12 February 2007

Mark Grueskin All Wet

Mark Greuskin is the lawyer who has been hired to come up with legislation that would tame the beast that is Amendment 41, a pervasive and draconian gift ban on all gifts to government employees adopted by the people of Colorado as part of the state constitution this past November.

Today's Q&A with him is found at Colorado Confidential. His basic argument is that the breach of public trust language found in the legislative intent section of this constitutional amendment can be used to override the express language of the gift ban that bans all gifts without regard to intent.

His argument is implausible and a stretch. While I'd always been skeptical of the implementing legislation course, some rather clever arguments (if not terribly strong arguments) made by Luis at Square State about how to interpret gifts to spouses and children under Amendment 41 had left me secretly hoping that Mark Grueskin would have great ideas that I hadn't noticed about how to tame the beast.

Instead, he thinks that it is possible to turn Amendment 41 into a bribery statute, in which only gifts intended to influence legislation count.

The trouble is that bribery was already illegal, and that no government employees who weren't elected officials and political appointees would have been included in the gift ban if that we the case. Yet, it is unambiguously clear that file clerks count as government employees under this law, and that they are not permitted to receive any kind of gift.

Implementing legislation can't rewrite express terms of legislation, or override the constitution. Neither can legislative intent provisions. Both sources can only clarify ambiguities. Amendment 41 doesn't suffer from ambiguity, it suffers from excessive, overzealous detail.

The people who drafted Amendment 41 to say this are idiots and assholes (albeit with overzealous good intentions), but Greuskin's main battle plan so to speak, as expressed at Colorado Confidential, is simply lame. I have real doubts about whether the leigslature will even show interest in passing legislation along those lines.

Jared Polis deserves all the shit he gets for backing this measure.

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