Scott Gessler is always right...right?

Scott Gessler is always right...right?
Brian Taylor

At 9:36 a.m. on August 28, Minerva Padron, an administrative assistant to Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, answered a call to the office's election number. On the other end of the line was an agitated male who said he wanted to talk to someone about letters that Gessler had sent to nearly 4,000 registered voters whom he suspected might not be American citizens, urging the suspected immigrants to offer proof that they were legal citizens — or otherwise remove themselves from the voter rolls.

"I let him vent," Padron told the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. "He said Republicans should be shot in the head, and that way maybe they would learn."

Eventually the man hung up, but not before he told Padron that he knew where Gessler lived.

Scott Gessler is at home at the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Mark Manger
Scott Gessler is at home at the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch.
Mark Manger
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch.

At the time, Gessler was nearly 2,000 miles away, at the Republican National Convention in Florida — where he had been for about a week, first at an election-law conference of the Republican National Lawyers Association, and then at the RNC. This wasn't the first threat his office had fielded while he was out of town, either. Four days earlier, an individual from outside Colorado had sent an e-mail saying that the wife and daughter of "Shithead Gessler" should be raped.

"You're stunned. You're worried as hell," Gessler recalls. "You're worried about how violent this might be."

Gary Zimmerman, his chief of staff, adds, "I was pretty much just aghast.... It's just horrific."

After the e-mail threat, Gessler's wife and four-year-old daughter had temporarily left their home in Cheesman Park; patrols monitored the home of his mother, Barbara.

After the phone-call threat, and at the urging of Zimmerman, Gessler flew home early from Tampa.

Law enforcement agencies started investigating the two threats. But the actions of that week would soon inspire an even more high-profile criminal investigation: into Gessler's own actions.

Two months later, Colorado Ethics Watch, an advocacy group that has closely scrutinized the Republican secretary, accused Gessler of illegally using public dollars to travel to Florida for partisan events outside of his official duties.

And on the eve of Election Day, in one of the most important swing states in the country, news broke that Gessler would be facing both criminal and ethics investigations — by the Denver District Attorney's Office and the state's Independent Ethics Commission, respectively — for his alleged misuse of funds, giving the secretary, who is no stranger to controversy, the worst headlines he'd ever received on his most important day on the job. He'd already spent a lot of time arguing that he was not suppressing voters; now he had to prove that he hadn't broken the law.

The election is over; the investigations are not. But as they push forward, Gessler says he's not worried. He knows he'll be exonerated, and he has David Lane, one of the town's ace attorneys, making sure that he is.

As the narrator says in the viral YouTube video that inspired Gessler's nickname — one that originated with opponents, but one he embraces — Honey Badger don't give a shit.

********

When Scott Gessler arrived at Yale University in 1983, it was a bit of a culture shock. The institution was very liberal, he recalls, and so were most of the students.

"I didn't grow up in a family that was self-consciously political," he explains. "The thing that concerned [my parents] was earning a living.... I think in retrospect they were conservative, but it's not like we used those words."

Gessler, now 47, was born in Detroit and says he had a lower-middle-class upbringing in the suburbs of Chicago. He grew up with one younger sister and parents who divorced when he was seven years old. His father owned a construction company that built interiors for libraries, and his mother worked different jobs, most consistently as a hairdresser. In high school Gessler was a good student; he swam, founded a soccer club, was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, and was a member of the math and chess clubs.

After that, he was surprised by the Ivy League bubble he found in New Haven, Connecticut. "It was just a lot of people with far different values systems," he recalls.

He continued to play sports at Yale, where he studied political science and history, and became involved in a student group, the Political Union, and, specifically, its Party of the Right. Meanwhile, students around him were protesting apartheid in South Africa, talking about their love of the Soviet Union and hatred of Western capitalism, and blindly supporting environmentalism. "They are all preaching to the same hallelujah choir," says Gessler, who adds that he learned quite a lot about himself and how to defend his beliefs while at Yale. But he doesn't think that, as a whole, the Ivy League does much to help liberal thinkers grow.

His father had wanted him to be an engineer and hoped he might take over his construction business one day, but Gessler took a different path.

After Yale, Gessler went straight to law school at the University of Michigan. One summer, he worked at a law firm where he made more money than he does now as secretary of state — although he found the work quite boring. He spent another summer interning at the U.S. Army headquarters in Germany.

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13 comments
Spectrewriter
Spectrewriter

A few days ago, I received a notice from the Colorado Secretary of State's office:

Business filing fee holiday extended through February
$1 business filing fees conclude Feb. 28

Denver, Colo. – Today, Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced the fee holiday for all online business filings and notaries public applications will continue through the end of February. Beginning March 1, these filings will revert to their previous rate or lower, while the non-profit fee holiday remains in place.

It seems pretty clear that ALL ONLINE BUSINESS FILINGS has no caveats. Yet when I went to file one such form, a Cure of Delinquency (for having missed filing a form that says "Yes, this is our address) they hit me up for $60. A phone call yielded a bunch of moralizing about how the fee holiday is for people who are law-abiding and pay their fees on time. I hold that "ALL" still means all, and they should keep to their word. They don't want to budge. 

What do you say?

Care to weigh in personally, Scott Gessler?

shawnyocumalford1
shawnyocumalford1

A few years ago a Colorado Springs County Commissioner (Jim Bensberg-R.) was observed with a stack of Colorado Springs papers-"The Independent." A camera in the County Building provided the coverage of the event. Bensberg said he was going to "distribute" them. "The Independent" covered the story.

This is from The Independent's archive:

"I could see the difference when [Jim Bensberg] walked to the right and then to the left, that he had something in his arms. You can make up your mind what it is -- I'm not going to rat out the commissioner."

-- El Paso County's director of security, Don Johnson, after reviewing a videotape that showed Bensberg appearing to pick up a stack of Independent newspapers that included coverage of his activities in the harassment investigation (described above). This year the Legislature enacted a bill making it illegal to steal free newspapers; however the law had not yet gone into effect.

carlosmartinez256
carlosmartinez256

Typical Liberal tactic.  Any conservative that is a threat to their liberal Utopia must be destroyed.  If not at the ballot box through frivolous criminal and ethical allegations.  I would urge Gessler not to back down and let these tactics work.  Their efforts to intimidate and silence opposition must fail.  Hopefully the legal defense will be allowed as the legal fees from fighting all these frivolous allegations will naturally discourage good people from running for office.  Keep up the good work Gessler!

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Is this the Westword or Gesslerword ? Most often, it's nearly impossible to tell . The WW covers Gessler like the Denver Post sports section,  does with Manning .....

madmemere
madmemere

And I'm just going to suggest that all the Gessler "bashers" are registered "dimwits" - -we seem to have an over abundance of those misplaced libtards around these parts!  Frankly, it would be refreshing to hear from a few "patriotic Americans", instead of a bunch of obama-soetoro azzwipes!

Mugento
Mugento

This article failed to mention one of Gessler's more notorious acts as SOS. The Larimer County Republicans were slapped with a $50,000 fine for campaign finance violations ($90k in donations that were not reported - not an accidental oversight). Gessler did his buddies a solid and reduced the fine by a whopping 68% then, just to show that there were no hard feelings, he went up to Larimer County and did a fundraiser to help them pay the fine. Once this deed was done, Gessler lost any shred of credibility that he might have had as a supposedly non-partisan official. Now he wants us to pay for him to attend Republican events? I would buy the line that he was there in an official capacity if he also attended the DNC and Democratic National Lawyers Association meetings, but I am going to guess that is not the case. Seriously, we can do better than this guy.

carlosmartinez256
carlosmartinez256

This blows my mind.  Bill Clinton committs Perjury.  Ted Kennedy murder.  But it's all good, since they are liberal.  This man trys enforce the law and make sure voters are, heaven forbid, citizens and "Ethics Watch"  trys to prosecute him for flying home to protect his family amid death threats?!  That's absolutely absurd but unfortunately typical of liberals.  It isn't enough to win most of the election, you than have to try to prosecute any other politician that doesn't fall in line with your left wing agenda.  No wonder many good people don't want to run for office anymore.  It really is sad.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

I'd love to publish comments about this story as letters to the editor in our print edition -- ideally with the author's full name. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

michaeljlop
michaeljlop

Weasaller is  nothing more than a republican american taliban domestic terrorist with double standards,  suck KOCH and cater to the rich and fuck the poor!  LET THEM DIE MENTALITY

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Gessler = another corrupt cowardly Repuglykan scumbag

TedBahre
TedBahre

Gessler has selective backbone. When administrative people at a center for developmentally disabled people were found buying Bronco tickets and remolding offices, while the people in the center didn't have heat and the roof leaked. Gessler didn't have the guts to go after them, I guess because the developmentally diabled aren't  a big voting block.

billl1
billl1

In light of our current federal administration's disgraceful adherence to enforcing existing laws (immigration, for one), it is refreshing to see someone with Mr. Gessler's backbone. I'm proud of his actions in spite of an unrelenting attack via character assassination, innuendo, and generally data-free diatribes. Aggressive enforcement of laws--large or small--is what he's paid for. Ignoring them for one's political convenience (hello, Obama!) encourages anarchy.

azdawes
azdawes

The more I hear about this guy, the more I like him. I'm tired of these do-nothing elected officials. How about some bold ideas? I don't know anyone who says ya know, our government works really well. I hope it keeps doing what it's doing. Put someone in there to shake things up and of course, he'll get hammered.

Go, Scotty, Go!

 
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