Ritter fires back at Inhofe’s ‘partisan whipsaw’ with fundraising appeal

Before the dust had a chance to settle on a vigorous attack last week against Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado — led by Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and his Senate committee’s GOP apparatus — the governor’s campaign fired back with a fundraising appeal slamming Republicans for opposing the “New Energy Economy” Ritter went to Washington to tout.

Ritter wrote that he went to sing the praises of wind power and jobs, “but what I discovered in Washington was nothing short of a “partisan whipsaw’ …”

“Extreme political opponents outside Colorado are doing everything in their power to see us fail,” said an e-mail sent Friday under Ritter’s signature. “Please make a contribution so that we can fight back.”

Even before Ritter finished testifying before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Tuesday, GOP aides — including a young communications staffer who was once arrested, and later acquitted, for shouting at a Democratic Senate candidate in Boulder — circulated a video aimed at embarrassing Ritter by depicting a less than explicit endorsement of the climate bill passed last month by the House.

Here’s the video, including a lengthy introduction by Inhofe:

The video and an accompanying press release provoked angry reactions from progressive bloggers, including one at Colorado Pols who asked, “Is there anything that our Governor stands for anymore?!”

Ritter actually testified he understands the Senate could fix some things in the House version of the Waxman-Markey bill but was unequivocal in his backing for the bill’s intent.

After saying he supported moving toward a national energy policy and federal law aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, Ritter said, “There will be some vehicle that may not look exactly like Waxman-Markey, particularly after the Senate finishes its work. But I very much support climate legislation that is joined with a national energy policy to get us to the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals that are set for 2050.”

Not exactly the “gotcha” portrayed in the GOP release — in fact, Ritter said the next day he’s hoping the Senate will strengthen the climate bill — but the partisan attack at least yielded a damning headline in the next day’s Denver Post: “Gov. Ritter attracts negative energy in D.C. hearing.”

Ritter’s counter-attack to Inhofe’s broadside — likely aimed as much at a governor up for re-election next year as it was at sowing discord among climate-minded Democrats — didn’t pull any punches:

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a powerful proponent of the status quo who views climate change as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” demonstrated his particular hostility to adopting Colorado’s New Energy Economy nationwide.

My very presence at the hearing seemed to agitate Sen. Inhofe, as he told me “I’m kind of wondering why you’re here.” It was his polite way of telling me, “Go home, so that we here in Washington can go back to stalling progress and dragging our feet on meaningful energy and climate legislation.”

… The dishonest partisan attacks I faced at this week’s hearing cannot be viewed in isolation. They are part of a larger, coordinated effort to thwart national energy and climate reform legislation by smearing and defeating state-level new energy leaders.

For their part, Ritter’s two leading Republican challengers sided with their GOP friend from Oklahoma, Lynn Bartels reports in the Denver Post:

“Washington, D.C., is too partisan,” [Senate Minority Leader Josh] Penry said. “But it’s easy to understand why the senators would be frustrated by a governor who traveled 2,000 miles only to refuse to take a position on the cap-and-trade bill that was the subject of the hearing.”

And [former congressman Scott] McInnis noted that Ritter’s appearance came at the same time the state Department of Labor is struggling to process all of its unemployment claims, and delaying some payments to the end of August.

Proving Colorado politicians don’t need to venture to our nation’s capital to encounter partisan whipsaws.