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The white-hot summer

It used to be that summer brought us, among other things, a blissful break from all things political.

It was an unwritten understanding: Before Labor Day, fun in the sun. After Labor Day, gloves are off. It gave us hacks a chance to rest up, and the politicians a chance to stockpile war chests while getting tanned, rested and ready for sport.

Thanks to CNN, the Internet and the 24/7 news cycle, those days are gone. Just last week, we witnessed the spectacular collapse of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the latest casualty of a freaky sex scandal.

And what an interesting public educational experience that was. Before last week, for example, most of us were pretty clueless about the nuances of gay sex in public bathrooms the in-between-the-crack-of-the-stall eye contact, the foot-tapping, the under-the-stall hand-waving, the "it's better if you show your wedding ring" details. Yes, it was downright mesmerizing.

Especially when considering the context: a 62-year-old, three-term conservative Republican senator, reduced to calling a press conference and defiantly informing the country, "I am not gay. I never have been gay."

Righto, Senator. As of press time, Craig was waffling on his previously announced "intent to resign." Stay tuned on that one.

Closer to home, there was U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's latest ignominy, this one highlighted by his threatening a Colorado Springs couple whom he accused of "lying" in a letter to the editor in a local paper.

One problem: Jonathan and Anna Bartha didn't appear to be lying when they wrote that Lamborn accepted money from the gambling industry.

Federal Election Commission reports show that, in January, Lamborn received a $1,000 contribution from a political-action committee called International Game Technology, which manufactures gambling machines.

In addition, FEC records show that last summer, Lamborn accepted a $500 contribution from Marc Murphy, general manager of Bronco Billy's Casino in Cripple Creek. Lamborn was even quoted in the Gazette, explaining his decision to accept Murphy's $500; at a forum at Focus on the Family, Lamborn reportedly said he and Murphy both oppose further gambling in Colorado.

FEC records require that contributions that are returned be identified as such. Lamborn's campaign has listed no such returned checks. So, it's not a far stretch for the Barthas to have deduced that Lamborn did not return them.

The Barthas, who obviously don't think much of gambling, also didn't approve of the congressman's recent vote against stiffening the federal penalties for dogfighting. (Lamborn was one of just 39 congressmen who voted against the federal Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act.)

So the Barthas wrote a letter criticizing him to the editor of the weekly Woodmen Edition. After it appeared, they received two answering-machine messages from Lamborn, who said he wanted to get together with them as "a brother and sister in Christ" and warned of "consequences" if they refused.

Lamborn then sent a letter to county GOP Chairman Greg Garcia, demanding an investigation and insisting that his Republican opponent, Jeff Crank, "denounce" the Barthas' statements. (Anna Bartha, a Falcon District 49 school board member, is a past and presumably current Crank supporter.)

"A simple review of my FEC filing shows that I have NEVER accepted a contribution from [IGT], or any similar company," Lamborn wrote. "In fact, my opposition to gambling is well known throughout my legislative career. I was the one who sued the State of Colorado when Powerball was first introduced in an attempt to stop it. To try to say otherwise about my record is a misrepresentation, especially by using a falsehood that says I accepted a contribution I never did."

Through it all, Lamborn's campaign manager, Jon Hotaling, has not returned messages seeking clarity about the status of the contributions.

To top it off, Lamborn's congressional communications director, Chris Harvin, recently departed after eight months on the job. Nothing personal, Harvin says. He was offered a high-paying position in the private sector.

"This is," says Harvin, "the chance of a lifetime."

Can't blame him, really. Not when the option is dogfighting, gambling and a white-hot primary fight in 2008. All before Labor Day 2007. degette@csindy.com

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