Politicians report gifts from sports tickets to trips
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DENVER – Colorado politicians and lawmakers last year received gifts ranging from sports tickets to overseas trips costing thousands of dollars, according to reports of the gifts they received that were filed Friday with the Secretary of State’s office.One of the biggest beneficiaries was GOP Gov. Bill Owens, who reported receiving an estimated $57,000 in cash and gifts, including $24,000 from the United Jewish Community of Ukraine for speeches he gave last September in Kiev. Spokesman Dan Hopkins said Owens was invited to a dedication of a national memorial to the victims of terrorism worldwide.A number of lawmakers reported getting substantial cash gifts for their “office accounts,” which they say they need to pay staffers in their offices, with no requirement to report how the money was spent.Critics say the gifts serve only one purpose – getting the attention of politicians.”All you need to do is look up Abramoff, comma, Jack to see if gifts influence lawmakers,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, citing the continuing scandal in Washington over freebies given to politicians.The gifts included trips to Israel for Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, and Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, that were worth $2,618, paid for by the Allied Jewish Federation.Fitz-Gerald also reported receiving two University of Colorado football tickets worth $110 that included a reception with President Hank Brown. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Groff got a $5,000 trip to Taipei from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, reported receiving about $17,000 for his office accounts, and Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, was one of the few who reported how he spent the money, taking in $4,557.75 and spending $4,450.52 on services and the Internet, leaving him with a balance of $107.23.Maysmith said lobbyists get time with politicians and candidates, which can be very valuable, in return for the gifts.”This shouldn’t be allowed,” Maysmith said.Maysmith said his group, which lobbies on public policy issues, is supporting a measure (Senate Bill 51) that would try again to limit office accounts.The bill would prohibit so-called “office accounts,” which allow unlimited contributions, including contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session, and extremely limited reporting. “Access to legislators and policy outcomes should be free of even the taint of undue influence” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Common Cause.Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, said he sponsored the bill because changes are needed.”This is an opportunity for the legislature and the governor to do the right thing and put words into action,” said Tupa, who refuses to accept gifts and wrote “None taken” on his reporting form.List of some of the gifts reported by politicians and lawmakers- GOP Gov. Bill Owens, who reported receiving an estimated $57,000 in cash and gifts, including $24,000 from the United Jewish Community of Ukraine for speeches he gave last September in Kiev.- Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, Republican Treasurer Mark Hillman, and Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, reported trips to Israel that were worth $2,618, paid for by the Allied Jewish Federation.- Fitz-Gerald also reported receiving two University of Colorado football tickets worth $110 that included a reception with President Hank Brown.- GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman said he received no political gifts.- GOP Attorney General John Suthers got two nights lodging at the Ritz-Carlton in Beaver Creek worth $400, paid for by the Republican Attorney General Association.- Senate President Pro Tem Peter Groff, D-Denver, got a trip to Taipei worth $5,000, paid for by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.- Sen. Ken Kester, R-Las Animas, liked music and got tickets worth $63.50 each from lobbyists to see concerts by George Strait and Jimmy Buffett.
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