Alfred E. Neuman meet Scott Gessler. In another missive from the “You just can’t make this stuff up department,” it’s been announced that Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler will be the key attraction at a fundraiser this month to help the Larimer County Republican Party raise money to pay off fines levied by Gessler’s office.
From Bob Moore’s column in The Fort Collins Coloradoan:
Gessler’s spokesman and the Larimer GOP chairman said the fundraiser is appropriate, an opinion rejected by a political scientist, government watchdogs and the state Democratic chairman.
“This just doesn’t seem like the best exercise in judgment. One would think the secretary would instead go to great lengths to keep his distance so as to avoid any appearance of partisanship with respect to the fine reduction,” said John Straayer, a political scientist at Colorado State University and a leading expert on state government.
Gessler will participate in a dunking booth at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at Fossil Creek Park Pavilion in Fort Collins. Larimer GOP Chair Tom Lucero said the idea is to allow Republicans upset over the fine to take out their frustrations on Gessler, the Republican whose office is charged with enforcing Colorado campaign finance laws.
Gessler spokesman Richard Coolidge said Gessler is doing nothing improper.
“The Larimer County Republicans are angry and frustrated having to pay the largest fine ever imposed in our office’s history. This is a way for them to relieve those frustrations,” Coolidge said.
Gessler has already been roundly criticized by newspapers, government watchdogs and others for reducing the original fine amount by about 60 percent.
“It kind of proves that the fine waiver rules are a complete sham,” said Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “Some committees that the Secretary of State levies fines against will have his help in paying the fines and some obviously won’t,” Toro told The Colorado Independent. “It’s hard to say that’s fair.”
Toro said he was surprised when he heard of Gessler’s involvement in the fundraiser. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, but you would think the Secretary of State would know better. It makes a mockery of the whole fines and waivers process.”
Prior to being elected secretary of state, Gessler was in private practice as an attorney who often represented conservative groups in campaign finance cases. When he first took office he said he would continue with the law firm on a part time basis. When that decision was met with a firestorm of protest, he backed down.