What The Hell Is Scott Gessler Thinking?

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, the Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel Tweets from the RNC:



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After days of press about Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s unswerving focus on tracking down and purging from the rolls what appears to be a tiny number–if any at all–of improperly registered noncitizen voters, Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee breaks a story that raises fresh and serious questions about Gessler’s judgment. From the transcript, we’ll link to online audio as soon as it’s available:

It’s a pretty sweet deal. Three men, facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines for campaign finance violations, wound up getting slapped with the equivalent of a parking ticket. But how? CPR’s Megan Verlee takes us through one tale of campaign finance waivers. Then Megan talks with host Ryan Warner about how the public can use the same database she did to find this story…

Reporter: You might remember these initiatives as Amendments 60, 61, and Proposition 101 from the 2010 ballot. They would have cut Colorado taxes and restricted state finances in some big ways. The three men who originally registered the initiatives claimed they had no idea who actually spent the money to get them on the ballot. And  since it wasn’t them, they didn’t have to file anything. A few months before the election, a judge disagreed. Here’s a bit of his ruling, read by a CPR producer.

Court Ruling:  ”Their testimony that they were unaware of and did not care who their benefactor was is not believable and demonstrates intent to hide the identity of that benefactor from public disclosure.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter:  With a few months left before the election, the judge fined each man two-thousand dollars and ordered them to each file a committee with the state and log at least one report listing contributions from their Mr X, revealed to be anti-tax crusader Doug Bruce. They didn’t. At least: not until 15 months later, after they’d racked up tens of thousands of dollars in late fines. And then something interesting happened…

Reporter:  ”Wow, these guys got almost everything waived.”

Reporter:  ’These guys’ were Jeff Gross, Louis Schroeder, and Russell Haas. I tried to contact them to ask about their delay in filing and their waiver requests, but they either didn’t respond, or didn’t want to be interviewed by public radio. In the months after the court order, state officials sent numerous invoices, warning them the fines were mounting. In the end, the total bill rang in at more than twenty thousand dollars apiece in campaign finance fines. Then last fall, the three men filed their forms. And they immediately asked for, and were eventually granted, waivers, knocking those fines down to $50 each.

Verlee reports that the men were ordered by the court to disclose contributions from Doug Bruce to the Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 campaigns. Bruce’s shell-gaming of money in and out of his “charity,” you’ll recall, resulted in tax evasion charges, felony convictions, and jail time for Bruce, though his convictions were for offenses before the 2010 elections.

Regardless, the campaigns for these initiatives set a new low for the flagrant defiance of Colorado’s already toothless campaign finance laws, with the apparent express intention of concealing Bruce’s funding of their campaigns from the voting public. But the real outrage: how much more toothless are they when the Secretary of State waives the fines meant to compel compliance with the law into meaninglessness?

[Former Secretary of State Natalie] Meyer: “I think letting people get by with skirting the law probably encourages people to skirt the law.  If you wait long enough you can get away with it.  And that’s not a good policy for any law.”

Gessler claims that his waiving of these fines is meant to “encourage participation,” as if these were honest actors–as a long court record documents, they were not honest participants in Colorado’s election process by any stretch. And while swallowing this proverbial camel, Gessler wastes untold man hours poring through the voter rolls fruitlessly in search of “illegal voters.”

It’s pathetic, folks. The fully contextualized truth of all of this is well beyond indefensible. It powerfully underscores what Rick Palacio was trying to say with that stillborn recall effort.

The fox is guarding the henhouse today, well and truly.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. parsingreality says:

    (And Hypocrisy, but that’s another comment.)

    While Dems certainly have their share of corrupt players, try as they may they cannot keep up with Republicans over the years.

    From Nixon to Gessler, many more of them are corrupt than Dems.

    Just like many more of them are sexual predators than Dems.  Dredging up my old diary, “Who are the sexual predators?”

    One guess.

    http://www.coloradopols.com/di

  2. BlueCat says:

    That he can get away with anything because, apparently, he can. Just like the Romney campaign can get away with any blatant lie no matter how many fact checkers come right out and say… that’s not true. And it’s the public’s fault. They treat us like idiots because the majority reliably behave like idiots.

    Every single person in Colorado ought to be ashamed that we elected Gessler in the first place and haven’t recalled him yet. Every Republican should be ashamed that it’s official GOP policy to lie and keep lying no matter what the verifiable facts may be.  

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    I’d like to understand the mechanism here.  Could someone please explain where the SOS is given the authority to ignore, rewrite, or modify this or any judge’s order?

    • I believe the defendants paid the $2000 required by the judge, and they (eventually) registered a committee and filed a report.

      What Gessler waived were all of the fines for not filing what the judge required for 15 months.  Those are statutorily defined penalties (similar to the ones the Larimer GOP didn’t pay…), and as Secretary of State, Gessler has the authority to waive them.

      What he did isn’t illegal, just morally bankrupt in light of the fact that these reports were court-ordered.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        F’n Gessler . . . probably gave ‘em offsets towards their fines for donations to the RNC.

        Remember those good old days when we used to think that the fox in the henhouse that we would need to worry about would be Stapleton?

  4. Scott Gessler once again trying to make himself a national figure by claiming he’s found “non-citizen voters”.  Because those numbers have been so accurate in the past…

  5. BlueCat says:

    People are 3,615 times more likely to report a UFO sighting than they are to commit in-person voter impersonation, according to national data.

    The striking statistic has surfaced at the same time as the news that a new voter ID law in Pennsylvania could render nearly 10 percent of the state’s residents ineligible to vote in the presidential election this fall.

    National UFO Reporting Center records show there were 47,000 reports of UFO sightings between 2000 and 2010. During the same period, just 13 people were convicted of impersonating someone else in order to vote in their name (my emphasis), according to research by Justin Levitt, associate professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. [UFO Quiz: What's Really Out There]

    http://news.yahoo.com/ufo-sigh

    This is to do with voter ID laws rather than fraudulent registration but it still illustrates a curious point and guarding against voter impersonation is an even higher priority for most GOP SOSs than guarding against fraudulent registration, Gessler’s personal favorite source of hysteria,

    Kind of begs the question of why GOP SOSs aren’t insisting that the greatest threat to democracy as we know it is take over by aliens from outer space, clearly an exponentially more likely scenario by their hysteria standards than fraudulent registration and voter impersonation combined.

    Of course when Republicans argue against regulations to protect the public from health and safety risks, the argument is always that it isn’t worth the expense and the impeding of business just to prevent a small number of unfortunate, even fatal mishaps.

    Hmmm….

  6. SSG_Dan says:

    From the Daily Prophet:

    Court rules against Gessler in campaign change



    An appeals court says Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his authority by raising a financial disclosure threshold for political groups and that the change violated state law.

    The Colorado Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday, affirming a lower court’s decision.

    http://www.denverpost.com/poli

    terms of use: http://www.denverpost.com/term

    “But fair use of our content restricts those who want to reference it to reproduce no more than a headline and up to a couple of paragraphs or a summary of the story.”

  7. Albert J. Nock says:

    Why did Megan Verlee signal out these 3 particular ballot measures and these 3 particular men?  Gessler has waived numerous fines. Bernie Beusher, a Democrat, waived more fines in terms of dollar figures than Gessler has.

    1 or more of these 3 men must have said or done something to upset Megan.

    Megan’s article fails to mention the original ruling was appealed to the Court of Appeals and State Supreme Court. The Supreme Ruling did not occur until March 2012, this is a good explanation for the delay in filing and paying the fine.

    There is also a tentative suit against State and other involved parties for violation of numerous civil rights.

    BTW, if a Judge issues a 2000.00 fine and fine is paid, then justice has concurred. Additional fines with no trial would be a violation of Due Process.

    With all the laws and what not, maybe “journalist” need to be granted State permission.

    • No.  The courts didn’t find enough strength in their appeals to warrant issuing a TRO against their filing or paying the penalty.  So the fines racked up, as they should have.  (Traditionally in cases like this, the losing party pays up or puts up a bond for payment pending the appeal; these three didn’t do that.)

      In case it really escaped you, these people violated a campaign law whose purpose is to make important election information available to the public in a timely manner.  Their delays prevented that from happening – they subverted the law even after the judge issued his initial judgement against the three.  Frankly, IMHO the judge should have found them in contempt.

    • ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

      Wow. This is really important. I’m forwarding your comment to everybody I know!

    • MADCO says:

      So –

      no library fines.

      no parking tickets.

      no speeding tickets.

      no late fees on taxes.

      no late fees for late vehicle registrations.

      Hell- no vehicle registrations.

      no fines for over watering.

      no fines or late fees on fines for a gajillion other things.

      Wow- I guess it’s true, ignorance is blissful.

      What’s your number?

  8. BlueCat says:

    Even later in Tampa.  Has Gessler come up with those numbers he promised yet?

  9. ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

    You had the balls to mention Palacio’s laughable recall.

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