Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 5, 20184min1886

Last week, two-term Denver Mayor Michael Hancock admitted to sending inappropriate text messages to Denver Police Detective Leslie Branch-Wise when she was an officer serving on his security detail in 2012.

Denver7’s Tony Kovaleski first broke the story , airing out the slew of text messages from Hancock to Branch-Wise, six years ago.

“You look sexy in all that black,” he texted after seeing Branch-Wise on TV at a Denver Nuggets game.

Hancock quickly responded in a written statement and video, writing in part “During Detective Branch-Wise’s time on the security team, we became friends, but my text messages in 2012 blurred the lines between being a friend and being a boss.”

“But let me be clear — my behavior did not involve sexual advances or inappropriate physical contact,” Hancock said. The mayor has reportedly also sent a handwritten apology to Branch-Wise and a memo to city staff.

But Branch-Wise, in the Denver7 piece, said she was a victim of sexual harassment and pointed out that Hancock, her boss, was showering her with inappropriate texts. “Who do you tell if he’s at the top,” she asked.

Hancock is said to be jockeying for a third term as Denver mayor next year, but Democratic insiders have pointed to him as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 or a gubernatorial candidate in 2022, Colorado Politics’ own Joey Bunch reports.

As the mile high city’s principal executive, Hancock has garnered national attention for navigating a city that has become a showcase for its recreational marijuana commerce and growth.

But should Hancock resign in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations? Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin wrote in a column this week:

“I’m not ready to call for his resignation. There’s no allegation of physical contact and, to this point, there is only the one charge, six years old, that he harassed anyone. But that doesn’t mean this should be over,” Littwin writes. “First, Hancock has to concede that what he did was, in fact, sexual harassment. If he doesn’t understand that, he doesn’t understand the issue. And that’s unacceptable. And then there’s the even more critical point — whether or not this was a one-off.”

Others have called for Hancock’s resignation and police organizations like the Denver Fraternal Order of Police and Denver Police Protective Association have called for officials to be held accountable for their behavior.

“While we are aware that this isn’t the first time the Mayor’s name has been associated with sexual scandal, we consider the allegations against Mayor Michael Hancock very serious. We urge the people of Denver to be adamant that our City officials are held accountable to the highest standard for their behavior and actions,” DPPA wrote in a statement according to Westword.

In statements, Councilwoman Debra Ortega called the allegations disappointing while Council President Albus Brooks said “the Mayor has rightfully apologized and I trust that he and his administration are taking the appropriate steps to learn from this lesson so it won’t happen again.”

“In this situation, Denver City Council has no legal authority to take any action on behalf of this employee or against the Mayor,” Brooks continued.


Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 28, 20173min508

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent was the first to report Thursday that Peg Perl will run for Denver County clerk and recorder.

Perl hinted at such a move in a chat with Colorado Politics in June, and our Ernest Luning outright predicted she would jump in, if Debra Johnson chose not to seek a third term.

That’s what happened Thursday, so Perl pulled the campaign trigger. She’ll be a formidable candidate with a background in the law, good government advocacy and good political relationships, even with most opponents.

She’s rated as one of the top lawyers in the state, and from 2012 until June, she was the senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, the tenacious government watchdog nonprofit in Denver that many on the right argue is biased for the left.

Perl left to start her own firm and lay the groundwork for a jump into politics, she told us last month.

“I plan to continue to work for modernized campaign spending disclosure and elections, and transparent ethical government responsive to all residents at the state and local level in my new consulting venture,” she said.

Running elections is the office’s highest profile duty, but it also handles marriage licenses, foreclosures and a big mess of records.

Perl has plenty of time to build a campaign. The election isn’t until 2019.

Johnson, 61, said she’s retiring. She was elected in 2011, after serving as city clerk in Aurora.

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMarch 15, 20175min303

What’s the old adage — lean hard on your enemies and on your friends, lean harder? OK, that’s not at all how it goes, but it sure fits politics well sometimes. The latest example: a campaign announced today by the conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity in opposition to the recently announced — and already much criticized — ballot proposal hatched in the legislature to hike the state sales tax for transportation.

The pending proposal that could appear on the statewide ballot in November would ask voters to approve a 0.62 percent sales tax as well as $3.5 billion in bonds to fund wide-ranging highway projects and mass transit. The tax would raise $667 million a year, $250 million of which would service the bond debt and another $100 million of which would help expand transit.

The proposal, which first must pass the legislature as House Bill 1242, doesn’t sit well with AFP or assorted others on the right because in their eyes, it raises taxes without first digging deeper into the existing state budget to find any fat. The proposal emerged from the split-control legislature as a touted compromise between Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran of Denver and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City.

No sooner had the effort been announced than Republicans in the legislature began to revolt. The House GOP minority leadership and even Grantham’s own No. 2, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, announced they were all “no” votes. AFP now wants to make sure the rebellion spreads, so it’s turning up the heat on its own conservative kinsmen in the upper chamber — where Republican rule presents the greatest chance of derailing the measure. From an AFP new release Wednesday afternoon:

…State (AFP) Director Michael Fields asserts, “Key state senators have yet not come out in opposition to the massive statewide sales tax increase, and their constituents deserve to know where they stand on House Bill 1242.” Fields continues, “One of our primary purposes as an organization is to inform citizens regarding policies that impact their economic freedom and to hold elected officials accountable – we will do that regarding this proposed $700 million tax increase.”

Senate districts that can expect to hear from AFP activists include SD1, Jerry Sonnenberg’s district, SD12, Bob Gardner’s district, SD25, Kevin Priola’s district and SD27, Jack Tate’s district. Additional districts may be added.

Lawmakers are of course used to rough play from the opposing party, but sometimes they have to watch their backs, too.

No one disputes the sales-tax hike could be a tough sell; both sides acknowledge an early poll showing Coloradans lean against the proposal.

AFP’s press release points to what it says are viable alternatives for upgrading the state’s woefully bottlenecked and backlogged highway network:

…1) extending the 1999 TRANS bonds 2) The Independence Institute’s proposal that would require the General Assembly to issue $2.5 billion in bonds to fund select statewide highway projects statewide and repaying the debt by “reallocating priorities in the state budget,” and 3) Senator Jerry Sonnenberg’s proposal which includes a smaller bonding plan using existing revenue.

Casting further doubt on support for the compromise, at least in its current form, the group Fix Colorado Roads — which helped convene stakeholders and pushed for the accord, has withheld its own endorsement pending some tweaks. As’s Joey Bunch reported Tuesday:

Fix Colorado Roads is concerned a proposal that relies too heavily on a tax hike won’t pass, and leave state roads no better off in November than they are now. History has shown statewide Colorado voters are tax-averse.

In other words, lawmakers supporting the deal have their work cut out for them.

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 30, 20176min533

Matt Arnold reputedly resides on the political right, but over the years the pugnacious political activist has stirred at least as much controversy — and drawn as much fire from detractors — within his own philosophical ranks as he has across Colorado’s political landscape in general. Now, a national magazine of libertarian bent is calling him out for using the same court system he rails against to shut down his opponents.

Arnold’s Clear the Bench Colorado has made a name for itself and Arnold by skewering Colorado jurists and calling for their ouster in the state’s biennial judicial-retention elections. The advocacy group’s motto: “Returning accountability to our judicial system…bringing back balance to the bench.”

Writing in the January issue of Reason magazine, Nick Sibilla and John Kerr of the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice say it’s abuses of the court system by guys like Arnold that really need reining in. The Reason report, “Can’t Afford a Lawyer? No Free Speech for You / Colorado campaign finance regulations censor ordinary citizens,” bashes the state’s wide-open system for filing campaign-finance complaints enacted under Amendment 27 in 2002 and contends it invites purely political manipulation. Arnold — who also runs Campaign Integrity Watchdog  — is Exhibit A.

Arnold… is responsible for more campaign finance complaints in Colorado than anyone else. Out of the more than 340 complaints that have been filed since Amendment 27 passed 14 years ago, more than 50 were filed by him or his Campaign Integrity Watchdog group. As Arnold once explained, the campaign finance system is a tool for waging “political guerrilla legal warfare (a.k.a. Lawfare)” against one’s opponents.

The Reason article offers an indictment of the system for which it sees Arnold as the poster child. The authors explain:

Proponents of campaign finance regulations cite the need to combat “dark money.” Amendment 27 was passed explicitly in part to curb the perceived power and influence of “wealthy individuals, corporations, and special interest groups.” But the sheer pettiness of so many complaints reveals that, in fact, the law invites intimidation and reprisals against those who try to exercise their First Amendment rights. The resulting burden falls hardest on the very people that campaign finance laws purport to protect: ordinary citizens, grassroots activists, and small groups.

The article recalls Arnold’s own failed bid in the 2012 GOP primary for a seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, a race in which he at one point admitted he had misstated finishing his master’s thesis. Although he lost the race, he went after an opposing political committee in court, filing a series of complaints that the Reason article credits with ultimately shutting the committee down. The authors then note, “But that only prompted Arnold’s fourth complaint. He now claims that a lawyer had helped (the group) file for termination and that the lawyer’s pro bono aid amounted to a political ‘contribution’ that should have been reported.” That one is still in court.

The authors also touch on Arnold’s epic feud with his own party, earning him the enmity of many Colorado Republicans. They recount his 2015 complaint against the state GOP for failing to disclose some details about its contributors. As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reported last February, Arnold at one point had made a “settlement offer” to the party that came across a whole lot like a solicitation to the party to enlist his services for a $10,000 campaign audit. Critics saw it as a shakedown. An email from Arnold to the party, released to Hutchins by the GOP, stated in part:

I’m willing to offer this generous deal in the interest of avoiding disruption to what is, after all, MY party — albeit a party that has proven less than faithful in fulfilling its obligations to me and mine — in a critical election year. But, Bygones… IF we can reach an agreement. Alternatively, “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” 😉

GOP state Chair Steve House also released a statement to Hutchins, denouncing Arnold as, “an individual who claims he’s about ‘integrity,’ but in actuality is more interested in enriching himself at the expense of the Colorado Republican Party.”

It’s perhaps worth noting that despite Campaign Integrity Watchdog’s “.org” domain, it is in fact a money-making limited-liability company registered with the Colorado secretary of state.

Here’s the link again to the full article in Reason.