UPDATE: Reporter Tim Hoover of the Denver newspaper corrects our source, who told us that Scott Gessler also owns a “Lexus SUV” considerably newer than the “14-year-old Honda” that Gessler pled his case for extra money with earlier in the week. The Gessler family SUV in question is in fact a Volkswagen Touareg, which Gessler says his wife drives. We never claimed that Gessler was lying about owning the Honda (people can have more than one car, after all), and his spokesman indeed produced a photo of a dirty late 1990s vintage Civic.
We stand corrected; though we do still see Gessler as more of a Lexus guy.
Last Sunday, we talked a little about the problem in Colorado of chronically underpaid top elected officials. The pay for most state elected officials hasn’t been raised in over a decade, and we’ve commented several times over the years how this growing disparity between private sector compensation and that of Colorado’s elected officials could rightly be seen as a disincentive to some qualified professionals to seek office.
Now, the reason we brought this up again on Sunday, of course, is the controversy surrounding the decision by Secretary of State Scott Gessler to work part time at his old law firm while serving. Gessler’s firm, as everyone knows, is one of the principal representatives of right-leaning “soft money” groups in the state, raising very serious questions about conflicts associated with Gessler continuing to work there.
The particular circumstances of Gessler’s move–the lack of clarity on his plans on the campaign trail, Gessler’s long history of partisan political lawyering, the type of law firm we’re talking about, and the extensive authority of the Secretary of State in many aspects of business and elections all combine to greatly amplify criticism. But as the AP reports today via the Durango Herald, Gessler is responding to this with…deflections about the money.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told lawmakers Wednesday they should have a state commission review the salaries of state elected officials after he was criticized for wanting to work part-time for his old law firm…
He also told lawmakers the state underpays its elected officials. His current job as secretary of state pays $68,500 a year.
Colorado lawmakers currently set the salaries of statewide elected officials.
Like we said on Sunday, it’s a little bizarre to see a Republican arguing for higher pay in the middle of a huge budget crisis, and it’s even worse at the same moment that legislative Republicans are under fire for cutting school breakfasts for poor kids. The fact that we agree that these salaries are probably too low doesn’t make the timing any more politically appropriate–certainly not to take office complaining about it.
And while we’re on the subject of appearances, Gessler has made various statements about his present financial situation that are being exposed as factually challenged. Gessler reportedly owns several properties in the Denver area, including a spacious Capitol Hill colonial: this is a man who isn’t badly off by any stretch of the imagination. And despite his claim that he drives a “14 year old Honda” and says petulantly he would like a “new car someday,” we’re told he in fact drives a
Lexus SUV Volkswagen Touareg–see update–of a considerably later model. He might not be lying about owning an old Honda, but he’s misleading to a fairly shocking extent–for a man expecting awful lot of trust.
To be honest, anecdotes like these being debunked kind of points back to the original problem, and shows again that it’s not about money: it’s about trust. And if Gessler is willing to fudge on small details like the car he “drives”…what else is he willing to fudge?