2010 elections

Scotch verdict on McInnis-Maes

What is called in the law a Scotch verdict, an agnostic shrug of "not proved," is my sad and reluctant conclusion about next week's Republican primary for Governor of Colorado. At present I cannot support either of the two candidates.

I was intrigued with the businessman-outsider persona of dark horse Dan Maes, and went so far as to float the case for him in my Denver Post column last Sunday, posted below left as "Maes and the Medicine." But as the evidence mounts, I deem the case very insufficient.

Dan Maes is not ready for prime time and seemingly not who he has claimed to be.

Scott McInnis has seen too much prime time, and Colorado is not ready for who we know him to be.

Which is regrettable for two public-spirited Coloradans, fundamentally decent men with devoted families -- and even more regrettable for our state, which so urgently needs the limited-government leadership a qualified Republican could provide right now.

Where does this leave us on the morning of August 11 when one of these two is officially the GOP nominee? Attractive and viable options are slim to none.

A ticket-replacement maneuver is imaginable but unlikely. A plurality victory for Constitution candidate Tom Tancredo is also unlikely; Tom is my friend but won't get my vote.

Are we looking at a handshake from outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter to incoming Gov. John Hickenlooper next January, Democrats retaining power against all odds after botching things so badly the past four years? What a pity if it comes to that.

Is Maes the man?

For a governor who will turn Colorado right, Republican businessman Dan Maes is "the man for the moment," says John Andrews in the July round of Head On TV debates, reacting to the implosion of previous front-runner Scott McInnis. Susan Barnes-Gelt has scathing words for both GOP contenders while ignoring John Hickenlooper, her fellow Democrat. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Afghanistan, Arizona, the Dems' risk of losing Congress, and Colorado contests for Attorney General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for July: 1. GOVERNOR’S RACE GETS WEIRD

John: Colorado has not done well with a liberal Democrat as governor. The budget is a disaster and the economy is hurting. Trading Ritter for Hickenlooper won’t change that. We need a conservative governor who is pro-jobs, pro-growth, and pro-taxpayer. The obvious choice is Republican businessman Dan Maes.

Susan: So let’s see – candidate Scott McInnis is a liar/plagarist and Maes is a cheat admittedly defying campaign finance laws. And we want one of these two leading our state? Your suggesting that a cheat trumps a plagarist/liar? A real Hobson’s choice I’d say. You’ve set the bar pretty low, John.

John: McInnis was better suited to lead Colorado than liberal John Hickenlooper, but he forfeited trust with fatal mistakes, so scratch them both. Meanwhile the McInnis legal team, fearing conservative outsider Dan Maes, bloodied him on a minor violation. Dirty stuff. But the incorruptible Maes is still the man for the moment.

Susan: You'd better hope McInnis stays in, wins the August 10 primary, drops out and let's the Republican party select a new candidate. Otherwise you're saying that cheater cheater pumpkin eater is a better choice than liar liar pants on fire?


John: Colorado voters have a choice to make on several statewide offices with low visibility but high importance. If you believe Obamacare is unconstitutional, reelect Attorney General John Suthers. He’s challenging it in court. If you worry about tax increases and voter fraud, support Republicans for Treasurer and Secretary of State.

Susan: Suthers is exactly the wrong choice for Attorney General.† He's already politicized the office of the people's lawyer by calling for do not retain votes for Democratic State Supreme Court justices.† And incumbent Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Secretary of State Bernie Buescher are terrific.

John: Despite a governor’s race in turmoil, supporters of liberty and limited government have strong options for other constitutional offices. Scott Gessler for Secretary of State will guard against election fraud. John Suthers for Attorney General is a tough lawman. J. J. Ament or Walker Stapleton for Treasurer will stand up for TABOR.

Susan: Your Republican candidates must clarify whether they’re for or against Prop 101 and Amendments 60 & 61-poised to devastate Colorado’s already hamstrung economy, crippling school districts and local government, Ament, Stapleton, Gessler & Suthers must oppose. Why run for an office you want to destroy?


John: The US government has a constitutional duty to protect each state against invasion. Bush and Obama have given the people of Arizona no such protection, ignoring federal law. Gov. Jan Brewer did the only reasonable thing and signed a state law to resist the flood of illegal aliens. Good for Arizona!

Susan: Yes, immigration is the purview of the federal government.† Imagine the chaos if every state set its own immigration policy.† Why not monetary policy, defense policy, or aviation protocols?† Local control is fine, but immigration policy is a federal issue.† D's and R's better step up.

John: Unlike Obama’s attorney general and his homeland security secretary, I’ve read the Arizona immigration bill. It neither allows racial profiling nor usurps federal authority. It simply mirrors the federal law that Obama refuses to enforce. Colorado should pass the same thing – another reason to vote Republican this fall.

Susan: Requiring local law enforcement to check immigration status of those stopped for other offences, detaining them until they provide id’s, is a blatant attempt to usurp federal authority – burdening law enforcement and citizens. Federal databases aren’t well integrated, complete or accurate. It’s a nightmare any way you look at it.


Susan: The suicide rate among our troops is at an all-time high.† Service men and women are being deployed three and four times to Afghanistan in an untenable conflict.† We can't trust President Karzai, and we must make a deal with the Taliban.† Obama and Petraeus need an exit strategy.

John: Obama is wrong about many things, but he’s right that we must not lose Afghanistan to a jihadist enemy sworn to destroy us. If we surrender to the jihadists there, they will next take Pakistan with its nuclear arsenal. Islamic holy warriors with nukes -- what a nightmare.

Susan: And what about Iran? Our Afghan policy isn’t working. Richard Haass, conservative head of the Council on Foreign Relations is right in saying we can’t achieve lasting results and its time to scale down our ambitions, it’s not worth the cost in blood and treasure.

John: What about Iran? Ahmadinejad has been making hay out of US weakness for the last two administrations. Walking away from Afghanistan and Pakistan would only embolden the nuclear-bound Iranians and further endanger America. Resisting this triple enemy, bent on mayhem, is absolutely worth the cost.


Susan: Mid-term elections never bode well for the incumbent party.† This fall the Dems are vulnerable.† On the other hand, Tea Party libertarians and the prospect of John "The financial crisis is just an ant" Boehner as House Speaker are frightening.† Frustrated Americans will vote for sanity.

John: Obama’s falling poll numbers translate into a two-year report card no better than C. That would be C as in Carter, who fumbled both the economy and foreign policy. And C as in Clinton, who saw his fellow Democrats swept from power in Congress at mid-term. The endless recession has voters disgusted.

Susan: And the folks who gave us Wall Street abuses, deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, deficit spending and foreign policy based on lies, deceit and nation building – that would be R’s – are just the ones to lead us back to Clinton’s budget surpluses? And the dog ate my homework!

John: It’s the economy, uh, sister. Americans don’t expect miracles -- but after this long, with so little progress on reducing unemployment and boosting prosperity, the Democrats in power are due for a spanking. My Republicans are far from perfect, but look for them to take back Congress this November.

Billion reasons to distrust Colo. Dems

Four years ago, Colorado voters decided to trust Democrats with complete control of state government - the governor's mansion and large majorities in the legislature. As voters consider their choices for 2010, they might be surprised by how little governing Democrats have trusted voters in those four years.

Since 2007, Gov. Bill Ritter and the Democrat legislature have increased property taxes by more than $160 million a year, raised vehicle license "fees" by $250 million, instituted new hospital patient "fees" that will cost $600 million, and imposed some $180 million in new sales and use taxes.

All told, Ritter and the legislature have managed to increase the cost of taxes and fees by $1.19 billion and, miraculously, not once triggered Colorado's constitutional requirement that taxes can be raised only by a vote of the people.

In 2007, Democrats changed the school finance act to force most school districts to collect more property tax revenues, thereby reducing what the state spends on K-12 education. Previously, even many Democrats acknowledged that such a change must be presented to the voters.

This time, however, Democrats commandeered the political will to pass such a law and constructed a legal argument which, although rejected by a lower court, ultimately prevailed in the Colorado Supreme Court. As a result, Coloradans will pay an extra $160 million for property taxes this year alone - and more than $1 billion over six years.

Thus emboldened, the 2009 legislature smashed another of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights' (TABOR) prohibitions by eliminating the general fund spending limit without a public vote. Although Colorado Revised Statutes specifically referred to this provision as a "limitation" on the general fund, Democrats and their attorneys argued that it was instead an "allocation strategy" and, therefore, not subject to TABOR's prohibition against weakening spending limits without a public vote.

In its ruling on the 2007 property tax hike, the supreme court also signaled lawmakers that other taxes could be raised, under the guise of eliminating tax exemptions, so long as they didn't exceed TABOR revenue limit. To Democrats, suddenly everything that wasn't already taxed was merely "exempted" and a target to be taxed. So in the middle of a recession, they raised taxes on Colorado families and businesses by $180 million over two years.

However, the greatest deception is the onslaught of taxes masquerading as fees. Generally, taxes - which, according to the constitution, can't be raised without voter approval - are collected broadly and can be spent for any purpose. Fees, however, were generally understood to cover the cost of a regulatory function or of administration (e.g., licensing or registration) for which the fee is assessed.

Democrats made no pretense that the largest of their fee increases merely cover administrative expenses. Ritter suggested that the primary criterion necessary for a tax to be considered a fee is a "direct relationship" between the payer of the fee and a government activity funded by the fee.

Under this construction, it seems obvious that a new "fee" on gasoline could be imposed without a public vote so long as revenues are dedicated exclusively to highway construction or repair.

The most egregious fee - a $600 million tax on hospital services - is assessed on "outpatient and inpatient services" and ultimately paid by patients or their insurers, who receive no direct benefit in return. Ironically, Democrats dubbed this legislation, the "Health Care Affordability Act."

Together these two fees when fully implemented are projected to raise a combined $850 million a year. With fees of this magnitude, voters may never again be asked to approve a genuine tax.

Democrat candidate for governor John Hickenlooper recently said, "I think if you put issues before the public, they'll decide if it's a worthwhile investment."

That's not the way Democrats have governed for the past four years. So why should Colorado voters trust Democrats when Democrats clearly don't trust voters?

Sign the Mount Vernon Statement

By John Andrews "We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law." So begins the Mount Vernon Statement, an important and timely declaration of principles issued on Feb. 17 by the heads of 16 major conservative organizations. Originating with intellectual leaders on the Right, rather than elected officials and candidates, the statement sets a baseline for thinking patriots in weighing the claims we'll hear from politicians as this 2010 year of decision moves toward election day. If Republicans bring out a new version of the 1994 Contract with America in their hopes for a November sweep against Obama and the Democrats, its worthiness can be measured against this declaration.

The full text is below, taken from their website at TheMountVernonDeclaration.com. By clicking to that site you can also add your name as a signer of the declaration, which I have proudly done.

This manifesto is a worthy descendant from Bill Buckley's famous Sharon Statement of half a century ago, as Greg Schaller points out at '76 Blog. The Sharon Statement and YAF, the Young Americans for Freedom movement which it launched, were formative for me and so many other young conservatives in the turbulent 1960s. Let's hope for an equally profound, powerful, and positive impact from the Mount Vernon Declaration. Here it is...

Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century

We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.

These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.

Each one of these founding ideas is presently under sustained attack. In recent decades, America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our universities and our politics. The selfevident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.

Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead — forward or backward, up or down? Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?

The change we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.

The conservatism of the Constitution limits government’s powers but ensures that government performs its proper job effectively. It refines popular will through the filter of representation. It provides checks and balances through the several branches of government and a federal republic.

A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.

A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.

It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.

It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.

It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.

It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.

It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.

If we are to succeed in the critical political and policy battles ahead, we must be certain of our purpose.

We must begin by retaking and resolutely defending the high ground of America’s founding principles.

February 17, 2010

Edwin Meese, former U.S. Attorney General under President Reagan

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America

Edwin Feulner, Jr., president of the Heritage Foundation

Lee Edwards, Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation, was present at the Sharon Statement signing.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council

Becky Norton Dunlop, president of the Council for National Policy

Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center

Alfred Regnery, publisher of the American Spectator

David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union

David McIntosh, co-founder of the Federalist Society

T. Kenneth Cribb, former domestic policy adviser to President Reagan

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform

William Wilson, President, Americans for Limited Government

Elaine Donnelly, Center for Military Readiness

Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ.com

Kenneth Blackwell, Coalition for a Conservative Majority

Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring

Kathryn J. Lopez, National Review

Element R takes charge

(Denver Post, Jan. 24) Why did Gov. Bill Ritter fold his reelection campaign? Why is Sen. Michael Bennet so far behind in the polls? Why did Scott Brown win in Massachusetts? Why is Barack Obama struggling to save his presidency, one year after taking office in triumph? Because Americans have completely lost patience with irresponsibility. For years this column has talked of the need for a responsibility movement to challenge both political parties. “We’ll call it Element R and launch it today, right here in Colorado,” I wrote in 2007. What the country has seen in recent months is Element R, in fact if not in name, starting to take charge. Surveys foretold what elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts have confirmed: sharp declines in Democratic support, benefiting Republican candidates but not greatly boosting Republican registration. It’s the independent voters whose ranks are growing. Citizens are less inclined to ally with either the donkey or the elephant. Both have forfeited confidence.

People’s aroused insistence for responsibility instead of irresponsibility, on the part of those we entrust with power, best explains the new political landscape. To start with definitions, responsibility means keeping a trust, doing your duty, facing the music. Whereas irresponsibility means shirking, acting in disregard of consequences, behaving as if 2 and 2 don’t make 4. Examples abound.

Ritter’s fatal wound, absent-father guilt aside, seems to have been either fiscal and executive recklessness or an impending legal-ethical scandal. He might have brazened it out, whatever the case, if years of gubernatorial irresponsibility by the likes of Davis in California, Blagojevich in Illinois, and Sanford in South Carolina hadn’t inflamed public disgust. But in 2010 the odds have become prohibitive, so he’s quitting.

The responsibility deficit for Bennet as an interim senator from Colorado matches that of Martha Coakley in her failure to become an interim senator from Massachusetts. Neither grasped that the country’s tolerance for unserious political palaver-as-usual is exhausted. The national BS detector is pegged. Bennet’s phony indignation over corrupt deals in the health care bill, and then over secret negotiations for same, backed up in neither case by his vote, simply spelled game over.

As for our glib young president, Mr. Obama set a trap for himself on inauguration day. After calling for a “new era of responsibility,” he has proved epically irresponsible ever since – weakening us against our enemies, selling out our allies, ballooning the deficit, expanding government, worsening the recession by bullying business, and obsessing over socialized medicine like Ahab with the whale. No wonder his numbers are at record lows.

The irresponsibility epidemic, a contagion long carried by Democrats but often caught by Republicans as well, finally triggered public fury in last year’s tea parties and townhalls. This is the uprising I’ve called Element R. But is it a movement – perhaps even a force capable of remaking the GOP? Or is it merely an electoral mood?

The responsibility backlash will continue taking its healthy toll. Whether it’s durable enough to take charge, time will tell. Though unaffiliated voters hold the balance of power, the coherence of their views is doubtful. Here in Colorado, it would be interesting to see Element R gel and assert itself to the point of asking questions that the established parties shrink from. These might include:

Does the initiative process make government so responsive as to be irresponsible? Is marijuana prohibition working any better than alcohol prohibition did? In redefining pregnancy, marriage, and parenthood to the vanishing point, have we signed a demographic suicide pact? Is Muslim sharia law compatible with liberty?

Dems and GOP alike have done none too well with our sacred responsibility for “keeping the republic,” in Franklin’s words. May they both feel the righteous wrath of Element R.