Sniping Persists Over Lamborn Gambling Checks

In the latest round involving Rep. Doug Lamborn, the El Paso County GOP and a couple who wrote a letter criticizing his vote on dog fighting and accepting gambling money, the county party late last week issued a statement announcing the outcome of its “investigation” into the matter.

And Lamborn promptly issued his own statement disagreeing with his party’s conclusions.

It’s the latest in a saga that has generated national attention.

There’s more. It all started when Colorado Springs residents Jonathan and Anna Bartha wrote a letter to the editor of a small weekly newspaper. In their letter, published several weeks ago, they criticized Lamborn for accepting contributions from gambling interests and for voting against stiffer penalties for dogfighting. Lamborn responded by personally calling the Barthas and leaving two phone messages, claiming that their letter was “blatantly false” and threatening “consequences.”

Lamborn subsequently sent a letter to the chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party demanding an investigation. Lamborn insists that he had returned two checks from gambling interests, though the Federal Election Commission records do not show the checks were returned (Lamborn has since said that one contribution, made in June, 2006, was returned six months later; the second contribution, made in January, was reportedly returned this summer.)

As for his vote against stiffening penalties for dogfighting, Lamborn’s former spokesman has said that the freshman congressman believes the issue should be dealt with by the states, not congress.

On Friday, El Paso County GOP Chairman Greg Garcia issued a statement of findings; the gist of which exonerated the Barthas from any wrongdoing. (Last year the Barthas supported Lamborn’s GOP opponent Jeff Crank, who recently announced plans to challenge Lamborn next year.)

“The intent is that Republicans in El Paso County conduct their political campaigns with honesty, focused on a healthy exchange of ideas,” read the statement, in part.

“It appears the Bartha family had reasonable grounds to write the letter to the editor and assert the facts as they understood them according to the public documents they reviewed.”

To which Lamborn subsequently issued his own statement, disagreeing with his party leadership, but agreeing that `our goal must be clean and ethical campaigns.”

From the statement:

“While I understand Mr. Garcia’s opinion that the Barthas had reasonable grounds to draw the conclusions they did based on their incomplete knowledge of the public record, I strongly disagree. It is unreasonable to assume that a contribution was accepted simply because a check was sent to a candidate.  The candidates’ FEC reports are the ultimate authority on accepted contributions, since all contributions are accepted at the discretion of the candidate.  Furthermore, a candidate has no control over the FEC reporting of a third party.  It is a distortion of the facts to say that I accepted money from the gambling industry.”

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com

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Cara Degette

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