After a legal complaint was filed against the campaign of U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, the case wound up at the doorstep of Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut, who was assigned to look into it by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. The thing is, the pair have a history. Thiebaut is a solid Democrat, Lamborn is a solid Republican, and both of them served in the state Legislature together.
That gives rise to the question of whether Thiebaut has a conflict of interest on the case. But former colleagues say it won’t be a problem, but the two spent eight years on opposite sides of the political fence in the Capitol.
And Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, said Thiebaut was automatically given the case under a sort of informal agreement at the CDAC that El Paso conflict of interest cases are always sent to Pueblo.
The complaint against Lamborn’s campaign alleges it may have broken the law by bad-mouthing a bank that was co-founded by the congressman’s Republican primary opponent, businessman Robert Blaha. The complaint cites a law that makes it illegal to criticize a bank without good cause, and Lamborn ad called the bank “one of the worst in the region.”
But www.bankrate.com, which the campaign cites as a source, says that as of December, the bank is in a “generally satisfactory condition.”
The establishment, Integrity Bank and Trust, wrote to Lamborn’s campaign last month to ask them to take the ad down from the Internet. When the campaign didn’t comply, a Blaha supporter filed the complaint with El Paso County District Attorney Dan May, of the Fourth Judicial District.
Because May has endorsed Lamborn in the past, he forwarded the complaint to the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, which then handed it to Thiebaut.
Thiebaut, however, served in the Legislature for eight years alongside Lamborn. From 1995 to 1998, Lamborn was in the state House of Representatives while Thiebaut was in the Senate, and from 1998 to 2002, both were in the Senate.
The pair were as opposite as could be, said several colleagues who served in the Senate at the same time.
“Bill was probably the furthest member of the Senate on the left side and Doug was the furthest to the right,” said former state Sen. Mike Feeley, D-Lakewood. “They disagreed on about everything.”
Former senator Norma Anderson, R-Lakewood, agreed with her Democratic colleague. But she also said there was never any real ill will between the pair.
“I never found either one of them vindictive. They took their losses and went on. But as far as their philosophies, they’re as different as they could be,” Anderson said. “I don’t remember any angry outbursts or anything like that.”
Lamborn spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said the congressman isn’t worried over the possibility that his political history with Thiebaut may taint the investigation.
“I’m sure that Mr. Thiebaut is fair, and he’ll throw this out,” Mortensen said.
Thiebaut said he’ll approach Lamborn’s case the same way he would any other — dispassionately.
“That was then and this is now, and I have no relationship, and there’s nothing there that I think would rise to the level of conflict of interest,” Thiebaut said. “If there’s probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, then charges will be filed. If not, then charges won’t be filed. I think he knows I’m a man of my word.”
Feeley added that he thinks Lamborn got lucky when Thiebaut was assigned to the case, because he’s big on free speech. Which means, he said, that Thiebaut is more likely than some other district attorneys to toss the case.
“If anything, he caught a break,” Feeley said.