Since he became Colorado Secretary of State a little less than a year ago, Republican Scott Gessler has made it clear he views his office as an auxiliary of the state Legislature — a policy-setting branch of state government rather than the clerical office it was meant to be.
His latest effort, to rewrite a number of campaign-finance rules, follows that pattern.
The proposed changes were announced late last week, with a public hearing on them scheduled for Dec. 15. But already, one provision in the rules that would raise the threshold for reporting campaign contributions to issues committees from $200 to $5,000 has been rejected by a Colorado court. Denver District Judge Bruce Jones said Gessler “went beyond his authority” in changing the reporting limit that was established by Colorado voters in a 2002 ballot measure. Gessler said he plans to appeal that ruling.
But the effort is typical of Gessler’s tenure. This month, according to The Denver Post, lawyers for the Colorado Legislature said the secretary of state “exceeded his authority” and was attempting to assume a legislative policymaking role when he eliminated a rule that requires campaigns to file biweekly reports of campaign contributions prior to a primary election.
Early this year, he disputed the Legislature’s authority to take $3.5 million in surplus funds from his office to help balance the state budget. A Republican leader brokered a compromise, in which Gessler agreed to give up a portion of those funds
And this fall, he filed suit against the city of Denver in an attempt to prevent it from sending mail-in ballots to inactive voters, even though there is no law that prohibits sending such ballots.
The problems Gessler seeks to address are often real ones, which deserve attention. Unfortunately, he seems incapable of recognizing that his elected office doesn’t give him a carte blanche to change laws and rewrite policies whenever he perceives a problem.