Steamboat Springs talk radio hosts Cari Hermacinski and Rob Douglas were clearly unsatisfied with answers Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton provided on their show this morning in response to questions about potential ethics violations committed when Tipton’s daughter used his name to solicit business on Capitol Hill as part of her “government relations” job with tele-townhall firm Broadnet. The hosts probed and Tipton parried. Afterward, Hermacinski and Douglas lamented that the congressman seemed intent to fudge on the issue. They said his reaction to the story was evasive, that he gave the kind of parsing non-answers Americans have grown accustomed to hearing from politicians in trouble.
“I find his answers even more Clintonian now than in April,” said Douglas, referring to President Bill Clinton who famously dodged questions about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky with lawyerly half-answers.
Hermacinski told listeners that Tipton’s unsatisfying responses underlined the disconnect between politicians in Washington and the voters in what she called “checkbook America.”
The “Cari and Rob Show” was the first outlet to ask Tipton about his daughter’s job. Supporters of the Tea Party-era conservative “liberty movement,” which seeks to limit government waste and reform a corrupted political culture, Hermacinski and Douglas in April wanted to know whether Tipton was using his office to unethically advance his daughter Elizabeth’s career.
Tipton said his daughter had “done an internship” with Broadnet in 2010 and had “done a good job” and so was offered a position in Washington. Broadnet is a “private company… [that] does not work for the government,” he said.
Tipton never mentioned that Broadnet is headed by his nephew, Steve Patterson, and that it provides more than 100 congressional offices with tele-townhall services through companies such as iConstituent, DCS and Zata|3.
That information came out when Tipton last Thursday sent a letter to the House ethics committee about “improper” emails his daughter sent using his name to solicit business for Broadnet.
The news prompted Hermacinski and Douglas to ask Tipton to appear today on their radio show to explain. They wanted to know if he thought he was being forthright with their listeners in April.
Tipton said they had “broadsided” him with their questions back then. He said the issue of family connections never crossed his mind.
“There’s no there there in this story,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that I should have to point out every family relationship,” he said. “I have another nephew starting a landscaping business. Should I mention that?”
“Will [that nephew] be doing landscaping for Congress?” asked Hermacinski.
“I dunno,” said Tipton.
He insisted that Broadnet does not do business with the government because the vendor companies provide a crucial buffer. If that is true, however, he failed to explain why his daughter would be directly soliciting business from lawmaker offices for Broadnet.
Hermacinski pointed out that, even if one-step removed, Broadnet is being paid with tax money, that it is doing booming business in Washington and that that fact will be clear to listeners.
Government watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch said it was looking into the story.
“While it is not clear whether Representative Tipton violated any specific ethics rules, these actions put into question whether Rep. Tipton or his family are using his elected office for personal gain rather than to serve the interests of his constituency,” said Director Luis Toro in a press release. “Ethics Watch will be taking a close look at this situation, focusing specifically on when Rep. Tipton was first aware that this was happening.”
Tipton spokesperson Josh Green last week dismissed the escalating story as the work of Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi. He said that Pelosi had sent out her “lap dogs” to sell the story to the media in order to soften Tipton for what is sure to be a close race in the swing district against now-declared candidate Sal Pace, state House minority leader.
“What evidence do you have that Pelosi sent her ‘lap dogs’ to spread this story?” the hosts asked Tipton.
“It’s an assumption,” he said.
Listen to an excerpt from the April interview with Tipton here.