A report from KRDO-TV on the scandal over Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s decision to work part time for his politically radioactive law firm, somehow free of conflicts of interest:
To be clear, we have no interest in defending Secretary Gessler’s decision to “moonlight” for his old firm, which is in turn connected to some of the most toxic characters in Colorado politics (see: Shires, Scott)–and we don’t see a way for him to carry out his duties as Secretary of State with such a large, unaccountable soft spot raising questions about everything he does. Moreover, Gessler’s complaints that he can’t survive on a $68,500 a year salary look absolutely horrible to the average Colorado citizen, who will be happy to notify Gessler that he/she makes a lot less.
This certainly is a public relations disaster for Gessler at least; and on the heels of awful press over cutting school breakfast money for poor kids, it tells the story once again of a hypocritical, out-of-touch GOP in Colorado–who has been losing more elections than they win in recent years.
We feel it’s necessary to enter all of the above into the record before we address the point made by Colorado College’s astute Prof. Bob Loevy in the KRDO story at top:
“I’m embarrassed for the people of Colorado,” said Bob Loevy, Colorado College Political Professor, “because the root cause of this story is we pay our public officials woeful salaries compared to what they could make in the private sector.”
Loevy said pay for Colorado state leaders is on the low-end compared to other states.
“When you pay all your state officials, other than your governor, under $70,000 a year, that’s just not realistic in today’s market for personnel,” he said…Loevy agreed, however, that a job at Hackstaff Law Group would be a conflict of interest with Gessler’s state post.
This is, it must be said, a valid point: professionals like lawyers, meaning like Gessler, would normally have a private-sector income substantially higher than $70,000 per year. And as Loevy says, the relatively low pay for top positions in Colorado government relative to what a person with the same skills could get in the private sector does create a disincentive for some very qualified people to seek office. We submit to you that this is a problem affecting not just statewide elected posts, but also state legislators; who are asked to take on de facto full time workloads, during and outside the session, for less than a McDonald’s manager earns.
Does this excuse Gessler’s actions? Of course not–he knew what the job he was running for would pay, and he’s not so foolish as to have no comprehension why his election-specialty law firm is a much bigger potential conflict of interest than, say, Ken Salazar’s Dairy Queen or John Suthers’ class at DU. Gessler has demonstrated a level of brashness with this move that looks like cluelessness, but is really much more straightforward arrogance. It validates some of the worst criticisms made by his opponents, and raises very serious questions about his judgment.
But it seems to us that if spectacles like this one can be avoided, along with votes to take breakfast away from poor kids that you have to admit make pay raises for politicians a, um, harder sell, perhaps someday this is a conversation we ought to have. We, like Prof. Loevy, are a little embarrassed to have to mention it in these circumstances, even though it’s true. It’s like finding defective brakes in a crash obviously the fault of a careless driver–you still have to note it.
won’t make a difference.
The REAL money is in influence-peddling.
The pay for elected office sucks. However, after leaving office, for most people, the amount they can make then increases significantly.
So for many holding elective office is akin to going to school – an investment in increased future earnings.
He can peddle influence WHILE he’s in office!
lobbyists in training.
but side jobs that don’t involve clear and obvious conflict of interest, such as AG Suthers teaching a course in criminal justice, present much less of a problem in the meantime. For Gessler to be allowed to work for a law firm specializing in advising clients in the area of election law and related matters and to serve as SOS at the same time is completely untenable.
Our elected officials work much harder even out of session than many people who are paid two, three, or four times as much. They deserve a raise. But let’s feed the starving kids first. I don’t think reps like Max Tyler would vote for raises for themselves until that’s dealt with.
I have no “questions.” Damn clear to me!
State Representatives are a bargain at $30,000… Hard to believe!
Didn’t Scott know what his salary was going to be BEFORE he ran for office?? Did he plan this all along?? Bring back Bernie!
as if it’s a good thing to compare salary to. The bigger issue with that, to me, is that we have a guy who apparently can’t plan ahead or budget in charge of that large a budget.
I realize you didn’t mention it; it just seemed to fit here.
Correlation does not mean causation. But low pay and a shorter session is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of results. If anyone else has seen any other measures of legislator pay/terms vs results I think that would be very interesting.
I don’t have an answer, just an anecdote: Those conservatives in Texas have been bragging of their low taxes and fiscal responsibility. And with a $7,200 salary and meeting only 140 days every other year, they don’t spend much on legislators (except there are 181 of them).
It seems their 2-year budget process has masked the damage of the last two years, and now as they go into the next cycle they are short $25 billion or more. In relative terms they are worst off that California–who, of course, they have been mocking the past two years!
A one state example does nothing to answer your question, of course. But it appears that Texas’ official 2010 deficit was masking reality.
Moreover, one of the biggest factors that makes state representatives and state senators subject to outside influence is their lack of adequate staff.
If General Assembly members had more staff they wouldn’t have to rely nearly so much on lobbyists for bill specific research.
Give Politicians a raise while 10% are out of work? Really?
I get the argument that our state officials need to get paid more, but this is a case of the right idea with the wrong timing.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why for all the issues and massive budget problems the state is facing, we have such underpaid legislators who are only in session 5 months out of the year.
TABOR was designed to destroy the local and state governments of Colorado. It nearly succeeded until C passed. Now when the state is almost belly up the ability to pass a tax increase to save Colorado in nil.
The legislature is severely limited in what it can do because of the dictates of so many constitutional budget amendments. Again, the system was gamed by those willing to take the elected representatives of the people of Colorado and reduce them to trying to divvy up a small percentage of revenues.
Ken can ask Hope to give a part-time job to Scott at her Dairy Queen.
Bi-partisanship in action.
Maybe he could pick up some spare change thataway.
to provide free lunches to kids from low-income families, we sure as hell can’t afford to be giving raises to politicians.
I’m waiting for a Republican to make the case for giving Gessler et al a raise while at the same time making poor kids pay 30 cents for lunch.
There’s that, too. In any case, Gessler needs to decide whther he wants to be a highly paid lawyer or SOS.
I echo your sentiments.
However, under Colorado law, it’s not really clear that Gessler NEEDS to make that choice.
He’s reading the law and thumbing his nose at the rest of us.
Unfortunately, given the difficulty of getting rid of his sorry ass, he’ll be able to do that for the next four years.
Don’t know that there is any law or ethics mechanism that would force him to do so and agree that he will do whatever he can get away with. If there is the slightest possibility of engineering a recall, that ought to be pursued and he should never be allowed to get through a day without hearing demands that he quit one job or the other or (preferably) resign.
If he really doesn’t get what an untenable conflict of interest his proposed dual career represents, no one ought to have confidence in him as someone who can be trusted to run our state’s elections, even if he can be convinced, at this point, to give up working for his old (or should we say still current) firm.
Thinking about Buescher and Kennedy losing to such low quality rivals as Gessler and Stapleton is really depressing. Not to mention seeing my own HD Rep., Joe Rice, an influential, experienced House star, getting replaced by a twit with no qualifications who tells people that Jesus wanted her to to be our Rep. Really, really depressing.
In my work, I qualify as a “special government employee.” (For arcane accounting reasons, a fraction of my time is accounted for as a govt employee.) As such, I have to take an online govt ethics course every year. I took the course last week, before any of this story broke.
It’s clear that if Gessler were a federal employee, he would be violating ethics laws. Period. It’s not even close.
And another thing. In federal law, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt.
and much cheaper than a recall.
The Dept of Ed ran out of money for it and was asking for more.
The Dept of Ed could readjust their existing budget to fund it, but chose not to.
Take the $780,000 that CU just spent on a new logo and use it to make up the difference in the breakfast program, and fund it next year with the remainder.
And in the case of the wasted $780k, interest income.
the “president’s initiative fund.” As soon as you’re the president of CU, you choose where the money goes. Until then…
And you’re right that the food money was a glitch in school budget, but Lambert and his Republican colleagues have in fact suggested that the state is too broke to cover it.
Good try though. Wait, good? That’s right; grossly under researched try. Whichever.
Punish malnourished children? Makes sense to me!
And to the rest of you who let him hijack the tread by responding to his inane comment, shame on you.
This thread was about Gessler. Let’s make HAT defend Gessler’s indefensible behavior.
Yes we have different pots of money for different groups. But when one group that gets some state money wastes it, that reflects across all state funding.
Would have been much better if C.U. took 5 minutes to pick one of the existing logos (cost $0.00) and then put this money toward 30 full academic scholarships.
Anything goes as long as it doesn’t have to do with selling software to the state.
It remains a fair point.
Where are all of our rightie friends telling us there’s nothing to see here, anyway?
Isn’t there some rich republican that could put Kristi Gessler on the payroll? Put her on a board or something. A foundation maybe.
I swear I’m not kidding.
It’s done all the time.
The bottom line is that Gessler knew what the pay was when he ran. Tough shit.
tough shit for us, not him. If we can’t mount a successful recall (and what are the chances, really?), what are we going to do about it?
The numbers needed are big so it will take raising a lot of money, but it can be done. The key is good planning first and having everything in place BEFORE the 60-day clock starts.
I would point out it would also be financially more responsible to time the recall to fall on the Nov. coordnated election.
Who would you run as an alternative?
Well, someone who doesn’t make a living (and want to continue to make a living) representing people AGAINST the SOS, for a start…
It blew my mind that Bernie and Cary lost. I knew it could happen, but Walker [Bush] Stapleton and SO[B] Gessler were the worst possible candidates in my mind.
Hmm, just thinking out loud here, but what about former GOP candidate, Ali Hasan?
plus he has to live in Colorado.
I raised the issue because the devil you know is almost always better than the devil you don’t know.
It could be about that time that the recall election gets around…
But I am so NOT for the devil you know! It’s still a DEVIL! LOL! I think Colorado could do better (and I thought Bernie was better — sadly, the Tea Party wave of idiocy claimed him and Cary).
There are 64 County Clerks that would likely at least “look at it”.
from volunteering. Discouraged and burnt out. But I’d volunteer for this.
or hasn’t already happened, what makes you think that would be enough for Gessler or that he wouldn’t want to peddle some extracirricular influence anyway???
I’m not convinced that this is only about the salary.
Gessler’s term as Secretary of State will amount to anything other than the equivalent of a really long game of golf with prospective clients?
No.The state has a billion dollar budget shortfall.
I agree that our state officials are underpaid. I also agree that it’s not the right climate to put an increase on the ballot. Maybe put it on the future list along with repealing the Bankrupt Colorado Amendment (TABOR). Too bad we can only put one topic in a ballot issue — there’s some justice to pairing those two I think.
I’m not sure which voters on what planet would approve a TABOR repeal and pay increases for elected officials in the same question. Not this planet.
Every election we get a handful of qualified people eager to spend a lot of their own money to get one of these “underpaid” positions.
with extracurricular perks.
There are a handful of (over-)qualified people who sign up every year to become highly underpaid staff at our national parks, too.
Just because there’s demand for a job position doesn’t necessarily mean that the job is worth so little, IMHO.
and almost any non-profit, for that matter.
I imagine that Hickenlooper could make more as a restaurateur or petroleum geologist than he does as Governor.
I think the answer to the question, absent considerations of budget shortfalls and the taxpayer’s mood, is pretty easy.
Of course they’re underpaid for what they’re supposed to do. And this goes more than double for the State Legislators, whose salaries are so low that a significant fraction of well-qualified individuals are dissuaded from running every cycle.