Getting What You Paid for in Colorado


Idle hands do the devil’s work

— Anonymous

The fault lies with us and not Scott Gessler. If we’d left him alone he’d not have focused on mischief.  And if the pay were better, a brighter lawyer would have sought the office.

Scott Gessler is Colorado’s Secretary of state.  Before being elected he worked for a law firm that had the reputation of being one of the most active  election law firms in Colorado.  That is why he ran. He knew that if elected, the citizens would be getting a bargain since he would require no on the job training. He had the expertise to serve as Secretary of state since the Secretary of state is involved with many of matters he dealt with as a practicing lawyer.  There were two things he had not considered when he decided to seek the office.  The first was the salary paid to the Secretary of state.

Scott wanted to be Secretary of state so badly that he forgot to ask anyone how much it paid and when elected was distressed to discover that it paid the paltry sum of $68,500.  He had been a successful lawyer and had no idea that by serving as Secretary of state he would be taking a pay cut of more than half of what he received when practicing law.  Even though he was probably a good lawyer (although his actions as secretary of state draw that into question) some people would think if he were a REALLY good lawyer he’d have tried to find out how much he’d get paid before he decided to run for office. When he found out how much it paid he said:  “I don’t think anyone goes into governmental service to get rich. . .. The reason I ran is my experience in the election-law world.”

Although Scott didn’t intend to become rich he also didn’t want to live in poverty.  Being a creative sort, he figured out how to increase his compensation while serving as secretary of state-he would convert both the Secretary of state’s job and his law practice into two part time jobs.   He said he would practice law for 20 hours a month. When he announced that,  people more sensitive than he,  commented on the other thing he had failed to consider before deciding to run: conflicts of interest.

Many people observed that since the law firm for which he intended to work part time had many  clients dealing with election law issues, he would have a conflict of interest working for that firm while serving as secretary of state.  Hoping to blunt that criticism and being creative, Mr. Gessler said that whenever he took a case he would ask the Colorado Attorney General’s Office whether he had a conflict of interest.  Good lawyers can normally figure that out themselves but since the Attorney General, like the secretary of state, is not terribly busy, he would almost certainly have welcomed the opportunity to help Scott Gessler, a fellow public employee. After countless unfavorable comments about Scott treating each job as part time he abandoned plans to work part time as a lawyer.

All of the foregoing is by way of explaining why the citizens are themselves to blame for Mr. Gessler’s recent foray into the world of criminal and constitutional law in which he appears to be singularly unschooled.  Had people let him continue to practice law part time he would not have had the time to venture into those arenas.

Under Colorado law everyone who registers to vote must swear or affirm that he or she is, among other things, a citizen of the United States.  Mr. Gessler has decided to create two classes of registered voters.  One class comprises citizens he does not think lied when they registered and he ignores them.  The second class includes those he thinks may have lied and even committed perjury.  He has sent a letter to the second class of citizens and told them that if they committed perjury they should immediately confess and fill out a long form he sent them. (Not everyone who falsely claimed to be a citizen commits perjury since some people may have lacked the necessary intent to misrepresent their status.) If the recipients of the letter did not lie when registering to vote, he nonetheless instructs them to fill out the form, thus imposing a burden on them not imposed on other registered voters that may or may not pass constitutional muster. What he doesn’t tell the recipients is that if they admit they lied when registering, they may have admitted to committing a criminal offense that could result in a fine of up to $5000 or imprisonment in the county jail for up to 18 months.

Commenting on the low salary he receives Mr. Gessler told a reporter that Colorado is losing a lot of potential talent by paying such low salaries. He’s right. His election is proof of that.  If the office paid more, Colorado would probably have a much brighter secretary of state.  Scott Gesssler is proof that  you get what you pay for.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey