State Agencies Haven't Released Information

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State Agencies Haven't Released Information

by Ari Armstrong, March 15, 2006

Last year, I asked two state agencies for information regarding their financing and practices. To date, neither agency has responded to my inquiries. On Thursday, March 9, 2006, I left a voice message with Jan Zavislan of the Attorney General's Office. The same day, I left a message with a receptionist for Brian Vogt of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

In an October 1, 2005, e-mail, Vogt promised to "look into" my "other inquiries next week." I included his note with an article that explains the background of my inquiry. Here are the specific questions that I asked Vogt last October:

1. How much is your annual salary?

2. How many people work for EDC [Economic Development Commission], how many hours, and what is their rate of pay?

3. What percent of EDC general-fund allocations goes to fund grants? Please include figures from 2001 to the present. If any EDC general-fund money is spent on anything other than salaries and grants, please specify the items and dollar amounts.

4. Article XI, Section 2 of the Colorado Constitution states, "Neither the state, nor any county, city, town, township, or school district shall make any donation or grant to, or in aid of, or become a subscriber to, or shareholder in any corporation or company..." In your opinion, do the EDC grants violate this provision of the Constitution? Please explain your reasoning.

5. How much federal money went into your office since 2001 that is not reflected in the long bills? Please state the dates of the transfers.

6. Where, specifically, did this federal money go? How much of it went to EDC? How much to Colorado First? How much to other divisions of your office?

7. Did the federal money come with any strings attached? If so, please specify.

8. Please provide a list of all corporations that were awarded EDC grants prior to 2001, but paid by EDC, in part or in whole, since 2001. Please include dollar amounts and, where applicable, anticipated future amounts.

My questions for Zavislan regard antitrust enforcement in Colorado. Originally I started looking at antitrust as part of a project regarding state spending. While the example of antitrust was cut from the final version of the project, it was included in a prematurely released version of it. The issue remains of interest. Following is the text of the letter that I mailed to Zavislan last year:

Dear Mr. Zavislan,

On August 25, 2005, I asked you some questions by telephone about Colorado's antitrust office. You encouraged me to send my questions in writing. Here they are.

1. How much money has your office spent on antitrust actions every year since 2001, including 2001, including salaries?

2. From what sources has your office been funded every year since 2001, including 2001, and in what amounts?

3. What are all the antitrust-related actions with which your office has been involved, either directly or indirectly, since 2001, including 2001? Please include descriptions of the cases and outcomes.

Please send the information to the mailing address or e-mail address listed above [in original]. Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Ari Armstrong

While I have yet to hear from Zavislan regarding my questions, I did find the Attorney General's 2005 Annual Report. Page 38 of the report discusses antitrust:

Antitrust -- Maintaining a Competitive Business Environment

The Attorney General's Office enforces the Colorado Antitrust Act and the federal Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts. In addition to handling local cases, the Section also works closely with other state attorneys general in investigating and prosecuting national antitrust violations that have a particular impact on Colorado consumers. Efforts last year included the following activity:

Defending the State

The Business Regulation Unit provides assistance in those rare instances when the State is alleged to have engaged in anticompetitive conduct. This past year, the Unit helped defend the Office of the State Court Administrator in an antitrust/ civil rights lawsuit against the SCA and LexisNexis brought by a company that lost the bid to provide access to the State's electronic court records. The lawsuit, which asserted First Amendment, §1983, monopolization and tying claims, among other things, was dismissed with prejudice by the Plaintiff after two days of a preliminary injunction hearing in late December.

Putting Consumers First

* Participated in the settlement of a multi-state antitrust investigation into allegedly anticompetitive conduct that occurred in connection with Hearst Corporation's 1998 acquisition of Medi-Span, Inc., then one of the nation's leading providers of electronic drug information databases. At the time of the acquisition, Hearst also owned First DataBank, the other leading provider of these databases.

* Ongoing investigation of allegation of anticompetitive conduct in transportation construction industry.

* Ongoing investigation of allegation of bid-rigging impacting state agency.

* Ongoing investigation of alleged price fixing by third party payer in the health care industry.

Some of these matters, insofar as they pertain to state agencies and potential fraud, may be legitimate legal concerns covered by other sections of law. But, in the view of Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand, and contributers to The Abolition of Antitrust and The Causes and Consequences of Antitrust: The Public-Choice Perspective, the antitrust laws are illegitimate in theory and harmful and unjust in practice.

To date, though, Jan Zavislan, who is listed on page 26 of the report, has not provided the details of his department's practices. Do Vogt and Zavislan think that, as state agents, they do not owe it to the taxpayers who pay their salaries a full accounting of their activities?

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