Colorado Common Cause and Colorado Ethics Watch on Thursday filed a complaint in Denver District Court against Secretary of State Scott Gessler that claims Gessler unlawfully weakened Colorado campaign finance laws through the Secretary of State’s rulemaking process.
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Details concerning Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s lucrative moonlighting arrangement with the California real estate firm he used to head will soon move out of public view. Stapleton’s family finance business, Denver-based Stapleton Acquisitions Company, has announced it has completed its tender offer to purchase all SonomaWest common stock not presently held by the Stapleton family and Stapleton Acquisitions and that the deal to take SonomaWest private will likely be completed in the coming weeks.
Colorado State Senator Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said she missed an opportunity to head off the controversy now surrounding newly elected Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Carroll had been weighing whether or not to introduce legislation that would have set strict disclosure laws for the secretary of state’s office in particular and tightened state worker conflict-of-interest laws in general. She didn’t introduce that bill but that doesn’t mean a legislative response to the Gessler controversy is off the table, she said.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is no stranger to political controversy. He has represented a long line of conservative advocacy and attack groups and in that role has become the public face of partisan causes. Indeed, his name and the law firm he founded virtually stand for a branch of Colorado politics that seeks to limit government restrictions on and oversight of campaign financing. He has done battle repeatedly with laws the secretary of state is charged to enforce and now he is secretary of state. His election victory put government watchdog groups on high alert. News coming today, a little more than a week since he was sworn into office, that Gessler plans to keep working part-time as an attorney for his former firm even while serving as secretary of state has set conflict-of-interest alarm bells ringing in watchdog offices.
Quasi-government entity Pinnacol Assurance company responded to an audit review yesterday in which it was disclosed that the worker’s compensation firm “of last resort’s” board of directors had approved “Golden Parachutes” for it executive officers in the case that it is released into the private sector. Some state lawmaker’s expressed shock at the revelation, while advocacy group Colorado Ethic’s Watch decried the action as one more in a string of concerns muddying the companies transparency that provided the perception of a board in bed with the company it is charged to oversee. Toro called for new rules peventing gifts between Pinnacol and its board.
Grand Junction Republican state Rep. Steve King told the Colorado Independent this week that he is seeking to answer all questions related to travel expenses he incurred last spring that may have been reimbursed twice, once by his campaign and once by the state. King said he believes complaints about the expenses amount to dirty politics.
“I take this seriously. Any type of accusations about ethics need to be taken seriously. I will cooperate fully with leadership in answering the questions they might have,” he said. “I am confident at the end of the day this will be found to be just an election year attack and an attempt to assassinate my character.”
Who holds the lawmakers to the law? Who watches the watchers?
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission last year operated behind closed doors, ironically shrouding in secrecy the open-government mission voters bestowed upon it when they voted it into existence. Nonprofit Colorado Ethics Watch called out the commission, filing and winning a lawsuit this summer, forcing the commission to open its deliberations to public scrutiny and bringing the matter to the attention of the press. Luis Toro, new director of Colorado Ethics Watch, counts the suit as a major victory and a model for the kind of work he will pursue in the coming year.
Monday, Governor Ritter issued an executive order requiring his cabinet members and senior staff to submit conflict of interest disclosure reports by 25 October. The new order replaces a similar standing order issued a decade ago by the governor’s…