‘Normalized’: Americans for Prosperity lobby day at the Capitol

Author: John Tomasic - February 9, 2017 - Updated: February 9, 2017

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, addresses Americans for Prosperity activists, February 9, 2017. (John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman).
Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, addresses Americans for Prosperity activists, February 9, 2017. (John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman).

Thursday was Americans for Prosperity lobby day at the Capitol. The group’s anti-tax free-market message this year was much the same as it was last year, but the headlines will be different — mainly because the state Senate president stayed on message.

President Kevin Grantham, a Republican from Canon City, thanked AFP activists for their effectiveness in recent years at spreading the small-government gospel in Colorado.

“You all do the hard work year-round to get out the message, promoting free markets and fiscal restraint and limiting the government to promote economic opportunity in Colorado,” Grantham said. “You’re the folks that make that happen. You’re the folks that keep us honest over here in getting those things done.”

The speech was short and sweet — and safe. Grantham only hinted at the electoral power wielded by the group, with its oil fortune Koch brothers’ budget and more than a hundred thousand volunteers working legislative, congressional and school board districts across the state.

Last year, Grantham’s predecessor, Bill Cadman, a Republican from Colorado Springs, made headlines when he more or less thanked the group for landing him in office.

“I can tell you this,” Cadman said. “I don’t think I would be the president of the Senate if it weren’t for the efforts you and yours did over the previous elections. And we look forward to continuing our partnership with you.”

Cadman’s words were red meat for critics, who used them to fuel the impression that the Koch brothers were calling the shots in the Colorado Senate, just as they were in Republican-run statehouse chambers around the country.

But that was last year.

This year the event seemed mild by comparison, just one of a hundred lobby days hosted by special interest groups in the building. As one Democratic source using the terminology of the Trump era put it, “AFP lobby day has been normalized.”

The group’s volunteers filled the west foyer just before noon. Republican political leaders gathered to show support. Democrats filed past or milled about to take stock.

AFP has already made waves this session for opposing any statewide tax increase to support transportation funding. Finding a way to expand and repair the state’s transportation infrastructure in order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population is a top priority this year. Legislative leaders already have been negotiating for months to reach a deal.

“With so many special interests around the Capitol, you might wonder who is sticking up for taxpayers,” reads the group’s ten-page legislative agenda for 2017. “Well, Americans for Prosperity is working hard year round to educate citizens about issues that impact economic freedom and opportunity.”

The group’s priorities include protecting the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, reducing regulations, ending “special favors” in economic development programs, reforming construction defects litigation, promoting school choice, shifting budget priorities away from health care programs and toward areas such as transportation, and protecting “cheap energy” production.

“Despite anticipation that the unreasonable EPA mandates on carbon emissions through the so-called Clean Power Plan will be rolled back by the [Trump] administration, Gov. Hickenlooper has vowed to implement them in Colorado,” argues the group’s agenda. “In a state known for clean air and clean water, Colorado should not spend our tax dollars on an onerous, overreaching plan that will hurt taxpayers.

“Despite the benefits of increased oil and gas development from fracking, some in Colorado want to ban it. In order to break down barriers to opportunity in the state, it’s vital that policymakers protect the right to develop our natural resources.”

In addition to Grantham, speakers at the event included state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and District Attorney George Brauchler.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.