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Still More Yet on Fitz-Gerald, Polis et al.

September 24, 2007

What I find gratifying is the numerous responses I have gotten from people about these entries on Fitz-Gerald and Polis. There are a number of very savvy people out there whose insights are helpful, others who are careful researchers. Won’t mention names – but it helps and it makes this blog a bit more of what I envisioned it to be, something of a dialogue more than a simple monologue. As people write me emails and they are generally in private – I quote from them without citing the source because I feel it unfair of me to do otherwise.

1. From a Northwest Denver neighbor who knows the Democratic Party rather well, this on Polis and Fitz-Gerald;

” I also noted your comments regarding Fitz-Gerald. I had the opportunity to meet her recently, but, unfortunately, I forgot to question her about her support of Israel and a possible war with Iran. I was more focused on education. I know that she opposes charter schools and I know that Jared Polis is an enthusiastic charter school supporter. My limited research indicates that charter schools create a financial drain on the local school districts that supposedly regulate them. As you and I know, the education pie that is baked each year is smaller than the pie from the previous year. That means smaller pieces for all. Fitz-Gerald understands this. Polis apparently does not. While we, in Colorado, create a parallel public school system (charter schools), the old one languishes. The poorest of the poor are left in situations where, for example, a student’s desk sank through the floor while the student sat in it. So, the next time you post your blog, don’t forget to point out that charter schools take from the many to give to the few.”

“I don’t have a vote in Cong. Dist. 2, but if I did, I’d vote for her over Polis because I believe so strongly that we must preserve what’s left of the public school infrastructure. Otherwise, even our own children could live in the impoverished conditions that you described of your youth, ones familiar to me from my own youth. We might be able to influence her position on Israel and Iran. Polis appears to have a rigid stance on charter schools. In the last session of the state General Assembly, five Democratic senators prevented the passage of SB 61 that would have restored some control to local school districts over charter schools. Polis opposed SB 61, as I understand it.”

2. From another NW Denver sage (we’ve got a whole slew of them. They hang out at ever expanding number of neighborhood coffee shops, bemoan the fate of the earth, sometimes alone, sometimes in concert, hobnob with city auditor, Dennis Gallagher who it is virtually impossible to avoid, so we have stopped trying. Besides Dennis is an interesting man in his own way) – this on Polis:

“He’s got his own dough (Blue Mountain greeting cards went digital and got bought by Hallmark); he’s younger (than `Fitz’) but considered an upstart who hasn’t paid his dues but has bought influence. Among Colorado Dem’s he’s resented more than appreciated; so even though he helped elect the Dems in 04 and 06, he got towel-snapped by the locker-room boys over the Amendment 25 (anti-“bribery”) snafu. Lots of state employees, not just lobbyists, got pissed; he’s deliberately got friendly with Miles (pay-back for money to MM’s campaign?). (note: Polis supported Mike Miles in his 2004 bid for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate. Perhaps now Miles is supporting Polis in return?)

“Would be interesting to know where Pat Stryker, Tim Gill come down in this (they helped Perlmutter, dumped a bunch on Paccione but party seems to have abandoned her re-run against Musgrave)”

For those unfamiliar with the lingo here:

Amendment 25 – (which Polis crafter in large measure and worked for) – it was meant to curtain some of the excesses of lobbying. Few bigger whorehouses in the world than the Colorado state legislature, but it was very poorly written, so much so that regardless of the intent – which was, in my view positive – it was easily defeated

Pat Stryker and Tim Gill – along with Polis and Rutt Bridges are together 4 Colorado millionaires active in the Democratic Party. The four little millionaires who have gone astray! Bah, bah, bah. They are upstarts, challenging the Party’s old guard, and trying to buy influence.Together, a few years ago, they spent a combined total of $2 million to get Dems elected to the Colorado state legislature and were voted the `Best Behind The Scenes Political Power Brokers of 2005′ – a real high honor. Of course without the organizing muscle of Colorado’s labor movement – which played a decisive grass roots roll – all their money wouldn’t have meant much. Although all over the map politically if you probe their policies carefully, on a number of issues – (like Polis on Iraq) generally speaking the four little millionaires are quite liberal.

In a September 5, 2006 article in the Rocky Mountain News by Stuart Steers, they were described as:

“A disparate group of self-made entrepreneurs and heirs to family fortunes, the four wealthy Democrats have helped spark a resurgence for the Democratic Party in Colorado. They worked together closely in 2004 and helped to fund the Democrats’ takeover of both houses of the state legislature for the first time in decades”

“If you were to do a list of the most powerful people in Colorado, those four would be at the top,” said Katy Atkinson, a Republican campaign consultant. “Their impact has been enormous.”

The article goes on to describe the sources of their wealth:

• Tim Gill was the founder of software company Quark, where he made a fortune that Forbes Magazine estimated at more than $425 million.

• Pat Stryker was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country. Forbes has estimated her net worth at more than $960 million. She ranked 512th among the world’s richest people in 2006. Stryker is the grand daughter of Homer Stryker, surgeon and founder of the Stryker Corporation, a medical technology company

• Jared Polis is a member of the state board of education. His parents founded the Blue Mountain Arts greeting card company, and he helped them create an Internet site that was sold in 1999 for $900 million.

• Rutt Bridges, founder of The Bighorn Center, created software for the oil and gas industry that earned him more than $30 million. ”

Together they are trying to challenge the party’s old guard (to be probed in a later entry). To do so, they’ve had to make alliances with different elements of the party’s base. Polis is probing Dems on the Western Slope (sometimes neglected by Denver and Boulder centric old guard power brokers) and has come out to the left of his adversary for the Congressional Seat in District Two on Iraq. Stryker made a key contribution a few years ago to help defeat an `English Only’ amendement. Bridges who tested the waters for a gubenatorial challenge to Bill Ritter (he, Bridges dropped out after a short while) was a champion of Women’s rights for abortion (among other things) to attract the considerable constituency of Democratic women (that include many professionals both with savvy and money). Gill helped found the foundation in his name (the Gill Foundation) which funds a variety of gay, lesbian and trans-gender causes.

For all that, the old guard has held its ground, amazingly actually, a sign of their political sophistication and maturity (and some would argue – their ruthlessness – not in the old mafia sense – but in the more modern political sense). And it would be premature to conclude that the money of the four little millionaires has yet morphed into political power. They have not quite figured out how to break the granite wall to gain entrance to the `inner sanctums’.

In many ways Mike Miles’ bid for the Democratic Party nomination for Senate in 2004 was a test case for the four little millionaires. They were able to see the different fissures in the state party – that rambunctuous, almost rebellious, genuinely progressive base that ambushed Salazar at the State Convention in Pueblo and supported Miles over Salazar (although the later did win the primaries and by a long shot). What Miles showed is that a left-of-center Democrat running for Senate could generate alot of enthusiasm and could give the old guard something they hadn’t had for years – a real run for their money. Don’t get too excited, the old guard absorbed the blow, made a few minor adjustments (throwing a few crumbs to the anti-war Dems on Iraq – not much, but enough), and is very much back in business. Whatever else they might be, they’re no idiots.

So………..if the four little millionaires are the upstarts, our post-millenial Democratic rebels (isn’t it pathetic!), then who is `the old guard’? and why are they good at what they do…because they are? Stay tuned

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