Targeting Tipton

It’s clear that Democrats believe they have a shot at unseating freshman 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton in 2012, and they’re going after him with all the political ammunition they can muster.

Nothing unusual there. Our political system is not for those with thin skins and Tipton knew it when he entered the political fray.

Even so, we believe some of the recent criticism of Tipton, by Democratic officials and others, is more than a little off-target.

Most recent is the attack on the congressman for the actions of his 22-year-old daughter.

Elizabeth Tipton is employed by Broadnet, a Colorado-based company that includes among its services, setting up telephone town hall meetings between elected officials and their constituents. Tipton’s nephew is CEO of the company. Recently, Elizabeth Tipton wrote letters to members of Congress, identifying herself as Scott Tipton’s daughter while soliciting business for Broadnet.

Late last week, before Elizabeth’s actions became widely known, Scott Tipton sent a letter to the House Ethics Committee, apologizing for his daughter’s sales pitch.

“I believe it to be an improper use of my name and I would like to apologize and assure you that it won’t happen again,” he said in a letter to the chairman of the committee.

That’s a stand-up response to an unfortunate incident. Tipton didn’t try to hide it or wish it away. He addressed it forthrightly.

Even so, the liberal group Colorado Ethics Watch raised questions about the possibility that Tipton and his family were trying to use his office for personal gain.

The chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party Rick Palacio wasn’t so blunt with his accusations. But he did say Tipton needs to take control of his congressional office “and start acting like a congressman.”

We’re not sure what that means, since there are plenty of examples of ethically challenged congressmen from both political parties. But dealing with a problem quickly and responsibly — especially when it involves a member of one’s own family — is the sort of behavior we should all value in a congressman.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, people are furious with Tipton for refusing to sign a letter in support of a $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

Tipton’s reasoning was that the grant included unnecessary extras — such as $15,000 to install WiFi service on buses — and that it didn’t allow for any potential cuts if savings could be found.

One can certainly debate whether Tipton’s action was the best from a policy perspective. And refusing support for a significant local grant for an important regional service won’t win Tipton lots of votes in that valley.

But no one can accuse Tipton of abandoning his principles on this issue. As a candidate last year, Tipton made absolutely clear he would look for federal budget savings wherever he could find them. He even made it clear that projects in the 3rd District would face the same budget scrutiny.

We have disagreed with Tipton on a number of issues during his first few months in office. But he has demonstrated integrity and principle on these two issues — perhaps to the detriment of his political future and his family harmony.

He deserves credit for doing so.


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