Power brokers play a quiet game 

City Sage

Ever hear of Colorado Concern? Neither had I until now. It's a group of Colorado business leaders, formed in 1986, and clearly has a lot of clout.

"Membership in Colorado Concern is by invitation of the Board of Directors," according to the organization's website, "and reserved for the CEO or the company's highest-ranking business leader in Colorado. The organization engages in three primary areas: legislative advocacy, ballot issue campaigns and statewide candidate elections." It boasts of "providing unprecedented access to opinion leaders and elected officials and for its ability to financially support issues and candidates."

Starting with a dozen Denver power brokers, Colorado Concern now has more than 100. It's scarcely a secret society; the members (and their bios) are on the website. And their mission: "Colorado Concern promotes an environment that maximizes business profitability and certainty."

You might call it a pocket guide to power in the state, ambitious and accomplished folks in fields such as health care, banking, aviation, pro sports, major law firms, defense contractors and the nonprofit sector. It doesn't appear to include any of our resident billionaires, and elected officials are noticeably absent.

Not surprisingly, most of these titans of industry live in the Denver metro area. Many names are familiar: University of Colorado president Bruce Benson, Denver airport boss Kim Day, MillerCoors Chairman Pete Coors, Denver Post publisher Mac Tully and DaVita CEO Kent Thiry.

Colorado Springs is barely represented. Only Bill Hybl, Jim Johnson, Doug Quimby, Chris Jenkins and Dave Neumann are members.

Is that because our fair city accounts for only about 5 percent of the state's economy, or is something else in play?

Politically and economically, we're outliers. Military installations, defense contractors and tourism drive our economy. Few major companies are based here, and much of our gross metropolitan product comes from visitor and federal spending. In an increasingly purple state, we're still proudly crimson.

So what exactly does Colorado Concern do, and how will it affect us? In this election cycle, the group and many of its members have focused on two issues. From the website:

"Defeating the state-run health care ballot initiative known as Colorado Care: This initiative would impose a new $25 billion annual tax — nearly equal in size to the state government's total annual budget. The effect of passage of such a measure would also include the creation of a new mega bureaucracy to replace insurers in health care delivery, the likely rationing of health care services, extended waiting lists for treatment, and the certain loss of thousands of Colorado jobs..."

"Strengthening the state's constitution: The current ballot initiative process allows for too much experimentation from moneyed out-of-state interests. Like the U.S. Constitution, amendments should be rare in order to maintain stability. Similarly, amendments should be vetted by citizens in every part of the state."

Colorado Concern helped create Amendment 71 (Raise the Bar), while Amendment 69 appears headed for defeat. Anticipating favorable results, Colorado Concern is hosting a shindig the following Friday in El Paso County.

It's called the inaugural "Senators Classic" Veterans Day Pheasant Hunt, at 10 a.m. on Nov. 11, according to the website, "open to members only. Enjoy a day of excellent hunting and clay shooting, lunch, cigars and drink with other Colorado Concern members and Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet at Rocky Mountain Roosters, in Calhan, Colorado."

How retro and Dick Cheney-esque! Never mind that what the participants are doing scarcely qualifies as hunting. In most such preserves, the birds are raised like chickens and scattered in the fields prior to the arrival of shotgun-toting clients. Each to his own, I guess, but summoning business leaders and senators is pretty bold. Do these guys work for you, or what? I guess that's what "unprecedented access to opinion leaders" means.

So, Senators Bennet and Gardner, prove me wrong: Assuming an errant shotgun blast doesn't pepper either of you, leave Calhan at 4:30 and come to Colorado Springs. Some of your less-powerful constituents will be hanging out at Thunder & Buttons, a Westside neighborhood joint.

Beer's on us, and it's OK if you smell of cigars and gunpowder.

Republicans won't mind and Democrats won't notice. See you soon!

  • You might call it a pocket guide to power in the state.


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