Over the past few days, ColoradoPols, a prominent Colorado political website, has run articles attempting to tie Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to an allegedly racist mailer. Because the mailer was not only not racist, but also because there is not a shred of evidence remotely tying Gessler to it, Colorado Pols owes Gessler an apology.
In the updated version of its original story, "Hackstaff
Gessler Mailer Targets GOP County Clerks", ColoradoPols drew attention to a mailer that Citizens For Free And Fair Elections ("CFFE") sent out. Specifically, ColoradoPols noted that: (a) the mailer attempts to hit Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner on her support for House Bill 1303, the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act"; (b) the mailer "Photoshopped out [an] African-American woman in the original photo"; (c) that this photoshopping added an "ugly dimension" to the story; and (d) that the address of Gessler's former law firm, Hackstaff Law Group, was listed on the mailer. Subsequently, ColoradoPols ran two more articles. The first reported that the NAACP had expressed serious concern regarding Secretary of State Scott Gessler's close ties to a group that sent the photoshopped mailers. The second claimed that "[i]t's absurd . . .to suggest anything other than a racist motive for editing the photo in question". By virtue of this reporting, ColoradoPols has created an implicit narrative: that Colorado Secretary of State Gessler is tied to a racist mailer. The problems with such a narrative is that it is baseless, dishonest, and wrong.
2. Gessler Should Not Be Tied To A Mailer He Had No Part In MakingLet's start with how Gessler gets tied to the mailer in the first place. Prior to campaigning in 2010 and serving from 2011 to the present day as Colorado Secretary of State, Gessler worked at the Hackstaff Law Group which was then known as Hackstaff Gessler LLC ("Hackstaff"). Hackstaff, in turn, is the registered agent for CFFE. Not the strategists. Not marketers. The registered agent. In other words a position that accepts correspondence and service of process.
3. The Mailer Was Not Photoshopped For Racist ReasonsBeyond that though, there were always problems with the theory that racism was employed as the basis for photoshopping. Namely, what possible political gain would a GOP group have by removing African-Americans from a mailer? And even if there was some theoretical (and practically impossible to see) gain from photoshopping, how could that possibly outweigh the risks of detection? For these reasons, the theory that racism was the reason for doing the photoshopping never made sense. On close examination of the photoshopping, it is now clear why it made no sense - because racism was never the reason for the photoshopping in the first place.
Let's take a look at the portion of the photoshopped picture in question (courtesy of ColoradoPols) and compare it with the original version:
It's clear an African American was photoshopped out. What is also clear is that the face photoshopped in is identical to the face immediately to its left. In other words, the picture clumsily attempts to make it appear as if the Caucasian is attempting to vote twice, and thus fit with the theme of impending voter fraud that it claims the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act would result in.
In fact, further buttressing this position is the complete photoshopped image (again courtesy of ColoradoPols).
If one takes a look around the photo one will find....wait for it...African Americans. So if the point of the photoshopping was to remove African Americans, why did it leave African Americans? Simple - that was never the photoshopping's point in the first place. In fact, if the mailer was actually racist it wouldn't have photoshopped African Americans OUT - it would have photoshopped them IN as a crude attempt to try to show minorities voting twice.
4. ColoradoPols Should Apologize
So what we have here is Gessler getting tied to a mailer solely because Hackstaff, a firm Gessler hasn't worked at in years, accepts mail for the people that put it out. Sort of reminds one of charts, where Glenn Beck attempted to tie Obama to Communists. Not only unpersuasive, but the kind of McCarthyism that a site like ColoradoPols should be ashamed of advancing. Especially when the mailer itself wasn't even racist in the first place.
It is hatchet job stories like this that give alternative news media sites a bad name. ColoradoPols has spent the better part of two days unjustly tarring and feathering not only Gessler, but also Hackstaff Law Group. Such irresponsible labeling risks unjustly ruining reputations and damaging professions. For this reason, responsible reporters would never have shot off ColoradoPols stories, in the form they were in, without asking questions and doing due diligence first. Because ColoradoPols at best failed to do such due diligence it should, if it has any decency, immediately apologize and issue retractions for these stories.