According to a new ethics report released Monday, life as a congressional staffer in the office of Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn is…quite strange.
For starters, Lamborn wants you, his office staffer, to give him Christmas presents—beer and food preferred—with a value between $125 and $200.
Also, Congressman Lamborn would like you to throw his daughter-in-law a party to celebrate her naturalization ceremony. While such a party could happen for another constituent, according to this report, the office never seems to have held one for anyone else. “None that I can think of,” as one staffer put it.
Meanwhile, Lamborn’s son could also use your help polishing his résumé for a Pentagon job and running a few mock interviews. But Lamborn, the report says, believes his staff would do this kind of prep work for any constituent who’s a veteran—even though one aide said he’d done “nothing like that” before.
And then there’s Mrs. Lamborn.
Apparently she routinely stays overnight with the Congressman in the office, and she has the power to hire, promote, and, yes, fire you.
She may also need you to pick up her mail, set up Zooms with her daughter, move furniture at her home, and possibly violate federal campaign laws. Of course, they assume you are doing all this work voluntarily, even if you’re on taxpayer time and fear losing your job.
Those are just a handful of the bizarre and serious allegations against Lamborn revealed in an Office of Congressional Ethics report released Monday.
The report shows that the OCE, in a 6-0 vote in October, found “substantial reason to believe” that the eight-term congressman violated multiple House ethics rules, as well as federal law, and recommended that the House Ethics Committee open an investigation.
Drawing from documents and interviews with three former and two current Lamborn staffers, the OCE probe—prompted by an employment lawsuit that a 66-year-old former staffer filed against Lamborn last May—found that the small-government Republican appears to have misused official resources in a variety of ways. Those include that naturalization party for his daughter-in-law, helping his son get a job, and carrying out personal favors for his wife, Jeanie.
Some of Jeanie Lamborn’s errands also appear to have violated laws barring the use of government resources for political activity.
One former staffer told investigators that Lamborn’s wife “dictated” favors, including “personal errands, mailing stuff,” and “campaign things.”
“I ran their petition process in 2020, and then there was sporadic campaign things that I was told to take lunch to do, and then mostly it was staff that did personal things,” the witness said.
In defense of the multiple allegations against his wife, Rep. Lamborn said she “would not do that because that’s not really allowed under the congressional rules of -- of ethics and she wouldn’t want to run afoul of that.” He went on to admit she had summoned an employee to move furniture “on at least one or maybe per -- perhaps two occasions,” a claim investigators immediately challenged as low-balling it.
The report notes that Rep. Lamborn also acknowledged that his wife was “deeply involved in all personnel aspects” at the office, “including but not limited to hiring, firing, and promotions.”
These personal favors also allegedly took place during official work hours—a likely ethics violation, according to the report. Jeanie Lamborn also received daily work reports from staffers to her own official spouse email account, which is allowed but not exactly common. But don’t expect staffers to document doing Jeanie Lamborn’s errands in their daily work reports—as one staffer explained it, “...it was a personal activity...that is not something that I would report as part of my daily activities.”
Kedric Payne, senior director of ethics at bipartisan watchdog Campaign Legal Center, said the entire ethics report presents evidence of “a serious violation.”
“Members know that the law bans the use of taxpayer dollars for personal use and campaign activity. This is evidence of a serious violation when House staffers are directed to run personal errands and do campaign work on government time,” Payne said. “Voters have a right to know that their elected officials are not using government staff to advantage themselves or their political campaigns.”
Lamborn—who just 12 days after the OCE vote boasted about winning the “Tax Fighter Award”—claimed to investigators that any political work was purely voluntary, as the law allows. But two former staffers disputed that claim, with one saying he was fired for not complying with the requests. As Lamborn’s chief of staff, Dale Anderson, allegedly put it, “If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.”
The OCE also found “substantial reason to believe” that Lamborn solicited or accepted gifts from his office staff—another possible violation of ethics rules, as well as federal law, according to the findings.
Two former staffers told investigators that they felt “compelled” to personally pay for gifts for the congressman and his wife, including for birthdays and Christmas. The pressure, they said, did not come directly from the Lamborns but from Anderson, the chief of staff.
When one of the witnesses declined to participate, Anderson told him that “people have been fired for less,” according to the report.
It is against the law for an official to “accept a gift from an employee receiving less pay than himself.” And Anderson’s overtures were so strong and frequent that the OCE found that the Capitol Hill veteran’s failure to put a stop to his top aide’s behavior may make the congressman himself “responsible for solicitation of gifts in violation of federal law.”
And those gifts came with expectations.
According to the accounts, Anderson “instructed each office to provide gifts valued between $125 and $200 for the Lamborns,” preferably “related to beer and food,” the report says.
“I would tell Dale Anderson what we were getting to make sure that it was his approval and also the dollar amount was high enough, and that the congressman and Mrs. Lamborn would be okay with it,” one witness told investigators.
Lamborn has made it no secret that he really, really loves Christmas.
In 2015, he introduced a bill that would have officially declared the importance of the holiday—“expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas.”
In a statement accompanying the bill, Lamborn described Christmas as “a wonderful time of year,” when “a majority of Americans take time to remember the humble birth of Jesus Christ on a holy night.”
“The message of Christmas is one of love, hope, and peace,” the statement said, going on to cite a “troubling effort by some in America” to erase “any and all Christmas celebrations and traditions from the public arena.”
But the Lamborns did not give as they gave, the report shows.
While Lamborn told the OCE in an interview that “we will kind of do the same for our staff,” investigators “did not find any evidence that staffers received the same type of gifts.”
Christmas wasn’t the only unethical celebration cited in the report. The naturalization celebration for his daughter-in-law in the Colorado Springs district office also seems to have run afoul of the law.
When one witness asked Anderson “how am I going to get compensated” for such an event, citing what she had learned from “the ethics classes and everything.” In response, she said, “Dale Anderson just laughed.”
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for Lamborn’s office provided The Daily Beast with a 330-word statement calling the findings “false and unfounded,” and blasting the “overzealous” OCE and two “disgruntled former staffers” who were “obviously biased witnesses.” The spokesperson also cited a rebuttal letter Lamborn’s attorneys sent the Ethics Committee last month.
“Congressman Lamborn intends to cooperate fully with the bi-partisan House Committee on Ethics, just as he did with all reasonable requests of the OCE. He remains certain the committee will ultimately reach the appropriate decision by dismissing the OCE’s referral and he expects to be fully exonerated,” the statement said.
To be fair, the OCE also acknowledges there may have been witness bias. After assessing “the credibility of every witness,” the report says, investigators found “several inconsistencies” in testimony. However, that was in testimony favorable to Lamborn.
And while the statement said Lamborn cooperated “fully” with the OCE inquiry, the report makes it clear in numerous places that Lamborn refused to fulfill requests, “and therefore did not cooperate with this review.”
Finally, it’s unclear how Lamborn is paying for those lawyers.
Elected officials are permitted to tap campaign funds for legal services relating to their government duties, including for ethics investigations. But, according to federal filings, the Lamborn campaign has paid no fees for legal work of any kind—since 2019.