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2012 Colorado Capital Conference


Watch this blog for news from the conference and follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #COCapConf.

Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012
Below are the highlights from the 2012 Colorado Capital Conference.  For up-to-date information on the 2013 Colorado Capital Conference, click here.


Last year, I hosted my first Colorado Capital Conference in Washington, D.C., with speakers from Energy Secretary Steven Chu to Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. The conference was such a success that I've decided to host it again this year. With help from Colorado Mesa University and the University of Colorado, 100 Coloradans will have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., June 5-7, to learn how they can influence the important decisions facing our country.

Unfortunately, I couldn't invite all of Colorado to the conference, so I'm bringing the best parts to you. Watch this blog for updates from the conference and follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #COCapConf and following @COCapConf.

Watch speaker videos:

6/7/12 1:00PM ET

Watch videos of the speakers from the third session:

After the panel on education, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma took the microphone. Sen. Coburn, who recently co-sponsored bipartisan legislation with Sen. Udall to end taxpayer subsidies for political party conventions, spoke to conference participants about the need for honest leadership in Washington. After Coburn, Sen. Kay Hagan from North Carolina, spoke about on jobs, education and her role on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Hagan jokingly pointed out, "there are two kinds of senators these days, those that care too much about their hair and make-up, and then there are the women."

Later, Norman Ornstein, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, warmed up the crowd with a series of quick witted one-liners and political puns before breaking into the main focus of his speech: The problems of congressional gridlock and the polarization of American politics that has emerged over the last few decades.

Charles Cook, highly regarded election analyst and editor of the Cook Political Report, closed out the third session by providing Colorado Capitol Conference attendees with detailed election analysis. Mr. Cook analyzed the 2012 election campaigns to date and projected that national and state elections are going to come down to the wire, noting that "every metric I look at is pointing to a photo finish."

6/7/12 9:15AM ET

The third session of the Colorado Capital Conference kicked off this morning with a distinguished panel of higher education experts. Panelists include:

  • Assistant Secretary Eduardo M. Ochoa, Department of Education
  • U.S. Senator Michael Bennet
  • University of Colorado President Bruce Benson
  • Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster

6/6/12 5:00PM ET

Watch videos of the speakers from the second session:

The afternoon session of the Colorado Capital Conference included more speakers representing a range of views on the issues that matter to Coloradans. 

Sen. John McCain of Arizona led off the speakers. He addressed the conference attendees about the low approval ratings of the current Congress. Sen. McCain then answered questions on campaign finance reform, third parties, the tax code reform and energy policy. 

Later, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio addressed the convention. As Sen. Mark Udall noted in his introduction, Sen. Portman is rumored to be on the list of potential Republican vice presidential candidates. In Sen. Portman's remarks, he highlighted the need for smart and targeted budget reforms but stressed that when Congress attempts to cut the deficit, everything needs to be on the table.

After a day full of speakers and events, conference attendees were briefly dismissed for a break to prepare for tonight's dinner, where they will hear first-hand from Sen. Carl Levin and Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith.

6/6/12 3:50PM ET

As the second session continued, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota took the floor and presented a series of informative charts demonstrating the challenges that Congress has faced in balancing the federal budget. Sen. Conrad focused on the hard numbers and the country's past economic progress. His suggested that solutions must be two fold, noting that "we have a spending problem, but we also have a revenue problem."

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska echoed the words of the morning's speakers, calling for the need for greater civility in Congress. They praised Sen. Mark Udall for his moderate positions and bipartisan style. Sen. Collins encouraged conference attendees to raise the general level of discourse when they return back home, jokingly reminded the group that the harsh words of partisan blogs often come from "someone in their underwear in their parents basement...and that is not representative of the majority of America." Sen. Murkowski made similar remarks. She reminded us that while standing in the middle of the road might be the place where one is most likely to be run over, its also where most Americans stand on the issues. Compromise, she said, is not a dirty word in politics, but rather the same value we teach our children.

6/6/12 3:30PM ET

Prior to attending the Colorado Capital Conference, attendees were asked to complete the so-called "Budget Hero" exercise, an electronic game designed to show those outside of the legislature the challenges of creating and maintaining the national budget. The Wilson Center's David Rejeski first explained the exercise and then listened as attendees as they broke into small groups to describe their first experience with federal budgeting. Attendees then discussed both the difficulties they faced as well as the creative solutions that they were able to employ to help meet national budgeting demands.

Try Budget Hero for yourself:

6/6/12 2:30PM ET

Colorado Capital Conference attendees headed to lunch in the impressive Members Room of the Library of Congress. Over lunch, the group listened to a keynote speech from Secretary of the Interior (and former Colorado Senator) Ken Salazar.

Secretary Salazar focused his speech on the subjects of energy and conservation and his speech gave conference participants greater insight to the future of American energy. Among other topics, he discussed the importance of restoring America's rivers and waterways and new renewable energy solutions like off shore wind farms.

6/6/12 1:30PM ET

Watch videos of the speakers from the first session:

As the first session of the Colorado Capital Conference came to a close, conference attendees have already heard from a diverse group of policy experts and elected representatives – with many more to come.
After posing for a quick photo on the steps of the Capitol, conference attendees entered the Capitol Visitor Center meeting rooms to hear Sen. Mark Udall give his opening speech remarks. After a brief Q&A session with Sen. Udall, Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado's 7th Congressional district spoke to attendees about the transportation bill and how it affects Colorado's more rural areas.
Stephen T. Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol, next spoke to attendees about how his office works to "serve, preserve, and inspire" and the challenges of converting the old historical buildings of the capitol complex into modern energy-efficient structures.
Later on, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, serving Utah's 3rd District (but with strong Colorado roots), took the microphone. In keeping with the Colorado Capital Conference's bipartisan nature, Rep. Chaffetz said that even though he and his colleagues on the other side of the aisle may disagree on certain policy issues, it's important to do so without being disagreeable. The importance of bipartisanship was further echoed when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz took the stage. Rep. Shultz, who currently serves as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, reminded the audience that even in her highly partisan role "we can't engage in my way or the highway politics." The chairwoman spoke on the need to get past vitriolic rhetoric that has overwhelmed common-sense debate in Congress.
After just one session, conference attendees have been able to ask government officials about everything from about our nation's budget woes, to the improving energy security and maintaining a healthy agriculture sector. With an impressive list of speakers lined up, everyone's excited to see what's next.

6/6/12 9:00AM ET

Sen. Mark Udall and attendees of the 2012 Colorado Capital Conference posed for a photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building before the first session of the conference.

2012 Colorado Capital Conference Attendees


6/5/12 9:00PM ET

Sen. Mark Udall kicked off the 2012 Colorado Capital Conference at a welcome reception for conference attendees that featured a bipartisan group of Colorado representatives: Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Diana Degette, Rep. Cory Gardner, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Scott Tipton and Rep. Doug Lamborn.

6/5/12 6:00PM ET

Participants in this year's Colorado Capital Conference trickled into Washington, D.C. this afternoon. At the registration desk, they shared their expectations for the conference and what they hoped to learn from diverse list of speakers and activities that await them:

Jill Boyle

Jill Boyle, who works at Colorado Mountain College, is attending the Colorado Capital Conference because she thinks it will be a good opportunity to visit with the Colorado delegation and to hear from some great speakers. She is particularly excited about the session on higher education and the chance to learn about the key priorities at the Department of Education.

Nancy Sanders

Nancy Sanders thinks the Colorado Capital Conference will be a great chance to learn more about the government alongside her fellow Coloradans. She is impressed by the range of backgrounds of conference attendees, and is looking forward to hearing the diversity of ideas discussed. Nancy was most excited see a panel on higher education on this year's agenda.

Judy Long

Judy Long, a registered nurse and volunteer at Rocky Mountain National Park, first heard about the Colorado Capital Conference though Senator Mark Udall's email newsletter. She thinks it will be "really cool to find out how things work at the federal level" and learn more about the legislative process. Judy, who currently has a daughter in college, is most excited for the education section of the conference and is looking forward to learning more about both the opportunities and the costs associated with higher education.

Bill Clayton

Bill Clayton, an avid traveler and kayaker from Englewood learned about the Colorado Capital Conference though an email invitation from Sen. Mark Udall. He hopes that, through the conference, he can learn more about the Colorado delegation's positions on national issues, and learn even more from the wide array of expert speakers. He is looking forward to interacting with government officials on the issues that are important to him.

After settling in at their hotels, participants will rendezvous at the U.S. Capitol building for a welcome reception, where they will meet with members of the Colorado delegation, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson and Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster. The conference will begin in earnest tomorrow morning at 9:20 a.m. ET when Mark Udall kicks off the first session.

6/1/12 12:30PM ET

Participants at this year's Colorado Capital Conference represent a diverse cross section of Colorado – both politically and geographically. You can learn more about the participants and where they are from by exploring the interactive map below. Click here for a full-screen version of the map.

View Map Full Screen

5/31/12 1PM ET

There is less than a week to go until this year's Colorado Capital Conference, and we are proud to announce an impressive list of speakers. On Tuesday, June 5, nearly 100 Coloradans will be greeted by the entire Colorado delegation at a reception; they also will be able to hear from Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Scott Tipton, Rep. Cory Gardner and Rep. Ed Perlmutter during the conference.

  • Mr. Gene B. Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
  • Secretary Ken L. Salazar, Department of the Interior
  • Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Department of Labor
  • Assistant Secretary Eduardo M. Ochoa, Department of Education
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  • Sen. Kay R. Hagan (D-North Carolina)
  • Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota)
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida)
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
  • Dr. Alice M. Rivlin, the Brookings Institution
  • Dr. Norman J. Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute
  • Mr. Charles E. Cook, Jr., Cook Political Report
  • Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers







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