DENVER – A congressional ethics investigation into Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, will move forward after a board unanimously found there was “substantial reason” to believe he misused official resources and solicited or accepted improper gifts from his staff members.
The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics voted 6-0 to recommend the full U.S. House Office of Congressional Ethics review the allegations from former and current staffers of Lamborn’s that they were asked to buy gifts for Lamborn and his wife during the holidays and to run errands for and help Lamborn’s wife and son with various tasks, including helping his son apply for a job at the Pentagon.
The report and recommendation from the board was released Monday but the vote by the board occurred last October.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” Committee on Ethics Chairman Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Ranking Member Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, said in a statement.
The ethics investigation got underway last year after Brandon Pope, a former defense and military adviser for Lamborn, filed a federal lawsuit claiming he and other staffers were asked to perform personal tasks for the Lamborn family and that the office fired him for calling for more COVID-19 protections – allegations which Lamborn’s office denied at the time. That lawsuit is still pending resolution in the U.S. District Court of Colorado.
The Denver Post also obtained emails detailing some of the allegations.
The Office of Congressional Ethics interviewed two former staffers, three current staffers, and Rep. Lamborn himself in the investigation, though Lamborn later refused to cooperate with sending documents to the investigators, according to the report. Four others, including Lamborn’s chief of staff, Dale Anderson, refused to cooperate, according to the report.
“While several relevant witnesses refused to interview, and Rep. Lamborn refused to provide relevant documents requested as part of this interview, the OCE uncovered evidence showing a pattern and practice in Rep. Lamborn’s office of official staff conducting personal and campaign-related tasks for Rep. Lamborn, his wife, and other family members during official work hours, and using official resources,” the board’s report states regarding one part of the allegations.
Cassandra Sebastian, a spokesperson for Lamborn’s office pointed Denver7 to Lamborn’s response letter from December and said Lamborn was “confident” in the full committee’s approach, though she called the Office of Congressional Ethics “overzealous.”
“Our office has demonstrated to the OCE in our rebuttal that these false and unfounded allegations have no merit. It is extremely disappointing that two disgruntled former staffers have weaponized the ethics process for political and personal purposes,” Sebastian said.
She added that Lamborn intended to cooperate with the ethics committee and that he is certain the OCE’s referral would be dismissed.
The board’s report found that Jeanie Lamborn, Rep. Lamborn’s wife, “had a role in the office that exceeded what is permissible for spouses” and that current and former staffers told investigators she was involved in personnel decisions within the office.
Additionally, according to the board’s report, she also had staffers run “unofficial errands” for her, including some involving campaign-related matters, pick up mail, and help her set up Zoom meetings. The report says former staffers felt they were required to comply with those requests.
One former staffer said Anderson, the chief of staff, and Jeanie Lamborn would say, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”
Some of the current staffers said they volunteered their time to help Jeanie Lamborn on the tasks, though the former staffers contended they often felt forced to comply with the requests. The report also found contradictions between what some of the current staffers said and what the former staffers reported.
When he was interviewed by investigators, according to the report, Lamborn said he did not believe he or his wife would “knowingly” violate ethics rules surrounding personal tasks.
But the board’s report says staff had to help plan a naturalization ceremony for Lamborn’s daughter in law and were made to help Lamborn’s son find and prepare for jobs in Washington, D.C. – something most current and staffers who were interviewed said was not typical when it came to other 5th Congressional District constituents.
“The alleged use of official staff time and resources to perform personal services and campaign work, regardless of whether it was voluntary or not, could constitute misuse of official resources,” the report states. “Additionally, the receipt of personal services from staff may have value and therefore also may violate the House gift rule. Finally, utilizing staff to facilitate a job placement for Rep. Lamborn’s son implicates a misuse of staff resources, and potentially amounts to a special favor that would not have been provided to similarly situated constituents.”
The report also says that some staff felt expected to give the Lamborns gifts valued between $125 and $200 and did not receive similar gifts in return.
Lamborn’s rebuttal letter to Deutch and Walorski pointed to Pope’s lawsuit as reason for the investigation in the first place, and it said, again, that he had been fired for cause.
“Without the bias on the part of OCE against the Congressman, as well as their lack of skepticism toward two obviously biased witnesses, OCE would not have reached the conclusions it did,” the letter said.
State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, who is running against the eight-term Lamborn in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District, said in a statement Monday Lamborn should resign.
The board recommended to the ethics committee that it issue subpoenas to Lamborn, Anderson and three other staffers who did not cooperate with the OCE investigation.