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Ethics Questions Continue to Swirl Around Bruce

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Long after he left office as the first legislator in Colorado history to
receive a formal censure, Douglas Bruce has managed to find himself in
more ethical trouble this year than most elected officials.

In 2010 alone, Bruce has found himself in ethical trouble on at least three occasions.

First, Bruce was found to have been the "Mr. X" behind Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 on the November ballot. Proponents of the three measures, acting in concert with Bruce, were fined by an administrative law judge for failure to register an issue committee despite accepting contributions from unidentified sources to pay for the petitions that resulted in the three measures being placed on the ballot.

Next, Bruce was charged with contempt of court for failure to honor a deposition subpoena in the administrative case over 60, 61 and 101. Bruce reportedly avoided 30 attempts at service of the deposition subpoena in that case. Ultimately, Bruce was not held in contempt, but he was ordered to finally sit for a deposition on his involvement with the three ballot questions. Bruce's antics spurred calls for legal reform from both the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post.

That deposition has now been taken, and the results spell more trouble for Bruce. A new campaign finance lawsuit has been filed, alleging that Bruce's nonprofit charity, Active Citizens Together (ACT), funded the petition drive for the three ballot measures but failed to register as an issue committee or file any required disclosures. In addition, while 501(c)(3) non-profits such as ACT are legally permitted to be involved in ballot issue campaigns as a form of lobbying, ACT's filings with the IRS reportedly claim that the organization does not lobby.

Bruce's problems are not limited to his involvement with Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. He has also been linked to the Clear the Bench campaign to defeat three Supreme Court justices in this year's election. On September 23, an administrative law judge ruled that Clear the Bench was in violation of Colorado campaign finance law by operating as an issue committee not subject to contribution limits, but instead must operate as a political committee subject to a $525 limit per contributor. (Disclosure: My organization, Colorado Ethics Watch, was the plaintiff in this case.) Four days after the widely publicized decision, Bruce sent Clear the Bench a $1000 contribution, in flagrant defiance of the judge's ruling.

Will this be the end of Bruce's ethical troubles in 2010? With more than a week remaining before the election, perhaps not.