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November 10, 2017 12:26 PM UTC

BREAKING: Sexual Misconduct Scandal In Colorado's Capitol

  • by: Colorado Pols

SUNDAY UPDATE: Via the Denver Post’s Danika Worthington:

“I have come to realize that it does not matter that, at the time, I may have perceived my words as playful,” he wrote. “It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt that we were flirting. It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt what I said was OK. It does not matter that I may not remember the exact words which were hurtful. It does not matter that, at the time, I thought we were joking.”

“The only thing that matters is how I made these three women feel,” he continued. “I am sorry.”

Later in the day, the women — Winter, former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner — released a joint statement to The Post that said, while they appreciate Lebsock’s new apology, they believe he has still not taken full responsibility for his actions.


Rep. Steve Lebsock (D).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks a story today that could very well mean the end of one Democratic state lawmaker’s career–and rips the scab off a widespread problem that has been long-whispered of in the halls of the Colorado state capitol building, coming to light only now as the cultural upheaval over the treatment of women by men in positions of power goes on throughout our nation.

Let us begin with one unequivocal declaration: of zero tolerance.

Nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists are alleging that Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, harassed, intimidated or made unwanted sexual advances against them. And in response to our reporting, a top Democratic leader is calling on Lebsock to “do the right thing and resign.”

Rep. Faith Winter said Lebsock tried to get her to leave a bar with him in 2016. Both were attending a party to celebrate the end of the legislative session. Lawmakers, lobbyists, staff, the governor and members of the media attended the event a few blocks from the Capitol Building…

Winter, a Democrat, said she repeatedly refused Lebsock’s advances, but he wouldn’t stop and instead got angrier and more aggressive. She said he was standing over her and grabbing her elbow and she didn’t feel safe.

Many others in the Capitol are corroborating Rep. Faith Winter’s story of repeated harassment from Rep. Steve Lebsock, who is now a candidate for state treasurer. And apparently it wasn’t just Rep. Winter, with at least one lobbyist describing inappropriate behavior on Rep. Lebsock’s part toward herself personally. The story also refers to but does not describe still another more recent incident.

Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran is calling for Rep. Lebsock’s resignation following the publication of these allegations today, as the Denver Post’s John Frank reports today:

The statement issued Friday by Duran, a Democrat, read: “I would expect that Representative Lebsock would consider the impact of his actions on his colleagues and the public confidence in our institution, and do the right thing and resign. There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature.”

And despite the feigning of ignorance about the story from Rep. Lebsock when confronted by Bente Birkeland, we do expect that he will be taking her advice very soon. This is not a politically survivable situation. But as Birkeland’s story continues, Lebsock is not likely to be the last to face hard questions for his conduct under the Gold Dome:

Beyond Rep. Steve Lebsock, there are other complaints about a handful of male senators touching women’s lower backs, giving lingering hugs, making uncomfortable and unwanted comments about appearances, massaging necks, telling off-color jokes of a sexual nature and showing pornographic pictures.

Several female lobbyists said they try to avoid being alone with certain senators and go to offices in pairs or ask a male colleague to talk to them instead. None were willing to be named for this story, saying they feared going public would hurt their work at the legislature.

Another said, “It’s a well known fact across the building that people like Rep. Lebsock and a number of Senate Republicans have all behaved in a way that would never be accepted in any other conventional workplace. It crosses party lines and has been happening for generations.” [Pols emphasis]

We of course have our suspicions about which Senate Republicans may be the type to commit sexual harassment in their workplace, but we’ll wait for that to come out through the many responsible channels now hard at work uncovering what appears to be a most distasteful culture of misconduct fostered by some of that chamber’s members. This isn’t the first time a case of sexual misconduct has rocked the Colorado General Assembly–in 2008, Rep. Michel Garcia was swiftly forced to resign after exposing himself to a lobbyist at a social function.

But what we’re talking about here is much more pervasive than anything that has been previously disclosed. We don’t have any way of knowing how many legislators may ultimately be implicated, or what the partisan breakdown of offending lawmakers might be.

What we will say is that sexual harassment in the workplace is never, ever acceptable, no matter what your politics are. To the extent this is a cultural problem in the Colorado General Assembly as it is everywhere, the time for allowing it to go on unreported and unpunished is over. Our society is becoming aware on a massive scale of something terrible that has been allowed to persist even as women fought for and won their rights to equality and dignity. From Harvey Weinstein to Steve Lebsock, it must stop.

It must stop. Every man who has ever treated a woman this way must stop.

It will never be okay again.


52 thoughts on “BREAKING: Sexual Misconduct Scandal In Colorado’s Capitol

  1. This is a teaching moment…..

    You notice that Crisanta Duran did not sit there for 45 seconds, nervously fidgeting like Mitch McConnell did yesterday while the cameras were running. You notice that Duran did not preface what she had to say with, "if the allegations turn out to be true YADDA YADDA YADDA." She said he's got to go.


    1. Amen to that. Rep. Duran's statement stands in rather  stark contrast to the overt child rape apologetics we're getting from stump-jumping GOP monsters in Alabama.

    1. If he’s not man enough to leave voluntarily, then the Democratic leadership needs to give him all they push they can — no endorsements, no fundraising assistance, removal from all committee assignments, censure, and public condemnation of his actions and his weak character for staying . . . 

  2. I noticed that instead of invoking the Mary and Joseph approach (like the supporters of Roy Moore did yesterday), Lesbock is pursuing the Kevin Spacey strategy (i.e., he doesn't remember doing what it's claimed he did, but if he did do it, the victim is owed "a sincerely apology"). 

    I've got to wonder how sincere an apology can be if the party extending the apology conditions it as a response to a hypothetical.

    1. At least Louis CK is expressing remorse.

      That's what is so weird about evangelical apologetics about Trump's Pussy Grabbing tape. How can you forgive somebody when they express no remorse.

      Do sociopaths get a Get Into Heaven Free pass because they don't believe they have done anything wrong?

  3. This makes me sick. I met Steve Lebsock at our NE Colorado Treasurer / Sec State forum, and I was impressed by his ideas and energy.

    You can see the video from the forum here and judge for yourself.

    So I understand the impulse not to want to believe the allegations about Steve Lebsock. But I believe the allegations.

    Nobody wants to come forward and sacrifice their own privacy, relive the humiliation of the incident, and risk their own reputations to accuse someone of sexual misconduct without damn good cause. I also know one of the women involved, and trust her word implicitly.

    And I know that twisted up knot of shame that victims of sexual groping, molesting, assault, harassment, etc,  endure…was it my fault? Was I dressing / acting provocatively? Will it happen again? Am I safe? Should I tell? Will they believe me? One in seven boys, one in three girls has been sexually harassed in some way. I've seen those scars and traumas acted out in my family members, in my friends, in my students, in myself.

    So sorry Steve, you'll have to deal with the consequences of your actions, which in this case means you'll have to resign your legislative post and forego running for Treasurer.

    I was going to write a diary about the Oct 28 forum praising you and Jena Griswold (running for Secretary of State). Well, there's still Jena. The other Democratic Treasurer candidate, Bernard Douthit, while not as dynamic or charismatic in manner as Lebsock, is more experienced with large and complex budgets.

        1. I had to edit my comment about Dave Young, after I got feedback from some Weld activists.

          Dave was one of the co-sponsors for HB17-1336 which would have established greater safeguards for forced pooled individuals, he was also a testifier for HB17-1256 which was the distance from schools, he is not as outspoken as say Rep. Foote or Sen. Jones but he is in there and he is far from oil and gas’s favorite, and is a consistent supporter of heightened regulations.

          He is a state rep from Greeley, the most heavily fracked area in the country. Greeley's corrupt city council has allowed drilling, well pads, basically unregulated and unlimited fracking and drilling anywhere in the city.

          The latest is a planned 24 well head site next to a low-income K-8 school, Bella Romero Academy. The contractor is Extraction (the same folks who paid for Vicki Marble's party). Extraction, by the way, does not even own the mineral rights. Greeley District 6 schools does. They have sold out their own students, because presumably funding is so hard to come by under TABOR.

          Dave, as a former middle school math teacher, should and does know better. He's aware of the effects of methane and other fracking pollutants on young lungs and brains.

          Yet Dave Young has never weighed in on any of the many debates about siting Extraction's 24 well heads at Bella Romero, which lies within his district 50.

          He has a score of 32% on AFP’s legislative scorecard, so at least he isn’t a 100% like Neville or Klingenschmitt or Marble. But on some crucial bills, like HB 1181 to make cities pay frackers for lost mineral rights, or HB1310 to make frackers responsible for earthquake damage, he simply didn’t vote. So he fails the political courage test, in my book.

          I asked Dave point blank at a rural forum in Brush, whether he believed that mineral rights are a higher value than health effects on surface dwellers. He hemmed and hawed and evaded the question.  Dave's donors are the usual Democratic donors – party leadership, unions and trade groups – but he sure seems unwilling to take a stand for kids against the oil and gas contractors that own Greeley.

          As treasurer, this reluctance to confront O&G interests might manifest in a reluctance to change the severance tax structure, or subsidies for fossil fuel extraction.

  4. Reminds me of a couple years ago when Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) publicly referred to Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-somewhere around Vail) as "eye candy." I think Sonnenberg did immediately apologize and was appropriately remorseful.

    1. Donovan, in Birkland's KUNC article, said

      "… the Capitol is the worst place she has ever worked in terms of sexual harassment.

      “I’ve experienced everything from a physical interaction that was not appropriate between professionals, to comments on my appearance that went far beyond what would be considered polite compliments," said Donovan, a Democrat. "I’ve experienced retribution for not going along with suggestive behavior.”

      After one comment about her clothes Donovan became self-conscious about what she should wear to work: "Would I be sending the wrong message? All of those classic things.”

      Donovan has never formally reported any of what she’s experienced.

      From what I've seen of Sonnenberg, appropriate remorse is not his go-to response.

  5. All of the present furor and indignation about sexual harrassment and abuse by men in position of authority and power is justified, and those who abuse their positions and are incapable of conducting themselves with respect towards others must be held accountable. Doesn't matter if they're a Democrat, Republican, movie mogul, or celebrity – it must stop.

    Several months ago Vice President Mike Pence was ridiculed (and by many on this blog) for his faith based behavior of never being alone in a room with a woman who was not his wife. I am not a religious person ( I'm pretty much an agnostic)  but I came to his defense on this blog because here was a man of faith who practices what he believes in and has a moral and ethical compass that guides him in his everyday affairs.

    I see a contrast between Pences' behavior and the seemingly never ending daily revelations of illicit, disrespectful, and clearly unacceptable behavior by those who have no moral compass, no self control, and obviously never learned how to act like a gentleman – that women are to be respected and protected, not objectified and abused.




    1. It limits his female associates' chances to climb the political ladder. If they can't be alone with the boss,  they can't be in on the big decisions, or be the VP's "right hand man". If Bill Clinton had taken similar precautions, we might now have had 8 years of President Gore instead of W Bush, and our planet would be in much better shape.

      But if Pence thinks that limiting his circle to “males only” will prevent sexual harassment, he needs to be introduced to Mark Foley or Dennis Hastert.

      Still, I understand the caution. Teachers these days are encouraged to not be alone in a room with a student, or to sit where they are visible from the door or a camera. When we hug a student, it's the sideways hug.  When every week brings a new revelation of abuse from someone in a position of trust over kids, we really can't be too careful. And again, it's a shame.


    2. As our esteemed Moderatus might note . . . 

      . . . not everything the Taliban does is evil!

      Pence is applying a fifth-century solution to an issue that could just as easily be solved in the twenty-first century with a modicum of respect and decency, and perhaps a small bit of self-control. (Although it is an admittedly better solution than grabbing at every woman of any age who moves, and then blaming her for the attack.)

    1. I don't think any of what Lebsock did warrants jailing. Of course, we don't know all the details, and maybe never will.

      Really, it's a fricking shame. Lebsock's a likeable guy, probably basically a good person, decent legislator with some accomplishments to his name.



        1. I don't dispute that what Lebsock did was wrong and that he is also wrong to be in denial about it. I think he needs to resign, both from his legislative post, and from running for Treasurer. Even if he were willing to fess up and apologize, as Louis CK has done, trust would have been broken, and his effectiveness as a legislator degraded. He needs to go, nice guy or not.

          I just don't feel a need to demonize him as well. He's probably an alcoholic – at least, many of the worst incidents seem to have happened "under the influence". That isn't an excuse, of course. Just a factor.

          The common thread in all these incidents is patriarchy – a system of thought, culture, religion, and law,  permeating almost every country and culture worldwide, in which women's bodies are seen as essentially "up for grabs" by men, and women's ideas, intellect, souls, are seen as inherently inferior. Research "it's the patriarchy stupid" for variations on this theme.


          1. You are more forgiving than I. 

            He's an otherwise nice guy, just having made commonly made mistakes in this part of his life, and probably with personal challenges.  Because if that's the standard – wow! – then the judge was right about Brock Turner, an otherwise good guy of accomplishment and potential who just got a little rapey one night. 

            Please, do try to tell me more about patriarchy, though. Especially the part which excuses men too stupid, weak, horny , famous, rich, powerful, etc to control themselves.

            And then can we talk about privilege?

            Remember – it's a beautiful fall weekend, so there's football everywhere in America. Football causes brain damage – the more you play, the more damage. Go Football!  

            1. Didn't say anything about forgiving or excusing. As a survivor of abuse, I can tell you that "forgiving" is not the same as "forgetting". Forgiving is what I do for myself. "Not forgetting" is what I do for the future. Keeping instances of sexist behavior in a political context of patriarchy is a hard won perspective from decades of existing on this planet in a female body.

              I wrote that I wanted Lebsock gone from the legislature and from the Treasurer's race.

              Please restrain yourself from ascribing thoughts or words to me that I have not written. If you don't get nuance, and need people to be black-and-white heroes or villains, just keep right on scrolling past my posts. The world is more complicated than you'll ever be comfortable with.

              Your anger at Lebsock's betrayal of his colleagues is justified, as is Duran's, Esgar's, and all of the other women in the legislature. My anger is mixed with sadness – he seemed like a good candidate to me. It’s disappointing… That doesn't make me evil or naive, or maybe in your eyes, it does. Don't know, don't care.

              It's the same sadness we all felt about Bill Clinton or Gary Hart's failure to keep their zippers up  in consensual affairs- which had global political consequences. Patriarchy comes into play when power is used to coerce sex – when it's non-consensual. Lebsock's transgressions belong in that non-consensual group.

              If you want to know more about patriarchy, research it yourself. It isn't my responsibility to educate you.

              1. "…don't feel a need to demonize him as well. He's probably an alcoholic – …"

                I do.

                "What we've got here, is failure to communicate."
                I am not judging you.


          2. Being drunk isn't a factor.  It doesn't make your gayness manifest itself in diddling children (Kevin Spacey).  It doesn't make you suddenly embrace the existence of a vast Jewish conspiracy (Mel Gibson). And, it doesn't turn you into a horrifying prick who assaults women when they won't put out for you.

            It doesn't matter what good Lebsock did or whether his politics were "good."  I feel the need to demonize him and everyone of his ilk who believe that they have the right to demean and demand things from those who won't or can't fight back.  There is never an excuse for this behavior, and people won't stop engaging it until we make it utterly and, yes, painfully, clear that anyone who engages in it will become a pariah.

            No “nice guy” has ever done what Lebsock is accused of.

          3. You nailed it, mamajama55. Acknowledging a contributing factor is not the same as justifying, or excusing his actions.

            What is behind this is power and privilege to create the perverse justification, and the alcohol to unlock the lips. It is a larger societal problem  — not just about any individual — the unwanted gift patriarchy keeps on giving. I hope the state legislature considers training on sexual harrassment prevention the next time there is a group oath of office.  

            For what it's worth, Steve was nice to me several years ago when I ran for office, but I can't help but wonder if the alcohol has taken over in his life. I hope he gets help. And to the victims — THANK YOU for speaking up! He needs to take responsibility for his actions, and he can't… and won't … until he is pushed, apparently.

    1. Ok, then, publicly stoning Lebsock is probably off the table? . . . 

      . . . but his slinking away back into his hole quietly now still seems among the best options.

      1. He's labeling it "dirty politics" and calling for an investigation going through usual channels…..

        Throw in long dong silver and we may be looking at a re-enactment of the Clarence Thomas hearings of 26 years ago. It doesn't sound like he's going to slink back into his hole quietly.

        I think Duran needs to get the process started a.s.a.p. so they can do the ethics investigations and be ready to vote to expel him in January.

  6. “there are other complaints about a handful of male senators touching women’s lower backs, giving lingering hugs, making uncomfortable and unwanted comments about appearances, massaging necks, telling off-color jokes of a sexual nature and showing pornographic pictures.”

    Wow.  Someone sounds pretty Randy. 

    1. It's funny how often extreme rightiness and sexual harassment are of a piece. Because the Moores of the world are just chimpanzees at heart. Lizard brains and simple animal displays of masculinity winning out over thoughts, feelings, and humanity.

  7. For those keeping track, we've moved to phase II.  The new "apology" tracks with standard phase II protocol– I was only being fun and flirty, and, although I can certainly remember that was true, I can't remember saying the things these women say I did.  So, I remember, but only the things it's to my advantage to remember.

    The good news is that we may skip phase III, abject apology and request for mercy– attempting to allow him to stay in office– and go directly to step IV– the asshole does what he should have done in the first place and resigns/withdraws.

    State Rep. Steve Lebsock issues fresh apology to three women who accused him of sexual harassment

    “I have come to realize that it does not matter that, at the time, I may have perceived my words as playful,” he wrote. “It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt that we were flirting. It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt what I said was OK. It does not matter that I may not remember the exact words which were hurtful. It does not matter that, at the time, I thought we were joking.”

    “The only thing that matters is how I made these three women feel,” he continued. “I am sorry.”

    Yeah.  Fuck your sorry, Steve.

    1. Well, he does get the part right about impact absolutely trumping intentions.

      If only he could go back in time and decide not to "flirt", er, harass at all.

  8. Colorado lawmaker Faith Winter says she’ll file formal complaint against colleague Steve Lebsock

    Winter declined to initiate a complaint against Lebsock shortly after the incident in May 2016 when she says he discussed sexual acts and he tried to grab her elbow and get her to leave with him. But she warned Lebsock that if she heard about him harassing another woman, she would go public with her situation — and she did so Friday after a KUNC report describing harassment from nine lawmakers lobbyists and staffers, some of them anonymously.

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