Scott Gessler: Top Democratic officials silent about potential spending investigation
While Secretary of State Scott Gessler continues to face backlash for his efforts to remove potentially illegal voters from the rolls, his communications team last week was also forced to respond to more serious allegations -- that the Republican official misused public dollars for his private, political travels. But despite such accusations, the state's top Democrats have nothing to say about them.
Big photos below.
As we noted last week, Colorado Ethics Watch, a left-leaning good-government group and frequent critic of Gessler, called for an investigation into the Secretary of State for potentially using public dollars to fund a trip to a Republican National Lawyers Association election law training in Sarasota, Florida and then onward to Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
Gessler, records show, requested $1,452.52 in reimbursements. His office maintains that he did not spend public dollars for the RNC and that the other event constituted official Secretary of State business.
Sam Levin Scott Gessler addressing reporters earlier this month.
Ethics Watch says it is unclear at this point how bad this potential corruption could be, which is why the group wants the district attorney and the Denver Police Department to launch an investigation. Additionally, Ethics Watch has also filed a complaint with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, asking it to investigate Gessler and fine him for his actions.
Last week, the Denver Post did an in-depth look at spending by other statewide officials, finding that Gessler is the only one to tap these funds for partisan uses -- making the allegations more damning, some of his opponents say.
In statements to us, Gessler's office came down hard on Ethics Watch, accusing the group of playing partisan politics, though Ethics Watch says it also investigated Democratic officials in this case.
One of those scrutinized by the watchdog group is Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat and surrogate for Barack Obama, who traveled to the Democratic National Convention. Ethics Watch did not find any misuse of funds from the governor's office.
Hickenlooper recently told us he worries that Gessler's effort to remove immigrant voters who may be illegally registered could intimidate some legal voters from going to the polls. (This week, the Associated Press reported on the latest round of checks from Gessler's office, which is now claiming that 300 more suspected non-citizens are on the voter rolls. And Gessler has gotten national media attention for his efforts).
Hickenlooper, however, doesn't have anything to say on the other Gessler controversy, regarding alleged corruption.
At an Obama campaign press conference on Monday to promote the launch of early voting in Colorado, we asked the four Democratic officials championing the president if they had any response to the calls for an investigation into Gessler.
"We're not gonna talk about that today. We're talking about early voting," responded Representative Diana DeGette, who has been campaigning for Obama all election season. And with that, the news conference ended, in time for DeGette, alongside Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Senator Michael Bennet to head inside the Denver Elections Division and cast their ballots in front of a bunch of cameras.
Sam Levin Hickenlooper, Bennet, DeGette and Hancock handing in their ballots on Monday in Denver.
Continue for additional commentary from Hickenlooper as well as response from Gessler's office.