Scott Gessler, the Republican Party’s ever-so-slick choice to run for Secretary of State this November has a dossier that only an authoritarian father-party could love.
While moaning and groaning, ranting and raving, over the influence of soft (527) money, he is up to his neck inside these organizations.
The 527 designation applies to political organizations that have tax-exempt status under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Service code. They are organized and operated “primarily for the purpose of directly or indirectly accepting contributions or making expenditures” with the intent of influencing the “selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to Federal, State, or local public office or office in a political organization, or the election of Presidential electors.”
Gessler’s group, Coloradans for Change is a 527 that took at least one massive donation of $125,000 from the Senate Majority Fund and another donation of $100,872 from the Colorado Leadership Fund. Both groups were defendants in a lawsuit by Colorado Ethics Watch for sponsoring unethical campaign ads and skirting campaign finance laws.
Money, however, appears to flow both ways with some of these 527s. On two occasions funds flowed from Coloradans for Change to the Colorado Leadership Fund, in one instance for $46,125. Might this be a case of “political money laundering” or are we merely talking about political incest? And where Scott Gessler is concerned, there’s certainly a lot of the latter going on.
Gessler is also the man behind the curtain for Colorado Conservative Voters, a 527 whose purpose is “to education Colorado citizens about issues, officeholders, and political candidates that further conservative values.”
And if all this 527 hypocrisy isn’t enough, he’s rubbing questionable elbows with a guy named Scott Shires, also connected to Coloradans for Change and the Senate Majority Fund.
Shires, along with Scott Gessler, is also listed as Western Tradition Partnership’s registered agent. Western Tradition Partnership is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit 501c4. According to Luis Toro, general counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, these nonprofit groups have come to replace 527 organizations as the favored shell for political contributions. They became popular after 527s faced greater disclosure requirements at the state and national level.
Gessler joined this shell game with Western Skies Coalition and Coloradans for Economic Growth, both of which have had complaints filed with the IRS presenting evidence that these organizations might have spent more of their total resources on actions that influence elections in Colorado rather than on social welfare activities, in violation of their federal tax-exempt status.
Shires, the Republican operative and front man for many 527s, has a history of violating campaign reporting regulations. Shires has also been indicted on an alleged money laundering scheme to hide an illegal gambling operation.
Scott Shires is behind yet another 527, the Colorado League of Taxpayers who attacked Longmont council candidate Richard Juday in a January 2008 mailer. A similar event occurred in Garfield County. Colorado Ethics Watch sued Shires for campaign violations in that case and he was fined in excess of $7,000.
So these two “Scotts” are joined at the political hips. Both Republican operatives. Both of whom appear to have never met an election law for which they didn’t have contempt.
Flying further under the radar are Gessler’s other political bedfellows. He’s allied with Coalition for a Conservative Majority (founded by Tom DeLay, who has been indicted on felony conspiracy and money-laundering charges) and he is a frequent “guest” at rightwing reactionary groups, such as the Tea Party.
Scott Gessler has the political gall to think we should make him Colorado’s next Secretary of State, the position that guarantees the security and legitimacy of our elections. No way, Mr. Gessler. You aren’t qualified. It’s a matter of trust. It’s a matter of common sense. It’s a matter of integrity.