Scott Gessler Interview

Scott Gessler is running for Colorado State GOP Chairman. This interview is part one in a series. The initial interview was nearly two hours long.

Colorado is in the midst of elections for State GOP Chair, Vice, Secretary and County Chair positions.  Given the fact that 80% of GOP voters (based on national extrapolation of voter data) consider themselves Trump Republicans over identifying as GOP supporters, it’s an interesting time for the GOP.  Right now, Colorado has an appetite for change in the GOP.  Conservative voters aren’t in favor of burning the GOP down.  Instead, they’re getting active on the local level to ensure the party has strong candidates who can lead, remain consistent in their views and fight for Colorado.  On one end of the spectrum, Colorado voters are skeptical about past state GOP officials and the performance of the state party.  At the other end of the spectrum there is anger and strong frustration with past candidates and party performance.  Colorado voters are much more engaged in this state election cycle, which means they’re thirsty for more information on the candidates they are electing.  

Given these state GOP elections receive little to no press coverage, it’s time this changes.  Scott Gessler, one of the candidates for the Colorado State GOP Chair, took the time for an interview this week where we go into depth on his time as Colorado Secretary of State, vote by mail, voting machines, election law, and his views on where he’d like to focus as CO GOP chair. He shared a wealth of information on Colorado Election Law.

Note:  this is a transcription of the interview.  It turns out in a conversational interview neither Scott or I complete our sentences consistently and we both talk very quickly, so I edited the transcript for clarity and readability.  I did not edit the quotes or key information to manipulate the depth, breadth and detail of the interview. 

Gessler:  Well, let me ask you this. What are you looking to accomplish with our chat?

HaA:  I’m looking to focus on Colorado.  Your record as Secretary of State, Dominion and getting into your run for GOP Chair. 

Gessler: So do you want to talk about the Dominion machines? 

HaA: Why don’t we start with vote by mail (VBM)?

Gessler:  Let me just dive into it. Let me give you a historical background. And so you can understand how we got where we are.

HaA: I want to set up that you’re on the record for opposing it. [Vote by Mail] was implemented in 2013. I needed a little clarification in terms of was that in response to the 2009 election bill or was it in response to the 2013 bill?

Gessler:  Let me give you a background here. Okay. And this will help to help you better understand.  So Colorado really started vote by mail (VBM). I think it was [around] 2000. That was under Jeanetta Davidson.  What she did, is she implemented, or help path no excuses absentee ballots.  

Now, Clerks and Recorders in general love absentee ballots, mail ballots. The reason why is because they’re a lot easier to administer from their standpoint. You don’t have to spend as much time and effort finding polling places, find polling workers and all that.  So what happened between 2002 over the years is Clerks and Recorders, essentially marketed [VBM] by mail. They send out mail pieces to people.  They said, hey, vote by mail is super convenient. It’s really easy, yada, yada, yada.  So over time, the vote by mail levels increased to the point where by 2013, it was around 70% of all people voted by mail. 

I still remember I had a conversation with Scott Doyle. Have you seen that name come up?  So Scott Doyle was the Clerk and Recorder for Larimer County.  Larimer County had implemented these vote centers. So the revolutionary thing about vote centers was that you didn’t have to be in your precinct [to vote].  They’d have stock of different ballot styles and you could get the proper ballot balances. [Nobody] had to worry about people showing up to the wrong precinct [to vote].

HaA:  So were the County Clerks pushing for this? Was this the law that they were [following] or was it just a preference for the County Clerks?

Gessler:  Yeah. Inside the County Clerk’s when they voted when they marketed vote by mail? Because remember, the marketing.

Remember, because you know, that was a no, no excuses absentee ballot. 

I don’t remember it was 2009 or 2010. Scott [Doyle] (inaudible) was the head of the association and I was running for Secretary of State. They were going to push, they wanted a bill for all vote by mail. I sat down with Scott (inaudible).  He says, well, you know, elections have become so difficult and so expensive and so complex.  This is the way we need [to do this]. The solution we need to have is vote by mail. 

I said, well, give me a chance. You know, I’m running for Secretary of State, and give me a chance to become Secretary of State. When I do, I can pledge to you that I will work to pass laws and rules and regulations that will simplify and make the cost less and remove these burdens from in person voting, administrative burdens; so that we can make it easier and cheaper and less complex. Scott Doyle (inaudible) said to me, no, no.  [I asked] why can’t we have that conversation? [Doyle] said, I think we’re just going to have to have that conversation Under the Dome. 

Alright, so [Doyle] pushed, he and Bernie Booker (Busher? inaudible) and and I think Bernie was almost in some ways, an innocent bystander. I mean, I don’t know if Bernie really drove this, but he was totally presided over. They introduced vote by mail right around the beginning of April. I think it was April 2010. 

I hit the ceiling. I still remember it. By that time, Karen Long, who was a Democrat in Adams County. I think she was head of the Clerk and Recorders Association at that point. She was Senior. I called her up.  I’d known Karen for a long time.  I had sued her, or her boss under the voting rights act, back in 2002. So I’ve gotten to know her then.  I said, Are you behind this? You I was trying to [affix] responsibility. [She claimed], I had no idea what’s coming. So even some of the Democrats did back down on [VBM].  So there’s a huge storm, huge. We were able to defeat the vote by mail bill. Okay, so that did it in 2009 – 2010. <I could be wrong>. 

So then what happens is, of course, the Clerks and Recorders continue to push vote by mail. So what happened is basically, Pam Anderson was a Clerk. She was the head of the Clerks and Recorders Association. She worked with the Democrats. Basically secretively.  They cut me out of it.  They cut all the Republicans out of it, to come up with House Bill 1303. They were very underhanded in what they did. In fact, they did everything they could to prevent me from seeing it. I actually got a copy of it [preliminary House Bill 13-1303]  from someone who had been a part of this, not a driving part. [Someone who] had been brought into the discussions. [This person and their] association was sort of neutral on it.  [They wanted a seat at the table because at the least it affected them]. They sent me an advance copy.  [Pam was] really angry for sending the advance copy, because she wanted to keep it from me. So that was House Bill 1303. 

House Bill 1303 was [approximately a] 100 page rewrite. It did a whole [number of things]. But the two main things that it did was create a same day voter registration. [So on Election Day [one] could show up, register, and vote].   [Vote by mail became mandatory, meaning] everyone received a ballot. The third thing it did, which [I completely disagreed with is it said]  that every inactive voter would also receive a ballot. 

So you understand the difference between active and inactive.  Active means anyone who actively votes. Inactive is defined the way Colorado works now.  So we recovered from that by outlining if you don’t vote by mail, and you don’t talk to the Clerk Recorder in any other way, you don’t automatically get a ballot. So that is at least one check and balance on the system. 

One of the big problems I have with it and and, you know, obviously, if you look at the hearing, and it was six- eight hours long [I think]. We packed about 100 people in the room to oppose it. I testified for 45 minutes to an hour. A lot of my focus [was on the] testimony, because I was angry at this. But, I also knew we faced an overwhelming Democrat majority. One of the things I did, I said, look, you didn’t talk to us at all, every Republican was excluded. 

HaA:  Can I clarify you were the Secretary of State at the time? 

Gessler: Correct. 

HaA: So you were in a special position. [at the time of this testimony]

Gessler: I testified against it as the Secretary of State. 

So what I said was, look, you had cut everyone out… [they claimed] this is bipartisan, because Pam was Republican. So they’re claiming it’s bipartisan, which it really wasn’t.

HaA:  A Republican, Pam Anderson?

Gessler: Yes. 

HaA: Really? She was? Maybe she was?  I don’t think so. Because Pam Anderson was working with Zuckerberg’s CTCL Association [this election]. She was the Director of that association.  So when she was a Clerk and Recorder she was a Republican.  She must’ve switched [parties].

Gessler: I don’t know if she’s Republican now or not registered. But [she was at the time she was] the Jefferson County Clerk of Court. She’s a pretty darn good manager of the Clerk’s Office. But she was a Republican. She’d gotten elected as a Republican. Her mother in law is Norma Anderson, who is a longtime Senator.  

Okay. And so she [Pam] was saying, this is bipartisan. I blasted them for cutting me out. I blasted for not being bipartisan. I blasted them for completely ignoring any expertise in the office. 

They said this about the Score system.. For the most part, the Clerks have no clue about how the Score system is designed, built, and the internal capabilities. But, they were all making these representations. Amber McReynolds was doing that, too. She knows everything [there is under the sun about elections]. She was the Elections Director for Denver.

HaA: Pam Anderson wasn’t the Director of the County Clerk’s Association at that time? Was it Matt Crane?

Gessler:  No, Matt at the time was the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder.  He eventually did become the head of the County Clerk’s Association, two weeks ago.

HaA:  On his LinkedIn, though, it said that he was [the head] prior to this.

Gessler: No, he would have been the chair, so they have an Executive Director who’s paid, then they have a chair, who’s the head of it, who’s a Clerk and Recorder themselves. And so Matt was the head of it, during part of Wayne’s tenure. 

So, for House Bill 1303. [Matt] testified in favor of mail ballots. He was opposed to same day voter registration.  He was opposed to moving the inactive voters into active status. So Matt was mostly opposed to it. He was mostly on my side. But not entirely on it. I have a lot of respect for him. I’m friends with him. But in that instance, we had at least a minor difference, although overall he helped me out. 

HaA:  [Let’s fast forward] to the fact that we know you were opposed to 1303. It was an underhanded process. It passed. There was some sort of lag between when it passed and when you had to implement.

Gessler: Let me continue. Let me give you a hint. Imay answer most, if not all, of your immediate questions. 

So one of the big problems that [I/we] had to create a statewide poll book. So what that means if you show up at a vote center, and you register to vote, you have to be entered into the Score database and entered into the poll book immediately. And be given vote credits LED. [So] you can’t run over to another county and vote a second time.

So that system in 2013, had never been created ever in the history of the United States. Denver had tried to do an online poll book just for the county. And it had broken down immensely in 2006. It created massive lines. I actually was involved as an attorney in a lawsuit when the Democrats tried to open up the poll hours later, just for Denver. So I won that lawsuit.  That also resulted in the Clerk and Recorder in Denver. It used to be an Election Board. Everyone was still [upset with their] performance that they created a Clerk of Court position like everyone else. So in other words, the one piece of experience we had had with it, it had been an abysmal failure. And that was on a county level. 

[So we had] to worry about 64 counties. We’re dealing with 64 counties. I’m hardening the networks of 64 counties. So it couldn’t be hacked. All of these problems.

HaA: Do you have a technical background?

Gessler: No, I don’t. But I had a good team. My Chief of Staff at the time had run a software company before, so he had a really good sense of process. 

We had estimated it will cost $1.5 million to implement this. [A fiscal analyst claimed] no, you can do it for a million dollars. [they] just cut my budget.  I told them how much it was going to cost. [Then they] gave me three days to figure it out.  Meanwhile, the Clerk’s are running around saying, it’s gonna save us $900 million. They said it was like $15 million. 

What they were doing they were goosing that analysis to so for example, Jessica says, say $3.7 million. And the reason it would say 3.7 million is that they wouldn’t have to replace their existing equipment. But they weren’t gonna have to do that anyway, under another approach.  

HaA: They didn’t consider the maintenance, upgrades and specialists to administer the system?  The long term costs of that only increase over time?  

Gessler: Correct. Once you have a big [system like that], you’ve got to maintain it. 

You know, internally, we have a dotnet system. And it’s [an internal system] the guys are really good at running it. But here’s the other problem I had. And this was a huge factor that no one pays attention to. We put it out for bid, because we had to implement it in time for the 2014 elections. 

[This is a little coda], they had pushed Janda through so that they could do it in time for the recall elections that summer. So they tried to jam even more [to push it statewide].   But it turned out to be used in Pueblo and one was in Colorado Springs, so I didn’t have to worry about it as much. But for the statewide system, I had to have it implemented, designed, put in place tested, and fully functional, hardened by June of 2014.

HaA:  Were you able to take any action on that if you knew you were under so much pressure? You knew it was a potential disaster, based on what happened in Denver.  Were you able to push back or take any action by just saying, look, this can’t be done? 

Gessler: I could say it. They said to me, well, if you need more money to come to us. The closest thing that we’ve ever had was Connecticut. They built something similar, not nearly as robust as what we needed to build. It took them two years.  So we went out and put it for bid.

HaA: Could you have sued them at the time [to slow or stop the build]? Why not? How were your hands tied at that point? Tell me how your hands were tied because they weren’t entirely tied. 

Gessler:  Well, let me continue. Here’s what we did. We put it out to bid. Every single vendor we talked to said, No, I won’t do it. I cannot do it in time with a reliability that you need for a system. They declined to do it. So we had to, frankly, we had to do it ourselves. We had to have a government agency that no one in the entire country. No company, no private sector company in the country was willing to take the risk to try and build a thing. We had to do it ourselves. Now you say, could I sue? The answer is absolutely not. I was the youngest conservative Secretary of State, and it doesn’t get done. Do you think that the legislature is going to take responsibility for providing a mission impossible? No! They’re going to say, hey, Secretary of State you’re saying you’re competent, you can’t even get this done. And by the way, I have Amber MCReynolds, Pam Anderson, The Brennan Center (left organization), and all these “experts” out there.  All of them are telling us that it can be done. And [vendors saying they] can’t do it.

HaA: What did you do?  You had the hard data proving these vendors were coming back saying, No, we can’t do it. 

Gessler: That’s not gonna matter. I could say that. I could also say, hey, you guys are putting a 100 page bill, you’re jamming through. You’ve never talked to us about the source system and it’s such a problem. They didn’t listen to me there either. So in a rational world, yes, that would happen. 

So what we had to do was massive. We had to roll up our sleeves. We had to build the darn thing ourselves from scratch that had never been done that no one else would do. I did it. We executed it. We made it work flawlessly, flawlessly. Now, I talked about that. This is in the nuts and bolts and weeds as you can get. But, when Colorado’s called the gold standard, okay, and I don’t like using that terminology. But we are far better than these other states. I was the testifying expert for the [Trump Campaign] in a couple of lawsuits, for Nevada and Pennsylvania. Let me tell you the stuff I saw. 

This team had this herculean accomplishment of building [a massive] database, the online poll book system. 

HaA: In your testimony (December 2020, Colorado House of Representatives Audit Committee)

you said you were able to rewrite election rules. I’m wondering, did you write anything modifying vote by mail? There’s a long history, even back to Jimmy Carter saying vote by mail is terribly exposed to fraud. Many from both sides of the aisle still agree on this. Then you have the 2010 election in the UK, which eventually had so much fraud that they had to overturn the election 18 months later. So I’m wondering, you knew all of this. Were you able? Did you rewrite any rules around vote by mail while you were Secretary of State?

Gessler: Most of the stuff that I did, I think we clarified some of the rules for signature verification.  I think we, I don’t remember if this was under me, but for the equipment that did signature verification. I noticed the statute may have come under me, I don’t remember. We have a lot more protections in place in other states, for example, we do a sample of one out of every 50 ballots, for verification equipment, at the end of the night. If that doesn’t work, immediately [it gets] shut down. We do the equivalent logic and accuracy test in advance. So we did that. 

The other thing we did [in relation to VBM] was cleaning up the voter rolls. 

HaA So voter rolls are sloppy. It’s a big issue.  Do you have any documentation of the things that you rewrote, according to vote by mail, because we know that about the chronic voter role problem. I used to work in direct mail. There’s a whole set of issues that come with keeping those roles clean.   All this activity that you have to do. It’s expensive and time consuming to get things accurate. No question there’s endemic problems with just dealing with that much data.

Gessler:  [I was very limited] in what I could do, because 1303 was 100 pages long. It was written very specifically. They worked very hard to limit discretion in rulemaking by embedding as much of it as possible in statute.

HaA: So they  plugged a lot of holes in that bill that kind of handcuffed you in this. 

Gessler: I think that’s a fair way to say it. What really upset me the most. [well, there’s a lot] but  they automatically put all the inactive voters back on the active voter roll. 

Here’s a funny story. Judicial Watch threatened to file a lawsuit against me.

HaA: Against you?

Gessler: Yes. They sent me a copy of the complaint. The claim for the prayer for relief said basically make things better. I call up Tom Fitton. I said, Tom, what do you want me to do in this lawsuit? I said, here’s the deal. If I can do it administratively. I’ll do it. I have no problem doing that. If I can’t do it administratively, you’re just gonna have to sue me because of statutory and discretionary [limitations]. What do you want me to do? Tom wanted us to enter into a consent decree. Think about that, as a federal court. I said, no way. As much as I hate this bill. I am not going to have a federal judge overseeing Colorado elections. This is not going to happen. 

HaA Isn’t this against the Constitution, because the states are sovereign? [when it comes to election administration]

Gessler:  No. [Because we’d be] under a consent decree. In other words, I can consent. That gives the plaintiff an opportunity to come and say, Hey, Judge, order them to do this, that or the other, because you’re violating this decree. A judge essentially becomes sort of a super Secretary of State. It’s happened in other states. I’m not going to do that.  At the end of the day, I still believe in this thing called democracy and state sovereignty.  

So I said, tell me what you want me to do. He said take a look at the Mississippi consent decree, and everything that they do. That’s pretty much it. I looked at the Mississippi consent decree. We were basically doing everything already, if not more. [At that point] we’re doing everything already, now tell me what you want me to do. So we had a couple of conference calls our attorneys.  They asked for more information. That was no problem, but I wasn’t going to give it to them directly. What I did was post it on the website, so everyone can see it. I gave him whatever I could. A the end of the day, they were like, you know, it is just wrong that all these people who have not participated in elections [are back on the rolls].  And you are donating some of your spending balance to [clear] them again.  I said, Tom, I agree 100%. I fought tooth and nail, and I have to implement it. If you want to stop that by suing me, you better do it soon because we’re starting remove those people from the voter rolls. Absolutely. soon as possible. 

HaA:  Ssince you knew Tom Fitton, could you have worked with him to say, look, don’t sue me, sue the illegality of 1303? 

Gessler:  Exactly. That’s what I said. [But] I’m the one who has to defend it. That’s just the way the law in the jurisdiction and representation of Colorado work. I’ve had to defend when I Secretary of State, I had to defend laws, that I hated. But, as part of my oath, and I think as far as every executive director, executive officers, unless it is a clearly unconstitutional law. That’s a high bar to make. You need a court case saying this is unconstitutional, unless it’s that, you gotta defend and enforce it. In fact, the Colorado courts have told me, even if there are courts saying it’s unconstitutional, you still have to defend it. So in the campaign finance world, you know, the regulations on issue committees have been struck down in a certain threshold, and I tried to embody that threshold. I’m simplifying a little bit. The court struck me down on that. They said, No, you don’t have to do that. I tried to say you couldn’t regulate an issue committee if it was under $5,000. And they struck me down, even though I had and then there was another court case, excuse me on it. And I actually said, I directed my attorney to say to the court judge, either hold us constitutional, and put us out of our misery. Okay, say that it has to be enforced. I need one or the other.  The court literally said in a footnote, we understand the levity. It’s very serious nonetheless, but we’re not going to provide that guideline. So even then, there’s instances where the court would not allow me to engage in rulemaking, when something was clearly unconstitutional.

HaA: You’re saying as, as a Secretary of State, you did have the ability to sue?

Gessler: As Secretary of State, I have the ability to engage in rulemaking rulemaking that allows me to fill gaps or to exercise discretion that is allowed by the legislature.

HaA:  It’s important for people to know.  I think there’s this perception out there that the Secretary of State has all these powers because of the office. It’s unclear where your limits are.  What you can do to fight.   It would be really helpful as a former Secretary of State to give a couple of bullet points on what you can and can’t do in that office. 

Gessler: I can do that. But I’ll be frank with you. I mean, most people, I’ve just been engaged in this space for a long time. Most people look at that. And they say, you know, you’re just copping out. That’s just a cop out. You’re saying you don’t have the authority? 

[As an example]  I’m running for governor. This guy said to me, and he was very used to his vice chair of party. Political excuse dead serious. He said, You should have done x y&z as the Secretary of State and I said, I couldn’t do that. I would have gone to jail. He said, you know what, you should have gone to jail, you should have the principles to do that. He was dead serious. People in the room agreed. So if you want to describe it, like that, that’s fine. I mean, I just say, the way I took it, I hate to vote by mail. I still do. I testified in Nevada, deposition testimony. What my theory was, even though I don’t like the system, I’m going to implement it in the best way possible to mitigate these problems as well as possible. The best way to mitigate problems in a vote by mail system, I’m telling you this, the best way to do it is through signature verification.  Colorado has some of the best signature verifications.

HaA [as a poll watcher] I watched that process. Signature verification is very difficult.  I don’t trust it. 

Gessler:  It is the best in the country. It is a flawed process. But what we have is the best in the country. Okay. And I could go state by state walking through it. 

HaA: No.  Let’s keep going with this. Primarily is voter rolls, cleaning up the voter rolls. That’s fair.  But let me ask you something. If we do hate vote by mail. Let’s say across the board, everyone hates it. What can we do? It sounds like inside the system is very difficult to change. Right? We can’t rely on the Secretary of State or any Secretary of State because they don’t have the authority to overrule it. So what can we do from a legal perspective to eliminate vote by mail?

Gessler:  I would disagree with you that most people or everyone hates VBM. I’m just going to disagree with you. I don’t like it. And I think the vast majority of activist Republicans don’t like it. But when you look at the public, for the most part in Colorado, they’re very satisfied with it.

HaA:  I don’t believe that.  Especially now. In light of what’s happened in this election. I think people are more aware of the issues. 

Gessler:  I agree with you there. Historically, though, I would say VBM has been very popular. One of the things when they pushed 1303, their repeated argument was, look 70% vote by mail is voluntary at that time, it was okay.

HaA:  I heard Wayne Williams cite that site those stats, but we also know when polling people you can manipulate how questions are written, delivering certain information or not to manipulate the outcome of a study. 

Gessler:  These are different arguments. I’m not saying I agree with it.  I’m saying this is the argument. The argument is in 2013, take that moment in time. Or House Bill 1303. With that, yeah, 70% of Coloradans had voluntarily chosen to vote by mail. Now, okay, part of the reason they voluntarily chose is because the Clerk and Recorders marketed the hell out of it.  They used government money to market it and tell people how safe it was and how wonderful it was.

HaA:  Now we’re in 2021. Things are different.  What  actions can be taken? Why not put it up for a vote? Are you suggesting that there’s no way to get rid of this and there’s no way for this whole issue to be put up for discussion and debate again? There’s two ways to get rid of it?

Gessler: One, have a Republican legislature and a Republican Governor. That’s one way. 

HoA:  What would that action be? They would repeal that law, the 2013, 1303? 

Gessler:  They wouldn’t quite repeal it. I mean, it’s so embedded.  It was so complex. What they would do is they would pass a new law. Essentially go back to in person voting. That’s one way. The second way to do it is obviously by ballot initiative,  Those are really the only two ways.

HaA: So ballot initiative, you’re saying what it would kind of act like the same way the legislature would except  as a ballot measure?  What you would do is say there’s going to be a new law, a new ballot measure to supersede the old law?

Gessler:  So if you look under Article five of the Colorado constitution, Article five, section one is the legislative power. The legislative powers vested in the rights of the people of Colorado, there’s two forms of legislative power. one form of legislative power is the right of the initiative and referendum. Okay. Second form of legislative power, is the electing representatives to pass laws? Okay, the legislature. That was that was a century back in 1994, was part of the progressive movement at that time, called direct democracy. There are two types of ballot initiatives. 

One she is a statute or statutory ballot initiative can be changed again, by the legislature because it has an equal power of putting in the legislature and no legislature can find a future legislature. That’s one type. 

The second type of initiative is a constitutional initiative. And that gets hardwired into the Constitution. And the legislature or courts cannot change that. Okay. So to get a constitutional initiative, you have to collect signatures, you know, I think it has to be at least 2%, or I forget the formula from each senatorial district. Okay. This was enacted about I think, four years ago or so, to make it more difficult to pass a constitutional initiative. You have to collect signatures, a certain percent, I think you have to have at least 2% from every single state senate district, and we have 35 districts. So obviously, something like that a lot more than 2%.

HaA:  The idea here is the percentage of signatures from every county is to make sure there’s representation from the state rather than being able to carpet bomb a big county like Denver, get the signatures and push it through to the rest of the state.

Gessler:  And you have 55% of the vote, not 55. So it’s a little harder to get a constitutional amendment in place by initiative, as opposed to a statutory initiative. Those are really the two ways. If you want to change vote by mail, it must be through the exercise of legislative authority, or direct democracy. 

HaA:  You’re running for state GOP chair, would you support county initiatives from the GOP to get rid of vote by mail?

Gessler: It can’t be a county initiative.

HaA:  What I mean is if you have to collect the signatures [etc.] those are going to be your grassroots organizers, right? They’re going to be the ones who champion it. They might just be [gathering] signatures. Would you support that? Or would you even put funds or energy behind helping to overturn [VBM]?

Gessler:  As of right now, my view on it is frankly, the same as any initiative. And speaking of someone who would be party chair, my vote on it is I would urge the Central Committee to make that decision. Not only would I push them to make that decision, but I would push them to make it as a two thirds vote. There’s not any specific provisions in there. Here’s why. My view of the Republican Party’s primary purpose is to get candidates elected. So that Republicans are in control and the representative government realm. Now I understand that representative government, the purpose is to enact policies, and those policies obviously can be enacted to the initiative as well. So we see obviously plenty of initiatives that are very consistent in comport with consumer principles. If the Republican Party is going to support something like that. I think it would be absolutely necessary to have strong consensus within the Republican Party to depart from the view that the goal is to elect candidates because remember, that’s why it’s a political party, to elect candidates.  To support a ballot initiative with respect to putting funds behind it? The answer is very unlikely and the reason why is because of the campaign finance laws or ballot for a ballot initiative.  An initiative can receive unlimited money from any source. Whereas a political party can only receive at a state level about 2700 bucks a year, on the federal level about a year, from an individual, we can’t take corporate money. So in other words, I will tell you ballot initiatives are consistently funded, far better than the Republican Party. Because it’s far easier. You look at these budgets for issue committees, they definitely they far exceed what the Republican party can raise. Meanwhile, the Republican party has a lot of duties. We have to run an assembly, pay people to be an Executive Director or The Chair, just to be able to talk to counties. There’s a lot of overhead costs. I should say, personnel costs, the Republican Party doesn’t exist for issue committees. It would be absolutely foolish to take money from a political party, which is extremely difficult to raise and in far greater demand, far more limited supply.  To support a ballot issue; as opposed to, encouraging people to contribute directly to that ballot issue. It would be just financially very foolish to do because of the way the campaign finance laws work. The Republican Party can use a bully pulpit and I support that. Absolutely. And if there’s consensus within the Republican Party to do that, I’m absolutely on board with it.

This interview continues. Part Two will be published shortly.

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