Fighting words: Lobbyist throws down on Colorado lawmaker

Democratic state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri is swinging back – rhetorically anyway – after he says a longtime lobbyist threatened him with physical violence.

Chuck Ford, a veteran lobbyist for three decades at the state Capitol, challenged Ulibarri to meet him “mano a mano” over a fundraising email the lawmaker sent Tuesday in support of Democratic Senate candidate Erin Bennett, in Senate District 31.

The Ulibarri email was titled “656,” referring to the number of registered lobbyists in Colorado. Ulibarri wrote that lobbyists outnumber lawmakers seven to one under the Gold Dome.

“It’s hard to stand up for progressive values” in the state Senate, Ulibarri wrote. “I know because I have witnessed the swarm of corporate lobbyists, the oil and gas industry and health insurance companies that descend on the Capitol to drown out the voices of Colorado voters.”

If Bennett makes it to the Senate, she won’t fold under pressure, Ulibarri wrote to Bennett’s supporters.

Senate District 31 covers south-Central Denver, Glendale and a small portion of western Arapahoe County.

Lobbyist Ford responded to the email with strong language and a perceived threat Thursday just before noon.

“I am a Labor Democrat, a Progressive Democrat, an Early-early Supporter of Bernie Sanders, a Radical Opponent of Corporate/plutocratic Government AND a registered Colorado Lobbyist for 30 years,” he wrote to Ulibarri.  “YOU are a complete fucking idiot for daring to send me a piece of shit like this and, if you have the cojones to meet mano a mano I show you how I REALLY feel about you.”

The email address is the same one listed for Ford in the Secretary of State’s lobbyist database. Ford did not return multiple calls for comment.

Ulibarri responded to Ford’s email with another to Bennett supporters this afternoon. “In response to that email, I just received a threatening note from a registered lobbyist who is enraged that I’m speaking truth to power. I’m not backing down, and neither is Erin.”

Ulibarri, who lives in Westminster, told The Colorado Independent he will file an ethics complaint against Ford. Joint Rule 36(b) of the General Assembly says a lobbyist may not attempt to influence any legislator “by means of deceit or by threat of violence or economic or political reprisal” tied to the lawmaker’s decisions, votes, opinions or actions.

Ulibarri announced in February that he would not seek re-election this fall. He chose to step down to focus on managing a political leadership program and working on “movement building” for the progressive Wellstone Group.

Ford’s chief client for the past six years has been the Towing & Recovery Professionals of Colorado. According to his LinkedIn page, Ford has also represented local governments, regulated professions and businesses, gaming interests, labor unions, agricultural and water interests, liquor interests, child care centers and construction contractors. He has made campaign contributions over the years to several candidates, mostly Democrats.

Bennett, who heads the working women’s group 9 to 5 Colorado, is in a three-way primary to succeed term-limited Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver. She’s competing against Rep. Lois Court and Dr. Stephen Sherick. The race has already generated more than $365,000 in contributions for the three candidates.

Photo credit: Raylene Gutierrez, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.


  1. ” Ulibarri wrote that lobbyists outnumber lawmakers seven to one under the Gold Dome.”

    And THIS is the problem, not only in this state, but across the entire country. Damned lobbyists outnumber everyone, both in and out of the government. They should be KEPT in the lobby and not allowed anywhere else. The problem is that these are the VERMIN who keep writing things to get passed by the people who are SUPPOSED to represent US, but somehow never seem to get around to THAT part of the job.

    It’s time that we actually start demanding that laws be written by someone OTHER than industry insiders. It’s funny, but when they are the ones doing the writing, WE get left out of the game entirely. Is THIS what we’re paying for, so that industry and the rich can get what they want at OUR expense EVERY DAMNED TIME?

    This should be illegal. With serious jail time being involved for ALL parties involved. It’s too important to keep letting industry write all the rules for us. It’s how we keep getting screwed by things like the fracking industry. It’s time this END.

  2. Lobbying is just another quid pro quo scheme that was made legal with the Citizens’ United decision…Now, these folks don’t have to worry about getting caught…

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