovered missing on November 18, during a meeting of the Pueblo canvass board. Pueblo GOP chair Mizel is not a member of the canvass board and was attending as an election "watcher." Despite a request by Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Oritz that the document be returned, Mizel did not return the document until the next day–after it was revealed that a camera had captured Mizel taking it.

Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner investigated the incident, and notified Mizel that she had been observed taking the document and returning it the next day. Chostner warned Mizel in a letter obtained by ProgressNow Colorado that her behavior risks criminal charges. [2]

"Mizel's misbehavior is part of a larger trend in Colorado, where extremists who don't like the election results or the voting process attempt to break the system: refusing to certify the vote, frivolous lawsuits, and now even stealing official documents to stall the vote of the people," said Runyon-Harms. "It's shameful and needs to stop."

State Republicans Introduce Discrimination Restoration Legislation

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

workplacedisc_590_438

Last year, conservative talk-radio hosts wrapped their loving arms around a baker for discriminating against a gay couple by refusing to bake them a wedding cake.

The baker said his cake-selling preferences flowed from his religious views, but, as a judge nicely articulated, it was actually factually illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Radio hosts did live broadcasts from the cake shop, hot bigotry was served to anyone listening, and the baker was fined by the great State of Colorado.

Now Colorado Republicans are proposing a law allowing student clubs to violate campus anti-discrimination policies and still receive university benefits (funds, facilities, etc.). Sponsors include Tim Neville and Laura Woods on the State Senate side, and brother Patrick Neville and Stephen Humphrey on the House side.

Similar legislation, allowing raw discrimination against women, gays, or potentially any of us, is under consideration across the country. One, for example, could allow restaurants to refuse service to LGBT people. Or pharmacists to stop filling prescriptions for birth-control pills. Another would permit adoption agencies to reject potential same-sex parents.

Collectively, these bills are referred to as religious-freedom-restoration bills, but a more accurate name is discrimination-restoration legislation. Political observers expect CO Republicans to introduce broader discrimination restoration bills this session, beyond the narrow university-focused proposal currently on the table.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was on the radio last month, urging listeners, who were upset about the bigoted baker, to push their legislators to enact bills that allow discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.

Suthers: I think what’s different, Jimmy, and 1964 and the time of the Civil Rights cases is, if a black person when into a restaurant in the South in 1963 and was refused service, he couldn’t walk into a restaurant next door and get service, for the most part.  Everybody was refused service. That’s not the atmosphere we have today. We have this guy, who as a matter of his religious beliefs, would prefer not to do that. We have plenty of guys down the street who are perfectly willing to do it. I just don’t think it’s the same atmosphere. I think the legislature ought to be sensitive to that fact. But the Colorado legislature, with the majority at certain points in time, has not been.

I asked Denise Maes, Public Policy Director of the American Civil Liberties of Colorado, which brought the initial complaint against the baker who refused service to the gay people, to respond to Suthers' comment:

Maes: The Attorney General is arguing that one should be able to break the law and discriminate because others "down the street" aren't or won't.  He misses the entire point and ignores the damage done both to the people who are discriminated against and the business community at large.  No one wants to live or do business in a state where discrimination is the law of the land.

Totally agree.

Suthers himself agrees that, as of now, the law of land forbids the cake-baker-type of discrimination. That's why, as AG, he pursued a case against the baker, Suthers said on the radio. Below, Suthers explains how he sees Colorado law now. It's a nice articulation of the way things stand. The problem is, Suthers wants to toss this out the window.

Suthers: We have a law in Colorado, our Public accommodations law. And a couple years ago when Democrats were in charge of both houses, they inserted sexual orientation along with race and gender as protective classes. And so in Colorado, essentially, sexual orientation has essentially the same protection as race in terms of anti-public discrimination laws.

So, if you have a business, whether it be a motel business, restaurant business, cake shop, and hold yourself out to the public, you must abide by this public accommodations law. And in this case, it was alleged, that a gay couple who’d been married in another state, wanted to have a celebration in Colorado, went into this cake shop, were very frank with the owner about what they wanted to do, and he refused to bake them a cake, despite the fact that they could have walked a blocked and got the cake at another bake store….it does appear this individual violated the public accommodations law, so the case was brought…”

Sengenberger: “We’re talking about First Amendment freedom of religion, and if gay activities are in violation of that, and they want to run their business in accordance with their religious views, do they not have legal protection?”

Suthers: “Only if the practice is part of the practice of religion. Therein lies the problem, Jimmy. The reason why I think the state is going to win this case throughout is that baking cakes is not the exercise of religion. If you told the Catholic Church they had to marry gay couples, then you’re violating the First Amendment. It’s complicated, and there is a long line of cases about it, but sadly enough, I think the State is going to win this case.”

Suthers nails it, doesn't he? The only problem is, he actually wants to make baking cakes a religious activity! And not just baking but everything. Taking photos of a wedding, issuing marriage licences, counseling gay students. Suthers wants religion to be everywhere and in everything, allowing discrimination against anyone anywhere. That may sound extreme, but the potential is seriously there.

It's what discrimination restoration bills, like the one proposed here in Colorado, would do.

LISTEN HERE TO SUTHERS ON KNUS' JIMMY SENGENBERGER SHOW, AIRED DEC. 20, 2014. (@ 1:36:00)

Bob Beauprez Needs to Sell a Shitload of Buffaloes

Beauprez-CampaignFinance

Bob Beauprez owes Bob Beauprez a lot of money.

Colorado Republicans are preparing for a tough campaign for State Party Chair now that Steve House has made it clear that he will challenge two-term Chair Ryan Call in March. There are many reasons why Call is facing a challenge despite a pretty successful 2014 election cycle, but much of the debate involves how money is being spent by the State GOP.

There are two main financial questions that are playing a significant role here. The first, which we've discussed before, is a debate about whether or not the State Party Chair should continue to earn a hefty monthly salary; Call is paid about $8,300 per month by the State Party, and many of the GOP faithful would like to return to the pre-Dick Wadhams era when the Chair earned only a small stipend. 

The second big financial question is about whether the State Party should assist former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez in paying off more than a million dollars of campaign debt. The Republican buffalo rancher — that would be Beauprez — has nearly $1.1 million in outstanding loans from his campaign. Beauprez's campaign committee is also $50,550 in the red, a balance that must be taken care of at some point.

Most of the money loaned to Beauprez's campaign came from his own checkbook, and there is some debate about whether or not the Republican Party should help him raise money to refresh his own coffers. There is also some question about whether Beauprez had a deal with Call to assist him in paying off his rather large campaign debt. Throw in the question of whether Republicans funded efforts to kneecap gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, and you can see where this starts to get complicated.

That this discussion is even taking place is somewhat odd when you consider that the ability to finance a campaign was the #1 selling point of Beauprez as the Republican nominee for Governor; the vast majority of his support in advance of the June Primary came from the knowledge that he was the only GOP candidate with any hope of raising serious money.

It was because Beauprez was able to write checks to himself that Republicans decided to give him another shot at the nomination — should those same Republicans now help pay off Beauprez's debt even though he didn't win in November? The answer to that question may well determine whether Ryan Call still has a job in March.

Oops! (Inaugural Program Guide Edition)

Today is swearing-in day for Gov. John Hickenlooper's second term, and also the first day for our new Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Treasurer Walker Stapleton takes the oath of office for his second term as well.

Via Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee, either there was a mix-up at the printer for this year's inaugural ceremony program guide, or our constitutional officeholders are playing musical chairs:

musicaljobs

We've seen Freaky Friday, stranger things have happened.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fracked Statistics

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The statement is ubiquitous.  Every time an oil and gas public relations type tries to downplay concerns that neighbors might have about the noisy, smelly, lit-up-like-Christmas 24/7, industrial traffic, activity, machinery, infrastructure and chemicals right smack in their midst.

“99.5% of fracking fluid is just water and sand.” 

But is it?  Has anyone in the media actually fact-checked this number?  With thousands of wells being fracked every year in Colorado, multiple times per well with millions of gallons of fluid that is a pretty stark, precise, and definitive claim, when you get down to it: “99.5% of fracking fluid is…”

There it was again yesterday, in a letter printed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel from a former longtime Grand Junction TV news anchor (now representing yet another recently formed oil and gas PR creation, the Piceance Energy Action Council):

“Fracking fluid (consisting of 99.5 percent water and sand)…”

No nuance, no context just a statement that it is so, like "my door opens onto my porch…".  In print even.  From a ‘trusted’ and familiar voice.  Rinse, repeat, transcribe.

Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long to poke holes in the “99.5%” claim, such is often the case with such certain and precise numbers. According to FracFocus.org (the site where disclosure is mandated by state law) many fracking fluid recipes do in fact reach, or get close to, that number.  But here's the thing, others do not.  And that’s all it takes to turn a statistic into a lie.  Furthermore, the precise number itself is less important than the willingness of industry to dismiss any concerns out of hand with rote talking points and empty 'factoids.' 

It should also be noted that there remain questions about how well the FracFocus site captures what is really happening in a useful timeframe to inform citizens about what type of potentially dangerous activity is occurring in their towns and communities.  But setting that aside and just considering the data that are available to the public–and in this case, I admit, I only did a cursory review–I ask: Is the reality that “most fracks are up to 99.5% water and sand” the same as the claim “fracking fluid [consists of] 99.5%” water and sand?  If not then industry’s own spokespeople are either misinformed or dissembling. 

What is the difference between 89 percent and 98 or 99.5 percent?  When considering compounds that have acute toxicity measured in parts-per-million, like 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene (part of a recent frack in La Plata County consisting of 75% water and sand—and 23% liquid nitrogen), it can be significant.   Aromatic hydrocarbons, a recurring ingredient in many Colorado fracking fluid recipes, are just one class of chemicals used suspected in causing long-term harm. These, and many of the other chemicals used also fall into a class known as ‘endocrine disruptors,’ that could very likely  cause harm at levels significantly below those that cause the type of acute response generally measured by toxicity levels (like in the above EPA fact sheet from the early 1990s).  

And as much as industry  types might wish to be able to sweep all this under the rug with slogans and suspect fact-like statements, the research—and evidence of harm—is mounting regarding chemical exposure to the public health and to the health of  our environment, including our water sources and the air we breathe. 

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, in a second (web-based only so far) letter, the Piceance Energy Action Council response to legitimate and fact-based concerns about the toxicity of this activity in people’s midst, is to attack the recently deceased globally famous pioneering Western Colorado researcher, Theo Colborn, whose work led to much of the understanding surrounding these poisons–as 'obscure,' 'agenda-driven,' and making 'wild and unsubstantiated claims.'  

Ironically, the PEAC describes its purpose on its Facebook site as:

PEAC is a council of citizens dedicated to educating the community of Western Colorado, using facts and science, on the importance of responsible energy development and its benefit on generations to come.

Indeed, the PEAC is a primary proponent behind the slogan (and thin ‘white paper’) the ‘West Slope Way,’ currently being pushed as a model of interaction and dialog (the storyline goes) that resolves conflicts through collaboration. 

The "White Paper" includes a breakdown of what has been branded as the West Slope Way, a system that anticipates community problems with the oil and gas industry and works directly with producers for solutions.

So out of the marketing bubble and back to reality, here’s what we have: a supposed model of local dialog being pushed by discounting local concerns, dismissing local scientists, disparaging local citizens, and built on inflated claims not quite supported by the data.  Pushed by a Facebook group with the mission of educating Coloradans using 'facts and science.'       

Recently we learned that the oil and gas industry spent upwards of $11 million on the last Colorado election cycle, which certainly buys a lot of PR.  But it’s hard to cover up what is right in the middle of people’s lives, and until and unless the industry sits down with communities to really listen to what they say, including accepting they may hear ‘no, you cannot do that here,’ there will be no resolution to the ‘fracking wars.’ 

Meanwhile I suggest that Coloradans tune their malarkey-sniffers up, and remember the words of Mark Twain, that there are ‘lies, damn lies, and statistics.’   

Hickenlooper Evolves On Legal Weed

Weed, with money.

Weed, with money.

Lots of discussion today about Gov. John Hickenlooper's interview on CBS' 60 Minutes this weekend (video above). One year into Colorado's experiment with legalized marijuana, Hickenlooper's outlook appears to have brightened considerably:

Bill Whitaker: In the beginning you didn't think it was a good idea?

Gov. John Hickenlooper: No. I opposed it. You know, and I opposed it and I think even after the election if I'd had a magic wand and I could wave the wand I probably would've reversed it and had the initiative fail. But now, I look at it and I'm not so sure I'd do that even if I had such a wand. I mean, I think we've made a lot of progress. And, you know, still a lot of work to be done. But I think we might actually create a system that can work.

For context, here's what Hickenlooper had to say last year about marijuana in Colorado in a debate against Bob Beauprez, who openly favored repealing Colorado's Amendment 64:

Asked if he thought it was reckless for Colorado voters to approve legal marijuana in 2012, Hickenlooper kept going.

“I think for us to do that without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless,” he said. “I’m not saying it was reckless because I’ll get quoted everywhere, but if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have done it, right? I opposed it from the very beginning.

“In matter of fact, all right, what the hell — I’ll say it was reckless.”

Back in March, Hickenlooper went even further:

Keeping the state safe in this new era is a top priority for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. "I think our job right now is to regulate it vigorously, make sure that kids don't get it. Make sure people don't drive when they're high. And if it turns out it is harming our state — we're going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't — but if it does, we're going to make sure the public hears that as well. Let's say it doesn't work out, I want to be able to say, 'We did everything we could to try and make sure this transition to recreational, legalized marijuana was done effectively, fairly and still didn't work.' And then the voters should look at it again."

We take Hickenlooper at face value on his "evolution" over legal marijuana, since we don't think the apparent success of legalization–both the lack of societal harm or the federal government's so-far tolerance for it–could have been predicted in 2012. Marijuana proponents will of course argue that there was never any real societal danger from legalization, but we don't think it's unreasonable for others to have been skeptical about that. Either way, the experience of marijuana legalization in Colorado is increasingly undeniable: plenty of harm reduction and revenue, with little actual downside. After decades of zero-tolerance criminal prohibition, the last year of the sky not falling in Colorado is proving a lot of people very, very wrong.

And when even beer-baron Gov. Hickenlooper admits it, you can believe it.