Construction-defects bill may have failed, but lobbyists won big

Looking towards a repeat effort to make it more difficult for HOAs to sue developers over construction defects, homebuilders spent $158,000 in direct contributions to state lawmakers’ elections last year. Anticipating a repeat effort to oppose that legislation, trial lawyers spent $69,200.

After all that spending, the construction defects reform bill, SB 177, failed on party lines in the House this week after passing with bipartisan support in the Senate.

Both sides said the other had bowed to special interests. Did Senate supporters bow to homebuilders who say they can’t build affordable housing because frivolous lawsuits have made insurance too costly to buy? Did House opponents cow to trial lawyers who bring lawsuits against builders and say homeowners deserve remediation for lemon homes?

When it comes to special interests investing on each side of the construction defects reform debate, it’s worth noting the spending didn’t stop when elections were won or lost.


Nonprofit watchdog Colorado Ethics Watch ran the numbers and both trial lawyers and builders employed an army of lobbyists to fight for or against the bill this session.

Ethics Watch found that 54 lobbyists were employed to advocate for construction defects reform while 14 were paid to oppose it. In both cases, some lobbyists were working for more than one organization.

Realtors, bankers, builders and many municipalities in the Denver-metro area pitched in for a lobbyist to argue the merits of construction defect reform. Trial lawyers, homeowners groups and women’s rights organizations paid for lobbyists to fight the bill.

“Knowing who is spending money to influence our legislators is crucial,” said Luis Toro at Ethics Watch. “Lobbyist disclosure allows citizens to see who thinks they will benefit from a particular bill and to hold legislators accountable if they seem to be taking direction from lobbyists instead of the people.”

Curious exactly who employed all these lobbyists? Here’s the raw data.