Post says it’s OK to politick on taxpayers’ dime

In Blog, Notes by Mark Hillman

Never mind that the law says you can’t use taxpayer dollars to do homework for an ill-prepared (or well-prepared, for that matter) ballot initiative — or that the courts have said the same.

The Denver Post, in an editorial that reads like a Supreme Court ruling, has given its dispensation for the Governor’s minions to flout the law because, after all, “we predicted” all of this would happen.

In an editorial that reeks of self-importance, the Post holds forth on the audacity of the villainous oil and gas lobby to question the propriety of state higher ed employees drafting policy to support the Governor’s “Colorado Promise Scholarships,” which will be funded by higher taxes on oil and gas:

We have to admit this particular bit of hypocrisy doesn’t surprise us.”

[W]e urged the plan’s backers to work out details of the scholarships.”

We urged (the Colorado Commission on Higher Education) to work out the details.”

We followed (higher ed chief David) Skaggs’ warning (against advocating for the initiative) by concluding: ‘We think that’s an overly cautious view of prohibitions on politicking by state employees or officials.'”

The Post claims that state agencies must analyze ballot issues that would affect them. Fair enough. But the Post then takes the illogical leap that because the Governor’s proposed oil and gas tax increase gives the higher ed department authority to design scholarships — if they become law — the department should design those scholarships now, before the initiative has even qualified for the ballot, let alone been passed by the voters. (I wonder: would doing so give advantage or disadvantage to the Governor’s campaign backing the tax increase? The answer is so obvious that it’s absurd for the Post to claim that this isn’t “unlawfully using state money to push for the measure.”)

“[F]or the oil and gas lobby to now attack the CCHE for doing what the oil and gas lobby just a few weeks ago was attacking the CCHE for not doing (superfluous comma omitted) is obviously just cheap politics.”

Uh, no, it’s taking advantage of the Governor’s ill-considered support for a hastily-drafted, poll-driven tax increase that appealed to his vanity by including “Colorado Promise” scholarships. The villainous oil and gas industry didn’t force Gov. Ritter to jump on board this initiative before its policy had been properly developed nor did the villainous oil and gas industry write the law that says it’s illegal for state employees to do policy development for a privately-backed campaign.

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that even a brochure that merely “explain(ed) proposed improvements” related to a tax increase ballot question is a violation of state law. Of course, the Post obviously views the Court of Appeals as an inferior tribunal to its own editorial board.