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