Colorado Sec. Of State Needs Money, Will Moonlight For Campaign Law Firm

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January 24, 2011 7:35 a.m.
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Colorado’s new Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) says his official salary isn’t enough to support his family, and plans to moonlight for his old law firm, which specializes in representing clients on elections and campaign law issues.“This isn’t a huge income source for me, but it’s something I need,” Gessler told The Denver Post. Gessler, who will make $68,500 as Secretary of State, said he’s the sole provider for his wife, 2-year-old daughter and elderly mother. He said he’ll make less than half of his state salary putting in about 20 hours a month for the Hackstaff Law Group, formerly known as Hackstaff Gessler. The Post describes the firm as “one of the most well-known elections and campaign law firms in town, and distinguished for representing many Republican soft-money organizations.” But Gessley said he’ll be practicing contract law, not elections or campaign law.

“If they ask me where a file is or something like that, I’m obligated to at least point that out.” Gessler said. “But if they’re asking for a strategy that implicates the secretary of state’s office, I won’t do that. And they wouldn’t do that, anyway.”

The plan has already raised conflict-of-interest concerns.

“To the extent he is working for his old firm and his old firm is dealing with the secretary of state’s office, it creates a real conflict,” Elena Nuñez, program director for Colorado Common Cause, told the Post. “In some cases it may just be the appearance of conflict.”

On Saturday, the liberal group ProgressNow Colorado called for Gessler to give up one of his gigs.

“Tell Gessler right now: this is not acceptable. Sign our petition demanding that Gessler give up his plan to moonlight for his old law firm; and if he can’t do that, to immediately resign from his office,” the group wrote in an email to supporters.

Gessler is asking Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) to review his plan.

Politics Daily reports that the average salary for elected secretaries of state is $101,160, and only the secretaries of state in Wisconsin, Arkansas, Georgia, and Maryland will make less than Gessler. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) will make $90,000, which ranks 48th in the nation. Gessler said his critics just don’t understand his “burdens.”

“If they only want people who are wealthy or who are retired, our state’s going to be in a sorry shape,” Gessler said. “I wish I had a trust like (Gov.) John Hickenlooper does, but I don’t.”

Gessler told the Post he also is looking into jobs teaching election law or legislative policy.

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