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November 13, 2006 07:32 PM UTC

Politicos Sweating/Loving Amendment 41

  • by: Colorado Pols

Either it’s an important new curb on unethical money flowing from special interests to government decisionmakers, or the sky is falling. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:

A sweeping ethics measure that voters approved this week will change life at the state Capitol, but whether that’s good or bad depends on the lawmaker looking at it.

Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, has advised his caucus against accepting even a stick of gum for fear members will subjected to an ethics probe that becomes campaign fodder.

But Rep. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who has railed against the influence of lobbyists at the legislature, dismissed such talk.

“This is really freaking people out,” she said Friday. “Only a few of us do not think it means the end of the world.

“It does amazing things to shift the balance of power back to the people of Colorado. Regular government employees should not take cash from strangers. This is not how we want to grease the wheels of government.”

Amendment 41, in part, bans elected officials and certain government employees from accepting money or gifts in excess of $50 in a calendar year. It does not impact municipal employees in home-rule cities or counties or employees in special districts.

For lawmakers, it means an end to perks that have ranged from Broncos playoff tickets, golf outings and dinners at pricey steakhouses.

Proponents say that lobbying and influence peddling at the Capitol is big business…

You’ll find elated supporters and nervous detractors on both sides of the aisle–just like voters found, from Joe Stengel to Deanna Hanna, reasons to overwhelmingly approve Amendment 41 on both sides of the aisle.


26 thoughts on “Politicos Sweating/Loving Amendment 41

  1. Do the voters for 41 see corruption in their souls as well as all around them? Do they cheat on expense accounts, tax returns, customers, partners and themselves just enough to figure “everyone does it” and needs to be over-regulated?

    Or is the vote for 41 an attempt to send a hard message to elected officials and government employees that they simply aren’t trusted?

    Is it a combination of all of the above, or not?

    1. but voted for it in the end, I can tell you I don’t engage in any of the activities you state. But I also don’t really see the logical connection between those activities (tax cheating excepted) and bribery. I have some mistrust – not necessarily of the politicians, but certainly of those who curry their favor. Naturally I can speak only for myself, but I’d bet some others who voted for 41 felt the same as me. I’d bet the majority of pro-41 voters distrust elected officials more than me.

    2. The corruption level that is being found it outlandish. Right now, what we find is in very high profile (Abramhoff, Delay, Hastert, Cheney, Musgrave, etc). But that is just the top of the cream. There is a lot more that occurs down underneath. I do not wish for America to be a == to a 3rd rate country, but we are headed that way due to deficits, corruption, etc.

      In the past, I have come out in favor of this amendment and had several folks rant about how it is wrong and unconstitutional. It may be unconstitutional, but I say let the courts decide. If so, then let it be re-worked and re voted on. It will pass again. As to being wrong, well, 60% some odd percent of us disagree with you. There are many of us who are sick of what we have seen over the last 7-10 years. It should be apparent based on the vote throwing out the rascals. Now, a balanced budget AND anti-corruption amendment needs to be passed for the federal level.  Sadly, until lobbyists with cash and gifts (including future jobs) are gone, there will always be corruption.

    3. A message to politicos and lobbyists that we’re mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it any more.

      It’s time the lege answered to their constituents rather than to lobbyists. I had at least two items that my so-called “rep” bullied through on behalf of lobbyists, in spite of considerable opposition by constituents.

      The reps are limited in the number of bills they can carry, and I was particularly disgusted that my rep didn’t bother to carry a single one that was part of the campaign platform issues espoused, or that were promised to constituents.

  2. How much does a stick of gum cost?  Lawmakers can still recieve up to $50 in gifts, which is a whole lost of gum!

    I can see the TV ads now. Joe Stengel chewed Big League Gum during the debate on a bill to reduce child obsecity, which he voted against!  Joe Stengel, just another Republican lining his pockets with Denver lobbyist gifts!

    1. $50 in gum, what kind of moron would attack someone for that? I think most voters have the viewpoint that extravagent gifts are bribery but innocuous gifts are not. However, if Wrigley decided to supply the state house with all the Juicy Fruit they want, that’s a different matter… 😉

            1. The “moron” is a candidate attacking an incumbent for taking some kinda small gift (can sharing something like gum be defined as such?) when it’s meant to regulate trips, lavish dinners, and so on. Clearly McIlheny (am I spelling that right?) is overreacting to the new rules. I think most folks can distinguish what fits the spirit of the law and what doesn’t. And I guess, re-reading my post, that I was only half joking.

              I think I need more coffee. My posts aren’t as clear as I like them to be…

              1. Considering the attack ads against one Congressional candidate (Arcuri?) that taxpayers had to foot the bill for a call to a phone sex line, it’s hard to tell the difference between a joke and a serious attack anymore.

                In any event, I didn’t think this was an appropriate issue for a Constitutional Amendment.  Even as a statutory law, a limit of $50 dollars in a calendar year is too low.  A limit of $50 per event for things such as dinner (especially if the official is the guest speaker!) would have been more appropriate.

  3. As a volunteer aide to Morgan Carroll, I attended the first hearing on her bill to reign in lobbyists and legislators.  A watered down version did eventually get signed by BO (Shock!).

    The hearing was a farce.  All the Republicans and what the hell is her name Democrat “protested too much.”  David Schulteis in particular feigned great indignation that people thought he and others might be on the kneepads.  Worse, they attacked citizen witnesses, claiming that we were part of an organized movement (and that’s bad or illegal?).  He questioned how it was that we all had stickers on our clothing.  (Answer: cheap computer printing, Dave.)

    The first thing I noticed going to volunteer was the shear number of cockroaches…I mean lobbyists.  Yes, there are “leftist” lobbyists, usually representing unions or environmental issues, but they are few. 

    It seems to me that a large number of boomerang, unintended consequences type of initiatives are the result of the legislature not doing its job.  Think TABOR, Prop 23, this one, and a host of others.  Opponents of the new minimum wage initiatve claimed that this was the wrong way to do it. Although I voted for it, I agree.  But any minimum wage increase efforts kept getting shot down in the legislature or at BO’s desk (I think.) 

    The funny thing is is that if the new Dem’s go for a $7 federal minimum wage, the Colorado effort becomes moot. In theory, though, the Colorado one will surpass the federal one in two to three years due to the CPI ratcheting and stay ahead until the next time it is raised in Congress. Back and forth, back and forth it will go.

  4. But alas, 41 applies to all government employees. I’ve worked for the state for nearly 19 years and have never had any kind of policy input or responsibility, but it applies to me, too. I’ve never gotten a call, much less a gift, from a lobbyist and couldn’t influence public policy if one paid me a million dollars, but I still can’t let my friends buy me lunch. I don’t know how this keeps the state safe from corruption, but the voters have spoken.

    I just hope it doesn’t keep me from taking my PERA checks in a few more years!

    1. Like you say, you have no input on policy. Neither, I am sure, do many people within state government. When it boils down to it, do you really think there will be an uproar if your non-spouse significant other or friend, takes you out to dinner at Mortons?

      1. there won’t be any uproar whatsoever because no one really cares if he goes to dinner w/ a friend.

        Still, it is now illegal for him to do it. We’ve just amended the constitution and we have to tell a large class of people “go ahead and break the law, it wasn’t meant for you anyway”

        I think that’s stupid.

        1. And that was kind of my point. The practical application of this law will be impossible to implement. It was clearly meant to stem the corruption of large public officials, yet the people that will be impacted cant make a difference anyway.

          When I was in undergrad, a state senator spoke to one of my classes and said, concerning people in this state, “when in doubt; make it an amendment.” Now we have a cluttered constitution, which will hurt, rather than help, the people that it is trying to affect.

          1. Thought you meant that it was a rational equilibrium where laws weren’t prosecuted and citizens ignored them. I do get your point.

            While I think that money controls Washington, I don’t think the problem is as severe in CO. Cutting down on the sports tix, computers, etc is a good idea. Free lunches I don’t mind. Outlawing them isn’t the end of the world either.

            The big issue is the constitution. If one good thing can come of 41 it will be if it is a disaster and lends momentum to raise the threshold for constitutional changes.

      2. I doubt that the state employee police will be following to see who pays for our dinners, but I will comply with the law nonetheless. At least, I will as soon as I can figure out what the heck the law says.

      3. Someone who wants to tak a public employee on a dinner date will now be violating the law if the dinner is over $50.  Worse, five $10 dollar lunches will do the same thing.

        Also, each individual member of thethe Star Chamber Ethics commission that is created by this has unlimited subpoena power over any public employee and gift giver in the state.  Absolutely no due process or protection of private records.

        This is absolutely the stupidest idea to come down the pike in many years.  I will guaruntee that the lobbyists and elected officials will find a way around this, but the average public employee will not.

        Jared Polis was warned about the the far-reaching consequences of this initiative but refused to redraft to make certain that the target of this was actually elected officials and lobbyists not the average Joe or Jane and their friends.

        I believe that when this is tested in the courts (and it will be) that the over-reaching nature will invalidate it by the courts and then there will be nothing.

        Maybe Jared would like to resurrect his judicial robes and try to protect it from the bench.

        1. Frequent dating at McDonald’s outlawed!
          You get maybe 2 dinners and a movie…
          Gonna cut down on the love life at the Capitol!

          I wanted ethics in government, but 41 went too far – I voted ‘no’ and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Looks like 2007’s going to have several I&R measures on the ballot.

          1. it doesn’t just apply to state employees, but all public employees in Colorado.  Forget about doing something nice for your kid’s teacher, like maybe a gift certificate or something.  If it is over $50 you and the teacher are in trouble.

            1. Paul Weissman.  he is a bartender.  I assume he has regular customers at the Blue Parrot in Louisville.  A good tipper who comes in regularly can easily amass $50 in tips over a year to a great bartender.

              A violation?  Probably.  Because if you say that tips are not subject to the gift ban (though I think they are) then next you will have those who would like to send something Paul’s way, just have regular visits to the bar at the Blue Parrot and leave great tips.

              This is so stupid.

            2. Everyone seems to think this is exclusively about the legislature (what the heck is a “lege” anyway?), and people at the Capitol.  If you think that you didn’t read the amendment!  It applies to politicians and their staffs, but it also applies to County, City, and School District employees and any independent contractor doing business for those entities.  And not just them, no, but their spouse, children and anyone else who might be considered “immediate family”.  The son of the janitor at your local High School cannot accept a college scholarship, as that clearly is “money” or “the forgiveness of debt”.  Government employees cannot attend a training seminar if more than $50 in sponsorships come from vendors or outside parties.  Representative Carol may be correct that public officials shouldn’t take money from strangers, but government surely can’t be worse because little Timmy gets a $60 Little League uniform from the local Elks Club.

              Now, you might say “that wasn’t the intent”, but it IS, CLEARLY, the plain language of the Constitutional provision.  Courts will go with the plain meaning OVER any ambiguous consideration of intent.  And since this was proposed by the same people who gave us 527’s (think amendment 27), who can really speak to their intent (and why, oh why, did we let em do it to us again)???

              Next, for all you who think nobody is going to report a $51 dinner bought for a city employee, I only have one word:  “ENEMY”.  We are talking about a way to make life difficult, and the amendment doesn’t require ANY threshold of proof to warrant a report to the commission.  Can’t you imagine the campaign of the future:  “Incumbent candidate Joe Blow was investigated 365 times by the Amendment 41 Commission…”  Certainly not hard for me to imagine, given what we all just went through this year!

              Lastly, I’m pretty sure the soonest this abomination can be fixed is the 2008 election.  Why don?t we demand more from the sponsors of initiatives, instead of just voting based on the title without reading the provision?  If we keep passing them, they’ll keep writing them, because you can be sure THEY are lining their pockets with their success!

              1. But only if the Legislature (that’s “Lege” in some places) is so painfully hurt by it before the end of the session that they put up a Referendum to fix it.

                I didn’t mean to belittle the other effects of this nightmare; it’s just easy to apply to a small group as an example.  The effects are just plain stupid in so many ways.

                1. to both above posts.  Given the history of Common Cause trying to do their goody two shoes good government crap is give us worse government.  Actually the real good government group in this state, The League of Women Voters opposed this stupid amendment.

                  The sooner the elitists at Common Cause pack their bags and leave the state, the better.  If only they could take Doug Bruce and John Andrews with them.  They all three have one thing in common – remolding government into their own narrow extremist view and to hell with the consequences for the folks who have to live and work here.

  5. I just wanted to give a big thank you to all of you who voted to pass Ammendment 41. You’ve certainly done a service to our state. Not only have you removed any chance of Government workers being bribed, you’ve made it completley obvious how thankful you are for people who work overtime to keep your asses safe. When were talking about people who work for the government, we’re not just talking about the governor and the people who work at the capital, we’re talking about police officers…criminal investigastors, people who work to keep your asses safe from rapists and murders. So next time you see your neighborhood CSI why don’t you give him a good slap across the face and inform him that hes a corrupt bastard! I mean how dare he work extra hours to put criminal behind bars!

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