Scott Gessler Was a Bad Choice For Secretary of State, Part CMLXVII

The Colorado Independent’s David O. Williams reports:

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, according to the Denver Post, will be proposing a new set of rules that would waive or reduce a significant number of campaign finance fines for political committees that fail to file disclosure reports…

“If someone is willfully blowing it off [Pols emphasis], yes, that merits a higher fine,” Gessler told the Post. Gessler represented a group called the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers Association that had its fines for failing to file reports dropped from more than $504,000 to just under $8,500 – a story that came up during his campaign last fall but failed to gain traction with voters.

And Gessler also represented a group called the Colorado League of Taxpayers, incorporated by Republican operative Scott Shires, that was hit with a more than $7,000 fine for failing to register its electioneering activities in a 2008 Garfield County commissioners race that pitted oil and gas interests against two Democrats who ultimately lost. Fines in that case grew to more than $8,000 and went unpaid for years. [Pols emphasis]

Shires was the original registered agent for Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative, pro-energy nonprofit active for years in a slew of elections across the West. But Gessler’s law firm, which earlier this year he tried to continue working for even while serving as secretary of state, took over the registration of Western Tradition, which was sharply criticized for its campaign tactics during the past election cycle.

Of course, we, like you and everybody else in the state, are obliged to give the newly-elected Secretary of State the benefit of the doubt; having not actually seen the details of his proposed changes to Colorado election rules. Scott Gessler is within his authority to propose changes; revisions and updates to these rules are a common and necessary practice.

The problem, although as the Independent notes above, it “failed to gain traction with voters,” is knowing Gessler’s history makes it very difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt. The fact is, every time he makes a move, Gessler’s record will not just provoke but mandate a high level of scrutiny. Any time he proposes a change that might benefit one of his who’s-who list of shady political clients (sample above), or–even better–tries to actually enforce a rule that he in all probability has previously argued against…ready-made controversy, folks. Over and over.

All of which is an excellent justification for not putting foxes in charge of henhouses to begin with, but the voters have settled that question until, barring anything unforeseen, at least 2014.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    The effort alone would be a good tool for keeping every shady connection and action of Gessler’s in the news cycle for as long as we can keep it going and  keeping Gessler on the “I am not a crook” defensive.

  2. Ray Springfield says:

    The Supreme Couret isn’t enough. Nationally the Republicans want to break organized labor, and increase hiding where the money comes from. It will lead to an ever increasing competitive advantage.

  3. morebetter says:

    If this guy can turn half a million in fines into $8500, can the Larimer Republicans willfully blow off their reporting and pay $816? Here’s to that political mastermind, Larry Carillo.

  4. ohwilleke says:

    “All of which is an excellent justification for not putting foxes in charge of henhouses to begin with[.]”

    Correct.  But, honestly, what can one expect in a system where we put a senior partisan elected official in charge of running elections and formulating the regulations governing election laws and campaign finance.  Barring the exceedingly unlikely event that an independent candidate is elected to be Secretary of State, a fox in charge of the henhouse problem is almost inevitable sooner or later.  Gessler may be taking a more bold and blatantly partisan approach than other individuals, but ultimately, the whole point of the elected SOS race is to give the winner the opportunity to bias the outcome of the state’s elections for the next four years.

    Why did the progressives of a century ago who deeply distrusted political parties yet pushed this idea think it was a good idea? This utterly bemuses me.  But, it is the national norm and a recurrent source of scandal in election law (as is the notion of having a partisan clerk and recorder handle the same functions at the local level).  

    Every other stable democracy in the world entrusts the administration of elections to non-partisan or bipartisan appointees on some sort of commission.  Denver, while no longer having an elected non-partisan election commission (a bad move in my view, but voters disagreed with me), it at least has an officially non-partisan clerk and recorder, rather than a partisan one (although the reality is that almost all of Denver’s non-partisan elected officials are and have been for a long time, Democrats).

    Colorado could change its constitution to follow the international norm, which would make much more sense.  In fact, we already such a commission in place (the reapportionment commission), but limit its authority to drawing state legislative boundaries, rather than to handling election administration in general.  We also already have another body, the independent ethics commission, in charge of administering the gift ban and lobbying restrictions, and have kept our courts relatively non-partisan through the use of Judicial nominating commissions rather than political appointments for judges (which which elected officials must choice from the top three candidates that are nominated).

    (Congressional redistricting can’t be delegated as the U.S. Constitution expressly provides that it is a function of the state legislature.)

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