Republican draws flak over some donations
Candidate took cash from regulated firms
By Chris Barge
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The Republican running for Colorado's most contested
congressional seat accepted campaign contributions from
phone companies while overseeing the board that regulates
them, campaign finance records show. Qwest and AT&T gave
Rick O'Donnell $1,500 and $1,000 respectively in 2003 to
help him retire the debt he racked up in his unsuccessful
primary run against Bob Beauprez, who went on to win the 7th
Congressional District seat.
By the time he received the donations, Gov. Bill Owens had
appointed O'Donnell executive director of the Department of
Local Affairs, which oversees the Public Utilities
Progress Now Action, a liberal Colorado activist group,
plans to blast an e-mail this week informing its 23,000
members of that detail and accusing O'Donnell of being
hypocritical when he talks tough about congressional ethics
"He should have never been soliciting those people," said
Mike Huttner, executive director of Progress Now Action. "I
don't know if it's illegal, but it's certainly questionable,
especially for the 'ethics candidate.' "
O'Donnell dismissed the criticism Tuesday, saying that he
held no sway over the PUC. O'Donnell also said he felt
honored to have the companies invest in him even after he'd
lost to Beauprez, who is now running for governor.
Beauprez's decision not to run for re-election in the 7th
Congressional District, which spans Denver's western,
northern and eastern suburbs, has left the seat up for
grabs. Democrats Peggy Lamm, Ed Perlmutter and Herb
Rubenstein are competing in an August primary.
O'Donnell, who has no primary opponent, said anyone who
criticizes him based on who has contributed to his campaign
hasn't read his 12-point ethics plan.
"Nowhere in my ethics plan do I say campaign contributions
are bad," he said. "We live in a democracy where people
have a right and a responsibility to put their money where
their mouth is, and I'm honored that all these people want
to support my candidacy."
More recently, O'Donnell has drawn fire from Democrats who
questioned his ethics after he held a private, $300-a-plate
fundraiser at a Denver law firm, headlined by the chief of
the Environmental Protection Agency and attended by
executives whose companies were regulated by the EPA.
Among those attending the event with EPA Administrator
Stephen L. Johnson on March 9 were Xcel Energy's head
lobbyist and executives from several oil, coal and natural
gas companies, Federal Election Commission filings show.