Lobbying Garners Millions During First Month of State Legislature

The first month of Colorado’s 2008 legislative session netted millions, according to records from the Secretary of State’s office.

At least $2.4 million was spent by a variety of organizations and businesses to lobby at the state Capitol in January, with additional thousands used by lobbyists to woo lawmakers and influence legislation. Total spending numbers for January 2007 were not available, but Colorado could again be on its way to surpassing the estimated $25 million spent on lobbying during all of last year, a number that has been steadily increasing for more than a decade, according to official records.

Lobbyist disclosure reports also show that approximately $8,600 was spent last month on lawmakers.

That’s a stark contrast to last year, when Amendment 41, a statewide initiative passed by voters in 2006 to ban gifts from lobbyists to legislators, was still in effect. In May a Denver district court judge issued an injunction blocking the law, making it unenforceable unless the Colorado Supreme Court affirms it in another pending case.

While a large majority of lobbyists working at the state Capitol did not report any expenses for lawmakers, a select few spent hundreds and sometimes thousands during January.

Lobbyist Catherine Garcia, who works for Action 22, a pro-business membership group that advocates on Southern Colorado issues, spent more than $6,000 toward lunch and a hotel reception for group members and lawmakers during the organization’s Legislative Day at the Capitol event on Jan. 23.

Jeannie Bernard, a lobbyist for the development-friendly Denver Building Owners and Managers Association, used nearly $800 to entertain a reported 20 lawmakers, while former Colorado legislator Steve Durham, who represents organizations like the Colorado Association of Home Builders and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, spent approximately $450 to discuss legislation with specific lawmakers.

Secretary of State records show that there are approximately 460 lobbyists registered to work at the state Capitol, down from last year’s 560. Lobbying expenses like parking, travel and utilities were not included in the data.

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.