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LONDON — So Britain got its country back.

To be more precise: The older, whiter parts of England and Wales think they’re getting their country back — a nostalgic vision of Britain that, one could argue, never existed.

If the situation sounds familiar, then you’ve heard any one of Donald Trump’s stump speeches, or seen the four words he has stamped on thousands of ill-fitting baseball caps: Make America Great Again.

It harkens back to a better time, a simpler time. Back when you could leave your door unlocked and everyone still went to church. When your neighbors were friendlier, cars were bigger and the neighborhood was less, er…ethnic.

It brings to mind a comment made by John Cleese, comic legend of Monty Python fame and certified old person, who lamented in 2011 about how “London is no longer an English city,” referring to the city’s multicultural transformation. He went on, “When the parent culture kind of dissipates, you’re left thinking, ‘What’s going on?’”

It was that seductive nostalgia for a lost culture that many older Britons yearned for as they went to the polls Thursday. The young didn’t feel the same yearning. According to the YouGov unofficial exit poll, 75 percent of voters under the age of 24 voted to remain in the EU, compared to only 39 percent of those aged 65 or older. The youth voted to keep the union together. The elderly tore it apart.

The official results show that London — or, as British pundits insist on calling it in recent weeks, “young, metropolitan London” — voted Remain, as expected. So did Scotland and Northern Ireland. But most of England and Wales, especially in areas with high proportions of older voters, decided they wanted to “Make Britain Great Again.”  

That “greatness” can be translated to a homogenous society, disconnected from the global community, free from the tyranny of international organizations and their red tape. A society able to keep immigrants out of the country and away from our jobs and culture. Society as it was before all the bad stuff, like progress, ruined it all.

While running for president in 1976, Reagan gave a speech called “To Restore America,” where he set out why he was running for the White House: “I would like to be president, because I would like to see this country become once again a country where a little 6-year-old girl can grow up knowing the same freedom that I knew when I was six years old, growing up in America,” he said. 

Reagan turned six years old in 1917, the same year America entered World War I. By the end of the Great War, over 116,000 Americans would be among the 17 million dead.  

That same year, Ell Persons, an African-American woodchopper, was lynched by a mob in Memphis, Tennessee. Five thousand people stood around and watched as Persons was burned alive. One would imagine that Persons did not enjoy “freedom” as much as young Reagan did in 1917.

Whether these memories of a “better yesterday” are based in reality or merely the cherry-picked recollections of an older generation afraid of change, they are driving people all over the Western world to vote against whatever they fear — or think they should fear. Thanks to Great Britain, an alarm has been raised among progressives and liberals in America: If the anti-establishment, anti-immigrant rhetoric could prove persuasive enough to result in Brexit, could it drive Donald Trump to the White House?

Young supporters for the Remain side here tend to be politically savvy about what’s going on in our part of the world. When the subject of Donald Trump comes up, they visibly cringe. Everyone here knows the name, and it seems to bring about actual irritation and fear, like a very annoying Voldemort.

As much as we Americans have become accustomed to see Trump on our TVs every day, in England they usually only see the ‘highlight reel’ of the most alarming, ugly and outrageous things he’s done or said. He has become a bit of an American boogeyman, a caricature of everything they see wrong about America. A common term was used for the possibility of Trump becoming president after Brexit: “a double blow.”  

Robin Phelps, a volunteer for the Leave campaign, went so far as to compare Trump to the rise of far-right groups in Europe after World War I. He also saw the same kind of rhetoric in the UK when the Leave campaign stoked the fear of migrants to get votes. “I think the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump show a lot of similarities.”

Ben Cattanu, a British resident originally from Canada, expanded on the idea. He drew a parallel between the refusal of Leave supporters to listen to seasoned statesmen and expert economists, who have been raising the alarm for months about how much Brexit would hurt. In both Brexit and Trump, “it is a rejection of expertise. There’s a jingoism, a nationalism that exists that is the opposite of what something like the EU is doing with the free movement of people and trade… and it’s a very dangerous trend.”

And then there’s Omri, a university student, on why Americans should not vote for Trump: “I think it’s the same type of populism that we’re seeing on the rise in Europe, also seeing on the rise in this country.  It’s basically a way of triggering people’s fears in order to cynically exploit that for political gain,” said Omri, who declined to give his last name. “I think Trump has taken it to an extreme that is even beyond what we’ve seen in other places, that he’s willing to basically say and do anything; it’s very incoherent, it’s inconsistent, and it’s very clear that he doesn’t actually care about anything.  I think he’s a huge danger to the United States, I think he’s a huge danger to the Western world and to global stability, and it’s very important that Americans don’t vote for him.”

That is just a small sampling of what you hear from the under-24’s here — the young people that this referendum has thrown at the wayside, whose views and desires were discounted as either infantile or naïve.  Soon they won’t have the ability to freely move across the continent to travel, work, or discover another future outside the UK – as jobs here are disappearing and London has become unaffordable to virtually everyone. They will no longer feel like they are part of a truly global community.

The youth of Britain have taken a collective gutshot as a decision was made for them that probably never should have been put to a referendum in the first place. They just never thought their fellow countrymen would do “something so ridiculous” and ignore every warning sign.  

When they see the words “Make America Great Again,” many Americans are probably thinking the same thing.

 

Deepan, who is pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, was in the UK last week covering the lead-up to and aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Photo credit: Deepan Dutta

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If I read my Twitter feed correctly, the lesson that Americans should take from Brexit is not that the European project has been turned on its head — I mean, who cares about old Europe? — but that the American project could be next.

The message is at least twofold:

One: We should take Donald Trump’s anti-establishment, anti-globalization, anti-elite, anti-immigrant campaign very seriously. Xenophobia has clearly won the day in Britain, just as it did in the Republican presidential primary. Why not in November?

Two: It is impossible to take anything about Donald Trump seriously. And this, I fear, may be the more dangerous message.

Trump didn’t know what Brexit was a few weeks ago. Yet as the dawn breaks upon a new world, he is in Scotland, not to celebrate the movement to which he has attached himself, but to cut ribbons at two golf courses he has purchased. In the middle of a chaotic presidential campaign, Trump took time out for a business trip. And if that’s never happened before, get used to it. A lot of things are happening that have never happened before.

If you think Trump should put his business interests in some sort of trust, as presidential candidates tend to do, you might as well ask him to erase the name “Trump” emblazoned across his helicopter. Trump is his business interests.

“Basically, they took back their country,” Trump said of the Brexit vote from the ninth hole of venerable Turnberry golf course — that traditional news-conference destination — where there were several bagpipers there to greet him. “That’s a good thing.”

Asked why people voted for Brexit, he said, “People are angry. All over the world they’re angry … They are angry over borders, they are angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even noticing. They are angry about many, many things.”

When asked where the anger is greatest, he said, “U.K. U.S. There’s lots of other places. This will not be the last.”

He’s right, sort of. The anger is everywhere.

Working class people are getting the shaft in a globalized world, making the market just right for a politician/demagogue to come along selling anger and fear. Or rather, in the case of the Donald, selling a venerable golf course and its formerly run-down hotel — which, he explained, the Trump family has gone to great expense to restore to its former grandeur. Making Britain’s golf courses great again.

When asked about the pound’s plunge as the financial markets have really taken the Brexit vote seriously, Trump came right to the point: “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

Yes, he did.

He thus made the pivot from a brief statement about Brexit to a discourse on Turnberry’s new watering system and renovations. He didn’t mention that, though the watering system is improved, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to stay in the European Union and may now move toward another vote to leave the United Kingdom.

It wasn’t just Scotland that voted to stay. Northern Ireland voted to stay. Young people voted to stay. Londoners voted to stay. As the “remain” people had put it, Great Britain could go back to being Little England.

Nobody really knows what will come of Brexit. The move from the EU will go slowly and may not be nearly as dramatic as the vote itself. Members of Parliament are largely in the “stay” camp and are likely, if Europe goes along, to want to keep ties as close as possible. But it could also mean other EU countries line up to leave. What we know is that things are different now. The economists pretty much uniformly predicted economic disaster for Britain if it voted to leave. The majority of voters either didn’t believe the experts or didn’t care.

Voting against the experts — you know, like the ones who believe the sea levels might rise sufficiently to damage Trump’s Scottish investments — is Trump’s recommended course of action, no matter what impact it has, say, on your retirement account.

Trump’s campaign may be in disarray. His poll numbers may have plummeted. The risk that the British economy might tank could put the Trump project at risk. And yet he scoffed at the idea that he needed advisers to help him work through the ramifications of Brexit. When asked by reporters if members of his foreign policy team were traveling with him, he said, according to the Washington Post, that “there’s nothing to talk about.”

Of course, people can talk of little else. The Supreme Court non-decision on Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan ensured that immigration would be at the heart of the presidential campaign. The fact that Britain went all Tom Tancredo on immigration can hardly be ignored. It is more important even than the tanking of stock markets. The fact that the British “leave” campaign was based in racism is more important than Trump’s made-for-SNL-mockery business trip.

In a statement before his news conference, Trump wrote this: “Come November, the American people will have the chance to re-declare their independence. Americans will have a chance to vote for trade, immigration and foreign policies that put our citizens first. They will have the chance to reject today’s rule by the global elite, and to embrace real change that delivers a government of, by, and for the people. I hope America is watching, it will soon be time to believe in America again.”

He hopes America is watching.

You should hope so, too.

Photo credit: Trump Documentary TV, Creative Commons, Google Images

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Democratic state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri is swinging back – rhetorically anyway – after he says a longtime lobbyist threatened him with physical violence.

Chuck Ford, a veteran lobbyist for three decades at the state Capitol, challenged Ulibarri to meet him “mano a mano” over a fundraising email the lawmaker sent Tuesday in support of Democratic Senate candidate Erin Bennett, in Senate District 31.

The Ulibarri email was titled “656,” referring to the number of registered lobbyists in Colorado. Ulibarri wrote that lobbyists outnumber lawmakers seven to one under the Gold Dome.

“It’s hard to stand up for progressive values” in the state Senate, Ulibarri wrote. “I know because I have witnessed the swarm of corporate lobbyists, the oil and gas industry and health insurance companies that descend on the Capitol to drown out the voices of Colorado voters.”

If Bennett makes it to the Senate, she won’t fold under pressure, Ulibarri wrote to Bennett’s supporters.

Senate District 31 covers south-Central Denver, Glendale and a small portion of western Arapahoe County.

Lobbyist Ford responded to the email with strong language and a perceived threat Thursday just before noon.

“I am a Labor Democrat, a Progressive Democrat, an Early-early Supporter of Bernie Sanders, a Radical Opponent of Corporate/plutocratic Government AND a registered Colorado Lobbyist for 30 years,” he wrote to Ulibarri.  “YOU are a complete fucking idiot for daring to send me a piece of shit like this and, if you have the cojones to meet mano a mano I show you how I REALLY feel about you.”

The email address is the same one listed for Ford in the Secretary of State’s lobbyist database. Ford did not return multiple calls for comment.

Ulibarri responded to Ford’s email with another to Bennett supporters this afternoon. “In response to that email, I just received a threatening note from a registered lobbyist who is enraged that I’m speaking truth to power. I’m not backing down, and neither is Erin.”

Ulibarri, who lives in Westminster, told The Colorado Independent he will file an ethics complaint against Ford. Joint Rule 36(b) of the General Assembly says a lobbyist may not attempt to influence any legislator “by means of deceit or by threat of violence or economic or political reprisal” tied to the lawmaker’s decisions, votes, opinions or actions.

Ulibarri announced in February that he would not seek re-election this fall. He chose to step down to focus on managing a political leadership program and working on “movement building” for the progressive Wellstone Group.

Ford’s chief client for the past six years has been the Towing & Recovery Professionals of Colorado. According to his LinkedIn page, Ford has also represented local governments, regulated professions and businesses, gaming interests, labor unions, agricultural and water interests, liquor interests, child care centers and construction contractors. He has made campaign contributions over the years to several candidates, mostly Democrats.

Bennett, who heads the working women’s group 9 to 5 Colorado, is in a three-way primary to succeed term-limited Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver. She’s competing against Rep. Lois Court and Dr. Stephen Sherick. The race has already generated more than $365,000 in contributions for the three candidates.

Photo credit: Raylene Gutierrez, Creative Commons, Flickr

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On June 12, a man walked into the Pulse bar in Orlando, Florida and opened fire on patrons who were there just to enjoy life. Some were members of the LGBTQ community and some were not. Yet what they all had in common was an expectation that they would wake up late Sunday morning  and get on with their lives. .

We know how this story ended, just as we know how it ended in San Bernardino, and in Sandy Hook, and in a theater in Aurora and at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

Colorado is all too familiar with mass shootings. The mere mention of the word Columbine — our state flower — triggers horrific memories of two boys gunning down classmates who, twenty four hours earlier, had eaten in the cafeteria where bodies lay, contorted, beside overturned lunch tables and chairs.

All of the nation mourned with us after Columbine, and then again after Aurora, and then again after Colorado Springs. And all of Colorado grieved with the parents of Noah & Dylan and the families of the 20 other first graders from Connecticut.

This ritual of mass gun slaughter is carried out more times than any of us care to remember.  And yet, we continue do nothing to stem the tide of guns in the U.S.

Three years ago, two Colorado lawmakers were ousted from the legislature for having the temerity to challenge the NRA and Colorado gun owners. It was as if the wrath of Cain fell upon them.

Two days ago, Sen. Cory Gardner voted no on a bill that would have removed guns from the hands of folks on the terrorist watch list.  That’s right: He actually opposed a bill that would have blocked suspected terrorists from buying a Glock 9 mm, an AR-15 or the Sig Sauer semiautomatic used in the Orlando massacre.

Why?

What would lead a senator from a state so pocked by the bullets of mass shooters to refuse to support closing loopholes on gun checks and gun sales to suspected terrorists?

Gardner has received, directly or indirectly, more than $3.9 million from the NRA over the course of his career. He is one of the leading Republican beneficiaries of the mega gun lobby.  He is owned — lock, stock and barrel — by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.

In an era  of multi-million dollar campaign contributions, Gardner’s history of voting against bills that would have put a few more teeth in gun regulation isn’t surprising.

Gardner and the gun lobby in Colorado believe the Second Amendment functions as no other amendment within the Bill of Rights.  They hold the mistaken belief that any regulation is tantamount to obliteration of the right.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless Gardner was asleep in his constitutional law class, he knows this full well.

No right is absolute.  Not one.

The right to free speech has its limits as to time, place and manner — thus the famous admonition, “You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater.” What’s more, we have libel and defamation laws that curb unfettered expression.

Even freedom of religion can hit a wall, even if that wall is cracking in state legislatures like Mississippi and North Carolina, two states that passed anti-LGBTQ legislation following the 2015 U S Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision.  

There are plenty of state and federal court cases that hold parents both criminally and civilly liable for death or injury of children because parents substituted medical attention with prayer.   

So why do Corey Gardner, his deep-pocketed benefactors at the NRA and their acolytes think the Second Amendment trumps the most fundamental of rights-life and bodily integrity?  

Because there’s a payoff for each part of this triangle of death. Gardner gets the money, the NRA gets the power and the acolytes get the guns, whether for shooting skeet or shooting to kill.

It’s true what they say: Political whoring has its price. That adage has particular currency for  Colorado’s junior senator.

As long as Cory Gardner continues to serve as the NRA’s bitch, all of us — whether in night clubs, movie theaters, medical clinics or school cafeterias — will continue to be victims of the NRA gun lobby and the politicians who support and empower them.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

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Some of the most contentious issues in this year’s legislative session, like transportation and fracking, have a happy home in House District 33, which encompasses Broomfield and surrounding communities Lafayette, Superior and Erie.

The House race there, between Democrat Matt Gray and Republican Karen Nelson, wasn’t firmed up until April when Nelson made the jump into the contest. Gray filed for the seat a year earlier.

Gray, 35, is a former assistant district attorney in Adams and Broomfield counties. He’s now in private practice helping local governments with public financing issues.

Although this is Nelson’s first run for elected office, she’s the veteran politico, with 11 years as a legislative aide at the state House where she has worked for Republican lawmakers from all over the state. That experience has exposed her to both urban and rural issues, she told The Colorado Independent this week.

It’s also why she waited until April, and just before the district GOP assembly, to formally enter the race: She wanted to continue working for Rep. Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs as long as possible. House rules required her to resign once she formally declared her candidacy.

The seat is currently held by term-limited Democratic state Rep. Dianne Primavera of Broomfield. 

Primavera first won the seat in 2006 and again in 2008. She lost her re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Donald Beezley in a race that flipped the House from Democratic control to Republican. Then, in 2014, Primavera won back the seat and has held it for the past four years.

In 2010, the district favored Republicans, but just barely. Today, unaffiliated voters make up 39.4 percent of the electorate there. Republicans make up 29.3 percent and Democrats make up 31 percent, according to May voter numbers from the Secretary of State.

The question of whether the district would send a Democrat or Republican to the state Capitol has been mostly decided by Libertarians in the past two election cycles. In both 2012 and 2014, a Libertarian candidate took about 5 percent of the vote – the margin of victory for Primavera over her Republican opponents in both elections.

There will a Libertarian in the race this year, too: Kim Tavendale, an ordained minister from Broomfield.

Two of the biggest issues in the district are among the most controversial at the statehouse: transportation and fracking. Broomfield is one of the communities where voters approved a ban on oil and gas fracking within the city limits, only to see that decision overturned recently by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Nelson, 65, is a widow who has lived in Broomfield for more than 30 years. She is a firm supporter of fracking, citing her experience for the past three years on the Broomfield City Planning and Development Commission. Fracking is among the issues that have come before the commission, and she said she learned a lot from presentations and videos from oil and gas companies that convinced her fracking was safe.

Fracking gives the nation energy independence, she said. “We have the resources in this nation” to provide that independence. Concerns over fracking’s impacts on land and water, she said, have largely been dealt with by advances in technology. And, she added, fracking brings in much-needed tax revenue that support schools and parks.

Nelson’s job under the Gold Dome gave her a close look at the debate over Colorado’s hospital provider fee for the past two years.

The fee is levied on hospital overnight patient stays as well as outpatient visits. That money is then matched with federal dollars and redistributed to hospitals to cover uninsured patients and to expand Medicaid. Democrats and a small handful of Republicans want to see the fee removed from the state’s revenue limits, as established under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. The fee would then be reclassified to be exempt from TABOR restrictions and revenues would be spent on uninsured patients and Medicaid expansion.

Nelson isn’t comfortable with reclassifying the fee. The plan would be “skirting TABOR,” she says.

She is strongly anti-abortion, but said she would not impose her beliefs on others. “It comes down to personal choice,” she explained.

Still, she favors more alternatives to abortion for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, pointing to the need for more babies for adoption. “I’d like to see those options considered,” she said.

Nelson had a front-row seat to the debate over gun control in the 2013 session, when she worked for Republican Reps. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio and Jim Wilson of Salida.

It was the most tumultuous session in the entire 11 years she served, she said. The gun bills – requiring background checks for private gun transfers and capping the limit on ammunition magazines at 15 rounds – were rushed through the legislative process, Nelson said, adding that many people were denied an opportunity to testify because Democrats limited the amount of time available for public input.

(This is a common practice used by both parties, particularly when dealing with bills that are controversial and draw sizable audiences.)

Nelson considered a couple of other presidential candidates early on and says Donald Trump was not her first choice. “But I will support the nominee, whomever comes out of the convention…if Trump is the official nominee, I will back him,” she said.

As Nelson sees it, there should be equal pay for equal work, regardless of who’s holding the job.

“It’s only fair; a woman should be paid the same as a man if they’re in the same kind of position.” But she doesn’t agree with raising the minimum wage, because “it’s supposed to be a starting salary, not a living wage…And if you need education to move up the ladder, you should pursue that.”

To counter that, “we need to provide the opportunity for better jobs with higher wages and which need more training.” Companies that have to raise their minimum wage, like the fast-food industry, will end up raising prices. “It’s a Catch-22.”

Would Nelson support a repeal of the gun control laws? Yes, she said, because the bills are unenforceable. “We need to take another look at these laws, and the only hope to do that is that Republicans take control of the House” and maintain control of the Senate.

She hopes to be part of a new Republican House majority come January.

Gray is determined to hang onto the seat for Democrats. A Broomfield resident for the past decade, he cites his family’s influence as one of the reasons for running for office.

Both of his parents were involved in public education, teaching at the public education and college level. His wife’s parents also have had careers in public education.

“Public service is just something you do,” Gray said this week. “I like the law, public policy and finding solutions.”

With his background in public finance, Gray has gained a wealth of knowledge about TABOR and how to work around its complications. He pointed out that he has created dozens of municipal enterprises for his clients, and supports the idea of converting the hospital provider fee into a TABOR-exempt enterprise.

The revenue limit set out by the voter-approved TABOR, he said, was not formulated to maintain a balance between state spending and state revenues. TABOR’s inflationary adjustment – which, under the law, is based on the annual Denver-Boulder rate of inflation – was not designed to cover the expenses of state government, Gray said.

The costs of education and health care have exceeded the rate of inflation, and it has forced the state to cut funding for public education.

“I don’t think anyone who voted for TABOR voted for the slow draining out of education or transportation funding,” Gray said.

Why not ask voters about reclassifying the fee? Gray said such a question could be sent to voters, although he believes those who serve in elected office shouldn’t always punt to the voters. If voters elect him, he said, “I’m going to go down there and reach consensus so we have a functioning government and not have voters give us permission four times a year to do our jobs. The hospital provider fee is a great example of that.”

On gun control, Gray supports the 2013 background check law on private weapons transfers, which was passed by majority Democrats. Background checks are a “no-brainer,” he said, harkening back to his experience as an assistant district attorney. “I’ve seen what happens when you put weapons in the hands of people who will be dangerous with them and aren’t legally allowed to have them.”

Gray is less adamant about the magazine limit on the books.

“I believe in the Second Amendment as a right, and that people have a right to own weapons for hunting and self-defense.” Although he said he trusts the judgment of lawmakers who passed the 2013 magazine limit law, he would be willing to sit down and listen to anyone who can provide him with data on just where that limit should be drawn.

But “the answer isn’t unlimited weapons of war in the streets all the time,” he added.

Gray is firmly pro-choice and fully opposed to any law that interferes with a woman’s access to abortion, particularly for political reasons. He points out that those laws don’t come from the medical community and do little more than insert politics into a medical process. “That’s always a horrible idea,” he said.

“Political activists and politicians should not be the ones to determine how a doctor does their job.”

Gray backs former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president, and that’s always been his choice, citing the “gulf” between the professionalism she would bring to the office and that of Trump.

“I believe in equal pay for equal work wholeheartedly – the tricky part is how to accomplish it,” Gray said. “We already have laws on the books mandating that, but what can the public and private sector do to make it a reality? He doesn’t believe people decide pay necessarily based on gender, but I’m interested in working with others on building a new economy that values women’s accomplishments as much as men’s. “We’ve got work to do on that.”

He also supports raising the minimum wage, noting that economic growth in the past few years has benefitted the top earners, but not the middle class, and that too many people rely on minimum wage jobs for a living, but that it doesn’t provide a “living wage.”

“A lot of working-class families have fallen behind,” he said, and “we need a solution for them – compensation that will allow them to succeed.”

“But it’s not a silver bullet that fixes everything.”

Gray said he would support consensus on the issue of fracking. He notes that one of the first things he did after declaring his candidacy was to invite every trustee, mayor and city council member in the district’s three cities to a meeting. Fracking and transportation were the issues they all wanted to discuss.

“I don’t think there’s any reason there can’t be consensus on how this is done. Most municipal officials say they don’t want to ban fracking,” and those who want to ban fracking are resigned to the fact that they can’t, he said. “But almost nobody says it’s okay to see a fracking rig outside their child’s window,” he said.

Local officials want more restrictions, oil and gas want less, “but there’s a common-sense middle…It’s not to say I can single-handedly make people who have been fighting for years like each other,” but he adds he will go neighborhood to neighborhood to build that consensus.

Gray and wife Katie – who grew up in the Louisville/Lafayette area – have two children, including a new baby. As a family, their public policy priorities are better funding for schools and improved transportation, including mass transit.

“I want what most people want,” he said.

 

Photos via Karen Nelson and Matt Gray.

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Two of Colorado’s congressional members, Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette, spoke out during a 24-hour sit-in by U.S. House Democrats who demanded a vote on measures they believe will help curb gun violence.

The sit-in was unprecedented and was led by Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights movement.

Below are speeches from Reps. Perlmutter and Degette, weighing in on gun legislation that would bar terrorists on the no-fly list from buying firearms and provide more background checks.

This morning, Perlmutter read the names of Colorado victims of gun violence.

House Republicans shut off C-SPAN’s camera feed and microphones, leading members of Congress and their allies to use social media to get their message out. Video of DeGette’s speech comes from Periscope, via her office.

“What kind of an institution would shut down the microphones of the people who are trying to represent their constituents,” DeGette said, thanking her colleagues for streaming the sit-in live on various platforms.

As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, points out, “Everything about this is controversial. Republicans see it as little more than a ‘stunt’ aimed at curtailing constitutional rights.”

Meanwhile, he added:

 Civil libertarians are dismayed that Democrats want to use the much-criticized terror watch list—marred by bias and rendered suspect by a lack of due process—to limit gun ownership. And some liberals are worried that this only escalates political conflict. “How will Dems cheering the sit-in react if a year from tonight it’s House Republicans sitting in to block President Clinton’s agenda,” said MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki on Twitter. He continued: “Dems talk about an anti-Trump wave giving HRC a Dem House to work with. Now here’s a tactic R’s could use if they’re back in the minority.”

On Monday, members of the U.S. Senate voted on four amendments to tighten up gun legislation, none of which passed.

Related: Here’s the breakdown of how U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner voted on gun measures this week

Perlmutter represents Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, which encompasses the northern parts of Denver and Aurora. DeGette represents the 1st Congressional District, which covers the city and county of Denver and its suburbs.

Colorado has three Democratic U.S. House members. Jared Polis of Boulder is the third, who is out of town this week. Colorado’s Republican Congressmen are Scott Tipton, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman. Republicans have the majority in Congress.

9News in Denver rounded up statements from each of them on how they would vote on the two gun control bills.

Buck said the Democratic sit-in was blocking legislative movement on helping pregnant women who have the Zika virus. Tipton said the focus should be on national security and counter terrorism efforts.

“Don’t turn off the mics anymore, keep the cameras on,” Perlmutter said from the floor this morning. “America wants a real debate. They want us to vote on this subject.”

[Photo credit: Pavel Koucký via Creative Commons on Flickr]

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The Dalai Lama is in Boulder today to lead two spiritual teachings at the Coors Events Center.

The 80-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader arrived at the St. Julien Hotel Wednesday and was greeted by local Tibetans.

Colorado Independent photographer Marie-Dominique Verdier captured several moments from the event.

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

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All photos by Marie-Dominique Verdier, www.mdvphoto.com

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Sitting in

It was wild day, and late into the night, on the House floor as Democrats staged a sit-in, protesting Speaker Paul Ryan’s refusal to hold votes on gun-control bills. Democrats shouted Ryan down, and Republicans gaveled the session to a close. But Democrats didn’t go home. Instead, they sang “We Shall Overcome,” with lines like “We shall pass a bill someday,” as passions ran high on both sides of the aisle.

Peaceful protest

How Democrats mounted their sit-in. Via Politico.

Cameras on

We know that social media has changed politics. This time it was Twitter’s Periscope that put the sit-in on the air after the Republicans turned off the cameras. Via Vox.

Trump’s mouth

Trump calls Hillary Clinton a “world-class liar.” It wasn’t the worst thing he said about her, either. Via The New York Times.

Fact check

And then there’s the fact check of Trump’s charges. Via The New York Times.

Clinton v. Trump

Amy Davidson on Donald Trump’s scandalous speech on the Clinton scandals. Via The New Yorker.

The Donnie

What was Donald Trump like as a child? You may not be surprised to learn that little Donnie was a lot like The Donald. Via The Washington Post.

Brexit’s error

The pro-Brexit crowd may well be targeting the wrong people. Via The Week.

Flying mud

The Brexit argument is not like most political affairs in Britain. This time, it’s nasty and even rude. Via The National Review.

Photo via C-SPAN. 

NARAL denounces ColoradoCare, saying it would restrict abortions

Ams 69 proponents counter that the measure would nullify a previous amendment banning state-funded abortions.

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Colorado’s leading pro-choice group has come out against Amendment 69, saying the proposed single-payer ColoradoCare system would impede abortion access in the state.

“I think everybody supports the goal of improved healthcare for all Coloradans. But because Amendment 69 can’t provide guarantees to affordable abortion access, it isn’t truly universal health care,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s director, Karen Middleton.

In many ways, the pro-choice movement seems a natural ally of ColoradoCare. Both work to ensure healthcare options for as many Coloradans as possible, especially the medically underserved.

But NARAL says a 1984 state constitutional amendment banning state-funded abortions would classify Colorado’s single-payer health care system as a subdivision of the state and preclude access to abortions.

For months, ColoradoCare proponents tried to convince NARAL’s board members – some of whom embrace the notion of universal health care – to stay neutral on the Amendment 69. ColoradoCare leaders reportedly suggested a work-around whereby women could buy supplemental health care plans that would cover abortions.

But NARAL dismisses that option, saying abortion, by definition, isn’t a procedure anyone expects or plans for. NARAL also rejects the assumption that, under a statewide universal health care system, abortions wouldn’t be needed because birth control would be accessible to all. Even under a single-payer system, the group counters, women would still seek abortions in cases such as fetal abnormalities.

The NARAL board voted this evening to oppose Amendment 69, saying silence on the issue isn’t an option.

“We’re not going to be quiet about it when it’s a very obvious policy hole in what otherwise might have been a good idea,” Middleton said.

Sen. Irene Aguilar, a leading Amendment 69 proponent, said tonight she’s “disappointed” with NARAL’s position, which she called “unfounded.”

“It’s written generally enough to cover all women’s health care services,” she said.

The ColoradoCare campaign has a different legal interpretation than NARAL’s, saying Amendment 69 would be newer than the 1984 amendment, and therefore would supersede  restrictions on funding elective abortions.

“The general rule is that where an apparent conflict exists between two statutes, the courts must attempt to harmonize them to effectuate the intent of the general assembly.  If the two cannot be harmonized, the statute enacted last in time controls,” reads a legal interpretation by Ralph Ogden, an attorney for the Amendment 69 campaign.

Aguilar noted that 350,000 people are uninsured in Colorado – half of whom are women – and that 700,000 residents in the state are underinsured. She also noted that there were about 10,000 abortions in Colorado last year.

“ColoradoCare would provide comprehensive care to all of of those women,” she said. “I think it’s incredibly short-sighted to take a position that potentially denies hundreds of thousands of women access to comprehensive health care services for the remote possibility that our legal argument – which at maximum affects 10,000 women – would not stand up in court.”

NARAL’s Middleton derided ColoradoCare’s leaders for not having addressed the obstacle of the 1984 amendment before asking voters to approve a single-payer health care system.

“If you’re thinking about passing universal healthcare in Colorado, contemplating that barrier would have been a good idea,” she said.

The voter-approved amendment banning state-funded abortions would likely be difficult to undo.

The measure ­­was narrowly approved by voters in 1984 after a campaign without much organized opposition. It prohibits the state from funding abortions, directly or indirectly.

Pro-choice advocates sought to repeal it in 1988. The repeal campaign included a young media consultant, David Axelrod, and a young pollster, Celinda Lake, both of whom went on to become major Democratic Party strategists. It also included Denver strategy duo Joannie Braden and Rick Ridder.

“It was a good campaign, raised a fair amount of money — and we got our asses kicked,” Ridder says about the repeal effort’s 60-40 percent defeat.

“This was a case where, clearly, voters didn’t want their money used for abortion. It became a fiscal issue, not just a value issue. … And my sense is that all these years later, nothing much has changed. I don’t think that anybody thinks repealing that amendment is a winning issue. These days, I also don’t think there’s a lot of support for having the debate all over again,” added Ridder who, incidentally, has done polling for the ColoradoCare campaign.

Amendment 69 needs about a million votes to be passed into law.

Polls show that Colorado voters feel the health care system is broken and generally like the idea of a Medicare-for-all solution in the state. But polls also show voters are put off by ColoradoCare’s $25 billion price tag.

Aguilar dismissed concerns that NARAL’s stance against Amendment 69 may cost her campaign some support among progressive voters.

“If anything,” she said, “I worry there will be a backlash against NARAL.”

Photo credit: Allen Tian

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Long-simmering community anger in Douglas County school district hit a boiling point Tuesday night during a meeting about a recent school board investigation.

On Monday, the district released an investigative report that cleared school board President Meghann Silverthorn and Vice President Judith Reynolds of allegations that they had bullied and harassed Grace Davis, a Ponderosa High School student. Many frustrated community members wanted to discuss the investigation, but Tuesday’s meeting did not offer a formal public comment period. Instead, attendees shouted and chanted throughout the evening, which ultimately led to police intervention.

Silverthorn eliminated the opportunity for attendees to speak formally by changing the gathering from a board meeting to a work session; unlike board meetings, work sessions do not allow for public comment. After protesters repeatedly called for her and Reynolds to resign, Silverthorn ended the meeting early.

Protesters, many wearing “#IStandWithGrace” t-shirts in support of Davis, shouted at both board members. At one point, Silverthorn recessed the group to wait for police to calm down the angry audience and try to persuade them to stop shouting.

The room’s capacity of 125 was no match for the crowd, which spilled out into a hallway and down a flight of stairs. Echoing the shouting in the room, calls to “resign!” could be heard from the stairwell.

Friction within the district goes beyond that between the board and the community. It has also permeated the seven-member board itself, as evidenced by comments between board members Doug Benevento, who backs Silverthorn, and Wendy Vogel, who is part of a three-member minority coalition that has called on Silverthorn and Reynolds to resign.

This exchange, captured by KMGH after the meeting concluded, shows Benevento tearing into Vogel, calling her hypocritical and unethical, and promising to use the rest of his time on the board to make things difficult for her.

Vogel then wished Benevento a “good evening,” to which he replied “I can’t wish the same for you.” Benevento’s second term ends next year, and he is term-limited from running again. Vogel is a first-term board member, elected as one of the three new members supported by groups opposed to the conservative majority, last November.

Two board members were absent: Dr. Jim Geddes and David Ray. In a statement posted on his Facebook page prior to the meeting, Ray, a member of the minority coalition on the board, explained that he would not be there because Silverthorn’s decision to turn the board meeting into a work session was intended to block public comment on the report, he said.

Silverthorn’s actions are reprehensible, Ray said. “But most unfortunate is that these actions are grossly disrespectful and ultimately negligent towards one student and her family. We have completely lost sight of the true issue – the mistreatment of a child – and her unacceptable experience continues to be drug out and sensationalized.”

Ray said his attendance would only condone Silverthorn’s “inappropriate actions” and “condone the continued abuse of an absolutely undeserving child.”

Apologizing for his absence, Ray added “This has gone from the unacceptable to the deplorable and I choose not to participate in such absurdity.”

Board member Anne Marie Lemieux, also a minority member, temporarily left the work session and walked to the back of the room, following a terse exchange over Silverthorn’s running of the board. Lemieux accused Silverthorn of making decisions without any kind of communication or collaboration.

“We are a board of seven people and not one person dictates how this is to be run,” Lemieux said “Over the past several weeks it has been dictated to us rather than properly communicated. I have serious issue with that. Since I’ve been left out of the process I’m going to walk to the back of the room until you are done,” Lemieux said.

As she walked away, the audience applauded, prompting Silverthorn to warn that any further disruptions would cause her to end the work session early.

That end came in under 10 minutes.

Reynolds and Silverthorn then gave board member reports, both directed at the investigation.

Reynolds, whose voice broke numerous times during her comments, said that she found it “shocking that anyone would perceive her as a bully.” She called the personal attacks against her “hurtful,” saying, “I’m grateful to be granted due process through this independent investigation and this investigation found that no policy nor law were violated.”

Reynolds referred to the “deepening divide” within the district, where neighbors are pitted against neighbors — something which existed even before the Davis incident. “I continue to hope we can move forward,” she said. The board should be able to have conversations with the community that won’t always be agreeable, but that can be done without fear of retaliation for a difference of opinion or “imperfect words,” she said.

And though she didn’t refer to Davis by name, Reynolds criticized the student for recording a conversation that Reynolds said she believed would be private and not made public as “fodder for political opposition.”

Her remarks were met with applause from a handful of supporters of the conservative majority and few boos, followed by more calls for the two board members to resign.

Silverthorn, in her remarks, said the board needs to continue to take care of the district’s business. “We have so much good work ahead of us. Why don’t we work together and do the work?” She then criticized antagonistic social media comments that have plagued various board members for months.

That was met with more calls for her resignation and requests to let the public comment.

“This is Exhibit A,” Silverthorn said, referring to yet another disruption, and ended the meeting.

Davis sat quietly in the audience during the session.

About 125 to 150 people gathered on district grounds prior to the meeting to chant their support for Davis and to speak with the media. “What directors Silverthorn and Reynolds did to Miss Davis is unforgivable [to me] as a parent and indefensible to taxpayers,” said demonstrator Julie Lamb.

So what’s next for the deeply divided board?

Silverthorn and Reynolds could face censure, a formal disapproval from the board that carries no disciplinary action. They could also move on without any action at all.

But one course of action seems clear: Despite recommendations from the report, the school board is unlikely to implement a policy governing conduct between its members and students.

Silverthorn’s objection to such a measure was practical: “I would want to know the enforceability of such a policy,” she said.

Lemieux simply felt it would be unnecessary. “We can’t micromanage everything” that goes on in the district.

In short, she said, common sense should be enough.

Photo credit: Marianne Goodland

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Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Ann Schimke on June 21, 2016

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in Colorado are more likely to plan or attempt suicide than their peers, according to results of a biennial health survey released this week.

While past surveys have revealed similarly worrisome results for high school-age gay, lesbian and bisexual youth, this is the first year data on transgender students is available. And based on several indicators, that group faces formidable mental health challenges.

For example, transgender students were the most likely to use all types of drugs during high school and experience bullying at school or electronically. In addition, nearly half of that group had considered suicide during the previous year and just over one-third attempted it.

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which last year sparked controversy at the State Board of Education, paints a picture of how Colorado middle- and high-schoolers are doing healthwise.

The results come about a year after a flap that prompted some parents and State Board of Education members to raise concerns about the explicit nature of some survey questions, the method for obtaining parent permission and student data privacy. The controversy eventually died down and the survey was given as planned to about 17,000 students last fall, though some districts tightened their policies for communicating with parents about the survey.

Below are other highlights from the survey results:

  • About 38 percent of Colorado high school students have tried marijuana. That’s about the same rate as students nationally, even with the drug legalized for recreational use in Colorado.
  • Fewer Colorado teens are having sex compared to their peers nationally.
  • School engagement—as measured by things like extracurricular involvement and school-skipping—is generally lower for Hispanic students than peers of other races or ethnicities.
  • White students are more likely to drink alcohol and report that it’s easy to get.
  • White and Asian student report the lowest levels of obesity, while Native Americans reported the highest.
  • African-American and Asian students are least likely to smoke cigarettes or vapor products.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

Photo credit: Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat

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Reality show politics is now officially a thing.

First, there was Donald Trump and “The Apprentice.” Then came former South Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Thomas Ravenel and “Southern Charm.”

Now, there could be a Colorado version — seriously. Three’s a trend.

As The Colorado Statesman reports today, Denver resident Ben Higgins, the former heartthrob star of the matchmaking reality TV show “The Bachelor” who is considering running for a seat in the state House, is gearing up for a new Colorado-based reality show with his bride-to-be Lauren Bushnell. Reporter Ernest Luning got a hold of an e-mail Higgins sent to Republicans this week.

From The Statesman:

“I want you to hear it from me first,” Higgins wrote. “And I want you to know something else: this opportunity in no way lessens my sincere interest in seeking the HD4 seat and replacing Dan Pabon. Nor would it interfere with my commitment to win this seat for our party in November.”

“In fact, this new TV program would provide the chance for me to talk directly to an expanded number of HD4 residents, rather than face the same obstacle experienced by most candidates — having their message ignored by the news media,” Higgins wrote.

Higgins also explained how politicians have to balance a potential run for office with a day job.

“For some, that might be running a small business or a law firm,” he wrote, “but for me, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to appear on television. My expectation is that this opportunity will give us one more way to promote empowering people through personal freedom.”

That’s certainly one strategy. And one that has been tried before, though with a less wholesome candidate.

In 2014, reality TV star Thomas Ravenel, a former Republican state treasurer of South Carolina who went to jail on cocaine charges, decided to run for U.S. Senate while filming the lowbrow/high-society show “Southern Charm,” based in Charleston. At the time he said he thought his profile on the show could boost his bid and he could use it to spread his message of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and social libertarianism. He ended up with less than 4 percent of the vote, and later blamed “personal problems” in part for his devastating loss.

So a potential Higgins run wouldn’t be breaking entirely new ground.

Ballots are currently out in the race for HD 4, which encompasses the Sloan’s Lake area of Denver, a seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon. Republican Willie Pinkston is currently running unopposed for the Republican Party’s nomination for the seat, but has said he would step aside if Higgins wants to get into the race.

Related: One weird trick that could get Ben Higgins ‘The Bachelor’ on a ballot in Colorado

In this instance, a reality TV candidate might even lead to a better informed public. As The Colorado Independent previously reported, such a switch-a-roo — should it happen— would likely draw increased scrutiny on the obscure practice of Colorado’s “vacancy committees” political parties use, instead of elections, to place people on the ballot or in positions of power.

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Parents groups and community members are indignant over a report that has cleared two Douglas County Board of Education members of harassment and bullying allegations.

Some are even questioning the independence of the investigation: The investigator the district contracted with also happens to be an attorney for both board members’ biggest campaign contributor. That contributor, Alex Cranberg, is a top backer of controversial conservative school reform efforts that in recent years have caused turmoil within the district.

A third-party investigation released Monday evening said that DougCo district policies governing bullying and harassment only apply to students, not adults. The report absolved board Chair Meghann Silverthorn and Vice-Chair Judith Reynolds of accusations of bullying and harassing a Ponderosa High School sophomore.

The incident at the heart of the investigation was a closed-door meeting between the two board members and then-sophomore Grace Davis on March 4.

Davis recorded the 90-minute meeting, claiming that the two board members tried to intimidate her into dropping plans for a March 9 rally protesting high teacher turnover at the high school. Her audio recording revealed that Silverthorn inaccurately told Davis that if the protest went forward, Davis and her parents could be liable for any resulting damages. Davis claimed that the tone of the two directors was intended to intimidate her.

The report said that the district’s policies don’t pertain to adult conduct. Further, regarding Silverthorn’s claim that Davis would be liable for damages, the report said that people have a “First Amendment right to be wrong.” Regarding the tone used by Silverthorn and Reynolds, the report said there was no policy dictating the tenor of school board members’ conversations.

Davis and her parents have called on Silverthorn and Reynolds to resign. Their call has been echoed by hundreds of parents and community members, either at board meetings or via social media campaigns.

The investigation, conducted by the law firm Sherman & Howard, took six weeks. The bill for the probe was $177,779, plus an additional $3,917.25 for expenses, for a total of $181,696.25. A “courtesy discount” of $18,000 offered by the firm now takes the cost — which falls on taxpayers — down to $163,696.25.

Before the report’s ink was dry, several community groups were already crying foul. Douglas County Parents, an organization that decries the reforms put in place by the board’s conservative majority, questions the independence of Gordon “Skip” Netzorg, the Sherman & Howard attorney who led the probe.

As it turns out, until last December, Netzorg was a member of the board of directors – including board secretary – for the Alliance for Choice (ACE) Scholarship program. The next month, that program received a $1,700 contribution from Silverthorn, who was clearing out part of her campaign bank account.

Netzorg is no longer on the ACE board, on which he served for seven years, according to the group.

ACE’s founders and current directors include Alex Cranberg of Aspect Energy, Ed McVaney, a co-founder of software giant JD Edwards, and Ralph Nagel of Top Rock Liquidity, among other business ventures.

Cranberg, Nagel and McVaney were the biggest campaign contributors to Silverthorn’s 2009 and 2013 elections. Cranberg topped the list with $30,000 in contributions in the two elections; Nagel pumped in $10,000 in 2013; and McVaney gave $5,000, also in 2013.

Reynolds – another of the key conservative votes on DougCo’s school board – got much of the same largesse from the deep-pocketed trio. Cranberg put in $75,000, at $25,000 each, to Reynolds and fellow board members Dr. Jim Geddes and Doug Benevento, all in 2013. It was the largest single contribution any of those campaigns received. Nagel gave Reynolds $10,000 in 2013.

The connections don’t stop here. Netzorg works as an attorney for Cranberg’s business interests. He’s listed in numerous lawsuits as representing Aspect Energy and an affiliated company, Aspect Management – both owned by Cranberg.

“They could have chosen someone a little more removed from the board of directors so that the results would be a little more validated,” said Jason Virdin, speaking on behalf of Douglas County Parents.

Virdin and other critics of the board’s majority said the community will have a hard time accepting the results of the investigation because of the appearance of bias.

Netzorg couldn’t be reached as of this posting.

The district says its in-house attorney, Rob Ross, reached out to several law firms about conducting the investigation, and ultimately chose Netzorg at Sherman & Howard.

Netzorg’s report linked Virdin’s group or parents to Davis in a section discussing a petition Davis started that drew more than 1,800 signatures. The petition, according to the investigators, included text that “quoted directly from the web page of a local advocacy group called Douglas County Parents.”

According to the report, witnesses said Douglas County Parents is known for “voicing opinions contrary to existing District leadership…”

The investigators said they were unable to view a copy of the original petition, which is available online.

Davis told investigators she wanted the protest to be student-led, and “made that abundantly clear” to the Ponderosa High School administrators, the report said. She did not intend to associate her protest with any adults, including those seeking the resignation of then-superintendent Liz Fagen, the report said, nor did Davis want any adults taking credit for the event.

Nonetheless, “use of material from the DCP web page, perhaps inadvertently, reasonably connected the protest to the DCP in the minds of observers familiar with the DCP viewpoint,” the report said. Thirteen of the 17 witnesses interviewed were either school board members or district employees – the other four were Davis, her parents, and a former teacher.

In April, the report asserted, Douglas County Parents started a hashtag, #IStandwithGrace, created t-shirts and started an email campaign to demand the resignation of Silverthorn and Reynolds, which drew more than 300 responses.

All of that is flat-out wrong, the group says. In a statement Monday night, parents pointed out that the investigators never talked to anyone from the group to verify any of those claims.

“Had the investigators reached out to DCP they would have discovered that we had no ties to Miss Davis’ protest, we did not start the #IStandWithGrace hashtag, and we did not have t-shirts designed and printed with the hashtag,” Douglas County Parents said in the statement. “Furthermore, we did not create the form letter calling for the resignation of directors Silverthorn and Reynolds. The form letter was created by another community group, Voices for Public Education.”

The statement said the group now questions what else in the report is erroneous, and also “question(s) the validity of the report in its entirety.”

While the investigation didn’t find any specific policy violations, according to the statement, the Douglas County Parents continues to press for the resignation of director Silverthorn and Reynolds – a demand that is “based on ethics, not policy…Their treatment of a minor by an adult in a position of authority was inexcusable.”

Voices for Public Education issued a statement Tuesday also blasting the investigation.

“We were disappointed that the bullying of a minor student by two adults in a position of authority is allowed in the Douglas County School District,” the statement said.

The Douglas County board of education will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening to review the report, but public comment will not be allowed. A rally in support of Davis will begin at 5 p.m. at the district offices in Castle Rock.

Photos via Douglas County School District

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In the aftermath of last week’s massacre in Orlando, efforts in the U.S. Senate to pass a series of measures tightening up gun legislation were unsuccessful. Here’s how Colorado’s senators voted.

Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner found themselves on the same side on only one of the four gun-related amendments brought to a vote, according to tallies of votes cast.

They both voted No on an amendment by Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley that would increase funding for background checks but not make those checks mandatory.

Bennet opposed the measure, his spokesman Adam Bozzi told The Colorado Independent, because it would have rolled back certain gun safety measures to make it easier for people with mental illness to buy guns. The Independent reached out to both offices Tuesday afternoon. A Gardner spokesperson had not returned an e-mail or phone messages before this story was posted.

Here’s how Bennet and Gardner voted on the other three measures, according to a breakdown of all the votes by Slate:

On an amendment by California Democratic U.S. Dianne Feinstein to allow the attorney general to bar firearms and explosives from suspected terrorists, Bennet voted Yes, Gardner voted No. Bennet supported the amendment because he want to block terrorists from buying guns, a spokesman said.

On an amendment by Republican John Cornyn that, according to Slate and The Washington Post, would allow the government to delay firearm sales to suspected terrorists “only if [the attorney general] could prove to a judge within three business days of the attempted sale there was probable cause to suspect the buyer of ties to terrorism,” Bennet voted No, and Gardner voted Yes. Bennet opposed the amendment “because its due process provisions were unworkable and would not effectively block terrorists from buying guns,” a spokesman said.

On a Democratic amendment by Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy that The Post said would “expand background checks for anyone trying to purchase a firearm at a gun show or online,” Bennet voted Yes, and Gardner voted No. The amendment, a Bennet spokesman said, was identical to Colorado law, and Bennet “supports background checks to prevent criminals from buying guns.”

These votes on the four amendments— two from Democrats and two from Republicans— came to the floor following a 15-hour filibuster by Democrats, including Bennet (watch his floor speech here), that was aimed at urging Republican leadership to allow votes on gun measures. The votes came Monday, and none of them succeeded in reaching the 60 percent necessary to pass.

In a statement posted on his congressional website, Gardner said his only Yes vote was because he wants to “enhance communication and coordination among state, local, and federal officials to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons, but also ensure due process and protect the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Bennet said in a statement he lamented congressional gridlock and “Congress could not take commonsense steps to block terrorists from buying guns or to establish background checks like we have in Colorado that help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

[Photo credit: Benedict Benedict via Creative Commons in Flickr]