All press is good press, as the saying goes, so long as they spell your name correctly. It’s a neat saying…but it really isn’t true. For example, take a look at this lede from ace political reporter Lynn Bartels in Sunday’s Denver Post:
Extortion. Blackmail. Infidelity. Incompetence. Defamation of character. The soap opera surrounding Steve House, the newly elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, exploded in mid-June but appeared to fizzle when the GOP executive committee voted 22-1 in support of House on June 26 after a marathon closed-door session.
The bigger question is the impact on the career of Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and whether any fallout affects her husband, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, who now faces a formidable challenge from Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll. [Pols emphasis]
Whatever the circumstances may be, you never want your name used in the same sentence as the words “blackmail” and “extortion.” After more than a month, the Coffmangate Scandal continues to percolate and may ultimately signal the demise of the political careers of both Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and Congressman Mike Coffman.
When the Coffmangate Scandal was first breaking, it was obvious that the first casualty of the attempted coup against State Republican Party Chair Steve House was the political career of the recently-elected Colorado Attorney General. Even if Cynthia is somehow able to survive a federal corruption/fraud investigation, she’ll never convince Colorado Republicans to stand behind her in a future campaign for elected office. This isn’t about whether or not voters will hold the scandal against Cynthia — she’ll never be able to hire a decent staff and raise significant money for another campaign, as we explained back in June.
We know that Cynthia Coffman’s political career is kaput, but what about that of her husband, Rep. Mike Coffman? There has been no indication thus far that Mike Coffman was at all involved in the ill-planned coup attempt against House, but a cloud of suspicion and cover-up will continue to follow him around like he was Charlie Brown, and he has no good options for avoiding the storm. In fact, it is Cynthia Coffman’s own words from her 2014 campaign for AG that has Mike Coffman stuck in a political corner.
In August 2014, Cynthia was a guest of the “Pueblo Pachyderms,” where she spoke about her campaign for Attorney General and about her curious marriage to Mike. We’ve provided a copy of that audio recording below, and here’s a brief transcript:
“We’ve been through eight campaigns together by my count. [Mike] is running against for his congressional seat in the sixth congressional district…and I’m running for Attorney General. Now some people say, ‘Now how on earth does that work?’
It actually works very well, because both of us are so busy that we don’t pester the other one about going to the movies or dinner, or ‘when can we go on a bike ride?’ We both know that we are obsessed with politics and with elections. We give each other advice, and we’re sounding boards for each other[Pols emphasis]…
…I like to tease Mike that I ran for office because he wouldn’t take all of my great advice, and now it’s payback time because he gives me good advice. I take some of it, and some of it doesn’t fit…
…I love my husband, and I respect my boss (then-Attorney General John Suthers), but I am my own woman. I get asked a lot of times [sic] about the opinions of Mike, or positions that John Suthers has taken on issues, and I have great admiration for both of them.”
Mike Coffman has thus far refrained from speaking about the Coffmangate Scandal in public, though reporters are increasingly casting glances in his direction as details continue to emerge about efforts to force House to resign as Party Chair (on Friday the full “list of grievances” against House was leaked to Jason Salzman). It is only a matter of time before the heat is turned up on Mike Coffman and he is forced to comment on the Coffmangate Scandal…but what can he say?
Cynthia has talked on several occasions about the political discussions she has with her husband, which makes it very difficult for Mike to attempt to claim that he was kept in the dark on a subject as fascinating as this one. Did Mike know in advance that Cynthia was planning on luring House to a meeting in an attempt to force his resignation? Did he voice his opinion on the matter privately? After all, Mike was a vocal supporter of former GOP Chair Ryan Call, whom he backed for re-election over House last spring.
“The Coffmans, both Cynthia and Congressman Coffman, came with a lot of unknowns and risks, and I think that was one of the reasons why it wasn’t a bad thing that they both decided not to run for Senate.
“I think behind the scenes this is sort of a scary public display of what the rumors had been; it’s pretty troubling that the attorney general is going around threatening people.”
It is possible, however unlikely, that Mike Coffman was unaware of his wife’s involvement in the alleged blackmail of House. Regardless, there is absolutely zero chance that Mike can make it through the 2016 election without having to address the Coffmangate Scandal at some point. We continue to hear whispers about a criminal (likely federal) investigation of Cynthia Coffman and her merry band of extortionists, which would obviously escalate questions about Mike Coffman’s involvement. Federal law enforcement officials have declined to discuss details with reporters about any investigation, giving Coffman supporters hope that this whole affair will just go away in time, but there is little realistic chance of that happening.
Remember: Steve House has publicly accused Cynthia Coffman of participating in attempts to use the threat of an alleged affair to resign as Party Chair — and Cynthia has publicly acknowledged that she took part in the alleged discussions. As Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman is THE chief law enforcement officer in the State of Colorado. Every criminal charge that comes out of the AG’s office has Cynthia Coffman’s name on the document. There is no way that Cynthia can avoid a criminal investigation because of the combination of her official title, House’s detailed allegations, and Cynthia’s admission that she was involved in the attempted coup in some form or another. How could law enforcement officials explain not investigation Cynthia’s involvement given the pile of evidence that has already been publicly discussed? There’s no rug large enough to sweep this underneath.
At some point in the near future, law enforcement officials are going to have to talk about an investigation into Cynthia Coffman’s involvement in this scandal. When that day comes, Cynthia will immediately face overwhelming pressure to resign so as not to taint all of the work being done by the AG’s office. Cynthia’s political career is certainly done, but can she do enough to salvage her husband’s re-election efforts in 2016? Or is the Coffman name forever sullied?