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Report: Colo. Senator Lobbied for Company

May 31, 2004

DENVER (AP) _ Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell personally lobbied to try to win a $1 million no-bid contract for a software company with ties to his longtime supporters, The Denver Post reported Sunday.

The newspaper said e-mails and other documents it obtained through a Colorado open-records request show that contrary to Campbell’s assertions that his staff did the lobbying, the senator himself pressed fellow legislators, regional officials and the White House on behalf of Thinkstream Inc.

Campbell, citing an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation of his office, won’t comment on why he intervened on behalf of Oregon-based Thinkstream.

The Post said there are many links between Campbell and the software firm. Michael S. Smith, who served as Campbell’s finance chairman in 1992, owns half the company.

Denver’s Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber law firm, which lobbied for Thinkstream until parting company this spring, was the largest group of contributors to Campbell’s re-election campaign, records show. The newspaper said Smith’s energy company, Freeport LNG Development LP, also retained the Brownstein firm as its lobbyist.

Some officials said pressure from Campbell caused them to withdraw support for the project, which was designed to help a drug-fighting task force maintain databases using Web-based technology.

The grant is now in limbo and is part of a Justice Department investigation into Campbell’s office, the senator has acknowledged.

His office has said the probe centers on whether his former chief of staff Ginnie Kontnik improperly tried to help the company win the contract, and whether she inflated another staffer’s salary in exchange for a $2,000 payment. Kontnik resigned in February and has denied wrongdoing.

Campbell, citing health concerns, ruled out seeking a third term this year, though he declines to rule out a candidacy for governor.

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