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Ernest LuningErnest LuningMarch 11, 20185min975

Three Colorado political consulting firms recently took home Reed Awards honoring their work producing campaign material last year. The awards, sponsored by Campaigns & Elections magazine and named for the political journal’s founder, Stanley Foster Reed, were handed out at a conference on Feb. 27 in Charleston, South Carolina. They recognized work in a multitude of categories, including direct mail, campaign branding and TV and digital ads.


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Associated PressAssociated PressMarch 9, 201811min531

LINCOLN — There are plenty of options for people looking for a massage in Nebraska, but if you're a horse, you're out of luck. Nebraska doesn't have a single licensed equine massage therapist, and lawmakers who recently chipped away at regulations governing various other professions blame an expensive and rigorous process that even includes the prospect of jail time for violators.


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Jessica MachettaDecember 24, 20173min731

Former state treasurer and Democratic candidate for governor Cary Kennedy held a 25-hour “tweetstorm” Thursday, one tweet per hour for every new person that moves into Colorado, 25 each day.

Also this week, Kennedy unveiled her goal of improving the state’s transportation challenges and expanding broadband in rural areas.

“Growth is a top concern,” Kennedy said on Twitter. “My #CKplanforgrowth tackles issues like housing, transportation & protecting the Colorado we love.”

“Colorado has gone too long without preparing for growth,” she said in a press release. “Our deteriorating roads and inadequate transit systems hold our state back and cost us time and money. Our state is innovative and forward looking, but we haven’t made the necessary investments. I know as a working mom how frustrating it is when you miss dinner with your family because you’re stuck in traffic. We can do better.”

Kennedy’s four-tiered plan includes making Colorado affordable; protecting public lands and open spaces; investing in transportation, housing, water conservation, clean renewable energy and broadband; and standing up for middle-class families.

“I’ve watched Colorado’s population double since I was a kid,” Kennedy told Colorado Politics. “And now, forecasters are telling us it’s going to double again by the time my teenagers are my age.”

The political reality, however, is that she will have to pay for such goals and possibly wrangle support from moderates and Republicans, depending on which party holds majorities in the state House and Senate next year. That dynamic quickly fills lofty campaign promises with hot air.

While serving as chief financial officer for Denver, Kennedy helped start the city’s first affordable housing initiative, a plan she would make statewide if elected.

“People can’t afford to live in the communities where they grew up, and can’t afford to live in the communities where they work, so that’s added to our traffic congestion problem,” she said.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 22, 20175min548

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the Western Conservative Summit Friday night that America should open up its public lands and shores for more energy production.

“I can tell ya, the war on American energy is over,” said the former Montana congressman who is chief steward of the nation’s parks and public lands. He received perhaps the longest applause of the evening from the largest annual collection of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C.

Zinke has actions behind his mission.  Last month the department  issued an order to speed the permitting for oil and gas drilling on federal lands. And President Trump signed an executive order in April to boost offshore drilling.

The secretary made his case Friday night in Denver with numbers, needs and patriotic emotions.

He said national parks are about $11.5 billion behind in maintenance and repairs, and public lands and wildlife refuges are about $15 billion in need. The year before President Obama took office, the department made about $18 billion a year from offshore drilling, but the figure had fallen just $2.6 last year.

Zinke said the decline was a consequence of putting 94 percent of the nation’s shores off limits to drilling, of not harvesting trees and the “consequence of locking and shutting American energy, access and recreation off of our lands.”

Conservation Colorado predicted accurately what Zinke might say, when Colorado Politics reported he was scheduled to speak in private to the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council gathering in Denver Thursday.

Jessica Goad, the spokeswoman for the state’s largest environmental organization, said it spoke “volumes about the Interior secretary’s priorities,” meaning opening up more public lands for production. Friday night he left no doubt.

Zinke shifted from numbers to emotions. A Navy SEAL for from 1996 to 2008, he told the crowd he never wanted their grandchildren to see what he’s seen.

“I’ve fought in a lot of countries, and I never want to see our children have to go to war … over resources we have here,” Zinke said.

Zinke said it’s better to produce energy in this country with reasonable regulations than around the globe where there could be none.

A geologist (who also was a starting center for the University Oregon football team) said when he was being educated he was taught “definitively” America would run out of domestic energy by 2003.

“God has a sense of humor,” Zinke said. “He gave us fracking.”

He said fracking has made the difference. “We don’t have to be held hostage by our foreign  enemies.”

When a heckler began shouting inaudibly at Zinke, the Interior secretary gave the person a lingering look, a sly smile and cocked his head as he leaned back.

“I can tell you something,” he said, raising his index finger, pointing then leaning his head forward, as the crowd began to chant “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

“We won,” Zinke said with pauses for added punctuation. “We won. For the right reason.”

The summit continues Saturday with speeches from Reagan Education Secretary William Bennett, former Colorado Congressman Bob Beauprez, Colorado Ken Buck and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow.

On stage at different junctures over the weekend, Colorado Politics interviewed Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell, Steve Barlock, Doug Robinson and George Brauchler.

Colorado Politics will fill you in on what they said and how they compare Sunday, after summit participants complete a straw poll of the gubernatorial candidates.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJuly 20, 20174min606

The Trump administration is coming through, after all, at the Western Conservative Summit this weekend in Denver, and in a huge way. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will speak at the mega-gathering of the country’s top conservatives at the Colorado Convention Center Friday.

On Monday Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute, which puts on the annual gathering, lamented the lack of White House participation, given the ample stage the event has provided for Trump and other members of his inner circle in the past. Trump himself opened the event last year while he was a candidate.

Zinke is the key Cabinet member over national parks and other public lands, a major issue in Colorado and across the West.

He also is taking part in the American Legislative Exchange Council at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, but his office said Thursday his participation is not open to the press. Saturday Zinke is expected to tour Rocky Mountain National Park, where he will talk to credentialed reporters that morning in Estes Park.

Before he was tapped by President Trump to lead the agency once led by Colorado’s Ken Salazar, Zinke was a congressman from Montana and a former state senator.

Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization, is wary of Zinke and the Trump administration’s view of public lands, particularly turning them over to the states and to allow more drilling and development.

His private participation with ALEC, an industry supported nonprofit that helps draft legislation and train legislators, “speaks volumes about the Interior secretary’s priorities,” Jessica Goad, spokeswoman for Conservation Colorado, said in an e-mail exchange with Colorado Politics. “Virtually every decision he’s made since becoming secretary is targeted at taking the public out of public lands decisions.”

As examples, she cited his canceling resource advisory councils, “a primary venue for representatives from Western communities to give feedback and input.”

He also led the Trump administration’s repeal of the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 initiative to make decisions around public lands more efficient with extra feedback from local communities.

His review on national monuments, requested by Trump, is “making a mockery of the hard work local communities have invested to protect lands for future generations,” Goad said.

“So, the question is, is Secretary Zinke’s presence at ALEC an indication that his commitment to ‘keeping public lands public’ is nothing more than a nice talking point and political smoke and mirrors?” she asked.

We don’t know. The press is locked out.

“So far, his actions as Interior secretary have indicated that his focus is on cutting the public out of the decision,” Goad said.