Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is being criticized because he plans to attend a fundraiser to help the Larimer County Republican Party pay a fine imposed by his office.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan
reported Friday that Gessler will sit in a dunking tank at the Sept. 22 fundraiser to let fellow Republicans angry over the fine dump him in the water pay it off.
Gessler spokesman Richard Coolidge says the secretary of state's participation in the fundraiser is appropriate and aimed at helping local GOP officials relieve their frustration over paying "the largest fine ever imposed in our office's history."
The Secretary of State's Office initially fined the Larimer County Republican Party $48,700 for failing to file campaign finance reports in 2010. However, Gessler's office later determined the county GOP was merely negligent in not filing the reports and reduced the fine to $15,708, according to the Denver Post
Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio called Gessler's involvement in the fundraiser "a gross conflict of interest."
Government watchdog groups echoed that criticism.
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," the Post reported.
An equally harsh analogy was used by Tracy Westen, chief executive officer of the Center for Governmental Studies, a California think tank that studies government ethics.
"It's sort of like the arresting officer showing up for a party for the parolee," Westen told the Post. "It's sort of odd."
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