Kenny at the DQ

(orig. published 4/21/2011; updated 3/30/2022)

I felt honored when Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News contacted me in 2004, after Ken Salazar had announced he was seeking the Dem nomination to run for the U.S. Senate. She asked me if I had any suggestions about what she should look at.

For something simple, I said, “Look at the Dairy Queen.”  Ken’s wife Hope (Esperanza) owned a Dairy Queen in Westminster across the street from the Westminster Mall.  A big two-page article had run, with a picture of Hope behind the counter, reporting that Ken—then Colorado Attorney General—had stayed up all night working on a piece of equipment. (Interestingly, today, in 2022, I cannot find the article itself.)

Franchises of chain restaurants do not come cheap.  MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour once interviewed a McDonald’s franchisee in East Los Angeles, who was part of a class action suit minority business owners had brought against McDonald’s for making stores available to them  only in lower income neighborhoods. Even those were pricey.  A McDonald’s franchise cost $1 million—and this was 1983. In April 2011, DQ’s website says it’s $700,000 to $1.3 million to get into one.

So I wondered how a public employee could afford it, one with two teen-aged daughters, no less.

Lynn Bartels never did a report on this that I ever saw.  However, in 2011 I made an excursion to Westminster, and talked to an Asian guy who said HE owned the Dairy Queen and had bought it from the Salazars. Today, preparing to restore this blog post, I find that the Salazars dumped it in 2007. Did Lynn in fact nose around, and was that the reason they sold this lucrative business? They have deposited all the financial records from it with the Univ. of Colorado apparently to show everything was on the up-and-up.

But those records don’t reveal how Ken Salazar’s wife got into the Dairy Queen in the first place.  Who cares about their sales receipts? What we want to know is, who paid for the franchise? Not a matter of public record. This is the classic kind of payback to a public official which we’ve seen a lot of in Colorado. The wife is often the recipient of suspect largesse.

But is my face ever red, since I’ve often said the only thing Kenny did as Attorney General was keep the seat warm. In fact he was not even doing that–he was at the DQ under the soft-serve machine!

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