Our View: Bennet’s Revolving Door Problem

August 16, 2012

INFLUENCE PEDDLING? Mr. Bennet introduced legislation this month to block energy development at the behest of a green pressure group headed by a former member of his staff

News broken by The Colorado Observer last week that Zane Kessler, a former senior staff member in U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s office, has been hired as a lobbyist focused on preventing the development of existing leases on federal land in western Colorado should come as no surprise. 

From the Sierra Club being granted unparalleled access to the Interior Department to “community organizers” in every corner of Colorado being paid to feign outrage over hydraulic fracturing; it’s clear that the environmentalist machine is as alive and well as it has ever been.  Exhibit A in Colorado is the fact that both of our U.S. Senators are married to lawyers that represent environmental groups.

Pillow talk over fracking and multiple use on public land aside, what raises eyebrows in this kerfluffle over Zane Kessler is the dismissive posture taken by Senator Michael Bennet’s office when asked about it.

On April 28, 2010, Senator Bennet triumphantly introduced a bill called The Close the Revolving Door Act of 2010.  You see, being the down-home Colorado country boy that he is, apparently the good Senator was shocked!—shocked! to see how much power former members of Congress and their staff members can wield after they cash in their public experience for high paying private lobbying jobs.   Contained within Mr. Bennet’s legislation was a provision increasing the “cooling off period” required before staffers could lobby members of Congress from one year to six years (1 full Senate term or 3 full House terms).  Like virtually every other measure carried by Michael Bennet in the Senate, this bill seemed to go nowhere.

The standard PR flack stiff arm we received from Bennet’s office notwithstanding, Senator Bennet owes his constituents an explanation on this situation.

The debate raging in western Colorado about the future of development in the Thompson Divide area near Glenwood Springs is a microcosm of the national debate over when and where private companies should be allowed to develop the natural resources our iPhones, laptops, Priuses and microbrew machines demand.

Given Senator Bennet’s willingness to use the power of his office to intervene in the discussions taking place between private companies and the BLM that issued them the leases, it seems a bit cynical for him to play dumb when a former member of his senior staff shows up as the paid lobbyist for the “community group” that’s been organized to fight the project.

In some ways, we appreciate the willingness of the Senator to deploy every asset at his disposal to achieve his desired objective.  What we don’t appreciate is Bennet pretending to be a moderator in a heated situation when it’s more than obvious he’s done everything in his power to put multiple thumbs on the scale.

Colorado voters are not stupid and, like us, we suspect they see right Mr. Bennet’s smokescreen.

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