Reporters apparently missed Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s first direct response to the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s finding that he violated state ethics law and “breeched the public trust for private gain.”
Gessler made his comments on KNUS’ Kelley and Company (710-AM) this morning, and reporters should have tuned in. So I’ll fill in the media gap and provide a transcript of most of his comments below. And I’ll update this post with audio of the interview later today.
Guest host Jimmy Sengenberger, filling in for regular host Steve Kelley, did a decent job interviewing Gessler.
Sengenberger: What’s your side of the story?
Gessler: …The Elections Commission, unfortunately, is a just very partisan-driven organization. I mean, two of the members have actually contributed to Hickenlooper, sort of really staunch partisan Democrats. It was pretty clear seven months ago which direction these guys were going. It took them eight months to figure out how to do it. But it was really sort of an unfair process, and it’s frustrating, because you want to think that these guys are going to be fair and even-handed and you want to think that the IRS is going to be fair and even-handed, and you want to think that, you know, things work. But they really don’t a lot of the time. So we are going to be appealing. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get it overturned because of the way these guys handled themselves.
Sengenberger: I’m curious as to what the Independent Ethics Commission claimed you violated in terms of a statute, rule, or anything in the Constitution that might be in play?
Gessler: Right now I just don’t know. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean they had deliberations and they said learning about elections is not official business, which just sort of seems crazy when everyone else disagrees with them. And that was one of the most frustrating things. We spent seven months trying to get them to tell us what the legal standards were. And then a month ago they said the legal standards could be one of these two things or they could be something else, and we’ll tell you afterwards. And so we still don’t know. So, I mean, maybe when the draw up the report they’ll sort of tell me at that point. But that’s one of the frustrating areas. They just sort of make up the rules as they go along.
Sengenberger: …What do you make of the argument that, well, that you shouldn’t have done it, used discretionary funds, taxpayer money, for something that had a partisan tilt to it?
Gessler: Well, it didn’t have a partisan tilt. That’s the bottom line….We produced a three-hundred-page binder of all the materials that were discussed. None of it was partisan stuff…. I know it had the word Republican in front of it, that was the sponsoring organization, but it was not a partisan event. It was straight-up education. And all the evidence before the commission said that. But they are not really interested in the evidence before them. It was a very partisan-driven outlook.
Sengenberger: …I’m curious as to why you ended up paying back the twelve-hundred-something that you chose to pay back?
Gessler: $1278. Here’s why. I’m just trying to move on when it comes to what goes on with the people of the state of Colorado. But, the money here has been an absolute waste. The last Republican Secretary of State we had, Mike Coffman, also received a complaint from the same organization in front of the same ethics commission. And that cost probably about probably $100,000 to dispute. So these types of frivolous things have cost the state around a quarter million dollars already. And it is just sort of absurd. And you want to put it behind you. You want to have fair elections. You want to move on to trying to make it easier for people to do business and have jobs in the state of Colorado and things like that. I’m trying to put it behind me. I’m trying to push forward. And of course it’s a very vindictive organization and they’re not interested in that–the ethics commission. So that was the purpose. And I was very clear. Look, I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything wrong. But $1,278 is a pretty big distraction when there’s been hundreds of thousands spent arguing over it. Let’s try to put it behind us. Let’s try to move forward. But, you know, even that’s not acceptable because the Ethics Watch organization—no I’m sorry—Ethics Commission. They all sort of blend together after a while.
Gessler: They’re not really interested in that. They’re interested in progressive [inaudible] because they know there’s an election coming up. So they can use this as a way to generate television ads and what not. I mean, that’s really what it’s about. So it’s very frustrating.
Sengenberger: [The left is saying you should have used funds from the travel budget, not the discretionary budget.]
Gessler: They are really sort of nonsensical. I mean, they’re saying I should have used a different fund rather than this fund to go. But it was ok, but if it wasn’t ok, then I shouldn’t have done it. It’s absolutely nonsensical. What it is is a talking point. A talking point. There’s no sense or coherence. Bottom line. Everybody who’s reviewed this, except of course the Ethics Commission, the Colorado Supreme Court, an outside auditor, the State Comptroller, said this was absolutely appropriate for me to do. That’s the bottom line. The left can jabber all they want, and, of course, the Ethics Commission is part of the left. I mean they are driven by my political adversaries. I mean those are the people who judged me on this. They can jabber all they want. We now go before a real court, the district court and federal courts here. We’re going before a real court with real-world procedure. And this is just a stop on the way going forward, because, look, if you believe in this. You shouldn’t have a government agency that’s politically driven that chews people up. We’ve seen that at the IRS. We’ve seen that with the Ethics Commission. Look at it from that standpoint. I’m not going to stand for it.