I am the yin to Douglas Bruce’s yang.For the blissfully unaware, Bruce is a quintessential drown-government-in-the-bathtub firebrand from Colorado Springs. His most notorious political spawn is Colorado’s 1992 Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), from which comes the term “de-Brucing” — when local governments extract themselves from the jaws of TABOR’s austere restrictions on budget growth.
He’s also not a very nice guy.
His petty feuds are legendary in El Paso County — from personally and vindictively belittling fellow public officials during meetings to printing business cards that read “Douglas Bruce: Terrorist” in response to then-Governor Roy Romer likening TABOR to terrorism. Even the mail-order bride he traveled to Ukraine to fetch last summer wouldn’t come home with him.
Last Saturday, Bruce won appointment to the Colorado House of Representatives to fill the seat vacated by fellow Colorado Springs Republican Representative Bill Cadman, who moved over to the state Senate in the perpetual musical chairs of early retirements and recess appointments that give handpicked successors an incumbency advantage in the 2008 election. Wily, guvmint-hatin’ politician that he is, Bruce quietly stacked the GOP district vacancy committee with his own buddies in anticipation of this scenario.
If folks in Colorado Springs want to put up with his loutish behavior, so be it. They elected him to the El Paso Board of County Commissioners. Still, the thought of Douglas Bruce wreaking havoc on democracy across the state, as an appointed lawmaker, gives me the willies. The times are too important and the needs of Colorado’s residents are too great to allow this anti-government yahoo to pitch political firebombs while hypocritically suckling at the teat of a taxpayer-supported salary.
So I’m appealing to the grownups under the Capitol dome.
This week, lawmakers will submit the bills they plan to introduce in the 2008 legislative session, which convenes on January 9. I have some suggestions on how to neutralize Bruce and his extremist comrades-in-arms.
Now, I could go for easy, liberal crowd-pleasers, like calling for the impeachment of Dick Cheney, outlawing snowmobiles in national parks or administering a light electric shock to Berthoud’s own Kevin Lundberg every time he attempts to introduce a bill to define pregnancy based on religious dogma rather than scientific data.
But in this case, desperate measures are needed to outmaneuver Bruce and the noisy statehouse mob of headline-grabbing intransigents who’d rather mug for the cameras and pander to like-minded ideologues.
So in the spirit of democracy and with all the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” idealism I can muster, I submit three bipartisan bills for consideration:
The Get-a-Life Act of 2008
“Whereas political operatives have gotten it into their pointy little heads that issuing frivolous requests under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) to punish partisan opponents or to engage in fishing expeditions to uncover potentially politically damaging information is a good use of public employee time and resources; whereas recent requests submitted to lawmakers have demanded up to five years’ worth of correspondence, meeting schedules, telephone logs and email messages for no good reason other than to be a pain in the ass, thwarting the purpose of government transparency for petty political games will not stand.
“Under this proposed law, CORA requests without evident reasonable purposes must be accompanied by a sworn statement and certified documentation that the undersigned has provided 40 hours of volunteer service within a 30-day period on a children’s oncology or pediatric intensive-care unit. If that doesn’t get your life priorities in order, then you’re hopeless and will be immediately condemned to live out your remaining days with 12 smelly hound dogs in a mobile home in the tiny town of Ward.”
The Corporate-Hack Disclosure Act
“Whereas the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) burps up `McBills’ — pre-written, corporate-friendly legislation for state politicians to introduce as their own work; whereas in 2000, ALEC boasted that its unnamed members, who are believed to be exclusively ultraconservative state legislators, introduced 3,100 bills and that 450 of them became law; whereas many of these were designed to roll back consumer protections, privatize government services and the like;
“Be it enacted that any bill authored or drafted by ALEC or suggested by ALEC to a Colorado lawmaker must be designated as such. A $1,000 contribution to the liberal organization Progressive States Network will be made by the bill’s sponsors and the Colorado Republican Party for each such measure introduced into the state legislature as recompense for working against the interests of the public.”
A Bill Concerning Karl Rove Wannabes (or The Save Us from Andrew Boucher Act)
“Whereas the incestuous nature of individuals, businesses, political-action committees and front corporations to sponsor vicious political attack ads in secret collaboration with one another has further undermined the American political process; whereas levying fines and issuing public rebukes to those who cynically fail to report their political finance activities has not stemmed the tide of smear campaigns and ugly, character assassination;
“Therefore, with the passing of this bill, offenders will receive a one-way ticket to corruption-racked Nigeria to learn firsthand that subverting the public’s ability to conduct free and fair elections by financing fraud, vote-rigging and wide-scale disenfranchisement has far-reaching consequences.”
Granted, I may need to work on the parliamentary language a bit, but the sentiments are clear. Government transparency, constitutional integrity and campaign-finance disclosures are far too important for political fat cats and their minions, like Doug Bruce, to debase for their own selfish purposes.
A version of this editorial originally appeared in the Rocky Mountain Chronicle and is reprinted with permission.