Gessler’s RNC Reimbursements: That’s Quite a Story

After the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Patrick Malone broke the story Tuesday night, Tim Hoover of the Denver paper follows up today with more details from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s spokesman about two taxpayer-funded trips he took last summer: one to Washington, D.C. to speak at a Heritage Foundation press conference for the True the Vote pollwatching organization, and the second to the Republican National Lawyer’s Association conference and the Republican National Convention in Florida.

All of which Gessler claims constituted “state business.”

There are two unresolved questions in this story: the first, and most obvious, is whether these trips can reasonably be called “state business,” thus eligible for the reimbursement Gessler received. The trip to Washington D.C. is more defensible on its surface, since he apparently did meet with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation. The True the Vote organization on whose behalf he spoke at the National Press Club is considerably less defensible in this regard, but some will give Gessler the benefit of the doubt since there were at least some items on his trip agenda that could properly be considered “state business.”

The trip to Florida, and the strange circumstances of Gessler’s taxpayer-funded early return from the Republican National Convention, are another matter entirely.

Gessler claims that his trip to the Republican National Lawyer’s Association conference is defensibly “state business” because he spoke on a panel titled “The Department of Justice, the Role of the States and Voter ID.” As you know, attempts to pass a voter photo ID law in Colorado failed again this year, so it’s an open question what “state business” he would have talked about–perhaps the need for one? The justification seems quite thin.

As for attending the Republican National Convention using any taxpayer funds? Hoover notes that Gessler’s predecessor, Bernie Buescher, had zero requests for reimbursement for “any expenses billed for Democratic organizations or functions.” That’s one problem.

And it leads us to the second, less explained part of the story:

This is the note requesting reimbursement for Gessler’s flight back to Colorado a day early–the early return from the RNC attributed to “death threats” against the Secretary and members of his family over actions he has taken in office. We’ll start by unequivocally stating that threats against elected officials and their families are totally unacceptable in political discourse, and should always be condemned on both sides of the aisle. If Gessler or Gessler’s family was subjected to such a threat, they truly have our sympathy and support.

Folks, why doesn’t the documentation supplied in the Colorado Open Records Request contain a single reference to this “security issue?” If Gessler’s early return from the RNC was the result of a security issue, why does the request for reimbursement say he returned early simply “due to the needs of the Department?” Next question: how plausible is it that Gessler’s family would receive such threats while Gessler reeled from devastating public criticism of his unsuccessful campaign to purge “noncitizen voters,” and not make that public for a month and a half–until it comes out as a belated justification for reimbursing Gessler for RNC travel expenses?

We don’t claim to know everything about this story. We’re not drawing any conclusions.

But without additional evidence, questions arise running the gamut from bad to worse.


8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. of duty vs. personal responsibility.

    If the Secretary of State’s office wants to comb the voting records and even DHS records for potential voter fraud, that’s one thing. When the SoS can’t be bothered to do that before making a huge political splash about the “thousands of illegal voters” in the state, then that’s his own partisan political action, not that of his office.

    Let’s face it – we had barely heard of the notice letters being sent (via press release from Gessler’s office) when we heard that a cursory search of the DHS database revealed that most of those in the database were in fact citizens. And it wasn’t too long after we heard (via press release from Gessler’s office again) that some of the letter recipients had responded supposedly because they weren’t supposed to be registered legally when we heard that at least one county had managed to track all of them down, and at least all of the ones who had voted… were citizens eligible to vote!

    If Gessler was really the subject of a death threat (a horrible thing), and that really was what caused him to book a flight back a day early, then he nonetheless should be responsible for his expenses personally; the actions that undoubtedly led up to the death threat were his own partisan actions supported by the office he manages, rather than the non-partisan actions of that office.

    Legally he’s probably in the right if what he says is true; morally he should own up to the consequences of abusing his office for his own political gain.

  2. sandra fish says:

    I talked with the former GOP secretary of state who served from 1999-2005 (two presidential elections) for a story this week and she said she didn’t attend a Republican National Convention. She’s now head of the county clerk’s association that sent the letter complaining about Gessler’s new regulations.

    • ArapaGOP says:

      His trip was legitimate. He met with constituents and elected officials.

      I believe Pols would be singing a very differnt tune had a Democrat received these threats.

      • You mean if he wanted to visit Hawaii, all he’d have to do is meet with a few Colorado residents who happen to be in Hawaii and it would be all good on the taxpayer expense?

      • parsingreality says:

        Gessler’s predecessor, Bernie Buescher, had zero requests for reimbursement for “any expenses billed for Democratic organizations or functions.”

        Frankly, if Gessler’s family was being threatened, that is most definitely PERSONAL and not business.  Or, maybe he should have just done a good, non-partisan job as SOS and it would all be moot.

        Frankly, I would have no problem paying the extra fare for that reason, personal or business.  Since, however, there is no record apparently that the family was threatened, I think we just have another Republican Liar.  It’s in the DNA.  

        • ArapaGOP says:

          Maybe he should have just done a good, non-partisan job as SOS and it would all be moot.

          This sounds an awful lot like justifying threats against him.

          • which said essentially the same thing, but at the top of the diary.

            I’m guessing that’s because you didn’t really dispute it. If Gessler is getting death threats for his partisan (i.e. not professional) work as Secretary of State, then any expenses related should come out of his partisan (aka personal) pocketbook. If he wasn’t a partisan hack, he probably wouldn’t be getting death threats (assuming they’re more real than those 14,000 illegal voters in the state…).

            Doesn’t make death threats good, just means that if you’re going to do stuff that pisses people off that badly, you should expect it; that’s the current state of human affairs, like it or lump it.

          • parsingreality says:

            Because I think Gessler owes the money – despite my personal observation that I don’t care – you jump, no fly, to the conclusion that I am justifying threats against him.

            There’s a difference between understanding why someone might make threats and endorsing that person’s actions.  

            But that’s too fine a nuance, isn’t it?  

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