Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 3, 20178min24950
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner: The most effective member of Colorado’s Washington delegation? An analysis says so. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Republican junior U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, that’s who. In fact, the first-termer from Yuma is the 12th-most-effective Republican in the entire Senate.

That’s according to the Center for Effective Lawmaking — and, no, that’s not some GOP front that gins up rave reviews for swing-state party members with an eye toward the next election. Indeed, 2nd Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. (and gubernatorial contender) Jared Polis of Boulder does almost as well by the center’s standards.

The center is in fact described as “a joint initiative between the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Vanderbilt University” that debuted in the nation’s capital last month. From a Vanderbilt University press release touting the center’s just-released rankings of individual lawmakers’ effectiveness:

The center, co-directed by Craig Volden, professor of public policy and politics and associate dean for academic affairs at Batten, and Alan Wiseman, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt, utilizes a data-driven approach to study the causes and consequences of each Congress member’s ability to advance agenda items through the legislative process and into law.

In other words, it looks at how good a given lawmaker is at getting his or her bills through the twists and turns of the entrenched system on Capitol Hill. Without regard to party or political views, it uses a complex formula you’d expect of guys with Volden and Wiseman’s credentials (no doubt backed by a team of researchers). They employ, among other devices, mathematical symbols we ordinary folk vaguely associate with calculus though they could be ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics for all we know. Heavy stuff.

The rankings, by the way, are for the latest Congress for which a full set of stats is available, i.e., the one that concluded last year.

So, how does the rest of Colorado’s D.C. delegation stack up? Check it out:


The most meaningful numbers for most of us are in the column on the right — each lawmaker’s ranking relative to the rest of the members of his/her party in that chamber. Gardner is 12th out of the 54 Republican senators seated in the 114th Congress. Polis ranks 47th out of the 193 Democrats in the House at that time. Arithmetically, that puts Gardner in a slightly higher percentile than Polis.

Without delving too deeply into the numbers crunching by the researchers, it’s worth looking at the data in the middle column. That’s where the analysis assigns lawmakers a raw score for their “legislative effectiveness.” If the number in that column is between a half and one and a half the number in the next column over — that’s the “benchmark” for where members of the same party with similar tenure and duties are expected to be — then that member is deemed by the analysis to meet expectations. If the number is more than one and a half of the benchmark, the member is said to be above expectations. And if the number is less than half of the benchmark, the member falls below expectations.

OK, so we did delve a bit deeply into the numbers crunching, but the upshot is only two members of Colorado’s delegation — Gardner and Polis — are above expectations. Four meet expectations, and three — Democratic senior U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet as well as 5th Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, and 1st Congressional District Democratic U.S. Rep. Dianna DeGette, of Denver, are below expectations. Well below, it seems.

The analysis is neutral to ideology and party, and it offsets whether a lawmaker’s party is in the majority or minority because it assesses their work only against that of their fellow party members. So it moots the advantage typically enjoyed by majority party members in getting their work through the legislative pipeline.

Yet, there’s another kind of skew — one sure to be perceived on the political right — that the analysis can’t offset: a bias in favor of lawmakers who, well, make more laws. By definition, that’s how a senator or representative scores well by the reckoning of the Center for Effective Lawmaking. Which is why some on the right may be tempted to dismiss the ratings outright. After all, any conservative Mr./Ms. Smith who goes to Washington with the aim of drawing the line at government’s growth is more likely to vote no than to ask his/her peers to vote yes. By that measure, the less “effective” a lawmaker on the Center’s scale, the more commendably conservative the lawmaker is by the lights of some on the political right.

Could that conceivably make Cory Gardner a lib … a liber … naw, we can’t even say it. But might it at least suggest he’s not quite the unyielding conservative some might make him out to be?

And, by some stretch of alternative reasoning, could the unrelentingly liberal DeGette’s low effectiveness rating maker her — a conservative?


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 9, 20174min480

… eggs and tomatoes. Not to mention any of the invective hurled at some Republicans who’ve encountered angry constituents (and activists, too) in recent months. And never mind the invective stored up in reserve for those Republicans whom Democrats accuse of ducking gatherings with constituents amid the never-ending congressional debate over repealing Obamacare.

At any rate, Colorado’s Democratic senior U.S. senator will be hosting “a Town Hall meeting on Friday in Aspen to listen to Coloradans’ concerns and respond to questions,” according to a press release issued today by the lawmaker’s office. That’s unabashedly blue and celebrity-stoked Aspen in unapologetically left-ish Pitkin County.

And why not? Aspenites aren’t just beautiful people (though plenty certainly are that); they’re constituents, too. Besides, there’s no rule that says Bennet can’t take a break from all the partisan back-and-forth and just chillax a bit with the like-minded.

OK, so did you notice how the announcement as quoted capitalizes “Town Hall” even though of course it’s not a proper noun? A subliminal message, perhaps? As if to say, “OUR party thinks town halls are REALLY important. The other party? Not so much.”

Or, are we overthinking this? Yes, probably so. It’s all that party-vs.-party acrimony these days; you could cut the tension with a knife! And it’s obviously getting to us.

Anyway, here are the details of Bennet’s town hall — or Town Hall, if you prefer — from the press release:

We encourage people to arrive early, as space is limited. Questions from the audience will be chosen randomly. Those unable to attend the Town Hall can follow Senator Bennet on Twitter and Facebook for updates the day of the event.

Media is welcome to live stream the event. If you plan to live stream, please RSVP by sending an email to Shannon_Beckham@Bennet.Senate.Gov.​

Who:               U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

What:              Aspen Town Hall

When:             Friday, August 11, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. MT Doors open at 3:00 p.m. MT

Where:            Aspen High School, Black Box Theater, 235 High School Road, Aspen, CO 81611



Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 8, 20173min650

Colorado’s senior U.S. senator may be a city slicker, but he’s no stranger to the state’s rural plains. Or to its farmers. Democrat Michael Bennet certainly seems comfortable enough in an agricultural setting; just look at this morning’s tweet from @SenBennetCO himself. So nice, we had to include it here. And it’s even on point…

…regarding an announcement today by Bennet’s office that he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act. The legislation aims to do as its name implies: improve access to the voluntary farm conservation programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Those programs, according to NRCS’s webpage, help farmers and ranchers reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters. Important and valuable stuff.

However, there are some wrinkles to getting enrolled, and Bennet’s legislation aims to smooth the way. He is quoted in a press release:

“Farmers and ranchers in Colorado are eager to enroll in conservation programs, but are often hindered by the onerous reporting requirements … This bill would remove the time-consuming and unnecessary reporting requirements for small farmers, making it easier for them to take advantage of tools to protect soil and water resources and improve wildlife habitat.”

The press release also notes:

Thousands of farmers and ranchers voluntarily participate in a wide range of conservation programs administered by the NRCS…



Kara MasonKara MasonAugust 1, 20173min73321

Eight German exchange students headed for Salida got a taste of increasing political tensions regarding immigration policy in the U.S. over the weekend.

Before being detained at Denver International Airport, immigration officials “insisted they (the students) were coming in and taking work away from U.S. citizens, which is illegal since they have no work visa,” Susan Masterson, who has coordinated the exchange program for six years, told the Salida Mountain Mail.

Masterson said she was at the airport when the students were detained.

The students that planned on spending three weeks in the southern Colorado mountain town ended up spending Friday night in a detention facility. Meanwhile Masterson said she was in contact with state Rep. Jim Wilson, the governor’s office, Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office and Sen. Michael Bennet’s office.

But none could prevent the students, all 18 years old, from being deported back to Germany. Immigration enforcement officials determined the students were attempting to enter the country on the wrong visa, a tourist visa.

Masterson said she was blown away by the outpouring of support from different agencies. The Mountain Mail reported that Masterson wrote in a letter to the German families Lamborn’s office did everything they could to help, but “nothing could be done.”

“We’ve never had a problem like this before,” Masterson told Colorado Politics, adding that she has connections to the German school the students were coming from and hasn’t had a visa problem any of the years since she began the program.

So, was the incident a result of the contentious political climate surrounding immigration?

“Oh I think so,” Masterson said. “Controls have definitely tightened.”

The students have returned to their families, Masterson said. But “they don’t have a very good impression of our country.”

Masterson said she’s hoping to get the community to send some sort of letter to the students, so they know they’re welcomed in Salida.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 29, 20173min540

Following a barrage of ballistic missile tests by the regime of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un — who over the weekend debuted a new anti-aircraft weapon system — Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner set out on mission to South Korea this week to meet its new leadership and reinforce U.S. ties. The Republican junior senator is making the east Asia trip to Korea and other U.S. allies in his capacity as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, his office said.

Gardner will be one of the first senior U.S. elected officials to visit South Korean leaders since the election of President Moon Jae-in following the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye. Gardner’s office said the senator will reiterate to South Korean officials in Seoul the importance of a strong alliance with the U.S. and what can be done to further strengthen security, economic, and diplomatic ties.

Gardner also is expected to meet with members of the U.S. Pacific Command, whose theater of operation includes the Korean peninsula.

Gardner — who has engaged in a war of words with the North Korean government — has been carving out a reputation as the Senate’s point man on policy toward the rogue regime. He has been a leading voice for closer relations with South Korea as well as for greater pressure on the north. He is the author of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, which authorized sanctions on the north for its nuclear and missile development as well as human rights violations.

In a statement released by his office, Gardner said:

“The time for rhetoric on North Korea is over. It is time for concerted action to peacefully denuclearize North Korea. I’m going to continue to urge the administration to ramp up economic sanctions on China, and ensure South Korean leaders that their strong friend and ally, the United States, will be at their side as tensions grow in the region.”

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 5, 20175min880

Colorado’s Democratic U.S senator, Michael Bennet of Denver, introduced legislation this week to shield farmworkers from deportations, while putting them on a path to citizenship.

“Colorado’s $40 billion agriculture economy relies on an experienced workforce,” Bennet said in a statement. “The failure to fix our broken immigration system has had real economic consequences for our farmers and ranchers. This bill serves as a necessary step until we can enact a long-term solution by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”

Under the act, farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years could get a “blue card.” Those maintaining a blue card for three or five years, depending on the total hours they worked, would be eligible to adjust to a green card that allows legal residency.

Bennet was a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight in 2013 that passed comprehensive immigration reform out of the Senate, then watched it wither on the vine in the Republican-led House.

His Agricultural Worker Program Act has virtually no chance of becoming law, however, with President Trump in the White House and his fellow Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that almost half of America’s 1.1 million farmworkers are undocumented.

Democrats say Trump’s pledge on massive deportations could devastate the U.S. agriculture industry.

Bennet introduced the bill with Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California.

Bennet’s office provided a list of organization’s supporting the bill.

  • Alianza Americas
  • America’s Voice
  • American GI Forum
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
  • Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network.
  • CATA
  • Center for American Progress
  • Church World Service
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
  • East Coast Migrant Head Start Project
  • Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO
  • Farm Worker Association of Florida
  • Farmworker Justice
  • GreenLatinos
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Hispanic Federation
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
  • LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  • League of United Latin American Citizens
  • MAFO Inc.
  • Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund
  • National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives
  • National Association of Hispanic Publications
  • National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
  • National Council of La Raza
  • National Latina/o Psychological Association
  • National Hispanic Medical Association
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association
  • PICO National Network
  • Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste
  • SER-Jobs for Progress National Inc.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • U.S.- Mexico Foundation
  • United Farm Workers
  • United Migrant Opportunity Services/UMOS Inc.
  • United States Hispanic Leadership Institute
  • United We Dream
  • We Are Casa
  • William C. Velasquez Institute
  • Worker Justice Center of New Yprk