King ethics probe to keep a narrow focus
DENVER — A special House Ethics Committee will keep a narrow focus on its review of Rep. Steve King’s alleged double-dipping of state-paid mileage reimbursement and the use of his own campaign money seemingly for the same purpose.
The committee, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, agreed Wednesday to keep its focus on that single issue because it was the core of a complaint against the Grand Junction Republican by Colorado Ethics Watch.
That group, which calls itself a nonpartisan watchdog of elected officials, reviewed documents King filed during the 2009 session for his campaign finances and legislative reimbursement.
The group’s head, Luis Toro, said it looked at all 100 state lawmakers, and only King’s filings — or $1,400 of it — raised red flags.
King, however, said the group is engaged in political assassination, trying to do what it can to stymie his bid to replace Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry to be Grand Junction’s next senator. Penry isn’t running for re-election.
In a letter to the ethics committee, King said he had taken money from his campaign account to pay for a rental car that he later recouped from the travel reimbursement he’s allowed to get from the state.
When that happened, he repaid the money — $1,025 — back to his campaign.
The two Republicans on the panel, Reps. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen and Mark Waller of Colorado Springs, said that explanation seemed good enough for them.
“I think he was short of funds, and he borrowed from his campaign account,” Gerou said.
“But then I think that it’s important to note he paid it back.”
The three Democrats on the panel questioned whether any of that mattered.
Rep. Jim Reisberg, D-Greeley, said campaign accounts aren’t meant for that purpose, adding all lawmakers are reimbursed per mile, not for gasoline or repair expenses.
“The rest of this information doesn’t have anything to do with anything,” he told the committee. “I get paid to get from Greeley to Denver and Denver back to Greeley.”
The panel is to meet again next week after it gathers more information about what reimbursements are allowed and what were the specific reasons for the expenses.
It has until Feb. 18 to decide if there is enough evidence to conduct a formal hearing, which would include witnesses and evidence.