Telecoms big political donors
An analysis finds Qwest is Colorado's biggest election donor.   AT&T spent the most on lobbying here.
By Kimberly S. Johnson, Staff Writer
Denver Post

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Telecommunications companies contributed nearly $57 million to political campaigns over the past six years and spent $78 million on lobbying efforts over the past two years, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Nearly $1 million of the former went to political campaigns in Colorado.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan organization, which follows public policy issues, is releasing today the results of a three-year analysis of state campaign and lobbying efforts by telecom companies.  The report shows that in Colorado, telecom companies donated $990,023 to state campaigns in election cycles over six years.  Lobbyist spending, tallied from expense reports for 2003 and 2004, totaled $599,282.

Qwest led donations to statewide gubernatorial and legislative races and state political parties with $220,083 from 1999 to 2004.  The report didn't break out who received donations from any of the companies.

The Denver-based phone company ranked second in state-level lobbying in 2003 and 2004, spending $90,000.

AT&T Corp. spent the most money lobbying in the state, $135,532. AT&T spent $145,946 on political campaigns in Colorado, which ranked them second to Qwest.

Nationwide, Qwest contributed $1.5 million to campaigns in various states, including Colorado, and spent another $1.5 million on lobbying in those states.

"We have a long history of supporting statewide issues designed to improve the quality of life here in Colorado," said Qwest spokesman Michael Dunn in an e-mail.  "We also contribute to candidates that understand and support the issues that are important to Qwest, its customers and its 45,000 employees.

"In the last few years, the largest portion of our political contributions have gone to statewide referendums, including FasTracks, T-REX and a Jefferson County school-bond issue, among others," Dunn said.

The center's report didn't include money spent on referendums.

The Center for Public Integrity spent three years on its analysis.  John Dunbar, author of the study and director of the center's media and telecommunications project, said states had varying guidelines on reporting lobbyists and campaign donations.

"Colorado has a fairly severe limitation on its report. That (lobbying) number is a lot lower than it really is, due to your state lobbying law," he said.  "It doesn't require lobbyists to separate out who they're lobbying for.  If you're an in-house lobbyist for Qwest, odds are you're only lobbying for Qwest.  That's what we counted."

Staff writer Kimberly S. Johnson can be reached at 303-820-1088 or