DENVER– Progressive activist group ProgressNow called for greater transparency from Republican candidate for governor Scott McInnis Tuesday outside the Denver Athletic Club, where McInnis was scheduled to debate Democratic candidate and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The group hoped to give McInnis a petition from nearly 2000 Coloradans asking him to disclose more of his personal financial history.
“[McInnis] is asking the people of Colorado to trust him, but he is proving to be completely untrustworthy,” ProgressNow Executive Director Bobby Clark told reporters. “He has clearly misrepresented his record on a number of occasions and he won’t tell us basic information, like where his money is coming from.”
McInnis told talk radio hosts months ago that he wouldn’t release his tax returns because he feared taking “a beating.” Candidates for office are not required to release returns but doing so is a long tradition and an act of good faith. In the case of McInnis, long an oil and gas lobbyist and a champion of the industry as a candidate for governor, the calls have particular relevance for voters and media concerned about conflicts of interest.
“I’m not going to invite myself to my own beating,” said McInnis. “I’m going to give what I think the people want, not what the Denver Post wants.”
That’s the question Clark said the ProgressNow petition and a recent survey, conducted for the group by Precision Polling, were attempting to address.
“This should be [a major] issue,” Clark said. “Candidates should provide basic financial information. It is a simple request. Candidates for state-wide office always do it. It is highly unusual to refuse to turn over [tax returns]. So it absolutely should be an issue. If we are going to have accountable government, we need to know that these people are representing us. We need to know what their financial interests are,. We need to know who they owe favors to. We need to see that complete picture.”
According to the Precision Polling survey, 74.3 percent of 500 randomly selected Coloradans said they thought McInnis should release his tax returns. The poll reported 82.2 percent of likely voters said McInnis should disclose the list of corporate and organizational boards on which he sits.
McInnis released partial tax returns earlier in the year– four years worth of partial data. His opponent, Democrat John Hickenlooper, released decades worth of full returns, carting up boxes of paperwork from his basement and speaking frankly with media about his financial history. McInnis released his partial returns to an attorney’s office where media could inspect them. McInnis told the Colorado Independent he was protecting the financial data of his law firm partners but accountants told the Colorado Independent that all of the information related to the partners in the firm, Hogan & Hartson, could either be redacted or left out altogether depending on the forms McInnis released.
McInnis didn’t address the ProgressNow ralliers Tuesday. Clark said the group would send the signature by email to the McInnis campaign office.
Inside the forum, McInnis called himself the “only candidate in the race who is a water expert,” an apparent deadpan reference to the 12 “water articles” McInnis authored for the conservative Hasan Family Foundation for $300,000. The commission has been mocked in the press as a boondoggle. The articles, called “musings” by the author, read like pared-down encyclopedia entries delivered as rambling snippets, for which McInnis was paid $2000 per page. Reporters, mainly Jason Salzman a media blogger and Colorado Independent contributor, had been asking McInnis and the Hasan Foundation to produce the articles for weeks. The foundation posted them just this week on its website.
Yet McInnis said government transparency was one of his main issues. He said customers of Xcel, the state’s largest energy provider, deserved a full accounting of the costs the state’s new 30 percent renewable energy standard would generate for consumers.
Hickenlooper held a 30 minute conference with the press before speaking at the forum, which was sponsored by 9 News and the The Denver Petroleum Club.
McInnis, who was scheduled to appear after his speech according to sponsors, failed to do so. Spokesperson Sean Duffy told reporters that his candidate was unaware of the press conference. He said McInnis left to attend another speaking arrangement.
[Flickr Photo via McInnis for Colorado]
Edit note: The original version of this post reported McInnis spoke to Denver talk radio hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman about “taking a beating” on his tax returns. It was in fact the Northern Colorado Keith and Gail Fox radio show on which he discussed releasing the returns.