Doug Bruce gets jail time in tax case

TABOR creator sentenced to 180 days, 6 years’ probation

Douglas Bruce, left, the author of Colorado’s strictest-in-the-nation taxing and spending limitations on state government, leaves Denver District Court on Monday with his attorney David Lane after he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and six years probation for evading state taxes. Bruce said state officials went after him for promoting smaller government. He vowed to appeal. Enlarge photo

Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

Douglas Bruce, left, the author of Colorado’s strictest-in-the-nation taxing and spending limitations on state government, leaves Denver District Court on Monday with his attorney David Lane after he was sentenced to 180 days in jail and six years probation for evading state taxes. Bruce said state officials went after him for promoting smaller government. He vowed to appeal.

DENVER – Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, must report to jail Friday morning for a six-month sentence for tax evasion.

Bruce remained defiant, comparing himself “on a very small scale” to a political prisoner.

“There have been other political prisoners in the history of the United States and the world. If they want to put me in that company, it’s unwittingly a compliment to my political effectiveness,” Bruce told reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom.

“They will be able to have my body, but they cannot have my soul,” he said.

Bruce’s lawyer, David Lane, said Bruce is a hero to many people, but to others, especially in government, he’s “satanic.”

His TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution is the strongest tax-limitation law in any state. It requires a vote of the residents for any tax increase, and mandates tax rebates if government revenue grows too fast.

Lane called the prosecution politically motivated, especially because the amount of taxes in question was so low. Bruce owes $10,722 in back taxes, plus about $16,000 more in interest and penalties, prosecutors said.

But prosecutors also pointed to evidence from the trial that showed Bruce’s political activities for the last several years have been financed through a charity that Bruce set up so he could avoid income taxes.

A Denver jury convicted Bruce in December of three felonies and a misdemeanor related to tax dodging.

Bruce represented himself at trial, but he hired Lane – one of Denver’s top lawyers – to appeal the conviction.

His legal troubles might be just beginning. Prosecutors revealed during the hearing that the Internal Revenue Service is investigating Bruce for a possible federal prosecution.

The saga began in 2004, when Bruce won a race for El Paso County commissioner. He donated his commissioner salary to a charity he founded, Active Citizens Together, and maintains that he should not have to pay taxes on it.

But the jury found otherwise. Evidence showed that Bruce used ACT as a tax dodge and to pay for his political activities.

A separate civil case last year pinpointed ACT as the main funder of the 2010 campaign to pass ballot measures 60, 61 and 101, which would have strictly limited government finances. They failed, and Bruce dissolved ACT before it could pay a campaign-finance fine levied by a Denver court.

In addition to the county jail sentence, Bruce will serve six years on probation. Denver District Judge Anne Mansfield imposed probation conditions that will require him to disclose virtually every aspect of his financial life and allow the government access to his personal computers.

Mansfield said she has doubts Bruce will successfully complete his probation. He often showed up late to trial and introduced evidence by throwing documents on the ground, the judge said.

“The defendant has absolutely no regard for the rule of law. His behavior during trial was reprehensible,” she said.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro said the outcome was fair.

“Mr. Bruce’s life is going to be extremely transparent. That’s all we ever wanted,” he said.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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