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Douglas Bruce

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Douglas Bruce
Douglas Bruce (b. 1949) is a political activist in Colorado in the city of Colorado Springs. He was the Deputy District Attorney and is a former member of the Colorado General Assembly. While is the Colorado legislature, Bruce authored and supported the Colorado TABOR amendment, which passed in November 3, 1992, as well as the El Paso version, which also passed in 1992. Bruce was later an El Paso County Commissioner, District 5, in 2004 when he was elected into office. In 2008, Bruce was elected to a seat in the Colorado State House, District 15. Since 2007 Bruce has been actively working towards cutting taxes and smaller government structures.

Ballot initiatives

2009

Trespassing charges dismissed

On September 21, 2009 Colorado Springs Municipal Judge Spencer A. Gresham dismissed the trespassing charge against Douglas Bruce and Douglas Stinehagen after finding that the date on the ticket was incorrectly changed by the officer. According to reports, Bruce objected to the dismissal because he said that it may only delay the case further and may interfere with the November election. Later that day, police reissued the citations with a court date of October 14, 2009.[1]

Douglas Bruce was acquitted of all charges by December 10, 2009, Doug Stinehagen was also acquitted. Bruce argued that his civil rights had been violated.[2]

Petition blocking

Bruce was charged with trespassing while circulating a petition for Colorado Springs City Enterprise Measure, a measure scheduled for the November 3, 2009 ballot in El Paso County. Bruce and a fellow signature gatherer were collecting signatures in the parking lot of Costco. Bruce argues that he was charged with crime in order to slow down his ballot measure efforts because in past practice people are allowed to gather signatures in large commercial spaces. On Wednesday, September 16, 2009, the city prosecutor Michelle Keller filed a motion to order both Bruce and Douglas Stinehagen from any ."..mention of freedom of speech, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution or Article II, Section 10, of the Colorado Constitution." Additionally, the motion calls for preventing ant mention of a defense based on "vindictive prosecution," the petition itself and "police policies regarding petition activities."[3]

For the November 3 ballot, Bruce led the charge to pass Colorado Springs Issue 300 which passed by 54%. City officials later called a meeting with Bruce to discuss the measure because they believe Issue 300 is vulnerable to legal challenge. The measure would take away millions of dollars of city revenue and although the city council wanted to take the issue up with the city judge, they thought that discussing the issues with Bruce would ensure the residents that the council was not trying to circumvent their opinion. The city council believes that another section of the city charter overrides this issue. Bruce disagrees, saying that the city needs to acknowledge the fact that they lost.[4]

2010

See also: Proposition 100, Amendment 60 and Amendment 61

A campaign finance hearing was held in April 2010 in an effort to clarify who financed the signature-gathering effort that for Proposition 101, Amendment 60 and Amendment 61, all of which are scheduled to appear on the 2010 ballot. However, tax advocate Douglas Bruce was not present at the hearing.[5]

Although Bruce has appeared to have no involvement with the measures, Secretary of State records revealed that the eight professional petition circulators lived in an apartment house on Boulder Street near Colorado Springs owned by Bruce. The petition circulators have since moved but the records have called into question Bruce's involvement in the campaigns. According to reports, court records reveal that Bruce failed to show up for a deposition weeks prior to the hearing, despite being served with subpoenas.[6]

On March 10 Bruce described the subpoenas as a "case of gross harassment." In regards to the April hearing, Bruce said he did not appear because he was not subpoenaed.[5][6]

Order sought to force Bruce to hearing

After tax advocate Douglas Bruce failed to appear at the April 2010 hearing state officials asked for an order to force Bruce to attend the campaign finance hearing. The attorney general's office filed the petition on behalf of the secretary of state's office.[7][8] On May 11 District Court Judge Brian Whitney issued an order that stipulates that Bruce must appear for deposition.[9]

As of May 18, the Colorado Attorney General's office said they have made 23 attempts to serve Bruce with the court order and have had no success. Attempts were made in-person, by regular mail, express mail, emails and newspaper articles. According to the Denver District Court clerk Bruce has not responded.[10][11]

Bruce tied to measures

In a campaign finance complaint hearing on May 24, 2010 after much speculation, Douglas Bruce was identified as a "guiding force" in Proposition 101, Amendment 60 and Amendment 61. Proponents said they received ballot language and instructions form a "Mr. X" in unsigned emails. Michelle Northrup testified on May 24 that she believed "Mr. X" was Douglas Bruce.[12] During the hearing Northrup said she didn't approve of the evasion tactics being used by proponents of the ballot measures. According to May 24 testimony proponents said they received advice from Bruce on the language of the ballot measures, how to get the measures approved for the ballot by the Secretary of State's Office and on the signature petition campaign.[13][14][15]

Attempts to subpoena Bruce in time for the May 24 hearing failed. Mark Grueskin, lawyer challenging campaign contributions, asked Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer to keeping the hearing open until Bruce's testimony could be collected but Spencer denied the request. According to the judge a decision on the finance complaints will be issued in 15 days.[16]

According to reports in late May, the state of Colorado has tried and failed to contact Douglas a total of 29 times.[17] In early June, Bruce reported that he was "on vacation" but according to reports would not answer questions regarding whether he was purposely trying to avoid being served. According to a report by The Gazette Bruce said, "Last year at this time I went to China. This time I went to Pennsylvania. So what?" He later added,"I have a right to go on vacation. I don’t have to clear with anybody in the government whether I want to go on vacation."[18]

State files contempt motion

On Friday, June 18, state officials filed a contempt motion in Denver District Court. The motion requests that the judge find Bruce in contempt of court for not testifying in the administrative proceeding and for avoiding process servers.[19] In response to the motion, Bruce argues that he has done nothing wrong. He said, "A subpoena requires personal service. I was not personally served. Therefore, I was not legally served."[20] If Bruce is found in contempt of court it is expected that Bruce will be fined for every day he didn't respond to the subpoena (March 19-May 24). According to Bruce, he was out of town on vacation.[21]

On June 23 a Denver judge cited Bruce with contempt of court.[22] Denver District Court Judge Brian Whitney said, "Based on the state’s showing in the motion, there is cause to believe that Mr. Bruce has not complied with the order and that, to date, he remains in disobedience of the order."[23]

A hearing was set for July 26 at 8:30 am in Denver.[24] However, days later the judge agreed to postpone the hearing if Bruce appeared at a June 30 as a witness in a grand jury investigation.[25][26] According to reports, the grand jury hearing is unrelated to Bruce's political activities and he is only serving as a witness.[27]

On July 26 Bruce appeared in court in regard to the contempt citation.[28] Bruce argued that he was out of town and did not purposely try to evade the subpoena. "I can produce motel receipts ... to prove that I wasn't here," said Bruce. Despite the state's arguments that Bruce should face civil or criminal charges, Bruce has not been charged with a crime. However, District Judge Brian Whitney said, "I don’t plan to impose incarceration."[29][30]

The case was scheduled to resume on August 18.[31] On August 9 it was reported that Bruce hired "one of Denver's most high-profile lawyers" - David Lane - to represent him in the case.[32] According to reports, Lane was involved in such high-profile cases as: "Balloon Boy" father Richard Heene; Tim Master's, who won $10 million in settlements after being wrongly imprisoned for a decade; and former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.[33]

Court ruling

On September 7, 2010 Denver District Judge Brian Whitney ruled that Bruce was not in contempt of court for not testifying on the ballot measures case. However, Bruce was ordered to appear for a deposition on the three initiatives (Amendments 60 & 61 and Proposition 101) to answer questions about his involvement.[34][35][36]

Complaint filed

On October 18, 2010 Coloradans for Responsible Reform, opponents of Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, filed a campaign-finance complaint. The coalition argues that Douglas Bruce illegally used a charity, Active Citizens Together (ACT), to fund the petition signature drive for the measures. "We now know, finally, where the money — or a significant portion of it — came from," said Mark Grueskin, attorney for the group.[37]

ACT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Bruce. According to Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, aside from the alleged violations, ACT has not registered with the state as required by law. "Frankly, I'm frustrated there are so many campaign-finance violations going on where either these groups do not register at all with us or, when they register, they don't file reports, or if they file reports, they're frequently incomplete or inaccurate. Next year, I'm going to be asking the legislature to look at the way these groups evade their obligations of disclosure," said Buescher.[37]

On December 28, 2010 Administrative Law Judge Matthew Norwood levied $11,300 in campaign-finance fines against ACT for not reporting what was spent on the 2010 ballot measures. According to reports, the fines is believed to be the largest fine in state history against an issue committee.[38][39]

2011 tax evasion

On Friday, April 8, 2011 Douglas Bruce was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion. According to reports, Bruce was indicted by a state grand jury "on four counts of evading taxes, filing a false return, failing to file a return and attempting to influence a public servant." Specifically the indictment refers to income and tax filings for 2005-2007. Bruce is estimated to face a maximum of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.[40]

The indictment can be read here.

See also

Articles

External links

Additional reading

Editorials

References

  1. 7News - The Denver Channel, "Judge Tosses Doug Bruce Trespassing Charge, Officers Reissue Ticket," September 21, 2009
  2. 9 News, "Anti-tax crusader Bruce acquitted of trespassing," December 10, 2009
  3. The Gazette, "OUR VIEW: Prosecutor puts brakes on Bruce," September 18, 2009
  4. The Gazette, "City to Bruce: Can't we all just get along?," November 18, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 Associated Press, "Ballot measure opponents want information from tax foe Douglas Bruce about petition drive," April 24, 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Gazette, "Douglas Bruce a no-show at campaign finance hearing," April 23, 2010
  7. Associated Press, "Order sought to make tax activist attend hearing," May 4, 2010
  8. The Gazette, "AG wants to compel Douglas Bruce to testify in campaign finance hearing," May 3, 2010
  9. The Gazette, "Douglas Bruce must appear for deposition, district court says," May 11, 2010
  10. The Gazette, "Attorney general's 23 attempts to serve Bruce come up empty," May 18, 2010
  11. The Gazette, "NOREEN: Dragnet fails to produce Bruce," May 19, 2010
  12. Associated Press, "Proponents on tax, fee measures on November ballot cite "Mr. X" as source," May 24, 2010
  13. The Huffington Post, "Doug Bruce Identified By Ballot Initiative Backers As Man Behind Controversial Measures," May 24, 2010
  14. The Gazette, "Witness ties Douglas Bruce to three ballot measures," May 24, 2010
  15. Associated Press, "Tax petitioners: Not sure who's funding the effort," May 24, 2010
  16. The Gazette, "Hearing lifts veil on campaign for disputed measures," May 26, 2010
  17. The Denver Post, "Colorado has tried to serve Douglas Bruce 29 times," May 29, 2010
  18. The Gazette, "Douglas Bruce: "I went to Pennsylvania. So what?,"" June 8, 2010
  19. The Denver Post, "State asks judge for contempt motion; Bruce asks for hearing," June 19, 2010
  20. The Gazette, "AG to file contempt motion today against Bruce," June 17, 2010
  21. Associated Press, "State pursues sanction against anti-tax activist," June 18, 2010
  22. Associated Press, "Judge considering sanctions against Bruce," June 23, 2010
  23. The Gazette, "Judge cites Bruce for contempt of court," June 23, 2010
  24. The Colorado Independent, "Denver judge rules in favor of motion to hold Bruce in contempt of court," June 23, 2010
  25. The Gazette, "Bruce agrees to go before grand jury, avoids a 2nd contempt charge," June 29, 2010
  26. The Daily Sentinel, "Bruce avoids a ‘perp walk,’ but discredits his initiatives," June 29, 2010
  27. Associated Press, "Colo. Anti-Tax Activist To Testify At Grand Jury," July 1, 2010
  28. Associated Press, "Colorado's tax iconoclast back in the spotlight," July 24, 2010
  29. The Denver Post, "Douglas Bruce likely won't get jail time if guilty of contempt of court," July 26, 2010
  30. The Gazette, "Bruce probably won't face jail time in contempt case," July 26, 2010
  31. Associated Press, "Anti-Tax Crusader To Fight Contempt Allegations," July 26, 2010
  32. Associated Press, "Douglas Bruce Hires High-Profile Lawyer Lane," August 9, 2010
  33. Law Week Colorado, "Anti-Tax Activist Douglas Bruce Hires David Lane," August 9, 2010
  34. Associated Press, "Douglas Bruce Not In Contempt But Must Testify," September 7, 2010
  35. The Denver Post, "Bruce not in contempt, but judge says he must answer questions," September 7, 2010
  36. The Durango Herald, "Bruce beats contempt charge," September 8, 2010
  37. 37.0 37.1 The Denver Post, "Group claims Bruce illegally funded petition drives for anti-tax ballot issues," October 19, 2010
  38. The Denver Post, "Issue committee run by anti-tax activist Bruce fined $11,300," December 29, 2010
  39. Westword Blogs, "Douglas Bruce, fined and MIA," December 29, 2010
  40. The Denver Post, "Colo. anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce arrested in tax-evasion case," April 9, 2011