In a Denver Post guest commentary last month, Rep. Mike Coffman pointed fingers at President Obama’s administration for mismanaging the Aurora VA Hospital project. Coffman tosses around accusations like “misconduct” and “corruption” to ascribe blame.
It’s hardly surprising that Coffman would try to spin this story. Anyone who has followed him over the years knows he’s desperate to get his name in the press at every opportunity. And, in this case, his blame-game is clearly his attempt to deflect failures that are largely his own.
Coffman has always campaigned as an “advocate” for our nation’s military veterans. Yet, as months of inaction about snafus at the VA hospital being built in his own district clearly show, his deeds don’t match his words.
Here are the facts:
Coffman announced his chairmanship of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs in January 2013. Public records obtained by ProgressNow Colorado show it wasn’t until ten months later that Coffman wrote the Veterans Administration an official letter as chairman to inquire about cost overruns.
Oversight Coffman-style apparently meant waiting nearly a year as oversight chairman to bother attempting any real oversight. Every month Coffman spent shirking his unique watchdog responsibilities not only cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, but also forced the veterans he professes to “advocate” for to wait even longer for a new hospital they sorely need and deserve.
Coffman was missing in action not just during his first four years in office, but also during his first ten months chairing the committee that’s supposed to be investigating precisely the kind of problems that have plagued the hospital project in his district.
Coffman’s record is shameful when it comes to Colorado’s all-too-overdue veterans hospital. Yet the VA debacle isn’t his only brush with mismanagement and wrongdoing. Coffman is the only Colorado public official ever to have been found guilty by the Colorado Supreme Court for breaking campaign finance laws — and misusing his taxpayer funded office — for political gain. Even after a judge first ruled against him, Coffman blamed the court and law instead of accepting responsibility for his actions. (Denver Post, 8/3/01) The Denver Post found that his abuse of office in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act was a “clear” misuse of government resources.
In a separate issue, an independent audit found that when Coffman was Secretary of State — overseeing elections in Colorado — he failed to properly supervise employees, including one who was running a side business selling voter files.
Taxpayers have the right to know who’s truly responsible for failed oversight at the Aurora VA Hospital project. Just as importantly, we need to hold accountable public officials, like Mike Coffman, who misuse our tax dollars to play politics.