Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Treasurer Walker Stapleton have both said they will moonlight in the private sector. That gives Coloradans a lot to consider. For while the idea raises concerns, it also has much to recommend it.
Whether moonlighting proves to be in Gesslers and Stapletons best interest is another matter. This may not sit well with the voters.
Gessler wants to work on a contract basis for his former law firm. Stapleton has agreed to do consultant work for his former employer, a California real estate company largely owned by his family.
Both men earn $68,500 in their government jobs. Presumably, that is not a problem for Stapleton, whose family is wealthy. Gessler, however, says he supports his mother, wife and child and needs to supplement his state salary.
Attorney General John Suthers already augments his $80,000 state salary by teaching classes at two universities. He picks up an additional $20,000 to $30,000 per year that way.
Stapleton says the real estate company he has agreed to work for has no holdings in Colorado and anything he does for it would pose no conflict of interest.
Gesslers case is more problematic. The secretary of states office is involved in a wide range of legal issues. How Gessler could assure Coloradans that he was not conflicted is unclear. He has said he will reveal his clients identities, but as he himself has said, that condition could mean no job.
However, if the voters can be assured there is no conflict of interest, having elected officials moonlighting could benefit the state. By effectively increasing how much money they can make, it could induce more qualified people into public service.
It also moves toward the citizen-government model practiced by the Legislature. Having people in state government who are in routine contact with the day-to-day concerns of the outside world could have advantages, as well.
But there is another question here that could have more far-reaching consequences: How do these guys have time to moonlight?
The answer is that at least for people as bright and energetic as most elected officials actually are these are effectively part-time jobs. The difference is that most previous occupants used their spare time to work on other causes, aim for higher office or both. Former Govs. Roy Romer and Bill Owens were both treasurers. Ken Salazar went from attorney general to the U.S. Senate.
The taxpayers might want to look at combining a couple of these positions. The joint job of secretary of statetreasurer could pay $100,000 and still save the state $37,000 per year. Of course, they would still find time to campaign.
Just letting them moonlight might be the safest alternative.