A controversial $1,000 campaign contribution that a gambling company made in January to Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn arrived back in the company's offices more than six months later wrapped in a plain piece of paper with a handwritten note that said: "Thank you. But we are unable to accept your check."
The note included no signature nor any date, Chuck Brooke, senior vice president for government affairs at International Game Technology, said Tuesday. The envelope in which the note and check came was apparently thrown away.
"We sometimes get checks returned," said Brooke, whose company, known as IGT, produces gambling equipment. "Usually they come with letters on campaign stationery and are signed by someone."
The half-year delay and the mysterious circumstances of the return of the check to IGT merely add to the intrigue in a strange case of Republican in-fighting in Colorado's 5th Congressional District.
Lamborn, a first-term Representative, has recently been accused of making political threats in telephone messages left for a couple who are GOP constituents. They had criticized Lamborn in a letter to the editor of a weekly newspaper.
Among other things, the Aug. 24 letter criticized Lamborn for taking campaign contributions from gambling interests.
Brooke said his company cut a check to Lamborn and several other rookie Republican Congressmen at a fundraiser in January. They did so at the request of House minority leader John Boehner.
"We never talked to Congressman Lamborn," Brooke said.
Lamborn sent a letter of apology Tuesday to Jonarthan and Anna Bartha, hoping to make up for any misunderstanding caused by his phone messages. Lamborn said he returned the check in June after his wife,who handles his mail,found it.
Lamborn explained the six-month delay by saying his wife had been busy helping her sick mother.
Lamborn's Washington office offered no details Tuesday as to why the check was returned with a handwritten, unsigned note.
"You can ask IGT," Lamborn's press secretary, Abby Winter, said.
Brooke could do little more than confirm that "we physically do have the check." But Brooke's timeframe for its receipt seems to contradict Lamborn's. Brooke says he did not include the returned check on his semi-annual report to the Federal Election Commission, which, he said, means it came in some time after June 30.
"The secretary who handles the mail thinks it was probably in the past three to four weeks," Brooke said.
That would put it ahead of publication of the letter to the editor written by Jonathan and Anna Bartha. But around the time the Barthas reportedly claim to have wirtten the letter. The Barthas are supporters of Jeff Crank, the man who finished a close second to Lamborn in an ugly six-person primary to replace retiring 5th CD Rep. Joel Hefley. Crank has announced he will oppose Lamborn in a 2008 Republican primary.
Lamborn, a social conservative, accused the Barthas of printing lies in their letter. Lamborn said he had returned both campaign contributions he had received from gambling interests.
One of those contributors, Marc Murphy of Bronco Billy's Casino in Cripple Creek, could not be reached Tuesday.
Brooke, meanwhile, had only rudimentary details, but no resolution to Lamborn's and the GOP's troubles.