Maybe the most shocking thing I can say about the release of the latest Great Depression-like unemployment numbers is that here in Colorado, Ken Buck still manages to hold down two full-time jobs.
This is a scandal, and not because of the devastating unemployment numbers, but because Buck — state GOP chair and U.S. congressman — is clearly unfit for either post.
In one case, in his role as backbencher congressman, he’s a joke. In his latest misadventure, he’s one of 11 GOP representatives (along with Doug Lamborn) who sent a letter urging Donald Trump not to include money for states or localities in the next round of coronavirus stimulus. Meanwhile, in the state legislature, members of the Joint Budget Committee are literally crying over pandemic-related cuts they are being forced to make that will, inevitably, weigh heavily on the most vulnerable.
In other words, as the New York Daily News might have put it, Buck to Colorado: Drop Dead.
But, in the end, Buck’s role in Congress — where, among other niceties, he has a 100 percent rating in voting against coronavirus-related stimulus bills, and, maybe just as irresponsibly, he said it was “ridiculous” for Jared Polis to close restaurants and bars during the statewide lockdown — is between him and his heavily Republican 4th Congressional District constituents.
But in his other role, as the one chosen by GOP officials to lead a party that happens to be in the midst of a historic downturn, he has been a disaster, and no less than that. Why Republicans don’t fire him, or force him to resign, is beyond me. Why Cory Gardner doesn’t convince his colleagues to force Buck out or to personally ask Buck to resign is also beyond me. Maybe Gardner, who is considered the most vulnerable GOP senator up for reelection this year, is trying. I don’t know. As I may have said before, Cory doesn’t return my calls.
Certainly, you’ve heard the latest on Buck, which, from any reasonable party, would be the last thing you would ever hear from Buck. In a great scoop by The Denver Post, it has audio of GOP Chairman Buck attempting to strong-arm a Republican official into misreporting the results of the District 10 assembly that would set a state Senate primary race between Rep. Larry Liston and David Stiver. The problem is, Stiver did not, in fact, qualify. That little technicality, though, didn’t seem to bother Buck.
Here’s how Eli Bremer, the GOP chair for state Senate District 10, the person who stood up to Buck’s bullying, described it to The Post:
“You’ve got a sitting congressman, a sitting state party chair, who is trying to bully a volunteer — I’m a volunteer; I don’t get paid for this — into committing a crime. To say it’s damning is an understatement.”
Yes, it is damning. And yes, it is an understatement. And yet, it’s hardly a surprise, given that it’s Ken Buck we’re discussing, even though Buck, we should remember, was an assistant U.S. Attorney and then Weld County district attorney. One assume he knows the law. If so, one must assume he ignored the law.
I talked to some election experts. It’s definitely a crime to misrepresent the numbers — in the assembly’s count, Liston received 75 percent of the vote and Stivers 24 percent. To make the ballot — and this is state law, not a GOP rule — you have to reach a minimum of 30 percent of the votes. And yet Buck, after a vote by the GOP central and executive committees, wanted Bremer to report that both candidates qualified.
Stiver had told Colorado Politics that the assembly was “a comedy of errors,” but whatever happened there, it couldn’t have matched Buck’s comic quotient.
Stiver wanted a do-over, which is the not the same thing as strong-arming Bremer. Stiver could, of course, have simply taken the matter to court. The GOP could have followed the example of two Democrats attempting to get on the U.S. Senate ballot this year despite falling short of the required signatures. And the Dems were taking their cues from the three Republicans who were put on the U.S. Senate ballot in 2016 despite signature shortfalls, forgery and, of course, Jon Keyser’s dog.
I don’t expect anyone to jail over this — even though Buck, I’m told, could be guilty of “suborning perjury” for attempting to force Bremer to file a false affidavit— but that’s hardly the point. It’s wrong. It’s asking someone to commit perjury. It’s a party out of control and a party leader in the key role. It’s one thing to keep losing as a party, but it’s another to keep losing while breaking the rules — and maybe the law.
Buck: “Do you understand the order of the executive committee and the central committee that you will submit the paperwork to include Mr. Stiver and Mr. Liston on the ballot, with Mr. Liston receiving the top-line vote?”
Bremer: “Uh, yes, sir, I understand the central committee has adopted a resolution that requires me to sign a false affidavit to the state.”
Buck: “And will you do so?”
Bremer: “I will seek legal counsel as I am being asked to sign an affidavit that states Mr. Stiver received 30% of the vote. I need to seek legal counsel to find out if I am putting myself in jeopardy of a misdemeanor for doing that. ”
Buck: “And you understand that it is the order of the central committee that you do so?”
Bremer said again he would consult counsel, and Buck said it was time to move on. The case, brought by a Bremer ally, went to court before Bremer was forced to do anything. The GOP lost at the District Court level. The party then appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.
And now many party leaders must be wondering about Buck’s leadership and about the money it cost to pursue the case in court. And as if that weren’t bad enough, The Colorado Sun has reported that four Weld County GOP officials have been accused of election fraud and corruption in changing results in precinct caucuses. One of the officials — this may not shock you — is a Buck aide.
Will Sander, the Weld County party chair, told The Sun he would file a report with the secretary of state’s office and with the local district attorney, saying that when you “see corruption in our election process, the public won’t stand for it.”
I assume Sander is right about the public, which, in any case, is not exactly GOP friendly at this point. Republicans were swept away statewide in the 2018 midterms and have won only one top-of-the-ballot race in Colorado since 2006. And that was before Ken Buck, of all people, was chosen to lead the party back to respectability.