There’s a foul stench in the air in Colorado and it is not from the newly legalized use of marijuana. It’s from the circumstances surrounding Sen. Mark Udall’s staff, the Colorado Department of Insurance (DOI), and the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), parent of the DOI.
Last week Deb Fillman delved into the allegations that Udall staffers pressured the DOI to revise the publicly announced number of insurance policy cancellations downward.
The crux of the matter then was whether Udall’s office exercised undue influence by threatening an “investigation” if the DOI did not comply with their request. There was a lot of rendering of syntax about what constituted a “cancellation” versus a “renewal”, and as reported by the Denver Post on January 9, DOI staffers felt intimidated.
An administrator at Colorado’s Division of Insurance felt intimidated by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s legislative director in November after the aide pushed back against claims that 250,000 Coloradans had policies canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, according to internal e-mails.
The emails referenced by that article show initial push back by the DOI and a subsequent statement that the relationship with Udall’s office was contentious, at best.
The message above from November 14, 2013, was followed the next day with:
Per the message content, Jo Donlin, the DOI Director of External Affairs, writes:
Following my e-mail, I received a very hostile phone call from Sen. Udall’s deputy chief of staff. Marguerite is on the phone with his chief of staff now.
The following day the Denver Post reported, Rep. Amy Stephens asks for probe of claims Udall’s office bullied regulators.
State Rep. Amy Stephens on Friday asked the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to investigate reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s office pressured a director at the state Division of Insurance to change the number of insurance policies her office said were canceled because of the Affordable Care Act.
“I am deeply concerned about recent reports that U.S. Senator Mark Udall and/or Senator Udall’s staff exerted inappropriate and undue pressure on the Colorado Division of Insurance,” Stephens, a Republican from Monument, wrote in a letter to DORA executive director Barbara Kelley. “I am requesting that you investigate these reports to determine the level of coercion by Senator Udall and/or his staff, and whether any laws or rules were violated as a result of this conduct.”
Tuesday of last week, the Denver Post next reports, State clears Udall’s staff of intimidation on Obamacare cancellations, exonerating Sen. Udall’s office of any wrongdoing.
Colorado regulators Tuesday cleared U.S. Sen. Mark Udall staffers of accusations they tried to bully the state’s insurance division into reducing its report that nearly 250,000 residents had their health insurance canceled under the Affordable Care Act.
Given a four-calendar day and two-business day span between Stephen’s request and the report from DORA, this may be one of the quickest government investigations in history.
The complete exoneration of Udall’s staff is summarized in two paragraphs in the Post’s article that read:
“A neutral and objective panel from the executive director’s office interviewed a number of Division of Insurance staff, collected and reviewed e-mails and other correspondence between the (division) and Sen. Udall’s staff,” wrote Department of Regulatory Agencies director Barbara Kelley in a letter to state Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument.
Kelley said the review found “no evidence of any intimidation and ‘the level of coercion by Sen. Udall and/or his staff’ was zero.”
It is utterly amazing that any government agency could empanel a group of investigators, conduct interviews, collect and review e-mails and other correspondence and issue a final report in such a short time frame. This calls into question just how in-depth and serious was this investigation, or was it just a dismissal of the issue by a Democratic state administration “investigating” charges levied against a Democratic senator?
Not having access to details it is impossible to answer that question at this time but it does warrant, in this writer’s opinion, much further review and full disclosure of all pertinent documents.
To that end the Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Rob Collins, sent a letter to Sen. Udall requesting a voluntary release of all information. Congress is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.
However, the DOI and NORA are not exempt from such requests made under the Colorado Open Records Law, and last week NRSC General Counsel, Megan Sowards, sent a letter to the state agency requesting all records regarding the communication between the DOI, DORA and Udall’s office be released.
Only time will tell if Sen. Udall, a champion of transparency (at least until now), voluntarily releases any documents and if the state of Colorado complies with Ms. Sowards request. It will be interesting to see if either request is complied with nearly as fast as DORA completed its entire investigation but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
Of further interest from the same, most recent article (emphasis added):
The issue prompted U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, to send a letter to the division to further question the numbers.
In a separate letter to Gardner on Tuesday, the division’s commissioner, Marguerite Salazar, said the total number of Coloradans to receive cancellation notices as of Jan. 13 is about 335,500.
“Ninety-two percent, or 308,840 people, were offered the opportunity of early renewal,” Salazar wrote.
Gardner on Tuesday said this “raises new questions as even more than was originally reported have lost insurance.”
“It’s stunning that Obamacare has led to this many canceled plans, and now it’s coming to the forefront,” Gardner said.
Something does stink in Colorado, in the office of one of its US Senators. The question now is how long will it take for the release of the documents requested by the NRSC, and will the stench become more offensive.