January 15, 2006
By Jon Caldara
In his 2002 book “Shakedown,” Ken Timmerman exposed the fundraising style of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. It’s pure mob. Jesse’s goons quite literally go to a corporation tell them to donate or face charges of racism by Jesse’s operatives. The corporation makes a purely business decision. It’s less expensive to just pay him off.
In further proof that Chicago politicians have nothing on Denver, the RTD Board of Directors just voted 12 to 2 to award a no-bid contact to Denver’s third-string version of Jesse Jackson, Alvertis Simmons.
It’s worth taking a moment here to digress and talk about how tax increases pass. There is a pretty standard formula. It’s the Kumbaya method. Dissent is the enemy of tax increases. An illusion that everybody is just wild about the hike is needed.
In the 2004 RTD tax election, it was the job of campaign manager Maria Berry to make it look like everyone and their kid sister is crazy for the proposal. And she did it well. RTD rewarded her after the election with a contract to handle the “public involvement” for FasTracks for a mere $1 million.
It’s not so hard for those who have a special interest in a tax to support it. Union Pacific, the railroad company; Parsons, the consulting company; Seimens, the rail car manufacturer; the bond dealers bankers, construction companies, developers and so on, put in gobs of dough. They are all being rewarded or soon will be rewarded with multimillion-dollar contracts from RTD.
But there is more than the obvious Pay-to-Play payoffs. There are other “constituencies” that require a little lubrication. In order to get the “leaders” of Denver’s minority community to support FasTracks or to be more honest, not oppose it RTD pledged that should it pass they would throw cash at minority businesses. They called it a “very aggressive disadvantaged business enterprise program,” also known as Affirmative Action, also known as racism in contracting. Instead of contracting with the lowest cost vendors, no matter what their skin color, RTD promised to pay more to seek out and give preference to minority owned companies.
And you’d think paying more would turn off voters. But remember, voters want to believe there is no dissension. And this keeps minority “leaders” from opposing the tax hike.
So last week the promise to the minority community was kept! Black activist Alvertis Simmons received his hush-money, $185,000. One can only surmise that $185,000 is the magic number to keep this follower of Louis Farrakhan, the same guy who organized Denver’s million-man march, from causing any trouble at RTD.
Simmons’ company must be the likely choice to drive around and check RTD’s parking lots and call in RTD’s cleaning crews if they are messy. RTD doesn’t have anybody on staff qualified to do that.
Why bother asking for other companies to bid on that contract? Team Simmons is the only outfit in the entire seven-county region qualified to perform such a delicate task. After all, Simmons, who dissolved his corporation in 2003, went to the secretary of State and reinstated just last week. That is a whole week of company history from which RTD can justify a no-bid contract.
Or, of course, RTD could justify it by his illustrious personal history. Alvertis was a Wellington Webb lackey who ran up $8,000 on his city of Denver cell phone, $1,000 of which when he was on leave from the city. The state sued him for non-payment of $12,200 in student loans. In March of 1995 Westword reported that he was arrested twice for shoplifting and assault, for which he pled guilty, and then arrested for an “altercation” with his wife.
Alvertis justified his new payoff from RTD, “I applied for it just like anyone else, I have an opportunity just like anyone else.”
One small problem. There was nobody else. Nobody else was allowed to bid on this make-work, no-bid contract, not even other minority firms.
While this buyoff may silence Alvertis’ racial bullying toward RTD, will it really satisfy the minority community? Or will it just show that the way to get cash from government is the subtle threat of intimidation?
While I have always had policy differences with the folks at RTD, I have always thought that its management team was above this type of Chicago-style payoff. When I was on the RTD board, I saw management require that employees return gift pens, given by bond houses as thank yous, because of the perception of impropriety. I guess RTD has out-grown that type of integrity.
First Appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on Sunday January 15th 2006.