Third District Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton unseated Democrat John Salazar in last year’s Tea Party-fueled Republican wave election, where voters sought to shake up business-as-usual in Washington. The brother of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, John Salazar is a long-time government employee who served in the state House before heading to Washington for three terms. He was a ripe target in 2010. Tipton was no political innocent, however, and now just months into his term he has admitted to the House Ethics Committee that his daughter has been using his office to promote the tele-townhall company where she’s employed.
Elizabeth Tipton has been contacting congressional offices and introducing herself as the congressman’s daughter, to arrange appointments for Broadnet, the tele-townhall services company she began working for in January 2011.
In a letter drafted to the ethics committee, Tipton said, “In the course of Elizabeth’s duties she mentioned to several House offices that she is my daughter. This reference was made casually in introductory emails purely as a point of reference to both Republican and Democratic offices.”
The letter goes on to say that Tipton has consulted his “staff and the House Ethics Rules and I do not believe this to be a violation of any ethics rule. However, I believe it to be an improper use of my name and I would like to apologize and assure you that it will not happen again. If there are any other measures that must be taken in this regard please let me know and I will be happy to do so.”
While such contacts are not barred by House ethics rules, legal experts described them as: “unseemly” –creating an appearance of impropriety that lawmakers should try to avoid.
The ethics charge itself seems fairly minor, at least as far as Capitol Hill scandals go (See: John Ensign). Yet the details of the charge underline an establishment attitude that views government as an all-in-the-family cash cow that trades almost entirely on access. As Tea Partiers might say, it’s not a government of the people, it’s a government of insiders looking to tap resources and line their pockets for as long as they can stay in office.
Tipton, a lackluster campaigner who may have given uninitiated voters the impression he was an amateur last year, has in fact long been a “party hack.”
He was Colorado Republican Party Chairman for ten years, ending in 2008. He was Montezuma County GOP Chairman and served as the Republican Chairman of the Third Congressional District. He was also a member of the Colorado House and served on the campaigns of Republicans Scott McInnis, Ben Campbell, Bill Owens and George Bush.
Edit note: Thanks to our close anonymous readers at Colorado Peak Politics for pointing out Tipton was never GOP state chair.