So who actually secured that $3.6 million earmark for the National Alternative Fuels Foundation back in 2000 -- the one that a federal jury in Denver this week concluded was part of a fraud
The foundation collected more than $2 million in federal funds after promising to create a new, clean-energy fuel for automobiles and turning in bogus science to the EPA to back it up.
Keith Ashdown, the chief investigator for a group called Taxpayers for Common Sense
, said he's been looking into the NAFF earmark for a few days and can't find any record of who wedged that $3.6 million into a massive appropriations bill.
"We need to know who got this money because this is a serious case of fraud. They basically gave the money to a bunch of crooks who ripped off the federal taxpayers," Ashdown said.
Once again, Colorado Senate candidate Bob Schaffer's campaign office didn't return our phone call today.
He's the one we really want to ask. Schaffer was in Congress when the earmark was awarded to the little-known not-for-profit founded by Bill Orr
, who was convicted this week. And when Schaffer left Congress, he went on to become a director for the NAFF, where his political buddy Scott Shires was treasurer. Shires pleaded guilty and testified against Orr.
When asked by a local reporter, Schaffer's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, denied
the then-Congressman played any part in securing the earmark. But Schaffer hasn't responded to any of these questions and we'd prefer to hear it from him directly.
An unnamed source
told the Denver Post
that a Congressional staffer slipped the money into the bill.
Since we didn't hear from Schaffer, we called up the other Colorado legislators from those days and asked if they recalled anything about the earmark or Orr. So far, five of the eight members of the 2000 delegation have denied any role in securing the earmark. We haven't been able to reach two former members of the delegation. And then there's Schaffer, who isn't talking.
A spokesman for Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) said, "We don't have any record of Mr. Tancredo requesting the earmark or meeting with Bill Orr to discuss the earmark, and we don't know who got it for this group."
A spokeswoman Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), who is running against Schaffer in this year's Senate race, said, quite simply: "Mark had nothing to do with the earmark.
A spokesman for Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat, said, "To the best of our knowledge, Congresswoman DeGette did not request and was not involved in any way regarding this earmark."
Former Rep. Scott McInnis, a Republican who left office in 2005, sent us an email:
"I do not recall it at all and do not believe I had any thing to do with it. I rarely did earmarks and when I did it focused on communities or the Forest Service. I do not recall knowing or having met Mr Orr. I do not recall any discussions at delegation meetings or with individual congressman regarding Orr or his group."
And a spokeswoman for outgoing Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), whose seat Schaffer is running for, wrote:
Senator Allard did not request the earmark and he does not know who requested it because he doesn't ask other Members about their requests. I do not know if they've ever met, but I do not believe they ever had any formal meetings. I don't believe that Mr. Orr ever discussed this earmark with our office.
So that leaves Schaffer, former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, and former Rep. Joel Hefley. We'll keep calling.