Vail Valley’s rep. steers nearly $150,000 to fellow Democrats |

Vail Valley’s rep. steers nearly $150,000 to fellow Democrats

DENVER. Colorado – Freshman Rep. Jared Polis is sharing the wealth.

The Internet millionaire from Boulder has steered almost $150,000 to his Democratic colleagues this year, a largesse analysts say helps a politician’s clout.

Polis started a fund in May to help Democrats win House races. By the end of June, the fund had doled out $130,000, The Denver Post reported Thursday.

His own political campaign made additional direct donations totaling $18,000. The Boulder Democrat, elected last year, is considered to have a safe district, so he’s steering money from his personal fortune and that of his family and friends to other Democrats.

Polis’ generosity may be playing a role in his rising prominence in Congress. Earlier this month, Polis corralled some conservative freshman Democrats to oppose leading Democrats’ proposal on taxing wealth people to pay for health care reform. Of the 21 members who signed the letter with Polis, 17 received contributions from his funds, the Post reported.

In a statement Thursday, Polis acknowledged his tax concerns angered some left-leaning Democrats. But he promised to side with the rest of his party on the larger goal of extending health insurance.

“I know my actions to strengthen the bill were misunderstood by some, but rest assured, my strong support for health care reform and the president’s plan has not wavered,” Polis said.

At least one Republican says Polis using his personal fortune to enhance his own clout.

“I think he is buying influence,” said Katy Atkinson, a Colorado-based Republican strategist.

According to the Post, Polis is steering much of the cash to freshman Democrats who are vulnerable next year. Twenty-four of 28 recipients of Polis donations represent districts that were in Republican hands until this year.

Recipients include Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey of an eastern Colorado district bordering Polis’ district. Markey received $20,000 from a Polis fund and is expecting a rough re-election challenge. Markey defeated a three-term Republican incumbent last year.

Analysts say the Polis donations are a classic move used by incumbents in relatively safe districts to help colleagues.

“It can be a pretty effective way for an individual member of Congress or the Senate to build clot by sharing the wealth, so to speak,” said Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center.

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