We're still at it trying to figure out which lawmaker was behind that $3.6 million earmark that led to last week's conviction of a Denver businessman on charges of criminal fraud.
As we told you last week, we think it might have been Colorado Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer.
Schaffer was in Congress when the earmark was awarded to the little-known not-for-profit founded by Bill Orr, who was convicted last week. And when Schaffer left Congress, he went on to become a director for Orr's group, the National Alternative Fuels Foundation, where his political buddy Scott Shires was treasurer. Shires pleaded guilty and testified against Orr.
Today we called Thomas Vanek, a former staffer for the House Science Committee's subcommittee on energy and environment, who testified at Orr's trial. He oversaw the authorization of the $3.6 million earmark back in October 2000.
I asked Vanek whether Orr received any help from members of Congress in securing the earmark.
"He may have gotten a member of Congress or two involved to get a thumbs up. I don't recall," said Vanek, who is now a senior policy advisor at the Department of Energy in Washington.
More specifically, I asked, do you think Bob Schaffer could have been involved in the earmark?
"He may well have been involved. Typically there would be a member involved. I'd say it's certainly possible. Likely? Who knows," Vanek said.
There's not much documentation tagged to earmarks, especially back then. Often influence is excercized verbally rather than on paper. With almost eight years distance, determining precisely who was involved back then is tough.
Usually, lawmakers are eager to take credit for bringing millions of dollars back home. But that's not the case here. We've contacted all eight members of the Colorado Congressional delegation from 2000, including the two we couldn't track down last week: former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and former Rep. Joel Hefley, both Republicans.
None of the lawmakers recalled any involvement with the National Alternative Fuels Foundation or its $3.6 million earmark.
So that leaves Schaffer. We've been calling everyday for a week now, but nobody from his campaign has gotten back to us.
Why doesn't Bob Schaffer want to talk about that earmark?