McGihon Ethics woes: UPDATE
NEW QUESTIONS HIT LOBBYIST MCGIHON AS ETHICS HEARING NEARS
On July 20th, Denver lobbyist Anne McGihon will finally have her day in court. She will finally be able to defend herself against a complaint OGI filed after we discovered she had violated state law by hosting a fundraiser for a fellow Democrat running in a highly targeted race. Before she gets there, however, she now faces new allegations of additional missteps.
As we explained here, we filed the complaint referenced above back in March on behalf of Broomfield resident and small business owner Tom Cave. Cave objected to McGihon hosting a fundraiser for Diane Primavera, a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives in Cave’s district. Under C.R.S. 1-45-1-5.5(1)(a), lobbyists are prohibited from political fundraising for candidates or sitting legislators during the legislative session.
After a long procedural delay, and McGihon’s own admission of wrong doing (telling reporters that she had “mistakenly allowed her name to be used …”. ) OGI has heard from multiple sources in advance of next month’s hearing that McGihon may have also violated legislative rules governing lobbyist activities. The issue now: whether McGihon properly accounted for paid lobbying work during this year’s legislative session.
Before lawmakers wrapped early last month, McGihon worked on an amendment to a pharmaceutical drug bill (HB 12-1311). According to a compulsory report she filed with the Secretary of State, she advocated for the amendment’s passage on behalf of one of her client’s, Allergan, Inc., a self-described multi-specialty health care company.
But Allergan wasn’t advocating for the passage or defeat of the amendment, according to multiple Capitol insiders familiar with the legislation. In addition, after reviewing the lobbying reports of Allergan’s two other paid lobbyists, OGI has discovered that she is the only lobbyist of the three who reported that her work on behalf of the bill as “amending“. According to the reports submitted by the other two lobbyists, they were only “monitoring” the bill. Allergan has made no indication in its press releases that it supported any amendment. While Allergan initially responded to OGI’s request for comment, the company has declined to publicly comment.
Under legislative rules, lobbyists cannot “Knowingly omit, conceal, or falsify in any manner information required by the registration and lobbyist disclosure reports.”
“This may have been nothing more than a technical mistake,” said Dave Pigott, a Broomfield attorney now running against Primavera in House District 33. “Never the less, it’s important that people respect the integrity of the process, and this certainly gives the impression that this is not always the case.”
In reviewing the allegations, OGI spoke with independent political analyst Eric Sondermann, who indicated he was unaware of the specific facts surrounding the alleged misreporting.
“Without being familiar with the details of this incident or allegation, a truism of the lobbying profession is that a lobbyist’s effectiveness is completely dependent on their word and credibility. If that is tarnished, their ability to find a receptive ear among elected officials at the Capitol is irrevocably compromised,” he said.
While at first glance, this may appear to be a technical or sloppy error, it also fails to adhere to a more important objective, which is to ensure transparency in the interactions between lobbyists and legislators. Lobbyist reports are regularly examined by legislators and advocates for various causes to determine the actual stance of individual interest groups and organizations. If McGihon was “advocating” on behalf of the bill, she did so without the express authority of her client. If, however, this was a technical error, she has misrepresented the position of her client to the detriment of legislators and other political players who may have relied on her report to develop their own strategies.
McGihon is no stranger to controversy. In 2008, she was relieved of chairmanship of the House Health and Human Services Committee by fellow Democrat and then-House Speaker Terrance Carroll. A year later, she resigned from the House altogether, losing the support of even some of the most partisan voices in the state. In March, the popular liberal blog, ColoradoPols.com, conceded McGihon had “royally screwed up” by violating campaign finance rules.
According to one of McGihon’s fellow Democratic lobbyists, who spoke to OGI on the condition of anonymity, it would be unfair to tie Primavera to this second batch of allegations. “Still,” the lobbyist told OGI, “Given that Primavera is a former legislator herself, it seems ridiculous that she would welcome McGihon’s support when she did and how she did. It’s just so basic, they both should have known better, and it’s reasonable for voters to question what else may be going on behind the scenes.”
OGI declined to request a response from McGihon due to the fact that she is a represented party in the administrative hearing slated for July 20th.