Associated Press reports–oops!
A Colorado business group on Tuesday said it would back out of a lunch with the state's new attorney general after questions were raised about it winning the meal at an auction.
The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association won the lunch with Cynthia Coffman after bidding $500 at an auction at the Colorado Lincoln Club's holiday gathering, which it hosted at its Denver offices last week. On Tuesday, however, association president Tim Jackson said he would give the lunch away to another organization or person. He said the group bid on the meal solely to help out the Lincoln Club and did not need special access to Coffman, a Republican…
The auctioning of access to Attorney General-elect Cynthia Coffman by the GOP-aligned Lincoln Club of Colorado's annual holiday party was originally reported last week by the Colorado Statesman's Ernest Luning. And Luning reports that Cynthia Coffman was not the only Republican politician selling off personal access at this party:
The top bids went for lunch with State Treasurer Walker Stapleton after two competing consortiums, led by former Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan and Lincoln Club board member Barb Piper ramped bidding up to $725 for the honor, at which point Wiens and Stapleton decided he’d have lunch with each group for that sum…
The club also auctioned off lunches with state Sen.-elect Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and state Rep.-elect Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, who was joined by neighboring state Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, to sweeten the deal. State Rep.-elect Jon Keyser, R-Evergreen, was called away on duty with the Air Force Reserves so was unable to take part in a planned live auction, though lunch with the new lawmaker was sold in the silent auction.
As for Tim Jackson and the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, according to Luning he did have an agenda for his lunch with AG-elect Coffman, before the whole idea of it became…well, you know, scandalous:
Jackson told The Colorado Statesman that he plans to take the opportunity to discuss the importance of automobile dealerships with Coffman, part of a continuous outreach effort with policy-makers and elected leaders. A full 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue is generated from the sale of new and used cars, Jackson noted…
Well now! That would have been rather productive lunch after all. Of course, no one is alleging that the Republicans who auctioned access to themselves to the highest bidder did so for personal financial gain. But just so everybody's clear about what the Lincoln Club is, from their own "About Us" page:
The Lincoln Club of Colorado is Colorado's oldest Republican Organization. Based on the humanitarian principles of President Abraham Lincoln and founded in 1918, the club's mission has always been to promote the educational and social programs of the Republican party and to support the election of Republican candidates.
Bottom line: it may not be illegal, or even unprecedented, but the optics of lobbyists bidding for access to GOP politicians to fund a GOP campaign organization are about as bad as it gets–and CADA was wise to immediately cancel once word got out about it. If the other GOP politicians named in this story have any sense, they'll follow suit quickly.
Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said he did not know if the meals were legal, but he said it was inherently questionable. "It is literally paying for access," he said. [Pols emphasis]
Next time, just hold an old-fashioned fundraiser.