Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blaha: Lamborn throws local business under the bus

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Robert Blaha, candidate for 5th Congressional District, El Paso County Republican
  • Robert Blaha

As we detailed in our story today, political campaigns aren't typically bastions of truth or fidelity.

And today, Robert Blaha, the Republican businessman who is hoping to oust U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn from office in the 5th Congressional District, has gone to the media to defend himself against the numerous attacks made by Lamborn against his character and business history.

You can see these attacks on Lamborn's website, theblaharecord.com.

Blaha's website, therealrobertblaha.com, contains much of the information that he presented to the Indy, as well as other media outlets.

Let's start with a the Lamborn claim that Integrity Bank & Trust, the bank co-founded by Blaha, has been fined by the FDIC and and "ranked among the worst in the region."

As we have noted, that claim has largely been debunked by the Denver Post:

The data they [the Lamborn campaign] are citing are from the unofficial commercial rating site, BankRate.com, and reference a 2010 rating. Lamborn’s anti-Blaha website claims, Integrity Bank & Trust, is currently ranked with a 2-star, but when you click on the link, it actually has a 3-star rating, which is defined as having “a generally satisfactory financial condition.” Either way, it is important to note that this site is not from an official regulatory agency.

As for the FDIC claim, [Blaha campaign manager Tamra] Farah said it was an isolated incident by one bank employee.

“There was a civil penalty for not completing one form completely, and I don’t want to diminish that, but it is a clerical error and is fairly routine,” Farah said.

Blaha points out that, in attempting to injure his reputation, Lamborn is also attacking the reputation of a constituent-owned bank in his own district — a bank that Blaha argues is doing quite well.

"This is an attack on a local bank that is locally owned," he says. "You have a sitting congressman attacking his constituents in an attempt to get re-elected."

This "attack" didn't sit well with the bank's president, Jim Wyss, who earlier this month wrote a press release stating:

Because of these choices, not only is our bank not one of the “worst banks in the region” as Congressman Lamborn wrongly asserts, we are growing in customer base, capital holdings and in the number of Coloradoans we employ. Bank regulators have repeated acknowledged our progress during these tough times and commended our board involvement. For our own Congressman to suggest otherwise is both unexpected and unfair.

In the course of a political campaign, we know that tough statements will be made from both sides. But we at Integrity Bank & Trust would hope that the candidates would themselves show some integrity and not unfairly target small businesses in the community for their own short-term political gain.

Days later, on May 18, the law firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker sent a letter to Lamborn, on behalf of the bank, demanding that the congressman pull all ads that make claims about its client.

"We understand you have claimed that Integrity Bank 'is currently rated below average by the widely cited BankRate.com,'" the letter reads. "This assertion about Integrity Bank & Trust is simply false."

True; the assertion is false. The bank is rated by this private rating firm with a three-star "performing" ranking.

The letter continues by demanding that the false information be taken down from Lamborn's website, as "its continuing appearance there poses a threat to the public's sense of confidence in the bank."

And just for some added incentive, the letter points to a Sec. 11-102-508 of Colorado Revised Statute, which makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to make false and damaging statements about a state bank (who knew?):


Any person who willfully makes, circulates, or transmits to another any false statement, written or oral, that is directly or by inference derogatory to the financial condition of any state bank and that results in an extraordinary withdrawal of funds from such bank or that results in impairing public confidence in such bank and any person who shall counsel, aid, procure, or induce another to start, transmit, or circulate any such statement knowing the statement to be false commits a class 2 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S.

We'll look into more of the claims in this race as the week progresses.

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