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Stimulus award to The Denver Post’s $50K bike tour goes unreported

The inaugural “Pedal the Plains” bicycle tour, held in 2012, received $50,000 in stimulus funding from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, an award that went unreported by one of the tour’s major sponsors, The Denver Post.

The sub-award in question was part of over $8 million in sub-awards from a $138-million stimulus grant from the Department of Education earmarked for education-related projects.

A Watchdog Wire search of Recovery.gov discovered the sub-award from the Executive Office of Colorado: “The Denver Post received a grant extension to support the staff and admin costs associated with creating an Eastern Plains tourism project.”

The money was awarded to the Denver Newspaper Agency, LLC, the Post’s parent company, on Sept. 22, 2011, but Gov. Hickenlooper didn’t announce Pedal the Plains until Jan. 12, 2012, in the State of the State address, and then in a press release shortly thereafter. Neither the press release, nor the Denver Post’s own coverage of the formal announcement in April 2012 mentioned that $50,000 in administrative costs were being covered by federal funds administered by the Governor’s Office.  Instead, the credit is given to Hickenlooper’s office for “support” and to the Denver Post and Viaero Wireless for sponsoring the event:

Gov. John Hickenlooper got the idea after spending time on the Eastern Plains during his campaign, and then thinking of the RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

That seven-day ride brings 10,000 riders through the heartland, cruising past farms and fields on farm-to-market roads. He called William Dean Singleton, publisher of The Denver Post, which has been the organizer of Ride the Rockies for 27 years.

“I wish I’d thought of it first,” Singleton said at the news conference Friday.

Several Watchdog Wire searches of the Denver Post’s site have failed to uncover any mention of the fact that the paper’s parent company was on the receiving end of the sub-award.

That Stimulus money went to the tour was anything but common knowledge at the time.  “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Republican state Sen. Greg Brophy, an avid cyclist who makes his home in Wray, one of the Eastern Plains towns featured on the tour’s inaugural route. Brophy was mentioned prominently in the Post’s account of the Pedal the Plains announcement.

Watchdog Wire has filed a CORA request asking for the disposition of the other sub-awards. With much of the recovery.gov site’s data disappearing, it is entirely possible that the manner in which over $138 million of taxpayer money was spent will be effectively obscured from public scrutiny. This money was essentially a blank check from Congress to the federal executive. Disbursed as a blank check to the Governor’s Office, the funds bypassed the state’s budgetary process, and deprived the state legislature of oversight in how that money was spent.

The incident also indicates the issues that press organizations such as the Post face in covering events in which they play a role.

A simultaneous search did not find that the Franklin Center, parent organization of Watchdog Wire, had received any stimulus money during the lifetime of ARRA.

Featured image from “Pedal the Plains” promotional video.

Joshua Sharf

Joshua is co-editor of Watchdog Wire - Colorado. Contact him at Colorado@WatchdogWire.com to learn how to get involved with citizen journalism in the Boulder State. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuasharf

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Economy, Elections, Must Read, Politics, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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