Rippy’s fund-raising not worth price
In a crowded field of Republicans hoping to become Colorado’s next 3rd District congressman, state Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs has distinguished himself in at least one way he may come to regret.
Rippy recently has drawn criticism for approaching lobbyists for funding during a legislative session.
State law prohibits that activity. The law is intended to eliminate suspicion that votes may be tied to contributions.
But Rippy cites a Federal Elections Commission opinion that federal law supersedes state law in such cases, thus sanctioning his actions, which first were reported on by Rocky Mountain News columnist Peter Blake.
Blake and other critics, including some of his Republican opponents in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, say Rippy has violated the spirit of the law, even if not the letter of the law. Rippy stands by his actions. “My ethics have no calendar,” he said, insisting that his vote can’t be bought any time of the year, including during a legislative session.
Many of those who know Rippy share his confidence in his integrity. The trouble is, not all 3rd District voters know him. Thanks to the fund-raising spat, one of their first impressions of him now is less than favorable.
Not all lobbyists may know him well, either. And the problem with his fund-raising approach is that some of them may feel compelled to donate to his congressional campaign to better gain his ear as he votes on bills during the current legislative session. They shouldn’t be put in such a position.
The Rippy situation raises deeper questions. One is whether the state law is adequate. It still lets lawmakers solicit donations from lobbyists when the legislature is not in session. Are lobbyists to believe lawmakers somehow forget during the session who contributed to them the previous August?
The situation also points to the daunting financial challenge associated with running for Congress. Rippy notes that corporate donations are prohibited in federal campaigns, unlike in state-level ones. As he competes in a field with six other Republican candidates and five Democrats, that restriction helped convince him of the need to make his financial pitch to lobbyists.
The need for continuing campaign finance reform aside, Rippy appears to have miscalculated. The campaign dollars he received from lobbyists have ended up buying negative publicity he can ill afford in such a hotly fought race.
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