Sirota finds $40,000 donation to Colorado Republicans as oil-and-gas bill was going down

Sirota finds $40,000 donation to Colorado Republicans as oil-and-gas bill was going down

Author: Joey Bunch - May 9, 2017 - Updated: May 9, 2017

We told you Monday David Sirota was raising money to finance a public records request to get a look at oil-and-gas-loving legislators’ e-mails. (Update: He got the cash, next he gets the e-mails.)

Colorado Republicans shouldn’t think the high-profile liberal journalist is bluffing. He popped a story with co-writer Josh Keefe on the International Business Times’ website Monday night about a $40,000 donation from an oil man.

The largesse happened to land in a Colorado Republican super PAC’s coffers about the same time GOP senators killed an oil-and-gas bill in the statehouse.

The donation came from J. Landis Martin, chairman of Platte River Equity, which invests in fracking operations and equipment. Moreover, he’s a board member for Halliburton, a major player in Colorado’s oil-and-gas game.

On April 12, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee killed House Bill 1256 on a party-line vote. Rep. Mike Foote’s bill would have clarified that the 1,000-foot setback for oil and gas operations is 1,000 feet from the campus property line, not the front door of the main building.

The Democrat from Lafayette argued in vain that the potential for an explosion was too great to keep places wells and other operations just beyond playgrounds and athletic fields.

On April 17 two men in Firestone were killed and others injured in the House explosion caused by a leaky gas line.

Let’s tap the breaks here. Senate Republicans don’t need a wooden nickel’s worth of encouragement to support oil and gas operations. Crude pumps in their political veins. I doubt Landis is the kind of guy who pays money he doesn’t have to, but rather wants to. At most, it was like tipping a good waiter.

And to his journalistic credit, Sirota’s article draws a bright line between what he knows and what seems suspicious.

He also took his questions directly to the person he was raising questions about:

Martin told IBT the donation was unrelated to the setback bill, which would have clarified that the 1,000 foot limit between schools and new oil and gas wells started at the edge of school property, not at school buildings themselves.

“I was totally unaware of that legislation,” Martin said. “I’ve never had any interest really in any Colorado legislation. Most of my businesses are outside of Colorado.”

When asked why he made the donation if he had no interest in Colorado politics, Martin replied: “I’m supportive of all Republican causes.” He also denied his political contribution had any connection to oil and gas interests.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


  • Helen Shreves

    May 9, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Well, let’s see. He didn’t know there was a bill pending in the state assembly about oil and gas which then votes by R as he wanted. Mmmm. He paid $40,000 in an off year that day As they say, Follow The Money. Disgusting. Is this getting close to real corruption? Or is it bribery? It isn’t patriotic or American. It is pure greed. Even if people die as in Firestone.


  • Robert Chase

    May 9, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I am interested to read any investigative journalism about Colorado and our problems governing ourselves. I would like to see the subject of whether Coloradans want equity from oil and gas explored more fully: a fair severance tax (which the industry easily defeated with a ~$300K campaign in 2008), setbacks adequate to protect people from all harmful effects of drilling, and freedom from undue influence over our elections generally are my goals, and I suppose them to be those of many other Coloradans.

    HB17-1256’s redefinition hardly constituted some critical measure of safety. So far as structures being put at risk of detonation, a thousand feet is about six times as far as distance from the pipelines from the home that exploded in Lafayette, and that should drastically decrease the risk of gas accumulating within school buildings. I suppose he was bound to run something like this as opposed to trying to increase the setback distance. Detonation of buildings is not the only risk posed by drilling, however.


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