Letter Reveals Real Opponents of Ethics Reform

You’ve gotta pay

For your right

To lobby!

OK, so it ain’t exactly Brooklyn’s Beastie Boys fighting for their right to party.

But the beastie boys and girls who make their money lobbying to influence public policy in Colorado are fighting. They’re fighting for the right to keep buying stuff for state legislators.

The cost of preserving that right in the face of a state constitutional amendment that reforms ethics is steep.

An Aug. 30 solicitation from the First Amendment Council which is fighting ethics reform in court, asks “that you please consider giving $1,000 – $10,000 or more to support this effort.”

That’s a lot of corned beef sandwiches. It shows you who the real stakeholders are in trying to undermine Amendment 41.

Here’s a hint: It’s not the little guys that the lobbyist-backed First Amendment Council wants you to think.Lobbyists want you to think Amendment 41, which limits money and gifts given to elected and appointed officials and civil servants, will keep cops’ kids from getting scholarships. They want you to think it will stop injured firefighters from benefiting from fund raisers.

Really, this is about the ability of lobbyists to buy their way into the hearts and minds of legislators with free lunches and free tickets to ball games and shows and free trips to seminars. Lobbyists can do that now with many fewer limits than Amendment 41 places on them. A Denver judge delayed the implementation of Amendment 41, pending a state Supreme Court hearing on a law suit claiming that the amendment is unconstitutionally broad.

But the focus of the Aug. 30 fund raising letter is all about what actually drives the suit. The letter is all about lobbying.

“As lobbyists,” the letter states, “each of us is extraordinarily aware of the impact that this onerous amendment had on our ability to adequately represent our clients.”

There is the un-spun truth about Amendment 41.

No one with an IQ greater than a rhubarb thinks an ethics commission set up by Amendment 41 will keep scholarships from cops’ kids or fund raisers from injured firefighters.

This amendment may need some legislative clarification. But make no mistake: The law suit scheduled for hearing Oct. 25 in the Colorado Supreme Court is not about protecting the little guy.

Little guys don’t have a grand to 10 grand “or more” to fork over to any cause, much less one whose main purpose is to preserve lobbyists’ ability to influence legislators in ways little guys could never dream of.

As for the self-proclaimed First Amendment Council, here’s how much they honor free speech:

Saying they need “to raise $500,000 to ensure we have resources necessary” to get the ethics amendment declared unconstitutional, the council then begs individual lobbyists for donations, “as well as your assistance in securing the support of your clients.”

Don’t think cops and firefighters, ladies and gentlemen, think big pharma, insurance companies and car dealers.

Also think secrecy. Secrecy that hides the real beneficiaries of this law suit. Secrecy that makes hypocrites of the plaintiffs and pawns of regular people.

“As this not [sic] an issue committee but rather a private law suit,” the fund raising letter concludes, “contributions are not reported to the Secretary of State. Donor’s [sic] names will not be released without direct authorization from you and/or your clients.”

So much for the First Amendment Council’s commitment to the First Amendment.

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About the Author

Jim Spencer

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