Sandra Fish writes for Politics Daily:
Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, elected this fall, is the second Colorado elected official to continue consulting with a former employer…
“As state treasurer, they’re supposed to be investing for the state of Colorado. What if there are state funds that are invested in this company?” asked Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “There are different sets of laws for different officials and we’re still wading through all of that.”
Stapleton’s office issued a response saying his outside consulting with his previous firm — SonomaWest — isn’t a problem.
“There is no conflict of interest with respect to his duties as Colorado’s Treasurer,” wrote Deputy Treasurer Brett Johnson in an e-mail. “SonomaWest does not operate within the realm of public finance. While Treasurer Stapleton has discussed this matter with the AG’s office, he has not asked for a formal ruling on this matter because the relationship with SonomaWest does not represent any conflict of interest in any shape or form.”
We’ll start by agreeing that Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s circumstances are different than the much clearer-cut conflict of interest posed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s moonlighting for his election-specialty law firm. Stapleton’s California firm Sonoma West doesn’t appear to have any presence in Colorado, or any dealings in public finance at all as Brett Johnson says. Stapleton was explicit with reporter Tim Hoover that Sonoma West “does not currently have any business in the state of Colorado,” which actually throws Gessler under the bus a little.
But we can’t help but wonder, if there is really no conflict of interest, why Stapleton doesn’t just ask Suthers and put this to bed once and for all. Johnson’s arrogant response aside — “[Stapleton] has not asked for a formal ruling on this matter because the relationship with SonomaWest does not represent any conflict of interest in any shape or form” — we’re pretty sure that Stapleton isn’t an attorney.
But Gessler’s much splashier moonlighting controversy doesn’t make Stapleton’s arrangement look good, for sure, and where Gessler says his would only be a fractional supplement to his income, Stapleton will reportedly earn much more than his pay as Treasurer from Sonoma West. With that in mind, all the questions posed to Gessler about distraction from his elected responsibility, or even split loyalty in whatever circumstances might force a choice, would certainly apply to Stapleton as well–even if it might not provoke the same full-throated outrage Gessler has.
Heck, maybe it’s charming that nothing can come between a Bush family scion and his bling.