DENVER — An advisor to Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran has been stripped of her security credentials after sneaking a political activist into the Capitol for a prank that made international headlines.
The staffer, Katie March, who serves as an advisor and assistant to 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 Progress Now, placed the large portrait of Putin near portraits of American presidents in the halls of the Capitol.
The stunt was designed to embarrass Republicans following news reports that no money had been raised to place a portrait of President 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 angered by the stunt and the resulting publicity quickly rallied to raise the necessary funds for the Trump portrait.
Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, who led the fundraising effort, called for additional discipline against March, the legislative staffer responsible for the breach.
“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.
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.
Silverii is also employed by 9NEWS as this station’s Democratic political expert, opposite Republican political expert Kelly Maher.
9NEWS reporter Kyle Clark reached out to 9NEWS General Manager Steve Carter for comment on Silverii’s involvement.
“9NEWS is evaluating the roles of our political analysts,” Carter said via email.