Rep. Marilyn Musgrave is conforming to the most recent trend in Washington: She's dumping money that links her to criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff in fear of any claims of "impropriety" it may cause.
Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, donated $1,000 to Crossroads Safehouse, a domestic violence shelter in Fort Collins. This is the same amount she received from Pamela Abramoff in 2002, whose husband pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to conspiracy charges for wrongly influencing members of Congress.
Musgrave's chief of staff, Guy Camp, is saying the Congresswoman is trying to "remove any hint of impropriety," and has no relationship with Abramoff.
Washington-based Common Cause – a bi-partisan interest group that watches over the government – says Congress has been knowingly breaking its own ethics rules and now its time to change.
"Lobbyists over the years have been an intrical part of the fundraising machine in Washington," said Mary Boyle, press secretary for Common Cause speaking from Washington.
Fundamentally, lobbyists work for companies and other interests to persuade lawmakers to agree to similar agendas. Discussing agendas over dinner or to the spirits of a three-olive martini was once the norm, but Boyle says the drive for fundraising and getting reelected has allowed lawmakers to accept lavish gifts, large sums of money and trips.
"People are scared. Both parties are tripping over themselves," Boyle said.
So why are so many members of Congress getting rid of Abramoff-laced money? Boyle said no one wants any traceable amount of money from anyone who admittingly broke the law, especially lawmakers trying to stay afloat in a reelection year.
Local Larimer County legislators say Denver lobbyists are very important in the gathering information to easier digest lengthy and complicated bills.
Rep. Angie Paccione, D-Fort Collins, said it would be next to impossible to research a bill fully without the assistance of a lobbyist.
"The lobbyist has a very valuable function. With the number of bills we see it is virtually impossible to understand every bill," said Paccione, also a CSU instructor.
Paccione is threatening Musgrave's District 4 seat by running against her in the November elections.
"I fault Marilyn Musgrave because she has received money from Tom Delay," Paccione said. "She has taken tainted money."
Paccione believes Musgrave should also donate money received from Delay because the former Majority Leader is widely suspected of receiving illegal funds from Abramoff.
Musgrave's office did not return repeated phone calls on this subject.
Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, said most lobbyists are well intentioned. He said most good lobbyists would give the opposition's position on a bill.
"I really depend on lobbyists; I only have one aid," he said.
Bacon said he refuses any gifts from lobbyists of more than $50. Colorado state law allows lawmakers to accept gifts less than $50 without having to officially report it.
State Senator Steve Johnson, a Republican representative for Larimer County, said there are some unethical lobbyists in government and it's up to the individual to keep in check with their own moral code.
"If (lobbyists) do their job properly and ethically, they are important," Johnson said.
President George W. Bush has given money received from Abramoff to charity. Dozens of other members of Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – representing such states as Oklahoma, Ohio and Montana, have done the same.