The one sure thing about the weird petition-signature-forgery story was that it would inevitably get even weirder.
It’s what these stories do.
You remember the one from back in 2010, in which Scott McInnis throws his plagiarizing ghost writer under a bus; Dan Maes says shared bicycles are a United Nations plot to take over the country, or at least Denver; Tom Tancredo issues a High Noon deadline for Maes to get out of the race or he’d drop a bomb on Mecca. Oh wait, that was another Tancredo story. Anyway, it ended up with John Hickenlooper laughing his way to the governor’s office.
And now, if I have the latest story right, and I still can’t quite believe what I’m reading, the secretary of state’s office apparently knew about the possibility of forged signatures on Jon Keyser’s Senate-seat petitions a month ago – yes, a month ago — but no one ever told Wayne Williams, who is, you know, the actual secretary of state.
Not only did the people in Williams’ office not inform Williams, they apparently didn’t tell Keyser either. Or anyone from law enforcement. Or anyone anywhere. And just to make the story even better, they approved the very signatures they were warned about – some of them so obviously forged that even a TV reporter could spot them. (At last count, 7News reporter Marshall Zelinger had found 13.)
We get this news courtesy of the secretary of state’s office, which was so embarrassed by the story that they sent out a press release listing everything they had missed up to that point.
It turns out it wasn’t just forgeries. There was also a dead person whose signature wound up among those on the petitions. That’s right, the dreaded dead-voter story.
It’s the old Chicago story except it happened right here in Colorado — the same tall tale that Republicans tell their children at night to scare them away from election reform, the story that is really about illegal immigrants who, it’s whispered, are ready to sneak their way into the voting booth so they can vote for Democrats, who would reward them with goodies like affordable health care. No wonder Donald Trump wants to deport every last one of them.
But, wait. There’s more.
The secretary of state’s office also knew about the dead person a month ago. Yes, a month ago. I’m serious. And once again — I bet you guessed this — no one told Wayne Williams about it.
Because why would anyone want to bother the boss with forged signatures or dead bodies or what was obviously an election scandal?
What we know, via The Post, is that someone at Integrated Document Solutions — which got first shot at examining the petitions — told Jeff Mustin, whom The Post calls “Secretary of State’s petition lead,” about the problem on April 12 and then sent him an email with some of the worrying signatures. And then — because the story was just that big — nothing happened.
Williams said he didn’t know any of this until Tuesday, long after the story had blown up, and as soon as he did know, he directed his team to tell the DA about it. This was after Keyser was finally admitting that, yes, there were some forged signatures, but because he’s a leader, he couldn’t say anything about it, because leaders need the facts and until they get them, they simply hide from the press or threaten them with their dog.
And if leaders do finally have to show up for a candidate forum, they answer all media questions by not answering any of them — and so add to the scandal by becoming a national laughingstock.
In a Denver Post-sponsored debate Tuesday night, Keyser tried to fix things. He took the first question — a penetrating opener about whether any of the five GOP candidates could name a Michael Bennet vote they agree with — and addressed the petition story. He did it just the way you’d expect — not by taking responsibility for the apparently forged signatures but by blaming the media for hounding him. He said he didn’t see anyone “jumping out of the bushes” to ask Bennet any embarrassing questions, which may be because Bennet didn’t have to petition his way onto the ballot with any dead guys. But, whatever.
It was a bad night for Keyser, pretty much from start to finish. Toward the end of the debate – in the ask-your-fellow-candidate-a-question round — Darryl Glenn asked Keyser if, as a fellow Air Force Academy grad, the honor code they lived by would force him to drop out of the race if an audit found he wouldn’t have qualified for the ballot without the forged signatures. Keyser said he wouldn’t drop out, because, you know, he’s a leader.
To which Glenn, who won his spot on the ballot at the GOP convention, replied: “I’m sure the Academy will be glad to hear that answer.”
At least it was an answer. Whether or not Keyser is guilty of anything, he’s certainly guilty of mishandling the questions. In fact, he couldn’t have handled them any worse if he worked in the secretary of state’s office, where the story promises to get weirder still.
Photo credit: Jon Keyser for Senate