Just weeks after reducing a fine against the Larimer County Republican Party, Secretary of State Scott Gessler is helping the party host a fundraiser to pay down the penalty his office ultimately levied. The fundraiser will feature Gessler, a Republican who took office in January, sitting in a dunk tank so that local Republicans angry about the $15,700 fine can throw balls at a target and send him splashing downward.
Gessler of course maintains that there is nothing inappropriate with his participation in the Sept. 22 fundraiser, but others have called it a shocking conflict of interest with his duty as the state’s chief elections officer. It does appear to be a clear conflict of interest for the elected state official responsible for enforcing campaign finance law.
Gessler argues that he has no part in deciding what fines are levied for campaign-finance violations, saying staff makes those decisions. But he does acknowledge that he has the ultimate authority to reverse staff decisions.
The county party was fined for failing to file numerous campaign finance reports during the 2010 election cycle. However, Gessler’s office ultimately determined the county GOP was merely negligent in not filing the reports and reduced the fines from $48,700 to $15,708.
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, which has challenged Gessler over elections laws, likened Gessler’s participation in the fundraiser to “a district attorney helping to put up bail for someone whom they’ve charged” according to the Denver Post.