It's hard when politicians stonewall reporters. So I need to ask for your help.
But first a little background.
Former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) is running for senate
in Colorado. Schaffer left the House in 2003 and tried to run for Senate in 2004 but lost in the Republican primary.
But soon after he left the House he joined the board of directors
of an outfit called the National Alternative Fuels Foundation, an outfit run by a guy named Bill Orr and put together with the help of a Colorado political operative named Scott Shires, who's also been Schaffer's political handler in Colorado.
Nothing too out of the ordinary there except that it turned out that the NAFF was actually a scam funded with a $3.6 million congressional earmark. Last week, a federal court in Colorado convicted Orr of 22 counts
all tied to basically using bogus science to bilk the US government out of $2 million bucks disbursed under that earmark. Shires had already pled guilty to charges tied to his role in the operation -- he was treasurer -- and is awaiting sentencing next month.
Now, it's bad enough that Schaffer was serving on the board of the NAFF while it was in the process of scamming the federal government. But the fat earmark that funded the whole scheme suggests another question. Was it Schaffer that got the earmark that funded Orr's phony-baloney operation?
It's possible for an earmark like that to get funded without any member of Congress championing them. But it doesn't happen often. In most cases, someone has to push for it. Given Schaffer's close connection to Shires and the fact that he joined the board of directors right after leaving Congress, he's a logical suspect. But there's no direct proof.
So TPMmuckraker reporter Andrew Tilghman put together the list of every member of the Colorado congressional delegation circa 2000 and just started putting in calls. It took a little work. When Tilghman finally tracked down retired Rep. Joel Hefley at his home in Oklahoma, he had to leave a message for a callback with Hefley's wife because Hefley was out in the barn. But of the eight members of the delegation, we managed to put the question to seven of them. And while they each phrased it a bit differently, each said they were either sure they had nothing to do with it or had no recollection of having anything to do with it
(it was eight years ago). Except one. Bob Schaffer. The guy will not take our calls. He's not willing to deny a role with the earmark.
So what do we do? The Colorado press won't touch it. But we really want to know if Schaffer was more deeply involved in this than he's letting on. We have no proof he was responsible for the earmark, just circumstantial evidence that suggests his involvement. It's also possible that someone outside of the Colorado delegation made this happen. But I don't think that's likely. And I'm pretty sure someone out there knows what happened. So if you do, we want to hear from you. And if you're not that person, if you can just get Schaffer to answer the question, that would do nice too. We're just looking for the mystery earmarker.