Mr. Hick Goes to Washington

Auden Schendler – Contributor, Vice President of Sustainability, Aspen Skiing Company

 

–Washington, D.C.

Today, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to appear in front of the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on opportunities and challenges for natural gas. Colorado is the epicenter of both the gas boom and the controversy over its impacts. Natural gas has been an economic boon to our state; it’s how many of us heat our homes and businesses and it can potentially be a cheap, clean and safe energy source for only hundreds of dollars each winter. Extracted properly, natural gas could be a piece of the solution to climate change and a path to reducing local air pollution, like Denver’s brown cloud.

But we have to get the gas out of the ground in the most responsible way, and to do that we need a Governor who equally weighs the concerns of the gas industry with the rest of the state. Today, it is unclear Hickenlooper shows that balance: around here he’s known for oil and gas industry cheerleading. And his track record suggests that, unlike most westerners, he doesn’t agree that conservation and the outdoors, not just oil and gas, are key foundations of our economy and quality of life.  According to the newly released 2013 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West bipartisan poll, 70% of Coloradans think that the impact of oil and gas drilling on our land, air and water is a serious problem.

The Governor likes to joke that the oil and gas industry and the environmentalists are both mad at him equally, portraying himself as the even-handed moderate.  However, his record tells quite a different story.  The gas industry claims he’s been a good friend, but the conservation community does not.  In fact, during his first year as Governor he appeared in promotional ads for the Colo. Oil and Gas Association claiming that neither fracking nor drilling has ever polluted groundwater, despite the fact that his own state regulators directly contradicted that claim.  He can’t really believe that, can he? Never ever?

The ordinarily popular Governor was met by boos, jeers and shouts during a town hall meeting about an amendment to ban hydraulic fracturing in a Denver suburb. He then sued the same town for upping their oil and gas standards. Three weeks ago a memo mistakenly released by a Chesapeake Energy lobbyist stated, “His relationship to the oil & gas industry is strong and he has been a national leader speaking out against the anti-fracturing forces that have invaded Colorado.”  And just a few days ago the Governor was questioned on his coziness with the oil and gas industry that funded his latest pet ballot measure project, Amendment S. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am a businessman, a parent of two young children and a Hickenlooper supporter. I don’t completely oppose fracking and I have friends and business colleagues in the gas industry.  But it just seems like common sense that drilling and extraction should occur in the most responsible way, to protect the pristine environment that makes Colorado great and undergirds our economy.

Drill rig and well pad setbacks should not be just adequate, but exemplary. There should be strict controls on fugitive methane (a damaging greenhouse pollutant). Standards for regional air quality ought to make us proud. We should be using the best and safest possible technology in every aspect of construction to completion. And, obviously, there are many places that we simply shouldn’t drill.

To keep our economy growing in all sectors—winter tourism alone in Colorado is a $2B business that employs almost 40,000—we need our Governor to show the right balance between energy development and conservation. We need him to do it today, before the Senate, in the round.

-AS

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FORWARD.

Alison Friedman – Contributor

 

The results of the 2012 election are a monumental step forward for equal rights in our country. With seven openly gay members there has never before been a Congress with more LGBT representation than the 113th Congress. Notably, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) will be the first openly gay Senator. The voters of Maine, Maryland, and Washington passed same-sex marriage referendums while the voters of Minnesota defeated an amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage between a man and a woman.

Colorado’s General Assembly made similar forward progress. Of the 100 lawmakers in the State House and Senate, eight openly identify as LGBT, the most in the legislative history of Colorado. State Representative Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) will be the first openly gay Speaker of the Colorado State House of Representatives.

Just six months ago, a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado was stymied through procedural delay by past Speaker, Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch). Before the bill died, it was believed to have enough support to be approved by the Colorado General Assembly. With the civil unions bill dozens of other bills were buried causing Governor Hickenlooper to exercise his executive privilege and to call for a special session. The civil unions bill did not pass on the second go, but advocates for the cause are hopeful for the upcoming session.

The voters have spoken. The new majority of Democrats in the State House show that the people of Colorado not only care about equality but they are care about progress. They care about equal rights for all families across Colorado. They have voted for legislators that do not impede legislation, but that create legislation.  And it’s not just Coloradans; studies show that more than half of Americans approve of same-sex marriage. What we are seeing is a fundamental shift in the way that we view equality.

Our state brought in a new majority to the General Assembly with more openly LGBT members than before. There are more openly gay representatives in Congress. Nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized civil unions or same-sex marriage. And we re-elected the first President to announce public support of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

With a new Democratic majority in the State House, continued majority in the State Senate and Governor John Hickenlooper (D) in office for two more years, a bill for civil unions is likely to pass in 2013.

As President Obama said in his 2012 acceptance speech:

“But that doesn’t mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us but what can be done by us- together.”

-AF

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Why Colorado is Still Blue

Chris Keating – Contributor, Keating Research

 

It’s been said that Colorado voters may decide our next President.  Colorado’s status as the deciding state becomes even more likely if Romney wins Ohio’s 18 electoral votes and Obama wins New Hampshire’s 4.  Under this scenario, to win Obama would need to win both of the two key Western states of Colorado and Nevada while Romney would need to win just Colorado.  With a consistent 2.5-point lead in the poll-of-polls on Real Clear Politics, Nevada looks like it will to go to Obama.  But what will happen to Colorado’s 9 electoral votes?

In Colorado, Obama has been holding a slim lead in the Presidential polling over the past few months, while my most recent polling has Obama up 3 points (48-45).  I’ve conducted three Presidential polls in Colorado during this election year and in each poll Obama has held a 3 to 5 point lead within a range of 48-49 percent of the vote, compared to a range of 44-45 percent of the vote for Romney.

August

September

October

48 Obama

44Romney

49 Obama

44 Romney

48 Obama

45 Romney


I’d note that even though the Presidential race appears to be tightening here in Colorado there has been very little change in the structure of this race over the past three months.  Here are three important areas to focus when analyzing the polls and the overall Colorado political situation:

1.    Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties. The key bloc of suburban voters in Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties contain nearly one-fourth of all voters in Colorado.  Winning these two counties is the key to winning Colorado.  Their diversity and demographics make them an excellent indicator of how this race will play out not only in Colorado, but nationwide.  In each of the 3 polls, Obama has held a 5-10 point lead among voters in the bellwether Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties.

August

September

October

Average

50 Obama

45Romney

52 Obama

42 Romney

51 Obama

41Romney

51 Obama

43 Romney

 

2.     Unaffiliated Voters. Unaffiliated voters now comprise the largest voting “party” in Colorado and will comprise about 30 percent of all Colorado voters in this election.  With the candidates holding strong with their base party voters, to win Colorado it is imperative to win over these Unaffiliated voters.  Unaffiliated voters in Colorado tend to be younger (60% are under age 50) and for that reason tend to be more forward thinking when it comes to key issues such as abortion, gay marriage and energy policy.  In addition, Unaffiliated voters have had an affinity for Obama that holds true today with a majority 57% favorable toward him compared to 48% favorable toward Romney.  In each of the 3 polls, Obama has held a significant majority of the Unaffiliated vote.

August

September

October

Average

50 Obama

36Romney

55 Obama

32 Romney

52 Obama

38 Romney

52 Obama

35 Romney

 

3.     Hispanic Voters.  Hispanic voters continue to increase their share of the vote and in importance to winning the Western States including Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona.  Hispanic turnout will be an important sign and I expect the Hispanic vote to make up at least 10-12% of Colorado voters in this election.  In each of the 3 polls, Obama has consistently garnered at least two-thirds of the Hispanic vote in Colorado.

 

August

September

October

Average

65 Obama

32Romney

67 Obama

27 Romney

70 Obama

18 Romney

67 Obama

26 Romney

-CK
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Your Gessler is as Good as Mine…

Jeremy Rubingh – Editor

 

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler

–Denver, CO

Alright, it’s long past time to talk about Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, especially as allegations of his use of taxpayer funds for trips to the Republican National Convention and a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting come out this week.

Gessler, who has been under fire recently for his failed voter purge aimed at finding supposed “noncitizen voters” in Colorado, makes no attempt to veil his partisan stances, flying the GOP agenda like a flag.

Earlier in October he criticized the left for illegal voter registration and suggested that Democrats are happy to register anyone regardless of the legal consequences for those individuals.  Meanwhile, his own Republican Party, had to quit registering voters in Colorado over a week before the deadline when the firm they hired to do registration was breaking the law, impersonating county clerk employees, and only registering Romney supporters, which is not only completely unethical, but also illegal.  The Romney camp hired this firm fully aware of their illegal practices during the Bush campaign, but asked them to change their name to Strategic Allied Consulting to attempt to shed any past ethical baggage.  The Republican National Committee had to pull voter registration from four other states including Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.  The Sunshine State has reported that this firm has potentially faked hundreds of voter registration forms.

Scott Gessler was elected to Secretary of State in 2010, ousting Democratic incumbent, Bernie Buescher, a Gov. Ritter appointee.  Buescher had the endorsements of every major Colorado newspaper and the Secretary of State Project, but was outspent by over $66,000 by Gessler.  Gessler’s major endorsements included the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition and Tom Tancredo, failed gubernatorial candidate and extreme conservative.

In light of recent events, Gessler’s pursuit of noncitizen voters was borderline hysterical.  Of the tens of thousands he promised that were changing the outcome of elections in Colorado he ultimately rolled out a list of 35, eight of whom have recently been found to be legal U.S. citizens, while the remaining 27 are investigated, most likely to turn up legal as well.  Gessler used state and federal resources in his 19 month long offensive.

Gessler’s bizarre obsession with a make-believe problem is sure to cause him problems were he to pursue election again.  Numerous studies have found that voter fraud is statistically nonexistent in the United States of America.  After a comprehensive study of all 50 states, there were only “10 cases of voter impersonation.  With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters,” according to a News21 study.

Meanwhile, The Colorado County Clerks association has sent a letter of complaint to Gessler’s office citing numerous issues that have not helped to champion “the strength, accessibility, accuracy and transparency of Colorado elections…”

Now this guy is being investigated for spending taxpayer money to attend strictly partisan events solely directed at the promotion of Republican Party Policy and agendas.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.  Gessler stated on his reimbursement forms that he was conducting state business.  There might be a few Coloradans, regardless of party affiliation, that have a hard time seeing how paying for his partisan play time might not be in the best interest for the advancement of the state of Colorado.  Neither Gov. John Hickenlooper, who attended the DNC, nor Attorney General John Suthers, who also attended the RNC, charged the state for their trips to the conventions.  This guy is just bad news.  Pay attention to the 2014 Secretary of State election.

-JR

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Romney Floats Specific Tax Reform Policy (Kind Of)

Phillip Supino – Co-editor

 

–Denver, CO

In an Interview with Denver Fox affiliate KDVR, Mitt Romney spoke vaguely, but spoke nonetheless, about a specific tax reform policy he may use to cover the nearly $5 trillion in lost revenues that would be created by his proposed tax cuts.

The Washington Post effectively distilled Romney’s proposal and its implications.  In short, he called for a limit to itemized deductions in the Federal tax code.  Taxpayers would be allowed $17,000 in total deductions, from a wide range of income and asset classes, and all other income (except dividend income of course) would be taxed accordingly.  It is unclear how much revenue Romney’s policy would preserve, but it certainly won’t cover the lost revenue from his other tax and spending proposals.

Romney’s attempt at concrete policy discussion comes one day ahead of the much anticipated first presidential debate.  (That is unless one lives in Denver, in which case fear of the inconveniences of hosting the debate hangs like a foul stench over much of the City.)

The debate will focus on domestic issues, which is a nice way of saying that is will be about the economy with nods to the Supreme Court, marginal social issues like same sex marriage, then more about the economy.  Romney must assert himself against Obama at this event to gain in the polls.  The election is slipping away in a handful of key swing states, and pundits from David Brooks to Rachel Madow are making noise about an Obama victory becoming inevitable.  Not so much because voters are enamored with Obama, but because the Romney campaign has been one of the least compelling since Gerald Ford.

Romney’s first significant policy proposal since the GOP convention, which didn’t really feature much in the way of substance, is designed to provide two benefits.  First, it creates a compelling headline in the news cycle leading up to the debate.  Second, unlike most of his tepid policy discussion to this point in the election, this one tax proposal is perfectly timed to bleed into the debate questioning from moderator Jim Lehrer.

The thinking in the Romney camp is clearly mathematical: the proposal won’t make it past a few news cycles, because of the debate headlines. And it could earn more swing votes than it loses from the wealthy class upset about getting sold down the river by their man.

Look for Mitt to use this small, lonely policy proposal as a talking point at DU tonight.  What he and his people fail to realize is that Coloradans, and Americans at large, are smart enough to know when they’re being bamboozled.

-PS

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Chimney Rock National Monument Designated

Jeremy Rubingh – Editor

 

Sec. Ken Salazaar at Chimney Rock, CO

 

–Pagosa Springs, CO

On a beautiful sunny day in Southern Colorado at the base of Chimney Rock, an ancient Pueblo Indian ruin site, several representatives of the Obama Administration gathered to designate America’s newest national Monument.

From the administration, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazaar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Harris Sherman, and Chief of the USFS Tom Tidwell were all in attendance for the designation.  Senator Michael Bennet, representatives of area tribes, Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazaar, local government officials, local business owners, and community members were there as well.

The atmosphere was joyous and spiritual as the Chair of the All Indian Pueblo Council, Chandler Sanchez, chanted a Pueblo Indian prayer to open and close the ceremony.

The 4,700 acres of Chimney Rock National Monument were designated under the executive power of the Antiquities Act by President Obama Friday morning Sept. 21, 2012.  While local town and county governments, local Indian tribes, the Republican congressman, and both Democratic senators supported and endorsed this presidential declaration, some out-of-state Republicans sought to politicize the occasion.

Rep. Hastings (R -Washington) criticized the White House, saying that this type of decision “should be made by those most affected and their local elected leaders.”  Over 122 local businesses and two local Chambers of Commerce sent a letter to President Obama asking for this action, not to mention the countless community members that supported it as well.  A local brewery, the Pagosa Brewing Company, even unveiled a commemorative beer, “Ancestral Ale,” made of ingredients the ancestral Pueblo Indians would have had available to them including corn, beans, squash, and prickly pear cactus, to celebrate the designation at an after party.  The beer was good and the people were happy.

Tony Simmons, Owner Pagosa Brewing Company

This type of designation is exactly what Colorado needs.  An economic study of the area revealed that the local economy could essentially be doubled within a few years by this type of public lands protection.  The outdoors industry is a massive, sustainable, and extremely important part of our economy.

And while Rep. Hastings’ grumpiness might be misguided, designating a National Monument roughly a month before an election may have positive political ramifications for President Obama.  In 1996 President Clinton designated the 1.7 million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante a National Monument right around the same time before his shellacking of Bob Dole.  This was a much more controversial piece of land, but some would argue the decision helped activate Clinton’s base and encourage the environmental vote.  Not a bad move for President Obama in a swing state with a very deserving sacred piece of land that has bi-partisan support.

Our congressional delegation also deserves a round of applause in recognizing the gridlock in congress and encouraging the president to move ahead with this.  This is why we have the Antiquities Act.

-JR

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Notes from Club 20

Jeremy Rubingh – Editor

 

–Grand Junction, CO

Club 20, an organization of businesses, “counties”, “communities”, and individuals with let’s say particular political leanings hosted its annual meeting and a round of debates on Saturday, September 8th.

Politicians and candidates from all over the state attended, including Senator Michael Bennet, who gave an update on federal legislation to a generally civil crowd.  At least people here were nice during Bennet’s talk even though they are never going to vote for him.  Let’s face it, Bennet is a smart guy and people like him, but we’re in Grand Junction here folks.

I have to ask why Democrats even go to these debates in this conservative bastion?  It’s notorious for being a one-sided angry old Republican mud-sling.  This year was really no exception, though I didn’t witness anyone spitting on Democrats or interrupting their debates this time.

The highlight of the evening was the debate between Sal Pace, Tisha Casida, and Scott Tipton for the CD3 congressional election.  Despite the fact that three massive projections on the wall let everyone know that these debates were proudly sponsored by “Friend’s of Natural Gas Colorado,” and as Chad Obermiller, campaign manager for Pace noted, several of the panel members had been wearing Pro-Tipton paraphernalia the night before, there was actually a slightly more balanced feel to the room than the earlier State legislature debates.  Slightly.  Tipton’s supporters sat on the left facing the stage (where Tipton himself was positioned), Pace’s supporters to the right and the press up front in the middle.  Pace went after Tipton like an attack dog, at one point holding up a headline from the Denver Post that said, “Tipton Violates House Rules,” a reference to the investigation of Tipton’s ethics violations earlier this year where taxpayer funds were used for a campaign event.

This debate was a lot less congenial than the previous one between Pace and Tipton in Alamosa with both sides taking stabs at each other and Casida harmlessly waiting in the middle.  Though eventually, if she is able to get her message out, Casida could do some serious damage to Tipton’s campaign.  She is smart, communicative, and passionate.  Regardless if you share her beliefs, this type of so-called constitutionalist candidate could really help check the Republican Party’s extremism as of late and bring them back to a more realistic platform of fiscal conservatism and less social rigidity.

In the end the appearance of the Fat Cat outside the Colorado Mesa University Center was the best part.  I might be biased though because I brought him there.  See the interview on Grand Junction channel 5 for more fat cat action.  And also, comment if you think this Big Oil tax break question is a valid question for COpolitics to be asking.

-JR

Video Link:

Fat Cat Strikes Again!

 

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