Denver – A complaint has been filed against Utah Representative Ken Ivory’s (Republican – South Jordan) American Lands Council in Colorado, alleging that the organization has been illegally lobbying without registering in the state or reporting its income.
Under Colorado law, organizations are required to register to lobby with the state before they begin trying to influence the outcome of any legislation or an election.
“It’s different than the federal law,” says Peg Perl, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch – the nonprofit that filed the complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State. “Under [the federal law], there’s a threshold and you can do a little bit [of lobbying] before you register. But in Colorado, you must do it first and right away.
The complaint stems from an email Representative Ivory’s American Lands Council (ALC) sent to Colorado residents on April 22nd, asking them to contact specific state lawmakers to persuade them to vote in favor of a bill that could advance ALC’s goal of taking control of all public lands away from the United States and giving it to individual states to manage.
…”you still have the ability to substantially affect the outcome of the hearing. Below are the names of the committee members along with their email addresses. Will you please send these Committee Members an email letting them know that you support SB 15-232 and the study of the Transfer of Public Lands in Colorado?” [emphasis in original]
The email was forwarded by several Colorado residents to Colorado Ethics Watch, who agreed to investigate who American Lands Council is, and where the email came from. After discovering that the ALC has not registered a lobbyist with the state, the group filed the complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State determines that ALC did lobby without registering, says Perl, punishments could range from being banned from any future lobbying in Colorado, fines, or (in the extreme case) it could warrant a misdemeanor charge and/or criminal fines.
For his part, Representative Ivory did not seem concerned about the complaint when contacted by Utah Political Capitol for comment. According to Ivory, American Lands Council sent out the email at the specific request of Colorado Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (Republican – Sterling). “We simply responded to a request,” said Ivory. He declined to say anything further about the matter. UPC also reached out to Senator Sonnenberg, who confirmed that he had requested American Lands Council send out the email, saying that Representative Ivory is a good friend of his, and that he “asked for [ALC’s] help and also provided them with the contact information to each of the committee members.”
Sonnenberg did not respond to questions of whether or not he knew before he made the request if ALC was registered to lobby, but did say that he was unaware they needed to be.
This isn’t the first time American Lands Council has run afoul of potential ethical violations outside of Utah. In February, a Montana state senator’s aide was asked to leave the Capitol after it was discovered that he was simultaneously being paid as a lobbyist by ALC.
As the Bozeman Daily Chronicle first reported, William Macon Richardson began the year’s legislative session solely working as a legislative aide to Montana Senator Jennifer Fielder (Republican – Thompson Falls). But on Feb. 11th, Richardson also registered as a lobbyist for ALC and other senators began to complain because Richardson’s status as a legislative aide gave him access to private areas of the Capitol normally off-limits to lobbyists. Although no longer employed as a legislative aide, Richardson now lists his employment as “ALC Montana State Coordinator.”
Ivory’s American Lands Council has grown quickly since he first introduced legislation to takeover federal lands a few years ago. In 2012, the first year the organization filed IRS 990 forms, they reported just over $122,000 in income, with $40,000 going to Representative Ivory as salary. In 2013, the most recent year available, that number jumped to $228,000, and Ivory’s salary more than doubled up to $95,000.
A copy of Colorado Ethics Watch’s complaint is below. Requests for comment from the Colorado Secretary of State were not immediately returned.
Eric Ethington is a journalist, activist, and researcher. Originally from Utah, he now works in Boston. His writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Public Eye magazine. Follow him on Twitter @EricEthington.