EDITORIAL: Aurora lawmakers can’t see the wisdom of lobbyist transparency


Some Aurora city lawmakers missed a keen opportunity to improve trust and confidence in local government and instead drew a cloud of suspicion by turning back a lobbying reporting proposal this week.

City council members Bob Roth, Johnny Watson, Marsha Berzins, Francoise Bergan, Charlie Richardson and Mayor Bob LeGare opposed the proposed reporting ordinance.

The measure would have required lobbyists to report expenditures above $75 to woo a city council member’s position.

Not only is the proposal reasonable and necessary, it was over-accommodating to city lawmakers, businesses and groups that spend money to sway the opinion of city lawmakers.

The measure was sponsored by Councilwoman Angela Lawson, an employee of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. She’s familiar first-hand with how lobbying works, both as a state employee and as a city lawmaker.

There is no doubt that Aurora lawmakers wield great power and influence, affecting not just the lives of residents, but the fortunes of homebuilders, contractors, and myriad businesses and outside agencies and corporations.

City lawmakers are wooed by lobbying efforts with offers of perks as well as campaign donations.

Even the casual political observer understands that business and interest groups spend mountains of money on lobbying elected officials because it pays off.

Often, the interests of lobbyists do not align with the interests of constituents. Aurora residents deserve the right to know who pays to gain city council influence and how much.

This measure was beyond accommodating to city lawmakers and lobbyists alike because it imposed absolutely no limitations on spending, only reporting requirements.

While Mayor Bob LeGare at least offered that he thinks the measure needs refinement, other naysayers on the city council, many running for re-election this fall, gave no reason why needed transparency and accountability were a bad idea.

The campaign season is about to heat up, and we recommend voters ask candidates for themselves why making lobbying reports public isn’t good practice.

Cities like Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Francisco are among many major US cities that require similar reporting, according to a story this week by Sentinel Colorado reporter Kara Mason.

With massive local interests such as Buckley Air Force Base, which pumps billions into the region, mostly through the bank accounts of military contractors, Anschutz Medical Campus, a massive warehouse district, a bustling marijuana industry, and vast tracts of land and water resources that control the fortunes of dozens of developers, there’s no shortage of need for government transparency in Aurora. The scarcity is the desire on the city council.