Lobbyists Spread “Goodwill” on Out of Session Lawmakers

The start of a new legislative session is months away, but that hasn’t stopped lobbyists from spending cash on Colorado legislators while Amendment 41 remains in limbo.Amendment 41, the state law passed in the 2006 election banning gifts from lobbyists to public officials, is not in effect because of a Denver District Court court injunction in May. The measure is currently being heard by the state Supreme Court, leaving lobbyists free to operate.

One example is Roberta Kirscht Robinette, a lobbyist for companies like AT&T and Centura Health. Disclosure reports with the Secretary of State’s Office show that Robinette spent approximately $380 in the months of September and August lobbying 11 legislators, including Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker) and former Democratic lawmaker Mike Cerbo, who is now executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO.

Patrick Boyle, a lobbyist for clients like First Data Corporation and the Colorado Cable Television Association reported spending over $60 in September towards things like “entertainment” and “goodwill.” Boyle also used the same definitions in the summer when he disclosed his expenditures.

Another lobbyist, Leo Boyle, representing the public advocacy firm Colorado Communique, went an indirect route and spent cash on campaign contributions rather than gifts, disclosure reports show. State Rep. Cheri Jahn (D-Wheat Ridge) netted $50, state Rep. Jeanne Labuda (D-Arapahoe County) received $100, and state Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, who represents District 16 and serves as the president of the state Senate , was given $250. Campaign contributions are not regulated under Amendment 41.

Legislators are required to disclose gifts given by lobbyists quarterly, and lobbyists are required to disclose expenditures and income on a monthly basis.

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@www.coloradoindependent.com.