Fighting words: Lobbyist throws down on Colorado lawmaker
Democratic state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri is swinging back – rhetorically anyway – after he says a longtime lobbyist threatened him with physical violence.
Chuck Ford, a veteran lobbyist for three decades at the state Capitol, challenged Ulibarri to meet him “mano a mano” over a fundraising email the lawmaker sent Tuesday in support of Democratic Senate candidate Erin Bennett, in Senate District 31.
The Ulibarri email was titled “656,” referring to the number of registered lobbyists in Colorado. Ulibarri wrote that lobbyists outnumber lawmakers seven to one under the Gold Dome.
“It’s hard to stand up for progressive values” in the state Senate, Ulibarri wrote. “I know because I have witnessed the swarm of corporate lobbyists, the oil and gas industry and health insurance companies that descend on the Capitol to drown out the voices of Colorado voters.”
If Bennett makes it to the Senate, she won’t fold under pressure, Ulibarri wrote to Bennett’s supporters.
Senate District 31 covers south-Central Denver, Glendale and a small portion of western Arapahoe County.
Lobbyist Ford responded to the email with strong language and a perceived threat Thursday just before noon.
“I am a Labor Democrat, a Progressive Democrat, an Early-early Supporter of Bernie Sanders, a Radical Opponent of Corporate/plutocratic Government AND a registered Colorado Lobbyist for 30 years,” he wrote to Ulibarri. “YOU are a complete fucking idiot for daring to send me a piece of shit like this and, if you have the cojones to meet mano a mano I show you how I REALLY feel about you.”
The email address is the same one listed for Ford in the Secretary of State’s lobbyist database. Ford did not return multiple calls for comment.
Ulibarri responded to Ford’s email with another to Bennett supporters this afternoon. “In response to that email, I just received a threatening note from a registered lobbyist who is enraged that I’m speaking truth to power. I’m not backing down, and neither is Erin.”
Ulibarri, who lives in Westminster, told The Colorado Independent he will file an ethics complaint against Ford. Joint Rule 36(b) of the General Assembly says a lobbyist may not attempt to influence any legislator “by means of deceit or by threat of violence or economic or political reprisal” tied to the lawmaker’s decisions, votes, opinions or actions.
Ulibarri announced in February that he would not seek re-election this fall. He chose to step down to focus on managing a political leadership program and working on “movement building” for the progressive Wellstone Group.
Ford’s chief client for the past six years has been the Towing & Recovery Professionals of Colorado. According to his LinkedIn page, Ford has also represented local governments, regulated professions and businesses, gaming interests, labor unions, agricultural and water interests, liquor interests, child care centers and construction contractors. He has made campaign contributions over the years to several candidates, mostly Democrats.
Bennett, who heads the working women’s group 9 to 5 Colorado, is in a three-way primary to succeed term-limited Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver. She’s competing against Rep. Lois Court and Dr. Stephen Sherick. The race has already generated more than $365,000 in contributions for the three candidates.
Photo credit: Raylene Gutierrez, Creative Commons, Flickr