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Alternative Fuels Guru Out of Gas

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Things aren't looking too hot right now over at the Bob Schaffer campaign. Dogged by questions about his "fact-finding" missions to the Northern Mariana Islands, mocked for putting Mount McKinley in a campaign ad instead of Pikes Peak, the Senate hopeful has a fresh problem on his hands: the verdict announced late on May 28 in in the fraud trial of William Orr.

President of the National Alternative Fuel Foundation, Orr faced a battery of felony charges in the sprawling seven-week case in Denver federal court, from failure to pay taxes to allegedly bilking the government out of research money for a gasoline additive that was supposed to raise octane, fight global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. After marathon jury deliberations that stretched over five days, he was found guilty of several counts of mail fraud and wire fraud related to misusing EPA funds and faking test results.

Orr's supporters maintain that the case was government payback against a maverick fuel guru who had challenged the EPA's sulfur emissions standards in court. But even the "he was railroaded" scenario poses some sticky questions for Schaffer, who served as director of NAFF in 2004 and 2005. The campaign treasurer for Schaffer in his 2006 race for the State Board of Education, Scott Shires, was also a top NAFF official and a key government witness at trial against Orr; Shires pleaded guilty to tax evasion and took a plea agreement.

How will all of this shake out in the dailies and Colorado's rabid political blogs? Stay tuned. – Alan Prendergast

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