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Exec fraud initiative gains strength
Growing support linked to turmoil on Wall Street
By David Milstead
Rocky Mountain News
Thursday, October 2, 2008

The turmoil on Wall Street seems to be boosting the prospects of Colorado's labor-backed ballot initiative on corporate fraud.

Pollster Floyd Ciruli has just completed a poll for the Economic Development Council of Colorado that found Amendment 53 has support in "the high 50s," Ciruli said Wednesday.  The amendment creates new criminal liabilities for business executives after a corporate fraud and expands Colorado residents' ability to sue.

Other labor-backed ballot measures that protect workers from firing and extend health care benefits to more workers didn't get majority support in the poll, he said.

"My interpretation -- because frankly the others are sexy-sounding, too -- is we have been hearing for a couple of weeks about corporate fraud, FBI investigations, and a bailout that's arguably rewarding bad judgment or misbehavior," Ciruli said.

The initiatives are part of a business-labor battle prompted by proposed Amendment 47, the measure that would prohibit "union shops," where all workers must pay either union dues or the cost of representation.

Labor unions retaliated with a raft of worker-friendly measures that business groups have said are hostile to the state's economy.  Recent negotiations to pull all the measures from the ballot have been unsuccessful, and the deadline to yank the amendments is today.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce has funded the legal challenge to many of the labor initiatives.  It also opposes right-to-work in the name of business peace, but isn't actively campaigning against it.

Spokeswoman Kate Horle said, "The fear that the economy will not be the way they've known because there were a lot of irresponsible senior executives at a collection of banks -- it's definitely a part of this."

Representatives of Protect Colorado's Future, the group campaigning for Amendment 53, were unavailable Wednesday afternoon. The group says motivation for the amendment comes from the events at Qwest, where "Coloradans continue to pay the price" even as former CEO Joe Nacchio has so far avoided jail time by appealing his 2007 conviction on insider-trading charges.