Colo. secretary of state — investigated for crimes and ethics violations — off the hook for newspaper theft

Greg Campbell | Contributor

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has his hands full these days. He is under both criminal and ethical investigations concerning alleged misuse of public funds, and he was recently the subject of a cover story by Denver’s alternative newspaper, Westword, which portrayed him as a honey badger raiding a beehive.

Now he is being accused of taking too many copies of said newspaper, which is a violation of state law.

But here’s the catch: Gessler, a Republican, didn’t take extra Westwords to throw them in the trash, which is prohibited. Instead, he wants to autograph them for supporters in exchange for a $50 donation to his re-election campaign.

As Westword itself reports, the law is in the process of being changed by the state legislature, but it keeps the current wording stating that it’s illegal to take more than five copies “with the intent to prevent other individuals from reading that edition of the newspaper.”

Gessler’s defense?

“I’m distributing the papers,” he told Westword. “Of course we intend to have people read them.”

Contacted by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Gessler said he meant it, calling the lengthy article fair. He told editor Patricia Calhoun that he was doing the left-leaning paper a favor.

“I’m actually going to be distributing your paper to a readership you don’t normally reach, like, conservatives,” Gessler said he told Calhoun.

Indeed, on Gessler’s re-election Facebook page, he announced the “Honey Badger Money Bomb” fundraiser, offering a signed copy of Westword to anyone donating $50 to his campaign on Friday.

Gessler is under active investigations by the Denver District Attorney’s Office and the state Independent Ethics Commission over his use of about $2,000 in public funds.

Gessler was reimbursed from his office’s discretionary fund for $1,452 related to a visit to Florida in August, where he attended the Republican National Lawyers Association meeting in Sarasota, and then the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

His office also paid $400 for a last-minute flight change when his family was threatened.

Public funds cannot be used for personal or political reasons. The ethics investigation came after a complaint by Colorado Ethics Watch, a liberal watchdog group.

Gessler has sued the state ethics commission, claiming it is exceeding its jurisdiction. At a hearing Thursday, the judge denied his request for a temporary injunction on the investigation until the commission outlined what standards it would use to conduct the inquiry.

Gessler’s enemies call him “honey badger” after a viral video about how real life honey badgers “don’t give a shit.” He said he doesn’t mind, considering that honey badgers have a pretty ferocious reputation.

“I actually do stand up and fight for stuff,” he said. “I choose not to back down.”

Neither does Westword mind that he made off with more copies than the law allows. In fact, Gessler has been such a good sport about the depiction that Calhoun found him 40 extra copies.

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