Millionaire Jared Polis, whose ethics measure prevents a lobbyist from buying a lawmaker even a cup of coffee, is part of a group that has spent more than $150,000 so far trying to influence legislation on Amendment 41.
Polis is a lead financial backer of The Article 29 Coalition, a group formed after voters last fall approved Amendment 41.
House Minority Leader Mike May, R-Parker, ripped Polis when he heard how much the group has spent.
“Jared Polis is a rich kid who thinks he can buy the state of Colorado,” May said. “He thinks only Jared Polis should have influence in the legislature. He can spend whatever he wants, but not others.”
But lobbyist Mike Feeley, who is working for Polis’ coalition, said the criticism is unwarranted.
“One thing everyone is clear about is the voters wanted a change between lobbyists and the legislature,” he said. “No one has been prevented from the hiring of lobbyists or having their voice heard because they can’t take a legislator to a Nuggets game.”
Amendment 41 prevents lobbyists from giving anything to lawmakers. It also bans most elected officials, government employees and their families from receiving anything valued more than $50.
Polis, a former state Board of Education member, now concedes that the ethics measure was “poorly written.”
Trying to interpret what it says and who it covers has created political theater throughout the session, and the drama is expected to continue this afternoon.
That’s when a Senate committee will consider a resolution that asks the Supreme Court for guidance on the constitutionality of a bill that has passed that implements Amendment 41.
Wednesday’s hearing comes weeks after lawmakers reached a compromise on Amendment 41, infuriating May and others who believe the Senate is stalling.
Adding to their frustration is that Senate leaders recently met with attorney Jean Dubofsky for her opinion on language in the resolution. She is the lead attorney in a lawsuit attempting to overturn Amendment 41 on constitutional grounds.
Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, said he sees nothing wrong with having Dubofsky offer advice.
Groff, too, also has been critical of The Article 29 Coalition, whose members include Common Cause, another chief backer of Amendment 41.
The coalition so far has paid Feeley $17,500, according to secretary of state records.
The group paid lobbyist Steve Durham $40,000, which he said was a flat, one-time fee.
Feeley’s law partner, Mark Grueskin, so far has been paid $15,000. Grueskin, in turn, has hired two consulting firms at a cost of more $78,000 for work on Amendment 41.
That included producing a radio ad blasting Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon. Amendment 41 supporters believed she was trying to block their efforts in trying to pass a bill that dealt with the measure’s unintended consequences.
Amendment 41 has been interpreted by some to mean ranchers in southeastern Colorado who work for government can’t get blizzard aide, and public employees can’t receive inheritances.
Supporters say Amendment 41 was never intended to impact them.
(Contact Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)