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Our man in Washington


Is Doug Lamborn looking for a fight? He sure is acting like it.

Within six months inside the Beltway, Colorado Springs' freshman Republican congressman spent more tax money to send mail to his constituents than any other member of the Colorado delegation and managed, on national television, to read aloud a letter from the president of a blog called chastising his colleagues for wasteful spending.

If that isn't silly enough, last week he sent out a press release claiming he has "delivered" $150,000 to pay for a study for the Fountain Creek Watershed only to have it revealed by the Independent that he actually voted against the bill that authorized the funding he was bragging about.

Need more? How about the effort last week to kill off Big Bird by proposing to eliminate all $420 million that feds dole out to hundreds of public radio and TV stations across the country? (His spokesman, Chris Harvin, called the effort, which failed overwhelmingly, "fiscally responsible.") At the same time, Lamborn continues to support the war in Iraq, which has cost 5th Congressional District taxpayers a whopping $934 million.

Many, if not most, of Lamborn's constituents in this very conservative area may be extraordinarily happy to pay for the war. They probably also agree that chopping off public broadcasting money is just dandy, too.

And many constituents likely also are plenty happy about Lamborn's recent push which also failed overwhelmingly to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. As Lamborn put it, in a stilted speech broadcast all over the country via C-SPAN: "Artists are free to express themselves as they choose, but the American taxpayer does not need to pay for it. Freedom of speech does not guarantee government funding."

In truth, Lamborn is representing his constituents like any other conservative Republican from Colorado Springs would except for that $42,000 in mailings to those constituents.

So what's the problem? There is, as state GOP state party chairman Dick Wadhams has reportedly noted, "unfinished business in the 5th." That's a pretty delicate way to put it. Some still believe former Rep. Joel Hefley's hand-selected replacement, Jeff Crank, should have won the six-way primary, and would have if not for attacks by Lamborn supporters. (Crank was accused, among other things, of supporting the "radical homosexual agenda".) Others have rallied behind Bentley Rayburn, the retired Air Force general who also ran last year and, as a newcomer to town, finished a surprisingly strong third.

There is another factor. It's called style, and Lamborn's has sometimes been plain dorky. In recent press releases, he's announced things like personally joining a Modular Airborne Fire-Fighting System mission flight aboard an Air Force C-130 and saying he was "impressed" with the system and the crew. He's "applauded" an announcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that it plans to modify its "Explosives Proposed Rule."

He boasts that he's "the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs." For most of us, that ranges from sounding meaningless to vaguely ridiculous.

Finally, there's the money. Or, in Lamborn's case, the lack of it. In the year's second quarter, he raised less than $37,000, even as others pulled in hundreds of thousands to fend off possible '08 challengers. After paying off some loans, Lamborn's net gain was less than 20 bucks.

So far, Crank and Rayburn are mum on whether they'll run again next year. Crank recently confirmed he is considering it; Rayburn said he'll have a decision by the end of the summer. "I'm watching to see how our congressman is doing," he said, declining specifics.

Not lost on observers is the possibility Crank and Rayburn will both jump in, meaning they would split votes from dissatisfied voters which would be a dream come true for the congressman. Crank and Rayburn recently said they speak to each other frequently, though both declined to detail their discussions.

"We talked a couple of weeks ago and had a very cordial meeting," Crank said. "And no, we didn't flip any coins."

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