Democrat Dave Young defeated Republican Brian Watson in 2018 in the race for State Treasurer. What looked initially like a close race ended up with Young defeating Watson by a seven-point margin, so perhaps Colorado was never that close to ending up with Watson in charge of the state’s finances. But we came close enough to what could have been an absolute disaster for the state.
Watson has always been a shady character with a litany of financial-related problems in his past, none of which were a very good selling point for a candidate for State Treasurer. We learned more about Watson’s troubles in April after the FBI served a search warrant at his home for information related to potential fraudulent activity tied to Watson’s Northstar Commercial Partners business.
We haven’t heard much since then about the FBI’s investigation, but as the website BusinessDen reports today, Watson could be in serious trouble:
Amazon has sued Denver-based real estate firm Northstar Commercial Partners over what the retail giant is calling “a significant fraud and kickback scheme,” providing details on what likely prompted an April FBI raid at the home of Northstar CEO Brian Watson.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Virginia, where Northstar was developing multiple data center projects for Amazon, the retail giant said the April 2 raid “was executed on the same day that Watson and other Northstar-related Defendants received notice that their roles related to developing several properties in the Dulles corridor were being terminated based on evidence of their misconduct.”
“The evidence revealed that Defendants paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to obtain non-competitive contracts that Defendants used to obtain tens of millions of dollars in illicit gains from development projects at Virginia real estate sites Amazon leased or purchased since 2018,” the lawsuit read.
According to BusinessDen, court filings detail nine kickback payments totaling $415 million. Amazon is accusing Northstar Commercial Partners of racketeering and fraud.
We noted just before the November 2018 election that Watson’s shady past indicated that he could be a Scott Gessler-like figure if elected as State Treasurer. We’re reminded of what Susan Barnes-Gelt told The Denver Post about Watson in October 2018:
“If I had cash, I’d bury it in my mattress and run the risk of my mattress catching on fire before I’d give him a dime. He’s a snake-oil salesman. He belongs in a carny show.”
Keep this in mind in 2020 when you see endorsements from individuals and editorial boards — including the Colorado Springs Gazette — that touted Watson in 2018. Nobody could have predicted the kind of trouble that Watson faces today, but it was always pretty obvious that he was a questionable choice to hold public office in Colorado.