Sorry Mario, But “Out And Out” Racism Is Very Real

THURSDAY UPDATE: And for good measure, NBC News' Rachel Maddow:


UPDATE: Folks, you did realize NBC News' Al Sharpton was going to see this eventually, right? Holy crap:


David Weigel of Slate is the latest national voice to weigh in on the growing controversy over mailers attacking Republican county clerks, sent by a group headed by the former communications director of the Colorado GOP, Bill Ray–mailers that contain a photo altered to remove African-American faces from a line of voters.

The only black woman in the photo had been photoshopped out, replaced by the woman standing next to her. Why?

"The mail house just made a monumental mistake," says Mario Nicolais, counsel for Citizens for Free and Fair Elections. "And they hadn't informed the folks here that they'd done the Photoshop. I think they just weren't thinking."

We've reported on the response from the mail house in question, Commerce City-based Wizbang Solutions, and their claim that the Photoshopping of the African-American woman at the center of the photo in question was done to depict "the same person waiting in line to vote." This excuse doesn't explain the removal of another African-American face directly behind the first one–the two most prominent in the photo, with other minorities depicted either barely visible or faded out of the edges. Moreover, nothing in the text content of the mailing suggests a problem with people voting twice; it's all about "felons, illegal aliens, and the deceased."

In short, their excuse is ridiculous, in no way persuasive that this isn't exactly what it looks like. 

But as Weigel reports, Mario Nicolais of the Hackstaff Law Group, counsel for the issue committee Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, has no plans to admit what appears obvious.

"I know there are a lot of people out there who are looking out for racism in a story like this," he says, "but we're beyond the time when there are out and out racists." [Pols emphasis]

Close-up showing second African-American face removed from original photo.

Close-up showing second African-American face removed from original photo.

Now before you break out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter at this preposterous assertion, we feel obliged to point out that Nicolais was a major Republican proponent of the civil unions legislation that finally passed this year. When Nicolais says something as plainly absurd as "we're beyond the time when there are out and out racists," remember that he probably really believes that, and tries to make it true with his personal behavior.

But it is no less preposterous to suggest that "out and out racists" no longer exist. In the case of this mailer, once you understand that Nicolais' excuse about why this African-American woman was edited out doesn't explain the removal of a second African-American depicted behind the first, it's obvious the removal of the two most prominent African-Americans from the image was deliberate. There is no other logical reason for removing both of these faces than the fact that they were prominently depicted African-Americans.

And that is by definition a racist motive. No amount of willful ignorance can change that.

There seems to be an effort to aggressively shout down any suggestion that a mailer with a return address of Secretary of State Scott Gessler's former law firm, the firm he tried to "moonlight" for after taking office, could indicate Gessler might have had a role in the production of this mailing. But the fact is, any member of the public who received this mailer, entering the return address into Google to get more information on its origin, is going to immediately discover the Hackstaff Law Group–and its former name, Hackstaff Gessler. All of the reporting on this story has taken note of the return address on these mailers being the same as Gessler's former firm.

What would any reasonable person think?

It might greatly annoy Republicans to have to contend with this, but when they put up the state's leading GOP election defense lawyer for this office, they made exactly this kind of suspicion inevitable. Given Gessler's public role in opposition to this legislation, his long history on the shady side of Colorado politics, and established record of back-room maneuvering against county clerks while in office, the angry protestations against the suggestion Gessler may have been involved…protest too much. This stinks to high heaven, and it reveals a deeply ugly side of contemporary Republican politics. And it can't be blustered away.

64 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. exlurker19 says:

    I showed the pictures without commenting to two friends, an African American older lady and a young Hispanic woman.  They both said, "Wow, that's really racist!"  But the younger woman also said, "Wow, they really suck at Photoshop!"


    Tee hee hee.

  2. Duke Cox says:

    Now before you break out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter at this preposterous assertion,

    sorry…not in time…LMFAO…

  3. BlueCat says:

    I'm sure Rhonda Fields will be happy to know that the guy who sent her an e-mail calling her an "n" word  "c" word could not have been an out and out racist because they no longer exist. Guess when my black sheep uncle (in  a family descended from an immigrant Union Orgainzer) called Obama that black bastard in the White House in a conversation with his sister ( my mom) last week, it wasn't out and out racism because that would make him an out and out racist  and they don't exist anymore. Gee, that's a relief. And I'm sure EF would second the airtight "logic" of that argument: There are no more out and out racists therefore there could have been no out and out racist intent. Brilliant.

  4. Duke Cox says:

     "but we're beyond the time when there are out and out racists."

    Mario needs to get out more.

  5. ElliotFladen says:

    Again, the problem you have here ColoradoPols is that the mailer was trying to show the dangers of same day registration.  How does removing a minority face (ignoring duplication aspect here) show additional danger?  Sime it doesn't and you know this (as evidenced by your continued inability to show any serious rationale as to how removing a minority from a picture advanced a racist narrative).  In fact, and as you repeatedly have refused to address, if the intent was racist it would have photoshopped IN minorities not photoshopped them OUT.

    In spite of this you continue to falsely tag this as a racist photoshop job and continue to vainly link Gessler to this merely because his former firm accepts mail for CFFE.  In the future I hope you do not cry foul when Glenn Beck has a chart linking Obama to communism on less attenuated evidence that what you use here.  Because with the hole you have dug for yourself on this one you would have much explanation to do to explain away that double standard.

    And, as an aside (as I have been the one pushing back hard against you online), I am NOT a republican.  I am a registered libertarian.

    • Aristotle says:

      What inability to show a rationale for racism? It's been proven beyond all doubt.

    • roccoprahn says:


      And, as allways, it's never the crime, but rather the cover up that pops ya.

      This thing has legs. MSNBC's Al Sharpton did a segment on it today. The emphasis is on the racism, the pure dishonest message the mailer pushed across.

      You've obviously spent some time with Hackstaff folks the last couple days. The strategy is to confuse, change the subject, and distract. The stuff you're repeating just isn't working Elliot.

      What's in it for you? If you say it's none of my business, you're right. But I'd love to know your motivation for clipping off your own……..credibility.

      • ElliotFladen says:

        As I told you before Rocco,  I stick up for people being wronged.  The analysis here by you guys is not only pathetically weak but is just flat out wrong. Hence my interest.

        Look, I get that you don't like Gessler.  Not trying to convince you that he is a good or a decent guy.  But your dislike for a person is no excuse to go partisan hack on them via these sort of baseless McCarthyite tactics.  

        • Aristotle says:

          Can you show that it's strained? If it is, why do so many reasonable people say it's racist? Are you suggesting brainwashing?

          • ElliotFladen says:

            Because it superficially does look really bad.  Its only when you dig into it does it become clear that the argument you guys are advancing makes no sense whatsoever. 

        • BlueCat says:

          Not just in this ongoing discussion but in all discussions in which you  participate, your combination of circular argument, refusing to respond to others directly, substituting things people never said for things you attribute to them so you can argue with those fabrications, running from any evidence presented by just finding something new to throw at the wall  makes yours always the weakest argument. Well unless ArapG is playing.

          Many of us have explained what the point of erasing the "urban" voters would be. You can disagree. You can reject the explanations. But you can't say nobody has offered any explanation for the simple reason that it isn't true. 

          The reason nobody buys your explanation that the recipients were supposed to interpret the doubled white lady as a symbol of double voting is because we find it so unlikely. This is simple attack lit, not The Scarlet Lettter., after all.

          You have so often attributed so many opinions and statements that bear no resemblance to anything I've said to me personally that I know just how sloppy and unreliable you are first hand. So the idea of you lecturing anyone here on weak arguments is laughable.

          You either can't keep anything straight long enough to have an intellligent discussion or it is a purposely dishonest tactic so you have pretty much zero credibility here.  Surely you must have noticed that. We aren't being mean. You just can't earn credibility by being sloppy and unreliable.

          The idea of you championing the wronged with the wronged being the bozos who put this out to attack a Republican County Clerk who, along with most other mainly Republican County Clerks, supports the legislation  that this ad bemoans is also laughable. That's why nobody is buying that one either. If you want to be a Knight in Shining Armor maybe you should ask yourself why Republican County Clerks are being attacked from the right for saying that they have no problem with this legislation or with running  fair elections that they, as Republican County Clerks, are proud of.

          Poor, noble, brilliant you having to put up with all the weak (and largely imagined by you because they bear no resemblance to the real ones) arguments thrown at you at this site. What a crock. 

          If you want anyone here to take anything you say seriously you may want to adopt a much less flaky and circular debating technique.  If you don't care whether anyone here finds anything you say credible because you really are just trolling… well then, no need to change a thing, dear.



          • ElliotFladen says:


            Nice try.  Again your whistle dog argument fails for a simple reason: African American voters were left in the mailer.  And I fails for an obvious reason beyond hat: name if the goal was to "scare" nonminority voters they would have seemingly ( major assumption that any of this would even scare nonminority votes in the first place) have photoshopped minority voters IN and not OUT.

            You, despite your protests to the contrary, have not addressed either of these.  Instead you keep going back to the point that you don't find the duplicate voter theory likely.  Well, sorry blue cat, but it actually (unlike your silly whistle dog theory) can stand up to analysis.

            A few tips of advice.  First, if you want to claim that the duplicated voter theory makes no sense, then put up a plausible contrary theory.  Neither you, nor anybody else on this site has come close to doing that.  Second,'insults towards me, while perhaps enjoyable for you, don't actually advance your argument as I am not a guy who had anything to do with these mailers.  Sort of like Gessler and Hackstaff…who you all would apologize to if you for your slurs on this if you had any decency at all.



          • DaftPunk says:

            Yo BC,

            You just wasted 430 words, logically divided in to eight pararaphs.  This took you a few minutes of your life you'll never have back.  You will never get a direct reponse from this clown.  You have better things to with your time.  Don't feed this troll.  It only encourages him.

  6. Duke Cox says:

    as I have been the one pushing back hard

    allow me, Elliot…


    "as I have been the  ONLY  one pushing back hard"


    You have spent a lot of words in an attempt to convince anyone  

    that up is down and the sky is not blue….how's that working out for you?     

  7. DavidThi808 says:

    Republicans suck at damage control. They worst way to minimize the damage in this story is to respond with the clearly B.S. answer of this is not racist. It keeps the story growing. Totally brain dead way to handle it.

    Doesn't the state GOP have anyone competent at the top?

  8. Albert J. Nock says:

    I can see why the tall guy in the back was deleted; the picture is more pronounced and has more clarity. It simply looks better. Less congestion. However, there is no possible explanation for the double face in the foreground.

    It would be interesting to learn who made the Photoshop changes, who all knew about it and who approved of it?

    Having first-hand experience with model builders, the labors like to play jokes. When you see a large hotel or city block model during a presentation, look very close. The younger crowd who built the model probably has a sick sense of humor. Look in the windows; you see all kinds of silly disgusting humor. They also have cars running over dogs, naked girls swimming, etc.

    Pont it, it is easy to point fingers but do we REALLY  how and why this photo was altered?

    Rather than let emotion override logic, let us dig deeper and get to the bottom .


    • ClubTwitty says:

      Dig, dig, dig…dig that hole deeper…

      Maybe Eliot will stop by to leave dozens of comments pointing out how everyone else is clearly and unequivocally wrong (for one shifting reason or another…)

      • ElliotFladen says:

        Not shifting reasons (besides the issue of where the photoshop occurred which new evidenced revealed occurred over at Wizbang) – MULTIPLE REASONS.  I'm doing my best to get this echo chamber to see how they are engaged in a blatant slur.  However you guys are more obsessed with being partisan hacks than with actually being honest.  

        I don't say this lightly.  I've tried over several threads to get you to see the error in these articles.  I've asked for your explanation as to WHY you believe that this photoshop was done.  I've gotten plenty of insults from you, but no real theory other than that it was "dog whistle politics".  That has not been able to stand up to any scrutiny.

        So for the Xth time, either put up an explanatory theory/contention on what the racist aim you believe was on this or apologize.  Because your Dog-Whistle politics explanation isn't cutting it.  

        • ElliotFladen says:

          (and additionally, the next time somebody claims that Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers/other radicals demonstrates he has communist ties, you all have forfeited to honestly complain about attenuated links and McCarthyite analysis given your behavior in these posts)

          • ClubTwitty says:

            OK, Eliot.  Whatever you say.  I could never pretend to be as smart as you.  Funny how no one else here* sees the 'blatant' things you do.  We might understand that word differently, you and I.

            *A-Bot has been MIA but he loves you for it and agrees that you are very very smart and everyone else here is a mean partisan liberal.  Who knows what Nockers thinks…? 

        • ClubTwitty says:

          Oh, and I sincerely apologize that you have failed utterly and completely to make whatever point you are trying to.

          I don't say this lightly.  I've tried over several threads to get you to see the error in these articles.

          • ElliotFladen says:

            Go ahead and say that CT.  I've had multiple people, including nonpartisans, read the threads on this.  They are amazed that I'm still even interacting with you guys. 

            Again, you can't explain how Gessler is involved in this besides that his former firm got the mail for CFFE. Whoopdeedo.  And you can't explain, if the goal here was Dog-Whistle Politics why: (a) African Americans weren't photoshopped IN and not OUT; and (b) if out is still problematic, why any African Americans were left in the photo. 

            You've put up no explanation on any of these point.  You've just said "stupid argument" or stuff of the sort.  That is the mark of a dishonest partisan hack.  

            • ElliotFladen says:

              (and on that note, I'm (probably to your relief) out of here on this topic.  I'm sick and tired of your guys blatant insults and inability to put up a cogent argument on this topic and obvious desire to just take the scalps of people on the opposite side of the political aisle.  If you need to reach me on this, send a message through PCG)

              • JeffcoBlue says:

                Goddamn, only a lawyer would fail to realize how utterly silly you look right now.


              • BlueCat says:

                Here's a compliment, EF.  You really must be admired for making it through law school with such deficits in reading comprehension and  understanding of  the most basic rules of logic. Congrats. Who knows? Maybe ArapG is really a rocket scientist. Apparently anything's possible.  What a country!

            • ClubTwitty says:

              You have clearly failed to make your case, except among your alledged 'multiple people, including nonpartisans' that agree with you (apparently strongly–and are amazed at your tolerance and kindness for continueing to grace us partisan hacks with your presense).  Thank you for not counting me among those.

              Having failed to make your case, over and over and yet over again, you then begin pointing out how partisan we are–me in particular perhaps, maybe each and everyone of us?–for not agreeing to your argument, that you seem to think we should embrace based on sheer repetition.  To which I can only say: whatever dude.

      • Albert J. Nock says:

        Rather than waste your life emoting, try instead rational and logic. You know, objectivity.   Become a truth seeker.  Only the truth will set you free…

        Truth is, most people never even look closely at these stupid political mailers. Most people think they are the physical version of spam.  I bet the entire Gessler/Mario/Hackstaff camp never even noticed. They probally hate these mailers also. Politics is such a waste.

        Some punk with at the printing house is giggling as he alters another photo.

  9. JeffcoBlue says:

    Hey Elliot, are you willing to state for the record right now that you have had no discussions with Hackstaff, Gessler, Bill Ray, or the others implicated in this story? I assume you are friends with some of these people being a fellow attorney. How about some disclosure?

  10. DavidThi808 says:

    Elliot keeps asking for a reason why they made the change. My answer is I don't know as it was clearly a stupid move. But that does not mean it was not done with racist intentions. There's lots of time people do stupid things for dumb reasons.

    What's key is it was clearly racially motivated. Both what was done and the incredibly lame excuses that have come after.

    It's not a requirement that we come up with a logical explanation for the actions of a bigot. Fundamentally a bigot is illogical.

    • Duke Cox says:

      That was my basic observation as well, David. Elliots' approach, while somewhat more grammatically interesting, was no different than the "deny, deflect, dismiss" approach used by almost all the rightie talking heads.

      It's like…Hey, it can't possibly be what you think it is, because that would point out what scurrilous douchebags we are. And since we can't admit to being scurrilous douchebags, we want you to accept some lame-ass excuse that doesn't pass the smell test. You would think, at some point, he would notice that he couldn't convince ANYBODY who posts here that there was some veracity to his explanation. He would rather believe that even the conservatives who frequent this site, and there are some very bright conservatives who come here, are blind reactionary liberals bent on castigating Gessler, et al, unfairly. 

      When your best argument, offered repeatedly, doesn't convince anyone, it is kinda weak to just accuse everyone of being dishonest and partisan. I guess it is just too hard for him to simply say…well, I guess I must be wrong. I was wrong about the guys who did the Boston bombing, but I recall admitting my bias and then pointing out I was wrong when the truth came out.

      You have just witnessed one of the fundamental problems with our body politic. The certitude so overtly demonstrated by ..say.. the Bush administration, is pervasive in conservative politics. I have very close relatives with whom my wife and I never discuss politics. Why? Because they are NEVER wrong.

      • Curmudgeon says:

        I think Elliott is intelligent. I believe he's had much more formal education than I have. I believe he's actually a fairly reasonable man, who doesn't believe half of the rhetoric he has to spout in support of the GOP.  I believe he's also a lawyer, and as such, is well experienced in saying things he really doesn't believe in order to further a bigger goal.  He's admitted that while he insists he's currently a "registered Libertarian", he doesn't wish to alienate the GOP base, in anticipation of someday returning to the fold.

        He has political aspirations. He has to defend Gessler, as distasteful as it may be to a reasonable person. Lots of Republicans are "registered Liberatarians" now, to give themselves plausible deniability and distance from the current crop of GOP psychos.  They can safely return, if the GOP starts to gain power and credibility again, but not if there's ever been any evidence of disloyalty. He's trying to keep his name and face out there, and hedging his bets the whole time.  I don't envy the position he's in.


        • BlueCat says:

          That's all very interesting but in the world of this blog you are what you say. That's all we've got here.

          What he says shows no cogent reasoning and no honesty in the way he ignores what his opponents say, substitutes fabrications and argues with those instead. 

          If that's who he chooses to be in this space it's not our job to look beyond that, particularly since we can only do so via specualtion whereas we don't have to speculate about what appears in his comment boxes in black and white. 

          It's his own self chosen persona. We don't owe him any benefit of the doubt or sympathy based on speculation as to why he he chose it.

  11. Craig says:

    Since I'm the one "aggressively" defending the Hackstaff firm, let me say the following.  You have refused to believe what I, a lawyer who represents hundreds of corporations in Colorado have told you.  What I, as a past member of numerous PAC's and campaigns have told you.  It is very normal and usual to do this.  And the lawyers often have no idea what is going on.    The lawyers just don't know what is going on.  Therefore, your tie to Gessler is an unsubstantiated supposition on your part, and nothing more.


    I hate Gessler.  He's the worst SOS in my lifetime as I've said before, and I known most of them quite well.  I served for many years on the SOS's businesspersons advisory committee and was Chair for most of that time.  I know whereof I speak on these matters.  Gessler is the worst.


    Did Gessler have a part in these mails.  My speculation is yes. It is the dumb kind of thing he would pull.  But, there is nothing but speculation there.  Nothing.  And you have nothing else.


    With respect to Mario Nicolais, I had lunch with him once, about two months ago.  Don't know anything about him.  His answer wasn't great.  He should have said it was a mistake and it was the mail house's mistake and then shut up.  Too bad he didn't.  Now he's got to live with what is a stupid comment.  If I pulled out the voter list in his precinct, I bet I could identify one out-and-out racist in  his precinct along.  I live in one of the moderate "Republican" precincts and I can point out 20 there.  Remember, I used to be Republican chair in Jeffco.  To say there aren't open racists in Jeffco is to put your head up your ass.  It's simply not true.

    • Gray in Mountains says:

      I do believe you that the involveent of Hackstaff is likely only as you say. Further, I met Mario 5 years ago and found him very reasonable but the subject of race never came up in 30 minutes or so. But, I do agree with everyone else that the intent of Billy Ray and the wizbang folks was to appeal to racists

  12. Curmudgeon says:

    I didn't say I had sympathy for him – Good Heavens, he's a grown man who makes references to Facebook more than a 13-year old girl; I'm not sure there's a common frame of reference. 

    I'm just not as emotionally invested, I guess.  His arguments are specious and disingenuous, but they don't anger me.

    Maybe it's living on the Western Slope that does it, but I've built up a resistance to right-wing doublespeak and cognitive dissonance. If I hadn't, I'd have a migraine 24-7.

  13. ArapaGOP says:

    I don't blame Elliot for walking away. He has tried for days simply to present the alternative view. That alternate view is at least possible, but none of you are willing to accept any possibility other than it was intention racism approved by Scott Gessler personally.

    Sure you can suspect, but none of you know anything! It's foolhardy and illogical to attack everything Elliot says instead of considering it. It shows you are the closed minded ones, not him.

    The Colorado Pols echo chamber is great at convincing itself, but you're not very persuasive outside your bubble. You should thank Elliot for trying so hard to get through to you, but I know you won't.

    • Aristotle says:

      Possibility isn't good enough. It also has to be likely and believable.

      For example, it's possible that Reagan served much of his second term cogent. But it's much more likely that Alzheimer's-caused dementia had set it by early 1986 (only one year into that term) as evidenced by the observations of people who met and worked with him regularly.

      That said, Elliot's simply not offering an alternate that's even possible. They removed black people from the photo, and the only possible reasons are all racial in motivation. Whether it was because there are few black people in the targeted districts, or whether it was more ominous than that, no proffered explanation that doesn't include race has a single iota of believability.

      But the main point – again – is that being possible is insufficient grounds for an argument to be taken seriously. It's also possible (if you're ignorant) to suppose that the universe has existed for thousands of years instead of billions, but experience and evidence tells us otherwise.

    • roccoprahn says:

      I don't know about that, agop.

      MSNBC, NBC, and nine news are going with a story that increasingly has legs.

      If it's a "bubble", it's a "bubble" covering the national landscape.

      Why? Because the rational explanation is that the mailer was laser pointed to target an exact demographic. A mostly over 45, christian white conservative goober demographic, awash in bigoty, hatred, small mindedness and fear. Conservative politicians make their living on the fears and pure hatred and intolerance of the conservative base. They play to it, fund raise off of it, get elected on it. Being afraid is a life style of conservatives. This time the fear card is "dead people, unregistered black felons, and illegals are going to stuff the ballot box if we pass 1303". Without fear, republican politicians have no platform. As proof, take the time to read the 2012 republican party plank.

      While it scares the shit out of rational people, agop, you will be right at home with it. It demonizes all but a few, marginalizes different points of view, and promotes fear of that which you don't understand.

      Worth the read.

  14. Duke Cox says:

    I don't blame Elliot for walking away

    Why don't you join him?

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