By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
A local political watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, concerning travel expenses that may have been reimbursed twice, once by his campaign and once by the state.
“We will cooperate fully with the ethics commission in getting them the information needed to straighten this out,” said King. “I will defend myself to the best of my ability and I think that the documentation that we have provided and will provide is a fair and accurate representation of my expenses.”
The Denver-based, non-profit Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint on Jan. 13 with Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, after receiving a tip from the Junction Dailyblog.
Luis Toro, director of Ethics Watch, said King was potentially “double dipping” — that is, charging his campaign fund and state for the same expense. Toro said state legislators may request mileage reimbursements from the state, but they must confirm that they did not receive reimbursement for the same expense elsewhere.
According to Colorado Ethics Watch, King’s campaign finance reports show his campaign reimbursed him $1,408.33 for expenses including gasoline, vehicle repair and vehicle rental. The same report shows that King requested and received $5,018.60 in gas and rental car expenses from the state for expenses paid during the same time period.
King said he believes the charges are politically motivated. King is running for state Senate this year for a seat being vacated by Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction.
“My feeling is that the timing is certainly questionable,” said King. “I’m confident at the end of the day that this will be looked at as just a partisan attempt to assassinate my character.”
Toro said that King’s response is disappointing.
“It tells us nothing about the underlying facts which are the subject of the complaint,” said Toro. “I would have been a lot happier if he had said something like, ‘this isn’t true.’”
According to Toro, Colorado Ethics Watch reviewed the finance reports of all 100 legislators, and only had issue with one. He said his organization has no intention to assassinate King’s character.
Toro said that there could be an innocent explanation to the charges. He said if King actually used two cars, then it is perfectly legal to charge one car’s expense to the state and the other to his campaign.
However, according to Toro, the campaign finance report said King’s personal vehicle was in the shop during the time period, suggesting King did not use two cars.
According to a press release from Colorado Ethics Watch, under the Rules of the Colorado House of Representatives, the speaker and the Majority and Minority Leaders must determine if the ethics complaint warrants an investigation. If they conclude it does, an ethics committee will be appointed to investigate. The committee may dismiss the complaint or recommend sanctions to the House.
Legally Speaker Carroll cannot comment on an ethics investigation and House Democrat Communications Director, Katie Reinisch, could not confirm or deny that investigations have begun, but “House Ethics Committee” has been posted on the House calendar for Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 8 a.m.
When talking to The Colorado Statesman, King implied that an ethics committee has begun looking into the matter.
“We are collecting all the documents that the ethics commission has asked for,” said King.
Anthony Bowe contributed to this story.