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Scott Gessler obviously should have known he’d be making $68,500 a year as Colorado’s secretary of state. But now that the Republican has been elected to the job, he’s griping the pay is too low and says he’s going to take a part-time gig with Denver’s Hackstaff Law Group to bolster his earnings. After all, Gessler’s “got a young family, and he just took a pay cut to take this job. It’s real life,” says Rich Coolidge, Gessler’s spokesman, adding that although Hackstaff is known for elections law, his boss will focus on property law (via the Associated Press).
The reaction from some critics has ranged from the equivalent of a sarcastic “boo-hoo” to rumblings that Gessler should resign. Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado delivers an ultimatum: Either Gessler abandons the idea of moonlighting or he faces pressure to step down. “He promised on the campaign trail last year that he would set aside his past associations and serve the state of Colorado without the conflicts of interest that would seem obvious given his history,” ProgressNow states in an e-mail (via the Denver Post). Gessler denies making such a promise and is asking state Attorney General John Suthers to review his decision to pick up a second job.
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In an editorial, the Aurora Sentinel points out that Gessler has said he won’t work on any cases involving his former or new political-money clients. “Trust him, he says,” the newspaper writes, adding, “Gessler is either naive or incompetent in believing that’s how it works, or how it should work. In any case, it’s created an immediate cloud over his newly minted career as the state’s chief election and political-money official.”
Meanwhile, Colorado College political science professor Bob Loevy offers a broader context on the situation. “I’m embarrassed for the people of Colorado, because the root cause of this story is we pay our public officials woeful salaries compared to what they could make in the private sector,” he tells KRDO News 13 in Colorado Springs. “When you pay all your state officials, other than your governor, under $70,000 a year, that’s just not realistic in today’s market for personnel.”