The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports today on the latest developments in the Sen. Steve King embezzlement scandal. For those not following this story, GOP Sen. King is facing several felony and misdemeanor charges, stemming from allegedly falsified timesheets filed with different public agencies he was employed by–overlapping to a degree that the pay he received cannot be justified.
The fact is, it’s been several weeks since we last wrote about Sen. King’s troubles. With a major election just weeks away now, it occurred to us as we read Ashby’s story this morning that felony charges against a sitting Republican state senator ought to be a bigger election season story than the press coverage we’ve seen up to now would indicate.
Colorado GOP Senate leaders appear to agree:
Embattled state Sen. Steve King was replaced as a member and chairman of the Legislative Audit Committee nearly a month ago, but Senate Republicans didn’t tell anyone about the change despite felony charges facing the Grand Junction Republican. [Pols emphasis]
Jesse Mallory, chief of staff for the Senate Republicans, said King and Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, “mutually agreed” that King should be replaced on the eight-member panel that reviews audits of state programs.
Mallory said he didn’t know whether King asked Cadman to replace him on the committee, or if the minority leader contacted King about it…
King, who has served on the committee since January 2011, had been chairman of the bipartisan audit committee since January. He was replaced by Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City. The only public message about that appointment was by Grantham himself on his own Facebook page when the committee held its August meeting last week.
Because Sen. King has not chosen to resign from his lame-duck senate seat, obviously something had to be done here. Under different circumstances, the end of an indicted politician’s career is often a lurid death watch, with every procedural move on their way out the door a well-documented public spectacle. Remember Rep. Laura Bradford’s DUI/legislative immunity career-ender? Every step in the investigation was a story. When Bradford issued any kind of statement on the matter, there was a story. When she initially lost and then was reinstated to her committee chair, it was a story. When she decided not to run again–story.
So why is Sen. Steve King’s case flying largely under the radar? It looks to us like the Senate GOP believes they’ve learned a lesson from the Bradford saga, and did their best to keep their part of this story under wraps. Ashby has done a good job following developments, but Denver media has had curiously little to say about King’s indictment. There certainly remains the potential for King’s scandal to tarnish the Republican brand as a whole in the upcoming elections, perhaps more useful elsewhere than in the Senate District 7 race to succeed King itself (though Ray Scott can’t be enjoying this). If Democrats were to make an issue of GOP Senate leadership trying to keep King’s demotion under wraps…well, that would be a place to start, wouldn’t it?
Bottom line: it’s an election year, and we have this nagging thought that if Sen. Steve King had a (D) after his name instead of an (R), we’d be hearing a lot more about him right now. Maybe that’s just because Democrats are nicer about these things, or for whatever reason not as skilled at fanning the flames of scandal.
But on balance, it’s awfully tough to imagine better material to work with than a Republican state senator charged with a bunch of felonies.