Scott Tipton back in ethics spotlight over use of telecommunications biz owned by his nephew

In late May, Representative Scott Tipton apologized to the House Ethics Committee for his daughter Elizabeth's tactic of dropping daddy's name while seeking clients for Broadnet, the family-related telecommunications firm where she works. Although Tipton's staff denied that Elizabeth's actions constituted an ethics violation, political observers suspected that the Congressman might have other potential problems in this area. Now, they appear to be right -- and Broadnet is at the center of the issue.

This morning's Denver Post reports that Tipton's office spent more than $7,700 with firms that serve as vendors for Broadnet, which is owned by his nephew, Steve Patterson. And while there remains debate about whether this expenditure breaks ethics edicts against hiring a family member (nephews are included), it certainly appears to violate the anti-nepotism spirit of the policy.

After the dust-up related to Elizabeth, Tipton spokesman Josh Green was feisty enough to point fingers of blame at Democratic powerhouses in a Politico piece. "Nancy Pelosi sent her top lap-dog to Colorado last week to fire-up the rumor mill with this cheap Washington political attack on a 22-year-old girl," he maintained in a statement. "They are stooping to sleazy political attacks on Scott Tipton's daughter rather than engaging on the issues facing the American people."

The lap-dog in question was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who "was in Colorado last week showing support for a number of people who could be running for the third congressional district," Green added. "Right after his visit, we started to hear the rumors tick up. That's just kind of a coincidence."

This time around, Green appears to be less pugnacious. He tells the Post that Broadnet's services were the most cost-effective, and besides, Tipton's predecessor, John Salazar, had been employing the firm, too. Moreover, he denied that Tipton's office has had any direct dealings with Broadnet, "regardless of what the appearance is."

Of course, appearance is everything in Washington. Just ask Anthony Weiner. Even if Tipton doesn't become the subject of an ethics probe, he's now perceived as someone who plays fast and loose with the rules -- and that's the kind of reputation that can follow him all the way until the next election day.

More from our Politics archive: "Pinon Canyon: Scott Tipton gets ban on military expansion restored."

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