DENVER – Less than a day before House lawmakers approved a far-reaching climate change bill three years ago, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) quietly inserted several provisions into the legislation – provisions worth millions to the green energy industry.
The move has raised new questions about whether or not the three-term Democrat used his office to enrich his own family and political supporters. That’s because the last-minute additions authored by Mr. Perlmutter were designed to steer business to so-called “green banks” – even though the lawmaker’s family and one of his top political donors had a financial stake in one.
It’s an issue that Perlmutter’s GOP challenger, businessman Joe Coors, hopes to draw attention to with a new 30-second TV spot dubbed “Working the System, Again.”
“Congressman Perlmutter added special wording into a bill at the last minute …giving taxpayer guarantees to banks who make loans for solar panels,” says a female announcer in the Coors ad. “But here’s the rest of the story – it turns out Congressman Perlmutter was a major stockholder in one of those banks. “
“No wonder banking special interests have given Perlmutter a quarter of a million dollars,” the announcer continues before concluding. “Congressman Perlmutter — he sure knows how to work the system.”
Mr. Coors isn’t the first to raise questions about Perlmutter’s eleventh-hour additions to the legislation, or about the lawmaker’s questionable financial ties to the industry that those additions would have benefitted.
In 2009, the Washington Times reported that Perlmutter had “two investments in the [then] 3-year-old New Resource Bank, which calls itself the nation’s first green bank. Among other environmentally conscious banking products, the bank offers home equity loans for consumers to make their homes more energy efficient, in addition to construction loans for green builders.”
The Washington Times expose also revealed that Mr. Perlmutter’s ex-wife Deana, a lobbyist who received “an unspecified salary from New Resource,” helped to provide “seed capital” to the bank, as did the lawmaker’s father Leonard, and former bank chairman David Yohannes who made some $6,000 in campaign contributions to Mr. Perlmutter during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
A spokesman for New Resource declined to disclose the stake that either Mr. Yohannes or the Perlmutter family had in the bank at the time, telling the Washington Times only that “Leonard, Deana and Daniel are not significant shareholders warranting regulatory disclosure.”
Perlmutter’s Communications Director Leslie Oliver defended the lawmaker, suggesting in 2009 that the special provisions inserted by Perlmutter would have benefitted all banks, not just the one the Perlmutter’s had a stake in.
“Any bank can use this or take advantage of this, period. So it’s equal opportunity,” Oliver said.
Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi disagreed.
“The problem for Congressman Perlmutter is that his special provision undoubtedly benefitted an institution that he was a major stockholder of, which was organized to make the kinds of loans that Perlmutter’s legislation specifically promoted,” Yi told The Colorado Observer. “The argument that ‘any bank could have made these loans’ is flawed, because not every loan made in America receives a guarantee from the government.”
Critics have accused Perlmutter of influence peddling, and the lawmaker’s complicated family lobbying ties remain the subject of intense scrutiny.
Last month, the Coors campaign released a TV ad highlighting Rep. Perlmutter’s support for a spending bill that benefitted the solar firm Solyndra – a firm that paid his then-wife Deana $140,000 for lobbying services in 2008, shortly after Rep. Perlmutter pledged that Deana would not lobby members of Congress.
Solyndra collapsed in 2011 after receiving more than $500 million in taxpayer subsidies.
“Just six years ago, Rep. Perlmutter promised Coloradans that his then-current wife wouldn’t lobby the U.S. House of Representatives. His promise was declarative, emphatic and covered by multiple press outlets,” said Yi said referencing the pledge. “However, as soon as he was sworn into office, she started lobbying Congress, long before they were officially divorced. No wonder Congress is so unpopular today.”
The questions of improper influence associated with the Solyndra and “green bank” scandals are the latest in a series of challenges for the embattled Congressman, who has been dogged by missteps and controversy for months.
Rep. Perlmutter drew criticism in July for appearing on Face the Nation to campaign for stricter gun controls in the immediate aftermath of the tragic Aurora theater shootings. He came under fire again for politicizing the shootings just days later when he cited the theater slayings as a justification for his vote in favor of ObamaCare during an online forum.
The Congressman then found himself in hot water once again after producing a divisive TV ad making the questionable claim that Mr. Coors outsourced American jobs to Asia. The racially charged commercial prompted critics to call on Perlmutter to apologize for the ad’s content.
The new Coors TV ad can be viewed below.