Colorado is a unique place for lobbyists, according to a newly promoted chair at a law and policy firm in Denver.
Doug Friednash was promoted to chair the state and local legislation and policy group for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has locations in four Western states, as well as Washington, D.C.
Friednash worked as Denver's city attorney for two years before joining Brownstein in 2013. He left in 2015 to serve as former Gov. John Hickenlooper's chief of staff; Friednash recently encouraged Hickenlooper to run for Senate. Friednash returned to Brownstein in 2018.
His priority in the new role is to ensure that Colorado policy development is as strong as the firm's national work. The D.C. location brought in $10.1 million in the second quarter of 2019.
Since Donald Trump was elected president and Jared Polis became Colorado's governor, Brownstein's lobbyists have had to navigate policy differences between Republican leadership in D.C. and Democratic leadership in Colorado.
"I think states and local governments are looking to respond, in a lot of ways, to what's happening in Washington, and they're being more aggressive about it," Friednash said, noting climate change as an example.
But the bipartisan Brownstein does not change its policies based on who is in charge, Friednash said. He had praise for both President Donald Trump and Gov. Jared Polis, saying that each leader created numerous opportunities for political change.
"We are really committed to having bandwidth that transcends political parties," he said. "It doesn't matter who is in power."
What can matter is the state or national laws currently in place. Friednash said Colorado can present unique challenges for policy advocates because of TABOR laws.
"To some large degree, our hands are tied in terms of being able to do tax increases or spend over a certain amount," he said.
It can also be more interesting to lobby here because of Colorado's tendency to adopt laws before other states, which Friedman said paves the way for the rest of the country.
"We've become a testing ground for a lot of different issues," Friednash said, citing marijuana legalization and psychedelic mushroom reform as examples. "Things like that pop up more in Colorado than elsewhere."
Friednash said he is "really excited" to take on his new role at Brownstein.
Richard Benenson, Brownstein's managing partner, said Friednash's policy experience at all levels of government make him "a great choice to lead our practice group focused on business engaging in state politics, especially as governors and state attorneys general continue to increase their influence at the national level.
“His ability to draw on his experience as chief of staff to Gov. Hickenlooper and Denver city attorney benefits clients as we work with them to solve complex government relations issues with practical business solutions.”