Office Of Congressional Ethics Finds None In Rep. Doug Lamborn's Congressional Office
Hey, do you want to pony up $125 to $200 to buy a Christmas present for your boss? Or maybe throw a party for the boss's daughter-in-law? Or help your boss's son get a job?
Okay, well, you're probably not going to cut it in Rep. Doug Lamborn's congressional office then. Maybe apply somewhere less filthy, perhaps some place where the boss didn't liken working with the Obama administration to "touching a tar baby."
Yesterday the Office of Congressional Ethics put out a wild report on the eight-term Colorado Republican, and it is not great. As first flagged by the Daily Beast's Roger Sollenberger, the OCE found what appear to be multiple ethics violations by the congressman, his wife, and his chief of staff.
The investigation was prompted by a lawsuit filed a by a former staffer who says he was fired for objecting to the congressman's refusal to adhere to any COVID protocols because “I don’t care about you guys getting it.” The complaint alleged that staff were routinely forced to help the congressman and his family with personal tasks, and also made bizarre claims about members of the Lamborn clan bunking down in the Capitol building.
The OCE report did not corroborate the claim that Lamborn's son slept in a basement storage area of the US Capitol for several weeks when he was looking for a job in DC. But it did find that Lamborn and his wife routinely slept in his office. Which must have been convenient, since Mrs. Lamborn was involved with every aspect of her husband's official, personal, and campaign business and appeared to have some trouble distinguishing between the three.
As the OCE put it, "Mrs. Lamborn had a role in the office that exceeded what is permissible for spouses."
Whether it was moving furniture, setting up Zoom calls, or handling the campaign mail, congressional staffers were expected to drop what they were doing and handle it immediately. She even had the nerve to joke "if mama ain't happy, nobody's happy."
Mrs. Lamborn’s significant involvement in Rep. Lamborn’s office led former staffers to feel that they were required to comply with her requests. A former staffer explained that Rep. Lamborn’s Chief of Staff, Dale Anderson, made it clear that “Mrs. Lamborn had precedence and that, if — no matter — there were certain things that we were doing that were — we needed all hands helping, and she would always overrule those situations still. So I just — I was told to understand that that was to be expected... He made it clear several times, where it caused a lot of stress and a lot of operational issues. He would explain that, and then Mrs. Lamborn would say, if mama ain't happy, nobody's happy. . . .” Mr. Anderson refused to cooperate with this review.
The Lamborns insist that the personal errands were "voluntary" and took place on the employees' lunch breaks. This allegation was belied by the daily newsletters they insisted employees send to the office manager documenting what they did on a given day. How's this for evidence of a guilty conscience?
In response to the OCE’s request, Rep. Lamborn initially provided a limited number of the daily reports. When it was clear that they also tracked unofficial activity conducted by staff during the workday, the OCE made an additional request for all the daily reports — in part to verify whether the quantity of “unofficial errands” that was discovered during the review of the limited production was an outlier. However, when the OCE requested these additional daily reports from Rep. Lamborn, he refused to provide them and therefore did not cooperate with this review.
Most hilarious were the required spontaneous gifts at holidays. Here's how Lamborn described it in his interview with OCE counsel:
COUNSEL: Do you ever receive any gifts from staffers from either office for any special occasions?
LAMBORN: Yes. It's been fairly regular, not uniform though, to be — to receive a surprise Christmas present. And we will kind of do the same for our staff. And we might even have a Christmas party. And I — I accept that — I do accept that because I know it's allowed under the rules -- ethical rules. And on many of my birthdays, not all of them, but on many of them, there will be a similar surprise present. I don't insist on it. It's certainly not a requirement of anyone's employment. And my understanding from the — either the chief of staff or district director or whoever might be putting that together and I'll — I'll ask after the fact because I'm not looking for something like this ahead of time. I'll say hoping no one felt any pressure to make that five or $10 contribution or whatever it might've been. And it's always been clear to me that there's no pressure, it's optional and that's made — always made very clear.
Leave aside the inherent contradiction in a "surprise" that is "fairly regular." As OCE points out, under 5 U.S.C. § 7351(a), “An employee may not—(1) solicit a contribution from another employee for a gift to an official superior; (2) make a donation as a gift or give a gift to an official superior; or (3) accept a gift from an employee receiving less pay than himself.”
Nonetheless, witnesses report that Lamborn’s chief of staff, Dale Anderson, who refused to cooperate with the inquiry, "instructed each office to provide gifts valued between $125 and $200 for the Lamborns, and also told them it was preferable to give gifts related to beer and food." So much for that "five or $10 contribution."
As for the "no one felt any pressure" part, one witness refused to pay up, only to be told that staffers had been "fired for less."
Staff were also conscripted to throw a naturalization party for Lamborn's daughter-in-law when she attained citizenship and help Lamborn's son with his job search, including resume help and conducting a mock interview. The Lamborns describe this as normal constituent services, despite witness statements that they didn't usually throw parties for constituents or comb the Federal Register for job openings.
The report recommends that the Ethics Committee come back with a subpoena "because there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Lamborn solicited or accepted improper gifts from subordinates." In short, he's no Duncan Hunter, but this guy is pretty gross.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.