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ColoradoPolitics.comMay 31, 20177min292

June is the month of marriages, and we’d like to announce a big, fat, happy one in the political realm.

Colorado Politics, a new digital publication launched last November, and the venerable, 118-year-old Colorado Statesman are joining forces.

“We see it as a perfect match of speed and substance, immediacy and insight,” said Vince Bzdek, a former political editor at The Washington Post who will oversee the combined website and print magazine for Clarity Media. “Together, the aim is simple: Drive the political conversation in Colorado every day, in every way. And have fun doing it.”

Pulitzer Prize-winner Joey Bunch, a former Denver Post political writer and onetime CNN contributor, will be the lead correspondent for the site and magazine.

“From the start, Colorado Politics has been an exciting venture, and the reception in the political community has been tremendous,” said Bunch, who swears he is not losing his hair since helping launch the site. At all. “The Statesman’s history and resources are welcome additions and should raise people’s expectations of us as the political news source that has it first, has it right and treats both sides fairly. Our readers tend to be folks who are the most engaged in state politics. This merger helps ensure they’re the best informed.”

The websites of the two media companies will become one starting June 1, under the Colorado Politics banner. Clarity Media, which owns The Gazette newspaper and several weekly publications in Colorado Springs as well as the Washington Examiner, Weekly Standard and Red Alert Politics in Washington, D.C., will become the Statesman’s new owner.

The Statesman’s print newspaper, which has published nonstop since 1898, will continue to publish weekly under the Statesman banner until a complete redesign and relaunch planned for later in 2017. At that time, the Statesman will be rebranded Colorado Politics.

The new, combined website will feature free and exclusive subscriber-only news stories daily. Subscribers also will receive the print edition of the newspaper in the mail every week with additional subscriber-only content being provided in the future. The print edition will also be available on newsstands around Denver in the coming months.

“The Statesman brings deep roots and an unmatched understanding of Colorado’s political history to the new enterprise,” said Bzdek, who also oversees the editorial staff of The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Colorado Politics brings some of the best political journalists in the state to the partnership, and a culture and metabolism that take full advantage of the instancy of digital publishing.”

Going forward, the merging of brands will mean more substantial reporting on all things politics and policy, and the expansion of a wide roster of contributors from across the state. Readers can expect an increase in exclusive, insider scoops; the addition of invaluable special features and tools to help professionals in the field make better decisions for their businesses; and an upgraded web site and mobile site. The print edition will grow as well, with more pages, more columns, and more cartoons.

Colorado Politics and Statesmen reporters will also team up to bring more horsepower to The Hot Sheet, a daily newsletter and blog for the new site.

Clarity expects to add more staff members in the future.

“I am excited by the merger,” said Jared Wright, longtime stalwart of the Statesman who will run the business, advertising and circulation operations as general manager of the new publication. “Combining forces of the two publications just made sense. The rich 118-year history of The Colorado Statesman and the confluence of minds and resources will create some very compelling opportunities for how we cover political and public policy news in Colorado and the value we offer our readers and clients.”

Other staffers include Peter Marcus, who The Washington Post twice named as one of the nation’s top state-based political and legislative reporters; Dan Njegomir, a 25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene as an award-winning reporter, Gazette editorial page editor, legislative staffer and political consultant; Ernest Luning, longtime journalist and news editor who has written for The Statesman and The Colorado Independent; Erin Prater, a multimedia journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Upfront, The Washington Times, The Denver Post, MSNBC.com, Military.com and the Gazette; Jim Trotter, another Pulitzer winner and longtime Colorado editor, who will help edit the site in conjunction with his managing editor duties at the Gazette.

The staff will report to Ryan McKibben, CEO and president of Clarity.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is a fan of both publications. He has called Colorado Politics his “first click in the morning.”

“Overall, I wouldn’t trade a strong media in the state Capitol for anything. I think it is essential not just to the drive of good government but to the preservation of liberty, and freedom,” he said in a video testimonial for the Statesman recently.

Bzdek echoed those sentiments. “You know, the better the people creating policy know each other and trust each other, the better the government and its decisions. We believe a publication like this is truly the best way of making sure those people know each other and we citizens know who our politicians are and what they’re up to. This merger is really a vote of confidence in the power of the press to bring people together — and make lives better.”

ColoradoPolitics.comMay 27, 20172min217

Democrats and environmentalists are fond of talking about “inconvenient truths,” so here’s one they ought to chew on during this pause in the 71st General Assembly.

Colorado’s Energy Office met its demise in the waning hours of the just-closed legislative session not because of Republicans, who made a good-faith effort to reauthorize and re-energize what has become a listless and ineffectual bureaucratic backwater. Reauthorization failed because of an our-way-or-the-highway mindset among many Democrats, who would rather have the office go away than see it evolve into something better.

The episode deserves detailed review not just because the governor and Statehouse Democrats are frantic to skirt blame for their mishandling of the situation, by hurriedly rewriting history. It also highlights the narrow, dogmatic, disconnected-from-reality way Democrats view energy issues, which has much larger state and national implications.

A number of state programs periodically come up for review at the Statehouse. This year it was the Energy Office’s turn. The fact that most Coloradans don’t even know the state has an energy office and can’t tell you what it does speaks volumes about how badly it’s languished over the years. It was reinvented as a tool for touting the “new energy economy” during the Ritter years, but has hardly been heard from since, except when an audit found that millions of dollars handled by the office couldn’t be accounted for.

Read more at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent

ColoradoPolitics.comMay 15, 201713min363

The Colorado legislature adjourned on Wednesday, and the afterglow shines a light on what exactly happened in the 120 days that lawmakers quarreled under the gold dome in Denver.

Counting down the hits, here are the 10 things you should know about what just happened:


undocumented stays
Jeanette Vizguerra, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in a church to avoid immigration authorities for the past three months, smiles after leaving the church early Friday in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

10 — Sanctuary cities, right to rest, no more Columbus Day
In a split legislature, strictly partisan bills are doomed to fail. Nonetheless, long hours were put in arguing over arresting public officials for not boosting immigration laws in a sanctuary city. Homeless people still can’t camp in public parks, if cities have an ordinance. Columbus Day in Colorado will continue to be celebrated and reviled.

Read more here, here and here.


Students at DSST Cole High School, a charter school in Denver. (Nicholas Garcia/Chalkbeat Colorado)

9 — Charter schools are getting cool
Charter schools are public schools, but they haven’t been treated that way when it comes to tax dollars. This session they made headway. Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, pushed the equitable-funding issue to the last day, with results that had charter school champions cheering.

Read more here.


hunting and fishing fees
(Colorado Springs Gazette/Paul Klee)

8 — Parks and Wildlife out in the cold
The state’s fee-funded outdoors agency hasn’t raised hunting, fishing and park fees since 2005. The agency already has cut $40 million and 50 staff members, but faces even deeper cuts without raising rates. Lawmakers said no. Bring on the cuts.

Read more here.


In this Dec. 31, 2012, file photo, Rachel Schaefer, of Denver, smokes marijuana on the official opening night of Club 64, a marijuana-specific social club, where a New Year’s Eve party was held in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

7 — Pot’s wild ride
To the last day, marijuana was a focus. Bipartisan efforts to create marijuana social clubs efforts never advanced, the ongoing conversation did. Raising pot taxes was used as an incentive by Democrats to get Republicans on board to reclassify the state’s Hospital Provider Fee, and the legislature OK’d counties to pass pot taxes. Gov, John Hickenlooper advanced the session by saying he wanted more pot taxes to go toward homelessness programs. And as the final hours ticked away, the House debated, in bizarre terms, how many people should be allowed to smoke pot on a porch. Lawmakers couldn’t agree.

Read more here, here and here.


Congressman Ed Perlmutter announces run for Colorado Governor Sunday April 9, 2017 in the parking lot of Natural Grocers in Golden, CO. (Photo by Evan Semón Photography)

6 — Who was legislating and who was campaigning
Just months removed from Election Day, at least dozen of the General Assembly’s 100 members have their eyes on offices higher the legislature. Sometimes good pieces of legislation also look good on a campaign flier, and lobbyists with PACs become the best lobbyists of all.

Read more here, here, here and here.


Patrick Neville
House Republican Leader Patrick Neville talks to reporters at the state Capitol the day after the session adjourned. (Photo by Joey Bunch/Colorado Politics)

5 — A moderate shift to the left in the Senate
The Senate president proposing a tax increase to fund roads, while the Senate president pro tem pushed a restructuring of the Hospital Provider Fee, served as the clearest examples of a shift in tone and thinking for Senate Republicans. Two issues that were always considered off the table. Meanwhile, Republicans advanced legislation to strengthen penalties on crimes against gay people, while also supporting a bill to extend coverage to provide a 12-month supply of contraceptives for women.

Read more here.


A home explosion in Firestone on April 17 killed two and sent two people to the hospital. Fire officials said it was the result of an uncapped flow line from a nearby oil and gas well. (Dennis Herrera/ Special to The Denver Post / Daily Camera)

4 — Oil and gas issues exploded
Oil-and-gas interests had been on a legislative winning streak and had made a good case as a good and safe neighbor, until a house near a pipeline in Firestone exploded and killed two people on April 17. That caused a last-days struggle between Republicans and Democrats, one that’s likely to continue into next year’s session and elections.

Read more here, here, here and here.


construction Colorado
(Colorado Springs Gazette file photo/Rich Laden)

3 — Put up or shut up for construction defects reform
After four legislative sessions, the first measure of construction defects litigation reform is law. The cost of insurance and lawsuits was said to be why construction of affordable condominiums in the state has withered, but now that lawmakers have delivered, it’s up to builders to respond.

Read more here.


In this Thursday, March 9, 2017, photograph, Dr. Lindsey Fish waits for a patient in a procedure room in Denver Health Medical Center’s primary care clinic located in a low-income neighborhood in southwest Denver. (AP)

2 — Republicans got on the omnibus
For years, GOP lawmakers fought reclassifying a fee on hospital beds to get it out from under the state’s constitutional spending cap that triggers tax refunds. This session, the biggest bipartisan win was doing just that, as Republicans traded for higher Medicaid copays, a lower spending cap and money for rural schools, roads and hospitals.

Read more here.


And the biggest story of the session …

alternative transportation bill
Heavy traffic moves along Interstate 25 near Castle Rock, which is two lanes in each direction. (Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette)

1 — Road bills sputtered
The highest goal of the session, to address the state’s ailing, clogged transportation system, didn’t go nearly as planned. Two bills that would have put billions into wider interstates and local transit died in the Senate, bogged down over asking taxpayers to pony up.

Read more here, here and here.

Editor’s note: Compiled by Colorado Politics staff Joey Bunch, Peter Marcus and Erin Prater.

ColoradoPolitics.comMay 13, 20172min192

President Trump’s executive order that threatens the future of more than 50 national monuments directly challenges the worth of public lands around the country and especially here in the West.

As a longtime resident of southwest Colorado, I care deeply about the economic success of our region and the protection of our public lands and monuments. This order challenges the core values, cultural heritage and economy in Colorado and many other Western states.

One of 50 threatened areas listed in President Trump’s order is the Canyons of the Ancients near Mesa Verde. It has the highest known density of archaeological treasures in the U.S. and must be protected to prevent further looting of artifacts and desecration of the land.

The canyons and other area monuments received their special designations from former U.S. presidents using the Antiquities Act of 1906. Trump’s recent action could be the undoing of this 111-year-old law and of many local economies.

When an area is granted monument status, there’s no state or federal funding coming with that — but monuments become a stop on the tourist map where visitors spend money and create jobs. Areas near national monuments see economic growth, more jobs and increased personal income.

Read more at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent


ColoradoPolitics.comMay 12, 20178min818

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers was thrust into the national spotlight Friday when Fox News reported that he made President Donald Trump’s short list to lead the FBI days after its former chief was fired.

Suthers, who is two years into his first term leading his childhood home, was recommended to the post by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. Within hours, support from past and present Republican colleagues lined up for the one-time prosecutor, prisons chief and attorney general.

“John Suthers is universally recognized as a man of integrity and fair-mindedness, who can do a very difficult job taking over the helm of the agency that needs an independent leader, that needs somebody who is going to be thorough, and needs somebody who is going to complete investigations on Russia,” Gardner told Colorado Politics.

He made his pitch for Suthers to Vice President Mike Pence two days ago — punctuating it with a challenge.
“Pick up a phone and call any Democrat governor and just see what they say,’” said Gardner, recalling the conversation.

Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, added his endorsement.

“I’d hate to lose John for Colorado, but that being said,  he has the highest integrity and would be an excellent choice for head of the FBI.=,:” Hickenlooper said.

While Fox News reported his name was on a list of 11 potential candidates, the chances of an actual appointment were debatable Friday afternoon.

The New York Times did not list Suthers in its list of seven potential candidates. Politico named Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., as a potential top candidate and Bloomberg News reported Mike Rogers, a former Michigan congressman, as also being considered.

Suthers sought to avoid the media frenzy, issuing a statement early Friday afternoon through a city spokeswoman.

“While I am honored to be listed as a possibility among some tremendous law enforcement professionals, at this point it would be premature to comment any further,” the statement said.

Along with Gardner, other Colorado GOP politicians pulled for his appointment.

Former Gov. Bill Owens hailed Suthers’ candidacy — calling the mayor “perfect” for the post and adding he would be “an exceptional director of the FBI.”

“John Suthers is non-political when it comes to carrying out the laws of the United States and doing what is right,” Owens said. “He’d always do the right thing — by the book and enforce the law.”

When Colorado’s attorney general’s spot opened up in 2005, Owens said he moved quickly to appoint the longtime El Paso County prosecutor and corrections chief.

The two had worked together for years, dating back to Owens’ tenure as a state legislator. Back then, Owens considered Suthers a mentor on criminal justice issues.

Suthers went on to hold the attorney general post for 10 years. On Friday, his successor, Cynthia Coffman, called him “the man for this job.”

“He is a true tough guy in the time-honored tradition of our country’s most respected domestic intelligence officials,” Coffman said in a statement. “Mr. Suthers will restore public confidence in the FBI by approaching every individual and situation with equanimity and impartiality.”

Support wasn’t universal, however.

Ian Silverii, director of the state’s largest liberal advocacy group, ProgressNow Colorado, said there were things he liked about Suthers, including his “competent” work as mayor. He lauded Suthers’ work in rallying Colorado Springs voters to green-light more transportation funding despite opposition from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Then he needled Suthers’ stances as attorney general on the Affordable Care Act and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.

But that matters little for the job he may receive. Silverii said he doesn’t see a qualified FBI director in him.

“Either way, I don’t see how any of this qualifies him to be the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

If appointed to lead the FBI, Suthers would be walking into a political buzz saw in the wake of former FBI director James Comey’s firing earlier this week. The agency was investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election, and Comey had recently sought to ramp up that inquiry shortly before his dismissal, according to the New York Times.

Silverii questioned whether that turmoil would make some candidates reluctant to take the job.

“I don’t know why anyone except for a complete and total Trump stooge would take that job, because it’s clear that all Trump wants is someone who is going to cease the Russia investigation,” Silverii said. “Anyone who does that will lose any reputation they’ve built up over however many years immediately.”

Former Gov. Owens said Suthers could handle that assignment admirably.

“You can’t pressure John Suthers — he is bound by a simple principle of doing what is right, and enforcing the law,” Owens said.

Suthers’ 10 years as Colorado attorney general earned him a reputation for following the law, even when he personally disagreed with the state’s position.

For example, though he was outspoken about his opposition to legalized marijuana, he defended Colorado in lawsuits from other states that sought to strike down Colorado’s pot laws. He also encouraged Colorado voters to approve taxes for recreational marijuana.

Despite the crowded field, one of Suthers’ former colleagues stopped short of calling the mayor a long-shot for the job.

“I find him to have very high integrity, great experience as AG and also in corrections,” said Paul Teske, dean and distinguished professor at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs. He said he has known Suthers since he taught classes at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, when Teske was dean of the campus branch.

Whether Suthers would even take the job remains unclear, Teske said.
“When he ran for Colorado Springs mayor, he talked about that as his dream job,” Teske said. “And he seems to enjoy it and be very good at it.”

Editor’s note: This story was written by Jakob Rodgers of the Colorado Springs Gazette, with additional reporting from Colorado Politics’ Joey Bunch, Peter Marcus and Erin Prater.


ColoradoPolitics.comMay 12, 20171min296

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers has made President Donald Trump’s short list for leading the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to multiple reports.

Suthers, who is two years into his first term as the city’s chief executive, was recommended to the post by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., according to a tweet by the senator.

“Colorado’s John Suthers would be an excellent choice to lead the FBI,” Gardner said in his tweet, announcing the recommendation.

Gardner added he was “excited to see his name on this list.”

A Fox News report listed Suthers among 11 people on Trump’s short list.

Check back with Colorado Politics for more information as the story develops.

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ColoradoPolitics.comMay 7, 20178min287

Andrew Price-Smith
The first 100 days of the Trump administration have been erratic, particularly in the domain of foreign policy.

Many of the decisions taken by the administration have been reactive, often made by players who are novices in the complex game of international politics. This volatility affects our allies as well. The incessant “tweeting” of the president’s every whim has the potential to drag us into unnecessary conflicts with other nations. There is nothing more destabilizing than a great power that is unpredictable and unreliable.

The world has become a far more dangerous place in recent years. The rising power of China, a resurgent and bellicose Russia, a nuclear North Korea and terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaida combine to foster a chaotic global environment. The Trump administration finds itself working in this turbulent world with a Cabinet that is burdened by inexperience and the peculiar psyches of several of its members.

President Donald Trump has limited experience in international politics and has underestimated the difficulty of dealing with other nations. During the first 100 days, the president has flip-flopped on numerous issues, undermined trust and generated discord.

During the campaign, Trump declared that the Russians were our allies and argued that the Syrian civil war had nothing to do with U.S. interests. That narrative held until Congress began its investigation of Russian influence over the election of 2016, which prompted the Trump administration to do an abrupt about-face and criticize Moscow and then bomb the Syrians in retaliation for Bashar Assad’s barbaric use of sarin gas on his people.

During the election, Trump argued that NATO was dated and ineffectual, and he belittled our allies in Europe. However, with the recent 180-degree turn on Russia, NATO is apparently useful again, and we are bolstering our military presence in Poland and the Baltics.

Trump demonized the Chinese throughout the campaign until he realized that the key to dealing with the mad hermit kingdom of North Korea lay in having allies in Beijing.

Thus, Trump’s penchant for instigating fights with allies in NATO and demonizing China only harms our national interests in the long run.

Further, despite the fact that the Department of Defense has warned that climate change is a “threat multiplier” and that it poses a long-term threat to the national security of the nation, the administration plans on abandoning the Paris agreement. This position is perplexing, particularly as Secretary of Defense James Mattis has gone on record that climate change poses a significant threat to national security. Nonetheless, the Trump administration continues to deny that climate change is real.

There are problems in the Cabinet as well. The mercurial Steve Bannon, who is known for his antipathy towards science, NATO, trade agreements (NAFTA), China and so forth, is a force for chaos. Rex Tillerson leads a woefully understaffed and underfunded State Department. Fortunately, there are pragmatic forces in the administration (Mattis, H.R. McMaster, Jared Kushner and perhaps Tillerson) who are gradually sidelining Bannon.

That said, if the pattern of erratic decision-making continues, it will only undermine America’s relations with our allies and embolden our enemies. This volatile behavior clearly threatens to drag the country into conflicts that are not in the national interest.


Doug Lamborn
The world is safer when America leads, and America is leading again thanks to President Donald Trump.

For eight long years, we tried the notion of “leading from behind.” Tough talk never materialized into action. Red lines were drawn and then ignored. Whole nations or regions descended into death, destruction and chaos as our nation’s second-to-none military remained largely on the sidelines to fulfill politically motivated promises. The stature of the United States was allowed to weaken and wither as President Barack Obama attempted to remove America from her pedestal of pre-eminence and exceptionalism.

Thankfully, Trump saw the failure of this approach and successfully campaigned on a message of making America great again. I’m pleased to report that he is doing that.

By reasserting military strength in Afghanistan, Syria and the Korean theater, the president is signaling a return to robust leadership. He is placing the world on notice that America will take the fight to the Islamic State group in a serious way, will intervene to disrupt the inhumane slaughter of innocent civilians and that America will protect its allies and interests. In each of these instances, Trump has made the world a safer place for nations that support freedom and democracy.

On the diplomatic and soft power front, Trump is building productive working relationships with world leaders. Virtually every day, the president is working the phones to make personal connections with his peers. This sort of diligent relationship building not only opens and maintains lines of communication, it will likely lead to numerous benefits.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has raised expectations of NATO. By ensuring that the alliance will be funded in a broader way, the Trump administration is working to make sure that it will be better prepared to face the threats of the future. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and her team of diplomats have taken strong stands to turn the ossifying organization from a talking shop into an arena of action.

It comes down to action vs. inaction. Unlike their predecessors, this president and this Cabinet are working around the clock to reassert America’s position of greatest strength, that of leader of the free world. In a dangerous world filled with despotic dictators, radical Islamic terrorism and ex-superpowers grasping for former glory, American leadership is essential to the safety and stability of the world.

That’s why I am so pleased that we once again have a president who recognizes the essential nature of strong American leadership, a president who wants America to be second to none and who takes strong actions to protect our nation in the face of multiple geopolitical threats. The United States is fortunate to have Trump leading the way to a safer and more secure world.

Andrew Price-Smith is associate professor of political science at Colorado College and served as adviser to the National Intelligence Council from 2008 to 2017. His latest books are “Oil, Illiberalism and War” (MIT, 2015) and “Rising Threats, Enduring Challenges” (Oxford, 2014). Doug Lamborn represents Colorado’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

ColoradoPolitics.comMarch 19, 20179min274
There was new news this week in the world of Colorado Politics. By reading our list of the week’s top stories, though, you might not know it. This week Western Slope legislators expressed their concern that the Front Range is bleeding their portion of the state dry. A group of addiction experts criticized Gov. John Hickenlooper over […]

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ColoradoPolitics.comMarch 19, 20178min195
Michael Francisco The case for confirming Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is overwhelming. Coloradoans should be proud that such an exceptionally well qualified, fair and evenhanded judge may soon be deciding the nation’s most important legal controversies. As a former 10th Circuit clerk for Chief Judge Tymkovich, I have had the good fortune of […]

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ColoradoPolitics.comMarch 12, 20177min176
What. A. Week, folks. We’ve talked about a lot, haven’t we? From the Denver Young Democrats as a microcosm of the national Democratic party and the group’s quiet-and-quick impeachment of President Becca Sunshine-DeWitt, to how many pot plants you can (and should be able to) legally grow at home and the uncertain future of Denver’s EPA office, […]

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