Over the weekend, Henry Sobanet, the Governor’s budget director, scooped up a Ford Taurus as a prize after sinking the golfer’s white whale — a hole-in-one. Back in 2006, Republican legislator Bill Berens accomplished the same feat, winning a $20,000 prize from an insurance company, only that time the left in Colorado went nuts. Why the sudden silence this go 'round?
It's not that Sobanet or Berens don't deserve to keep their prizes — they earned them after all — only that the left has a selective attack disorder, wherein something is only bad if a Republican does it.
When Berens won the jackpot at a golf tournament, Democrats and liberal front groups like Common Cause were beside themselves with manufactured outrage. While it was deemed legal for Berens to keep the prize, Democrats didn't hesitate to make it look extremely bad for Berens.
Jenny Flanagan of Common Cause said “It is over the top for any legislator to receive that kind of money.”
Democrat Assistant Majority Leader Mike Garcia said "Is this a prize? Common Cause is saying its questionable whether this is a gift or not. That’s a really great line."
Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder) claimed "Campaign finance laws say that you can’t take a donation that large. You have my bill that says you can’t take cash as a gift at all. So he must be taking it as another type of gift but since it’s cash, it still violates the law."
Then-House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D-Boulder) had this to say about Berens’ winnings: "I'm shocked that Mr. Berens would even accept this gift. Not only does it look bad, it violates the spirit of the law."
The attacks from the left ended up defeating Berens, helping elect Dianne Primavera, who has now become famous this election cycle for her own ethical issues in having a registered lobbyist host a fundraiser for her during the legislative session.
We have yet to see Common Cause, ProgressNow or a single Democrat feel the need to comment about the propriety of Sobanet accepting his new car.
News of Sobanet’s impressive achievement found its way to The Denver Post Spot blog where veteran political reporter Lynn Bartels clarified the law for folks who might be inclined to wonder whether the prize was legal for Sobanet to accept:
“BTW, in case you were wondering how the car impacts Amendment 41, the 2006 ballot measure that limits gifts to public employees to less than $50, there is an exemption for prizes. And Sobanet paid his own entry fee.”
Bartels also noted that Sobanet has to look at the tax implications regarding whether he would take the car or the cash payout, but thanks to Bill Berens, we don’t have to wonder whether he is allowed to accept the prize.
It’s too bad that in the process of the left's smears on Bill Berens the State lost a legislator familiar with the needs of small businesses when we’re in an economic tailspin. Instead we sent Primavera, who never saw a regulation she didn’t like, to the State Capitol. Well, there’s always November.
(Berens Photo Credit: State Bill)