Athlete, Artist, Indian Chief

From dark horse to Nighthorse, it's been one hell of a ride for Ben Campbell.

"Campbell originally opposed the bill. Then it comes to the floor, and suddenly he's all for it. In fact, [Senator] Barbara Boxer credited him with trying to save it."

Campbell's office denies any connection between the ads and the senator's stance on the Presidio bill, which was later scuttled.

But in the meantime, Turley threatened Banana Republic and the GAP with a boycott by environmental groups, contending that Campbell's "poor" voting record on environmental issues did not fit the company's image. The League of Conservation Voters, which Turley describes as a "moderate" environmental group, claims that Campbell voted against 80 percent of major environmental legislation. That included supporting a freeze on the Endangered Species Act, selling public lands to reduce the deficit, and opening public lands to timber salvage companies. The ads were quickly pulled.

"Professor Turley's weak attempt to create 'Gap-gate' out of the senator's participation in this advertising campaign weakens Turley's pro-environmental message by teaching his students that the truth takes a back seat to cheap publicity and theatrics," Campbell spokesman Alton Dillard said at the time.

And even Ken Lane thinks the sweeping condemnation against Campbell's environmental voting record "is to some extent unfair," he says. "I think he's been excellent on Colorado environmental issues, he's just not as interested or in tune with national issues. As a staff, we were not wild-eyed environmentalists. Like Ben, most of us tended to be moderates and pragmatists who saw the need to balance use and protection."

But that could be changing with Campbell's new staff, new party and new allegiances, Lane suggests. "Now there's nobody to keep him in balance, nobody to caution or rein in his excesses," he says. "Those of us who were with him from the beginning knew when to push and when to back off and wait for another day. From what I've seen lately, I think he's been captured by the extreme elements of the Republicans on environmental issues."

Doyle disagrees. "Ben works well," he says, "with groups like the Sierra Club on things like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which is the most important natural-resources legislation for this state since the Colorado Wilderness Act, which he also worked on. He's also been at the forefront regarding Rocky Flats, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and Superfund cleanups."

"The whole thing was stupid," Campbell says of the Turley incident. "He was just angry because I voted against a bill that would have stopped logging companies from getting dead timber out of the national parks where they supply fuel for fires like what we saw on Storm King Mountain when those firefighters died.

"I went to debate him at the university, but he barricaded himself in his office," Campbell continues. "What a weasel. If it was up to him, we'd never cut a tree. He lives in a damn dream world."

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell is back in his world, at his ranch in Ignacio. Up at dawn, he's about to lead a group of bikers from the Iron Horse rally to Silverton.

His association with bikers, like most of his interests, has raised a few eyebrows. For example, there have been his fights against helmet laws, the time he hosted a get-out-of-jail party for Hell's Angel leader Sonny Barger, and his recent sponsorship of a car-and-bike rally at the Capitol. "Actually, I see a lot of similarities between Indians and bikers," Campbell says. "They're both nomadic, tribal, refer to each other as brothers and sisters, both like tattoos and earrings.

"Both like to travel in the wind--on a motorcycle or a horse--and dress in leather. Both use bears and eagles as symbols. Both are independent and distrustful of government."

Even if one particular biker/Indian is part of that government. "It's not exactly the image people have of senators," Campbell admits. "I don't fit the mold. But if they don't like it, they can throw me out and I can return to making jewelry."

Or maybe think seriously about that cabinet post. Or "maybe governor...hell, I don't know. And right now, I don't want to think about it. I got to hit the road with my friends.

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