DENVER (CBS4) – Jared Polis bills himself as an entrepreneur who started his first business from a college dorm room. It was one of several tech startups that would make him a multi-millionaire before the age of 30.
He would use that money to run for public office. He spent $1 million to win a seat on the Colorado Board of Education, $6 million to win the Second Congressional District, and more than $18 million so far in the governor’s race.
His critics accuse him of buying every seat he’s ever held.
“I think that’s absurd. Look, the people of Colorado are better than that,” Polis told CBS4’s Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.
Polis says self-funding frees him from the influence of special interests, but it invites scrutiny of his own financial interests and potential conflicts of interest too.
“I’m always somebody that wants to go above and beyond on ethics.”
Polis says that is why he put his assets in a blind trust when he went to Congress. But neither he nor his campaign will talk about what percentage of his overall net worth is in the trust today.
Despite promises of transparency, Polis’s campaign pushed back hard on this story for several weeks and wouldn’t provide documentation regarding the blind trust.
Based on analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, as little as nine percent of Polis’ assets are in the trust.
He claims the House Ethics Committee wouldn’t allow him to put all of his assets in the trust because of certain restrictions, but his campaign also wouldn’t share any communication with the committee. Polis says he’d revisit his blind trust as governor.
“We would have to discuss that obviously with our counsel and make sure it was able to do it, but of course we’d be able to put more assets in a blind trust as governor.”
Not only do most of Polis’ assets appear to be outside his blind trust, but he has direct control over many of his assets as well.
His 32 page financial disclosure for Congress is a sprawling list of investments in private equity funds, real estate and industries that, as governor, he would be in a position to help or hurt.
Those investments include hundreds of thousands of dollars in renewable energy companies, millions of dollars in office technology companies, and tens of millions of dollars in health care companies.
Among his health care investments is Bridgehealth, a company he helped found that advertises medical tourism, an industry that benefited from the Affordable Care Act.
Polis says he was unaware of that.
“I have no operational role, so until you told me that, I wouldn’t know it.”
He insists he is simply a passive investor in all of funds.
“I’m not in any decision-making capacity… that I’m aware of.”
But his own financial disclosure shows he is a managing member, partner, limited partner or director for 26 different limited liability companies that hold multi-million dollar funds and real estate investments. His campaign acknowledges he has managing or decision-making control in the companies where he is a managing member.
“If I’m elected governor, I’d be happy to step down from any other roles I have in any other companies because being governor is a full-time job that will represent 110 percent of my efforts every day.”