I know I shouldn’t be after so many rounds, but I was surprised that our Secretary of State is again choosing to do his best to undermine not only the law, but law created by a vote of the people.
It’s a long and winding story, but the basic tale is that Secretary Gessler used state money to travel to the Republican National Convention, a political event that many of us think shouldn’t be funded by taxpayer dollars. As a result, he is being investigated by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) and also the Denver District Attorney’s Office.
On top of these investigations, the Secretary is asking the IEC for permission to create a legal defense fund that would be able to accept donations to support his criminal defense. In Colorado, voter passed Amendment 41 limits gifts to elected officials to $53 a year (this is all separate from campaign contributions). The law was a significant win for the people; it ensures monetary or other luxury gifts don’t earn unfair access for those who can pay. The law clearly says that public officials should not be benefiting personally from political gifts. It’s a really tough sell that the Secretary is not benefiting personally from an expensive legal defense paid for by political gifts.
What’s worse is that he’s calling his situation a “special occasion” — one of the categories of exemptions under Amendment 41 created so public officials could enjoy the social benefits that others do, and restricted to gifts from family and friends. In this case, his Deputy Secretary told the IEC that they would solicit gifts for the fund from their campaign donors who had already “maxed out” to the campaign committee. So, basically the Secretary is trying to say that he is exempt from our campaign finance limits and also our gift limits.
The IEC is meeting to discuss his request on Monday, February 4th.
Read our letter to the IEC opposing the creation of a legal defense fund.