Big business and industry with heavyweight financial donors are trying to change Colorado’s constitution. Right now, there are people petitioning to get an initiative on the ballot that will seriously affect Coloradans. It is called Raise the Bar.
Governor Hickenlooper and others with financial interests are backing the amendment. Raise the Bar seeks to make it more difficult to get new amendments passed in Colorado. Often state legislators do not represent the majority of Colorado citizens. They have not passed legislation to ban fracking, raise the minimum wage, label GMOs or implement single payer healthcare. Donors are controlling our representatives, so it is often up to grassroots movements to create real change. Through Raise the Bar, the political and corporate establishments are trying to make it more difficult for citizens to get what we need and to push legislation that we want. (Anti-fracking, community-rights activists turn to civil disobedience following Colorado Supreme Court ruling )
So far, the campaign behind Raise the Bar has raised more than $250,000. The Utah-based Colorado Dairy Farmers Trust has contributed $100,000 of that money. The trust has the same address as the Dairy Farmers of America. Many voters are unaware of the fact that Dairy Farmers of America has been involved in major lawsuits and alleged conspiracies. In 2014, Dairy Farmers of America and its marketing branch Dairy Marketing Services settled a five-year lawsuit that alleged the organizations conspired with Dean Foods to manipulate raw milk prices in the northeast United States. (Dairy Farmers of America Settle Lawsuit Alleging Conspiracy to Drive Down Raw Milk Prices). In 2007, another group of dairy farmers had filed suit against Both the Dairy Farmers of America and Dean Foods, alleging that they had made a deal to eliminate competition in the Southeast. (Southeast Milk Antitrust Litigation Website )
What does this have to do with Colorado? Well, the CEO of Dean Foods at the time of the lawsuits was Gregg Engles, who was raised primarily in Denver and admitted to the bar in Colorado. Engles’ ally in the Dean acquisition was Gary Hanman, who was the chief executive officer of the Dairy Farmers of America. Mr. Hanman was questioned in an investigation into whether or not the Nixon administration bolstered milk price supports after the dairy industry made a pledge of $2 million in campaign contributions. Then in 2007, Mr. Hanman and the Dairy Farmers of America were made to pay a $12 million fine for charges of manipulating milk futures. It is also interesting to note that during George W. Bush’s second term as President the Justice Department conducted a 26-month antitrust investigation into the dairy industry. The Justice Department recommended that action should be taken against Dean Foods and the Dairy Farmers of America, but no charges were filed. (In Dairy Industry Consolidation, Lush Paydays)
All of this raises questions about the organizations and money behind Raise the Bar. “Out-of-state” interests with a history of questionable actions are contributing large sums of money to the campaign. The actions by both Dean Foods and the Dairy Farmers of America hurt small farmers and eventually put many out of business. Colorado cannot afford to be manipulated by corrupt money interests.
Raise the Bar is an attempt to further take power away from the people of Colorado and give it to moneyed interests. The extremely stringent requirements are designed to crush grassroots citizens’ initiatives that would benefit the majority of Coloradans. Only well-funded interests could afford to propose a ballot initiative. In 1996 and 2008 voters rejected attempts to change the initiative process as it related to constitutional amendments. (Raise the Bar wants to make it harder to change Colorado’s constitution) This latest affront to Coloradans is an effort to limit oversight and regulation of the oil and gas industry.
The Colorado constitution establishes the rights of residents to “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” We have the right to amend our constitution without paying millions of dollars in advertising and marketing. When we see the petition we need to reject it, and let our friends, neighbors and family know that they should not sign it. There will not be organized opposition to the proposal, because big business is backing it. I want to ensure that in the future we can collect signatures to get amendments that we need, those things that our representatives will not fight for. Please stand with me and tell your friends about Raise the Bar. We have to make sure that our voices can be heard. I will continue to stand with you for free and fair elections and for a democracy that represents the needs of the citizens.
- Anti-fracking, community-rights activists turn to civil disobedience following Colorado Supreme Court ruling . (n.d.). Retrieved from Boulder Weekly: http://www.boulderweekly.com/news/evolution-of-a-movement-story-and-photo-essay/
- Dairy Farmers of America Settle Lawsuit Alleging Conspiracy to Drive Down Raw Milk Prices. (n.d.). Retrieved from Real Milk: http://www.realmilk.com/dairy-farmers-america-settle-lawsuit-alleging-conspiracy-drive-raw-milk-prices/
- In Dairy Industry Consolidation, Lush Paydays. (n.d.). Retrieved from New York Times Business Day: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/business/in-dairy-industry-consolidation-lush-paydays.html
- Raise the Bar wants to make it harder to change Colorado’s constitution. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Colorado Independent: http://www.coloradoindependent.com/159539/raise-the-bar-wants-to-make-it-harder-to-change-colorados-constitution
- Real Milk. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.realmilk.com/dairy-farmers-america-settle-lawsuit-alleging-conspiracy-drive-raw-milk-prices/
- Southeast Milk Antitrust Litigation Website . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.southeastdairyclass.com/