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It was a fitting place to return new and returning members of Colorado's legislature to the bosom of private property rights and a free market economy.

On Monday, the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association and the local Chamber of Commerce held a cozy and super-exclusive welcoming reception for state legislators at the El Paso Club. (The members-only El Paso Club is the bastion of the rich, white male of good breeding and privilege, housed in the old Kerr Mansion downtown at the corner of Tejon Street and Platte Avenue.)

The facility has several dining areas, only one of which allows women. Off-limits are the upstairs billiard hall and the men's bar downstairs where an impressive array of female nudes decorate the walls.

Foremost on the minds of those developers and chamber folks who hosted Monday's reception were, no doubt, the pressures that legislators are getting from us common folk, the populace, who are pitifully begging our state lawmakers to enact some meaningful measures to reign in and control growth in Colorado.

Of course, developers from Colorado, across the nation and abroad just spent more than $6 million defeating the growth control Amendment 24, and they sure don't want the Legislature to get too fresh with ideas of true reform. So a little caviar, a little scotch, and pretty soon those lawmakers will forget all about their vows to the people ...

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The Sunday, Jan. 7 New York Times was filled with interesting stories that included plenty of former and current Colorado connections.

One of the more interesting articles about George W. Bush's cabinet choices was one that profiled attorney general pick John Ashcroft, whose anti-abortion, pro-death penalty, anti-homosexual, anti-gun control, pro-prayer in school and pro-elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts stances are sure to make him a real dish on the hill.

This is, after all, a guy who is so fervent that he was inspired to anoint himself, using a bowl of Crisco oil, before he was sworn into the U.S. Senate in 1995. Ashcroft even holds an honorary degree from the anti-Catholic, anti-interracial dating Bob Jones University.

The Times article recounts how religious and conservative leaders across the country began promoting Ashcroft for a major post shortly after Bush was elected to office. Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family president James Dobson was featured prominently, describing Ashcroft, who was defeated in his November re-election efforts by a dead man, as a "national resource."

"If I were president-elect, John Ashcroft would be one of the people that I would be trying to find a spot for," Dobson was quoted as saying, urging Bush to to appoint his pal to the nation's top justice spot.

Dobson was considered a presidential kingmaker in Republican Party politics four years ago, when Bob Dole lost the presidency. By contrast, this year Dobson, an avowed anti-abortion crusader, quietly flew under the radar for most of the presidential campaign. Apparently it worked to his supreme advantage.

If Ashcroft is approved, Dobson and other religious righters will have exactly what they want: an attorney general to do their bidding. Moderates and liberals are screaming bloody murder but, at least on NBC-TV's Meet the Press, Republican Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl defended Bush's pick. "I think the pre-emptory attacks here on John Ashcroft are more politics, and they don't bode well for the spirit of bipartisanship, which I thought we were all trying to promote."

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And now for some more on bipartisanship -- when the Republicans decide it works for them:

Remember Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood? Bill Clinton's initial choices for attorney general were scuttled eight years ago amid controversies because the two women had hired undocumented workers as domestic help and failed to pay employee taxes on them. After Republicans screamed and hollered, Janet Reno was finally selected as Clinton's third choice. Reno, proved herself to be no stranger to controversy, including locally, where radio talk-show host Chuck Baker routinely ridiculed her and called her "Butch Reno" on the air.

Fast forward eight years: Bush's first choice for labor secretary, former Coloradan Linda Chavez, faced similar scrutiny for giving money to an illegal immigrant who stayed at her house in the 1990's and helped clean her house and take care of her children.

Some conservatives jumped to Chavez' defense, terming the flap a "contrived controversy" in which the nominee was being bullied because she simply took pity on an illegal alien and gave her charity and shelter.

These same outlets didn't mention that, according to CNN, Chavez, a syndicated newspaper columnist and TV political talking head who opposes affirmative action and bilingual education, was one of the vocal critics of Baird's proposed appointment in 1992. This week, Chavez removed herself from consideration.

-- degette@csindy.com

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