Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Scott Gessler improperly takes piles of Westwords...so he can autograph their covers?

As if Scott Gessler didn't have enough trouble. The Secretary of State is already being investigated by theIndependent Ethics Commission to determine whether he violated the law by using office funds on a trip to Florida. (Gessler has sued the commission; a hearing is set for Thursday). Meanwhile, the Denver District Attorney's Office is still looking into whether Gessler misappropriated taxpayer dollars.

And now come suggestions that Colorado's Secretary of State might have violated another state law.

Yes, the Honey Badger has allegedly been flaunting this state's newspaper-theft statute -- by taking more copies of Westword than he is entitled to.

And he's even advertising this dastardly deed on Facebook, promising to autograph the cover of the January 10 issue -- which featured a caricature of the Secretary of State to go with our feature story -- for "anyone who stands with Secretary Gessler and donates $50" to his re-election campaign this Friday during a "Honey Badger Money Bomb."

The nine-year-old law that makes it a crime to take more than five copies of free-distribution newspapers in certain circumstances has been in the news lately; after a legislative commission recommended repealing Colorado's newspaper-theft statute this summer, sixty papers around the state ran editorials objecting to such a move. Instead, Representative Claire Levy and Senator Mike King are now sponsoring a proposal that would change the name of the existing statute to "interference with the lawful distribution of a newspaper" and move it to a different section of the criminal code; HB 1014 has already passed out of the judiciary committee.

The proposal would retain the language that makes it unlawful to take more than five copies "with the intent to prevent other individuals from reading that edition of the newspaper."

And Gessler hangs his defense on those words. "I'm distributing the papers," he points out. "Of course we intend to have people read them."

So apparently this Honey Badger does give a shit. And because he responded to our queries so promptly -- after we put in a call to his attorney, David Lane (yes, that David Lane) -- we're going to forget the fact that every copy of Westword also includes these words: "No person may, without prior permission of Westword, take more than one copy of each issue."

We added that language decades ago, to guard against people unhappy with coverage taking piles of the free paper straight to the dumpster, burning them or subjecting copies of Westword to numerous other heinous actions.

But handing them out to supporters of Gessler's re-election bid? We never dreamed that anyone would go so far....

More from our Politics archive: "Scott Gessler's suit against Ethics Commission about protecting his rights, spokesman says."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun

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