Amendment 58 group makes Interior Dept sex scandal a campaign issue

The day after U.S. Interior Department officials detailed for Congress the sordid sex and drug scandal in its Denver oil royalty office, a spokesman for a group trying to roll back oil and gas tax subsidies in Colorado said public outrage can only help Amendment 58.

“The oil and gas lobby has repeatedly said and done anything for money and (the scandal) just reinforces that not only is Colorado the only state that gives these tax credits but then we come to find out that this huge national scandal where they’re bilking taxpayers is rooted right here in Colorado from the same companies that are already getting this enormous subsidy,” said George Merritt, a spokesman for A Smarter Colorado, the issues committee backing Amendment 58.

Amendment 58, which opponents are attacking as a tax hike that will be passed on to consumers, would roll back property tax breaks for oil and gas companies doing business in Colorado and generate another $321 million a year in oil and gas severance tax fees, to be spent on college scholarships, preserving wildlife habitat, renewable energy projects and local infrastructure in counties impacted by drilling.

The group, which has raised more than $2 million from conservation groups and individuals, started running a television ad referencing the Interior Department scandal on Tuesday.

Dan Hopkins, a spokesman for Coloradans for a Stable Economy, the issues group opposing Amendment 58, did not return a phone call Friday. That group has raised nearly $10 million, mostly from multi-national oil companies.

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