Gessler history of fighting unpaid election fines hovers over proposed rule changes

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, according to the Denver Post, will be proposing a new set of rules that would waive or reduce a significant number of campaign finance fines for political committees that fail to file disclosure reports.

Scott Gessler
As an elections law attorney for primarily conservative causes, Gessler represented groups that either flat-out failed to register with the secretary of state and later engaged in electioneering activity or failed to file disclosure reports – sometimes for years. Now he tells the Post he’ll roll out rules in the next few weeks that will make it easier to reduce or waive such fines.

Gessler revealed the proposed changes when asked by the Post how he would view requests to reduce the nearly $100,000 in fines amassed by the Larimer County Republican Party for failing to file disclosure reports – a story broken by the Fort Collins Coloradoan this week.

Larry Carillo, former Larimer County Republican Party chairman, told the Coloradoan he just didn’t open certified letters from the SOS because he assumed they would just tell him he needed to file reports, something he was clearly unwilling to do.

“If someone is willfully blowing it off, yes, that merits a higher fine,” Gessler told the Post. Gessler represented a group called the Colorado Independent Auto Dealers Association that had its fines for failing to file reports dropped from more than $504,000 to just under $8,500 – a story that came up during his campaign last fall but failed to gain traction with voters.

And Gessler also represented a group called the Colorado League of Taxpayers, incorporated by Republican operative Scott Shires, that was hit with a more than $7,000 fine for failing to register its electioneering activities in a 2008 Garfield County commissioners race that pitted oil and gas interests against two Democrats who ultimately lost. Fines in that case grew to more than $8,000 and went unpaid for years.

Shires was the original registered agent for Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative, pro-energy nonprofit active for years in a slew of elections across the West. But Gessler’s law firm, which earlier this year he tried to continue working for even while serving as secretary of state, took over the registration of Western Tradition, which was sharply criticized for its campaign tactics during the past election cycle.