Hick Administration Lawyers Up in Udall-Obamacare Probe

The Colorado Observer
January 22, 2013

DENVER – The Hickenlooper Administration is seeking legal advice on how to respond to a request for records related to allegations that U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s office pressured state regulators to alter statistics on how many Coloradans have lost their health insurance as a result of Obamacare, according to an e-mail obtained by the Colorado Observer.

“We expected this, so let’s get with [Deputy DORA Director] Michelle [Pedersen] and we will touch base with the [Attorney General] to put together our response,” read the January 17 e-mail from Barbara Kelley, who was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to head the Department of Regulatory Agencies in 2011.

Kelley’s e-mail came in response to a request for the Hickenlooper administration to disclose records related to a panel hastily convened by the department last week to review charges of improper influence against Udall.

Last Tuesday, Kelley assured a state lawmaker that “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,” before clearing the lawmaker of any wrongdoing.

Udall came under fire this month after internal e-mails surfaced suggesting that his office pressured state regulators to downsize an estimate showing that some 250,000 Coloradans had their health insurance plans cancelled.  The e-mails included complaints that Udall’s office was pushing state workers to “trash” their statistics, and revelations that state officials received calls described as “hostile” from Udall’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff.

But critics have not been swayed by Kelley’s assurances that the panel that “cleared” Udall’s office of wrongdoing was “neutral and objective.”  They note that neither the names of those who served on the panel, nor any records of its proceedings have been made public.

“When there are accusations that the staff of a sitting U.S. Senator pressured a state agency to make a politically advantageous move, the process by which it’s investigated should be open and transparent,” said Compass Colorado Executive Director Kelly Maher.  “Coloradans deserve better than some investigation that happens behind closed doors with no information available to the public.”

A public information officer for the Department of Regulatory Agencies told TCO in a Tuesday e-mail that administration officials have received the request for information, “and will have a formal response as soon as possible.”