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Cory Gardner’s Done Holding Senate Candidates To Standards

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

A column in the Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner asks surprisingly hard questions about the role of Sen. Cory Gardner’s National Republican Senatorial Committee–or, as will be apparent from Gardner’s own statements, the lack of a role–in ensuring that Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate meet minimal standards for electability, decency, and other fundamental criteria. You may recall that last year, Gardner fled from the GOP nominee in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race Roy Moore after initially supporting him, and took heavy fire from the right after Moore narrowly lost.

When it comes to West Virginia’s similarly distasteful GOP U.S. Senate candidate, Don Blankenship, Gardner is treading much more carefully:

Everyone in Washington, D.C. knows Don Blankenship is putting the Republican majority at risk. The ex-con and former coal CEO has long been a pariah in his home state. His crime? He violated federal mine safety standards, causing or contributing to the death of 29 people in the big explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine — the worst mining accident in over forty years…

Hands down, Don Blankenship is the worst candidate running in the West Virginia Republican primary, and the best opportunity for incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to keep his seat. So, why isn’t the National Republican Senate Committee making moves to stop Blankenship before he can do more damage?

According to NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner, R-Colo., it’s because it wouldn’t matter. [Pols emphasis]

What follows is a stunningly lucid assessment from Gardner of the disconnect between the Republican Party’s elites and their radicalized base of support: a disconnect that leaves the party powerless to prevent the rise of self-immolating fringe candidates.

“What we’ve seen is that the people of West Virginia, the people of Indiana, the people of Missouri could care less who the senatorial committee is supportive of,” Gardner explained during a recent meeting of the Washington Examiner editorial board. “In fact, [an NRSC intervention] may have the opposite effect.”

…He once quipped about how Blankenship wouldn’t be allowed onto the floor of the Senate with a home arrest ankle bracelet , a comment he says in retrospect was “probably a little too flippant.” Aware that his words might do more harm than good, Gardner refuses to weigh in on a race that could control Republican control of the Senate.

With respect to Roy Moore, much like Gardner’s call in mid-October of 2016 for Donald Trump to pull out of the presidential race it was more a case of Gardner following the herd of Republican sentiment instead of proactively leading. Gardner initially supported Moore after Moore won the primary, reversing only after the damaging press reports of Moore’s relationships with young women became an unbearable controversy. In fairness Gardner chose not to go back to supporting Moore when most of the rest of the GOP did, but that earned him blame–deserved or not–from Moore’s supporters after the dust settled.

Having been burned both ways now after making the mistake of standing on principle, Gardner seems to be shutting up and shining the turds in his charge like a good soldier. As we know from the aftermath of Trump’s election, when Gardner seamlessly transformed himself from Trump critic to servile Trump toady, victory is the only thing that matters at the end of the day. If Blankenship wins, Republicans notch a win. And that means Gardner’s NRSC notches a win.

Principles, as Gardner apparently learned from the Roy Moore debacle, are for losers.

Baumgardner’s Social Media Pages Are Pretty Gross

(Scroll down to see why his nickname is “Boob Grabber” — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

WARNING: Some images in this post may be considered slightly NSFW, because that’s the low standard of professionalism that *some people* who work in our state’s Capitol adhere to these days, apparently. 

Multiple social media posts from state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, a Republican who’s been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, reveal that he is, in fact, a total creep.

In what should come as a shock to absolutely no one given the multiple credible complaints of sexual harassment against him, Baumgardner is one of those guys who use social media to ogle photos of scantily clad women.

See the Facebook posts below, which Baumgardner liked last year, but again, be warned: they’re slightly NSFW.



Bob Gardner Junks Optically Horrible Teacher Jailing Bill

Sen. Bob Gardner (R).

Denver7 reporting on the demise of a bill that many Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly wanted to die–even if they’d rather not admit it, or for that matter talk about it at all:

The sponsor of a bill that aimed to punish Colorado teachers that went on strike pulled the bill ahead of a Senate committee hearing Monday.

Senate Bill 264 was pulled by sponsor Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, ahead of a hearing Monday in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee.

The bill would have prohibited public school teachers from striking by allowing districts to seek injunctions blocking a planned strike.

Should an injunction have been granted under the now-dead measure, teachers could have faced contempt of court charges, which could have led to fines or jail time upon conviction.

With all of the attention focused on teachers in recent weeks as they demonstrate across the nation for better education funding, Sen. Bob Gardner’s bill received national exposure as an example of the kind of legislative malice being proposed against teachers–helping justify the teachers’ protests everywhere in national roundup stories. For a bill that had no realistic chance of passing through the split Colorado legislature, this was a significant public relations backfire. It represents a major misreading of the electorate, whose support for teachers is being reaffirmed in polls as the protests go on:

Just 1 in 4 Americans believe teachers in this country are paid fairly. Nearly two-thirds approve of national teachers’ unions, and three-quarters agree teachers have the right to strike. That last figure includes two-thirds of Republicans, three-quarters of independents and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats. [Pols emphasis]

In 2018, Colorado Republican Senate had made enough political missteps to fill a warehouse–missteps we expect Democrats to utilize to devastating effect in the upcoming elections. Without a doubt this was one of them, perhaps the worst possible answer to teacher rallies that enjoy overwhelming popular support. The 2015 school board recalls in Jefferson County and subsequent swing to the left in school board elections demonstrates clearly the vulnerability of conservative hard-liners on education issues.

This bill is dead, but its mean spirit will live on in infamy.

Doug Robinson Talks Petitions, Opponents, and Baumgardner

Mitt Romney’s Nephew

ICYMI: Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson (Mitt Romney’s Nephew) was a guest on “The Get More Smarter Show” last week, where he talked about topics ranging from Colorado’s goofy ballot access process to how he would deal with sexual harassment allegations at the State Capitol.

Click here to watch the entire interview, and read on for some of the more notable tidbits:

[On challenging legality of petition signatures submitted by Republican candidate Walker Stapleton]:

We weren’t looking to do that. I just wanted to stand up and do the right thing…

…[There was one case] at the Columbine Library where there was a Walker Stapleton solicitor and the guy came over and just said, ‘Oh, I just moved here from Florida.’ And he was fully engaging about how he’d just come in here to do this. Red flags went up, we Googled him online and so on. And we said, well maybe we need to look at this a little closer.

This is something — I’m glad I brought it up, because this process is fraught with stuff that needs to change.

We need to change it, absolutely. The whole reason behind it, I think, is that you want to make sure that it’s not just anybody who is getting on the ballot…even within the existing system, the rules are vague.

And then this problem of people coming in from out of state to do it…that’s got to be cleaned up, too.

[On bringing up Walker Stapleton’s record stemming from a DUI/hit-and-run case]:

You have to speak truth about the other candidates…

I think it’s relevant because of the importance of the race in November. The Democrats are going to have that information out there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s going to be all of the time. So I think we do need to think about who can best represent our state. As Republicans, we want to win. We think we have a better vision for how Colorado goes, and we want to put our candidate who is best able to win that race. We know that whether it’s Jared Polis or Cary Kennedy or Mike Johnston or Donna Lynne, they’re all going to have resources behind them. This is going to be a national fight…

Yes, it’s important, because people need to understand, hey this sort of stuff is going to come out, and that can really put our candidate at a disadvantage when you have [an opponent] who doesn’t have those things in their background.

[On Stapleton and PERA reform]:

I’m tired of the talk. I’m tired of people saying they’ve been a voice on this issue or that issue. Yet, you’ve been on the board for seven years and it’s not done. The problem is bigger today that it was before…

I’m upset about this. In remember in 2010, PERA was in a big crisis and they said they made changes and they fixed it. And now it’s almost double the liability that it was at that time, and the stock market has more than doubled during that time…

You know what the real problem is? It’s a governance issue.

[On how he would respond to sexual harassment allegations, specifically against former Rep. Steve Lebsock and state Sen. Randy Baumgardner]:

I would have ousted them all. All of them. I have no tolerance for that in government…

In my business I had to fire a guy for inappropriate emails with another woman in the office…We didn’t debate about it. We met with him and said, ‘Is this you? What are you doing? Pack your bags.’

[Baumgardner] should be gone. Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter. We don’t have tolerance for that…I would not tolerate it if I were Governor.

Click here for more episodes of “The Get More Smarter Show.”

Post-Holbert Coverup, Take Two on Baumgardner Expulsion

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert (R).

As the Denver Post reports, the new recently-exposed additional confirmation of serial sexual harassment by GOP Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner is moving Senate Democrats to once again attempt a late resolution to expel Baumgardner from the chamber–a move likely to be killed by GOP Senate leadership, which appears to have cast any pretense of holding their members accountable for sexual harassment aside:

Because it’s past the deadline to file resolutions and bills, the rules dictate that the chamber’s Republican leaders would need to consent to its introduction.

“They don’t want that,” said Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who is pushing for resolution. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it’s a request I felt like needed to be made.”

Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who as we discussed yesterday appears to have helped suppress this latest investigative report ahead of the first vote to expel Sen. Baumgardner, is using that delay to deflect from Senate Democrats’ request for a new resolution to expel:

“Don’t shortcut the process,” Holbert said. “…We’ve now had a chance to read them. And now we need to come back and meet and agree how we’re going to move forward.”

Holbert’s disingenuous call for everyone to ‘slow down’ since Senators “had just received reports on the latest investigation Friday” is undermined by the ample evidence the vote to expel Baumgardner was deliberately scheduled to maneuver around this second investigation–an investigation that validates the original complaints agfainst Baumgardner, and further underscores Baumgardner’s serial harassment of women at the state capitol. Although Senate staff had the new report, it wasn’t released to the victims because Baumgardner had refused to be interviewed. Between Baumgardner’s obstruction and the willingness of Senate leadership to proceed as if he wasn’t obstructing, Republicans had enough manufactured uncertainty to justify among themselves voting against expulsion.

And now it appears they’re going to run out the clock–no matter what else comes out, no matter how bad it looks.

Chris Holbert and the Baumgardner Cover-Up

Senate President Kevin Grantham (left) and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert.

Senate President Kevin Grantham and Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert have steadfastly refused to discipline Sen. Randy “Boob Grabber” Baumgardner over multiple claims of sexual harassment that occurred over a period of several years. Grantham and Holbert’s inexplicable protection of Baumgardner is certainly not a new story, but this now-familiar tale may be turning the corner into a full blown cover-up.

If you take a second look at some of the most recent reporting from KUNC reporter Bente Birkeland (whose work on sexual harassment at the State Capitol was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists), you can start to piece together what would appear to be a calculated effort to withhold information that could have led to Baumgarner’s expulsion from the Senate. Here’s the key paragraphs from a story Birkeland published on Monday about details of a second investigation into harassment allegations by the company Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR):

The report is dated March 30, 2018, Good Friday, a day off for legislators and staff. The following Monday, April 2, the ADR investigator, Kathryn Miller confirmed to our sources that she had submitted her findings to Senate Secretary Effie Ameen. That was the same day Republican Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, who controls the chamber’s calendar, scheduled  an unexpected vote on a Democratic resolution to expel Baumgardner after weeks of pressure from Democrats to do so. [Pols emphasis]

Yet the additional details were not considered in the expulsion vote, only the findings of a single investigation that concluded  Baumgardner more likely than not grabbed and slapped a former legislative aide’s buttocks. While Ameen had the new findings, the investigations were still considered to be open until April 11 because the investigator stated Baumgardner was refusing to be interviewed. She said his actions held up the release of the report by about a month.

Birkeland’s story on Monday did not include a response from Sen. Holbert about why a resolution to expel Baumgardner was introduced before results were made public about the second (ADP) investigation, but here’s how she followed up via Twitter:

Sen. Chris Holbert (R) on a DIY “border patrol” in Arizona.

Holbert’s excuse for the timing of the Baumgardner resolution is that “he doesn’t control the calendar.” The problem with this answer is that one of Holbert’s jobs as Senate Majority Leader is to schedule resolutions in the State Senate. Holbert would have a hard time arguing this point since Birkeland has a copy of a January memo from his office in which Senate Secretary Effie Ameen expressly conveys this process to legislators:

Resolution calendaring requests must be given to Keri Brehm in the Majority Leader’s office at least ONE WEEK in advance of the date you wish for that Resolution to be heard.

The ADR report was submitted to State Senate leaders on April 2 — the same day that a resolution was unexpectedly called to debate Baumgardner’s expulsion. That resolution failed by a near-party line vote (Republican Sen. Ray Scott voted yes, but “Independent” Sen. Cheri Jahn was a ‘NO’), but it’s fair to wonder if the outcome might have been different had lawmakers been aware of the results of the second investigation into claims of sexual harassment against Baumgardner.

State lawmakers will adjourn in May without actually addressing the culture of sexual harassment, and here’s where this becomes particularly important: If Republicans maintain control of the State Senate in November, Chris Holbert will be the odds-on favorite to become the next Senate President. That’s the same Chris Holbert who appears to have covered up the results of a second investigation that likely would have resulted in Baumgardner’s ouster from the Senate — which would make it even more difficult for the GOP to maintain their Senate majority.

There’s no such thing as an honest cover-up.

Gardner Doesn’t See “Chaos” in White House

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In an interview this morning, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner again rejected any characterization of “chaos” in the White House administration, despite two more recent top-level personnel changes in adviser and cabinet positions, saying it’s “not a surprise to see employee changes in any administration.”

Gardner’s comment, which echoes statements by Trump, came on KOA 850-AM against a backdrop of staff resignations and firings, hasty policy decisions, surprise outbursts, and unconventional management decisions by Trump that have lead many observers on both sides of the aisle to conclude that the White House is, in fact, in chaos or at least in a state of widespread confusion.

Gardner, however, doesn’t see it that way, telling KOA’s  Colorado Morning News hosts Marty Lenz and April Zesbaugh that personnel changes are “no surprise” in any administration, although Gardner admits there is an “little bit more of an uptick”  in changes at the Trump White House. (Listen below.)

For months, as the number and intensity of chaos-like occurrences have escalated in the White House, Gardner, a Republican, has maintained his view of normalcy there.

On March 7 of this year, following the departure of Economic Adviser Gary Cohn, Gardner responded to a very similar question, asked by the same host, on the same show, in a very similar way:

I think everybody would recognize that there’s a significant off-tempo at the White House, whether it’s the pace of actions, the face of Twitter — you name it! — at the White House. And so, I do think that this is just a very, very intense White House. I don’t think there’s chaos in the White House, as some would like to spread. In fact, I think you can just see the — what’s happening in North Korea — the fact these sanctions are working, the Maximum Pressure Doctrine has worked — in a year!– far more than eight years of Strategic Patience ever worked. And so, I think that’s just something that a lot of naysayers would like to — would like to believe.

A reporter’s call to Gardner’s office seeking to know what Trump would have to do for Gardner to see dysfunction or any unusual level disorder at the White House was not returned. This post will be updated if a response is received.

White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert resigned yesterday, reportedly because he was unhappy with Trump’s controversial decision decision to hire John Bolton as national security adviser.

Bossert’s departure fueled the narrative of pandemonium in White House, especially because Bossert was reportedly backed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who’s been seen as a steadying influence.

Gardner’s exchange this morning with Marty Lenz on KOA went like this:

LENZ:  I want to quickly pivot on you, Senator. Last time you were on, we had asked you if you thought there was chaos in the White House. You said no. Have you changed your mind on that, with the changes recently with John Bolton coming in and Bossert being moved out?

SENATOR GARDNER:  Well, look, I think John Bolton is going to bring his own National Security Adviser.  It’s not a surprise to see employee changes in any administration. This White House does have a little bit more of an uptick, but I don’t think there’s chaos.  What I do think we have to have, is a strategy going forward on Syria. This afternoon, as a part of the Foreign Relations Committee, we will have a meeting once again on a UNMF, which is authorization for the use of military force. I think that’s an important discussion to have as we work with the White House and our allies to understand exactly what the response is going to be.


The Big Budget Deal, Guns, and Gardner

Trump sign bill, but Trump still mad!

After briefly threatening a veto — and randomly asking Congress to give him line item veto powers (and eliminating the filibuster) — President Trump today signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending deal that includes changes to background checks for gun purchases that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) opposed to the very end. If that sentence seems complicated…well, it is. There’s no easy way to unpack the giant omnibus spending bill rammed through by Congress early this morning.

Let’s start things off with the Washington Post reporting from the White House:

Just hours after threatening a veto, President Trump said Friday afternoon that he had signed a “ridiculous” $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday and averted a government shutdown…

…But speaking to reporters at the White House about four hours later, Trump said he had decided to sign the bill despite his reservations, arguing that it provides much-needed funding for the military, including a pay increase for troops and new equipment.

In his remarks to the media today, Trump was in full angry old man mode. From the New York Times:

In a rambling and disjointed 20-minute statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room, Mr. Trump denigrated the bill, which was rushed through the House and the Senate by members of his own Republican Party, as “crazy” and vowed to never “sign another bill like this again.”

“Nobody read it,” Mr. Trump said of the sweeping funding measure drawn up by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. Echoing criticism from those who voted against the measure, Mr. Trump added, “It’s only hours old.”

Trump specifically addressed his anger about the 2,322-page spending bill that lawmakers could not have possibly even begun to have read before voting on the measure. The House version of the bill made it to the floor on Thursday after just 16 hours of debate; all four Colorado Republican members of Congress voted to end discussion, moving things along with a narrow 211-207 result. Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) were ultimately able to vote “YES” and “NO” on the proposal (Coffman and Buck voted YES on the procedural move before pressing the “NO” button on the final vote).

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Over in the Senate, the spending bill passed with 62 votes; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a “NO.” Gardner’s vote is particularly interesting because the bill included the “Fix NICS” background check provision that Gardner had been blocking for weeks. The next time Gardner pretends to be concerned about gun violence, remember that he prevented the popular background fix measure from being debated in the Senate and ultimately voted against its final approval.

What else do we know about the giant omnibus spending bill? As CNN’s Gregory Krieg explains, it’s important to consider everything that was NOT bundled into the legislation, such as: 1) DACA and immigration reform, 2) Billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall, and 3) Serious attempts at preventing gun violence, including no new limits on gun purchases.

How did this all happen so quickly? As Sarah Binder writes for the Washington Post, this was Republican strategerie at work:

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. [Pols emphasis] The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

To summarize, Congressional Republicans rammed through a humongous spending bill that they didn’t read and didn’t really like that does very little to address their political vulnerabilities on gun violence and immigration reform…and will also likely anger their base of supporters.

Fix NICS: Cory Gardner Clings To Hope That You’re Stupid

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Denver7’s Blair Miller follows up on a big story we’ve been trying to get more information on since it broke over a week ago–an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation by Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, in which Gardner was unexpectedly questioned about a secret hold he allegedly has placed on a bill to strengthen background checks on gun purchases.

Apparently Gardner really doesn’t want to cop to this one:

Many Senate bills often pass by unanimous consent so they don’t have to undergo dozens of hours of hearings and markups before a possible roll call vote. As such, some wondered how a bill that has a veto-proof number of cosponsors in the Senate was held up from being pushed through via unanimous consent, and whether the NRA was behind the hold. Fortune reported last month, citing the Center for Responsive Politics and the New York Times, that Gardner and his associated committees have received about $3.8 million from the NRA during his time in Congress.

ThinkProgress reported that Gardner was behind the hold, but did not cite any sources.

On CBS’s Face the Nation on March 11, Gardner was asked about the Fix NICS bill and said there were “some” senators talking about “due process issues in the bill and legislation.”

“I’ve talked to Sen. Cornyn and I hope that Sen. Cornyn will realize that we need to work this due process matter out. This isn’t an issue of whether you like this or not, it’s a question of constitutional rights and protecting the people of this country, protecting them from harm,” he said…

As for an honest admission from Gardner one way or the other, it’s not forthcoming:

Denver7 asked Gardner repeatedly over the past week whether he was indeed holding up the bill. Our news partners at The Denver Post asked as well, but did not receive a response. [Pols emphasis]

Tuesday evening, when asked about the prospects of Fix NICS being put into the omnibus bill, Gardner’s spokesman, Casey Contres, referred Denver7 back to Gardner’s Face the Nation comments, adding that, “Gardner supports this bill coming to the floor for a robust and open debate.”

Presumably Gardner’s spokesperson is referring to the omnibus spending bill the Fix NICS language was attached to, though it’s left unclear–and we strongly suspect that is Sen. Gardner’s deliberate choice. The fact is, Gardner’s refusal to confirm or deny that he placed a hold on the legislation makes it quite likely that, as all of these news reports suggest, he is. If Gardner was not the originator of the secret hold, by now it would have been far less damaging politically to simply say so.

We haven’t heard the specific reason why Fix NICS was bundled into this larger omnibus spending bill, but it’s reasonable to speculate it was done in order to bypass Gardner’s hold on the bill. At any point, Gardner and the gun lobby which prevailed upon him to take this action could decide that it is not worth the damage and relent.

One thing is for sure, at least two separate media outlets reporting that Gardner was the Senator behind this secret hold on a very popular bill most likely didn’t make it up. Combine that with Gardner’s refusal to clarify that he didn’t do it…

And you mostly likely know all you need to know.

Cory Gardner Embraces Trump for 2018 Help

Hey there, pal!

Readers of Colorado Pols are aware that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the 2018 Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which is a fancy way of saying that it is Gardner’s job to make sure that Republicans don’t lose control of the U.S. Senate this year. This has not gone well for Gardner, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he’ll be leaning on President Trump for help.

As Politico reports:

Even as fears grow within the GOP that Trump will cost Republicans the House, Senate Republicans say the president will play a starring role in the closely contested campaigns that will decide control of the chamber. Trump will be front and center in every state that helped elect the president, according to GOP senators and strategists, making the case that Democrats are hindering his agenda.

“If you look at a race in a state like Missouri or North Dakota — or any of these states — he’ll be very involved,” said Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the GOP’s campaign arm, who speaks with Trump about political strategy regularly. “He’ll be actively campaigning for a Senate majority. Absolutely.”

Screeeechhhh…back up. Did you notice that part in the middle of Gardner’s quote?

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the GOP’s campaign arm, who speaks with Trump about political strategy regularly. [Pols emphasis]

Once upon a time, Gardner was fairly outspoken about Trump — at one point even declaring that he wouldn’t vote for Trump for President while calling for him to step aside as the GOP nominee. All that changed when it became clear that the big orange man would be moving into the White House; despite some some half-assed attempts to distance himself from the President, Gardner has generally made sure to pat him on the back as early and as often as possible.

Now, here we are, with Gardner apparently speaking with Trump “about political strategy regularly.” A cynic might say that Gardner is setting up Trump to take the fall for any Senate Republican losses in 2018. A more positive person would say that…

No, nevermind, that’s what’s happening here.

Gardner’s Secret Background Check Block: NRA Pet Tricks

Salon’s Amanda Marcotte  posted a story yesterday that follows up on last Sunday’s revealing appearance by Sen. Cory Gardner on CBS’ Face the Nation–in which Gardner was confronted about a secret hold he has placed on legislation from a fellow Republican Senator to improve background checks on gun purchases.

Today’s story explains in detail a duplicitous strategy long employed by the National Rifle Association and their Republican allies in Congress in which they pretend to support limited reforms like the Fix NICS bill, while stalling even these small-scale measures behind closed doors–exactly what Gardner was caught having done on national television at the beginning of this week:

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, seemingly took the NRA’s comments at face value and introduced the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which is supposed to help improve recordkeeping and stop people like Dylann Roof and Devin Patrick Kelley — two mass shooters who should have failed to pass a background check, but didn’t — from getting guns. He introduced the bill in November, with the public support of the NRA. Mysteriously, the bill has gone nowhere in Congress.

The entire saga of the Fix NICS Act offers an important glimpse into the labyrinthine politics of gun control. It’s a system where the NRA proposes “compromise” bills that allow Republicans to look sensible about gun control, and then the organization goes out of its way to undermine even those minor reforms. The result, intended or otherwise, is that the NRA and Republican legislators can claim to care about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, while doing little or nothing toward accomplishing that goal.

Which brings us to Sen. Gardner’s secret hold on the bill:

…[E]ven this weak bill seems to have no momentum in Congress, which suggests that something weirder and darker is going on. A hint as to why emerged over the weekend, when it was reported that Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., had put a hold on the bill, keeping it from leaving committee. When asked why on “Face the Nation” last Sunday, Gardner didn’t quite admit to blocking the bill, but said, “I think there are some of us who are talking about due process issues in the bill and legislation.”

Salon reached out twice to Gardner’s office, asking for clarification about these “due process” concerns, and received no answer. Gardner ranks No. 5 on the Senate list of recipients of NRA funding, having accepted more than $3.8 million in campaign funds from the organization during his political career. [Pols emphasis]

“The background check system has been upheld by the Supreme Court when people have challenged whether it’s an appropriate system,” said the Brady Campaign’s Avery Gardiner. “I don’t understand his due process concerns.”

Cory Gardner with gun-rights hardcore Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Gardner refused to clarify the nature of his “due process concerns” with the bill on Face the Nation. It was apparent in Gardner’s fumbling response to the questions from Face the Nation’s Margaret Brennan that he did not expect them, which makes sense given that the secret hold he has placed on the Fix NICS bill had not been previously reported. The question of who leaked the existence and propriety of this hold to CBS has not yet been answered, but speculation ranges from Democrats to the bill’s Republican sponsor Sen. John Cornyn himself. Cornyn is under consider pressure to pass this legislation, having introduced it in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting that killed 26 people and could have been prevented.

Gardner’s refusal to explain his concerns with the bill most likely mean he doesn’t have defensible concerns, and is blocking this legislation supported by over 90% of the public purely in deference to the NRA and its duplicitous political strategy of stalling even small reforms–reforms they pay lip service in public to supporting. The NRA claims credit for the original federal background check system, but in truth the gun movement in America is deeply divided over any restrictions on gun ownership including criminal convictions.

Last week’s ambush on Face the Nation was a stunning revelation of a massive problem in American politics, a problem that explains the disconnect between the American public’s growing support for tougher gun laws and the frustrating political inability to make that a reality. As mass shootings with military-style weapons take ever-greater tolls of American civilians while nothing happens in Washington, the American people demand to know why.

And now we know the reason. The reason is Cory Gardner.

Hold Cory Gardner accountable and more ways to fight back this week (March 12)

Yesterday morning on CBS’ Meet the Press, Sen. Cory Gardner was exposed for doing something terrible.

Unbeknownst to anyone, several weeks ago Sen. Gardner had placed a secret hold on legislation to strengthen background checks on gun purchases. This is legislation sponsored by a Republican Senator from Texas in the wake of the horrific Sutherland Springs, TX mass shooting that left 26 people dead.

That’s right—the Senator from Colorado, the state home to Columbine, Aurora, and the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, is single-handedly blocking common sense, bipartisan legislation to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands.

We didn’t know Cory Gardner was the one blocking this common-sense bipartisan bill until yesterday when he was confronted on live, national television. But he got caught. Over 90% of the public supports stronger background checks. Gardner has taken almost $4 million from the NRA and the gun lobby throughout his career, and now he is using his power as a Senator to secretly block a bill even the NRA claims to support.

Cory Gardner has betrayed every victim of gun violence, in Colorado and across America, with his cowardly attempt to block even the most rudimentary improvements in gun laws. Action item #1 this week: call Sen. Gardner at (202) 224-5941, and tell him to immediately release the hold on Sen. Cornyn’s background checks bill. And tell him his continuing refusal to protect Americans from gun violence will be remembered when he’s up for election again in 2020.

Thanks for taking quick action to hold Cory Gardner accountable. Once that’s done, here are many more great ways to make a difference for the week of March 12:

ACLU of Colorado: People Power at The Capitol

Join us for Lobby Day, March 14th at 8am. Talk to your elected representatives about the need to protect civil liberties in Colorado. Free continental breakfast and lunch provided. This event is free and open to the public.

Where: First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant St, Denver
When: Wednesday, March 14 at 8:00am

Click here to RSVP.

Enough! National School Walkout

Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone on March 14, 2018 to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. We need action. Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.

When: Wednesday, March 14 at 10:00am

Click here to RSVP.

Unity Across Struggles: A Black and Brown Conversation

Join this community conversation on how Latinos and African Americans in Denver might disrupt the status quo, smash the pattern of “fighting for the top of the bottom” and unify across struggles for shared political and economic power.

Where: Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, 2121 Children’s Museum Drive, Denver
When: Wednesday, March 14 at 5:00pm

Click here to RSVP.

Colorado Jobs with Justice: The Hand that Feeds Documentary Screening

Join Colorado Jobs With Justice for a screening and discussion of “The Hand that Feeds,” the moving story of undocumented immigrants fighting to win a union at a bakery in New York. “Shy sandwich-maker Mahoma Lopez unites his undocumented immigrant coworkers to fight abusive conditions at a popular New York restaurant chain. The epic power struggle that ensues turns a single city block into a battlefield in America’s new wage wars.”

Where: Denver Post Auditorium 101 W. Colfax Ave. Denver
When: Wednesday, March 14 at 5:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Jeffco Students United for Action: Jeffco #NeverAgain Rally

We would like to unite Jeffco together for a rally to demonstrate our unity in working together to end school violence. This rally is organized by Jeffco students and we are inviting ALL Jeffco students, staff and families to join us for a night of speakers, performers and action! We are inviting political officials and Jeffco school officials to come and hear our voices! After the rally we invite everyone to join us in taking action! We will have action tables where you can sign up to vote, write letters to your officials, write letters of encouragement to MSD and other schools affected by violence, film your #Whatif video and much more! Spread the word and join us!

Where: North Area Athletic Complex, 19500 W 64th Pkwy, Arvada
When: Wednesday, March 14 at 6:00pm

Click here to RSVP.

An Evening with Jeanette Vizguerra

The CU Denver Masters of Humanities/Masters of Social Science Program and Interdisciplinary Studies present the 3rd Annual Colorado Critical Interdisciplinary Speaker Series, featuring Jeanette Vizguerra, who Time Magazine named one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2017.” Ms. Vizguerra will deliver a talk about her life experiences in the United States entitled “Immigrant Mother and Leader in the Global Struggle to Keep Families Together”. This talk will be a bilingual event delivered in both English and Spanish, and it is free and open to the public.

Where: University of Colorado Denver, 1201 Larimer St., Denver
When: Wednesday, March 14 at 7:00pm

Click here to RSVP.

The Denver Press Club: State of Colorado v. Sessions

What does the recent announcement from AG Sessions to rescind the Cole memo mean for State regulated Cannabis companies here in Colorado, or one of the other 30 states in the union with decriminalization laws?

Where: The Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pl, Denver
When: Thursday, March 15 at 6:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition: Open records/open meetings workshops and awards luncheon

Learn tools for shining a light on government from experts on the Colorado Open Records Act, the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, the Colorado Open Meetings Law and court access. Get White House insights from MSNBC political analyst Eli Stokols and help CFOIC honor state Sen. John Kefalas with the Sue O’Brien Award for Public Service. Longtime CFOIC board member Ruth Anna will be honored with the inaugural Ruth Anna Citizen Champion Award.

Where: Denver Scottish Rite Consistory, 1370 Grant St, Denver
When: Friday, March 16 at 9:00am

Click here to RSVP.

One Colorado: Spring 2018 Northern Colorado GSA Leadership Summit

The One Colorado GSA Network will be hosting the Northern Colorado GSA Leadership Summit on March 17th! At the 2018 Northern Colorado GSA Leadership Summit, we will share best practices for creating and supporting effective GSA programs and empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to be leaders in their community. Students (middle school, high school, and college-aged), educators, and parents who are passionate about creating safe, inclusive learning environments are all welcome and encouraged to attend. This is a FREE event and this year’s theme is ‘It Starts With Us’ to remind us that we all have the power to make change in our community.

Where: CSU Lory Student Center, 500 University Ave, Fort Collins
When: Saturday, March 17 at 8:30am

Click here to RSVP.

Meet your Muslim Neighbors – Mosque Open House

What is Islam? Who are Muslims? Ask questions! get answers!

Where: Masjid AnNur, 2124 S Birch St, Denver
When: Saturday, March 17 at 2:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Tell CO Lawmakers: Ban Bump Stocks – Support SB18-051

Ban bump stocks in Colorado! Join us at the Colorado Capitol, Rm. 357. Come to testify and support. Wear RED! You may come or leave at any time but should get there early to sign up if you plan on testifying! SB18-051 “Prohibit Multi-burst Trigger Activators” is the first bill on the docket and will be heard at 1:30. If you can, stay to testify against SB18-052 “Repeal Ammunition Magazine Prohibition.”

Where: Colorado State Capitol, 200 E Colfax Ave, Denver
When: Monday, March 19 at 1:30pm

Click here to RSVP.

Whether’s it’s holding Cory Gardner accountable in Washington or making sure our values are represented at the state capitol in Denver, thanks again for all your help week after week fighting back against the Trump and the far fight. We are on the right side of history, and we are winning. We’ll be back next week with more ways to take action.

Post Follows Up After Gardner “Doesn’t Deny” Blocking Gun Safety Legislation

(Click here for more on Gardner’s “Face The Nation” interview — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Denver Post took time to extract the actual newsworthy information from Sunday’s Face-the-Nation interview, featuring U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), instead of simply transcribing the main topic of the senator’s appearance on national TV.

The news, which came at the end of an interview focused on North Korea, was, as The Post’s headline stated, “Cory Gardner doesn’t deny blocking a bipartisan effort to improve gun-purchase background checks in TV interview.”

In contrast, CBS4’s news-free headline read, “Gardner on North Korea Relationship: Hold China Responsible.” CBS4’s piece, like the Hill’s and not surprisingly the Washington Times’, failed to mention Gardner’s repeated refusals to answer questions about his alleged decision to block a proposed bipartisan law to help force federal agencies to accurately document the criminal histories of gun buyers.

The Post not only reported Gardner’s newsworthy gun-question dodge, but also tried (and failed) to get a clarification from Gardner, provided background on the issue, and noted Gardner’s recent statements on gun issues (urging a focus on mental health care, not guns).

Related: In radio interview about how to respond to the Florida massacre, Gardner doesn’t utter “gun,” “rifle,” “firearm,” “bump stock,” “magazine,” or any related words

The important interview, illustrating the secretive tactics used to stop gun-safety legislation, was mostly ignored nationally and locally.

The Post reported that Gardner “did not deny that he put a hold” on the gun-safety bill.

From The Post:

The Colorado Republican, interviewed on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said he has concerns about the measure that has broad bipartisan support in the Senate over what he describes as “due process issues.”

“This isn’t a issue of whether you like this or not,” he said. “It’s a question of constitutional rights and protecting the people of this country, protecting them from harm …”

“So, you are blocking the bill for now?” moderator Margaret Brennan interjected.

Gardner continued, “… and, and making sure we’re protecting people from harm and making sure that we get this right, and if there’s a constitutional issue at stake then that should be worked out.”

WATCH NOW: Cory Gardner Withers Under Gun Questions

A short time ago, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation. Although most of the questions from today’s interview with Margaret Brennan focused on relations with North Korea following President Donald Trump’s confusing foreign policy announcements late last week, at the end of the interview Gardner was asked about his role–not previously reported–in blocking legislation sponsored by GOP Texas Sen. John Cornyn to strengthen background checks for firearms purchases. This is legislation Sen. Cornyn has been working on since the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting last year that killed 26 people.

In the clip below, you can see something fairly amazing and rare: one of the slickest U.S. Senators flopping like a fish:


MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly ask you about guns. Texas Senator John Cornyn has a bill proposing strengthening the background check system. Is it correct that you have put a hold on this? [Pols emphasis]

SEN. CORY GARDNER: I think there are some of us who are talking about due process issues in the bill and legislation. I’ve talked to Senator Cornyn and I hope that Senator Cornyn will realize that we need to work this due process matter out. This isn’t a issue of whether you like this or not, it’s a question of constitutional rights and protecting the people of this country, protecting them from harm —

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you are blocking the bill for now? [Pols emphasis]

SEN. CORY GARDNER: — and, and making sure we’re protecting people from harm and making sure that we get this right and if there’s a constitutional issue at, at stake then that should be worked out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to clarify from your answer there. [Pols emphasis] Are you blocking this bill from the floor?

SEN. CORY GARDNER: This bill can come to the floor and we will continue to work through an amendment process and I hope that we can fix those amendments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: After you fix this bill you will allow it to go to the floor but not before this? [Pols emphasis]

SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well I think if we can have an, an amendment process that works to fix due process concerns real constitutional issues, then I hope that’s something that we can do. I hope that people who support this bill are interested, like all of us, in making sure we’re protecting the American people from harm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Gardner, thank you very much for joining “Face the Nation.”

SEN. GARDNER: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

It’s technically true that Gardner never answered the question–but by the time it was asked a fourth time, he didn’t have to. Gardner has years of experience sticking to a tight script with the media, but there’s a point at which these repetitious non-answers become worse for Gardner than simply giving the answer everyone knows and he just doesn’t want to say. Yes, Cory Gardner, who has taken almost four million dollars from the National Rifle Association during his career in politics, is the one blocking a fellow Republican’s bill to strengthen gun background checks. A bill that over 90% of Americans want passed.

Gardner was not prepared to answer this question, even though he obviously should have been. This was an absolutely disastrous performance for the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and a rare glimpse into the incredible behind-the-scenes power the NRA wields in Washington through people like Cory Gardner.

We know the answer to a very important question: why does gun safety legislation the public overwhelmingly supports never seem to become law, no matter how grisly the headlines from the latest mass shootings? No matter how unthinkably large the body counts have become at Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs and Parkland? No matter how many politicians in both parties agree it’s time to do something?

Cory Gardner just showed the world.

Yup, It Definitely Sucks to be Cory Gardner

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) turns that smile upside down.

Burgess Everett of Politico picks up on a theme we’ve visited time and again here on Colorado Pols: It’s no fun to be Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). Take a look at what Everett has to say in a story subtitled “The lonely existence of Cory Gardner”:

Senate Republican campaigns chief Cory Gardner might’ve had the easiest job in Washington — if only Hillary Clinton had won.

Instead, the centrist-minded Coloradan has found himself in one of the toughest predicaments in town: leading the Republican battalion in what’s instead shaping up as an anti-Trump Democratic wave election, while at the same time trying to cut legislative deals with some of the senators he’s campaigning hardest to defeat. Gardner is going to need bipartisan accomplishments to survive his own swing-state reelection race in 2020.

It’s not exactly what the sunny, glad-handing pol was signing up for when he put in for the job just before the 2016 election.

“He’s a brave man,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman and now the party whip. “I admire him for being willing to take on the challenge.”

Talk about damning with faint praise — calling Gardner “brave” in a political sense is code for saying that he’s absolutely screwed.

Gardner campaigned hard to be the head guy at the NRSC at a time when it looked like Democrat Hillary Clinton was going to be President and Republicans would get to run against her for the next several years. The NRSC job was tantalizing enough that Gardner and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis once proposed serving as co-chairs; Gardner ended up getting the job all to himself, and there probably isn’t a day that goes by where Tillis doesn’t say a silent prayer of thanks for how this all worked out.

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Associated Press)

Things have not gone well for Gardner since he first got the NRSC job in November 2016. We don’t really need to elaborate on why it has been tough to be a Republican since Donald Trump moved into the White House, but it’s important to note that longtime GOP supporters and donors have been just as upset with Congressional Republicans who only managed to pass a single piece of significant legislation in 2017 (a tax plan that Gardner doesn’t discuss). Gardner’s fundraising struggles have been well-documented, and he’s still trying to rebuild burned bridges after NRSC staffers were caught stealing donor lists from their counterparts at the National Republican Congressional Committee. Money has been so tight at the NRSC that Gardner has continually danced around the issue of giving back $100,000 from disgraced Nevada casino mogul Steve Wynn.

It’s telling that the normally-verbose Gardner is not exactly enthusiastic about Republican chances in 2018, as Politico explains:

Though Gardner never admits that his party’s prospects have declined due to Trump’s unpopularity and the failure to score top-tier candidates in states like Montana, he is realistic about the challenges he faces. When pressed on how many seats Republicans might be able to pick up, he does a brief impression of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with his Kentucky drawl, saying that predicting Senate races is a fool’s errand.

“I would not [put a number]. I am optimistic about every single one of these races. Part of that is just because of who I am,” Gardner said, noting how rarely the GOP has built majorities of more than 55 seats in the past century. “We have to contend with history.” [Pols emphasis]

History will show that 2017 was a positively terrible year for Gardner, and 2018 isn’t looking much better. Gardner’s 25% approval rating demonstrates an erosion of support on all sides; the last public poll for Gardner showed that only 38% of Colorado Republicans approved of his performance.

Gardner isn’t up for re-election until 2020, but the 2018 election will go a long way toward determining what’s left of his political future.