Congressional ethics investigators said Monday that they found evidence that gives them “substantial reason” to believe U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn misused official resources and solicited or accepted improper gifts from his subordinates.
Aides to the Colorado Springs Republican told nonpartisan investigators from the Office of Congressional Ethics that they were frequently asked to run errands for Lamborn’s wife, Jeanie, and that they were instructed to help Lamborn’s son apply for a federal job.
Investigators said they uncovered evidence “showing a pattern and practice” in Lamborn’s office of official staff conducting personal and campaign-related tasks for Lamborn, his wife and other family members during official work hours and using official resources.
“If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,” Jeanie Lamborn allegedly said, according to an unnamed staffer’s account to investigators.
The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics unanimously recommended that the U.S. House Committee on Ethics, a panel of federal lawmakers, further investigate the allegations made against Lamborn.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Florida, and Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, said in a joint statement.
The House Committee on Ethics has a mostly investigatory and advisory role. It can report to law enforcement “substantial evidence of a violation of any law” and render advisory opinions on the conduct of any member of Congress.
It also can recommend that the full U.S. House take additional action, including levying a fine or censure against a member of Congress.
Brandon Pope, a former staffer for Lamborn, filed a federal lawsuit last year alleging Lamborn ignored COVID-19 precautions — including mask wearing and social distancing — and created unsafe working conditions in his offices.
The legal action, which is still pending, also accused Lamborn of using his position in Congress to benefit his family, making staff run errands for his wife. Lamborn allegedly allowed his son to live out of a storage room in the basement of the U.S. Capitol for a period of weeks and ordered staffers to help the son find jobs in a federal database and prepare for interviews.
Lamborn’s spokeswoman, Cassandra Sebastian, said in a written statement Monday that the Office of Congressional Ethics is “overzealous.” In a rebuttal letter, Lamborn called the office “biased” against him.
“It is extremely disappointing that two disgruntled former staffers have weaponized the ethics process for political and personal purposes,” Sebastian said. “Congressman Lamborn intends to cooperate fully with the bipartisan House Committee on Ethics, just as he did with all reasonable requests of the OCE. He remains certain the committee will ultimately reach the appropriate decision by dismissing the OCE’s referral and he expects to be fully exonerated.”
The Office of Congressional Ethics said that “at least five of Rep. Lamborn’s current and former staffers stated that they performed personal tasks for the Lamborns.”
One staffer said they were asked to help move the Lamborns’ furniture and set up Zoom calls for Jeanie Lamborn, whose company has been paid more than $170,000 by Lamborn’s campaign since 2015.
At least one current staffer “reported running errands for Mrs. Lamborn as an ‘unofficial errand.'” The ethics office’s investigators found that Jeanie Lamborn “regularly made requests of staff, which generally fell into two categories: campaign-related matters, such as picking up mail, and personal errands or services.”
“Mrs. Lamborn’s significant involvement in Rep. Lamborn’s office led former staffers to feel that they were required to comply with her requests,” a report from the OCE said. “A former staffer explained that Rep. Lamborn’s chief of staff, Dale Anderson, made it clear that ‘Mrs. Lamborn had precedence.'”
(Investigators said Anderson refused to cooperate with them.)
Lamborn was interviewed by congressional investigators as part of their probe. He told that that he didn’t think his wife would ask staffers for help with personal errands.
“We try to follow the rules very carefully and very sincerely,” Lamborn said. “So I don’t think she would knowingly do that.”
But congressional investigators said the evidence they found suggested otherwise.
“Evidence obtained by the OCE indicated that Mrs. Lamborn had a role in the office that exceeded what is permissible for spouses,” the report said.
The ethics office also said current and former staffers told investigators that they were asked to help the Lamborn’s son apply for a job at the Pentagon.
“While Rep. Lamborn states that his son received the same assistance in the job hiring process an ordinary constituent would benefit from, the OCE found testimonial and documentary evidence indicating otherwise,” the report said.
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Finally, the report says that Anderson, Lamborn’s chief of staff, may have been permitted to solicit gifts from aides on the congressman’s behalf.
“It is never permissible for a member (of Congress) to solicit a gift from a
subordinate,” the report said. “To the extent Rep. Lamborn failed to oversee Mr. Anderson’s repeated instruction that staffers provide Rep. Lamborn and his family gifts, Rep. Lamborn may be responsible for solicitation of gifts in violation of federal law.”
Lamborn has represented the Colorado Springs-based 5th Congressional District since 2007. He is seeking another term in November.