Gessler Continues Blind Wandering Through the Woods

Per Ivan Moreno of the Associated Press and Ernest Luning of The Colorado Statesman, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is mailing 4,000 letters to “possible non-citizens,” (Luning quote) asking them to verify their voter eligibility status or remove themselves from the voter rolls. If it seems like Gessler is trying to get someone else to prove his nonexistent conspiracy theory, well, it’s probably because he hasn’t the slightest idea of what might or might not be happening that has him so concerned.

Ever since he was first elected as Secretary of State in 2010, Gessler has been on a mission to maybe prove that there is possibly a problem with an unknown number of Coloradans who may or may not be legally registered to vote.

The numbers of possible law-breakers are always different depending on the press conference; today it’s 4,000 people, but in June it was an oddly specific 85 people. Actually, there was another figure mentioned in June of 430 possible wrongly-registered voters. County clerks from all across the state – both Democrats and Republicans – have publicly challenged Gessler’s unfocused crusade. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, a Republican, flat-out said in early 2011 that she had seen no evidence of someone voting who was not eligible to vote, so she asked Gessler for more information. Naturally, he refused, although he had just recently finished telling Congress of the 11,000 non-citizens registered to vote in Colorado.

Gessler could push back with a little more merit if he had just one number that stayed consistent. Unlike, say his claim in January that 6 people may have fraudulently voted. Or, say, his comments from November 2011 when he said that there might have been fraud in Denver’s elections, but he really wasn’t sure (although he said months earlier that he was pretty sure).

This whole thing has long since gotten way out of hand, and hopefully reporters will stop repeating things that come out of Gessler’s office until he backs them up with something – anything – resembling even a minutiae of proof. For one thing, this whole idea that a bunch of people might be improperly registered to vote is wholly irrelevant if you can’t point to any of them actually voting. It’s like trying to prove an increase in the number of DUI cases by counting the number of driver’s licenses issued.  

James O’Keefe: Not Helping Scott Gessler

Yesterday, right-wing news site released a new video from conservative “gotcha” artist James O’Keefe, purportedly showing how easy it is for “non-citizens” to vote:

In the video, William Romero, an apparent non-citizen, is shown to be registered to vote in North Carolina. According to jury refusal records obtained by Project Veritas, Romero was recused for being a non-citizen. Yet when a researcher from Project Veritas went into the polling station, he found that not only was Romero still on the voting rolls but  the poll workers were also more than willing to give him Romero’s ballot.

The video finds that another alleged non-citizen in Durham County, North Carolina, was on the voter rolls–and apparently voted in 2008 and 2010–even though he had been categorized as “code 7” in jury recusal forms, which means he had been excused as a non-citizen.

In another crucial swing state, Florida, elections officials fear as many as 180,000 non-citizens may be registered to vote. In Colorado, during the 2010 midterm elections, 5,000 non-citizens may have voted…

As you know, we (and others) have repeatedly debunked this persistent claim that “5,000 noncitizens may have voted” in the 2010 elections in Colorado. The claim originates with Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who used this figure in congressional testimony, but it doesn’t stand up to even casual scrutiny. As we noted and local media outlets realized last year, over thirty thousand Colorado residents became citizens during the period Gessler “analyzed,” enough to easily account for the 5,000 “noncitizens” who “may” have voted in 2010.

As liberal blog Think Progress reports, O’Keefe appears to have made exactly the same error.

ThinkProgress spoke with [Zbigniew] Gorzkowski this morning. He verified that this information was indeed correct and he had been an American citizen since the late 1980s. Therefore, his votes in the 2008 and 2010 elections were not only perfectly legal, but encouraged as a civic duty.

In other words, the one instance in the video where O’Keefe purports to show that a non-citizen had actually voted, in fact shows that a citizen voted.

The episode does speak to a larger underlying problem with most accusations of voter fraud. It’s what I call the “Scooby Doo routine”. People like O’Keefe make wild voter fraud accusations like non-citizens voting, only to discover a much simpler explanation for the situation…

Note that O’Keefe said he found two such “non-citizens.”

[William] Romero’s family told ThinkProgress he became a naturalized citizen in early 2011.

What’s more, Romero’s family told ThinkProgress that they had began receiving harassing telephone calls two weeks before the incident in the video asking if Romero was a citizen. They confirmed to the caller – it’s unclear whether they were speaking with O’Keefe himself or another individual – that Romero is indeed a citizen. Nevertheless, O’Keefe proceeded to ambush the family at their home and publish this video claiming he’s not a citizen.

One member of his family, who was confronted in O’Keefe’s video as he came home to care for his sick son, was incensed by the charge, calling it “completely absurd.”

Bottom line: this story should help explain why, although Secretary of State Gessler has repeatedly thrown around accusations suggesting that “thousands” of non-citizens “may have voted,” including spreading the 5,000 figure used in the story above, he has never produced a documented example of this actually having happened.

Because Gessler would most likely end up looking like James O’Keefe.

Honey Badger For Governor Would…

UPDATE: Note, Gessler told Lynn Bartels that he would consider running only if John Hickenlooper doesn’t run in 2014. We stand corrected, and we’d say that’s a wise caveat.


Well go on, gentle reader, finish the sentence! A Scott Gessler campaign for Governor in 2014 would…what do you think that would mean, folks?

After all, our friend Lynn Bartels of the Denver paper is speculating about the possibility today, and when the newspaper of record speculates about something like this, you’re more or less obligated as a member of the chattering class to go along for the speculative ride.

While a potential Gessler candidacy is interesting for speculation, the seriousness of the possibility will say a lot about how Republicans view their chances at defeating Hickenlooper in 2014. If this idea gains any sort of momentum and is not squashed by Republican Party leaders, then they are all but admitting that Hickenlooper is unbeatable (because there is zero chance of Gessler defeating him). Of course, given all of the damage that Gessler has done to the Republican Party in just two years as SOS, perhaps the GOP is more than willing to give up on the Governor’s Mansion for a cycle just to get rid of Gessler.

See our poll after the jump to provide your own thoughts.

Scott Gessler running for Governor in 2014 would...

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The Colorado Pols Politico of the Year for 2011

We like to spread out our end-of-year retrospectives so that 2012 gets a little reflection time. It is with that in mind that we present the awards for Colorado’s Top Politico (and Worst Politico for 2011, as well a look at who had a good and bad year in the last full year of human existence.

Read on, er, readers…

COLORADO’S TOP POLITICO, 2011: Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs)

For possessing the political and policy chomps to do what made sense while most of his Republican colleagues cowered indecisively in fear of the Tea Party, Rep. Massey is our Colorado Politician of the Year for 2011.

The Poncha Springs Republican took on a stronger leadership role in 2011 and almost singlehandedly helped salvage whatever is left of the GOP “brand” in the state legislature. As Chair of the House Education Committee, Massey received bipartisan kudos for his efforts to protect $67 million for public education while other Republican figureheads blathered on uselessly about how much they cared about our schools. Massey correctly understands the difference between what you believe and what you can reasonably accomplish,  but that doesn’t mean he shies away from voicing his opinion; he told the Pueblo Chieftain that funding education should be a priority over preserving the Senior Homestead Extension, a refreshingly blunt position compared to colleagues who complain about everything but make decisions about nothing.  

Massey’s moderate conservatism likely hasn’t endeared him to right-wing Republicans, but much like former Republican Rep. Don Marostica, Massey legitimately seems interested in legislating as opposed to just tossing grenades from January through May. If Republicans had more elected officials like Massey, they’d be much better positioned to win future statewide races than they are today.

Honorable Mention: House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). When Rep. Sal Pace stepped down as the Democrats’ leader in November in order to focus on his Congressional run, Ferrandino was unanimously elected as the new House Minority Leader. If Democrats can re-take the House in 2012 – a distinct possibility given favorable reapportionment numbers – Ferrandino will likely become Colorado’s first openly gay Speaker of the House.

COLORADO’S WORST POLITICO, 2011: Secretary of State Scott Gessler

It’s quite possible that this “award” could end up being permanently named for Gessler, who isn’t likely to be much less of a disaster in 2012 than he was in 2011. Gessler has been WTF-awful since he was first elected in November 2010, using what has historically been a benign position to cause all sorts of unnecessary problems all across the state. Just how has Gessler erred? Let us count the ways:

  • Unilaterally (and illegally) attempting to change a variety of campaign finance rules. Nonpartisan officials wasted little time rejected Gessler’s efforts, and the Colorado legislature will have to clean up his mess in January.

  • Telling Congress and anyone else who would listen that Colorado has a huge problem with illegal immigrants casting ballots, despite literally no evidence to support his claims. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, a Republican, notable asked what the hell Gessler was talking about. Gessler later claimed that his charges were not intended to be factual, despite, you know, telling Congress all about it.

  • Making wildly-irresponsible claims of voter fraud that he still has yet to back up. On the few times he has been directly challenged on his assertions, Gessler just shrugs and says things like “I don’t know, it might be fraud.…

  • Gessler sued the City of Denver in a blatant attempt to reduce voter turnout because he didn’t like so many mail ballots being delivered. Pueblo County eventually joined the lawsuit on behalf of Denver (Pueblo County’s Attorney said that Gessler’s interpretation of the law was just “plain wrong”) and numerous other counties ignored Gessler’s declarations in favor of actually trying to encourage Democracy.

  • Infamously agreeing to take part in a fundraiser for the Larimer County Republican Party to help them pay off debts incurred for campaign finance violations that are the purview of the Secretary of State’s office. Gessler’s help included agreeing to sit in a dunk tank, a plan that organizers eventually abandoned after a slew of negative press. What made this ethical lapse even more disgusting was that Gessler had earlier decided to ignore what could (and should) have been hundreds  of thousands of dollars in fines incurred by the Larimer GOP in 2010.

  • Lobbying the Colorado legislature to give him authority to purge the Colorado voter rolls as he sees fit. Legislators told him to get bent.

  • Publicly stating that he is in office to further the conservative viewpoint, which came as news to voters who thought they had elected him to oversee elections and business filings in Colorado.

  • Whining that his new job as Secretary of State didn’t pay enough ($68,500?) and asking if he could moonlight for his old law firm. Even fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers couldn’t figure out a way that Gessler could possibly justify a clearly conflicting second job.

    Dishonorable Mention: Speaker of the House Frank McNulty. Whether it was helping to completely bungle reapportionment for Republicans or doing little to fulfill Tea Party promises, McNulty proved incapable of leading the GOP caucus in the State House. His problems with The Homestead Exemption and public school funding are a prime example of how he’s stuck between reality and rabid conservatism with no game plan for finding a way out in 2012. McNulty will have a hard time keeping his one-seat majority in the House, and even if he does, he can probably expect a challenge for the Speaker’s role.


  • Democratic election law attorneys. Democrats ran embarrassing circles around Republicans at every step of the reapportionment and redistricting process. The GOP legal strategy of relying on an argument of “minimal disruption” was incredibly foolish, sure, but the Democrats did an excellent job of keeping Republicans stuck in their logic corner. Both reapportionment and redistricting created advantages for Democrats overall, which will be incredibly important over the next 10 years.
  • Republican Congressman Cory Gardner. The freshman congressman had his bumps in 2011 (such as his ill-explained support of the Ryan Plan), but the year couldn’t have ended much better for Gardner. While redistricting made re-election tougher for fellow Republicans Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton, adjustments to the boundaries of CD-4 did nothing to prevent Gardner from what should be a relatively easy re-election in 2012.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper. While Democrats have been less than thrilled with Hickenlooper’s first year as CEO of Colorado, he finished 2011 as the most popular governor in the country and was getting national press as a potential Presidential candidate in 2016. His term as governor won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, but the former Denver Mayor had a pretty stress-free 2011.

  • Republican Congressman Mike Coffman. His congressional district lines moved so much that they are now as unrecognizable as a botched plastic surgery patient. Coffman went from representing a safe Republican seat in 2010 to what will be one of the most competitive races in the country in 2012. That would be enough to make 2011 a bad year for any politician, but Coffman had numerous other problems that will only be exacerbated by his new district makeup. He may have said more controversial (and unnecessarily-so) statements in 2011 than any other Colorado politico, from calling Social Security “A Ponzi Scheme” and famously criticizing the Peace Corps to his weird efforts to repeal parts of the Voting Rights Act and his ideas for essentially destroying Medicare. Coffman alienated so many different constituencies in 2011 that perhaps he’s almost (almost) better off with an entirely new set of voters.

    And lest we forget, the icing on the cake for Coffman’s 2011: He agreed to become Colorado Chair of the Presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, making the announcement right as Perry’s campaign was cratering.

  • Incumbent legislators. The Holidays were a mixed bag for a dozen incumbent legislators who were drawn into districts with fellow incumbents of the same party, leaving them with the choice of a difficult primary or walking away from their seat altogether. Many legislators chose the latter, but there will be a couple of heated battles in 2012 as a result of reapportionment.
  • Rich Coolidge, Spokesman for Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Coolidge held on to his job in the SOS office after also serving under Democrat Bernie Buescher. We used to think well of Coolidge, who was helpful and humorous during the 2010 election season, but in 2011 he tossed all credibility out the window. He flat out refuses to respond to critics, no doubt at the wishes of his boss; while this may help him keep his current job, it won’t do much to help his future employment opportunities.
  • Bon Voyage, Tom Lucero

    And in the blink of an eye, the latest Chairman of the Larimer County Republicans has left the building. To the surprise of many local party officials, Lucero abruptly resigned late last Tuesday, in a letter to the local party.

    After coming on board last year to clean up the incompetent, fraudulent mess left behind by former Chair and now indicted Larry Carillo, Tom Lucero has apparently decided to move on.

    In March 2011, former congressional candidate Tom Lucero was elected to lead the local county GOP out of the debt ridden morass left behind by his predecessor, two former Committee Treasurers that have since resigned and the executive committee of the Larimer County GOP.

    Former Ft. Collins state legislator Steve Tool and local Tea Party activist Tom Buchanan have both been mentioned as possible candidates for Chair. Buchanan confirmed to the Loveland Reporter Herald that he is running. He added that Lucero’s abrupt resignation was an unexpected and “complete surprise.” An election to replace Lucero will be held on Thursday, January 12, by the Republican Central Committee, time and place yet to be determined.

    Initial fines for continuous failure to report and file reports for at least $90,000 in campaign contributions originally ranged in the $200K range; as Lucero attempted to get his Larimer Republican house in order, the fines dropped to around $50 grand.

    Those fines were reduced by the ever “forgiving” Secretary of State Scott Gessler to a measly $16,000 in August 2011.  Apparently, slashing those fines was not enough for Gessler or the local GOP, who also went on to hold a fundraiser  to “Retire the Debt.” Gessler graciously volunteered to assist the party in reducing their debt by attending a Fort Collins fundraiser where you could dunk our fair Secretary to your heart’s content.

    After a media uproar over the “dunking fundraiser” at a local park, the fundraiser was moved to a private residence with a suggested contribution of $20 per person to be in the same room with our esteemed Secretary of State. All proceeds were designated towards paying off the fines.

    Apparently, the fundraiser was a raging success. According to outgoing Chairman Lucero, the local Party has gone from “close to $35,000 in debt to having over $8,000 in the bank”. Sounds like an excellent time to leave on a high note.

    KUNC reported last Thursday that Lucero resigned, “citing a need to focus more time on his consulting business.” At least he didn’t bail out to spend more time with the family.  

    Gessler Announces Search Committee for Deputy SOS Position

    Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is hiring! Today Gessler’s office announced that a search committee has been formed in order to fill the position of Deputy Secretary of State, which became vacant when Bill Hobbs announced his retirement this fall.

    You can read the full press release after the jump. We also happened to find a copy of the official job announcement, which you can read below:


    The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is seeking candidates to fill the position of Deputy Secretary of State.


    According to a press release announcing the vacancy, “The Deputy Secretary of State serves as a key advisor to Secretary of State Scott Gessler, focusing on public policy in both elections and business filings.” For the purposes of this job opening, the term “key advisor” shall mean “to do whatever Scott Gessler tells you to do without questioning whether or not it makes any sense.”


    Bachelor’s Degree required, law degree preferred. In lieu of college degree, proof of Republican voter registration will suffice.


    Would be nice, but not all that important.


  • Successful candidate will have solid understanding of Colorado election law in order to properly explain things to the Secretary of State.

  • Basic understanding of process for filing frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits.

  • Search committee member Gigi Dennis may expect the successful candidate to have absolutely no idea how to do the job.

  • Strong fundraising background a must. The successful candidate must be willing and able to help raise money for Republican County Parties and other organizations in order to help them pay for any fines that might not be entirely reversible by Gessler. Willingness to sit in a dunk tank preferred.

  • Excellent graphic design skills are a plus. Enlarging Scott Gessler’s head shot on the Secretary of State’s website is a top priority.

  • Weak organizational skills required. It is much easier to explain purging people from the voter roles if it is truly an accident.

  • Experienced investigator required. The Secretary of State’s office is having a heck of a time finding an example of an illegal immigrant voter. Successful candidate will be expected to at least find one illegal voter.

  • Must be willing to openly complain about Governor John Hickenlooper and Democrats at the state legislature.

    Almost certainly inadequate, but opportunities may exist to do outside legal work to make extra cash. Successful candidate will have the option to purchase an older-model Honda Civic.


    Applicants for the position will be vetted by a search committee, which includes former U.S. Senator Hank Brown; former Secretary of State Gigi Dennis; DHR International Executive V.P. Debra Young; local attorney Jim Hackstaff and Hobbs. Calvin was not available. Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to if they aren’t concerned about getting a response. All others should wait for the search committee to call.

    Applicants will not be disqualified because of race, sex, creed or color, but you’d be a damn fool to disclose that you are gay. Candidates of all political parties are encouraged to apply, but resumes that are not from lifelong Republicans will be thrown in the trash.

    Please note that this job description is not real and may have been completely invented by Colorado Pols. For something that is real, click to read the press release after the jump.

    Gessler announces search team for Deputy Secretary

    Denver, Colorado – Today, Secretary of State Scott Gessler introduced the members of his search committee aimed at identifying candidates to be the next Deputy Secretary of State. The announcement comes after current Deputy Secretary of State Bill Hobbs announced his plans to retire.

    The committee members include former U.S. Senator Hank Brown, former Secretary of State Gigi Dennis, DHR International Executive V.P. Debra Young, local attorney Jim Hackstaff and Hobbs.

    “This new political appointee has big shoes to fill and I look to the guidance and experience of these leaders to help find the best fit for the office,” Gessler said. “We have incredible opportunities and challenges ahead and anyone wanting to be a leader in the organization should apply.”

    The Deputy Secretary of State serves as a key advisor to Gessler focusing on public policy in both elections and business filings. Anyone interested in applying should send his or her resume and cover letter to

    Gessler hopes to fill the vacancy by early next year.

    Intermittent Outages Plaguing

    TUESDAY UPDATE #2: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

    Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler and his staff dismissed speculation from Democratic groups that technical problems Monday on the state’s voter registration website were intentional…

    “There were some intermittent issues, but we got to it as quickly as we could,” said Rich Coolidge, Gessler’s spokesman. “We monitor it really closesly, especially on a day ilke yesterday. It was the heavy volume on the site that caused any slowing issues.”

    Some Democrats, however, aren’t giving Gessler the benefit of the doubt in light of what they call his “war on voting”, a looming legal battle over whether inactive voters should receive mail ballots.


    TUESDAY UPDATE: No official word yet on how widespread this problem may have been — and how many people were possibly affected.


    We have received multiple, and by that we mean a substantial number, of reports of intermittent technical problems at the official voter registration website for the state of Colorado,–as well as at least one confirmed error of our own (above). There seems to be trouble off and on with loading any of the new registration or update functions on the site, as well as filled-out form pages suddenly returning an error message like the one above. As you know, today is the deadline to register to vote for this year’s statewide election. It’s worth noting that we received our first report of a problem accessing the website last Thursday.

    We’re certainly not making any accusations; it’s important to head that off given that this website is administered by the office of Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Who is, somebody is going to say it if we don’t, more or less continuously mired in, well, scandal. The mind goes where it will.

    But presuming good faith, we know that Mr. Gessler will make finding out what the hell is wrong with the voter registration website on the last day to register his very top priority.

    Gessler: No Ballots For Those Soldiers

    UPDATE: #2: Now a statement from Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz after the jump, announcing that his office will “reluctantly” comply with Gessler’s order to not send mail ballots to overseas deployed military marked “inactive failed to vote.”

    “Pueblo County will honor Secretary Gessler’s order,” Ortiz said, “but this is not over. Pueblo County is currently weighing our legal options including taking the issue to court. The Secretary of State effectively has denied 64 active military personnel the opportunity to vote.”


    UPDATE: Rep. Charles Gonzalez of the House Administration Committee Elections Subcommittee rips Gessler for denying ballots to deployed military personnel in a press release today (full text after the jump)–“a violation of federal law.”

    “Mr. Gessler’s misguided efforts now threaten voter suppression not only in Denver County but among members of our armed services, men and women on active duty in war zones. His misinterpretation of the law is not only illegal but deprives Colorado citizens of their most fundamental right: the right to vote…”


    Following up our discussion yesterday of Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s attempts to stop Colorado counties from mailing ballots to all registered voters–now including deployed military voters in Pueblo County listed as “inactive”–the Pueblo Chieftain reports today…

    This is pretty astonishing, folks.

    “I want an order from the secretary’s office by Friday (today) saying that I cannot send out those ballots because I believe I should under the (Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act),” Ortiz said Thursday morning.

    He got his answer at closing time Thursday. Gessler’s letter to Ortiz said the secretary of state was sticking to his position that no inactive voters should get ballots sent to them this election – including out-of-area military voters, or those “covered” by the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act. [Pols emphasis]

    “A covered voter who is registered to vote may apply for a ballot. Ballots are not automatically sent to covered voters,” Gessler’s letter said. “Thus, Pueblo County may only send mail ballots to inactive voters who submit a timely request as required by the (Act).”

    …[B]ringing military voters into the dispute casts it in a different light and Ortiz did that this week. While Gessler has made the news this year with charges about illegal voters casting ballots in the 2010 election, no one has suggested that fraud occurred among any military voters. [Pols emphasis]

    Ortiz said his office already has sent out about 600 ballots to military voters who voted in 2010 in order to meet the 45-day requirement for them to get their ballots in time. But he said Gessler’s office contacted him just before that deadline and told him to hold the ballots for inactive voters – which amounts to about 70 ballots for inactive military voters.

    In a letter to Gessler on Tuesday, Ortiz said Kogovsek advised him that Gessler’s reading of the law is wrong.

    We’re going to spare you the rhetoric about depriving our men and women in uniform the right to vote, while deployed, defending our freedom and so forth. You know how this looks.

    On a practical level, we’re starting to wonder if Gessler considered all of the potential consequences of his decision to try to stop Denver and Pueblo counties from sending mail ballots to all of their registered voters with deliverable addresses. Gessler has argued that the temporary nature of a law passed in 2008 mandating that shows the legislature was concerned about the “cost and opportunity for fraud” of sending mail ballots to all deliverable registered voters in a mail ballot-only election. Even though the statute nowhere says that ballots will be sent only to “active” registered voters, that’s how Gessler is insisting the law be interpreted.

    What this could represent is a major unintended problem with the all mail-ballot system in Colorado. In an all mail ballot election, which we understand all but a couple of counties are holding this year, the different provisioning of ballots to two different classes of voters–“active” and “inactive”–and the ease with which one can pass from active to inactive status, simply by missing a single election cycle for whatever reason, could be creating a situation where many tens of thousands of Coloradans’ voting rights are being violated.

    Do you understand what we are saying? What if every mail-ballot county who is not mailing ballots to “inactive” voters is in violation of federal election law? Would that not at least be correct in the case of overseas military voters if Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek is right?

    Understand that we’re just asking questions, which seem to be pretty logical questions, all based on developments in this story in the last two weeks. If this mail ballot situation, either in the case of the lawsuit against Denver or throughout the state of Colorado, amounts to a gross violation of federal election law, it’s a good thing that the Justice Department has been asked to look into what’s going on. In any event, a legislative remedy for this situation is clearly necessary: if it’s right that the unequal provisioning of mail ballots to “active” vs. “inactive” voters is unlawful, simply making the aforementioned temporary rules permanent would be the place to start.

    The only thing we can add is this: in our experience, situations like these tend to come to a head when somebody is trying to exploit the system. Gessler is teaching Colorado why we need to be explicitly clear in statute of legislative intent on matters like election law. If you write a sloppy election-related bill, or insert a sloppy amendment into one, Scott Gessler will turn it into a stick to beat the state of Colorado with. For as long as he has the power.

    Pueblo County Clerk Ortiz Ordered Not to Mail Military Ballots

    Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz today announced he will reluctantly comply with Secretary of State Scott Gessler order not to mail ballots to registered military overseas voters, despite his deep concern that the order will disenfranchise men and women serving our country.

    “Pueblo County will honor Secretary Gessler’s order,” Ortiz said, “but this is not over. Pueblo County is currently weighing our legal options including taking the issue to court. The Secretary of State effectively has denied 64 active military personnel the opportunity to vote.”

    The Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office ordered Ortiz not to mail ballots to oversees military personnel over a dispute in the interpretation of state law. Gessler has filed a complaint in court to stop Denver Clerk Debra Johnson from mailing to inactive voters in the November election. Inactive voters are defined as those who did not vote in the last general election.

    Last week, Gessler acknowledged that Johnson has already mailed her overseas ballots and would not pursue action against her office on those ballots. Ortiz, who agrees with Johnson’s interpretation of the law, announced this week he would mail ballot to all registered oversees military voters – known in election law as “UOCAVA voters for the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

    “It’s only right that Pueblo residents who are serving our country in the military should have the chance to cast their ballot here at home,” Ortiz said.  “Military men and women should be given every opportunity to participate in the democracy they’re defending …they may be listed as “inactive” voters in our system, but when they’re on active duty how can we deny them a ballot?”


    Gonzalez Condemns Move to Deny Ballots to Military Voters

    San Antonio – Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Elections, released the following statement in response to Colorado Secretary of State Gessler’s decision to prohibit Pueblo County to mail ballots for Colorado’s upcoming election to military voters deployed overseas.

    “Mr. Gessler’s misguided efforts now threaten voter suppression not only in Denver County but among members of our armed services, men and women on active duty in war zones. His misinterpretation of the law is not only illegal but deprives Colorado citizens of their most fundamental right: the right to vote. I have asked the Department of Justice to include this new development in their investigation of Mr. Gessler’s activities.”

    In a letter to Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz, Gessler announced his decision as “an order from the Secretary of State not to send mail ballots to inactive – failed to vote UOCAVA electors.” The acronym, short for “Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act”, refers there to military or overseas voters whose did not vote in the last general election.

    In 2009, by strong and bipartisan majorities in both chambers, Congress enacted the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act to help ensure that Americans were not denied their right to vote simply because they were abroad at election time. Among its provisions to protect deployed servicemembers, 42 USC 1973ff-6(1)(A), is one requiring states to send them ballots for all federal elections, 42 USC 1973ff-1(a)8. To comply with this law, the Colorado legislature adopted the “Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act” which requires local election officials to send ballots to all “covered voters”, §1-8.3-110, C.R.S. (2011), in “Any other election coordinated by the county clerk and recorder.” §1-8.3-103, C.R.S. (2011)

    Neither federal law nor Colorado law makes a distinction between active and inactive voters. The interpretation of the law offered by the Secretary of State and Attorney General, however, would not only not require ballots to be sent out, as the MOVE Act requires, but prohibit them, as appears to be happening in Pueblo County now. This would be a violation of federal law. In a letter to Gessler, Ortiz reports that Pueblo County Attorney Dan Kogovsek argues this is a violation of state law as well.

    Mr. Gonzalez has referred this matter to the Department of Justice, following up on his previous letter of concern about possible illegal disenfranchisement of Colorado voters.


    Quick! Hide The Dunk Tank!

    Bob Moore of the Fort Collins Coloradoan updates the latest developments in the story of Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s controversial upcoming fundraiser for Larimer County Republicans.

    Who seem to be reacting poorly to the controversy.

    The Larimer County Republican Party, criticized by a variety of groups for scheduling a fundraiser with the state’s chief elections officer to help pay off a $15,700 campaign finance fine, has responded by moving the event to a private location and barring the media.

    “As you may have read, we originally planned a more public event, but as usual the media in its unrelenting desire to malign Republicans has made a circus of the event and that is the reason for our change of venue,” [Pols emphasis] Larimer GOP Chairman Tom Lucero said in an email Wednesday to party members, which he shared with the Coloradoan…

    The party earlier this month scheduled a Sept. 22 fundraiser in a Fort Collins park to help pay off the fine. Gessler was to appear in a dunking booth, with GOP members paying $10 a throw in an effort to dunk him.

    The dunking booth has been scratched, but Gessler will be the featured speaker that day at a private home. Suggested donation is $20.

    We love that Lucero says the media made a circus of this event. Um, you were the one who brought in the dunk tank. A dunk tank doesn’t generally lend itself to a tea and crumpets fundraiser.

    But since they’ve scrapped the dunk tank, this would render moot the question of whether Democrats get to dunk Gessler too. It seems as though the idea of Secretary of State Gessler in a dunk tank was meant to mollify the obvious criticism here, that Gessler making a colossal joke of campaign finance law by helping the LCRP raise money to pay the fines his own office assessed–and dramatically lowered. Because, you know, they were going to dunk him to “take out their frustrations” over the fine!

    It’s not just you. It’s one of the more ridiculous things we’ve ever heard, too.

    And the problem is, losing the dunk tank and “barring the media” from a fundraiser still starring Gessler, and still intended to cover fines levied by his office…doesn’t actually help anything. It just makes the media even more interested about what you’re trying to hide.

    Larimer County GOP Facing $200,000 in Fines

    As the Ft. Collins Coloradoan reports, the Larimer County Republican Party is looking at as much as $216,000 in fines because of problems stemming from former Party Chairman Larry Carillo:

    Former Larimer County Republican Party Chairman Larry Carillo used more than $17,000 in party money for payments to two companies he owned and for ATM withdrawals and other payments that can’t be explained, according to amended campaign finance reports the party is filing…

    …A Coloradoan review of the new disclosure showed $5,350 in contributions from Carillo’s companies that the Larimer GOP has reported could wind up costing the party more than $200,000 in fines because the contributions appear to violate state campaign finance laws.

    The payments to his companies and the debit card use are likely at the heart of an ongoing criminal investigation of Carillo’s tenure as party chairman.

    Carillo was first elected Chairman of the Larimer County Republican Party in 2009; he resigned on February 28 after other party leaders noticed a bunch of unpaid bills and other more problematic findings. The bigger problem, where campaign finance law is concerned, is that the Larimer GOP apparently didn’t file any campaign finance reports in 2010.

    The Larimer County GOP is looking at at least $65,000 in fines for not filing reports in 2010, but that number is continuing to rise. They’re still facing $50 per day late fees because they admitted that the report they finally filed in March of this year was inaccurate, and because some contributions from more than two years ago were not reported, fines could reach $216,000. But fortunately for them, there are two big-name Republicans in charge of the criminal case and the campaign finance problems. Again, from The Coloradoan:

    The Larimer County GOP is seeking a reduction in those fines, and Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office has said it will wait to determine the final fine amount until the party filed its amended campaign finance reports and until a prosecutor decided on whether to file criminal charges in the case.

    Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was named special prosecutor in the case after the District Attorney for Larimer County, Larry Abrahamson, recused himself because he had contributed to the county GOP. Buck’s office only will say the investigation is ongoing.

    Wait a minute…so Larry Abrahamson, the Larimer County District Attorney, (rightfully) recused himself from the case because he is a donor to the county party. So the case instead goes to Weld County D.A. Ken Buck, who was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010??? Didn’t Buck and his campaign work with the Larimer County Republican Party last year?

    Also involved with this case is former Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, who is now…wait for it…the Executive Director of the Larimer County GOP.

    Gessler has already shown in his first six months in office that he’s not overly concerned with silly things like “laws” or “rules”, and he might very well be inclined to agree with the Larimer County GOP’s request to reduce their fines. After all, says the Larimer GOP, it’s not their fault that nobody in the Party paid any attention to what was happening. Here’s the County GOP’s reasoning for why they shouldn’t be fined:

    “[The Larimer County Republican Party] should not be penalized by the imposition of such substantial fines when the failure to file the requisite campaign finance reports was a result of the failure of its volunteer chairman to inform the executive committee or the committee as a whole that reports had not been filed as required.”


    In other words, the Larimer County GOP thinks that it shouldn’t get in trouble because it’s not their fault that nobody was paying any attention to anything. No fair, no fair! He didn’t tell us that he was breaking the law!

    We don’t know how many officers the Larimer County GOP contained in 2010, but according to their website, there are 14 people listed as 2011-13 “Officers” or members of the “Executive Board.” We’d assume that there were roughly that many “Officers” in 2010, and if the Larimer GOP is like most county parties, they have more regular meetings than Alcoholics Anonymous.

    Nobody ever asked if they filed their campaign finance reports? Really? Never?

    What about the Party’s Treasurer? Former Treasurer Terri Fassi apparently resigned in July or August 2010 and was not replaced before the end of the year — but she still would have been responsible for reporting for the first half of the year. And what about previous Treasurer Matt Fries, who resigned in 2009 (a year that is also missing reporting details)? Fries at least tries an excuse, claiming that he didn’t open letters from the Secretary of State’s office related to the problems.

    It strikes us as a little disingenuous to claim that nobody knew what Carillo was doing when there were plenty of people who, at the very least, should have had some questions. If you put your hands over your ears and close your eyes really tight, maybe it will all just disappear! If you just don’t open the mail, the bad words won’t come out!

    Look, we acknowledge that it sucks when one person royally screws things up for an entire organization. There’s no excuse for that…but it’s also inexcusable that nobody else in the County Party lifted so much as an eyelid. It will be interesting to see if Republicans such as Gessler and Buck will accept this nonsense excuse and bury everything at Carillo’s feet. Carillo deserves what’s coming to him, but he shouldn’t be alone.

    This Week’s Fact-Free Accusation: Illegal Immigrants Now Cause Fires

    As The Los Angeles Times reports, add another complaint to the frenzy over illegal immigrants and the “damage” they cause:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday defended his statement over the weekend that illegal immigrants were responsible for some Arizona wildfires, citing congressional testimony and published reports to back his claim.

    Speaking from his home state Saturday, McCain said there was “substantial evidence that some of these fires have been caused by people who have crossed our border illegally.” He didn’t specify what evidence, however [Pols emphasis]

    …Speaking on the “Imus in the Morning” show Monday, McCain stood by his statement.

    “I was briefed by the Forest Service about the fact that illegal immigrants sometimes start these fires,” he said. And there has been testimony by service officials that “large numbers of warming and cooking fires built and abandoned by cross-border violators have caused wildfires that have destroyed cultural and natural resources.”

    He also cited a Los Angeles Times report backing his claim, though it was unclear which story he was referring to.

    Imus challenged McCain, though, saying the reports don’t prove illegal immigrants were responsible for the so-called Wallow blaze raging through eastern parts of the state.

    McCain said he never was referring to the specific fire in his remarks. [Pols emphasis]

    First off, kudos to Imus for not just nodding at McCain’s claims and actually challenging what he had to say.

    Perhaps McCain is referring to the same band of invisible illegal immigrants whom Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler “almost certainly” have voted in past elections, despite a complete lack of evidence that this has ever happened in Colorado. And not that they haven’t looked — Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner — a Republican in a heavy Republican county — recently went public about her concerns that the SOS office doesn’t seem to have any records of any illegal immigrants having voted in Colorado, although that’s not what Gessler has told Congress and anyone else who will listen.

    Look, illegal immigration is an important issue that deserves a serious discussion. But we can’t have those discussions when elected officials are always tossing around unconfirmed accusations about illegal immigrants casting ballots, causing fires, and beheading people in the desert. None of this does anything to address the actual problem of illegal immigration, and it devolves the entire discussion into a silly game of finger-pointing. What difference does this make, anyway? Are illegal immigrants known to be less careful with matches than legal residents? Can we now classify illegal immigrants as a “fire hazard?”

    In our view this isn’t about defending or opposing illegal immigrants. This is about something much more fundamentally important — elected officials should not be allowed to just toss out harmful accusations against anybody without proof.

    If McCain had accused an individual person of setting these fires, people would be elbowing each other trying to be the first to condemn his remarks. If McCain had said, I’m told that Ed Smith of Tucson set these fires. I don’t have any proof, but I’m pretty sure. — he would be absolutely roasted (pun intended) by the media and opinion makers on both sides of the aisle. But if he makes a baseless generic accusation against a faceless group of people — like illegal immigrants — then it’s not as big of a deal somehow. Yet it is still so very wrong, and so very irresponsible.

    Perhaps this is all just a misdirection ruse so that people won’t realize that U.S. Senators actually set the fires in Arizona. We don’t have any proof of that, but we read it somewhere in a newspaper once, and this guy who we think works for the government confirmed the story.


    Gessler “Fixes” The Rules?

    We spent the better part of the morning conferring with sources about a report from our friend Ralphie, writing at his Junction Daily Blog. Check out what Secretary of State Scott Gessler has apparently proposed in response to a mistake in legislation passed this year moving up Colorado’s primary election date:

    When the General Assembly passed SB11-189, which moved the date of the Primary elections up to June, it made a mistake. It forgot to also adjust the schedule for filing campaign finance reports. Under the previous statute, campaign finance reports are not due until July.

    That left a conflict in the legislation. The Legislature clearly intended for people to report their finances in the months leading up to the Primary. But it forgot to say so when it moved the date of the Primary…

    Gessler has issued a proposed rulemaking that attempts to reconcile the conflicting provisions of the campaign finance legislation. His solution?

    Gessler’s solution appears to be to eliminate certain biweekly reports required of primary candidates in the weeks prior to the election–by statute beginning in July, a date that mistakenly wasn’t changed when the election date itself was. Primary candidates would still be subject to numerous other other periodic campaign finance reporting requirements, but this would have the effect of reducing both the volume and timeliness of disclosure just before primaries. It resolves the “glitch,” but on the side of less disclosure.

    1  Rule 5.13 would be adopted as follows:



    4  RESOLVE THE CONFLICT BETWEEN SECTIONS  1-45-108(2)(A)(I)(A) AND  (B), C.R.S.,  



    We don’t claim to be experts, but couldn’t this have been fixed simply by changing the date that these particular reports need to begin? Couldn’t the legislature fix this next January in time to have biweekly reporting for primaries by May? Either way, it does seem like a case of going after the proverbial gnat with a sledgehammer. And even if Gessler’s intentions are benign, we’ve heard there is a significant difference of opinion on whether he has the authority to eliminate these reporting requirements. Given the way this story could be spun against Gessler–the headline “Brazen Attempt to Reduce Election Transparency” comes to mind–he might have been better off letting the legislature fix what seems to be their minor mistake.

    Scott Gessler Is Wasting Your Time

    In the Denver newspaper today, two stories that should put a swift end to the push by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to pass House Bill 1252–as we’ve discussed several times, a controversial bill that would grant his office authority to purge audit the voter rolls for anyone he “believes is not a citizen of the United States.”

    The first, by reporter Nancy Lofholm, explains how this new law is completely unnecessary–the Secretary of State already has access to relevant federal databases, and authority to check them against the voter rolls. Even better, Gessler’s office admits they knew this all along, and the splashy press conference and trip to DC to tesify we all about “seeking a mandate.”

    For a bill with no chance of passing the Assembly or being signed into law? Based on specious evidence, and even if accurate using the biggest of Gessler’s numbers, offset in triplicate by the number of people who became citizens during the period? Lofholm notes that there are very stiff federal penalties for voting as an illegal immigrant, including up to 10 years in prison. Studies have found this to be a potent deterrent to something you do civic duty-style like casting a vote.

    It’s a cheap grandstand. Another Latino-alienating boogeyman that vanishes under scrutiny.

    Which bring us to Lynn Bartels’ story about previous Secretary of State Mike Coffman–who back in 2007, said it would be “great” if he could “get a list of illegals who have been convicted of felonies and who are registered to vote.” Of course, he, uh, didn’t get one, because he says he didn’t have the ability to check these other databases, though apparently he did–at least legal authority. Or perhaps Coffman meant that he wished “a list of illegals who have been convicted of felonies and who are registered to vote” actually existed, given that there is no real evidence that this has happened in Colorado.

    But it’s useful to note how catching that one perfect child molester drug mule illegal alien voter they could make into a commercial for Bob Beauprez’s comeback bid and purge the rolls at the same time…well, as you can see, this is very, very important to them.

    The main point here is that all of this is a massive, inexcusable, politically self-injurious, waste of time. And this from a guy who claimed he couldn’t give money back to the state because his office has so much work to do. We suppose he meant “real work,” but who knows?

    Reminder: Gessler-Backed Voter ID Bill, Solution Without a Problem

    One of the few anti-immigrant bills to escape the narrowly GOP controlled Colorado House is the somewhat more subtle House Bill 1003, a voter photo ID proposal we’ve talked about a couple of times now (see: Stay Classy, Jim Kerr). Set for debate this afternoon in the Senate State Affairs committee, we expect this bill to meet its fate in its first post-House test.

    The reason for this expected failure is best explained by its primary supporter, Secretary of State Scott Gessler himself–from his testimony in support of the bill last month:

    Can’t see the audio player? Click here.

    Rep. Joe Miklosi: Thank you Mr. Chair, my last question, Mr. Secretary of State, I just wanted to verify the first question, to your knowledge there’s no verified instances of fraud?

    Gessler: Well, I’m not quite sure how you, ah, I’m sorry…

    Chair: Representative [inaudible] Secretary Gessler…

    Gessler: Thank you, thank you Mr. Chair. I’m not quite sure how you define ‘verified’ instances of fraud, if you mean there’s been an investigation and an official report on that, no. [Pols emphasis] If I do believe that there have been instances of fraud that photo identification would prevent, I do believe that, in Colorado.

    Nicely put, right? Gessler “believes” that illegal immigrants are voting. Well, we “believe” that unicorns are voting in vast numbers–who knows where those mail ballots are going, right? Behind closed doors, there could be hundreds of horned horses participating in our democracy!

    When Secretary of State Gessler says there’s never been an “investigation,” what he’s saying is there has not been an incident that rose to the level of investigating. It is already against the law to vote when ineligible, and when there is probable cause to believe that laws have been broken, a criminal investigation would be the logical result. Presumably a “report” would be a police report, right? Do you see how he’s downplaying the central element to his whole case? That is, evidence to support the idea that forcing citizens to produce a photo ID in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote is justifiable? Evidence of a problem?

    Look, maybe Gessler’s hunch is correct. It’s entirely possible that at some point in Colorado history, somebody legally ineligible to vote has voted. You have to allow for that. But there has never been a documented case of an illegal immigrant casting a ballot in Colorado. Responsible governments do not make public policy affecting the most sacred institution in their trust, democratic elections, on the basis of “hunches.” Either what Gessler really wants is a study of a problem he suspects but can’t prove, or this isn’t about any “problem” he is willing to talk about.

    It’s just about fewer people voting.

    What Has Gessler Requested of Suthers?

    Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been under fire for the last few days for complaining that his $68,500 annual salary (which pays about 33% more than the average $46,000 salary in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Labor) just isn’t enough and that he needs to work a second job with his old law firm — conflict of interest be damned!

    Gessler has no doubt asked Republican Attorney General John Suthers for a private opinion on the matter (he can cite attorney-client privilege here, because the AG is technically Gessler’s “attorney”), but the public should know what question(s) have been asked. Gessler is essentially asking Suthers for a ruling that will affect his work schedule as a full-time elected official in Colorado, so the public absolutely has a right to know what is being discussed.

    We don’t see how Suthers could possibly approve a plan that lets Gessler work for his former law firm, which deals primarily in election law. Gessler may say that he could be excused from any potentially conflicting cases, but that misses the bigger point about the Secretary of State’s office: The elected SOS should not have a second job with any employer who does business in Colorado.

    Remember, the SOS’ job isn’t just dealing with elections — the SOS handles all manner of business regulations and registrations for companies of all different sizes in Colorado. With that in mind, we don’t see how Gessler, or any person serving as the Secretary of State, could ever be permitted to work for another company that does business in Colorado. The SOS has a direct conflict of interest with all of them.

    So, what has Gessler asked Suthers? And how could Suthers ever, in any permutation of the ask, agree to allow Gessler to moonlight somewhere else?

    Colorado Election Results Open Thread

    UPDATE (11:25): The big Denver paper and many of the other big TV stations have some major problems with their reporting. The Denver Post, for example, had Buck ahead of Bennet 48-46, on the strength of a 52-45 advantage in Boulder. A quick check of the Boulder Clerk and Recorder’s website has Bennet leading Buck 67-29. There are a lot of somebodies who should have caught this immediately — there’s no way Boulder County would go solid red for any Republican.

    We recommend sticking with the results from Fox 31, which not only has a page that seems to actually load correctly, but isn’t making any obvious errors that we can see.


    UPDATE (11:16): It looks like we may be headed for at least one state legislative recount. In HD-29, Democratic Rep. Debbie Benefield trails Republican Robert Ramirez by 148 votes (50.34% to 49.66%).


    UPDATE (11:12): That didn’t last long. With 56% of ballots counted, Bennet and Buck are now tied at 47-47.


    UPDATE (11:00): Buck has pulled ahead of Bennet for the first time tonight, leading 49-46 with 49% of precincts reporting.


    UPDATE (9:50): It’s looking like the race that will have the biggest impact from an ACP candidate will not be the one anybody expected. The Secretary of State race is neck-and-neck, but the ACP candidate is already pulling 6% of the vote. Buescher may well win this seat by virtue of the American Constitution Party.


    UPDATE (9:44): The percentage of precincts reporting continues to rise, and Michael Bennet continues to hold a 50-45 lead over Ken Buck. This is not good news for Buck, because early returns should have favored him (Republicans voted in higher numbers than Democrats in early and absentee voting). Given Buck’s numerous gaffes in the last two weeks of the campaign, it’s not likely that late voters are going to choose him over Bennet, so it’s hard to see how Buck is going to make up 5 points with 27% of the vote already tallied.


    UPDATE (9:08): It’s always fun to see those really early returns that show absurd numbers. In HD-22, Democrat Christine Radeff is pummeling Republican incumbent Ken Summers 7,875 to 12. Yes, 12. For a few more minutes, anyway.


    UPDATE (9:05): Republican Cory Gardner is being declared the winner in CD-4.


    UPDATE (9:03): The Secretary of State race is coming down to the wire, and may be decided by the number of votes pulled in by the American Constitution Party candidate. Meanwhile, the race for Attorney General seems to be widening in favor of incumbent John Suthers.


    UPDATE (9:00): Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter has been declared the winner in CD-7.


    UPDATE (8:38): The old adage that Jefferson County decides statewide elections is largely holding form. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, unofficially, are doing better in Jefferson County, as is John Suthers. Cary Kennedy and Walker Stapleton are neck-and-neck in Jeffco, while Scott Gessler leads Bernie Buescher in the large west Denver suburb.


    UPDATE (8:35): Ladies and gentlemen, your next Governor…John Hickenlooper! The race has been called for Hick. Now the excitement turns to whether or not Dan Maes can cross the 10% threshold. From a Hickenlooper press release:

    Colorado voters on Tuesday elected John Hickenlooper, a brewpub pioneer turned Mayor of Denver, as the 42nd Governor of Colorado.

    “I am humbled and honored by the decision Colorado’s voters have made, and I accept the challenge you have entrusted to me to lead our state as Governor,” Hickenlooper said. “This is not the end of our journey. This is the beginning. And it starts with bringing people together.”


    UPDATE (8:20): Here’s a couple of developing stories to watch. All of this can change, of course, but as of right now…

  • Bennet maintaining early lead on Buck

  • Hickenlooper holding early lead for Governor

  • Tipton well ahead of Salazar in CD-3

  • Kennedy surprisingly strong in Treasurer race

  • Buescher may be saved by ACP candidate for SOS

  • Third party turnout not yet playing role in CD-4

  • Attorney General race staying close

  • Every major ballot measure getting crushed

  • Both Rep. Diana DeGette (CD1) and Jared Polis (CD2) have been declared winners already
  • —–

    We’ll update results as we can. In the meantime, please keep them updated, with links, in the comments below.

    *NOTE: Candidates in bold and italics have been declared the winner by at least one local news outlet.


    Michael Bennet (D): 47%

    Ken Buck (R): 47%

    56% reporting


    John Hickenlooper (D): 51%

    Tom Tancredo (ACP): 37%

    Dan Maes (R): 11%

    48% reporting


    Cary Kennedy (D): 51%

    Walker Stapleton (R): 49%

    44% reporting


    John Suthers (R): 57%

    Stan Garnett (D): 43%

    44% reporting


    Bernie Buescher (D): 44%

    Scott Gessler (R): 50%

    Amanda Campbell (ACP): 6%

    44% reporting


    John Salazar (D): 45%

    Scott Tipton (R): 50%

    63% reporting


    Betsy Markey (D): 41%

    Cory Gardner (R): 53%

    Doug Aden (ACP): 5%

    Ken “Wasko” (I): 1%

    69% reporting


    Ed Perlmutter (D): 53%

    Ryan Frazier (R): 42%

    16% reporting

    Gessler Wants SOS Job He Doesn’t Believe In

    (A bit of a long read, but worth taking a look in a race that has garnered little attention to this point. The large Denver newspaper has an interesting story on a half-million dollars in fines run up by a committee that Gessler is in charge of overseeing. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

    This year, incumbent Democrat Bernie Buescher, formerly a state legislator who was re-elected repeatedly from a conservative district in Grand Junction on the strength of his moderation, fair mindedness and business background, before starting his current job faces Republican challenger Scott Gessler, a Denver area election lawyer. Alas, as an election lawyer, Scott Gessler seriously blew it. He flubbed his job in a way that contributed to a serious lapse of the campaign finance laws and also seriously hurt his client. And, in responding to that situation, he has made clear that he doesn’t take the laws he is is asking the people of Colorado to put him in charge of enforcing seriously.

    The Colorado Secretary of State has a variety of jobs that include keeping corporate registration records, keeping the state’s personal property lien records, licensing notaries public, and administering bingo and raffle laws. But, only one of those jobs explains why we have an elected official, rather than a senior civil servant charged with carrying it out.

    The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer for the state in the State of Colorado. Since the actual balloting is handled by county clerks and recorders, the main responsibility of the Colorado Secretary of State in elections is to administer the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws.

    Scott Gessler was the registered agent and attorney for the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers Association political committee, from its inception in 2006 until September 20, 2010. During this period, the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers Association ran up $528,500 in fines for failing to file campaign finance reports. The Colorado Secretary of State dispatched 55 non-compliance and fine notices from the time that the trouble started. They went out every month, often multiple times, and in many cases by certified mail, starting January 25, 2008. All of the letters until he resigned as registered agent had Scott Gessler’s name in the address line.

    Gessler had other choices. He could have resigned as the Committee’s registered agent because his firm wasn’t being paid for its services, which would have set off a red flag with the Committee. Or, he could have continued to do his job without resigning by calling attention to the mounting problem to his client. If he had, this could have dramatically mitigated the damages of the entire book keeper fraud mess that his client was experiencing that extended far beyond missed Secretary of State filings.

    Instead, he did neither. He did nothing because his firm wasn’t getting paid. The trouble is that lawyers aren’t allowed to be passive-aggressive and simply stop working because they aren’t getting paid.

    Lawyers Have To Quit Or Do Their Job

    Lawyers are allowed to fire their clients if they aren’t getting paid, if it can be accomplished “without material adverse effect on the interests of the client,” if “the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled,” and if “lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred.” (Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16.)

    But, when you are a lawyer, until the representation is over, you have a duty to “act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client,” even if you aren’t getting paid. (Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 1.3.) As the comment to the rule creating that duty explains: “Unless the relationship is terminated as provided in Rule 1.16, a lawyer should carry through to conclusion all matters undertaken for a client.”

    In this case, as long as Scott Gessler was the Registered Agent for the Committee he had a duty to let his client know that the Secretary of States was sending until until he resigned from the job. Resigning isn’t hard. They have a form for that at the Colorado Secretary of State website. But, despite being an election lawyer, he didn’t utilize that option.

    This Was No Technicality

    I’m no stranger to this process. I’ve served as a treasurer for a political candidate in Mesa County, for the Democratic Party of Denver, and as attorney and/or registered agent for other candidates and political organizations.

    Small fines from a failure to meet a deadline by a day or two are not uncommon and can result from a simple clerical error. Even big fines can be technicalities. For example, I once represented an organization that had ceased operations and filed what it thought was its final report, but wasn’t closed out in the system because its final report has a clerical error that left it with a non-zero balance in its reported bank account that had to be cleared up.

    But, the case that Secretary of State candidate Scott Gessler is embroiled in is no technicality. As the Denver Post story linked above explains:

    A request for a fine waiver that the association sent to the secretary of state’s office doesn’t blame Gessler for the errors. Instead, the request describes internal chaos and alleged financial malfeasance by a bookkeeping contractor as the causes.

    The request says the contractor stopped paying Gessler’s firm to be the registered agent in late 2006 or early 2007, though Gessler’s name remained on official paperwork.

    The association rehired Gessler this year, and Mario Nicolais, an attorney at Gessler’s firm, has since taken over as the group’s official registered agent. . . .

    Secretary of state officials sent dozens of letters and invoices to Gessler’s office since the start of 2008 notifying him of the overdue filings and fines. It wasn’t until last month that the committee, through Nicolais, filed its late reports.

    Those reports show the committee collected more than $20,000 in contributions during the period. State records reveal that the committee made more than $12,000 in contributions during that time to candidates and other political groups.

    Failing to report contributions and expenditures for an active political committee for a prolonged period and blowing off years of dire notices from the Secretary of State is not a mere technicality. We have campaign finance rules for a reason, and that reason is to inform the public about who is receiving donations and how they are being spent in the political system.

    The Notices Should Have Made Gessler Pay Attention

    As dry and polite as they seem, a fine notice from the Secretary of State’s office is almost as jarring to receive for a registered agent of a political committee as getting sued or receiving a notice of tax audit is for a business firm. It is a big deal. Ordinarily, it arouses a brief bout of panic followed by action to figure out what went wrong and why it happened.

    In this case, the Committee formed “to support candidates including John Suthers” filed no reports from February 6, 2008 until September 20, 2010, when it filed a report for the first five months of 2008 (an easy, no activity report, because many candidates aren’t allowed to receive political contributions from political committees during the legislative session), and its next twenty-one required campaign finance reports (all overdue) on September 30, 2010 covering April 26, 2008 until September 15, 2010. Its first timely report in thirty months was filed on October 4, 2010.

    What Happened?

    A three page letter explaining the situation and asking for mercy was received by the Colorado Secretary of State on October 6, 2010.

    A new Executive Director was hired in 2005, he outsourced financial compliance duties in 2006, and “Early in 2008 Contractor ceased submitting payroll withholding taxes, employee 401(k) contributions, and political committee reports.” The new Executive Director didn’t figure out what was going on until early 2010, however, after which he was replaced and his replacement was left to sort out the mess.

    The Secretary of State, unlike the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers Political Committee, is very good a sending letters out on time. It sent 55 of them from the time that the Committee became delinquent to the present, many of them by certified mail. The book keeper was covering up past due notices, but Scott Gessler remained the registered agent until September 20, 2010.

    We Should Care In This Political Race

    Is a serious mistake in grossly mishandling one campaign finance case a deep moral flaw? No. I’m sure that Scott Gessler is a nice guy and a smart attorney. But, he isn’t applying for just any job. He is seeking a job as the person in charge of administering the campaign finance system in Colorado. Yet, when it was his job to do his part in the process, he seriously screwed it up in a way that hurt the public interest in campaign finance disclosure and also did serious harm to his client.

    This incident casts real doubt on Scott Gessler’s qualifications to be Colorado’s next Secretary of State. So does his dismissive attitude towards the system he wants to make it his job to administer and enforce:

    Gessler said the size of the fine reinforces his argument that the campaign-finance system is set up as a “gotcha” to overcharge groups for clerical lapses.

    If he doesn’t get it now, he won’t when he is in office.Cross Posted at Wash Park Prophet.

    Who Will Win the Race for Secretary of State?

    Vote after the jump.

    Remember — we want to know what you believe will happen, not what you might want to happen. To repeat our usual description, if you had to bet everything you owned on the outcome of this race, who would you pick?

    Who Will Be Elected Secretary of State?

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    Who Will Win the Race for Secretary of State?

    Vote, vote, vote!

    Don’t forget — we want to know what you believe will happen, not what you might want to happen. To repeat our usual description, if you had to bet everything you owned on the outcome of this race, who would you pick?

    Who Will Be Elected Secretary of State?

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    Who Will Win the Race for Secretary of State?

    Vote after the jump. Remember, we want to know what you believe will happen, not what you might want to happen. To repeat our usual description, if you had to bet everything you owned on the outcome of this race, who would you pick?

    Who Will Be Elected Secretary of State?

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    Fundraising Updates for State Races

    The financial reporting period for state races running between July 29 through September 1 is now available online. Here’s how the statewide candidates stack up. Keep in mind that cash-on-hand amounts are deceiving at this point, since many candidates have already spent big chunks of money to buy advertising spots (with exceptions for Dan Maes and Scott Gessler, neither of whom has a good reason for having so little left in the bank).

    Figures below as Amount Raised Last Period/ Amount Spent Last Period/ Cash-on-Hand as of Sept. 1)


    John Hickenlooper (D): $409,859/ $357,158/ $171,542

    Tom Tancredo (ACP): $199,229/ $58,376/ $140,853

    Dan Maes (R): $50,201/ $54,011/ $19,786


    Cary Kennedy (D): $102,161/ $89,189/ $90,250

    Walker Stapleton (R): $27,385/ $15,880/ $22,712


    John Suthers (R): $64,958/ $15,671/ $346,775

    Stan Garnett (D): $43,690/ $120,342/ $23,259


    Bernie Buescher (D): $36,158/ $8,708/ $139,661

    Scott Gessler (R): $13,745/ $38,071/ $14,725

    Gessler Just Keeps Pissing in the Wind

    We’ve been fascinated with the campaign of Republican Secretary of State candidate Scott Gessler over the last year, but not in a good way. For most of the last 18 months, Gessler has been spending his campaign cash as fast as he can raise it; in 2009, he brought in almost $87,000 but spent an incredible 86 percent of that money.

    Gessler managed to contain himself (somewhat) in the first quarter of this year, raising $53,000 but spending only $38,000, which for Gessler just about qualifies him as Scrooge McDuck. But then there was the reporting period that ended on May 26, a one-month time frame during which Gessler brought in $16,363 but spent $18,045, most of which went to consultants and rent (hint: if you are paying consultants more money than you are raising, you might want to consider changing consultants).

    When you add it all up, since he first began his campaign in Q1 2009, Gessler has raised a solid $156,057…yet has spent $130,725, for a cash-on-hand amount today of a little over $25,000. For you math whizzes out there, that means Gessler has spent .84 cents out of every dollar raised, and we’ve only just made it to June.

    Folks, we’ve never seen a candidate, for either Party, with a consistent burn rate this high.

    Gessler has actually out-raised incumbent Democrat Bernie Buescher, but while the latter has brought in abut $137,000, he still has $74,125 cash on hand. That’s just poor campaign management when you have outraised your opponent over the course of 18 months but only have a third as much money in the bank. And that’s what makes Gessler’s campaign one of the worst statewide organizations we’ve seen in the last 10 years.

    Scott Gessler’s Fundraising Black Hole

    You can say this about Scott Gessler, the Republican candidate for Secretary of State: At least he isn’t running for State Treasurer.

    We’ve wondered about Gessler and his bizarre spending habits ever since he first entered the race for Secretary of State last year. If you haven’t been following the story, through the first three quarters of 2009 Gessler managed to spend an incredible 82% of the money he raised.

    Gessler’s Q4 campaign finance report shows that he raised $19,618 in the last three months of 2009, but he also spent $19,374. You read that correctly — Gessler netted just $244 in three months.

    All told, Gessler has now raised $86,799 for his campaign and spent $74,567. He has only $12,231 in the bank after spending a whopping 86% of the money he has raised.

    For comparison’s sake, Democrat Bernie Buescher has raised $92,921 and spent $27,877 (just 30% of the total), leaving him with $65,043 cash on hand.

    Folks, we’ve never seen a legitimate candidate with a burn rate like Gessler’s. It makes you wonder how Gessler is going to continue to solicit money when donors start to realize that he’s just pissing it all away, because if Gessler can’t save enough money to advertise on television next fall, there is absolutely no way he can unseat Buescher. Donate now to Scott Gessler — for every $10 you send, almost $2 will go towards winning the election!

    This kind of fiscal irresponsibility is bad enough for a candidate for statewide office, but wait, there’s more! On the same day that he filed his Q4 finance report, he sent an email blast to supporters that, well, you just have to read it yourself. Click below to find out how electing Gessler will bring Democracy to the Middle East, or something.


    The Iranian uprising is truly inspiring.  First, it proves once and for all that Muslim societies also yearn for freedom and democracy.  Second, it shows that many Muslims reject theocracy and repression.  And finally, it holds the promise of a future Iranian government no longer bent on building nuclear weapons.  

    But Obama and the Democrats are embarrassed by those Iranians seeking freedom.  In pursuit of “engagement” and “stability”, the Obama administration has continued to accept the Iranian regime, both in word and deed.  The U.S. continues to negotiate under all circumstances, still offering concessions (and legitimacy) in vain attempt to convince the Iranian regime to give up nuclear weapons.

    The result has been complete failure, and now Obama and the Democrats have placed the U.S. on the wrong side of history.

    Compare this to Ronald Reagan and Poland’s Solidarity movement.  There, the U.S. condemned the Polish government.  We provided meaningful assistance to the Poles, and we used U.S. economic clout to push for democracy.

    Why does this matter for us?  First, don’t be fooled by Democrats who talk about election integrity, but don’t stand up for it.  Fair elections are not merely talking points, and elections are not merely a path to power.  Rather, they are the cornerstone of free, prosperous, and peaceful societies.

    Second, we cannot selfishly work for fair elections while turning a blind eye to others yearning for freedom and self-governance.

    And third, democracies are less likely to go to war.  A democratic Iran will make it less likely that American boys and girls will die in the Middle East because of Iranian militarism.

    But you can help me do our part by fighting for free elections here in Colorado, by making a contribution of $25, $50, $75 or $150. [Pols emphasis]

    So next week, we’ll again turn to elections in Colorado.  But until then, remember that elections – and election integrity – are universal values.  Not merely slogans by those seeking to hold power.

    Pols Poll 2: Secretary of State

    As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

    Who Will Be Elected Secretary of State in 2010?

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