Active independent expenditure committees, aka political action committees (PACs), currently number 61 registered at the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. These committees collect money to support candidates. The sources of the funds are undeclared, so only the total amount of donations shows in Secretary of State's Office forms. These PACS do not coordinate with candidates.
Only six lawmakers — all of them in the state Senate, all of them members of the GOP majority — earned an A grade. The six “Champions of Freedom,” as AFP dubs them, are Sens. John Cooke, of Greeley; Vicki Marble, of Fort Collins; Tim Neville, of Littleton; Jim Smallwood, of Parker; Jerry Sonnenberg, of Sterling, and Jack Tate of Centennial.
In stark contrast, 17 state senators — basically, all of the upper chamber’s Democrats — flunked. That’s right: a big, fat F.
Things look even worse in the House. All 37 of the lower chamber’s majority Democrats — plus three Republicans: Reps. Marc Catlin, of Montrose; Polly Lawrence (currently running for state treasurer), of Roxborough Park, and Lang Sias, of Arvada — rated an F.
And AFP handed out no A’s to House members. Not a one.
The grand total: six A’s and 57 F’s.
Of interest: Sonnenberg and Tate were among the Republicans to vote forSenate Bill 267, the “rural sustainability” measure that raised revenue for a number of budget items while raising the ire of the political right.
Also noteworthy was who didn’t make the Senate’s A-list: longtime fiscal conservative stalwarts like Sen. Kent Lambert, of Colorado Springs, who earned a B, and Sen. Kevin Lundberg, of Berthoud, who came home with a C.
Some of the House’s reputed righties also didn’t seem to impress AFP. Rep. Perry Buck, of Windsor — whose significant other is swamp-draining 4th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck — got a D. Rep. Justin Everett, of Littleton — another candidate for state treasurer whose Wikipedia page says he “has been described as a ‘Combative Conservative,’ and is one of the most constitutionally conservative members of the Colorado House” — got a C. Rep. Tim Leonard, the Evergreen Republican? Also a C. Rep. Dave Williams, of Colorado Springs: C. Even House Republican Minority Leader Patrick Neville, of Castle Rock, only got a B.
What’s the basis for the grades? The organization issued a press release accompanying the report card today, offering insights on methodology:
In an effort to provide the most comprehensive accountability tool to citizens, AFP-Colorado scored nearly 1,800 individual votes on a wide variety of legislation. Bills scored include those that relate to our Budget Colorado Public Policy Agenda: SB 267, the “Sustainability of Rural Colorado” bill, HB 1242, a sales tax increase for transportation funding, and SB 61, a bill that sought to equalize funding for charter schools from local property taxes.
AFP-Colorado State Director Jesse Mallory — who not long ago worked closely with the Senate Republicans as their chief of staff — was quoted in today’s press release:
“We are excited to release this year’s scorecard, a tool we use to hold members accountable and commend those who advance economic freedom … We plan to promote this scorecard throughout the state to inform Coloradans on how their legislators voted. …”
In other words, he thinks the F students might have some ‘splainin’ to do.
Depending, of course, on how much their constituents care.
Ideas inspire both philosophers and legislators, but the two jobs differ considerably thereafter.
That distinction is critical to understanding the current dust-up between the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara and several Republican lawmakers.
A thoughtful, assertive voice for liberty, Caldara is a friend and an ally. He and the Institute advocate tirelessly for personal freedom and limited government – principles that are as dear to me now as they were when I served in the Colorado Senate.
Caldara’s job is to turn up the heat on lawmakers when they are being cajoled to compromise. His job is not, however, to consider those same lawmakers’ prospects for re-election or to balance the competing interests that lawmakers face back home.
So, when Caldara calls for the Republican Party to purge lawmakers who, in his view, don’t sufficiently toe the line, it’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and assess the realities that lawmakers must face – or ignore at their own peril.
Legislators have a responsibility to the people they represent. They are responsible for governing, particularly when their party is empowered with a majority.
In Colorado, Republicans hold a one-vote majority in the state Senate. Democrats hold a nine-vote margin in the state House, and they’ve held the Governor’s Mansion for more than a decade.
The reality is that Republicans cannot pass legislation without some cooperation from Democrats – and vice versa.
Two such bipartisan bills considered by the Legislature earlier this year draw Caldara’s ire because they represented compromise on existing taxpayer protections.
House Bill 1242, sponsored by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran, proposed to ask voters for a sales tax increase to boost transportation funding, which has flat-lined for the past 17 years.
Grantham is a straight shooter. He didn’t break any arms, buy any votes or employ dirty tricks. He asked his caucus to give the bill a fair hearing, and ultimately, it died in a Senate committee.
Senate Bill 267 – which became law – moved the controversial Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) outside the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) spending limit, allowing government spending to increase. On the other hand, it lowered the TABOR spending cap by $200 million.
Caldara skewers Sens. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) and Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs), along with Reps. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) and Polly Lawrence (R-Castle Rock), for advancing the bill.
If Republicans had their way, the spending cap would have been reduced by more than $500 million. Conversely, Democrats wouldn’t have reduced the cap whatsoever, except that they had to placate Republicans.
Important to rural lawmakers, the bill threw a lifeline to several smalltown hospitals that were faced with shutdown. That may not mean much to residents of the Front Range where hospitals are ubiquitous. However, closing the only hospital in an entire county is the difference between life and death for some victims of severe accidents or acute illness. Worse still, a community that loses its hospital faces a bleak future, with closure of businesses and schools looming.
Sonnenberg and Becker cut the best deal they could to protect the interests of the rural communities they represent and to prevent taxpayers from being fleeced.
With perfect hindsight, let’s compare this compromise to a missed opportunity several years ago when Republicans considered a bill expanding rights for gays and lesbians while protecting freedom of conscience of individuals and organizations whose faith holds that marriage is the domain of opposite-sex couples.
Republicans killed that bill and, in the next election, lost their majority in the state House. The next year, Democrats passed the same bill minus protections for religious liberty.
Like it or not, progress in a split legislature involves give-and-take. That doesn’t sell well in a white paper, but it’s the reality that our lawmakers must confront. After all, what good is a pristine voting record if you’ve done nothing to make life better for the people who elected you
The gloves are off and the fur is flying in the Republican primary for Colorado's next state treasurer.
In a series of emails sent to state GOP activists and donors Thursday, state Rep. Polly Lawrence accused her fellow state treasurer candidate state Rep. Justin Everett and his allies — "his minions" was the phrase she used — of spreading lies and mounting "traitorous attacks" on her, while an independent expenditure committee backing Everett blasted Lawrence for "lying to get re-elected, only to conspire with liberals and vote like Democrats."
Vowing to uphold the Republican Party platform, Douglas County Republican Mark Baisley announced Saturday that he's running in next year's election for the House District 39 seat held by state Rep. Polly Lawrence who is seeking the GOP nomination for state treasurer.
The state treasurer’s race has a new contender, Democrat Bernard Douthit. He cited his background in business and his education in finance, accounting and economics as reasons to choose him from an ever-crowding field in next year’s election.
“You wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your teeth, and you shouldn’t hire a career politician to manage our money,” Douthit said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The state treasurer manages a portfolio of $6.5 billion and provides important leadership and expertise to a number of important organizations including PERA and the state Medicaid program.”
“Colorado needs a state treasurer with a deep knowledge of finance and accounting, and experience building and running businesses in this state, to face the challenges of an underfunded PERA system in addition to working with the legislature to solve key priorities like financing for infrastructure and education,” Douthit said.
He cites no previous experience as a candidate for public office.
Douthit joins a Democratic primary that already includes state Rep. Steve Lebsock of Thornton. The Republican field is much more crowded: state Reps. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park and Justin Everett of Littleton, as well as Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn are in the race. Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud and Brett Barkey, the district attorney for Grand, Moffat and Routt counties, have also announced they’re running.
Incumbent Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican, is term-limited and expected to run for governor next year.
Douthit said in a press release Wednesday afternoon that taxpayers are frustrated with inaccurate government projections “that have negatively affected the state’s finances as demonstrating the importance of his financial, accounting and economic background.”
“Leveraging my broad business background in both small and large companies, I want to collaborate with state leaders to ensure our money is being invested, tracked and spent as wisely as possible,” he stated.
Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, a Republican candidate for state treasurer, fired back Wednesday at county commissioners questioning the way she’s handled a mistake that left local taxing entities short nearly $6 million for months.
Horn also denied the incident might damage her statewide campaign, telling Colorado Politics the imbroglio demonstrates she has the skills to handle problems in a treasurer’s office when they arise.
After serving 15 years in the Legislature, state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Berthoud Republican, hopes to bring what he's learned about Colorado government to the office of state treasurer. On Saturday, Lundberg declared he's running for the open seat in next year's election, becoming the fourth Republican in a primary race that's likely to get even more crowded.
Three candidates for Colorado state treasurer — two Republicans and a Democrat — reported their campaign fundraising totals this week. While none of them broke the bank, they all said they're happy with what they managed to raise in what was the initial reporting period for all three.