The highlight of the troubling ethics report on Rep. Doug Lamborn’s family business — which, not coincidentally, seems to the same as his official, taxpayer-funded job as a U.S. congressman — has to be this quote credited to Lamborn’s wife, Jeanie:
“If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”
Well, here’s a guess. Mama — who plays a key role in Lamborn’s political life and is alleged in the report to have demanded personal favors from Lamborn’s staff — definitely ain’t happy now. Congressional ethics investigators made certain of that when they found there was “substantial reason” to believe Lamborn violated enough rules that the U.S. House Committee on Ethics should take up its own investigation.
In other words, the Lamborn saga — which began as an employment lawsuit filed by a former staffer last year, charging that Lamborn’s office ignored COVID safety rules — has now gotten real.
Yeah, it’s real, even if some of the allegations are, uh, unreal. We’ve heard many of them before, but now it’s right there in the official record. And if the committee finds that Lamborn did violate rules, he could face fines or even censure.
In the heavily Republican 5th Congressional District, Lamborn has never been what you’d call popular. And despite his conservative bonafides, the eight-term congressman gets a stiff primary test nearly every election cycle. This year, he is being challenged by, among others, state Rep. Dave Williams, who’s all in on the Trumpist Big Lie and who has claimed that 5,600 dead people voted in Colorado in 2020.
Williams is already calling — naturally — for Lamborn to resign. If you read the report, you can see that Williams may, for once, have a point.
Where to begin?
My favorite is the all-but-mandatory rule that staffers give Lamborn birthday and Christmas presents. And not just presents, but presents that are worth somewhere between $125 and $200. And not just expensive presents, but presents that, staffers were told, should involve food and beer.
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Soliciting gifts from staffers is not only an ethical issue — I mean, what birthday present did you get for your boss last year? — but could also be in violation of federal law. And from what I read, to break the law, it doesn’t even have to be craft beer.
Now your favorite may be that Lamborn had his son sleeping for weeks in the office basement while staffers were apparently asked to help him fix up his résumé and to run him through some mock job interviews. Or it could be the naturalization party that Lamborn wanted thrown for his daughter-in-law. Or it may have been all the times mama was kept happy by staffers running errands for her, for her family and for Lamborn’s campaigns, most of them during office hours.
As you might guess, Lamborn’s team is blaming former disgruntled employees, but the report says the investigators made their findings after interviewing three former and two current Lamborn staffers.
We won’t know for a while where this all leads. And, meanwhile, you can be sure Lamborn isn’t quitting. But he’s also not the only Colorado GOP incumbent facing a challenge.
You may remember that when the independent commission drew Colorado congressional district lines that the seats of all seven incumbents seemed safe. But one incumbent, Democrat Ed Perlmutter, has already decided not to run for re-election, which could put his 7th CD seat into play.
And, of course, Republican Lauren Boebert has at least two challengers in the 3rd CD. It may not surprise you that the challenge from state Rep. Don Coram has already gotten nasty. Boebert has accused Coram of being corrupt, including in a very nasty radio ad. Of course she has.
Coram, meanwhile, has hit Boebert for her latest elevator incident, calling it “disgusting.” Which seems fair, although Boebert claims it was, uh, just a joke.
According to Buzzfeed News, Boebert asked a group of Jewish visitors to the U.S. Capitol whether they had come there to conduct “reconnaissance.” A witness told Buzzfeed that Boebert was walking out of an elevator when she saw the group — and after looking them over “from head to toe,” she asked the recon question.
In fact, the group had come to the Capitol to meet another member of Congress. And as Buzzfeed noted, they were wearing yarmulkes and one sported a traditional Orthodox beard.
Boebert’s other primary challenger, Archuleta County Republican Marina Zimmerman, didn’t stop at disgusting. She noted that when Boebert made her remarks, it hadn’t even been a week since the standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue. Zimmerman tweeted that Boebert had “cast her own nomination as the most anti-Semitic member of Congress.”
I’m thinking that this may not be the way that Colorado Republicans, who were clobbered statewide at the polls in 2020, had envisioned the beginning of a possible 2022 comeback bid. But there it is.
Because it’s Boebert, who invites controversy the way Lamborn apparently invites gifts, we’re certain to hear a lot more from that primary race.
And because it’s Lamborn, and because it looks as if he may have really stepped into it this time, it won’t just be Boebert taking fire. She shocked the world by knocking off five-term incumbent Scott Tipton in the 2020 Republican primary. Whatever happens to Lamborn this time, it won’t be a surprise.
One piece of advice, though: If Lamborn does manage to hold on, he might want to bring his own beer to the victory party.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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