The 2008 election is coming up fast. In the past 2 cycles, there have been misdeeds both before and after the election which invariably have unfairly awarded the election to the Republicans. There have been names of infamy associated with this: Kathryn Harris, Secretary of State of Florida - Ken Blackwell, Secretary of State of Ohio - and this year, that name is going to be Mike Coffman, Secretary of State of Colorado. Colorado you ask?
Yes, according to Stu Rothenberg's What's the Top Electoral College State This Year?, Colorado is now THE swing state as Florida and Ohio were in 2000 and 2004.
And as in past with past swing states, the Secretary of State, Mike Coffman, has been engaging in activities that call into question the veracity of the voting process in the state that could decide the election. (Hattip to Brad Friedman for presenting on voter fraud at Colorado Rootscamp last year)
In the summer of 2007, Colorado Ethics Watch discovered through an audit that Dan Kopelman, Mike Coffman's data and technology manager, both had access to voter database files, and was at the same time operating his own republican partisan voter database company, called Political Live Wires.
more from Colorado Confidential/Independent
The watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch prompted the initial investigation into Kopelman. The group’s director, Chantell Taylor, said the investigation of Kopelman should now extend to Secretary of Coffman. “How is Coffman being held accountable?” she asked. “The report says Coffman shares responsibility.”
The audit states that out of five employees (including Kopelman) who were operating outside businesses “it appears that management was aware, in at least two of the five instances... However, management did not initiate or verify proper disclosure or approval.” The audit report, however, does not disclose the names of those two employees.
“Coffman was aware that employees had outside businesses and did nothing,” Taylor said, pointing to e-mails obtained through open records requests indicating that Coffman knew about Kopelman’s website. That included a bi-monthly newsletter sent to Coffman from PolitialLiveWires.com, she said. “Coffman needs to be held accountable for his violations of state law,” Taylor added.
So as early as last year, the voter database was at least vulnerable to the exploits of a Republican partisan in a supposedly non-partisan office.
Important to note:
The real potential for crime was in the open access to the laptops and voting files in the Secretary of State's office.
From Colorado Confidential's
The auditor did find...that the way the computer system was managed left it vulnerable to abuse. They found unauthorized access to the secretary of state's computer system and the use of personal laptop computers by users of that system. Use of laptops on the system can make it vulnerable to viruses and unlawful access.
The most pressing issues in this audit are as follows:
1.Did Kopelman make money from this conflict of interest?
No, or at least there is no evidence of this, even though the Sec. of State knew he was running an outside business directly related to the voter files.
2. Did Coffman break the law by not stopping Kopelman from doing this?
From Chantel Taylor...
"Although Sec. Coffman attempted to address the issue after the fact by adopting an internal policy regarding partisan activities of employees, the auditor's office said his policy was inadequate to correct the problem. Based on these findings, Sec. Coffman needs to be held accountable for his violations of state law."
So Coffman broke the law, but what did the newspaper report?
From the Denver Post...
Audit finds no evidence election worker wrongly accessed data
The audit upholds a finding by Secretary of State Mike Coffman over the side business.
By John Ingold
An audit of the Colorado Secretary of State's office released Monday found no evidence that a state elections employee accessed voter data at work for sale through his side business. Through his website, politicallivewires.com, Kopelman offered to sell targeted campaign data to Republican candidates.
When the allegations against Kopelman — a former Coffman campaign worker — surfaced earlier this year, Coffman and a government watchdog group separately asked the state auditor to investigate as part of a broader look at the department's voting programs.
Overall, the audit found problems in the oversight of voter registration drives and maintaining the accuracy of the voter database.
Kopelman has been docked pay and reassigned within the Secretary of State's office.
"If the audit had found wrongdoing, then he would have been fired," Coffman said.
Now I don't know Mr. Ingold, but this article, while reporting the facts, fails to ask the questions that an investigative journalist would have asked.
Instead of the title, "No wrongdoing" (which is untrue, there was a clear violation of conflict of interest), how about a title like "Audit reveals serious questions about voter file integrity" or "Coffman's office leaves voter files vulnerable to attack?" or "Are citizen's votes safe for 2008?"
Instead, there is none of that and the flat denial by Coffman
If the audit had found wrongdoing, then he would have been fired
Right, just like Bush fired Rove?
But wait, there is more, just last week the State Elections Director in the Sec. of State's office resigned, and the reason why is just too hard to believe: Receiving favors from the software guy in charge of the Voting Machines.
State Elections Director Holly Lowder resigned Thursday without an official explanation. Lowder's resignation occurred shortly after Ethics Watch served a Colorado Open Records Act ("CORA") request on the Colorado Secretary of State's office seeking documents regarding state contracts with voter database consultant John Paulsen, who purportedly leased a condominium to Lowder. John Paulsen is identified on the secretary of state's website on a list of key personnel involved with the Statewide Colorado Voter Registration and Election ("SCORE") system and the registered agent for two businesses known as LEDS, LLC and Proscan. He is also the owner of a Denver condominium that was apparently leased to Holly Lowder, the State Elections Director who resigned Thursday. Ethics Watch launched an investigation into whether Lowder leased a condominium from Paulsen and the extent of Paulsen's business relationships with the secretary of state's office, and whether the relationship constituted an improper conflict of interest.
More from Chantel Taylor from Colorado Ethics Watch, and from Bill Menezes of Colorado Media Matters on the total pass the local newspapers and reporters are giving to the Secretary of State's office on these major violations of the law with the very people in charge of the voting process. (turn your volume up)
As Chantel stated: both of these Secretary of State employees are the very people in charge of the voter files, and the election process itself. One was responsible for the people who could be purged from our voter database, and the other caught in a conflict of interest with the guy who is in charge of the software for the voting machines.
Obviously, we have sounded the alarm in Colorado, to no avail from the local media. It is up to the national audience to put pressure on Coffman to resign or for the Governor to step in take action on this issue.
Our votes in Colorado may be the votes that determine who is the next president, so act now while there is still time.
or contact Democratic Governor Bill Ritter office here.
We all need to act on this before we are talking about 2008 like 2004, and 2000.