Grand Junction Republican state Rep. Steve King told the Colorado Independent this week that he is seeking to answer all questions related to travel expenses he incurred last spring that may have been reimbursed twice, once by his campaign and once by the state. King said he believes complaints about the expenses amount to dirty politics.
“I take this seriously. Any type of accusations about ethics need to be taken seriously. I will cooperate fully with leadership in answering the questions they might have,” he said. “I am confident at the end of the day this will be found to be just an election year attack and an attempt to assassinate my character.”
According to a press release put out by Colorado Ethics Watch, King’s campaign finance reports show his campaign paid $1,408.33 to reimburse expenses that included gasoline and vehicle repair and rental. The reports show King requested and received $5,018.60 in gas and rental car expenses from the state for expenses incurred during the same time period.
Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro told the Colorado Independent that it was possible there was no violation, that multiple expenditures were often handled by different reimbursement packages. Nevertheless, he said, “this certainly looks like double-dipping.”
Ethics Watch filed a complaint last week with state Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, acting on information dug up by the Junction Dailyblog. Toro said state legislators can certainly request mileage reimbursements from the state but that they must certify the amount requested has not also been reimbursed to them from another source.
He said that after the Junction Daily Blog contacted his organization, his staff confirmed that there seemed to be irregularities in King’s financial disclosures. He said Ethics Watch then conducted a search of the paperwork of 100 Colorado legislators. King’s financial statements were the only ones that appeared to present related actionable concerns.
King is now running for the state Senate seat being vacated this year by Minority Leader and former gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry.
Asked if he had any further comment on how his papers could be suggesting double dipping, King said he needed to gather the information and study it.
“Unfortunately, when you are in Denver and all of that information is in Grand Junction, it makes it difficult,” he said.
He added that he is “not an accountant” and would do his best to answer all of the questions posed to him by the legislative leadership.
“It’s just one of those things in an election year that you face and we will deal with it.”
Toro is asking House leaders to appoint an ethics committee to explore the matter.
“The House should thoroughly investigate and determine whether Rep. King was obtaining travel payments from state funds under false pretenses,” he said. “The system in place to pay necessary travel expenses to members depends on the members’ honesty. Any breach of that trust is a serious matter.”
Under the current rules of the House, the Speaker and the Majority and Minority Leaders meet and determine whether complaints of this nature merit further investigation. Depending on the answer, they then either appoint an ethics committee to investigate, dismiss the complaint or recommend sanctions.