Inside The Taxi Lobbying Probe

As was reported earlier in the month, metro taxi company Yellow Cab may be in hot water over allegations of illegal lobbying tactics–that is, paying drivers to call state lawmakers and encourage opposition to a taxi deregulation bill that would bring in more competition.

The Secretary of State (SOS) has started an investigation into the company, and will look at evidence presented by the local non-profit watchdog group Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG), which called on officials to launch an inquiry in March. 

These facts compounded with a Yellow Cab’s multi-national parent company and a well-known GOP attorney, may be the perfect ingredients for a gripping investigation. A document  (PDF) on the SOS Web site reveals how the investigation will be conducted, and what evidence an investigator will look at. Yellow Cab is officially known as Colorado Cab Company, LLC.

The Secretary of State will conduct an investigation…to determine if Colorado Cab violated [state law] concerning the employment of unregistered persons to engage in lobbying and whether Colorado Cab drivers violated [state law] by failing to register and report as professional lobbyists. The Secretary will assign and investigator, who will begin the investigation by interviewing CCEG and the cab drivers identified by CCEG.

Also according to the memo, records created during the investigation will remain confidential and not open to members of the press. CCEG has requested that cab drivers who participated in affidavits relating to the lobbying allegations remain anonymous for fear of workplace repercussion.

Representing Colorado Cab is GOP attorney Scott Gessler.  Gessler has served as the registered agent for various political groups in the state, including a committee to oppose an increase in the minimum wage.

But this isn’t the first time that Gessler has represented clients against such allegations. In April the Committee for the American Dream was found to have violated electioneering communications law. Gessler defended the group against the complainant, CCEG.

Colorado Cab’s parent company, Veolia Transportation, is also no stranger to heavy state lobbying. When proposed legislation to deregulate the taxi industry was up for consideration in the legislature this session, Veolia spent $19,500 to hire lobbyists for that month. Since January, Veolia has spent a total of $27,000 on lobbying, according to SOS records.

It’s not known when the investigation will be complete, but the inquiry is bringing together former legal foes and ultimately Veolia Transportation, self described as the nation’s “largest private transportation provider.”

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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