FRIDAY UPDATE #2: The Denver Post obtains emails between staffers that back up some of the claims in the lawsuit. And then there’s this:
Lamborn told Colorado Public Radio on Friday morning that Pope was a disgruntled employee. He called the lawsuit weak and denied any ethical violations, but did not specifically deny one allegation — that he allowed one of his sons to live rent-free for weeks in a storage area of the U.S. Capitol’s basement.
“I gave my son temporary housing as my guest because the housing market in Washington, D.C., is very tight,” Lamborn said, though he refused to go into details when asked whether he let his son stay in his office or in a storage unit.
Q: Did you allow your son to live in a storage closet at the U.S. Capitol?
FRIDAY UPDATE: This story from POLITICO makes Lamborn look really bad:
“Well, I don’t care about you guys getting it.” That’s what Rep. Doug Lamborn (R–Colo.) allegedly told a staffer in October 2020, right after discovering that his Capitol Hill office was turning into a hotbed of Covid-19 infections. [Pols emphasis]
It’s one of the many eye-popping accusations in a new lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in the District Court for the District of Columbia by Brandon Pope, a former Lamborn staffer who says he vocally pushed back on what he called the congressman’s “reckless and dangerous approach” to the pandemic — and was fired for it…
…Pope — a Marine veteran who started with Lamborn as a Wounded Warrior fellow before being promoted to defense policy adviser — claims in the suit that early in the pandemic, he raised safety concerns to a superior. He suggested teleworking or at least some social distancing in the office after hearing from colleagues who were worried about the health risks of in-person work because of immunocompromised family members. Those suggestions were ignored, Pope says.
According to Pope’s lawsuit, early on in the pandemic, when most congressional offices moved to remote work, Lamborn insisted that his staff continue to operate in-person — allegedly saying that he would not allow House leadership to dictate how he ran his office, and “belittl[ing] any staffer who raised health-related concerns.” When Pope suggested that one staffer with health conditions at least be afforded a “zip wall” to limit exposure to other staff, Lamborn denied those requests.
We don’t normally spend a lot of time in this space talking about Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) for obvious reasons. Even though Lamborn has represented CO-05 since 2007, he doesn’t tend to DO anything aside from popping his head up now and then to fire off strange Tweets or pen nonsensical Op-Eds. People in Colorado Springs generally acknowledge that Lamborn is about as useful as a wooden saw.
Thus, if we’re talking about Lamborn here, it’s usually because of something that is not particularly flattering to the eight-term Congressman. Today is no exception.
As NBC News in Washington D.C. reports, Lamborn is being sued by a former staff member for generally being a pretty terrible boss:
The suit alleges the congressman flouted U.S. House safety rules, ignored warnings about unsafe conditions, and required staff to provide personal favors and tasks for the congressman’s family.
The suit also accuses the congressman of sleeping in his congressional office in D.C. after he knew his staffers were exposed to the coronavirus.
The lawsuit also said the congressman allowed his son to live in a storage space in the basement of the Capitol for weeks when his son was relocating to Washington.
In the suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, former Lamborn military aide Brandon Pope claims he was the victim of retaliation for “seeking to protect employees from unsafe conditions in the workplace.”
Yikes! Where do we even start unpacking this story? The foundation of the lawsuit seems to be that Lamborn refused to allow his employees to wear masks or to take social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This doesn’t seem unlikely given Lamborn’s dismissive public comments about the pandemic. As The Denver Post reported in October 2020:
Two members of U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s Washington, D.C., staff have tested positive for COVID-19, staffers of the Colorado Springs Republican confirmed to The Denver Post on Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, Lamborn is back in Colorado attending fundraisers and refusing to take a test himself, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. [Pols emphasis]
A few weeks later, Lamborn’s office confirmed that the Congressman was indeed infected with the COVID virus that he didn’t believe existed. Former aide Brandon Pope, who filed the lawsuit, alleges that he was fired after speaking out upon contracting COVID-19 in November.
Did Rep. Doug Lamborn put his office at risk with his COVID-19 practices? That’s what a former staffer is claiming in a new lawsuit, along with allegations of using office staff for personal errands and campaign work.https://t.co/UD5Qqq5Id6
— Andrew McMillan (@AndyMackReports) May 13, 2021
The lawsuit against Lamborn also contains some interesting accusations about staffers being forced to run personal errands for Lamborn and his wife and being required to buy Christmas gifts for the couple. And then there’s that particularly strange line about how Lamborn “allowed” his son, Luke, to live in a storage space in the basement of the U.S. Capitol.
Here’s how Lamborn is responding, according to The Denver Post:
Lamborn, from Colorado Springs, issued a statement through his spokeswoman Cassandra Sebastian: “The workplace safety allegations made by Mr. Pope are unsubstantiated and did not result in the termination of his employment. Congressman Lamborn looks forward to full vindication as all facts come to light.”
Lamborn’s seat in CO-05 has been fairly safe ever since he was first elected in 2006, though plenty of Republicans have tried to unseat him in Primary elections. Lamborn has always managed to survive politically with the bare minimum effort — he raised a little over $5,000 TOTAL in Q1 2021 — because he is fairly boring and does just enough work on behalf of the powerful military interests in his district.
But Lamborn is also not particularly well-liked among fellow Republicans and Members of Congress. There won’t be a long line of people queuing up to show their support if Lamborn’s troubles escalate, and that’s where this lawsuit could be a real problem: It gives Republican voters a tangible reason to back a different horse in 2022. Lamborn probably SHOULD be on his way out of Congress after 16+ years of unremarkable representation in Colorado Springs — particularly if the allegations in this lawsuit are true.
Could you do worse than having Lamborn in Congress? That’s debatable, but you could definitely do a lot better.