BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE FRACKING DEAL: How a Country Boy from Sterling Made a Liberal Oligarch Blink

The fracking ban deal seemed to appear out of nowhere on Monday, but the one thing stopping Rep. Jared Polis and his cadre of radical environmentalists was initiative 121, which would have prevented local communities that banned energy development from receiving state tax dollars from energy development. This initiative was a firewall that prevented radical environmentalists from seriously damaging Colorado’s economy.

We’re taking you behind the scenes with Republican Representative Jerry Sonnenberg to see how it all went down.  If anyone deserves major props in this battle its Sonnenberg as well as his partner in crime on this issue, Rep. Frank McNulty.  Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) head Tisha Schuller also praised their efforts in the fight to save Colorado’s oil and gas industry:

“This is a victory for bipartisan common sense and common ground.  I thank state Representatives Frank McNulty and Jerry Sonnenberg for their leadership and unwavering support.  Despite the great intent of initiative 121, their decision to pull the measure means initiatives 88 and 89 won’t be on the ballot,  which could have put Colorado’s economic future at risk.  We thank Representative McNulty and Representative Sonnenberg for their stalwart support of this vital industry.”

So this has been a whirlwind week. As you and Rep. McNulty said in a statement, Polis caved, Colorado won. How are you feeling about it all?

We eliminated a risky situation, so I am happy to be helpful to create that stability that oil and gas obviously needed. I had hoped to not pull the initiative immediately, as we still had roughly a month to see how the initiatives and the signatures played out. I believe Polis was under so much pressure to pull this from his own party, I think he would have done so, but our friends within energy wanted the stability of no initiatives immediately.

When did it first occur to you that your initiative – which would have prohibited cities that ban drilling from receiving energy revenues – was such a major source of leverage in fighting Polis?

We actually filed it to combat and create leverage as well as an alternative to what Polis was doing, so we knew from the beginning that we would be able to, at a minimum, provide help to the industry on the ballot.

Do you plan to push the proposal again? 

I indeed plan to bring it back, either again through legislation, as I have done in a couple of different legislation sessions or in 2016 to combat another fractivist set of initiatives.

How much do you think the decision of Polis to withdrawal was driven by concerns that his initiative would jeopardize the re-election of Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper? 

I think that was the whole driving force for him to withdraw. He was under so much pressure from within his own party.

The Boulder fractivists are pissed off at Jared Polis. Do you feel bad for Polis?

I indeed did feel bad for him…for possibly a second when I may have been weak.

One conservative group ran a TV ad ridiculing the anti-fracking crowd as “flat earthers” and, well, freaks. Agree?

I don’t know if I would go that far, but I indeed view them as people not in touch with reality. There were a number of folks that said my initiative should have said that if a community prohibits oil and gas production, we shut off their energy supply so no natural gas or electric heat and no car. These anti-fracking folks want their cake, and eat it too, which is not right.

Tell us about this task force that Hick appointed to look at the state’ oil and gas regulations. are you worried it is a stalking horse for Polis to come back in 2016 with a similar ban? 

That is always a concern, but I have already had a number of conversations with the Governor’s office to make sure this is a balanced commission. Although I don’t believe it will be balanced, my hope is to have enough input on members that I can move the discussion at least a little. A commission is the standard path for this Governor. Whether it is S.B. 252 when they pass a bill and then create a task force to fix it, which was a total failure, or this commission where they put forward an initiative and then create a task force to fix it. It is governing by extortion.

Do you think Polis’ retreat is evidence that the Sierra Club and environmentalists lost the frack wars?

I don’t think there is any question they lost, but will the voters remember this conversation 90 days from now? Will those voters remember that our Governor didn’t stand up to Polis months ago and tell him that his initiatives are damaging to the economy instead of negotiating with, what I consider, an eco-terrorist in Polis. This was a mess and not handled well by the administration or by Polis. Understand that the Governor called me and said we have a deal to remove the Polis initiatives which included my initiative. I asked “who was we” as this was the first I had heard of it. My fear is that oil and gas will not do everything they can to elect Republicans so that we have a new Governor or control of the Senate and House, and that if this commission comes up with a hair-brained suggestion, there will be no back stop when the legislation moves forward.


THE DEAL THAT WASN’T: Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Mission Accomplished

Only in Democratic politics could two politicians up for election declare with a straight face that a deal has been reached when, in fact, a deal on fracking initiatives is far from final.

This morning, Governor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis held a press conference to announce that they had come to a compromise.  The two laid out the compromise.  The only problem?  There were several items they listed as part of the compromise that weren’t actually compromises and that they had no authorization to promise.  For example, Hick told attendees that Polis would scrap Initiatives 88 and 89 if the proponents of 121 and 137 would do likewise; however, Rep. Frank McNulty, who is behind Initiative 137, said that his team had no plans to scrap their effort.

Even the journalists were confused.  Perhaps 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman best described it:

He noted that this “was announced with all the fanfare of a done deal, but it’s clearly not a done deal.”

Then, a few short hours later, Polis submitted signatures for the two ballot initiatives that he was sponsoring – 141,000 for Amendment 88 and about 120,000 for Amendment 89.

Let’s recap: Hickenlooper and Polis gather everyone together this morning to talk about how great they are and the grand compromise they had reached.  Hickenlooper promised things he couldn’t deliver.  Udall offered a statement praising the deal.  Polis submitted signatures.  No compromise was reached.  Talk about the height of incompetence. The only way Hickenlooper could have made it worse for himself if he had hung a “Mission Accomplished” banner above his head.

Or, just this:



POLITICAL CONVENIENCE: Polis/Hick Frack Deal Made By Two Dems to Benefit Two Dems

Courtesy of Brandon Rittiman’s Twitter feed

UPDATE #2: And the extortion continues with Polis now agreeing to pull his measures only if McNulty and Sonnenberg pull theirs.  ”Compromise” may be a bad word for Republicans, but at least they know what it means.  Can someone get John Hickenlooper and Jared Polis a dictionary, please?

UPDATE: Apparently, President Barack Obama called U.S. Rep. Jared Polis last night to ask him to pull initiatives 88 and 89.  Let’s pause to consider this for one second.  Polis is so far left on this issue that the President, no friend of traditional energy development, is actually more moderate on this issue.

Let’s call a spade a spade.  The deal allegedly reached by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and Governor John Hickenlooper to pull anti-fracking ballot initiatives 88 and 89 is a deal made by two Democrats up for re-election to benefit two Democrats up for re-election.  How do we know?  Was the industry involved in this?  No.  That’s how.

Here are the details of the deal.  Polis will pull 88 and 89. Hickenlooper will convene a “blue ribbon panel” to ” recommend bills for next year’s legislative session, made up of representatives from local communities, the oil and gas industry, and local government officials.”  Despite early reports that 88 and 89 would be pulled in exchange for 121 and 137 to be pulled, that is inaccurate.  Rumor has it that Hick tried to pressure Reps. Sonnenberg and McNulty to pull their initiatives and they said no.

Here’s how this benefits Hickenlooper and Polis.  Polis was prepared to submit 200,000 signatures for both initiatives.  That might sound like a lot; however, that’s only approximately 100,000 per initiative, not nearly enough to account for signatures that might be invalidated.  The bare minimum for signatures to be on the ballot would be 86,000.  Experts say that they would need at least 125,000 to be safe.  Polis and all his money fell 50,000 short of the safety number.  Coming to a deal now just gives Polis’ massive failure cover.

And, then, we turn to Hickenlooper.  Hickenlooper desperately needed a win for his re-election campaign.  This deal allows him to declare victory without ever having to take a stand.  As usual.  It’s TBD 24/7 in Hickenlooper’s reality.

Of course, now that these two anti-fracking initiatives are off the ballot, Democrats don’t have to worry about the initiatives helping to turn out every single Republican in the state.  This would have been a huge problem for Sen. Mark Udall, whose re-election bid is in serious trouble.

Of course, everyone wants to know if Polis will re-direct the funds he planned to use to push these two ill-advised initiatives to Hickenlooper’s campaign as he allegedly promised.


WILL POLIS BLINK? Compromise Negotiations Underway, Business Group Redoubles Efforts

Today, the political class is waiting with baited breath to see if Polis goes through with submitting signatures for his anti-fracking ballot measures or if he backs down.

The pressure on Polis to drop his initiatives has come from both sides of the aisle and across all sectors of the business community.   While it doesn’t behoove Polis politically to press on, he’s also backed himself into quite the corner. 

The Denver Post is reporting that as of this morning Gov. Hickenlooper is still trying to broker a compromise despite his failed effort to do so earlier this summer.  From the Post:

Under the proposal, two initiatives aimed at tightening controls would be withdrawn and two so-called pro-industry initiatives would also be pulled back. 

Whether Hick will be able to come up with something that is truly bipartisan and not just an appeasement to Polis is still in question.   One of the pro-industry initiatives is sponsored by Rep. Frank McNulty and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg – neither of whom would be motivated to do Polis or Hick any favors.

On top of that, the pro-energy coalition Vital for Colorado has made a direct appeal to Polis asking that he stand down and withdraw his anti-fracking measures.  Then last week, the group took out a full-page ad in The Colorado Statesman highlighting their letter, and they hosted a joint tele-Town hall with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to educate voters about Polis’s damaging initiatives.

With pressure continuing to mount – even up up to the last possible second – we have to ask, will Polis blink?


FUNDRAISER: Help Former Rep. Ken Summers Recover

As many of you may have heard, former Republican Rep. Ken Summers contracted West Nile virus, which caused encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, and meningitis.  While his prognosis is good, he will likely need significant physical rehabilitation.  You can follow his journey here.  To help defray the medical costs, a fundraiser will take place on Wednesday, August 7th at noon.  The invitation is below.  Please consider attending.  If you cannot attend, please consider contributing to help with Ken Summers’ recovery.


OBAMA VS DOUGCO: Rep. McNulty Blasts AFL-CIO & DougCo Teachers Union For Spending Priorities

The fight down in Douglas County is ramping up in the lead up to the 2013 school board elections in November. Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) recently weighed in on the issue, blasting the local teachers union for sending most of their union dues to elect Barack Obama and almost none on teacher development.

Check out McNulty’s robodial:

If you listen carefully you’ll note McNulty takes a veiled swipe at 9News union rep education reporter, Nelson Garcia, who has been reporting the union smear that Douglas County teachers are leaving in droves. Turns out it’s not only not true, but Douglas County has the same retention rate as union-friendly districts like Cherry Creek.

Strangely, Garcia has yet to report on Cherry Creek’s “colander” for teachers. Guess the AFL-CIO isn’t interested in feeding him that story.

We also received this walk piece (after the jump) from a reader down in Castle Rock that lays out the line of attack highlighted in McNulty’s robodial, namely that the DougCo union sent 70% of its union dues to Washington, DC to elect Barack Obama and only 1% on actual teacher development.

To put it lightly, that kind of thing ain’t gonna be popular in the Republican Promised Land of Douglas County.



OUTRAGE: Colorado Leaders Furious Over Hickenlooper’s Coward’s Clemency Of Dunlap

Outrage is the only way to describe the reaction of many of Colorado’s leaders today over Governor Hickenlooper’s cowardly decision to issue a reprieve to mass murderer Nathan Dunlap via executive order.

From victims’ families to the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police to the District Attorney charged with convicting the Aurora shooter, many people involved in the Dunlap case were furious with Hickenlooper’s half-assed decision.

Below is a round-up of initial reaction:


GOLD DOME DECREE: Winners Of The 2013 Legislative Session

Welcome to the third annual Colorado Peak Politics legislative awards where we honor the winners, losers and those that neither won nor lost, sometimes maddeningly so. Or, as we have dubbed them in years past — sister kissers.

The session itself was a stone cold loser for the people of Colorado, with gun rights greatly diminished, rural electric rates set to rise and a looming billion dollar tax hike endorsed by every Democrat under the Gold Dome.

It was, in the words of The Durango Herald‘s Joe Hanel, “one of the most liberal ever.”

Without further ado, here are the folks who came out ahead by Sine Die.



PeakFeed: 8 Photos of Colorado Golden Girl Missy Franklin Visiting The Capitol

Colorado’s own Olympic hero and swimming sensation, Missy Franklin, stopped by the Capitol today to visit with lawmakers.

Here are 7 8 photos with Missy and some schlubs down at the Legislature.

Missy and the AP’s Ivan Moreno (with requisite Rep. McNulty photo bomb)

Minority Leader Waller looks confused.



TONE DEAF: Boulder Liberal Representative Says Dems Have Votes To Abolish Death Penalty, A Move 68% Of Coloradans Oppose

In an article in Denver Westword this morning, House Democrat Speaker Pro Tempore Claire Levy claims the Democrats likely have the votes to overturn the death penalty, despite a recent poll showing 68% of Coloradans oppose the move.

Unfortunately, the Westword reporter didn’t ask Levy why she would push a bill so heavily opposed by the people of Colorado. Here’s what Westword‘s Sam Levin did report:

Before Representative Claire Levy proposes legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado, she wants to be sure that it can pass.

And after more discussions with her fellow lawmakers on the topic, she says it seems like the momentum is right to get rid of the death penalty — even if one of her Democratic colleagues is adamantly opposed to the move.

“I can’t say with certainty…but I’m getting more confident,” Levy says. “Those of us who are sponsoring it want to be sure we are going to be able to pass it before we introduce it. We are getting in confident in that.”

The Democratic colleague referenced above is Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose son and fiance were gunned down after her son agreed to testify in a murder trial. His killer is on death row.

The optics of this debate couldn’t possibly be worse for Democrats, but with control of both chambers at the Capitol, it seems somewhat likely that the bill will reach the Governor’s desk. Knowing that Governor Hickenlooper is hyper-sensitive to polling, here’s a brief breakdown of what Coloradans said in a recent poll by the Tarrance Group — a highly respected Republican polling firm.

Per a Colorado Observer scoop:


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