Scott Gessler should be investigated for misuse of public funds, says Colorado Ethics Watch

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Rich Coolidge, Gessler's spokesman, says that the Ethics Watch complaint is nothing but a liberal attack against a Republican Secretary of State.

"This is the kind of partisan behavior Ethics Watch is known for. It shouldn't come as a surprise that they would attack a Republican Secretary of State, just as they have in the past," he says in an e-mail to us. writes via e-mail.

Asked for follow-up on the public nature of the spending, he writes, "The Secretary received thorough continuing legal education on current election issues being debated around the country."

He says public funds were used for the RNLA conference and adds, "No public funds were used for the RNC costs."

Additionally, as reported by the Associated Press last week, death threats were apparently made against Gessler's family in August, prompting an early return home from the RNC in Tampa. The Denver Post reported that Gessler cited "specific, very violently graphical threats against my wife and my daughter" as a result of someone upset with his actions as the Secretary of State.

Coolidge writes to us:

Our chief of staff determined that due to those security threats the office needed to pay the plane ticket difference to have the secretary return home earlier to be with his family. For CEW to insinuate that the Secretary is somehow leveraging a threat against his family shows how distasteful this group truly is.
In response to the issue of death threats, Toro says, "I'm very sympathetic.... We don't condone violence."

But he argues that Gessler's office is using that as a distraction, since the costs to return are only a part of his alleged misuse of funds.

At this point, Toro says, it is unclear exactly how the funds were used and how they may have carried over into Gessler's time at the RNC -- which is why an investigation is needed.

A spokeswoman for the DA's office says that upon receipt of the letter from Ethics Watch, officials will review the allegation to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted. (DPD referred us to the DA's office). And a representative from the Ethics Commission says it doesn't comment on complaints before the commission has reviewed them.

Coolidge also takes an overall swipe at the group for launching partisan attacks and consistently protecting left-leaning groups. "CEW has been linked to the Colorado Democracy Alliance and has a long track record of targeting only Republicans," he writes. "CEW's silence on issues speaks louder than its usual partisan attacks."

But Toro says that in this case, Ethics Watch is simply investigating all statewide elected officials for this kind of misuse of funds. For example, he says the organization also looked into Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been a surrogate for President Obama and traveled to Charlotte for the DNC. In that case, Toro says, Ethics Watch found no misuse of funds by Hickenlooper.

"We do want public officials to know they are being watched," he says.

Continue for the full letter and complaints from Ethics Watch

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin