Under Pressure, Washington Admits Diversions Were Illegal
Parker, CO – Americans for Prosperity Colorado today cheered reports that the Obama administration will be restoring energy royalty payments to states, which were withheld, under false and possibly illegal pretences, as part of the sequestration showdown between the President and Republicans in Congress.
The group’s persistent efforts to blow the whistle on this politically-motivated cash-grab culminated in July, when Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, responding to a request from AFP-Co, stated that he believed the withholding of royalty funds was unlawful, bringing pressure on Washington that eventually helped force the administration to back down.
Click here for link to AFP-CO’s release in response to Suthers’ letter.
Colorado’s share of the more than $110 million Washington withheld is $8.4 million, which will soon be returned to the communities that are owed it as part of a compact with the federal government dating back to 1920. But that dollar amount, while significant, was only part of what prompted AFP-CO to oppose these actions.
“Imagine the precedent it would have set if this or any other president, acting on political whim, can simply raid or divert funds that are owed to states as a result of energy activities occurring on public lands,” said AFP-Colorado State Director Dustin Zvonek. “That’s not just a breach of contract, and public trust, but an abuse of power we simply couldn’t stand for. That, along with the phony pretext under which the White House diverted these funds, is what really motivated us to keep banging away on this issue.”
The group in July sent letters to Colorado officials best positioned to protest the withholding, including Gov. Hickenlooper, Attorney General Suthers and Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, urging them to press the administration to restore the funds. That led to Suthers July ? letter, to AFP-CO, expressing his belief that the withholding of funds was unlawful, which gave the push for justice momentum just as it seemed to be losing steam.
While pleased with the outcome, AFP-Co urged Congress to seek a more complete explanation from the Department of Interior of how this attempt to violate the law came about. “It appears as if White House politics, and this President’s desire to maximize pain as part of the sequestration fight, were behind this illegal attempt to punish energy states by withholding royalty funds,” said Zvonek. “The legal review that led to the reversal should have occurred before the Obama administration took these punitive actions, not after some of us in energy states raised objections. Congress ought to conduct an in-depth review of exactly how this came about.”
For further information or an interview, please contact Dustin Zvonek at or DZvonek@afphq.org.