Senator's Intern Fired Over Pay-For-Access Offer

Denver mayor John Hickenlooper's chief of staff Michael Bennet speaks as he and the mayor meet with Rocky Mountain News reporters, editors and the publisher in downtown Denver on Friday morning, July 25, 2003. Bennet is expected to be named Saturday as the future U.S. Senate replacement for Interior Secretary nominee Ken Salazar, according to two Democratic sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to both Denver-area newspapers. (AP Photo/Rocky Mountain News, Joe Mahoney) ** DENVER POST OUT, NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT **
AP/Joe Mahoney, R.M. News
Michael Bennet
AP/Joe Mahoney, R.M. News

On June 4th, an unpaid intern for Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, in his first week on the job, got an email from an acquaintance. Where, she asked, might she be able to catch up with the senator or one of his staffers to discuss fuel standards?

The intern allegedly offered this reply, as the Wall Street Journal reports: "With a donation of $2,400 or more," activists pushing a fuel-standards bill "can schedule a one-on-one hour long meeting with the Senator."

Want a "better chance to lobby Michael?" The intern offered this advice: Host "an event for $5,000 or more."

Such suggestions are not illegal - that line would only be crossed had Bennet offered legislative action in exchange for a donation - but they are, to say the least, unseemly. And hence the fate of the 22-year-old Middlebury College senior Jeffrey Garofano was sealed: Bennet's campaign said yesterday he had been let go.

While intern communications are usually vetted, Bennet's campaign said, the intern had used his personal account. The campaign insisted the intern acted alone - Bennet does not trade donations for access, it insisted - though one can't help but wonder where the intern got his figures. (Garofano did not respond to an media requests for comment.)

Bennet's opponent in the Democratic Senate primary, Andrew Romanoff, told the Journal the incident "raises serious questions" about the ways in which people get access to Bennet.