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Roger HudsonRoger HudsonJuly 19, 20174min448
Roger Hudson
Roger Hudson

Tis the season, right?

Political campaigns this week are releasing — sometimes trumpeting — their fundraising numbers for the last quarter. Some candidates are waiting to the very last moment to expose the sensitive internal financial workings of their campaign. Standing naked, candidates show all to their opponents, donors and of course the critics.

Painful? Sometimes. Humbling? Almost always.

Which candidate raised the most money? How much cash does so and so have on hand? Were the donations from individuals? PAC money? How big a check did the candidate throw into his or her own campaign?

Outside of the purely legal aspect of keeping campaigns honest and above-board, this political voyeurism of finance reporting is really only interesting to a tiny political universe. I’ve never heard a constituent say they were voting for a candidate because that candidate out-raised the opponent. Let’s face it, political consultants may care but the only checkbook the average Colorado voter cares about is their own.

So why is so much attention paid to a financial horse race that no voter is actually watching or even cares about? Pretty good question, aye?

Campaign donations matter only as a means to an end. That’s it. Nothing additional. A candidate’s ideas matter much more than donations, don’t they? Yes, a candidate will need money to carry their message to Colorado voters, especially in a state-wide race. They’ll need gas money to get them to the Western Slope. But cash doesn’t equal ideas. Donations — no matter how large — don’t guarantee election wins.

Take for instance the last presidential race. The Trump campaign raised about $340 million in the course of the primary and general election. That included a hefty $66 million check the billionaire wrote to himself. Meanwhile, the well-oiled Clinton political machine shook the left-leaning trees to rake in more than $580 million.

We all know how that turned out and who’s set up shop in the Oval Office for the next three years or so. If out-raising her opponent by almost a quarter of a billion dollars couldn’t save Hillary Clinton from becoming a footnote, can’t we stop drooling over large checks written by the donor class?

So, when you read quotes this week from campaigns celebrating their fundraising efforts or degrading that of their opponents, ask yourself: How can politicians in one breath denounce the need for large pots of political cash and in the next brag about the “winning” amount they raised?

No wonder voters are suspicious and frustrated with politics and politicians.


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Will ToorWill ToorJuly 18, 20177min467
(Southwest Energy Efficiency Project)
Will Toor
Will Toor

Anyone who travels on highways in the Front Range knows that congestion is a major problem along the front range and that it is getting worse.

The traditional solution, expanding the highway to relieve congestion, is unaffordable and ineffective.  The Colorado Department of Transportation has said it needs an additional $1 billion per year to maintain and expand the existing highway network, but the department’s main source of revenue, motor fuel taxes, actually is losing value because of inflation. The high cost of highway expansion makes it difficult to add lanes in a time of declining funding.

Even if Colorado does find significant new revenue for transportation (which I strongly support), added lanes alone would not untangle Front Range congestion. Multiple studies show that while increasing highway capacity might temporarily reduce congestion, in the long run it only encourages more people to drive until congestion returns to high levels.

One compelling example is the $1.67 billion Transportation Expansion Project, commonly called T-REX, which expanded Interstate 25 and added transit service parallel to the highway through southeast metro Denver.  The project started in 2001, finished in 2006, but just four years later – in 2009 – congestion had returned to the level experienced before construction began.  The accompanying rail line provides a fast, uncongested trip for many travelers, but the highway expansion had no long-term benefit in reduced congestion according to CDOT’s congestion measurements.

What if there was a way to increase mobility on existing roads, and improve transit and other options, without having to expand the highways? This sounds like magic, but it really just requires a smart approach to using market forces to optimize the use of our existing highway lanes.

The idea actually is very simple: Convert existing highway lanes into high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. This relatively low-cost alternative can increase the number of people using a roadway and ensure a congestion-free travel option. The change takes less time to implement than adding entirely new lanes, and certainly costs far less money. Benefits can be maximized by using the revenue generated by the tolls to invest in improved access to transit, expanding and upgrading biking and walking infrastructure, and additional alternatives such as carpools and vanpools.

Conversion of existing lanes to managed lanes, along with aggressive promotion of alternatives to driving alone, can benefit all types of travelers and give them more choices, without increasing congestion in the remaining general purpose lanes, all at much lower cost than trying to expand the highway.

Ironically, a top candidate for such a lane conversion is I-25 through the T-REX area because of the severe congestion along with no realistic options to further expand the highway. SWEEP recently analyzed this section of I-25 and found that there could be significant benefits from converting one lane in each direction to a HOT lane, then investing the revenue in transit passes and connections to transit particularly for the first and final miles of popular commuter routes.  This win-win approach would give drivers access to HOT lanes where congestion would be greatly reduced. It further would allow more people to use additional, affordable, effective and efficient transit instead of driving. Meanwhile, traffic in the remaining “free” lanes would be no worse than before the changes.

This method optimizes the use of the existing highway, and will give travelers new options that will save them time, whether they choose to pay a toll when they are in a rush, or take the train because there are now better first- and final-mile connections to the transit stations.

This approach should appeal across the political spectrum. For conservatives, the plan minimizes expenditures of tax money and uses market forces to manage congestion. For those on the left, this approach also would increase transit use, avoid environmental impacts and give low-income commuters better access to transit. In a world of extremely limited transportation funds, it should appeal to officials trying to manage limited budgets by make the best use of existing infrastructure.

Maybe it is time to try something new.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 17, 201711min515

Call Amy Oliver Cooke an energy feminist; call her a mother in love with fracking. Just don’t call her late for the debate. It’s something she does with gusto; for 10 years, she was a familiar presence on northern Colorado’s airwaves with her Amy Oliver Show on Greeley’s News Talk 1310 KFKA-AM radio. Today, she is Executive Vice President and Director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Center for the Denver-based Independence Institute.

From her Independence Institute bio:

… She is one of the few state-level, free market energy policy experts, and is famous for her provocative messaging like “Mothers In Love with Fracking” and “I’m an energy feminist because I’m pro-choice in energy sources,” which the eco-left called “hands down the worst kind of feminism.”

In December 2016, she was honored to be the second person named to President Trump’s Transition Team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

She has authored and contributed to numerous opinion editorials, issue papers, and issue backgrounders and has been published in the Daily Caller, Townhall, Denver Post, Pueblo Chieftain, Greeley Tribune, Denver Business Journal, Denver Daily News, Liberty Ink Journal, The Hill, and Wall Street Journal. She has appeared on Fox News, NPR, MSN.com, Devil’s Advocate, Colorado Inside Out, and Power Hour.

Cooke indulged us for a one-on-one via one of our Q&As, and she gave us her take on the proper role of government and the entrepreneurial spirit — as well as the thing she finds “predictable and boring.” Read on.

Colorado Politics: “Energy feminist” may be a tongue-in-cheek use of the term, but it raises a good question: Should the left view you as a fellow feminist even though your politics skews right? You are, after all, a very political and outspoken advocate for your views — and you are a woman.

Amy Oliver Cooke: The feminist left has been pretty clear that from their perspective, energy feminism is “the worst kind of feminism”… “hands down.” God forbid, women should have the ability to choose their own energy source. Anyway, I don’t lose sleep over it because self-described feminists don’t speak for all women any more than I do. In fact, I’m a lousy collectivist. I find the manufactured outrage over perceived slights to be predictable and boring, and the feminist left’s missing sense of humor to be unfortunate.

CP: You were on the airwaves for a decade as an award-winning talk-radio host. Why has talk radio’s popularity persisted long after its critics, notably on the left, predicted its demise? And why is it particularly popular on the right?

AOC: It’s economics. Right-of-center consumers of news didn’t feel like their perspectives were accurately reflected in the mainstream media. So, conservative news talk radio stepped in to fill the demand, and it did so in an organic way.  Conservative news talk continues to succeed because its profitable, the demand is still there, and the format continues to produce a product that people want.

CP: You were on the Trump transition team, helping navigate the president’s picks for new leadership — and a dramatic departure from business as usual — at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. How do you address push-back from environmental groups that argue the administration wants nothing less than to dismantle the agency — started in 1970 under a Republican, Richard Nixon?

AOC: Just to clarify, I don’t speak for the president or the transition team. From my perspective, President Trump’s vision of U.S. energy and environmental policy is liberating, so responding to critics has been straightforward. President Trump made it very clear that he has faith in the entrepreneurial spirit of all Americans. We can have it all — a robust economy, affordable power, responsible resource development, and a clean environment. It’s a far cry from the environmental left and the previous administration’s cynical false choice paradigm that we must choose between affordable power and clean air or a thriving economy and clean water.

CP: How would you describe your politics, and what first drew you to political and policy advocacy?

AOC: I’m a registered Republican, but I’m more of a pragmatic libertarian. I always try to defer to individual freedom.

Politics is in my DNA. Both my parents came from politically active families. My Great Aunt Marie Oliver designed and made the first Missouri flag while my Great Uncle was serving in the state legislature. But I really am my maternal grandmother’s granddaughter. She embraced public policy. She was one of the first women in Missouri appointed to serve on a grand jury. She was also the first woman to resign from a grand jury because she felt like justice had not been served. She received threats for doing so. It was a big news story. She never shied away from speaking truth to power, no matter how unpopular.

My parents taught me to enjoy politics. They threw the best election night parties, when people still went to the polls, and bars couldn’t open until after the polls closed. They would invite all their friends both Democrats and Republicans, watch returns, and debate, but at the end of the evening, they were all still friends. I remember as a teenager thinking that my parents and their friends knew how to have fun, and it involved politics.

Interestingly, both of my parents were registered Democrats their entire lives. I became a free marketer after starting a business in my late twenties, which is also when I began listening to Mike Rosen. In 1994, I finally came out of the closet as a Republican to my parents. It took some time for them to accept it, but they eventually did.

CP: You say you’re “pro-choice” on energy — that you want a mix of energy sources meeting the public’s needs and driving the U.S. economy. Critics say that mix is still too dirty; others say our continued reliance on traditional fossil fuels gives the U.S. the most affordable energy portfolio in the post-industrial world. Is there an ideal mix of energy sources, and how should it be achieved?

AOC: I don’t know the ideal mix of energy sources any more than the state legislature or two of our Democrat gubernatorial candidates who seem hell bent on an industrial wind corporate welfare program at the expense of Colorado ratepayers.  The choice of energy resources and how they are utilized should come from the demands of an innovative and free market. The role of government is to remain neutral, let markets work, let individuals innovate, limit regulations, and refrain from picking winners and losers.

CP: You are a prominent media presence; your husband, John Cooke, is a former Weld county sheriff and current state senator. By Colorado standards — like it or not — that makes you a political power couple. How did you meet?

AOC: How we met is actually a very funny story, but John tells it far better than I do. To do the story justice, it is best told in person. I encourage anyone who runs into him, to ask him how we met. He LOVES telling it because he can and does embellish. There are some state senators who can attest to that.

CP: You are a mom — one of the “Mothers in love with fracking,” in fact. Do you talk politics to your kids?

AOC: My kids are all adults now, but when they were growing up, our dinner table topics varied from politics to pop culture to sports and everything in between. I always encouraged them to be critical thinkers with the confidence to speak their minds. As a result, our conversations are interesting, lively and filled with laughter whatever the topic. And we don’t always agree!


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJuly 17, 20175min517
Jon Anderson

The Independence Institute needs to officially drop its self-appointed role as Colorado’s conservative police because it just executed a no-knock raid on the wrong house.

The institute has a bad habit of glancing over another individual or group and decreeing whether or not it is conservative.  In a July 10 piece, Amy Cooke of the Independence Institute declares a new conservative group, The Western Way, is a “global warming opportunist.” If she had spent five minutes researching The Western Way, she would have discovered this new group is aggressively conservative.

The Western Way is an organization formed to reclaim conservative leadership on western conservation and environmental issues.  Our position is that conservatives have led the most significant conservation efforts in the western United States, yet extreme political interests have somehow created a false narrative that conservatives do not value the environment. In other words, liberals created a myth that conservatives are anti-environment and are now advancing this lie to win elections.

Think about it, liberals paint a picture of conservatives wearing Brooks Brothers suits pushing polices that contaminate land, pollute streams and develop public lands into Super Walmarts.  Now, think of actual conservatives in western states: They wear clothes from Cabelas, not Brooks Brothers; they are hunters who cherish public lands; they are fisherman who treat the streams as sacred, and they are farmers and ranchers who have acted as responsible stewards of their land for generations.  The Western Way is setting the record straight on the fact that conservatives across the west value our land. Progressive liberals’ false depiction of conservatives being anti-environment is nothing more than a political initiative, and it is working.

To fix this, conservatives need to reclaim leadership on conservation and environmental issues.  We cannot keep playing whack-a-mole with the thousands of extreme environmental groups and their constant stream of ideas that would freeze the U.S. economy.  Instead, we need to take the wheel and honestly identify the actual environmental problems facing the western U.S. and then  provide aggressive solutions to those problems that are based on conservative, free market principles. This is the high road that environmentalists hope conservatives will not take.  It reclaims conservative leadership on conservation issues by driving the most efficient and effective solution and exposes the far left for wanting to be martyrs rather than just solve the actual problem.

So what aspect of The Western Way agenda does the Independence Institute’s conservative police take issue with?  Hard to tell from the drive-by piece it ran, but it appears that the Independence Institute was offended that The Western Way took an adverse position on one piece of legislation in Colorado.

In a constructive setting, two conservative organizations like Independence Institute and The Western Way would work through these different perspectives and respect the fact that conservative groups cannot be aligned on every policy.  In fact, The Western Way has these conversations with our conservative allies all of the time and it is a healthy and productive approach to advance our shared conservative objectives.  But that is not Independence Institute’s approach. They did not even reach out to The Western Way for discussion and conveniently failed to mention how many core conservative western voters and national conservative groups support our approach and our mission.

The Western Way is pioneering an initiative embraced with equal enthusiasm by millennial conservatives as well as baby-boomer conservatives. If this approach doesn’t fit inside Independence Institute’s stodgy box, we are OK with that,  but drop the shtick of acting like Independence Institute has some power to decree who is and is not conservative in Colorado.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 16, 20177min403
Since politics is played like football now, Americans are left to decide who we’re rooting for on health care reforms, the taxpayers or Medicaid recipients. The staggering tax dollars on one side the ledger and the human toll on the other leaves those politically in the middle — the few there are — paralyzed to […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 10, 20178min226
Over sandwiches and iced tea with two smart guys, the Bell Policy Center’s Rich Jones and his boss, Scott Wasserman, I asked why things always seem harder on the working man, while the rich get richer. That’s not just me saying it. In May, the University of Michigan’s Panel Study on Income Dynamics released a report […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 10, 20172min228
State Rep. Paul Lundeen of Monument officially picked up a mighty big endorsement Thursday in his bid to succeed Kent Lambert in Senate District 9. When he announced his candidacy last month, Lundeen said he expected Lambert’s support. Lambert called his fellow Republican “a remarkable champion for the people of El Paso County and Colorado,” […]

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Paula NoonanPaula NoonanJuly 3, 20175min356
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Tri-partisanship is on life support in Washington, D.C.  The nation’s health-care system now has three irreconcilable options: Obamacare, RyanCare and MitchCare.  It’s barely possible to see a path to WeAgreeOnThisOneCare.

In our own square state, bipartisanship perked up at the end of the 2017 session, even though the bill that most carries the bipartisan brand is messy.  Work on the issues within the bill show under what conditions legislators will come together.

Issue one was the hospital fee put in place to support hospitals that provide lots of uncompensated care. From spring 2010 to September 2016, hospitals received $1.4 billion to make up for Medicaid and other patients unable to pay their medical bills, according to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

That’s a lot of get-to-even money for mostly rural and urban hospitals.  But the funding comes with a catch.  The hospital fee, if considered a tax, pushes state tax revenues into Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) restrictions.

State Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, has long supported exempting the uncompensated care hospital fee from TABOR.  At one time, he was the one Republican Senate vote that could preserve the fee.

Many GOP lawmakers do see the fee as a tax. If it is a tax, hospitals take a double hit because the state has to reduce the fees and thus matching federal dollars to ensure that total tax revenues don’t trip TABOR limits.

Rural hospitals and the citizens they serve argued to their Senate and House legislators, including Republicans Jerry Sonnenberg, senator from Sterling, and Jon Becker, representative from Fort Morgan, that they absolutely needed all the fee money or they would have to close.  That position put the anti-taxers Sonnenberg and Becker, along with Crowder and some other rural Senators, in conflict with their pro-TABOR colleagues.

Then came the second big issue:  state transportation funding.  HB17-1242 would create a transportation funding initiative to bring sales tax dollars to save the state’s degraded infrastructure.  The bill passed the Democratic House with some GOP votes but couldn’t get out of the Republican Senate, killed in the Finance committee by Republican Senators Tim Neville, Jeffco; Jack Tate, Arapahoe, and Owen Hill, El Paso.

It looked like the provider fee would lose and transportation was done.  But Sonnenberg and Becker hooked up with two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and House Majority Leader K.C. Becker, as sponsors for the Sustainability of Rural Colorado bill.

In the last days of the 2017 session, the sponsors had to get creative.  They came up with a $2 billion tax go-around using state buildings for lease-to-purchase deals and a new Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise for the provider fee.

Democrats and some Republicans went with the plan, including Sens. Owen Hill and Jack Tate, who earlier voted against the sales tax initiative in Senate Finance.  Democrats added some education money, but the pinch on affected lawmakers hurt enough to get enough to “yes.”

A world of urgent hurt for a large majority of constituents can get lawmakers to bipartisanship.  That may end up the only ticket at the national level.  Lots of constituents and interests from all over the nation are stirring the health care stew and the heat is on high.