Coffman employs the ‘look! shiny!’ defense against ethics charges

The Denver Post dutifully reports Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s complaints today that he has been the subject of a partisan “jihad” by the watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch. Unfortunately, political watchers expect the red-herring rhetoric has only just begun, in the wake of Coffman’s March 6 hearing on charges of misconduct before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission.

What Coffman can’t deflect are the facts contained in the Colorado State Auditor’s blistering December 2007 report that outlines serious mismanagement during his brief two-year tenure as secretary of state, which formed the basis of the formal ethics complaint.

The auditor’s report found eight major areas of failures in the office, including duplicate voter-registration records, voting by dead people and felons, failing to account for $445,000 in federal funds, and numerous conflict-of-interest violations among employees, at least some of which Coffman was aware of. Colorado Ethics Watch’s allegations were premised on the most serious failures contained in the auditor’s report — an analysis, curiously enough, that the former state administrative officer actually agreed with and offered corrective actions to remedy.

What Coffman appears to be doing, which is certainly his right, is fighting this battle in the court of public opinion.

Despite the wounded howling to the contrary, Colorado taxpayers also have a right — to a fair and expeditious hearing on political shenanigans in a state office.

It’s unclear yet when a decision will be handed down. Today marks the deadline for each side to submit written closing arguments to an already hobbled ethics commission in which two of the five members recused themselves because of previous ties to Coffman.

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Wendy Norris

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