Rocky repeated falsehood about Udall's wife; Chieftain failed to note McInnis' lobbying activities

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In reporting on a dust-up between potential rivals in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, the Rocky Mountain News uncritically repeated the false claim by former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis' (R-CO) spokeswoman that U.S. Rep. Mark Udall's (D-CO) wife is an environmental lobbyist. The News, as well as The Pueblo Chieftain, also failed to note that McInnis himself is a lobbyist.

A February 2 article in the Rocky Mountain News uncritically repeated a claim by former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis' (R) spokeswoman that the wife of his potential rival in the 2008 Senate race, U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), is a Sierra Club lobbyist. In fact, Udall's wife, Maggie L. Fox, has been the president of America Votes since early 2006, although she did work previously for the Sierra Club for more than 20 years. In addition, both the News article and an article in The Pueblo Chieftain about Udall and McInnis failed to mention that McInnis currently works as a lobbyist for Hogan & Hartson, whose list of clients includes the Chieftain.

The News article (accessed through the Nexis database) reported that Udall "agreed to co-sponsor a bill that seems to be pointed at a past controversy involving campaign payments to the wife of former GOP congressman Scott McInnis, a potential rival" for the 2008 Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO). McInnis and Udall are considered the current front-runners for Allard's seat. The News continued, "It started when Udall issued a news release saying he was co-sponsoring an 'anti-corruption' bill with Rep. Phil English, R-Pa. It would prohibit candidates or their immediate family members from drawing salaries from campaign committees for campaign-related work."

According to Udall's February 1 press release, paying "an immediate family member a salary from a campaign account for campaign-related work ... is a gaping loophole in campaign finance law and ... the Candidate Anti-Corruption Act would close it and ensure that campaign funds go toward legitimate uses and not toward enhancing a candidate's lifestyle."

The News pointed out that McInnis had received "media scrutiny and complaints from Democrats when his campaign continued to pay his wife thousands of dollars per month to work as campaign manager even after he announced his intention to leave Congress," making it appear that Udall's press statement was aimed squarely at McInnis. According to the News, McInnis' spokeswoman, Susan Smith, "jab[bed] back, mentioning that Udall's wife is a Capitol Hill lobbyist for environmentalists" -- namely, "for the Sierra Club."

Fox has been president of America Votes, a get-out-the-vote action and educational group, since early 2006.

In contrast, the Chieftain article reported:

McInnis always has been an aggressive campaigner and he showed it again Thursday, saying he believed Udall's wife, Maggie Fox, was a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. "I know the Senate is tightening up the rules on lobbyists, too, and I wonder if Mark supports that?" he said.

[Udall's press secretary Lawrence] Pacheco said Fox had been an attorney for the Sierra Club, but not a lobbyist. She now works for America Votes, a voter-registration organization, he said.

Neither the Chieftain nor the News, however, mentioned that McInnis himself is a lobbyist. As News columnist Peter Blake noted on January 17, McInnis works for the Denver office of the law firm Hogan & Hartson, which "listed an amazing 2,992 clients with the U.S. Senate's lobbyist registry." According to Blake, "McInnis' personal list of clients includes the American Red Cross (Katrina-related issues), EnCana (oil and gas), Cunningham Bounds (another large law firm; budget issues), Eclipse Snow Park (public lands), Anschutz Corp. (taxes) and even The Pueblo Chieftain (water)."

From the February 2 Rocky Mountain News article, "Possible rivals for Senate seat trade potshots," by M.E. Sprengelmeyer:

Two possible rivals in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado fired warning shots at each other Thursday, sounding themes that could echo from now until November 2008.

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., agreed to co-sponsor a bill that seems to be pointed at a past controversy involving campaign payments to the wife of former GOP congressman Scott McInnis, a potential rival.

That prompted a McInnis spokeswoman to jab back, mentioning that Udall's wife is a Capitol Hill lobbyist for environmentalists.

It started when Udall issued a news release saying he was co-sponsoring an "anti-corruption" bill with Rep. Phil English, R-Pa. It would prohibit candidates or their immediate family members from drawing salaries from campaign committees for campaign-related work.

McInnis drew media scrutiny and complaints from Democrats when his campaign continued to pay his wife thousands of dollars per month to work as campaign manager even after he announced his intention to leave Congress.

Paying family members from campaign accounts is legal as long as the spending is for legitimate campaign work or expenses and it's at market rates. The practice is relatively common in Congress, and several current or past Colorado lawmakers are among those who have done so.

[...]

McInnis could not be reached for comment Thursday, but spokeswoman Susan Smith said that "any rules they put in place he has and always will comply with."

Through the spokeswoman, McInnis also took a jab back at Udall, mentioning proposals to ban the spouses of members of Congress from lobbying on Capitol Hill -- another common practice.

"(McInnis) thinks that will be an interesting process to watch, primarily because Maggie Fox, Mark's wife, is a lobbyist for the Sierra Club," Smith said.

From the February 2 Pueblo Chieftain article, "First salvo of 2008 race?" by Peter Roper:

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has thrown the first snowball of the 2008 Senate race this week in co-sponsoring legislation to ban lawmakers from paying family members a salary out of campaign funds.

The legislation doesn't mention former Republican Rep. Scott McInnis by name, but it doesn't need to. McInnis attracted both state and national media attention in 2004 when he already had announced his retirement from Congress, but still paid his wife and campaign manager, Lori McInnis, more than $3,000 a month from his campaign fund.

Lawmakers are prohibited by law from using campaign funds for personal use.

[...]

McInnis always has been an aggressive campaigner and he showed it again Thursday, saying he believed Udall's wife, Maggie Fox, was a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. "I know the Senate is tightening up the rules on lobbyists, too, and I wonder if Mark supports that?" he said.

[Udall press secretary Lawrence] Pacheco said Fox had been an attorney for the Sierra Club, but not a lobbyist. She now works for America Votes, a voter-registration organization, he said.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.