Amendment 16, the innocuously worded anti-obscenity measure on November's ballot, has the potential to stir up more passion than most blue movies. And in a strange twist that recalls Victorian-era anti-smut crusades, Denver's bluebloods have been recruited to bankroll the amendment and serve as foot soldiers.

While proponents say the amendment would merely bring Colorado in line with other states and make it easier to stamp out hard-core pornography, opponents note that it would allow every local government in the state to define what's obscene.

Combative anti-abortion attorney Barry Arrington, also a Republican candidate for the District 20 state Senate seat, leads the charge for Amendment 16, talking in detail about the horrors of bestiality and gerbil-jamming while accusing his opponents of "scare-mongering" about censorship. "A woman having oral sex with a dog and persons inserting small rodents into the rectum," he volunteers. "Don't tell me that's in the same category as Catcher in the Rye."

Arrington's law partner, Gene Malpas, is a veteran anti-smut activist who recently moved to Colorado after stirring the pot elsewhere. Together with Arvada housewife Denise Mund and hired lobbyist Steve Mathers (head of the state PTA), they're the public leaders of Arvada-based CHILD, the Coalition Helping to Insure Laws for Dignity. Supporting them are former Senator Bill Armstrong, who warns of "enormous danger" from "ACLU pornographers and other anti-family forces," and Focus on the Family leader James Dobson, the most prominent Christian-radio broadcaster in the nation.

Behind them, though, is one of Denver's most successful--and invisible--real-estate operators, who so far has financed this moral crusade practically single-handedly. William B. Pauls, head of the Denver Tech Center and Meridian empire, has contributed nearly $66,000 of CHILD's $77,000 war chest.

Pauls, who has garnered very little publicity in Denver outside the society pages, declined to talk to Westword. His secretary suggested a call to Arrington instead.

"Bill's a private person," says Arrington. "I think he's very concerned that he doesn't want his privacy violated."

But Pauls's associates have included people ensnarled in what many consider the prime, and very public, financial obscenity of the 1980s: the savings-and-loan scandal. He's an ally of ex-Denver wheeler-dealers John W. Dick (now hiding on the Isle of Jersey) and Bill Walters, the former chamber of commerce president and Neil Bush sugar daddy who has been found guilty of no crimes, despite his defaulting on more than $100 million in loans in the Silverado fiasco.

Pauls's road to Denver actually began in London in the late Seventies, when he and fellow Canadian John Dick, dressed in mink overcoats and black suits instead of the more proper pinstripes, were known as the "dark duo" when they grabbed hold of European Ferries Ltd. In 1979, still operating from England, they purchased the Denver Tech Center from founder George M. Wallace. During the Eighties, Dick and Pauls sold some of their holdings to British megaconglomerate Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation for more than $50 million. P&O still owns the Tech Center and the giant Meridian development in Highlands Ranch; both business parks are booming.

Today Pauls is P&O's man in Denver, the head of Pocol Investments. He's also on the board of EF International in London. But Pauls rarely surfaces in the business pages; he's no publicity hound. He did get mentioned in the society columns in 1993 when he and wife Verna hosted a simply smashing party for Up With People, and once in a while his name does creep into news stories.

In the 1992 California bankruptcy trial of Bill Walters, it was revealed that Walters had received money from a Newport Beach company called W.P Development, owned by one Bill Pauls. Walters was pleading poverty; a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee alleged that he was living well thanks to a series of corporate maneuvers involving his wife and trust funds. Although Walters was cleared of wrongdoing, he acknowledged that W.P. Development was paying him $10,000 a month in management fees. Previous testimony had shown that W.P. Development was receiving the same amount each month from ERG Group, a trust set up by Walters's family.

It wasn't the first time Pauls had apparently stepped in to help his friend. In 1987, when Walters was busily selling off his Denver properties, Pauls paid him $30 million for the downtown Boston Building. Pauls later defaulted on the property; Travelers Insurance sold the building earlier this year for $5 million.

Pauls has come a long way since his early days in London. He and Verna, who have two sons, live in Pine Grove, an estate on Sunset Drive in Cherry Hills Village. (When Walters hightailed it out of Colorado in 1990, he sold the house to Pauls.) The Paulses spent several years in the Denver Social Register "blue book," and belong to the Cherry Hills and Castle Pines country clubs, as well as the Metropolitan Club. Pauls has landed on the boards of National Jewish Hospital, Children's Hospital, Kent Denver Country Day School and the exclusive Vintage Country Club near Palm Springs, California, where he and his wife also have a home.