AG Cynthia Coffman Denies Blackmail in Steve House GOP Sex Scandal

Sex, blackmail and Republican politics make for a potent brew, which explains why a story involving an alleged attempt by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (and former Congressman Tom Tancredo) to force Colorado GOP chair Steve House to resign or else face exposure over a supposed affair continues to gather steam.

Coffman denied any wrongdoing or impropriety in an interview with CBS4 broadcast last night, shortly after the blog PolitiChicks published a piece in which Republican insider Julie Naye, who'd previously insisted she didn't have an affair with House (audio evidence below), reversed course and maintained that they did indeed have a relationship.

House, who's married, says no affair took place.

As for Tancredo, he believes House has blown what he saw as "an intervention" out of proportion and praises Coffman as "courageous" for her actions.

The basics of the story are laid out by the Durango Herald. Last week, according to the paper, House said Coffman, Tancredo and Becky Mizel, who chairs the Pueblo County Republican Party, expressed displeasure at his decision against making ultra-conservative former state senator Ted Harvey the Colorado party's executive director. The Herald notes that "some in the party feel that House has not leaned enough to the right, and that not hiring Harvey is an example."

Tancredo disputes this last assertion. He notes that while he and Mizel supported Harvey for executive director, Coffman did not, and in fact encouraged House not to select him. Moreover, Tancredo says the trio had multiple problems with House's leadership that went well beyond the Harvey matter — although he declines to talk about any of them that have not yet been made public in the hope that they can be handled within the GOP party structure.

At any rate, House put out a press release stating that Coffman, Tancredo and Mizel asked him to step down, and when he balked, they threatened to expose his affair with an unnamed woman.

House refused to go along and has talked openly about his unhappiness over the situation since he took the kerfuffle public

“The truth is, I didn’t have an affair," House tells the Herald. "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....

"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."

Before long, rumors began to circulate that the "other woman" in the story was Naye, a player in Colorado Republican politics. The Colorado Independent notes that she "ran for Colorado Springs City Council in 2013 and sang the national anthem at the GOP’s 5th Congressional Assembly in Denver back in 2012."

Here's proof of the latter:

Naye's original Facebook page, which was online yesterday, is gone now — but it featured the following photo (featured in the PolitiChicks piece) of her posing with House and Tancredo.

There's also a second Naye Facebook page lingering online. Most of the material is private, but one shot that's accessible shows her with Texas senator and gubernatorial presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

The website ColoradoPols.com obtained audio in which Naye denied any affair with House.

The lengthy clip is below, followed by ColoradoPols references to what the site sees as significant moments in the conversation:

9:13 How do you know House?
12:39 How often would you see House?
13:02 Have you ever meet Donna House?
13:43 Have you ever been alone with House?
14:00 Have you ever been in the same town overnight as House?
15:02 Why is the opposition pointing at you?
15:18 Is there any evidence (text, email voicemail) for these claims?
18:39 Has House ever paid you for work?
20:00 “House is innocent… I’ve never been alone with him”
29:00 “Steve need to take it to their doorstep.”
31:50 “People are making stuff up. Cannot be something there that there isn’t. House has to fight this.”
35:00 Lana Fore? “She’s sitting right here next to me.”
36:00 “Want to press charges against people who are claiming to have an affair.”

With Lana Fore, former Colorado GOP secretary:
38:00 What is going on?
40:00 “Personal vendetta”
40:30 Who is trying to force you to say something that is not true? McAlpine, Harvey, Mizel, Herzfeldt all named.
41:30 “House made promises and didn’t keep them.”
41:50 What were those promises?
44:00 Tom Tancredo was at the meeting on Monday night.
45:15 “I’m not a big fan of Colorado Pols, but I think they got it right.”
To put it mildly, the PolitiChicks salvo finds Naye putting a very different spin on events. Here's an excerpt from the post:
She said that she had experienced a traumatic event in which House was there to comfort her. She had just arrived home after traveling and discovered her house sitter hosted a party without permission. Partygoers stole over $3;000 worth of money and possessions. Feeling violated from strangers entering her bedroom and rummaging through her belongings, she contacted House. Naye went to see him, crying and upset over what had happened.

She described the submission to their sexual desires as an organic evolution of their friendship.

“I made a conscious effort to make sure he never feared me outing him,” Naye said.

After days of whisperings and revelations, Coffman finally decided she needed to publicly comment, and chose CBS4 as her forum. Here's a key exchange between her and reporter Shaun Boyd:
Boyd: Did you blackmail or in any way threaten [House]?
Coffman: No.
Boyd: He’s lying?
Coffman: Yes.
Coffman maintains that there was no plan to take word of the affair public. Instead, the matter was supposed to be handled privately by the Colorado GOP's executive committee. Yet she doesn't hide her antipathy for House, telling Boyd, "I think the party only goes forward if there’s honesty in the process, and what we have now in the leadership of the party is a lack of honesty."

Boyd asked Coffman if she thought she should resign as a result of the House matter. She responded negatively to this suggestion, too — and while assorted claims have been made about the Denver District Attorney's Office or the U.S. Attorney's Office looking into the possibility of criminal wrongdoing, those agencies told CBS4 this isn't the case.

Tancredo, for his part, spoke to Westword earlier today, exhibiting his trademark candor about a situation that he feels strongly should have been handled internally.

"I consider this more of an intervention more than anything else, with someone who was a friend — which he was," Tancredo says. "We all supported him. None of us had anything to gain from this" going public.

According to Tancredo, he, Coffman and Mizel were delegated by others in the party to speak with House about assorted matters of concern specifically because they were seen as past backers. However, he goes on, "we were concerned about the party, we were concerned about him and his family. And by the way, the affair part was just a tiny bit of the conversation. It wasn't centered on that at all. And because we'd been such strong supporters, we thought that he'd realize it was a serious matter coming from us."

That initially seemed to be the case, Tancredo allows. "About a half-hour after the meeting, Cynthia received a text from him saying, 'I'm going to resign tomorrow. I'll say it's for undisclosed personal reasons, and if anyone attacks me, I'll attack back' — and by the way, I don't know what that last part was about. So we thought it was over, and it should have been. Nobody's name would have gotten in the paper in connection with affairs, none of that. Yet some time later, he wrote again, saying, 'I changed my mind.'"

The trio did indeed say they planned to mention the affair to the executive committee, Tancredo confirms, but he finds the implication that the plan constituted blackmail as ridiculous. "Say you're an attorney and you and your client are sitting down with another attorney and you say, 'Here are all the things we have. Do you want to go to court and have this come out or do you want to plea bargain?' If that's blackmail, every attorney in the country would be brought up on charges."

At this point, Tancredo believes that selecting House as leader of the Colorado GOP was a mistake, but righting what he sees as a wrong could get complicated.

An executive committee meeting of the Colorado Republican Party is planned for Friday, with at least some portion of it expected to be open to the public. But while Tancredo is unclear on the process, it's his understanding the committee could offer a vote of no-confidence in House but not remove him from his post. That would have to be done by a separate vote of the party's central committee.

His hope is that "this gets resolved before Friday." But even if it doesn't, he doubts that the controversy will have long-term negative effects.

"No matter how fascinated we may be, we represent a very small part of the population," he says, "and most people don't have the foggiest idea what we're talking about. But I feel sorry for a lot of people involved in this — Steve's family, of course, and Julie Naye's family, and the reputation of Cynthia Coffman, who I think is an absolutely wonderful person with a brilliant career ahead of her. It's been pretty ugly, that's for sure."

Here's the CBS4 interview with Coffman.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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