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Democrats on a state legislative committee in Colorado have voted to protect Democrat Gov. Jared Polis from questions about whether he profited personally from his official actions.
The Denver Gazette reported the four Democrats on the Legislative Audit Committee voted against having the Office of the State Auditor research whether it should even look into charges from Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, about Polis’ profits.
The vote, along party lines, ended up 4-4, which killed the idea.
“It is too bad when partisan politics gets in the way of doing the right thing,” Sonnenberg told The Denver Gazette. “There is absolutely no reason that we shouldn’t look at this situation and then either say nothing wrong was done or maybe we need to change some things, so elected officials are more transparent.”
He had suggested changes to state laws to require more detailed disclosures from a sitting governor.
“He alleged Polis profited from legislation he signed that moved to voters the question about legalized sports betting in the state at a time he purportedly owned stock in FanDuel Inc., one of the largest sports book operations in the country,” the report explained.
Further, he pointed out that Polis, a millionaire many times over, owned real estate in Boulder and that personally owned building was promoted by the state’s economic development agency.
Democrats called the concerns “political.”
The Gazette reported Sen. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, the chairman of the committee, said not even researching the issue was a bad idea.
“I would be interested to look at this from the standpoint of the office itself but not the elected person,” he told the Gazette. “The office of the governor is like any other in our state. Is this under the (auditor’s) purview or not, appropriate or not to look at the office? If we say the office is never auditable, it’s distressing.”
Sonnenberg still could go to the Colorado Ethics Commission with his concerns.
Polis said statements he is active with his many business ventures are “false.”
It was the Denver Post that, during a time when Jared Polis was running for governor in Colorado several years ago and faced accusations his spending of millions of dollars of his own money on his campaign essentially was “buying” the office, profiled his rise to wealth.
For example, the report confirms he turned a profit working as a stock trader in Russia and made money on web site operations, movie theaters and floral retailers. At one point he was dealing with the U.S. Department of Defense, buying “steel, or helmets or shell casings,” and then selling them for a profit.
Then his big score came when his family went online with products from the Blue Mountain Arts greeting cards created by his parents, Susan Polis Schutz and Steve Schutz.
They soon sold it for $780 million to Excite@Home, which promptly went bankrupt.
Then he spent $1 million on a campaign for a seat on the Colorado State Board of Education, later went to Congress as one of its wealthiest members and returned to Colorado to occupy the governor’s mansion, along with his same-sex partner.
He had, earlier, joined dollars with like-minded leftist millionaires Rutt Bridges, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker to turn Colorado from a relatively evenly divided state into a Democrat stronghold in 2004 with key – and significant – contributions to contested state legislative races that gave Democrats full control of the state.
For the first time in 40 years.
That all preceded the accusations from Sonnenberg that Polis personally profited from legislation he signed, including Colorado’s legalization of sports books.
Sonnenberg charged that Polis has “real and actual conflicts of interests that are going unchecked and are unaccountable.”
Sonnenberg explained based on disclosures Polis made while in Congress, Polis owned stock in FanDuel through at least May 2019 when he signed Colorado House Bill 19-1327, which put the legalization of sports betting before voters that year.
“Just after Polis signed the bill to authorize the ballot initiative, FanDuel made a $250,000 contribution to pass what became known as Proposition DD. More than 51% of the voters approved the measure,” the report said.
Polis also appointed all of the members of the state’s gaming commission, which created rules to oversee sports gambling. Those appointees included his former staff member, Shawn Coleman.
The report said Polis “has never divulged the investment” in any financial disclosures required in Colorado, making it unclear if he still is invested, or when that interest was sold.
“Governor Polis’s financial interest in FanDuel is not available to the general public but was purchased through venture capital offerings typically characterized by high risk and high reward,” Sonnenberg explained in his letter to the committee. “As an early investor in FanDuel, Polis stood to make an enormous profit off of this company that benefited from HB 19-1327 and is regulated by his appointed commission.”
“The fact that these clear conflicts of interest occurred without state disclosure demonstrates the scope of the problem,” the Gazette reported Sonnenberg wrote the committee. “To maintain public trust, Colorado citizens deserve a minimum level of transparency that discloses when a state public official is taking official actions that directly impact that official’s personal financial interests.”
Sonnenberg also pointed out Polis is managing partner of Gunpark Property LLC, which owns a nearly $24 million building in Boulder, which was “marketed and promoted for lease in August 2021 by the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade,” the report noted.
That agency’s board also is appointed by Polis.
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