The wind blew a branch on the roof and caused a leak. Dad obtained emergency aid to fix it. He easily patched the damage and had a pile of cash left over. So, dad went to the bar. He yelled “drinks on me” and spent the balance on his friends. His wife was miffed, saying the money could have fixed another household’s roof.
On a much larger scale, we have Colorado politicians spending “custodial funds” — including those intended for disaster recovery — on big expenses that have a vague nexus, if any at all, to the purpose of the grants. Once the disaster is gone and forgotten, politicians use the leftover funds for almost anything they want — including “personal services” and contracts for campaign donors.
Lawsuit settlement funds, such as those awarded in the state’s opioid and Volkswagen settlements, are another major source of custodial funds.
There ought to be a law that restricts and regulates expenditures of money that belongs to the people.
There will be such a law if Colorado voters enact Amendment 78 in November. It must be the biggest no-brainer on a statewide ballot since voters trounced a massive tax hike for “free” health care.
Amendment 78 would require the Legislature to appropriate expenditures of “custodial money,” defined on the ballot as “money provided to the state.”
The need for 78 became more pressing last week when Gazette investigative reporter Evan Wyloge blew the lid off the unregulated expenditures of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser.
Neither is accused of breaking the law and this conflict offers no reason to question the moral integrity of either. They did what the law allows. Therein lies the problem. The law is broken and should be fixed.
Griswold lawfully gave $2.8 million in federal emergency COVID-19 mitigation funds to a public relations and lobbying firm in Washington to produce TV ads about 2020 election procedures. Multiple Colorado-based firms could have used the work and the money, which represents about half the COVID aid Griswold’s office received. By law, she had the discretion to use the funds in this manner with no apparent oversight.
Weiser’s agency lawfully spent around $250,000 on no-bid contracts that went to campaign contributors or their firms. The “custodial money” is supposed to help protect consumers from fraud, and that may be what Weiser intended when he inked the deals. Problem is, no one outside of Weiser’s office had any say in the matter. Given a process of oversight, bright minds would discuss options for the money and establish compromises and agreements. That’s the American way regarding OPM — aka Other People’s Money.
Amendment 78 is not intended to burden or punish Griswold, Weiser, and others who manage state funds. Rather, the law would help guarantee that Coloradans get a fair and maximized result when their state government receives outside money. Simple as that.
This is not the first time we have learned of politicians making questionable use of funds for which the law requires little or no accountability.
Sen. John Hickenlooper spent millions in federal 9-11 disaster funds more than a decade after the 2001 attacks. Six figures paid for his failed legal defense against financial ethics charges brought before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. He spent more than six figures on “personal services” we know little about.
“It shouldn’t take an after-the-fact media inquiry to get oversight,” said longtime Colorado resident Michael Fields, who leads the charge for Amendment 78.
Exactly. This bill would make politicians more accountable to the public and that can only serve the greater good. It would lead to a process of due diligence, oversight, and accountability that Americans deserve from government authorities.
One expects sleazy slush funds in Chicago, not in Colorado. Let’s put a stop to unregulated, unsupervised spending of public funds. Vote “yes” on Amendment 78 and protect the money that belongs to the public.