Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where Have All the Records Gone?

Part I:  Ken Salazar's missing campaign contribution records

Ken Salazar first ran for Colorado Attorney General in 1998.  In 1999 or 2000, I examined his 1998 campaign contribution records in the Colorado Secretary of State's office.  They were microfilmed copies of the original signed paper forms filed with the office.  Reports of contributions and expenditures were filed electronically for the first time beginning in 2002.

I remember seeing big contributions to Ken from out-of-state banking interests, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup or Citibank, Bank of America, and Jon Corzine.  I wondered at the time, "Why are these banks taking an interest in the Colorado Attorney General's race?" Of course, I figured this out as time went by:  Ken Salazar had already proved his worth to them, as director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, by giving public assets on the QT to developers and mining interests.  (I have written about benefits he provided, as Colorado Attorney General, to his former client, Summitville polluter Robert Friedland.)  Unfortunately, unlike the 1994 campaign contribution records of former governor Roy Romer, which I paid to get copies of in 1997, I did not fork out the money for the records of Salazar in 1999, thinking I would come back and get them later.  I attempted, in 2010, to do just that--and they were gone.

I sent several open records requests to the Secretary of State's office.  First, they told me all the records were online.  I followed the links and found nothing for the 1998 election, when the reports were filed on paper.  The SOS then backpedaled, and told me the paper records were stored at the Archives, so I went to the Archives and paid $47. All that was produced were two slim manila envelopes containing contribution records from May and June 1997, before Salazar had even announced he was running.  These were on the same types of form as you can see for Romer.  There were no other records at the Archives.  When I got back to the SOS about this problem, they gave me a different path to follow in their system, called "tracer."  I did then find some records from the 1998 election online; but they are not original.  The 1998 records should look like the ones I got for Romer in 1997, bearing an attestation of the campaign treasurer, with a signature in ink, on the same type of form.  Instead, there is a spreadsheet which someone has typed information into, which bears no signatures or attestation.  And the data I remember is not there.  Importantly, I have found none of the contributions from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Jon Corzine, et al., on this list.   I saw those contributions with my own eyes, on the original records (on microfilm), in 2002.

In fact, the SOS's system also does not show the original Romer records for 1994, but only something it calls a "blanket report," which states totals, and does not itemize contributions. 

So, what happened to the original records?  Here's my theory:  after Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, a Republican, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, Bernie Buescher, a former Democratic state legislator from Grand Junction, was appointed by Democratic governor Bill Ritter to serve out his term as Colorado Secretary of State.  Election activists I was involved with, almost all of whom are Democrats, opposed this appointment, but Ritter paid no heed.  Buescher took over in January 2009. By that time, it was clear Salazar would be appointed as Obama's Secretary of Interior and such things as who installed him in the office of Colorado Attorney General might be investigated.

Either Coffman or Buescher destroyed the original records of Ken Salazar's campaign contributions from the 1998 election, and the SOS has been fraudulently passing off the altered online documents as authentic ever since.  I believe it was Buescher who did this, and that that was the reason he was brought in to the office, over the objections of the election activists.  Rittter, Buescher, and Salazar are, by the way, all Catholics.  You can see contributions by Buescher to Roy Romer in the 1994 contribution records.  He was Romer's campaign chair in Grand County.  (Interestingly, the Wikipedia article on Buescher says Romer also had appointed him to "reorganize" the Colorado State Fair, which I suspected for a long time, because of never-ending scandals over its finances in the 1990's, may have been operated as Romer's personal slush fund.)

Abuse of public records is theoretically a crime in Colorado; but it happens more often than not.  I know that any complaint I might make will just get deep-sixed, like the others I have filed.

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