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Colo. legislative aide disciplined for Putin portrait prank

Author: Kyle Clark, 9News - August 19, 2018 - Updated: August 21, 2018

The placement of a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Colorado Capitol near a location reserved for U.S. President Donald Trump made worldwide headlines. (KUSA-9News, Denver)

An advisor to Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran has been stripped of her security credentials after sneaking a political activist into the Capitol for a prank involving a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin that made international headlines.

The staffer, Katie March, who serves as an advisor and assistant to Democrat Duran, allowed the political operative to access the Capitol through a secured entrance reserved for employees.

Alan Franklin, political director for the liberal advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, placed the large portrait of Putin near portraits of American presidents in the halls of the Capitol.

> RELATED: No Trump portrait yet at Colorado Capitol? How about Putin?

The stunt was designed to embarrass Republicans following news reports that no money had been raised to place a portrait of President Donald Trump alongside those of his predecessors.

The prank made national and international news, including a story on the Kremlin-controlled RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

Republicans who were angered by the stunt and the resulting publicity quickly rallied to raise the necessary funds for the Trump portrait.

> RELATED: Republicans raise the $10K needed for Trump portrait at Capitol in less than 36 hours

Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, who led the fundraising effort, called for additional discipline against March.

“Political pranks are one thing, but it crosses a line, in my opinion, when public spaces in the Capitol are misused and abused the way they were in this case,” Grantham said in a statement to 9News.

“This building belongs to all the people of Colorado and I’m frankly shocked that anyone who works on staff here — and works for the top Democrat in the House, no less — would be a party to something as inappropriate and over the line as this,” Grantham said.

March issued an apology for her actions.

“I saw this as a harmless prank but didn’t think through the potential impact of my actions on our building security,” March said in a written statement. “I sincerely apologize to my colleagues and to State Patrol for my actions.”

Speaker Duran said March’s actions were “not sanctioned by the House leadership office.”

“The employee has been spoken to by State Patrol and our office, and disciplinary action has been taken,” Duran said.

After an investigation, the Colorado State Patrol revoked March’s security badge that allowed her to enter the Capitol without going through security, said Trooper Josh Lewis. March can still enter the building by going through security at public entrances, Lewis said.

Colorado State Patrol Captain Matt Secor told 9News he did not believe the incident suggested a larger security concern at the Capitol, where badged staffers avoid the security lines that screen members of the public.

The progressive advocacy group that placed the Putin portrait in the Capitol expressed regret that March lost her security clearance but was unapologetic for the prank.

“We hope that public awareness has been raised over the danger of Russian influence over the President of the United States,” ProgressNow Colorado executive director Ian Silverii said.

“Next time we’ll use the front door,” Silverii said.

Silverii said he approved the placement of the Putin portrait in advance.

The Associated Press contributed.

Kyle Clark, 9News

Kyle Clark, 9News