Colorado’s A-List Democrats Isolate Polis Over Anti-Fracking Proposals

Rep. Jared Polis

Rep. Jared Polis

There’s a thin line between mavericks and pariahs, and the question is whether Democratic Rep. Jared Polis has crossed it.

As a funder of the anti-fracking movement, Polis finds himself increasingly isolated as the Colorado Democratic Party establishment moves to build a firewall against the rush of anti-fracking initiatives attempting to qualify for the November ballot.

Polis denies that political cleavages on fracking policy exist. “It’s not a partisan issue. It’s not a Democratic or Republican or independent issue. We have a state that creates jobs from extracting energy and has regulations that protect homeowners,” he said in an interview at the Capitol Thursday.

But Polis has thrown his considerable financial heft—he’s a multi-millionaire—behind Coloradans for Local Control, which is supporting a rash of anti-fracking proposals, even as a veritable Who’s Who of Democratic bigwigs step up to shoot the measures down.

On Polis’s team are veteran campaign hand Rick Ridder of RBI Strategies, who’s serving as a spokesman for Coloradans for Local Control, and former Polis aide Caitlin Leahy, who has filed 15 statewide initiative proposals, primarily on granting communities greater control over oil-and-gas development and establishing setbacks from drilling.

“Our group is made up of concerned citizens,” Ridder told The Observer.

And Polis?

“He’s one of the concerned citizens.”

Among Leahy’s proposals is a constitutional amendment called the Environmental Bill of Rights, which declares that, “[l]ocal governments have the power to enact laws, regulations, ordinances, and charter provisions that are more restrictive and protective of the environment than laws or regulations enacted or adopted by the state government.”

Polis also enjoys the support of the party’s left-wing activists. At the Democratic Party State Assembly, delegates added to the platform a thinly veiled anti-fracking resolution that upholds “the right of local communities to represent and protect their residents.”

Conspicuously absent from Polis’s coalition are other prominent Democrats. So far even liberal Boulder lawmakers like House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath have not jumped on the Polis bandwagon, at least not publicly.

Meanwhile, Democratic luminaries are aligning with groups like Coloradans for Responsible Reform, Vital for Colorado, and Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, which have launched efforts to promote the benefits of oil and gas development and the state’s toughest-in-the-nation fracking regulations.

Led by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democrats’ pro-fracking coalition includes former Gov. Roy Romer, ex-House Speaker Terrance Carroll, former Sen. Ken Salazar and ex-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

Democratic State Sens. Lois Tochtrop of Thornton and Mary Hodge of Brighton, key swing votes in the legislature, called for keeping state agencies in charge of regulating the industry in an April 19 opinion piece in the Durango Herald.

“Unfortunately, some are now distorting the facts in order to push aside the common-sense, statewide framework of regulation and replace it with a crazy quilt of regulations that vary widely from one community to the next,” said the article.

Given that imbalance, Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said he doubts any A-list Democrats would join up with Polis.

“I think there is no chance that any major player in the Democratic Party with the exception of Mr. Polis is going to get on this bandwagon,” said Ciruli.

Polis is known for breaking with the Democratic pack. He infuriated Democrats and Republicans alike in 2006 by bankrolling Amendment 41, a widely criticized ethics initiative. Two years later, he beat the party’s handpicked candidate in the 2nd Congressional District primary by outspending her 4 to 1.

Democrats may quietly seethe at Polis’s bull-in-the-china-shop approach to politics, but few would dare call him out publicly. He’s one of the Gang of Four millionaires who helped flip the state legislature from Republican to Democrat, and he’s shown repeatedly that he’s not afraid to spend whatever it takes to vanquish his rivals.

Polis seemed to reach out to fellow Democrats by placing Hickenlooper’s name in nomination last month at the state party assembly, even though he and the governor stand on opposite ends of the fracking debate.

“He [Polis] was trying to send a signal that, ‘I’m a member of the team, even though I’m making a significant contribution to making a mess here,’” said Ciruli. “I think he has to walk a fine line between becoming a state hero for the environmental anti-frackers and becoming a sort of pariah, a person who is so disliked by the party establishment that he could endanger his own political ambitions. And I think he has ambitions.”

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

9 Responses to Colorado’s A-List Democrats Isolate Polis Over Anti-Fracking Proposals

  1. VanitySmear
    May 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Polis was fracked and spoke out against the industry. Of course, the A-list politicians will moan publicly. It harms their portfolio and social calendar when one of their own speaks without permission.

  2. Conditional Democrat
    May 2, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Join the “Conditional Democrat” Movement!

    What is a “Conditional Democrat”? Simply a Progressive Democrat who realizes that the DNC is simply “GOP lite.” The Conditional Democrat knows that his/her vote has been taken for granted for too long. The Conditional Democrat wants the DNC to return to its Progressive roots.

    1) The current DNC is pro-Monsanto.
    2) The current DNC is pro-fracking.
    3) The current DNC is pro-TPP.
    4) The current DNC is pro-corporate.
    5) The current DNC is often anti-environmental.
    6) The current DNC is Republican in all but name.

    The Solutions?

    1) Don’t let the Democratic Party take your vote for granted.
    2) Vote Green when needed.
    3) Challenge the corrupt Party Machine.
    4) Donate to grass roots causes instead of the Dems.
    5) Look beyond the Democratic-Republican Punch and Judy Show which is Washington.
    6) Realize that the current system is almost completely corrupt and broken beyond repair.

    • Steve N
      May 2, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Vote Green when needed. That one should go to the top of the list of “The Solutions”. Get the word out to all liberals, progressives, lefties, enviro-extremists, whatever they want to call themselves. Vote Green, VOTE GREEN!!!

      • Lakewood Ed
        May 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm

        Yes! Vote Green. If you are anti-fracking, Vote Green. If you are for the environment, Vote Green. If you are anti-corporation, Vote Green. If you oppose GMO, Vote Green.

        Vote for any and all Green candidates.

        Vote Green!

  3. Brian McFarlane
    May 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    “It’s not a partisan issue. It’s not a Democratic or Republican or independent issue. We have a state that creates jobs from extracting energy and has regulations that protect homeowners,” he said in an interview at the Capitol Thursday.

    What?? Polis said that?? He probably is right that it isn’t much of a partisan issue because many Dems do support oil and gas drilling, but… he is not being sincere when he says “has regulations that protect homeowners”; that’s not what he believes or he wouldn’t be financing anti-fracking/drilling initiatives that seek to BAN the industry instead of regulating. Actually initiative 75′s wording would include all “corporations” or business that a majority deems “bad”.

    Polis is a liberal progressive = deceit, half truths, double talk, hypocrisy and trickery.

  4. PeterP
    May 4, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    If Polis weren’t safe inside his warm cocoon composed of millions of dollars, perhaps he would understand why a good paying job and an inexpensive energy bill is important to Coloradans. How do these people pretend to be representatives of regular people.
    As far as Conditional Democrat is concerned, I respect a person of conviction but he/she is ultimately proposing we all live in the 3rd world. Please buy a plane ticket and live your dream as soon as possible.

    • Trucker Mark
      May 6, 2014 at 11:48 pm

      Do you want a fracking rig right next to your house or your kid’s school Peter? I certainly don’t, no matter how much that the gas industry might make off of doing it. I have worked hard for 40 years and I am not about the let the fracking industry steal 25% of my property value without a fight. My wife is asthmatic and she can’t be anywhere close to a fracking rig.

      What do we do now, take a huge financial hit just because some gas company wants to come in an redrill wells that were drilled 60 years ago and abandoned more than 30 years ago too, back when the suburb of Denver that my family and I live in was almost entirely farmland?

      If the gas industry was a good neighbor interested in having a majority of Colorado’s residents support it they would agree to responsible setbacks from heavily-populated areas. How about a minimum setback of a mile from an urban area? What would be so wrong with that?

      Instead your buddies want our Legislature to give them eminent domain so that they can tear down houses and force roads through expensive suburban neighborhoods just to get to long-abandoned wells that are right in the middle of a sea of homes, whose buyers were told 10-15 years ago that abandoned wells would never again be productive.

      Worse yet is the flat out fracking industry lie that the goal of urban home rule laws would destroy 68,000 gas industry jobs here, when the entire area that we are proposing to protect is less than 2% of the total land area in Colorado available for fracking.

      You want a job fracking? Just between Anadarko and Noble, this summer they are spending $10 billion to frack Colorado in as huge a rush as is possible just in case the Federal government wants to enact climate change restrictions on fossil fuel extraction. $10 billion is the same thing as 100,000 jobs that pay $100,000 each.

      On the subject of who is responsible for America becoming a third world country your Republicans have that honor completely locked-up, as they were the party most-responsible for shipping 8 million US middle-class jobs offshore to the lowest bidder most willing to allow them to pollute our only planet to death too.

      You want a decent middle class job, go to truck driving school and then keep your nose clean for 5 years, and then you will be able to earn $50-%60K right here in metro-Denver even without a college degree. Either that or vote Democrat to try to enact restraint on the abuses of free trade that has already cost America dearly.

      The only place that fracking will get us is eventually another huge debt bubble, as today most fracking operators are deeply in-debt and individual well yields are falling, with huge numbers of wells already depleted, and if we keep burning fossil fuels as our primary heat and power source fairly quickly large areas of Colorado won’t be livable unless we truck-in water, which includes about half of the State that currently votes Republican too.

      Right after that is when giant hordes of tens of millions of desperate climate change refugees start showing up here and Denver Water has already said that they expect the Denver Basin Aquifer to be depleted before 2030 too.

      If you get your CDL maybe you can get a job hauling wealthy refugees up to Minnesota or to Canada, and then hauling water back? Either that or instead of fracking Colorado to death and killing our water supply and climate how about you get a degree in solar, wind, or water-power and we build it as fast as we can, so that maybe our kids can still live out their lives here instead of having to flee to northern Canada just to survive?

  5. Sarah Larrabee
    May 5, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Boulder County is petitioning the Commissioners to change the way we do business from “statutory” to “home rule.” This will allow citizens to
    bring ballot initiatives and will empower the commissioners to serve the people who elected them rather than to serve at the pleasure of the Governor. It will also allow us to create out own charter and we will be able to include important initiatives such as eliminating the revolving door for county positions, empowering the commissioners to follow their own mission statements on environmental issues, and stating our inalienable right to freedom from personal injury to our health, our air quality, our water quality, our civil rights and our property rights. We will be requesting that a special election be held to change our charter to Home rule at the county Courthouse on May 6 2014.

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