Now that Doug Lamborn is ensconced in the U.S. House of Representatives for another two years, we learn the Republican from Colorado Springs has used his campaign war chest to reimburse himself and his wife for thousands of dollars in expenses and consulting work.
The payments range from mileage to campaign services to interest on a loan that Lamborn originally told regulators was interest-free, a violation of campaign finance regulations.
Lamborn's campaign spokesman, Jarred Rego, who doubles as Lamborn's congressional spokesman, says via email that his boss did nothing wrong. "The Congressman ran a successful reelection campaign that complied with all [Federal Election Commission] rules and regulations," he says.
Lamborn raised $590,021 for this 2014 campaign, 55 percent of which came from political action committees. He spent $463,059. A payment of $2,772, made to himself, is the one in question.
The payment was for interest on a $100,000 unsecured loan that Lamborn made from his personal funds to his campaign. He received the $2,772 payment on Nov. 24, according to a campaign finance report filed Dec. 4.
But when he first reported the loan in a campaign finance report filed April 15, it was labeled interest-free. And according to the Federal Election Commission's Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees, "The candidate may loan personal funds to the committee and may charge interest at a commercially reasonable rate, provided the committee reports the loan and the interest rate from the outset" [emphasis added].
Moreover, the FEC has said in an "advisory opinion" regarding candidate loans that "a committee cannot retroactively pay accrued interest on a candidate loan when there was no prior formal note, loan agreement, or interest disclosed ... If no prior formal note or agreement exists, the candidate must refund the accrued interest payments."
After the Independent called attention to the interest payment and asked for a comment, Rego said, "The loan was always intended to be filed as an interest loan. Forthcoming amendments to the FEC report will reflect that clarification." Rego didn't indicate whether Lamborn plans to repay the interest money. If Lamborn keeps the money, it's unclear what, if any, fines he might face.
It's worth noting that Lamborn's re-election committee filings show he paid $11,131 for "compliance consulting" to Huckaby Davis Lisker, a Virginia-based political accounting firm that represents political action committees favoring Republican candidates. It's also worth noting that loans totaling $25,000 Lamborn made to his 2012 campaign were repaid without interest.
Other payments from Lamborn's campaign account include $3,545 for mileage reimbursement, which translates to nearly 6,330 miles using the federal reimbursement rate of 56 cents per mile. Most of that expense, $2,698, was claimed during 2014. That equates to about 4,817 miles, which would be the equivalent of about 51 trips from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista — roughly the east-to-west span of the Fifth Congressional District.
"The Congressman traveled extensively in support of his successful reelection and supporting other Republicans," Rego says in his email response to questions. He doesn't explain why Lamborn wasn't reimbursed for his mileage by those other Republican candidates' campaign committees, and he didn't respond to a follow-up question asking him to identify those candidates.
Another $13,946 went to Lamborn's wife, Jean Lamborn, for accounting services, bookkeeping, administrative consulting and campaign management. (His campaign paid her $33,297 in the 2012 campaign cycle for "salary" and administrative accounting, plus expenses.)
Says Rego, "Mrs. Lamborn is an experienced and knowledgeable member of Congressman Lamborn's successful campaign team. She is being compensated, as others were, for her outstanding work."
According to Lamborn's campaign finance filings, most of his fundraising events were not held in his district, and in fact were not even held within Colorado. While the campaign spent $1,713 for a fundraiser in the Springs, and another $3,003 in the Denver area, Lamborn's campaign paid $9,130 for campaign events inside the Beltway at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill.
In response to the Indy's question about that, Rego says Lamborn "appreciates the depth and breadth of support he received from across the nation in support of his successful reelection effort."
We also asked why Lamborn flies in and out of the Denver International Airport, while Colorado Springs Airport is struggling.
"The Congressman travels from DIA because there are simply more nonstop flights that accommodate his fluid and flexible Congressional schedule," Rego says. "In fact, there are currently no direct flights from Colorado Springs to any Washington area airports." Rego also notes that Lamborn has co-sponsored legislation that would allow the Springs Airport to apply for grants it's now ineligible to obtain ("Colorado Springs Airport could get a boost," News, Dec. 3).
Lastly, Lamborn was reimbursed by his campaign for $1,353 in "CODEL travel," a term for legislative travel by congressmen. Rego didn't explain this expense, though asked about it twice. The reimbursement went into Lamborn's pocket Nov. 5, the day after he thumped Democrat Irv Halter, a retired Air Force general, by a 60-40 margin.
Lamborn has received 25 letters of non-compliance from the FEC since his first 2006 congressional campaign for such things as failure to report last-minute campaign donations. Many of them have led to amended reports.
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