During the last week of September, Colorado’s Legislative Audit Committee voted on whether to authorize an inquiry into Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ business interests.
The bipartisan committee voted along party lines with a 4-4 tie vote. The tie effectively quashed the effort to audit the governor’s business dealings, creating a victory for Colorado Democrats.
An audit examining Polis’ personal profits from Colorado sports betting
Senator Jerry Sonnenberg sent a 6-page letter to the committee earlier in September requesting an investigation into Gov. Polis’ investments in a sports betting business.
Senator Sonnenberg said: “Governor Polis holds substantial business interests that are directly and indirectly impacted by his official actions as Governor.” The senator’s request to audit the governor’s investments is based on disclosures made by Polis while he served in Congress.
In September 2015, Polis told the US House of Representatives that he owned FanDuel stock. And that his stake – which he invested only a month earlier – totaled possibly up to $15,000.
Sonnenberg claimed that Polis owned the FanDuel stock in question through May 2019. This was when the governor signed a bill to put sports betting legislation HB 19-1327 on the ballot in September of 2019.
FanDuel contributed $250,000 to Proposition DD, the legislation that would legalize CO sports betting. The contribution came just after Governor Polis signed the bill for the ballot initiative to put the legislation to a vote.
As a result of the bill, voters would go on to approve Proposition DD. And then later that year legalize Colorado sports betting.
Polis’ campaign promises unfulfilled, says Sonnenberg
Another claim made by Senator Sonnenberg is that Governor Polis has not made good on a campaign promise he made. The promise was to move any relevant business interests into a blind trust.
He made this promise in order to put the public’s mind at ease regarding his own personal gain and impropriety when it came to legislation passed in Colorado.
Polis still owned the FanDuel stock when he transitioned to the governor’s office in January 2019. But the governor has not included this stock on any financial disclosures required by Colorado state law.
This includes the final disclosures he made to Congress in April 2019, four months after being sworn in as Colorado’s governor. Sonnenberg said in his letter to the committee:
“Governor Polis’s financial interest in FanDuel is not available to the general public, but was purchased through venture capital offerings typically characterized by high risk and high reward.”
Sonnenberg aims to fight against conflicts of interest in the governor’s office
“As an early investor in FanDuel,” Sonnenberg added in his letter. “Polis stood to make an enormous profit off of this company that benefitted from HB 19-1327 and is regulated by his appointed commission.”
Sonnenberg pointed out that the governor’s investment in the sports betting company represented “real and actual conflicts of interests that are going unchecked and are unaccountable.”
These conflicts of interest are also why the senator has called for state laws to be changed. The changes would require that the Colorado governor disclose a more detailed account of personal business interests.
“The Colorado Governor takes unilateral actions that affect Colorado businesses and industries,” Sonnenberg wrote in his letter. He also added that the governor’s seat “wields enormous power to benefit or impede Colorado businesses.”
Governor’s office says senator’s claims are false
Shortly after Sonnenberg’s request for an audit into Polis’ investments, the governor’s office released a statement via email. The statement said that the senator’s claims were ‘patently false’:
“The Governor is now solely focused on giving back to the state he loves through public service. And does not actively engage in business during his time of service.”
The statement also refuted Sonnenberg’s claims that the governor was not disclosing his investments properly. And that he had not followed through on his promises while campaigning in 2018.
“He also files his financial disclosure regularly to inform the public of his assets,” the governor’s office added. “And also has a blind trust that he set up in 2009.”
Democrats write off Sonnenberg’s claims as pre-election posturing
Before the committee decided to forego auditing Governor Polis’ finances, Democrats noted that the senator’s claims against Polis and his request for an audit came just ahead of the 2022 Governor’s election.
“The Governor is focused on saving Coloradans money and protecting their freedom,” the governor’s office statement read. “And it’s unfortunate to see an attempt by a legislator to use taxpayer-funded resources for a blatant partisan attack.”