EXCLUSIVE: Coffman-Gate Scandal is About to Go Nuclear

Cynthia Coffman

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman may soon be waving a white flag instead.

MONDAY UPDATE: We’ve heard from a number of people regarding a potential special election, which we originally noted could be held in November 2015. Should Cynthia Coffman resign in the near future, State Statutes indicate that Gov. John Hickenlooper would appoint a temporary replacement Attorney General until the State Senate reconvenes in Jan. 2016 (the Senate is required to approve an appointment), and a special election for the final two years of Coffman’s original 4-year-term would be held in November 2016.

Original post follows (6/20/15 at 4:38 pm):


The “Coffman-Gate” extortion/blackmail scandal was first coming to light late last Monday evening, and by Tuesday afternoon it was already clear that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman had essentially ended her political career by stabbing former ally Steve House in the back — twice — over a span of about 12 hours. When we wrote that Coffman’s political career was over, we figured that she’d likely finish her four-year term before declining to run for re-election or finding herself defeated in a Republican Primary in 2018.

We may have been too optimistic. It now seems possible that Coffman will not make it through the summer as Attorney General…and that might be the least of her concerns.

Player #4 Has Entered
Apparently there is a fourth person who was heavily involved in the alleged extortion attempt of House; as of now, only Cynthia Coffman, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Pueblo County Republican Party Chair Becky Mizel have been publicly named. It would be a logical guess to say that former state Sen. Ted Harvey will be pulled into this before long — Harvey’s desire to be appointed Executive Director of the State Party has reportedly been a key piece of the extortion attempt — and perhaps he is the so-called “fourth person” now involved.

Federal Investigation Coming?
Behind the scenes, there has been a flurry of action involving the “Coffman-Gate” scandal over the past few days. We’re hearing that all parties involved are lawyering up in anticipation of a full-fledged criminal investigation — perhaps even a federal investigation (the FBI often handles investigations involving high-level elected officials, and we are talking about the top law enforcement officer in Colorado here). We’re still trying to gather details about the exact nature of a potential investigation, but it would almost certainly involve Coffman.

It now seems possible that Coffman will not make it through the summer as Attorney General…and that might be the least of her concerns.

The fact that everybody is scurrying for legal representation may indicate that someone involved in the extortion scandal is trying to make a deal ahead of any potential prosecution. It also explains why Coffman, Tancredo, and Mizel were being so cagey all week about the exact nature of their “grave and serious concerns” regarding House’s leadership of the State Party.

Significant Evidence
We’re also hearing that there is “significant evidence” (our phrase) that could elevate this case even further. From what we understand, there is a sizable amount of evidence indicating that the alleged extortion scheme was much more elaborate than has been reported. Depending on the type of evidence available, we could be talking about serious felony charges.

November Special Election Possible

Coffman’s political career is over — it’s really just a matter of how and when at this point. Coffman would almost certainly have to step down as Attorney General if she is facing felony charges, and replacing her would not be as simple as an appointment by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Coffman hasn’t even reached the 6-month mark of her first term in office, so her resignation would likely trigger a new, special election in November for Attorney General. Both Republicans and Democrats would likely have to find candidates and put together a full-on campaign sprint for the rest of the year.


We’ll continue to update this story as it develops, but you heard it here first on Colorado Pols.

42 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. FrankUnderwood says:

    Now won't Hick get to name an interim if Cynthia should step down before Nov. '16? IIRC, Bill Owens named Donetta Davidson as SOS after Vicky Buckley died in 1999. Davidson then went on to get elected in the 2000 special election, and re-elected in 2002.

    Would Judge Quick step down off the bench if Hick offered him the interim appointment?

    And lastly, imagine the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on any interim named by Hick!  Chaired by none other than Either Way Ellen. Who might have visions of running for the office herself in the '16 special election.


  2. mamajama55 says:

    Behind Door Number Four:

    Ted Harvey (obvious choice)

    Randy Corporon (first to publicize Mizel's "House resigned" announcement

    Walker Stapleton? He backed Call. Not exactly a straight arrow guy.

    Wayne Williams? He backed Call, but had campaign finance problems of his own.

    Drum roll…..


  3. notaskinnycook says:

    When I first read this continuing thread last week and saw that A.G. Coffman was party to it I thought but did not write, "She's going to jail!" Others said it wasn't that serious  This is getting GOOD. Someone had better run out for more popcorn. The pantry's running low.  

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    Tancredo for AG!!!!

    • MADCO says:

      Good one.

      I haven't been following this – but I went backward in time and read it all. OMG.  Congressman Tancredo as AG? As Senate candidate? As governor?

      I got your thinking though – but why not Don Maes for AG? He was a secret law enforcement officer once, yes?

  5. everydayischaos says:

    Hey Pols, what happens when the truth comes out and the story you are speculating about is totally wrong?  Will you just say "my bad" or will you own your culpability?  I think everyone knows whose throwing the mud and who has taken the high road in this situation.

  6. Andrew Carnegie says:

    Last time Pols tried to cause a criminal investigation it involved Ken Buck having a perfectly legal display of a gun in his office.

    Partisan hacks being partisan hacks.

    • mamajama55 says:

      Long time no AC… You're just jealous because all of the Republican rank and file members are turning to Pols to find out what's going on, because their own party organs (CPP, Complete Colorado, the Republican party webpage) refuse to tell them what the hell is going on.

      I'm quite serious about this, though I can't name names or cite sources. Every time Pols comes out with a new article, it gets widely shared and discussed on Facebook pages of GOP stalwarts, because it at least is news.  Other than that, you're left with radio talk show interviews with hosts who book guests like Tom Tancredo, who still wax mysterious about serious unnamed charges, but won't be specific about anything.

      So if you don't want people reading stories from "partisan hacks", then get  your own goddamn party leadership to start being transparent and letting people know what's happening. That is all.

    • Progressicat says:

      Partisan hacks being partisan hacks.

    • Davie says:

      The return of AC can only mean one thing (nah, not the Apocalypse – that'll only happen if one of the current crop of GOP nut jobs take the White House), he must think he'll get his old paying gig back after the next round of "House-cleaning".

    • MADCO says:

      I don't think that was the last time.

      But the hacks being hacks line is pretty funny.  You hate CoPols not because they are hacks – you love hackery.  You hate CoPols because they are so much better at it than the recent and current crop of R hacks. I'm not naming  you – or anyone.  But the R hackery of late is weak, weak sauce.

  7. Republican 36 says:

    Dear Pols,

    I have to admit I remain skeptical about how serious all of this is and what really happened aside from a badly botched attempt to force House to resign. The thread doesn't really contain any new facts but suggests they exist. I'm not sure you should present such a thread until we know whether or not this situation will "go nuclear." The clear message here is those involved in the attempt to oust House are either under a criminal investigation or have committed crimes. The political criticism of these individuals is well taken but no one, including them, should have the cloud of either a criminal investigation or criminal charges besmirching their reputations until we know that is actually happening.  

    • gaf says:

      R36, "…until we know that is actually happening." Well, we would know that if those characters you are defending would just–you know–tell us what happened instead of hinting, implying, then denying, defending, all without actually explaining.If it looks like it could be felony extortion and they won't explain, then don't complain if others observe that it looks like it could be felony extortion. You are directing your protest at the wrong people.

      • Republican 36 says:

        I may not have made myself clear. I'm not defending AG Coffman, Mr. Tancredo or Ms. Mizel. Your point is well taken that they have a unified response in that they won't reveal what they said to Mr. House, but my point is simply we don't know the details and until we do statements about criminal charges are inappropriate.

    • MADCO says:

      I am not a lawyer – and this should not be considered legal advice.

      But what would Mr House have to gain by lying about the meeting? Nada.

      If it went down like he said – seems like extortion to me.  And since there were at least three people  – that would be a conspiracy. Extortion, Conspiracy to Commit Extortioan Failure to Prosecute, Failure to Report.  I could go – I've seen a lot of lawyering on tv – but you get the point.  If there a criminal event – it doesn't go well for the AG.

      If not – then Mr. Call is lying. And maybe he is.   I was not present, and I have no knowledge of these events. Maybe the former Governor of Illinois was involved – is he still in Colorado?

      Either way – politcal hooey is what CoPols often does best.  At minimum, this is clearly politcal hooey. ANd the Big Line remains wayyyy off.


  8. davebarnes says:

    All I want to know is: Who was/is Steve House boffing?

    • mamajama55 says:

      You'll have to stay tuned to Politichicks to find that out. They appear to be one of the only right wing blogs breaking the  silence on the House saga.

      From Kathryn Porter's "Sex, Lies, and the GOP"

      House, who has been described as “Clinton-esque” by several precinct level party leaders

      Hint: They don't mean "Clintonesque" in a good way. Then there's the predictable blame for the scandal on the crazy ex-girlfriend:

      House is not new to accusations of infidelity. During his campaign for state party chair, leaks of an affair reached the annual Leadership Program of the Rockies (LRP) retreat held at the illustrious Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. The House campaign team moved swiftly to squash those rumors and succeeded in damage control with a response to central committee voting members that the character smears were the work of a “vindictive, crazy ex-girlfriend” and that the alleged affair occurred when House was single, prior to his marriage with second wife Donna.

      • MADCO says:

        That Politichick piece has good grammer.  But c'mon, people! Name names or speculate more wildly.  Tie it to the Koch money, or at least the guy sentenced to prison for coordinating with them.

    • MADCO says:

      Because you are speculating- probably not you, right? Which would be almost the only way it could possibly be any of your business. 

      If he was committing an actual crime, then it is the public's concern and AG Coffman should have reported him or prosecuted him.  She has not – so I suspect whatever she thinks she knew, there was no crime on his part.

  9. vanbarbee says:

    Until that guy out in Tennessee resigns (the pro-life advocate who forced his lovers to have abortions), I'll never believe that ANY Republican will take their leave for any unconscionable action taken by them or their subordinates. That being said, I think this is being blown way out of proportion.

    • MADCO says:

      "blown out of proportion"

      Have you ever followed a political story before? Proportion is like Fight Club.

      The AG may have witnessed a crime- and then covered it up. I never got to vote against Nixon (or Agnew) but I'm pretty sure that "technicalities" thought they may be, laws matter.  Especially to lawyers. Oh, and judges.

  10. jraiffie says:

    Ha ha.  Not even close guys, but please keep trolling me on Facebook.  I love the distraction!

    • Duke Cox says:

      You talk like you know something the rest of us don't. Why don't you fill us in…?

      as mama said above…

      “their own party organs (CPP, Complete Colorado, the Republican party webpage) refuse to tell them what the hell is going on.… “

    • mamajama55 says:

      You know, Jen, I understand that probably none of you folks involved in this Housegate would walk across the street to spit on me if I were on fire. I am, after all, a genuine anti-racist, tree-hugging, pro-union, reliably DemocratIC voting liberal.

      And you have to know that most of us are really enjoying watching your party implode, figuring that it will be that much easier for candidates and policies we support to win.

      BUT if I had to pick a side in this saga, it would definitely be the House stays as Chairman side. (Your side). Why? The story of the other side stinks like the sweaty underside of Donald Trump's …toupee.  The stories just don't hang together well. And I personally don't care if Steve House was boffing Donald Duck, except for the entertainment value. It doesn't have anything to do with job performance. So, he seems to be trying to be all things to all people, and can't. The last 2 Chairs of your party ran into the same problem.

      Marilyn Marks and Becky Mizel  have their sights trained on House because he isn't cooperating with their vision of shaming and coercing all of the County Clerks into running elections their way.

      Coffman and Tancredo? I have no clue what their motivation was in this, except possibly the need for attention and a false sense of importance for TT. I did speculate that there was a financial motivation of some dubious dealings around the IEC, which will come to light eventually. That's just because of the timing – right after Harber was sentenced. But your guy still comes out smelling pretty good in that scenario, too.

      Anyway, you seem honest, although I'm sure we have opposite views on…well, everything…..but I wish you well defending Mr. House, and you can expect that sometime after all of this is resolved, you will get an unexpected Facebook "Friend" request from a  tree-hugging liberal.



      • Duke Cox says:

        Marilyn Marks and Becky Mizel  have their sights trained on House because he isn't cooperating with their vision of shaming and coercing all of the County Clerks into running elections their way.

        This part intrigues me…

        This is really important to the Bigs…..

        • mamajama55 says:

          Duke, I'm basing this on language about Steve House's critics in the Politichicks article:

          One of those critics is elections integrity expert, Marilyn Marks who shared her experience as a member of a state party elections oversight committee. She said that some members walked off due to the inexplicable decision to replace the committee vice-chair and the invitation to include county clerks—holding different agendas—whom the committee was seeking to hold accountable.

          So I read that as: Steve House was seeking to have a less antagonistic, less litigious relationship with the County Election Clerks.  However, antagonism and lawsuits against the Clerks, complaints to the Secretary of State,   are how Marks and Mizel roll. This is their schtick, their raison d'etre

          Mizel's efforts have been concentrated at the Pueblo County level, and she basically has one target: Clerk and Recorder Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz. She has sued or promoted actions to deny certifying election canvass results, to have more Republican-approved poll watchers, to be allowed in to inspect ballots actually being counted at the machines. She took it to a ridiculous (and illegal) level when she actually stole a document from a canvass proceeding.

          Both of these women help to promote the narrative that, in Colorado, County Election Clerks are inherently untrustworthy, that voter's votes are insecure, that elections are not fair, and that the County Clerks are power-grabbing bureaucrats who don't care about voter privacy or fair elections . Of course, Independence Institute, and Tea Party loyalists eat that up. The GOP in Pueblo appears to be completely convinced that only Becky Mizel keeps their votes safe.

          Why it matters, and why "the Bigs" might care about this little CO GOP tiff:

          Colorado is a model for election reform in the country. We have one of the highest participation rates in Presidential election years in the country. Mail in ballots prevent voter suppression, and other states are looking at how we do things here so that they can empower voters, too. Marks and Mizel want to impede counting of mail in ballots by being physically present when ballots go into the machines to be read. They want to have "watchers" watching and verifying each signature, even though the signature readers are accurate, spot-checked, and verified by each County Clerk.

          But when Steve House trotted out the novel notion that maybe the County Clerks were not the Enemy, and that conversations about election oversight should include the Clerks, that took the ground out from under Marks and Mizel's narratives about Colorado elections in jeopardy.

          I don't know how much of the GOP Party's resources Marks' election oversight committee took. For sure, in Pueblo, Mizel's antics take a lot of time and money. Perhaps House was just trying to be efficient – I don't know. But apparently, it pissed off Marks & Mizel  (M&M) royally.

          Without this comment becoming diary length, that's a summary of what I think M&M's beef is with House. I would not be at all surprised if Marilyn Marks is the mysterious "4th party" to the coup against House. 

          • Progressicat says:

            One of those critics is elections integrity expert, Marilyn Marks…

            That was enough to get me to start choking on my Cheerios this morning.

          • Duke Cox says:

            Fascinating stuff, mama…

            I don't know much about this subject, except that I know our Mesa County Clerk, Sheila Reiner,  and have found her to be fiercely honest and independent. I am aware how very important Colorado is to the future of the Republican party. Their only chance here is to suppress voting rights and they are pulling out all the stops…

            Nothing they do will surprise me…

  11. ElliotFladen says:

    I highly doubt that Pols has a source within Public Interegity Section of DOJ.  My guess is that Pols has a source regarding somebody who is sending info to that section.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      More likely Pols is sending it in themselves.

      • ElliotFladen says:

        I don't think so.  There for sure is chatter about whether additional authorities may get involved.  However, if an organization was going to open an investigation at this point that decision would be extremely confidential.  What wouldn't be as closely guarded would be if people were going to write letters encouraging an organization to open an investigation.  My guess is that the latter is what is going on.

  12. Hayduke says:

    Whether a Democrat, Republican, or none of the above, why should anyone (other than Mrs. House, I suppose) give a shit whether Steve House had an extramarital affair or not? I don't see how it would affect his work as State Chair.

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      It doesn't. Did we learn nothing from the Clinton Era? What two (or more) consenting adults do in private is nobody's business except between them. And maybe their spouses. 

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