Scott Gessler Needs Your Help!

You’ve read by now about the major campaign finance rule changes proposed by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler earlier this month. The brief summary of what Gessler is attempting here, as we understand it, is a smorgasbord of rewrites to campaign finance rules that would significantly undermine issue committee disclosure, while tightening requirements for “membership organizations.” In short, the rules would liberalize parts of campaign finance law that are onerous to Republican traditional funding sources, while restricting sources typically utilized by Democrats. Many of the changes are believed to go well beyond the Secretary of State’s rulemaking authority, and are almost certain to result in litigation.

Yesterday afternoon, Gessler felt compelled to send out a very unusual defense of his proposed rule changes, along with other recent actions taken by his office, on official letterhead:

Coloradans supported campaign finance transparency, but our campaign finance laws have led to two major problems. First, the rules and regulations have become incredibly complex, making it very difficult for volunteers and part-time activists to follow the law.

Second, campaign finance fines have been completely out of proportion to the violations. We’ve seen candidates with very limited contributions rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, not because they were intentionally hiding their political spending, but because of filing mistakes or confusion.

As a result, Colorado politics has become a game for the wealthy, who can hire expensive lawyers and accountants…

I am proposing a re-write of Colorado’s campaign finance rules, for three reasons. First, the rules are poorly organized, and reorganization will make them easier to use. Second, some rules are poorly written, and a substantial re-write will make it easier to understand the rules. Third, the rules need to reflect recent court cases and experience. Accordingly, the rules will reflect several new, common-sense interpretations. [Pols emphasis]

Now, some of you will no doubt remember that Scott Gessler was the “expensive lawyer” for the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers Association, which racked up an eye-popping $500,000 in fines–an amount, at least partly mitigating Gessler’s lament above, later reduced to around $8,500. As Secretary of State, Gessler first slashed the fines owed by the Larimer County GOP after mismanagement by an alleged criminal, then hosted a fundraiser to help pay them.

So, thanks to Gessler, at least insofar as Gessler’s fellow Republicans are concerned, the status quo isn’t as bad as it’s being made out. Still, Gessler seems aware that he can’t man a dunk tank every time a Republican is slapped with a huge fine, so he wants to “fix the broken system.”

Unfortunately, I’ve received some partisan criticism from those locked into a broken system. We need, however, leadership to fix a broken system and to even the playing field for everyone who gets involved in politics. People deserve a clear understanding of our campaign finance system without having to pay a lawyer and an accountant.

We get it! Gessler can’t moonlight for his old law firm either, so the incentive to keep the campaign finance compliance industry in Colorado going just isn’t there anymore.

We don’t have to reach for the punchlines, folks. They’re in plain view. In truth, Gessler’s proposed changes to campaign finance rules might mean less money spent on lawyers like Gessler–but only because they give election lawyers like Gessler so much of what they want.

In addition, Gessler explains that the legislative Legal Services Committee will convene tomorrow to discuss the solution for a conflict in the law that emerged last summer in primary campaign reporting–this was the case where Gessler “resolved” the error by eliminating a whole class of primary disclosure reports. More likely, the legislative committee will decide to fix the glitch rather than simply eliminate the reports, but this was Gessler’s last chance to plead his odd case:

I encourage you to make your opinions known about how the reporting schedule should be interpreted. The committee’s vote may have a big impact on how often people report before a primary.

Who do you think the audience is for this? The only reason we can think of why one would not want the legislature to fix the dates for reporting is to intentionally facilitate less reporting, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be better for Gessler to call for fixing the dates instead of eliminating biweekly primary finance reports? Like we say, if Gessler simply supported the legislature fixing the error in the prescribed dates…but, as should be clear by now, his interest is more than that.

Bottom line: it’s important to remember how Gessler is supposed to do his job. The Secretary of State proposes draft rules, the public comments, and taking those comments into consideration, final rules are published. In this case, however, Gessler actively lobbies for his controversial proposals, rightfully raising questions about his willingness to accept feedback at all. And he uses official channels to defend himself politically on a host of controversial actions he’s taken.

It’s one of those things you have to understand in its full scope to realize how unseemly it is.

43 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Moderatus says:

    You’re saying Gessler is disqualified because of his past from doing his job? Ridiculous.

    • BlueCat says:

      Hint: It isn’t to run the office as a purely partisan arm of the Colorado GOP. Surprised ArapG hasn’t weighed in with his usual shilling already.  3, 2,1…

      • ArapaGOP says:

        This person asked a reasonable question. If Gessler is not disqualified from running for Sec. State, then he must be free to do his job without constant presumption of guilt. It’s ridiculous to suggest that Gessler can simply pass rules that contravene law, because he can’t. Gessler can propose changes, and you liberals have every right to challenge him.

        Colorado Pols’ job is not to illuminate these issues, only to turn every story into a vehicle to attack Republicans. Everything Gessler is doing will go through the proverbial wringer, so why not judge these changes on the merits instead of presumption and political attacks?


        Speaking of which, Pols, I heard the Denver inactive ballot return rate was only 2%. What happened to the thousands of voters Gessler was “disenfranchising?” Why don’t you talk about that total non-scandal you spent weeks decrying – or has it oulived its usefulness now?

        • Aristotle says:

          Bullshit. And for someone who boo hooed from here to DC and back over redistricting, your opinion is completely without merit.

        • You say “It’s ridiculous to suggest that Gessler can simply pass rules that contravene law, because he can’t.”  But that’s patently false.  Gessler can pass whatever rules he wants, and appears willing to do so – but courts can certainly overturn them as being outside of the limits of his office. (That’s “illegal” if you’re having trouble translating…)

          You can start by referencing the judge’s decision on the small issue committee rule if you’re having trouble visualizing this.

          • Ralphie says:

            an “as applied” decision.

            It pertained only to the facts of that case.  It does not require a unilateral, top-to-bottom overhaul of the campaign finance rules.

            That rewrite is simply Gessler jumping into a perceived vacuum.

        • BlueCat says:

          Love those non-response responses.  Every time I get one I know it’s because you’ve got nothing. And lately you’ve got pretty much nothing but nothing and nothing’s hard to spin. Gives me great hope for 2012.

          • Craig says:

            Ignore difficult topics.

            Rule 102.  Attack opponents for their strengths.

            Rule 103.  Nothing that is bad for the

            GOPis true, it’s all lies.

            Rule 104.  Up means down and yes means no.

            Rule 105.  It doesn’t matter what you did or said yesterday.  It didn’t happen if it’s inconvenient today.

            Rule 106.  Lie, lie, lie.

          • ArapaGOP says:

            Your “question” is pure invective. No, Gessler is not running his office as an arm of the GOP, or Craig Hughes would be in leg irons.

            • DavidThi808 says:

              or Craig Hughes would be in leg irons

            • BlueCat says:

              lowering a fine for your own party, then offering to help raise the funds to pay it, ArapG? Or are you suggesting he would have done exactly the same thing for Dems, his actions being a completely non-partisan response to a rule he finds onerous as SOS for all?  This is me not holding my breath for you to receive an irrelevant talking point answer from the Borg.

              And, by the way, that’s just one example.  Wouldn’t want yo to put the Borg on overload. I can provide more at your request. Or perhaps others would care to?

        • Then he would have disenfranchised 2% of Denver voters.  2% being greater than 0%, that would be, um, undemocratic and perhaps unconstitutional.

        • Craig says:

          I would ask you, what was the big deal about sending the ballots out to inactive voters?  Well, we all know the answer to that, the decision to challenge this was a political decision, not a legal decision.

          By the way 2% of what number???  That could indeed be “thousands” of ballots.  Your statement means nothing anyway in addition to being just stupid.

          Gessler should go back to what he did before, there he gets paid even though he usually loses.

        • Ralphie says:

          Is to implement the laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, and to comply with the Constitution of the State of Colorado.

          He doesn’t get to write his own laws.

          The solution for the problem he is trying to solve is a legislative solution.  In fact, it might require a Constitutional solution, because Colorado’s campaign finance laws are written into the Constitution.

          Freelancing doesn’t qualify as “doing his job.”

        • gaf says:

          It’s ridiculous to suggest that Gessler can simply pass rules that contravene law, because he can’t….

          Everything Gessler is doing will go through the proverbial wringer, so why not judge these changes on the merits instead of presumption and political attacks?

          First, Gessler did “pass” (wrote and implemented) a rule that contravened law. And it was judged–by a real Judge–on the merits. The Judge said Gessler did not have the authority to do what he tried to do.

          Gessler is proposing to do the same thing again, and he is being called out for it. It is not an attack on Republicans to point out inconvenient facts, except in ArapaGOP world.

          • ArapaGOP says:

            About many Supreme Court decisions that have ruled parts of the current law unconstitutional. Gessler has to do some thing that liberals don’t like with regard to campaign finance, he was ordered to by the Supreme Court. Sorry if you don’t like that.

            Ooooh, those activist judges! 🙂

            • Ralphie says:

              Define how Gessler’s job interacts with state law and the Constitution.

              Show your work.

            • gaf says:

              he was ordered to by the Supreme Court…

              No, he was not. Neither the state nor federal Supreme Court ordered Gessler to do anything. The judge hearing the case of Gessler’s rule observed that Gessler did not have the power to write the rule he did.

              It has nothing to do with what I like–it has to do with facts, and you are lying about the facts.

    • ClubTwitty says:

      in this statement coming out of POS Gessler’s office…

      As a result, Colorado politics has become a game for the wealthy, who can hire expensive lawyers

      • RedGreen says:

        A bit of wishful thinking there, too?

        • ArapaGOP says:

          Cannot supplement his income with legal work, thanks to liberal faux outrage. You know that already, so what’s your point?

          • RedGreen says:

            secretary of state forever.

            And it’s not faux liberal outrage that kept Gessler from moonlighting at his old elections law firm while he was enforcing the state’s election laws. You really have zero understanding of integrity or conflicts of interest, don’t you?

          • Craig says:

            I’m not a liberal.  I’m outraged.  My outrage is not “faux.”  So what’s your point?  Oh, I forgot Rule 107 make up your own “facts” if you don’tlike thereal ones.

            As for Gessler. Well, he was an elections lawyer before he ran for office.  If he didn’t like the fact that he would be underpaid, well then he shouldn’t have run.   As you know, the law is very clear on this point, he can’t moonlight.  Oh, I forgot Rule 108 there’s no such thing a a law that can’t be ignored if it turns out to be inconvenient.

    • Tom says:

      doesn’t disqualify him, though it certainly helps to illustrate what biases might be operating when he proposes otherwise nonsensical rules changes. These are bad decisions that would’ve drawn negative attention to Buescher, Coffman, or any other SoS.

      That Gessler’s previous job consisted of trying to thwart election laws just makes his poor performance in his current job much more insidious. If he just quit trying to subvert his well-defined job description of ensuring fair elections and upholding the law in order to gain partisan advantage, his past wouldn’t be an issue.

  2. Alexei says:

    But not the kind I can provide.

    • Craig says:

      But he won’t because he knows Natalie wouldn’t put up with his BS and she wouldn’t be quiet about it.  Actually she already hasn’t been quiet about it.  I don’t think he has the balls to take on Natalie Meyer, she’s still tough as nails and fair as can be.

  3. dwyer says:

    I don’t understand this quote:

    Speaking of which, Pols, I heard the Denver inactive ballot return rate was only 2%. What happened to the thousands of voters Gessler was “disenfranchising?” Why don’t you talk about that total non-scandal you spent weeks decrying – or has it oulived its usefulness now?

    Site your source.  

    • Aristotle says:

      Either alleged insiders who of course can’t be named… or his imagination. Which means I’m probably being redundant.

    • ArapaGOP says:

      Its been widely reported. It’s available in the Denver return data. Look it up your damn self.

      • Aristotle says:

        You make an allegation; you support it.

        You can’t do it? It never happened.

        Since when is it reasonable to take you at your word?

      • ajb says:

        You lost the benefit of the doubt a long time ago.

      • dwyer says:

        Back at you.  I checked the Election Division and did google the Denver Post and could not find the data to which you refer.  More information would be appreciated.

        Let me explain to you and our other “out of county” friends.  The most significant school board race was in Northwest Denver.  The incumbent won by 124 votes – how many of those were inactive voters previously, i don’t know.  I do know that in close elections every vote counts.

        Because of that win, the “minority” faction on the BOE remains unchanged and the only incumbent running was returned to office.

        Now, I would think that those of you in Arapahoe Country would have your hands full with your own political concerns, and while the time and attention you personally devote to Denver County is appreciated….you really should  devote your  time and energy  to holding your own officials accountable.

    • RedGreen says:

      would probably be the Denver clerk.You can call the office and ask them what the return rate was for inactive-failed-to-vote ballots, it was 2%. This was widely reported.

      Adding to Craig’s Rules: When a blogger doesn’t have an argument or just wants to throw sand, demand “cite your source” (or, in the dwyer corollary, “site” your source).  

      • ArapaGOP says:

        To what do I owe this sudden burst of reasonableness?

      • dwyer says:

        Thank you for the correction.

        Please reference my tag line and accept my plea for indulgence.

        • RedGreen says:

          most the time, and his conclusion about the low turnout among Denver inactive voters in the last election is off base. But this is supposed to be a blog for political insiders, not just a forum to discuss things that have already been covered somewhere else.

      • Aristotle says:

        When a blogger doesn’t have an argument or just wants to throw sand, demand “cite your source”…

        Sorry, that’s neither true nor fair. First of all, unless you’re speaking about something emblazoned across the front and home pages of every major news source in the state, and the subject of much debate, it wasn’t “widely reported.”

        Second, as noted below, ArapaGOP has a record (one that IS well known to regular polsters) of posting fact-challenged statements. Being right some of the time doesn’t earn him the same credence as someone (say, Phoenix Rising) with a long record of comments that are both truthful and well reasoned.

        Third, it’s ALWAYS fair to ask that of someone, and almost never fair to tell doubters to just “look it up” for themselves. Unless it was something that was widely reported (like Gingrich’s infidelities, for example); or if the person making the allegation has a sterling reputation (and even then it would still be reasonable to ask for a citation).

        I see below that you assert that this is a site for political insiders. Well, it might have been conceived as such, but the reality is that it’s a site for people interested in Colorado politics. Every insider is interested by definition, but not everyone interested is an insider. Those of us who are not don’t all spend all day reading all the political news and memorizing all the minutia before we come here to discuss things.

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