Behind the Scenes of Colorado’s Affiliate Tax Fight – By Jeannine Crooks

by FeedFront Staff on April 23, 2010

On the Saturday following Affiliate Summit West 2010, the first email alert came: “Over the summer you alerted us to legislation that would harm affiliate marketers. House Bill 10-1193 was introduced yesterday, requiring any out-of-state retailer with affiliate referral relationships to collect sales taxes.”

Sure enough, the Affiliate Tax fight had come to Colorado. For the next three weeks life revolved around this effort, navigating through the intense, complicated process necessary to fight – and win – on Capitol Hill. I was lucky enough to have a front row seat.

First, forget everything you learned in Civics Class. Second, it’s important to know that there was no single “eureka” moment in the fight. We’ll never know specifically what turned momentum our way. Success came from the combined efforts of hundreds of affiliates.

In Colorado’s case, the bill’s primary purpose was to generate revenue to offset a budget shortfall, using the pretense that small bookstores suffered since Amazon wasn’t required to collect sales tax. Rebecca Madigan, the Performance Marketing Association’s Executive Director, helped us build a solid case against the tax, using the revenue collection angle.

Fortunately Colorado affiliates like to network. Consequently, we had several meet-up groups willing to flood the email boxes of target legislators. In fact, one Senator pleaded with us to turn off the emails. We didn’t. Affiliates also posted relentlessly on legislator’s Facebook pages and replied to them on Twitter.

I’ll be honest – testifying before the House and Senate Finance Committees was terrifying. The legislators, especially the Senators, were very intelligent and asked tough questions. However, some of the questions had nothing to do with our issue; their sole purpose was political grandstanding for the record. I had to watch every word I said so it couldn’t be used against us later.

Over 70 people signed up to testify; ultimately only a handful spoke, but the Committee could not ignore the sheer numbers who showed up to protest.

Jen Goode, Ken O’Donovan, Franklin Baker, Anita Edge and I spent an entire day visiting 21 of Colorado’s 35 senators. Since it is unusual for average citizens to show up at the Capitol to discuss a bill, this was a true advantage. We politely but firmly explained why HB-1193 would wipe out our jobs and still not raise tax revenue. Each Senator received a personalized packet including detailed information about the impact on their districts.

The next day, negotiations began to remove “affiliates” from the bill’s language.

Marc Braunstein, and David Asseoff, (formerly CPAStorm) provided tremendous corporate resources, including legal counsel, public relations, and even hiring lobbyists on our behalf. Both filled the audiences with their staffs during Finance Committee testimony.

I am grateful to those who helped, shocked at those who didn’t, and ready to support anyone else who faces the same challenge.

The battle is ongoing in Colorado and other states. On Monday, March 8th, Amazon terminated all of their Colorado affiliates.

Jeannine Crooks is the Director of Affiliate Marketing for, a marketing company providing turnkey and customizable member savings & loyalty platforms.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

wigify April 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Jeannine thanks so much for being instrumental in this and testifying. Do keep us apprised of what happens. To everyone who helped out, keep up the good work. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

Chris Guthrie May 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Keep fighting the good fight. I’m based in WA and my Amazon income hovers around the $5k per month mark so I know if a tax like this ever came into WA I would basically lose my job as well.

I’m hoping that since Amazon HQ is in Seattle they have a lot more pull with local legislature but we shall see.
.-= Chris Guthrie´s last blog ..What I read in April =-.

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