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Bruce would make out like a bandit 

Douglas Bruce recently told the Independent that his Amendment 21 proposal would be a boon to "poor people and working-class families." But his claims of being a modern-day Robin Hood ring hollow for an economist who has analyzed the riches that Bruce himself would accumulate if voters approve his plan on Nov. 7.

"A vote for Amendment 21," Bruce said, "is a vote for poor people, elderly widows and working-class families."

Amendment 21, which Bruce co-authored, would mandate a $25 reduction in every property, income, vehicle and utility tax bill. That reduction would increase by $25 each subsequent year -- $50 the second year, $75 the third, $100 the fourth -- in perpetuity until, theoretically at least, each bill dwindles to zero.

Bruce insists that he's motivated solely by a selfless desire to champion poor people and middle-income working families. "Amendment 21," he insisted, "isn't going to benefit me financially."

Economists, though, say Bruce would make out like a bandit.


In Bruce's shoes

A onetime attorney, Bruce is now a landlord and real-estate investor. He currently owns 25 properties, mostly in Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. He's had several run-ins with the courts -- including one memorable arrest in Denver and a brief stay in jail there -- for failing to maintain or repair his properties.

Rudy Andras, an economist with the investment-banking firm Dain Rauscher, recently conducted a computer analysis to determine how much Bruce would personally benefit from his proposed constitutional amendment.

Andras, who has also debated Bruce over the landlord's proposed amendment, said that, if passed, Bruce would personally pocket $25,000 over the first five years.

In 10 years, Andras said, Bruce's cumulative tax benefit would be just shy of $67,000, with 78 percent of his property taxes eliminated.

Within 15 years, Bruce would net $117,000, and he'd be more than $167,000 to the good in 20 years. By year 30, he'd save $268,000.

"Bruce can crow 'til the cows come home about what a populist guy he is and how selfless his motives are in all this, but he'd benefit hugely from 21," said Andras. "It would save him a ton of money and make his holdings, many of which are run-down and derelict, a lot more attractive on the market."

Bruce, meanwhile, scorns allegations that he'll gain personally from Amendment 21. "I'm trying to sell my properties," he told the Independent. "I'm not about to hold on to them in order to save $25."

Several years ago, during his Denver court battle, Bruce made a similar public claim that he planned to sell his properties. He still owns them.

Bruce is also trying to recoup what he claims is $100,000 that he has personally spent promoting Amendment 21 and has asked voters to contribute their first two years' tax refunds from Amendment 21 to him. "Good old Doug," he says, shouldn't have to take the loss.


Rage against the machine

Bruce's hostility to government and taxes reaches back to the early 1980s, when he lived in California.

Then a Deocrat, Bruce was embittered after losing a bid for a seat in the California State Legislature in 1980. In 1981, the Internal Revenue Service nixed Bruce's attempt to deduct as a business expense the costs of housing and feeding himself, his then-girlfriend, her teenage son and their dog.

Bruce appealed to the United States Tax Court and lost, and he's been on a nonstop crusade against government and taxes ever since.

"Bruce likes to dismiss Amendment 21 opponents as big-government toadies with vested interests in keeping taxes high," said Andras. "But Bruce has some highly vested interests of his own going here.

"The numero uno beneficiary of Amendment 21 will be people who own a multitude of low-value properties -- special interests, in other words, like Doug Bruce."

Andras notes that renters, who account for approximately one-third of Colorado households, should be disgusted with Amendment 21.

"Bruce is claiming that a janitor will benefit from Amendment 21 as much as a billionaire," Andras observed. "But truth is, a low-income renter would barely benefit at all.

"Renters won't get a penny of direct property-tax reductions, or be eligible for the refunds on taxes collected on food-and-drink sales that only property owners would get," Andras added.

"As owner of 25 properties, though, Bruce would get every one of those benefits 25 times over, every year in perpetuity, and more with each passing year.

"This," said Andras, "is what 'good old Doug' is trumpeting as 'fair and equitable.'"

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