Oil And Gas Contributions Flow To 2018 Ballot Measures

<p>(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)</p>
<p>This Dec. 5, 2012 photo shows an oil pump jack in a Weld County field near Fredrick, Colorado. </p>
Photo: Oil in Weld County Frederick Colorado
This Dec. 5, 2012 photo shows an oil pump jack in a Weld County field near Fredrick, Colorado.

By providing a cash infusion for a group backing industry friendly constitutional measures, Anadarko Petroleum, the state’s largest oil driller, has stepped into the 2018 election season. The proposed ballot initiatives would protect the drilling industry if new state and local regulations curtail their business.

In March, Anadarko contributed $423,750 in one lump sum to Protect Colorado, a political committee it helped form years ago. A group of five other oil and gas companies, including PDC Energy, gave another quarter of a million dollars, all in March.

Two weeks after the Anadarko contribution, Protect Colorado spent $550,000 on signature gathering. Karen Crummy, with Protect Colorado, verified that the group “is helping gather signatures for the private property measures.”

It’s not clear which of the constitutional measures approved for signature gathering Protect Colorado is targeting specifically. Initiatives 108 through 113 would essentially provide compensation to companies and property owners if state or local governments were to pass new regulations that diminish the value of private holdings. The measures are written broadly and appear to include any industry or property owner, not just oil and gas.

One of the designated representatives for those measures is Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau. Many farmers and ranchers directly benefit from the oil and gas industry, including regularly receiving royalty checks for drilling operations on their land.

The other representative on the measures is Michele Smith, a vice president at The Quaint Company, whose website says it is a “broad-reaching real estate and oil & gas investment company.”

Neither designated representative immediately returned calls seeking comment.

Protect Colorado’s history dates back to 2014 and the oil and gas industry’s fight against ballot measures seeking to limit drilling. The pro-industry group has received more campaign contributions than any political committee in state history: $31 million. Anadarko and Noble Energy, the state’s two largest drillers are their primary funders, accounting for more than $21 million in contributions.

When measures to ban oil and gas failed to make the ballot in 2016, Protect Colorado diverted $2,895,000 to Raise the Bar, a group formed to pass Amendment 71. The amendment passed, making it much harder and more expensive to change Colorado’s state constitution — but has since encountered legal headwinds. A federal judge has struck key elements of the amendment as violations of the “one person, one vote” principle.