Doug Bruce, Colorado Springs tax fighter and generally irascible human, is surely relishing defying the government and mocking the Colorado election process as toothless. El Paso County sheriff’s deputies have tried and failed to serve contempt subpoenas to Bruce 29 times in the past weeks for his unabashed flouting of issue committee campaign finance rules and for what appears to be clear tampering with witnesses. Bruce has openly defied the courts and the system and so far utterly without consequence.
Bruce is the tragi-comic “Mr X” who authored three tax-slashing ballot initiatives that would gut state revenues. Bruce convinced stand-ins to introduce the initiatives under their names and to attend legislative council review hearings and title settings in Denver in a grand guignol performance of citizen democracy. At least two of these phony proponents also lied to reporters, like me, who asked them questions about the initiatives. Bruce later coached them on how to defy attorneys and the judge looking into irregularities surrounding the initiative signature-gathering process.
The Colorado Springs Gazette has been the main media outlet following the story and Editorial Page Editor Wayne Laugesen writes a bracing summary of the facts for the Gazette today.
Once again, Bruce [i]s fighting the establishment and winning… because of an oddity in Colorado law that makes the subpoenas of administrative law judges no more compelling than Facebook party invitations from strangers. A former prosecutor, Bruce knows the law and how to exploit it to his full advantage.
Bruce was served on Feb. 22 at a Colorado Springs City Council meeting and told to appear at a hearing on the merits of the case on April 22. But the subpoenas were issued by an administrative law judge. Administrative law judges hear disputes involving decisions of government agencies. This case involved the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees campaign finance and administration of ballot petitions. If Bruce blew off a subpoena issued by a district court judge, the judge would have the power to punish him with a contempt citation. But an administrative law judge lacks that power.
Colorado Revised Statute 24-4-105 authorizes an administrative law judge to issues subpoenas. The statute advises the judges to petition a district court in the event a witness ignores a subpoena.
[T]he campaign finance hearing went on without [Bruce]. The administrative law judge, respecting the rights of other witnesses, refused repeated continuance requests to allow servers more time to find Bruce.
The debacle, while entertaining, has been expensive and counterproductive. Once again, Bruce has cleverly controlled the system as if it’s his marionette.
Bruce may have dodged the state and Grueskin. He hasn’t completely dodged the Colorado Springs Gazette.