Douglas Bruce, fined and MIA

An administrative law judge has slapped an $11,300 fine on a charity set up by anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce--the latest chapter in the murky maneuvering behind three tax-slashing amendments that opponents spent millions to defeat this fall.

Bruce, of course, didn't bother to attend the hearing on the matter two weeks ago.

The acerbic former state legislator's role in putting on the ballot the three citizien initiatives, Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, had been a source of rabid speculation--as well as complaints about alleged campaign finance violations--throughout the election season. Last June, while fining three of the named proponents of the measures for failing to register as an issue committee or file finance reports, another administrative law judge concluded that Bruce was deeply involved in behind-the-scene efforts to promote the amendments.

Bruce shunned questions about the campaign and dodged subpoenas for months. But in recent weeks the probe into possible monkeyshines has revealed that a substantial portion of the funding of the campaign, as much as $250,000, came from Active Citizens Together, a nonprofit Bruce founded in 2001.

This could be a Bruce-sized problem on several levels. ACT never registered with the Secretary of State as an issue committee, nor did it file reports concerning its expenses and contributions. And, as a 501(3)c, it's not supposed to be directly involved in lobbying for a particular issue on the ballot. Although Bruce stepped down as registered agent for ACT in August and claims little connection with the group now, the Colorado Springs Gazette has reported that he signed a federal tax form last year certifying that ACT did not engage in lobbying--even though it sent out a mass mailing in 2008 urging people to defeat Referendum O and Amendment 59.

Bruce has denounced the fine as a "total fraud," and doubtless there will be more appeals and wrangling before the malodor of this campaign is finally dispersed. But it seems clear that Bruce's efforts to distance himself from the ballot issues, for fear that they would be defeated simply because of public animus toward him, only served to make the ham-handed measures seem more mysterious and threatening. And, without full disclosure of contributors, we still have no idea who (other than Bruce) was backing the things in the first place.

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