The pressure on Stephanie Villafuerte's nomination for U.S. Attorney shows no signs of diminishing.
The release of a letter to Senator Mark Udall in which Villafuerte attempted to squash accusations that she'd accessed a criminal database for political purposes (the same act that led to the canning of former ICE agent Cory Voorhis) gave critics new ammo to use against her -- particularly in regard to her suggestion that disputed phone calls back in 2006 may have dealt with a threat against then-candidate/now-governor Bill Ritter's life.
When asked by the Denver Post if the DPD had been informed about these matters at the time, as assistant DA Chuck Lepley testified in court two years ago, Denver Police chief Gerry Whitman declined to comment. To Colorado Republican state chairman Dick Wadhams, Whitman's silence leads to a damning conclusion.
"I think his non-response is actually a very clear response," Wadhams says. "It tells me there was no threat, and it reveals Villafuerte, Governor Ritter and the Denver District Attorney's office as liars. I don't see how anyone could reach any other conclusion."
To that end, Wadhams sent a letter to Whitman asking for him to publicly answer questions on the matter; it's reproduced below. But if he's already made up his mind, why should the chief speak up?
"I wanted to take another run at it after reading the Post editorial on Saturday," he says. "I wanted to see if my letter would prompt something different. If there was a threat, let's hear about it.
"I do feel bad for Chief Whitman," he continues. "He's there doing his job, and the next thing he knows, he's been thrust into the middle of this controversy by these very irresponsible parties. I just think they're digging themselves in deeper."
Regarding Villafuerte's letter, Wadhams says, "I found it interesting that she thought she needed to send it. That told me they were feeling the heat, and that some combination of her, Bill Ritter, Mark Udall, Michael Bennet and whoever else decided she needed to make some kind of public statement that would reassure the judiciary committee" -- the Senate body charged with considering her nomination -- "in addition to trying to quell the public questions being raised. But instead, I think the letter has actually led to more questions. So I don't think it's done them any good at all."
Does Wadhams think he and his fellow Republicans can derail the nomination?
"The brutal truth is, the Democrats have the votes to drive this nomination through if they want to -- and they might very well do that," he says. "But I'll tell you, that would come at a very high cost.
"We've never had a U.S. Attorney nominee with an ethical cloud overhead like this," he continues. "Take Tom Strickland. He'd just been defeated in the Senate race by Wayne Allard when Bill Clinton nominated him, and Wayne Allard could have killed that nomination. But he believes strongly a president should be able to make those nominations, and there was no cloud hanging over Tom Strickland. So neither Allard nor any Republican raised an objection to Tom Strickland.
"I mention that because this isn't a routine situation, where I as state chairman or Republican elected officials always decide to make a public issue of U.S. Attorney nominations. We don't. But this is a very disturbing situation, where someone who is clearly trying to craft some scheme to justify her behavior a few years ago could be confirmed as U.S. Attorney. And what kind of authority will she have as U.S. Attorney if her nomination is rammed through the U.S. Senate?
"This is unprecedented," Wadhams argues. "And when you think about the number of qualified Democratic lawyers in Colorado who'd love to be U.S. Attorney and would sail through with no problem, it's amazing that they put this nomination forward. I think it's an act of arrogance."
In the meantime, Villafuerte's name has just surfaced in another unflattering story. The Independence Institute's Todd Shepherd has just published a piece that begins: "A check for $30,000 written by Greg Kolomitz to repay the 'Ritter Inaugural Fund' was not immediately deposited into that account, but rather was turned into a cashiers check by Stephanie Villafuerte."
At this point, Wadhams seems more puzzled than incensed by this development. "I'm unclear about the explanation given by the law firm, with them saying the check reflected good funds immediately on deposit," he allows. "What was the hurry? Why couldn't they wait a few days to have the check clear? I just find the whole thing very bizarre. I don't understand why it was necessary for a cashiers check to be cut to begin with -- and then for Stephanie Villafuerte to endorse it, that raises some interesting questions."
What's Wadhams next step?
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"I'm going to be encouraging Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee" to raise objections to Villafuerte's nomination being rubber-stamped, he says. "We're vastly outnumbered on the committee, and they don't have to have a hearing -- but I'm hoping they have one, because these questions deserve to be raised. And I think there's a lot of discussion about this in a lot of offices in Washington, D.C. right now.
"We'll see how arrogant these majority Democrats are. And it will be at the peril of Michael Bennet and Mark Udall if this is rammed through -- especially Bennet, since his name is on the ballot in 2010."
Here's Wadhams' letter to Whitman:
Monday, November 30, 2009
Honorable Gerald R. Whitman Chief of Police City and County of Denver 1331 Cherokee Street Denver, CO 80204
Dear Chief Whitman,
Along with most Coloradans, I have long admired your professionalism and leaership as Denver Chief of Police.
However, recent statements by the nominee for United States Attroney for Colorado, Stephanie Villafuerte, along with Governor Bill Ritter and members of the Denver District Attorney's Office have unfairly cast a political shadow over you and your department that could sully your well deserved reputation.
In a clumsy attempt to prove they did not inappropriately and unethically tap a national crime data base for political purposes, Ms. Villafuerte, Governor Bill Ritter, and the Denver District Attorney's Office have all claimed that numerous conversations during the 2006 campaign were regarding an alleged death threat to candidate Ritter.
The Denver Post reported on Sunday, November 22, 2009 that you declined to confirm whether you had any conversations with the Denver District Attorney's office regarding the alleged death threats to candidate Ritter.
The Denver Post editorialized this past Friday, November 27, 2009 that "Either Whitman remembers the threats or he doesn't" and that "It's important, we think, to get to the bottom of events surrounding the accessing of the database."
Chief Whitman, I believe you have been put in a very uncomfortable and unfair position by Ms. Villafuerte, Governor Ritter, and the Denver District Attorney's office by their rather creative explanations for their actions.
But the public deserves a clear answer from you and your department. Were you or other members of the Denver Police Department aware of a threat to candidate Bill Ritter during the October 2006 campaign? And if so, why is there no official record of such a threat nor of any actions taken by the department to respond to such a threat? Colorado awaits your response.
Dick Wadhams Colorado Republican State Chairman