WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jared Polis has been a leading critic of the oil and gas development process known as fracking. Yet the Boulder Democrat has as much as $230,000 invested in two mutual funds with direct holdings in energy companies dedicated to exploring oil in western Canada, an oil patch that has become a haven for hydraulic-fracturing companies.
A review of Polis’ personal transaction forms filed with the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives this year and his personal disclosure form in 2011 show he bought or sold the Bow River Capital mutual fund thirteen times and owned two related funds. Colorado Peak Politics first reported Polis’ ties to the fracking industry last week.
Polis owned one Bow River fund that had a portfolio worth as much as $50,000 in Gryphon Petroleum Co.
“Some of that business has come from fracturing wells. Sometimes it does; sometimes it does not. In the past certainly we did (hydraulic fracturing),” Doug Robertston, vice president of operations for the Calgary-based firm, said in an interview. He could not recall the last year the company did hydraulic fracturing.
Polis bought three Bow River funds whose entire portfolio consisted of Lex Energy Partners LP, a private equity firm based in Regina, Saskatchewan. According to its website, the firm “currently manages three private energy funds focused on early upstream oil and gas companies operating in Western Canada, with a strong weighting towards oil and liquids-rich natural gas opportunities.”
In addition, Polis owned two Bow River Funds that had holdings in the MCC Energy Fund. According to its website, the Canadian firms invests “in early stage Canadian oil and gas exploration and production companies with an emphasis on private companies with proven and successful management teams.”
Calls to Lex Energy’s leaders on two separate occasions were not returned.
Polis’ investments in the Bow River Capital mutual fund whose portfolio consists of Lex Energy Partners is worth $17,000 to $80,000. He made two purchases worth $16,000 to $65,000 on December 31 and a purchase of $1,000 to $15,000 on January 14. His investments in the Bow River Capital mutual fund that had a portfolio with investments in the MCC Energy Fund were worth $30,000 to $100,000 in 2011. Congress requires members to file the range of their investments rather than detailed figures.
Polis’ financial investments contrast with his public criticisms of fracking both as a member of Congress and citizen. According to a December 2011 article in the left-leaning news site Pro Publica, “British Columbia and Alberta have offered incentives and loosened regulations to attract drilling. The result: record fracking operations and rising concerns about the environmental cost.”
Yet Polis has supported tighter restrictions on fracking. Ten weeks after the December 31 purchases of the mutual fund, he announced he and a fellow House Democrat had sponsored two bills to ensure “the hydraulic fracking industry follows the same rules that other industries do” in complying with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
Last month, he filed and later, withdrew a lawsuit to prevent a neighbor from drilling on a property adjacent to a weekend home he owns in Weld County.
Polis said in an interview Tuesday that the managers of Bow River Capital chose the Lex Energy portfolio and not he.
“I don’t control what the mutual fund does. It’s like any member of Congress’ investment in a fund. It’s not different,” he said off the floor of the House of Representatives.
Also, Polis sought to rebut the suggestion he might divest his holdings. He said his investments in hydraulic fracturing were indirect and do not affect his constituents.
“If I’m the owner of a fracking company and if this is Canada, then it would be a different story. But I’m concerned about fracking’s impact on Colorado families and properties,” he said.
Polis, 38, has represented the 2nd Congressional District for three terms. An amiable Internet entrepreneur, he has attracted criticism for his financial investments before.
In the 2008 Democratic primary, he and Joan Fitz-Gerald, a former State Senate President, accused each other of making money from groups at odds with the environmental lobby.
After Polis’ campaign attacked Fitz-Gerald for accepting contributions from two mining companies, Fitz-Gerald’s campaign manager noted Polis owned mutual funds that had large investments in Evergreen Precious Metal Holdings, which had an uneven record on environmental and human-rights issues.
“He is in essence funding his campaign from the proceeds of these companies,” Mary Alice Mandarich told the Rocky Mountain News in July 2008.
A Polis campaign spokesperson had previously told the Denver Post that “Jared Polis divested himself of stock in these companies with atrocious environmental and human-rights records as soon as he discovered them through his fund manager.”
Polis’ holdings in Lex Energy represent a small slice of his overall portfolio. Of the 535 members of Congress, Polis was the fourth wealthiest member in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His net worth was $83,065,301 to $346,827,997. Polis has millions of dollars in investments in real estate and health care.
Polis’ recent transactions with the Bow River Capital mutual fund have included green-friendly holdings as well. For example, last November, he sold an investment worth $100,000 to $250,000 in the MCC Energy Fund, which makes electric cars.
Among Colorado’s seven U.S. representatives, Polis has been far and away the most active trader. He has filed 13 personal transaction forms for 2013. By contrast, five members of the House delegations have not filed any. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is the other member who has filed forms.