After the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Patrick Malone broke the story Tuesday night, Tim Hoover of the Denver paper follows up today with more details from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s spokesman about two taxpayer-funded trips he took last summer: one to Washington, D.C. to speak at a Heritage Foundation press conference for the True the Vote pollwatching organization, and the second to the Republican National Lawyer’s Association conference and the Republican National Convention in Florida.
All of which Gessler claims constituted “state business.”
There are two unresolved questions in this story: the first, and most obvious, is whether these trips can reasonably be called “state business,” thus eligible for the reimbursement Gessler received. The trip to Washington D.C. is more defensible on its surface, since he apparently did meet with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation. The True the Vote organization on whose behalf he spoke at the National Press Club is considerably less defensible in this regard, but some will give Gessler the benefit of the doubt since there were at least some items on his trip agenda that could properly be considered “state business.”
The trip to Florida, and the strange circumstances of Gessler’s taxpayer-funded early return from the Republican National Convention, are another matter entirely.
Gessler claims that his trip to the Republican National Lawyer’s Association conference is defensibly “state business” because he spoke on a panel titled “The Department of Justice, the Role of the States and Voter ID.” As you know, attempts to pass a voter photo ID law in Colorado failed again this year, so it’s an open question what “state business” he would have talked about–perhaps the need for one? The justification seems quite thin.
As for attending the Republican National Convention using any taxpayer funds? Hoover notes that Gessler’s predecessor, Bernie Buescher, had zero requests for reimbursement for “any expenses billed for Democratic organizations or functions.” That’s one problem.
And it leads us to the second, less explained part of the story:
This is the note requesting reimbursement for Gessler’s flight back to Colorado a day early–the early return from the RNC attributed to “death threats” against the Secretary and members of his family over actions he has taken in office. We’ll start by unequivocally stating that threats against elected officials and their families are totally unacceptable in political discourse, and should always be condemned on both sides of the aisle. If Gessler or Gessler’s family was subjected to such a threat, they truly have our sympathy and support.
Folks, why doesn’t the documentation supplied in the Colorado Open Records Request contain a single reference to this “security issue?” If Gessler’s early return from the RNC was the result of a security issue, why does the request for reimbursement say he returned early simply “due to the needs of the Department?” Next question: how plausible is it that Gessler’s family would receive such threats while Gessler reeled from devastating public criticism of his unsuccessful campaign to purge “noncitizen voters,” and not make that public for a month and a half–until it comes out as a belated justification for reimbursing Gessler for RNC travel expenses?
We don’t claim to know everything about this story. We’re not drawing any conclusions.
But without additional evidence, questions arise running the gamut from bad to worse.