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ICYMI: With a fortune built on government contracts, O’Dea crusades against ‘reckless’ spending [Colorado Newsline]

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Colorado Newsline: With a fortune built on government contracts, O’Dea crusades against ‘reckless’ spending
By Chase Woodruff
September 28, 2022

Key Points:

  • As a civil construction company, [O’Dea’s company] CEI gets the vast majority of its business from city and county governments, funded overwhelmingly by a mix of local, state and federal dollars.
  • After more than 30 years in business, managing these publicly-funded projects has made O’Dea a wealthy man — and now that wealth is helping propel a Senate campaign whose No. 1 priority, O’Dea says, is slashing government spending.
  • The dissonance hasn’t gone unnoticed.
  • “I hear he hates federal spending, except for the $14 million that built this thing,” Bennet said of O’Dea to a reporter following the groundbreaking at Windy Gap.
  • Since 2013, Jefferson and Clear Creek counties have awarded contracts totaling at least $48 million to CEI for several segments and construction phases, county records show. Significant funding for the Peaks to Plains project has come from Great Outdoors Colorado, a state initiative funded by lottery proceeds, as well as the federal Transportation Alternatives Program. TAP funds are a frequent target of conservative critics of federal spending, with many congressional Republicans favoring eliminating the program entirely.
  • A Newsline review of publicly available records found more than $400 million in government contracts awarded to CEI by state and local government entities, most of them within the last 15 years. The combined figure likely represents only a portion of the publicly-funded work the company has undertaken since its founding in 1986.
  • It’s been a highly lucrative business for CEI’s founder and CEO. In a personal financial disclosure filed earlier this year, O’Dea estimated his net worth at between $17 and $80 million, with CEI stock valued at between $5 million and $25 million, representing his largest single asset.
  • But he has been a relentless critic of what he calls “reckless” federal spending under President Joe Biden, including the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed in March 2021, and the Inflation Reduction Act, a package of health care and clean energy measures enacted this year. O’Dea said of the latter bill that he “didn’t see anything in there that I like.”
  • “They’ve got to quit spending,” he told an interviewer earlier this month. “We’ve got to stifle the spending. We’ve got to slow that down.”
  • He has faulted pandemic-era relief measures… and has also suggested cuts to longstanding entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
  • “In order to manage the debt, you’re going to have to grab everything,” he told Denver radio host Ross Kaminsky in June.
  • And in another radio interview earlier this year, the candidate who reaped the benefits of hundreds of millions in government funding offered a different interpretation of his success as he promised to “start hacking back this government.”

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