Author Archive

Debate inside the mysterious Denver Post building

Posted by on Mar 14 2014 | energy, Events

Ever been inside the Denver Post building? Well, I have, and it’s frightening. Framed pictures of Karl Marx on the walls, everyone wearing those little gray Mao uniforms, and a soup line in the lunch room. Filing into the building, workers must pass 10-foot-tall reprints of the Post’s endorsements of Amendment 23, Fastracks, Ref C and D, last year’s Amendment 66, and scores of other tax and debt increases.

It’s like Cuba, except with a Starbucks.

Well, here’s your big opportunity to see it for yourself! We are hosting a debate on hydraulic fracturing in Colorado. And we’re doing it in the Post’s swanky auditorium this Thursday, March 20, at 5:00 pm. It’s going to be a conversation with both sides of the issue. We’re glad to have the Left-leaning Alliance for Sustainability partnering with us, and the always dapper Eric Sonderman serving as moderator. Tickets are free, but required, to get in.

 

Get info and reserve a seat before they’re all gone on our events page here.

And I hope you know I was just kidding around about the inside of the Post building. There’s no Starbucks.

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You’ll Like This Story

Posted by on Jan 30 2014 | Politics, Purely Personal

In a good story or movie, something happens which then makes something else happen. Luke Skywalker buys a droid. The droid has a message. Luke brings the droid to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan makes a deal with Han Solo for transport to another planet…

If Luke didn’t buy that damn droid in the first place, there’d be no Star Wars, and George Lucas would be working at Olive Garden today.

This idea that something causes another something, which causes yet another, well, it works in our world of politics, too. Here’s an example:

Our investigative reporter, Todd Shepherd, walks into my office asking for money. This is a pretty common occurrence (usually due to his gambling habit), but this time he wants it for an open records request. While Colorado has open records laws, it can cost quite a bit to make public records actually public. Anyway, Todd’s in my office paddling on about his great idea, and it’s only going to cost us around $400. After wearing me down like a teen-aged girl asking her daddy to borrow the car, I finally give in.

Days later, he breaks the story that U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s staff was pressuring state employees to change the official number of Coloradans who got insurance cancellation notices thanks to Obamacare. Accuracy is rarely good in an election year. Not only does this story become front page news in Colorado, but it also makes national news and highlights Udall’s key role in passing Obamacare.

Now, when Chris Christie’s folks were caught intimidating state workers, he fired them and apologized. Senator Udall, by contrast, doubled down and stood by his staff. So the story continues. Pressure built for an ethics investigation. So a “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel was convened and quickly determined that Udall’s staff did nothing inappropriate. Story ends? Nope.

Other media outlets made their own records request of the “neutral” Ethics Panel only to find there were no records. The head of the state regulatory agency wouldn’t release any of the panel’s records, saying there were none. So that causes everyone– from the Denver Post, to legislators, to candidates for governor– to demand an investigation into the investigation. But they still wouldn’t even release the names of those who made up the “neutral and objective” Ethics Panel.

But all that causes the agency head to leak the names to just one news source. And that causes all of the other news sources, like the Post, to cry foul. So that causes the state to release the names of the “neutral and objective” panel officially. And we find out the panel was made up of that same head state regulator, who is a Hickenlooper appointee, her deputy, and her legislative liaison, the former chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats.

So now we know what “neutral and objective” is. And the story will continue.

Imagine. All that wouldn’t have happened if Todd Shepherd didn’t walk into my office to sell me his simple idea for an open records request.

Remember, your support made this happen. To fund future projects like this, donate here.

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Colorado Teachers Can Get Refunds!

Posted by on Dec 10 2013 | education, Idiot Box (TV Show)

Tune in to my show Devil’s Advocate as our senior education policy analyst Ben DeGrow highlights the upcoming December 15 deadline for Colorado Education Association members to request up to $63 in Every Member Option political refunds. The episode featured a showing of the 45-second Schoolhouse Rock-style animated video explaining the refund option.

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What Made Tuesday’s Election Victories Possible

Posted by on Nov 08 2013 | education, elections, Taxes

Alright. Here’s my terrible analogy. Really, I don’t think it’s all that good, so please let me know if the point gets across.

Have you ever seen a house being built? They get the framing up, and then it looks like everything just stalls. I mean there’s like no progress, but you still see guys just milling around. And then one day, out of seemingly nowhere, the drywall goes up, and you think, “Wow, look at all that progress; it all happened overnight!”

Well, Tuesday night’s amazing election victories might seem like that, too. Amendment 66 went down to defeat by a 2 to 1 vote, and school reformers won in Dougco, Jeffco, and Loveland school boards. Wow, all that happened overnight!

What you might not have seen at the house being built were all the small and crucial tasks that MUST be completed before the drywall goes up — electricians running wires, plumbers laying pipe, HVAC guys bending sheet metal for vents, and so on. From a distance, you don’t really see any of that work,but you sure notice when the walls go up. It looks like big movement.

Conservatives, especially in Colorado, lose and lose and lose because they keep trying to put up the walls before doing the prep work first. That prep work takes years, it’s hard, it’s often boring, and it takes resources.

We at the Independence Institute are in the business of doing that political prep work. And I think folks just might be starting to get it. Without the coalition building, detailed policy work, investigative news reporting, community organizing, and educational efforts that we do, victory simply is not possible.

Take for example the story of Douglas County School District. This district, the third largest school district in the state, was the first in the nation to implement a voucher program on its own and basically de-certified its union among many other great reforms. And on Tuesday, despite a massive influx of national union money to defeat the reform candidates, Douglas County residents gave them a “thumbs up” and re-elected them.

The prep work you might not have seen started over six years ago when our education policy stars, Pam Benigno and Ben DeGrow, started working with school board members in the minority. In 2009, we worked with the new candidates before they were elected and then continued to provide assistance as they carefully crafted and implemented their reforms. Starting a year ago, we brought in community organizers and implemented a door-to-door, face-to-face educational campaign to educate the voters in Douglas County, so they could better understand the impact of these powerful reforms. When the battle to re-elect these reformers came, the prep work was done.

Well before Governor Hickenlooper launched his campaign to raise Colorado income taxes by 27% with Amendment 66, we had already been working on our “Kids Are First” educational campaign. The goal was to show that throwing even more money into a failed system was helping unions and monopolies, not children. We advocated raising expectations, not taxes.

But it was the years of work before that, building relationships and coalitions, investigating the phone conversations between the Guv and Michael Bloomberg, detailing how to get a billion dollars more out of our state budget without a tax increase with our “Citizen’s Budget,” and building a network of freedom fighters around the state that made the difference. The prep work took years. The loss of Amendment 66 was a formality.

For those who invest in and are part of our long, slow, methodical political prep work, well, I just can’t thank you enough. You made Tuesday’s victories possible.

Now back to more prep work…

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Forget Waldo. Where’s Hick?

Posted by on Oct 24 2013 | Amendment 66, Economy, education, elections, Taxes

When it comes to raising debt and taxes, John Hickenlooper is a rainmaker. As mayor of Denver, he jumped out of airplanes to poke a hole in TABOR, wore a blue bear suit for tourism taxes, rode the trolley for RTD’s Fastracks boondoggle, walked with Sesame Street-like letters A through I to raise property taxes and money for Pro-comp for Denver teachers, and a new jail…

Now, in his first foray into tax hikes as governor, he is AWOL. He has worked the phones to pull in millions for the Amendment 66 campaign and said nice things about this 27.4% income tax hike at public events, but he has been missing in action when it comes to taking the lead in selling it. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

In his past anti-taxpayer conquests, he was able to build a broard coalition of diverse organizations and bipartisan support. But not a single elected Republican supports 66. His usual partners in crime at the Denver Metro Chamber won’t even stand by him. Business groups like the NFIB and Colorado Concern have endorsed a “No” vote. Even Left-leaning editorial boards like the Fort Collins Coloradoan urge defeat.

Without the comfort of the herd, Hick seems content to play only a supporting, backroom fundraising role. Could it be that, after his debacle taking Michael Bloomberg’s advice on gun control (which cost him two senate seats), angering rural Colorado with a renewable energy mandate, and being unwilling or unable to make a decision on clemency for mass-killer Nathan Dunlap, Hick wants distance from another potential embarrassing loss?

Well, we can’t stay quiet and MIA like Hick. The Independence Institute has taken the lead in spreading the truth about Amendment 66. In fact, our work has made it up to our friends on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Their lead editorial today warns: “Democrats and unions try to kill Colorado’s flat tax.”

Our educational effort is called Kids Are First. I urge you to go to www.KidsAreFirst.org right now. There, you’ll see many resources, including the videos we’ve been airing on television. Please share this site with everyone you know. Unlike Hick’s team, we don’t have $7 million+ to get the word out.

And our scholars have been busy actually READING this 150 page monstrosity. Learn about their findings:

Ben DeGrow’s Issue Paper: Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced

Ben’s op-ed: Tax Hike Won’t Deliver on its promise

Linda Gorman’s Issue Paper:
A Billion Dollars Worth of Bad Ideas: Amendment 66 Tax Hike

Linda’s Issue Backgrounder: Amendment 66: Spend More, Get Less

My debate with Senator Michael Johnston: 9News video

You know the whole country is still reeling from the last bill we “had to pass to see what’s inside of it.” Amendment 66 is Colorado’s version.

Please get involved in sharing the word. The wallet you save may be your own.

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VIDEO: Prop AA – Big Taxes for Legal Marijuana

Posted by on Oct 16 2013 | Drug Policy, Idiot Box (TV Show), Taxes

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FREE beer! One catch – You gotta listen to another bald guy

Posted by on Oct 14 2013 | Events

Our good friend Radley Balko is in town. You know him from his work at the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine. These days, he’s an investigative reporter for the The Huffington Post. You might remember he was one of our Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Party speakers. And this time, well, guns are still kinda the topic. The topic is police.

I’m not saying the cops in Denver have a bad reputation, but I have seen people get pulled over in this city. Drivers just get out of their cars and throw themselves on their car hoods.

Radley is perhaps the country’s greatest authority on the militarization of civil police. Balko’s work on paramilitary raids and the overuse of SWAT teams was featured in The New York Times, has been praised by outlets ranging from Human Events to the Daily Kos, and was cited by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent in the case Hudson v. Michigan. Balko is also credited with bringing national attention to the case of Cory Maye, a black man who prior to Balko’s work was on death row in Mississippi for shooting and killing a white police officer during a raid on Maye’s home.

Please come hear about his new book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, this Thursday, October 17th from 5:30 to 7pm at the Independence Institute offices. Beer & appetizers are on me. RSVP for FREE online here or contact Mary MacFarlane at 303-279-6536 X102 or Mary@i2i.org if you have questions.

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Amendment 66 Resources: Billion Dollar Ed Tax Hike

Posted by on Oct 07 2013 | education, Taxes, Video

There may be a lot of information out there about the enormous tax increase (“for the children”) called Amendment 66, but most of what you’ve heard is probably wrong. Our job at the Independence Institute is to give you the facts about this tax increase – how it affects families, working people, small business, and the children of Colorado. Below you’ll find some important Amendment 66 resources, from big to small.

The big:

Our scholars have written two important papers about Amendment 66. Linda Gorman’s fiscally focused Issue Paper titled, A Billion Dollars Worth of Bad Ideas: The Amendment 66 Tax Hike Leaves Kids and Teachers Behind, Harms Colorado’s Working Families, Enriches a Broken Bureaucracy is great companion piece to Senior Education Policy Analyst Ben DeGrow’s Issue Backgrounder titled, Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced. Linda’s will give you the low down on the enormous financial burden a billion dollar tax hike will be on our state, while Ben’s focuses more on the lack of education reform in the A66 bait and switch.

The small:

Ben also penned a fantastic overview article on Complete Colorado’s Page Two, appropriately titled, Rather than Amendment 66, How About Some Real Reform?

And because there are people like me who… don’t read good… Linda decided to come up with a one page Issue Backgrounder called Amendment 66: Spend More, Get Less with lots of pretty pictures and graphs. Even I can understand it! Job well done Linda!

Our Constitution scholar Rob Natelson wrote an op-ed about the absolute constitutional nightmare Amendment 66 is, titled Amendment 66 mutilates state constitution, enriches greedy bureaucracy.

Even though we didn’t write it, we have to mention a fantastic editorial from the Colorado Springs Gazette. In Teachers unions support massive tax hike, oppose modest reforms in Amendment 66, editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen goes after teachers unions for putting a tax increase (big money) ahead of real education reform (our children). Here’s a sample of Wayne’s critique,

This isn’t the first time supporters of this tax have tried to hoodwink the public. Before exposing the hush-hush lawsuit arrangement, The Gazette revealed how the Legislature’s Democratic majority quietly sat on a $1 billion-plus revenue surplus this year without substantive new education spending. They did so to create an illusion of school poverty, so voters might be fooled into approving the tax hike.

Learn about REAL education reform: The Independence Institute just launched a project we call Kids Are First. KidsAreFirst.org is a direct response to Amendment 66, with a motto that says it all – “Raise expectations, not taxes.” There are plenty of ways to improve education in Colorado, but raising taxes is not one of them.

And last but not least, the videos:

Here are two videos produced by the Education Policy Center that explore some alternatives for quality education in Colorado that have nothing to do with taxing hard working families a billion dollars.

Colorado K-12 Scholarships Gives Kids Hope

K-12 Scholarship Tax Credits Could Help Colorado Kids

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Taking on Artsy-Fartsy-Pants

Posted by on Oct 03 2013 | Events, Kopelization, Second Amendment

The International Film Series is Boulder, Colorado’s original “Art Film” outlet founded back in 1941 and it is still going strong today.

The point? Boulder’s been home to pretentious, beret-wearing art snobs since World War II.

Since then we’ve been able to defeat the Nazis, relegate the Evil Empire to the ash heap of history, eradicate polio, kill disco, replace 8-tracks with Walkmans, and replace Walkmans with iPods.

But still we haven’t put an end to smug trust-funders bloviating over grainy, subtitled films that take three hours to explore the existential torment of the futility of love.

That changes Tuesday night at 7:00.

The counter-offensive to make the cinema safe for democracy starts with our own act of subversion.

Using infiltrators posing as French literature grad students earning work study money at the International Film Series, we were able to use the false promise of loose women and cocaine to coerce the program director to sneak a Freedom-loving film into the schedule.

Tuesday we partner with the Film Series to show the Second Amendment documentary Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire. It stars famed action-film celeb David Kopel, who in his spare time serves as research director for the Independence Institute.

From the film’s web page: “Dead Patriot Films presents ‘Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire,’ a documentary that brings audiences to the center of the controversy over the issue that is dividing our nation – gun control. Narrated by Ice-T, a critically acclaimed rapper and actor, the film takes a critical look at current gun laws and the rising movement to restrict the rights guaranteed by our Second Amendment.”

Please join us Tuesday evening on the University of Colorado Boulder Campus for the movie followed by Q and A from the one and only Dave Kopel. (Can you imagine a bunch of, well, us, enjoying a liberty movie in the center of CU? This is gonna’ cause Ward Churchill to buy Ex-Lax by the case.)

Check out the movie and the International Film Series at http://www.internationalfilmseries.com/event_detail.php?event_id=9969

$7 at the door. Seats are limited. Be there.

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Foundation for Economic Education Event in Denver

Posted by on Oct 02 2013 | Economics, Events

The Foundation for Economic Education, also known as FEE, does a ton of great work. We are excited to join them for their event at the Tavern Uptown tomorrow night at the Tavern Uptown, from 6 to 7:30.

Join FEE Alumni Board Member, Stephen Macaskill, and other FEE supporters, friends and alumni for an evening of drinks and hors d’oeuvres to hear how FEE is cultivating the next generation of innovative free-market leaders in all industries and arenas. Free with RSVP.

RSVP here.

Click here for the official event flyer.

 

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