DENVER – The saga over an attempt to oust Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House continued Tuesday with rumors that House has contacted Denver and federal prosecutors about allegations of blackmail.
House vehemently denied contacting the Denver District Attorney’s office or the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, and both of those offices confirmed that.
“I personally am not contacting the offices because I leave those decisions to the state party attorney and my personal attorney. I’ve not actively been involved with that,” House said in an interview with The Durango Herald. “I don’t know the law; I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know what rises to the level of criminal activity.”
Owen Loftus, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party, said there was confusion, but that attorneys for the party contacted prosecutors. The U.S. attorney’s office confirmed late in the day that it was contacted about the matter but added that the office is not involved.
The Denver DA’s office also is not involved in the matter, as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“Reports earlier today that Colorado Republican Party chair Steve House and/or attorneys for the Colorado Republican Party have ‘talked with the Denver DA’s Office’ about a controversy involving the GOP are not true,” said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver DA’s office.
The drama began last week when House said he met with Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, along with U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and Becky Mizel, chairwoman of the Pueblo County Republican Party – both well-known conservatives. The allegation is that the group wanted House to step down for not hiring former state Sen. Ted Harvey as executive director. Harvey leans hard right. Some in the party feel that House has not leaned enough to the right, and that not hiring Harvey is an example.
Reports surfaced that House was set to resign but then backtracked, saying he had been “bullied” into the original offer to step down. Coffman allegedly asked House to resign. Oddly, Coffman supported House in March when he unseated former Chairman Ryan Call, considered a more mainstream Republican.
House says that his opponents threatened him with leaking details about an affair with another woman. But after discussing the matter with his wife, House decided he would not back down, stating that an affair never happened.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday why the Colorado GOP contacted prosecutors. One theory is that they are being asked to investigate allegations of blackmail, which would especially complicate Coffman’s duties as attorney general.
The Durango Herald left a message on Coffman’s cellphone, but she did not return the call by late Tuesday afternoon. Loftus said the party could not comment further other than acknowledging that party attorneys have contacted prosecutors.
Meanwhile, the drama has caused the party seemingly irreversible turmoil under current leadership, especially as it prepares for the 2016 election.
“Am I unhappy about this whole scenario, which has absolutely nothing to do with my job performance as chair. Yes, I am unhappy about that,” House said.
“The truth is, I didn’t have an affair. The truth is nothing I’ve done in my personal life – certainly while I have been GOP chair and before – has any impact on my job performance. ...” House continued. “You can only conclude by somebody trying to drag your personal reputation through the mud ... that they’re trying to ... force you to resign ... especially since not one allegation of mishandling my job or poor performance in the state party has ever been leveraged. ... This is a character assassination.”