Editorials

Guess who's coming to dinner

The Colorado Statesman

If there are any lingering doubts about Colorado’s elevated role in this year’s elections, consider the shining line-up of political stars who have recently illuminated our political landscape: first and foremost, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ likely standard bearer for president; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, until recently on the short list as GOP vice presidential candidates; plus a host of other high level officials and digniataries on behalf of various candidates and political causes.

But in terms of sheer luminosity and star power, last Monday, Aug. 13, was one of the brightest for Republicans here in the area. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the newly minted runningmate with presumptive presidential nominee Romney, was the special guest at an early evening reception at the home of a supporter near downtown, followed by a big bucks battleground fundraising dinner at an historic home in Cheesman Park. And not far away at the edge of another Denver city park, Speaker of the House John Boehner was the special guest at a reception in honor of 6th District Congressman Mike Coffman.

The fact that both were occurring at pretty much the same time meant that within the environs of about a square mile, a lot of Republican money was being raised here in Colorado.

Of course the events for the aspiring new vice presidential hopeful captured the main spotlight on Monday when Sharon and Lanny Martin hosted Ryan and several dozen supporters at their Denver Art Museum Residence designed by famed architect Daniel Libeskind at 12th and Acoma Streets. Guests, who paid $2,500 per person to attend, got to nibble on hors d’oeuvres and sip cocktails as the special honoree informally spoke. It was reportedly a very congenial affair.

Afterwards, a smaller number estimated at between three and four dozen made their way to the home of Amber and Mike Fries at the historic Stoiberhof Mansion on Humboldt St. at the corner of Cheesman Park. Built in 1907, this huge 15 bedroom/15 bath Italian Renaissance Revival home features an indoor mosaic swimming pool, the original elevator leading to a prohibition room, three distinct dining rooms, a theatre stage, a barber shop, a bowling alley and hand painted biblical scenes on the ceiling beams in the library, according to the listing agent who sold the home to the president and CEO of Liberty Global in 2005.

Fries, who’s been at the helm of the nation’s second-largest cable provider — a Fortune 500 company which connects close to 20 million customers in 13 countries — is not too dissimilar from the prestigious guest who came to dinner that night. Still in his 40s, like Ryan, Fries appears to share some of the same Type-A personality characteristics.

With a B.A. from Wesleyan University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University, Fries is an active industry partner at the World Economic Forum and a member of the Young Presidents Organization. According to his biography, he sits on the board of a number of professional and philanthropic organizations including the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art and the Alliance for Choice in Education.

He is also an avid skier, golfer, surfer and triathlete.

And rocker.

Fries is the lead singer of a Denver band called The Moderators, made up of a half dozen local captains of industry like himself who were also members of the Young Presidents Organization. After making a cameo appearance at a YPO chapter event awhile back, they’ve been playing together ever since, mainly at charity events in the metro area. The band plays classic roll ‘n’roll from the 70’s through the 90’s such as Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” to the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”

Of course no one was rocking out at their home Monday night, but the informal dinner proved highly entertaining nevertheless. The Romney campaign’s Colorado finance co-chairs — Greg Maffei, Larry Mizel and Doug Robinson — were joined at the dinner by some of the members of the host committee, including Marilyn and Pete Coors, Robin and Rick Fort, Kate Lynn and Charlie Fote, Diane and Charlie Gallagher, Jane and Fred Hamilton, Mary Sue and Bob Hawk, Roger Hutson, Dianne Eddolls and Glenn Jones, Elaine and Hal Krause, Suzy and Mike Leprino, Kathleen and Bob Malone, Bob Manning, Judy and Charlie McNeil, David McReynolds, Nancy and Kevein Mitchell, Mike Moniz, Verna and Bill Pauls, John and Carol Saeman, Keely and Scot Sellers, Anna and John Sie, Todd Slawson, and Walker Stapleton. In attendance at the dinner were also Dick Robinson, Trish and Ralph Nagel and former Ambassador to Finland Marilyn Ware.

According to several of the guests, the dinner was intimate and impressive.

Ryan, chairman of the budget committee in Congress, came off as a highly informed public official, possessing a great deal of knowledge in many fields.

Ralph Nagel was impressed that Ryan seemed to know so much about the healthcare industry, which is of paramount interest to Nagel as the founder of Meridian Retirement Communities in Colorado.

Nagel, a former architect who o spent some of his youthful summers working at a railroad switching yard where trains were dispatched to Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, also noted Ryan’s energetic manner, which probably had something to do with the candidate’s intense exercise routine. “He is charged up, very energetic,” Nagel said admiringly.

Ryan made remarks during the surf and turf Halibut and beef tenderloin dinner, and after dessert responded to questions for about 40 minutes. One of the topics discussed was the debt, which he managed to summarize in about five sentences. But even that was too much for the media, Ryan told the guests, who would like him to have the answer to the country’s fiscal problems boiled down to two sentences.

Meanwhile, at another event roughly 20 blocks away hosted by Linda and Don Childears at their penthouse overlooking City Park, Ohio Congressman John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was taking in the beautiful view and talking about congressional issues to a crowd honoring Congressman Coffman.

The $500-person reception included numerous couples who paid $2,500 to co-host the event. Among those listed on the invitation were Pat Broe, the Hon. Hank Brown, Alex Cranberg, Terry and Betsy Considine, Nathan Christian, Caryn and Brian Deevy, Ginny and John Freyer, Diane and Charlie Gallagher, Dianne and Tom Honig, Lou Hutchinson, Kay and Bud Isaacs, Glenn Jones, Roberta and Jim Kreutzfeld, Sharon and Greg Maffei, Janet and T. Scott Martin, Judy and Charlie McNeil, David McReynolds, Karen and Jim Possehl, Kristin and Blair Richardson, Dick Robinson, Carol and John V. Saeman, Hassan Salem, Anna and John Sie, Mary Pat Link and John Strohm, Terry Stevinson, Ambassador Marilyn Ware and Paul Zecchi.

As you can see from the crossover with the Paul Ryan event, some of the same names were hosts of both and could only attend one or the other.

Childears, president of the Colorado Bankers Association, has been a longtime supporter of Coffman over the years, dating back to the Aurora Republican’s days as a state representative, state senator, state treasurer, secretary of state and now representative of Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

At the request of Boehner’s staff, the only requirements for the Denver fundraiser was that there be some private time and space for the Speaker beforehand (which he reportedly never used), and that there be no media in the room.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com