DENVER – The newly formed Open Government Institute gave out awards to a medley of prominent Colorado figures Tuesday at its first annual Burke-Carr Awards for Commitment to the Public Interest.
“We’re talking about giving a voice to candidates and to causes and to people of all different ideologies,” OGI Executive Director Jessica Peck said. “Tonight’s reception is about recognizing people who have gone above and beyond that voice.”
The OGI selected nominees in four categories: Elected Representatives, Journalists, Citizens/Grassroots Guardians and Bloggers/New Media. Winners were chosen in an online election in which more than 1,000 votes were cast.
Rep. Libby Szabo received the award under the Elected Representative category, beating out several prominent figures such as Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, state Rep. B.J. Nikkel, state Sen. Pat Steadman and state Rep. Angela Williams.
Lynn Bartels of The Denver Post took top honors in the Journalist category, besting fellow Post writer Sara Burnett, Michael Roberts of Westword, CBS4’s Brian Maass and Fox31’s Eli Stokols.
In the Citizens/Grassroots category, Regan Benson of Mothers Against Debt beat out activist Natalie Menten, Karin Piper of Parent-Led Reform, Elbert County advocate Don Pippen and the civil-rights law firm Kilmer, Lane and Newman.
Finally, Colorado Peak Politics took home the Blogger/New Media award over Complete Colorado, People’s Press Collective, blogger Kelly Maher and blogger Amy Oliver.
The awards capped a busy month for the fledgling Denver-based non-profit. Three weeks ago, Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against OGI, alleging that the group is promoting a political agenda in violation of its pending status as a 501(c)3 organization.
The allegations were not lost on the crowd, despite the festive atmosphere. Peck made several mentions of the complaint during the ceremony, which she dismissed as groundless.
“It’s a baseless political attack,” Peck said. “To say that this is a partisan organization is bogus.”