Business beware: Hick & Ritter are faking

How convenient, now that Bill Ritter is no longer running for governor and John Hickenlooper is hoping to succeed him, Hick suddenly discovers after months of silence that the incumbent Democrat was "anti-business" in brutalizing the oil and gas industry last year and "crazy" in raising taxes during a recession this year. Meanwhile the Governor obligingly plays his part by voicing annoyance at the Mayor's criticisms. Why should we believe either of them for one moment? Hickenlooper has been a tax-hiker and fee-booster himself during seven years in office. Ritter has already taken one for the team by declining a second term, and now takes another by feigning indignation over the jabs from Hick, while winking to signal that of course he understands a Dem candidate has to run to the center under present circumstances.

Hick used a business audience, the South Metro Chamber, as the setting for his phony embrace of free-market realities amid the economic doldrums. Let's not witness the nauseating spectacle of Colorado business again being fooled by a Democrat in 2010 as they were in 2006, when Ritter stole Bob Beauprez's clothes.

One of Denver's most seasoned and successful tycoons told me this week he will test Hickenlooper's bona fides with two simple questions, on both of which the Mayor is very unlikely to give a firm yes: (1) Will you roll back the Ritter executive order for unionization of state employees? (2) Will you resist pressure from the White House to stack the 2011 redistricting so Dems are guaranteed five or even six of the state's seven congressional seats for the next decade?

This downtown businessman is thinking more a lot clearly than suburban chamber director John Brackney, who gave a Hick a softball introduction before this week's snow job. When you cut through all the soothing talk and play-acting, the bottom line is that (a) our Mayor is not really at odds with our Governor and his job-killing statist agenda and (b) neither our Mayor nor our Governor is prepared to cross their President on any matter of importance.

That is to say, a vote for Hickenlooper this fall is a vote for Obama. Surely Colorado's business community won't be so gullible as to go down that road -- again.

Do tell: Who pushed Ritter out?

Kid-glove treatment by the Denver Post on Gov. Bill Ritter's decision not to run again, makes me miss the Rocky Mountain News as never before. And it increases my gratitude for the feisty skepticism still alive and well in talk radio and the blogosphere. In three days of coverage on the Ritter story by the Post, Monday night to Wednesday morning, online and in print, I haven't seen a single mention of the Governor's ethical and legal exposure over close aide Stephanie Villafuerte changing her story on the 2006 campaign controversy over leniency to illegal aliens.

Doubly odd since the Post itself, with suddenly-invisible reporter Karen Crummy in the lead, doggedly drove this issue and forced Villafuerte to pull her nomination for US Attorney. Triply odd since reputable news organizations such as Examiner.com have reported on the growing talk of possible impropriety in her personal relationship with Ritter.

The Post, last man standing among Denver's major daily papers, owes the public extra vigilance in that role. Instead, for some reason, it has morphed from watchdog to lapdog in this latest chapter of the Ritter melodrama.

Thankfully, Peter Boyles of KHOW in the morning has stayed on the Villafuerte angle. Dan Caplis & Craig Silverman, KHOW in the afternoon, have a different but equally probing take, speculating there was a Ken Salazar / Barack Obama coup to force the vulnerable Ritter out and hand the nomination to Salazar. Jon Caldara observed in an email this morning that sometimes "family priority" is code for a straying spouse trying to make things right. But not a hint in the Colorado's print journal of record, the Post, on any of these plausible and relevant possibilities.

Did Bill Ritter really jump by his own volition, as a sympathetic Lynn Bartels piece in today's Post has it? Or was he pushed -- by powerful Democrats here and in Washington, or by looming revelations of scandal? A truly free and independent press needs to be asking those questions.

"Don't wet on my leg and call it rain," LBJ used to say when someone tried to gull him in obvious fashion. (Actually he said it in more earthy terms.) Politicians try to do that all the time, of course, to each other and to us. They can't help themselves. That's where the First Amendment and the watchdog media come in. If there's no entity left in Colorado to do that with ink and paper in l'affaire Ritter, at least we're fortunate that some in the new and alternative media are staying in the hunt.

McInnis's platform problem

(Denver Post, Dec. 6) All that is covered shall be revealed, promises the Good Book. It’s the perfect motto for America’s open society. Secrets are fools’ gold. Leaks will out. Thanks to a leaker at East Anglia University, we now know climate change isn’t cooking the planet after all. Climate alarmists are cooking the data. Meanwhile in Colorado, leakers are heating up the governor’s race. A week after the election, someone scooped Josh Penry’s plan to end his candidacy against Gov. Bill Ritter. A week later, someone else scooped Scott McInnis’s plan to unify Republicans around an issue contract. I’ve got this week’s leak. A confidential memo from inside the McInnis campaign showed up under my doormat. The authors call themselves the Skunk Works. The address line says, “Eyes Only: Mighty Mac,” and the subject reads: “The Carter Question and the Treaty of Fifth Avenue.” This is pure journalistic catnip, Pulitzer-quality stuff. Let me quote:

“Boss, to say you had a good November would be like saying Elway could pass a little. Last month was terrific. Overnight you’re the consensus nominee, endorsed by past and present GOP icons from Owens to Tancredo to Penry, and your Platform for Prosperity puts Republicans on offense with all three big issues – jobs, jobs, and jobs. Plus the platform’s tough stance on taxes, spending, illegal aliens, and crime erases your Washington taint as an ex-congressman.

“Ritter is now the one weighed down with Beltway baggage and on the defensive for his linkage to an Obama stimulus that didn’t stimulate. With total jobs in Colorado actually below 2006 levels, you can score big next fall with the old Jimmy Carter question on whether voters are better off than four years ago. Obviously not, so it’s time for Mac at quarterback.

“But since our job as Skunkers is to pipe in reality, not spin flattery, here’s the other side. With this new platform appearing to be written for you by powerful rivals, you’re in the awkward position of Nixon in 1960 when his issues were dictated by Rockefeller. Divisions over the so-called ‘Treaty of Fifth Avenue’ helped defeat the ticket. We need to change the 2010 story line, and fast.

“The potential winning message of the Platform for Prosperity is threatened by party grumbling and PR vulnerability. Pundits, both left and right, scoff that our agenda is too vague to attract swing voters. Many of the GOP faithful are saying we prefer insider manipulation instead of inclusiveness. Some worry that you won’t run hard on the platform, or fight for it if elected. What’s the McInnis response?

“To quiet the complaints on process, do three things. Hold grassroots platform hearings with Republicans across the state. Let assembly delegates choose your Lieutenant Governor, possibly Dan Maes. And gain endorsements from Bob Schaffer and Bob Beauprez at whatever cost, finally healing the breach from your ’06 and ’08 jabs at them.

“As for issues, Skunkers say go full throttle. Dramatize your platform with specifics. For job creation, pledge to zero out the corporate income tax. Colorado would boom! Roll out ballot issues to fortify TABOR and to let health insurers from any state write coverage here. Dare the legislature next spring to pass a top-10 list of prosperity bills. Call for voting down at least one member of our constitution-shredding Supreme Court, perhaps labor hack Michael Bender.

“Remember, Boss – McCain lost the presidency partly because millions of people feared his moderate mushiness would doom American conservatism if he won. If we don’t catch the wave of tea parties and townhalls, that could be your political obituary as well. But channel your inner Palin the next 300 days, and Ritter’s job is yours!”

Ritter's 'freeze' more of a slushie

Walk into a typical third grade classroom, and most students can explain what means to "freeze" something. They can explain that when water freezes it becomes ice and is solid. "Little Billie" Ritter may have missed those lessons because, as governor, he regularly demonstrates a poor grasp of elementary science.

Remember in 2007, when Gov. Ritter and Democrats in the state legislature voted to "freeze" property taxes? Now, as most anyone who owns property can tell you, taxes haven't been frozen at all.

Instead, Ritter froze the mill levy portion of your tax bill which had formerly been allowed to decline so that property taxes didn't escalate as rapidly as property values.

And of course Ritter and his Democrat allies did this without even the "courtesy" of a public vote, despite a state constitutional requirement than any tax policy change that increases revenue must be submitted to voters.

The state supreme court's balderdash that collecting more taxes really isn't the same as a tax increase doesn't make the $150 million cost to taxpayers any easier to swallow.

Ritter's recent encounter with linguistic frostbite started last fall when, after months of denying that the state's budget was speeding toward a cliff, he announced a "budget contingency plan" that included, quoting his own press release, "implementing a hiring freeze for the Executive Branch effective Oct. 1."

Now it turns out, this freeze was more of a "slushie."

In January, Denver Post's Jessica Fender reported that despite Ritter's claims that the hiring freeze had saved $12 million, "a review of hundreds of applications for exemptions shows that in three months, Ritter's office approved 326 new hires and promotions - out of 371 requests - that could cost the state more than $12 million."

Now, more than a year after the freeze was proclaimed, KMGH 7News's Arthur Kane and John Ferrugia report that a state personnel database shows 2,300 new state employees hired.

Ritter's chief of staff, Jim Carpenter, says the actual number is 1,454 but concedes, when questioned by Ferrugia, that "during the freeze, the number of employees actually went up."

Analysis of the "database shows that in the three months before the (freeze), the state hired about 1,300 people and in the last three months of the freeze the state hired about 1,100 employees," KMGH reports.

Maybe the governor can blame global warming for turning his hiring slushie into, at most, a cool breeze.

Sen. Al White, a Republican member of the Joint Budget Committee who is quite measured in second-guessing the governor, said that had Ritter's office managed its hiring practices more effectively, "we may not have had to make some of the more dire cuts" necessary to balance the state's budget.

Unfortunately, Ritter and his administration have never been adept at managing the state's money, and no evidence suggests that they have learned from their mistakes.

Ritter has signed three state budgets, each adding at least 1,450 new state employees, despite budget woes. By comparison, Gov. Bill Owens, who also endured some tough budget years, signed two budgets that actually reduced the number of state employees below the previous year's level.

As late as December 2008, Ritter's budget office grossly underestimated the looming budget shortfall, and even now, his administration somehow imagines $783 million more in tax revenues over the next three years, compared to more conservative projections by the legislature's economists.

Ritter refused to throw his political clout behind proposals to build a state budget reserve fund when revenues were strong. But when revenues were already declining, he called for creation of an "unprecedented" new budget reserve.

Given his poor understanding of things physic and fiscal, perhaps the governor's next move will be to institute a spending "freeze." If so, expect spending to instead accelerate even faster.

Edgar Obama & Charlie McRitter

It's amusing to be a Republican spectator at the feverish Democratic huddle that is Bill Ritter's email list. Day after day, some revved-up copywriter churns out breathless warnings about the sinister threat posed by my side to their side, the dynamic duo of our Governor and our President. Obama hero-worship may be waning in other quarters, but the Ritter campaign still seems to view it as their lifeline for 2010. Reading these bulletins is almost like (and here I date myself) the old ventriloquism act where Edgar "Barack" Bergen threw his voice into the cherubic cheeks of Charlie "Loyal Bill" McCarthy.

My purpose here isn't to debate the merits of what the Ritter campaign is asserting, but merely to marvel with admiration at the strident sycophancy they manage to sustain. Three recent examples...

One from 9/10 entitled "Failing Us All" said in part:

America's broken health care system is failing us all. As President Obama noted last night, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage every day. It could happen to anyone....Thousands of RitterforGovernor.com activists have already emailed their Members of Congress, urging them to rally behind President Obama. But with all the misinformation circulating out there, we must do more to confront the cynics and make our voices heard throughout Colorado.

Earlier this week, the 9/8 dispatch called "A Pep Talk for Colorado's Kids" lamented:

Unfortunately some cynics have decided to use this totally apolitical pep talk to students as an opportunity to gin up fear and anger against the President. With impressively straight faces, extremists like Glenn Beck alleged that the President is trying to "indoctrinate" American children with his political ideology. It's the same folks manufacturing the so-called "birther" controversy, the "death panel" controversy, and every outrageous claim in between. They are dedicated to undermining the President -- no matter what. So I was troubled that some schools here in Colorado gave in to the calls of a very radical fringe by deciding not to allow their students an opportunity to watch the President's important speech in class this morning.

Yup, I was troubled too, Governor. It's gotten even worse than you warned us it would two weeks ago, in an 8/27 message headlined "Trashing Colorado's Progress:"

Our political opponents are courting a radical fringe here in Colorado. One of Governor Ritter's challengers has fully embraced rabidly anti-government "tea parties" and suggested Colorado should reject federal recovery funding -- funding that has already created or saved thousands of jobs in Colorado. Meanwhile another challenger recently dismissed the significance of transitioning to a New Energy Economy in an interview with the Colorado Statesman. He even added that if elected he would throw Governor Ritter's ban on expanding the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site "in the trash," a fringe position which puts him at odds with many in his own party. All this begs the question: what other key accomplishments would our political opponents throw "in the trash" if elected?... One year ago Governor Ritter stood before tens of thousands of Coloradans at the Democratic National Convention... Shortly thereafter Barack Obama took the stage to accept our party's presidential nomination...

"Radical fringe," oooohhh. Doesn't it give you the shivers? But all this does raise (not "beg," thank you) the question: With Obama's poll numbers so low, why does Ritter cling doggedly to his dwindling coattails? Maybe because Ritter's own numbers are low as well. Misery loves company, and besides, what other hero-figure is there for a Democrat in trouble these days? Little Charlie McCarthy had to stay perched on Edgar Bergen's knee and keep mouthing whatever his big pal put forth. It was that or fold up in the vaudeville trunk and go silent altogether.