By Todd Shepherd | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-2nd District, is back at it, pouring political donations into the campaigns of his colleagues — or soon-to-be colleagues — in the U.S. Congress.
Polis once criticized the Citizens United decision as well as a GOP-sponsored bill that would have ended public financing for presidential elections, saying, “With every election more and more dollars are spent by corporations and special interests on campaigns, inflicting great damage on the American people’s trust in government.”
But information available on OpenSecrets.org shows Polis is his own special-interest organization. In this election cycle, the Boulder Democrat has contributed about $95,000 to federal candidates or federal soft-money organizations, including $5,000 to President Barack Obama. Polis’ contributions to the president can’t even be matched by most of the nation’s governors. Only Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a Democrat, and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafe, an independent, have cut checks to the Obama re-election campaign.
T.Q. Houlton of the conservative group Compass Colorado said the donations paint a larger picture of the congressman.
“While Jared Polis fraudulently crusades against special-interest campaign cash, he hypocritically donates hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of liberal candidates that don’t even live in Colorado,” Houlton said. “It’s crystal clear Polis is buying influence and power in the House of Representatives.”
Naturally, charity starts at home. Polis has contributed to most of his local Democratic colleagues, whether incumbent or challengers, including 1st Congressional District incumbent Diana DeGette ($1,000) and challengers Sal Pace ($2,500) and Joe Miklosi ($2,000).
Curiously, OpenSecrets.org does not show any donations to U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-7th District, who faces a formidable fundraiser in Republican businessman Joe Coors, part of the Coors family.
Polis made much of his wealth in the dot-com boom of the early 1990s. But he generated his political fame in 2004 as a member of Colorado’s Gang of Four — a group of millionaires who cut big checks in an effort to turn Colorado from “red to blue,” documented in the book The Blueprint.
Polis’ beneficence stands in stark contrast to any of the other six congressional representatives in Colorado. OpenSecrets.org reports no political giving by DeGette, Perlmutter, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-5th District, and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-3rd District.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-6th District, has made a $300 donation to the Colorado Republican Campaign Committee. U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-4th District, put on a rare show of party unity and good-sportsmanship rarely seen in the wider world of politics: Gardner’s only donation this cycle was a $2,000 check to Diggs Brown, to help Brown retire campaign debt acquired in his primary battle with none other than Gardner himself in 2010.
Polis’ donations to out-of-state candidates stood out in a 2009 Denver Post article. They stand out in the current election cycle, too. Among the beneficiaries:
- Dan Maffei, Democrat from New York, campaigning to get the House seat he lost in 2010.
- Maria Cantwell, the junior Democratic senator from Washington.
- Louise Slaughter, sometimes known as “one of the most progressive Democrats of the New York congressional delegation.” Slaughter is perhaps best known for her 2005 attempt to reinstate the so-called “fairness doctrine” relating to broadcasting standards.
Statements regarding political donations are based on information from OpenSecrets.org as of June 13. It is possible other donations have been made regarding the individuals named, but that the information has not officially been reported.