The Broomfield Enterprise reported today that Representative Bill Berens (R-Broomfield) plans to file a complaint against the newspaper for printing a letter to the editor referencing a $20,000 cash gift he received from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association ? an investigative story originally broken by Colorado Confidential on October 5. From the Broomfield Enterprise:
“I have not broken a state law,” Berens said. “I have not been accused of violating a state law. I think it’s serious and egregious.”
Berens claimed the Enterprise, a sister paper of the Daily Camera, was in violation of a state law that prohibits the publication, broadcast or circulation of a false or reckless statement designed to affect the vote on any issue or candidate.
“The views expressed in Wednesday’s Enterprise were the opinion of the letter writer,” said assistant editor Julie Baxter. “The question of whether the golf prize won by Mr. Berens was within the limits of the law has not been determined.”
Since Colorado Confidential published its investigation, five articles have been written by Denver media outlets, including an editorial by Vince Carroll of the Rocky Mountain News.
State campaign finance experts and fellow legislators questioned the propriety of accepting the money following the passage of Senate Bill 51 ? a new law that went into affect on July 1 that prohibits legislators from accepting cash or in-kind contributions over $50 in value during a calendar year.
Berens would not return calls to Colorado Confidential for comment during its investigation and instead deferred to his golf partner Rep. Michael Garcia (D-Aurora) to serve as his spokesman. He has since spoken to other media outlets and denies any wrongdoing.
Berens ? who was recently named to the House committee on Transportation and Energy ? claims that the money was a cash award for making a hole-in-one during the oil and gas lobby’s annual golf tournament and does not constitute a “gift” under the law.
More on this story as details become available.