The Pueblo District Attorney’s office has been appointed to investigate a formal complaint that a political ad by Congressman Doug Lamborn’s campaign broke the law when it criticized a bank co-founded by Lamborn’s political opponent.
That’s according to Lee Richards, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs District Attorney Dan May, of the 4th Judicial District.
Bill Thiebaut, the 10th Judicial District Attorney, was handed the case by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. That was after a formal written complaint was dropped off at May’s office.
May has endorsed Lamborn in the past, and so it would have been a conflict of interest for him to investigate the congressman’s campaign. So May handed the complaint to the Council, said Richards.
At the center of the complaint is Integrity Bank and Trust, which was co-founded by Robert Blaha, Lamborn’s opponent in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District. Lamborn’s campaign accused Integrity in a campaign ad of being below average, which the bank says is not true.
It’s not yet clear who wrote the complaint. Thiebaut’s office did not return phone calls for comment.
At issue is whether Lamborn used falsehoods to undermine the bank. The ad, titled ‘Honor,’ alleges that Integrity Bank and Trust, which Blaha helped start, is “one of the worst in the region.” The campaign’s Website, www.theblaharecord.com, says the bank is “below average.”
But the Lamborn campaign’s basis for the claim, www.bankrate.com, said the bank ‘exhibited a generally satisfactory condition’ at the beginning of the year.
Colorado statutes make it illegal to spread false information about banks that undermines consumer confidence, and Integrity claims Lamborn’s commercial could hurt its reputation. Integrity sent Lamborn a letter that cited Colorado law and said the campaign has committed a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Lamborn spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in an email that the development is “a baseless charge going nowhere.”
Mortensen said the campaign has made it clear that “Honor” referred to Integrity’s past performance, but doesn’t include its current rating.
“This is not the first time Mr. Blaha has abused the process,” Mortensen wrote. “A similar, equally bogus allegation from Mr. Blaha was dismissed as groundless. This one will be, also.”
Blaha, however, noted that he was not the one who had made the allegation in the first place, and said he was not the one who had filed the complaint. Rather, it was Integrity that wrote to Lamborn’s campaign and said it was illegal to defame a bank.
“If the congressman has nothing to be concerned about, then he shouldn’t be overreacting to citizens executing their constitutional rights,” Blaha said. “The news that a special prosecutor has been appointed appears to be consistent with what the law says.”
Mortensen said Lamborn’s campaign has not been contacted by either District Attorneys Thiebaut or May.
Integrity’s attorney, Daniel Crabtree, declined to comment for this story.