Ethics Watchdog Calls for Probe of Senate Minority Office

Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG) submitted letters today to Governor Bill Ritter and District Attorney Mitch Morrissey to launch a full investigation of the Colorado Senate Minority Office for “using a gift of private partisan funds for official state functions and for using state time and property for political activities.”

CCEG, a non-partisan, non-profit legal watchdog organization, argued that the office and its staff have engaged in a pattern of partisan activities which violate state law. From the press release:

At issue is a series of activities that appear to violate Colorado laws. The website, www.ColoradoSenateNews.com, has been touted by minority leadership as “the official communications arm of the Senate Minority Office,” and is maintained by Minority Office staff members whose salaries are paid by the state of Colorado. Despite its “official” status, the site was paid for at least in part by the Senate Majority Fund, a political committee with the primary purpose of advancing a partisan agenda.  State law makes it a misdemeanor for legislators to accept any gift of any money, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of defraying any expenses related to their official duties, such as communications.

Also at issue are partisan telephone calls made on Wednesday, April 11th by a staff member of the Minority Office to CCEG and its parent organization, the Washington, DC-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The information obtained from these calls was used by the Minority Office to publish a partisan article attacking CCEG and CREW via state-issued e-mail addresses and the Minority Office’s site. Engaging in political activities using state time and property amounts to official misconduct and is a misdemeanor subject to fines up to $1000.

“Members of the Senate Minority and their staffers have shown callous disregard for Colorado laws and have abused their public positions to advance a purely partisan agenda,” said Chantell Taylor, CCEG’s director. “Coloradans pay legislators to represent people, not parties.  This is not the first time Republican Senators have crossed the line, so we hope the Governor and District Attorney immediately investigate these egregious activities.”

A request for response has been sent to the Colorado Senate Minority Communciations Office via their contact/newstips webform.

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Wendy Norris

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