Coffman Cover-Up: The Beginning of the End?

Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman is still on the ropes over the actions of political appointee and longtime confidant Dan Kopelman, and he’s taking more punches every day.

As the Rocky Mountain News reports:

…The new policy comes a week after Coffman demoted an elections worker and longtime political ally who operated a side consulting business that sold voter information to mainly Republican interests.

Dan Kopelman, former election technology manager, was reassigned to a job where he does not have access to voter data.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak, however, renewed her demand that Kopelman be fired, writing to Coffman: “I strongly urge you to restore the trust and integrity you campaigned on last year to your office, which will only continue to suffer under this cloud created by Mr. Kopelman, his partisan activities and his continued presence in that office.”

Also on Thursday, Progress Now Action, a politically liberal group, submitted petitions requesting an independent criminal investigation into what Coffman knew about Kopelman’s political activities and his business, Political Live Wires.

The petitions, bearing 1,000 signatures, were presented to Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, Gov. Bill Ritter and the House and Senate leadership. The complaint notes that Coffman’s campaign last fall did business with Kopelman’s consulting firm.

Things have gotten so bad, in fact, that even the conservative Republican blogs are taking aim at Coffman:

Mike Coffman’s relationship with his best friend forever, Dan Kopleman, is becoming a bigger story than anyone would have guessed – and one that has been made worse by the multiple missteps of a very media-unsavvy team in the Colorado Secretary of State’s office – and tips we have received only make things look worse for the cozy conservative couple and their futures.

According to our sources, the bolded portion (and maybe more) of the following statement by Coffman – a statement issued in response to blog posts by the controversy’s original reporter, Todd Johnston of the blog – is not true:

Dan Kopelman took a leave of absence last fall from his job at Treasury to help with my Secretary of State’s campaign. He asked to be paid for his time under the name of the entity in question [Political Live Wires]. I was not aware that he was engaged in soliciting the sale of voter lists or that he maintained a website. The voter lists for my Secretary of State’s campaign were purchased from Tactical Data Solutions. The individual from Tactical Data Solutions who the campaign interfaced with was Alan Farina who can be reached at (970) XXX-XXXX.

Our sources reveal Dan Kopelman never took a leave of absence from the Colorado Treasurer’s office, meaning he was always in the state’s employ. Additionally, our sources have revealed Kopelman frequently communicated with and worked in Coffman’s campaign office during work hours.

The above revelations only make the [previous] story from the Rocky Mountain News seem as though it will be the beginning of the end for Coffman and Kopelman.

Not only is this story not going away for Coffman, it could very well be the type of scandal that effectively ends his political career. The reason this is so dangerous for Coffman is the same reason so many other politicians have fallen: The coverup is always – always – worse than the crime.

More after the jump…

The statement that could end up killing Coffman is his repeated assertion that he didn’t know about Kopelman’s website business. Even the conservative editorial board of the Rocky Mountain News wasn’t buying that explanation:

Coffman said he didn’t know about Kopelman’s Web site until it was brought to his attention the other day. That’s somewhat surprising, but even more surprising is that he didn’t take special pains to make sure Kopelman quit his voter data business while working in the elections division. The Web site was especially offensive since Kopelman had updated his biographical information to note that he was in fact working for the secretary of state.

Coffman’s spokesman, Jonathan Tee, continued that faux excuse yesterday with the Rocky Mountain News:

Coffman said last week that he was unaware that Kopelman’s business Web site, politicallive, solicited sales for voter information.

“He is not being disingenuous,” Tee said. “The secretary did not know the scope of Dan Kopelman’s outside business.”

Why does nobody believe Coffman when he claims not to have known about Kopelman’s business? Coffman and Kopelman are long time political confidants, and their relationship has been repeatedly documented. Kopelman worked under Coffman at the state treasurer’s office, and Coffman’s own campaign for secretary of state last year paid Kopelman for political consulting work. There is absolutely, positively, no way in hell that Coffman didn’t know what Kopelman was doing.

Coffman could have handled this in a way that would have kept this story from blowing up bigger, but once he claimed that he didn’t know what Kopelman was doing, the proverbial cat was out of the bag.

When it looks like Coffman is lying about his knowledge of Kopelman’s website, it’s natural to begin to wonder what else Coffman might be lying about. It makes the media more interested, because a potential cover-up is always a sexier story than the initial report. The problem is compounded by the fact that Coffman campaigned last fall as a reformer, even joining with Democratic candidate Ken Gordon to pledge that the SOS office would be cleaned up. For critics and reporters, it’s all almost too easy.

This scandal will continue to grow from the seed Coffman himself planted, and it could very well cost him his career.


18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. One Queer Dude says:

      This is kind of bumming me out.  Here I thought Coffman was the most respectable of the Colorado Republicans who ran statewide last Nov. (not a hard position to attain when you’re on the ballot w/ Both Ways and Madam Beastiality Rant) 
      But I always had some respect for Coffman.  He was willing to criticize the way in which Gigi ran SOS Office, and he was never shy about sharing what he thought of Tancredo!
      I will get no pleasure out of watching his career implode….if indeed it is destined to implode.

    • Coloradem1 says:

      I actually came “thisclose” to voting for him last fall.

      Gotta respect a politician who puts their butt on the line–and career on hold, to serve their country.  I had loads of respect for the man, and I hate to see this happen to him–especially when it is an apparent ethical breach.

      Quite a disappointment.

    • BlueCatf.sage says:

      felt a little encouraged that Coffman took the high road during all that Gigi nonsense.  That’ll teach me to even think about maybe trusting ANY Republican election official in this rotting-from-the-head-down Bush/Rove era. But don’t be bummed.  If this leads to Ken Gordon being appointed, every citizen of every party affiliation or none in the state of Colorado will have a true champion of absolutely fair elections, let the chips fall where they may, in the SOS office.

  2. Ralphie says:

    …here’s what the Colorado Revised Statutes say about patronage jobs:

    24-50-132. Political considerations and prohibited activities.

    Employees in the state personnel system shall be selected without regard to political considerations…

  3. twas brillig says:

    does Gov. Ritter appoint Ken Gordon?

    • One Queer Dude says:

        There is a recent tradition of Colorado governors appointing the second place finisher when the second place finisher is a member of the governor’s own party and the first place finisher from the party opposite resigns.  Remember how Suthers became A.G.?
        Besides, Ken Gordon is term-limited and opted not to run against Stephanie O’Malley for Denver Clerk and Recorder. 
        He’ll make a fine S.O.S.

      • mountain man says:

        The main is way to fair and honest for modern politics and the SOS above all other elected offices really needs an honest person in the job.

        • One Queer Dude says:

          The best S.O.S. we’ve had in the past 20 years or so was Donetta Davidson.  Her biggest mistake was bequeathing Tracy Baker to the people of Arapahoe County as her successor as Clerk!

          • Cuervo71 says:

            …Donetta was pretty solid as SoS.  Unfortunately, her performance on the FEAC so far has not been as steady.

          • OscarTheCouch says:

            to Miss “It Don’t Matter Nohow” Davidson.  Remember her repeated refusals to clarify her last-minute opinions in the two weeks before the 2004 election?  Remember how she issued a new edict with days to go before the election that sent over 10,000 CU voters to provisional ballots instead, which were never counted?  And then she left town for the last few days and for election night?  And then quit the job early because Owens got her a more choice appointment?  Davidson never even graduated from high school, and it showed.

            Seriously, Gigi was an improvement, crappy as she was.

  4. OscarTheCouch says:

    You can’t pit against news sources, or claim it’s representative of anything.  It’s the lowest of low-quality blog writing, and seems to have no constituency within the GOP that it speaks for anyway.  The guy’s nuts by any standard, so it kind of kneecaps any point you’re making if actually quote him.

    • Iron_Mike says:

      I too was a bit surprised to see ToTheRight go after Coffman like that, but it makes sense. Coffman never liked TK. He pulled him out of the field when TK was on Coffman’s SOS Campaign Staff and TK obviously still grinds that ax.

      Personally I think those two are on the wrong track… Coffman is one of the true Conservative Heroes in our government. Throwing mud doesn’t help him out of this pickle.

      “But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.”

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