Off Limits

Tempest in a teepee
Last week the Senate Ethics Committee cleared Harley-riding, party-switching senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of conflict-of-interest charges filed by Phil Doe's Citizens Progressive Alliance and two other environmental groups. The charges stemmed from Campbell's involvement -- as a local landowner -- with the proposed sale of the Vallecito Reservoir in La Plata County. In October 1998, Campbell had introduced Senate legislation pushing for the sale of the reservoir, in which his family owns shares; in doing so, Doe claimed, Campbell had violated rule 37.4, which prohibits a senator from acting in ways that would result in such trickle-down economic benefits. But on Monday, Campbell's office announced that the ethics committee had cleared Campbell of any technical violations of the law. (Besides, the House had already killed the reservoir deal.)

But the vote's not yet in on Campbell's recent sponsorship of a rider to an appropriations bill that directly benefits the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, whose political action committee donated $5,000 to his re-election campaign last year. That act inspired criticism of Campbell from still more environmental groups, as well as Denver Post columnist Diane Carman's recent line about the senator: "A pimp's a pimp, after all, even if he looks good in a headdress." And that line, in turn, inspired continuing complaints -- and demands for Carman's apology -- from David Cournoyer, director of public information for the American Indian College Fund (The Message, November 11).

While studying exactly how Campbell looks in a headdress, however, we made an even more stunning discovery: The senator is a dead ringer for Mel Brooks's Indian chief in Blazing Saddles. And at the time that movie was made, Campbell claimed about as much Indian blood as did the comedian.

Mr. Webb goes to Washington
It could have been all that tussling with Bill "The No-Body" Owens regarding Colorado's dueling trade offices, or maybe it was just anticipation of the fight to come with Donald "I'm a Billionaire, You're Nobody" Sturm regarding Ascent's alleged sale of the Pepsi Center, the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets. But whatever his motivation, Denver mayor Wellington "I'm With Wilma" Webb enjoyed the action at a sumo wrestling match during his recent trip to Japan. That experience should help him come to grips with a tougher crowd: the National Press Club, which Webb will address next week in Washington, D.C., speaking in his capacity as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

That's assuming, of course, that the city survives Sunday night's showing of Y2K on Channel 9 -- a made-for-TV pic that the station will screen for Denver officials this week and accessorize with call-in panels on Sunday. The dangers of December 31 aside, points out mayoral spokesman Andrew Hudson, "we have a duty to warn the public about bad movies."

Life outside the bubble
While Webb commands attention in the nation's capitol, a national group based in Denver wonders why it doesn't get much respect here at home. The National Civic League, founded by Teddy Roosevelt almost a century ago, moved its office to Denver in the late Eighties. But despite its national reputation for public-policy work, the league rarely rates a mention in the local dailies -- even though the league, like its founder, is carrying a big shtick these days.

It's Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley, who mentioned the league during his first New Hampshire debate with Al Gore. Unlike the veep, who bragged that he'd "stood and fought in Washington," Bradley told the audience that he'd actually gotten outside "the bubble" and talked to people across the U.S. And he did it through the National Civic League, which he chaired for two years after leaving the Senate in 1996. "He aggressively used those two years to do a lot of listening," says league director Chris Gates, an early Bradley supporter.

Hail to the chief!

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