wwww.coloradoburning.com is an unprecedented, comprehensive political reform effort. It is based upon the discovery of hard evidence of long standing, massive, institutionalized state tax fraud, in concert with compelling circumstantial evidence that Colorado's political power-structure sheltered participating tax-cheaters in exchange for their illegal political campaign contributions. The tax fraud, involving tens upon tens of millions of dollars, was not only unconscionable of and by itself, but it also became the breeding-ground for a laundry list of other violations of the Colorado criminal code by state officials in their attempts to keep this state tax racketeering scandal covered-up.
If the foregoing had occurred out in the real world it would likely have been prosecuted under racketeering and other organized crime sections of our criminal code.
"Coloradoburning" lifts the blanket on this scandal which has been Colorado's most costly and best kept secret since statehood. It has been so pervasive that it has held the politicians, the prosecutors, and the press at arms length.
Now the people must act.
Don't let the rash of allegations of political campaign contribution corruption, which repeatedly raises its head within the Washington beltway, fool you into thinking that it can occur only in Washington. Colorado politicians also need campaign contributions, especially those grooming themselves for a future in the "good life" within the Washington beltway.
Colorado's voters have previously shown their common sense and good judgment in showing their support for ballot initiatives that imposed limits on taxes and limits on terms. Now, the voters should have an opportunity to show their support for ballot initiatives that impose limits on public corruption.
Before presenting my proposed reforms, I will first hone your level of understanding as to why these reforms are too critical to be left within the control of the Colorado legislature. When politicians control reforms to curb corruption within their ranks, their rhetoric quite often has the lasting value of a schnook wind passing the open throat of an empty vessel.
We must not paint all of Colorado's honorable and beautiful state employees and state officials with the same brush that should be used on the charlatans within the system. I feel very good about the help I have received from former Governor Bill Owens. Governor Owens, unlike his predecessors, showed me the moral backbone to be willing to risk his political capital to deal with this scandal by directing former Colorado attorney general Ken Salazar to investigate the matter long before he left town to serve as Colorado's junior U.S. Senator. Unfortunately, Salazar took off without reporting the results of his investigation. Governor Owens and I could not handle this by ourselves. Now, it may take the voters in many, many villages to restore integrity in state government.
While we are reforming Colorado government to eliminate its bifurcated culture, namely, a conventional contemporary culture on the surface and a counterculture hidden below, we should proceed with compassion for all the beautiful folks who want to do a decent and honest job. But, so many of these folks can not withstand the prevailing counterculture pressures to do otherwise. Many of them soon wilt like freshly cut flowers strewn upon a hot sidewalk.
As "coloradoburning" proceeds to provide insight into the dark side of Colorado's politics and the pathologies of its bureaucracy, many Coloradans may accept its message at face value because it validates their prior and long-held suspicion of what may go on behind the walls of government. Other folks, with opinions conditioned by what the Denver media would prefer them to believe, will likely challenge the credibility of "coloradoburning". "coloradoburning" is the compilation of my audit discoveries, the responses of numerous state officials, my opinions, and my beliefs formed during my ten-year struggle to survive "life in the bull's-eye" of an outrageous and unconscionable retaliatory attack by state officials to destroy me because I was an eye-witness to their political corruption.
The delay in my soliciting public support for reforms has enabled term limits to flush-out adversaries to this reform effort, so we now may be spared having our resources exhausted while knocking down hostile opponents to these lofty unprecedented reform goals.
You may wonder what got me into this fine mess, so let me digress to how this all began.
"coloradoburning" was given birth during the glory days of Governors Richard D. Lamm and Roy R. Romer. As a special hire, I left the private sector to enter Colorado government to serve on the staff of the executive director of the department of revenue (hereafter noted as DOR). I had the express responsibility to unravel and correct management irregularities and dishonesties within DOR. I had no advance warning that this would be a kamikaze mission.
I soon sensed that dishonesty was a way of life in DOR. It was later when I learned that it also served as glue that held DOR together, giving it continuity and staying-power, and, for some of the revenue boys, a sense of purpose. Time and again dishonest answers were offered when it seemed that honest answers would have made so much more sense.
I informed a seasoned DOR employee that I was going to audit the money trail through DOR's processing of tax payments. He immediately warned me that doing so would be suicidal. He said I would uncover massive tax fraud and I would get wiped-out before I could get the evidence to a grand jury. I responded that if I needed help I could go to the governor. He responded that the governor would oppose me and deny whatever I reported. I said I would then go to the Denver District Attorney (hereafter noted as DDA). He responded that it would be useless because the DDA was already involved in the fraud's cover-up. I said I would then seek help from the press. He said the press would backup the governor. (His warnings were accurate, except concerning my suicide.)
I conducted the audit.
I obtained access to DOR's mainframe computer on Friday afternoon and ran it continuously through Sunday afternoon, interrogating every Colorado state tax account to extract selected data that were taken off-line for analysis. The data analysis revealed patterns of state tax fraud. The data showed that tax payments were processed in violation of Colorado tax law, in conflict with formal reports prepared by DOR, and, in contradiction to oral statements revenuers had made in departmental meetings. I reported the findings to the DOR executive director. I also gave him my commitment to provide a redesigned computerized tax processing system to prevent the continuation of that fraudulent processing of taxes. I delivered to him the redesigned tax processing system on schedule as promised, but it was not implemented.
Unknown to me while I was conducting my audit in DOR, Colorado's Organized Crime Strike Force (hereafter noted as OCSF) also was in DOR investigating the influence of organized crime in that department. As time progressed, I learned that my audit report triggered a systematic counter-offensive to destroy my credibility as a witness and to camouflage the tax fraud and to destroy evidence. I also learned that my audit findings report caused the OCSF to be ordered to abruptly abort its organized crime investigation, and get out of DOR immediately. That order came from the Colorado attorney general's office (hereafter noted as AGO).
I spent two more years in state government "dodging bullets", while doing all that I could within the limits of Colorado law to shut down the fraud. Insiders provided me with "behind the scenes help". They had languished over their fears and insecurity in doing anything themselves. A few told me that if anyone could turn back the tide, I was the one who could. If I failed, they would never again admit to having knowledge of the fraud.
My efforts within DOR were futile. I sought the help of the Colorado General Assembly (hereafter noted as CGA). Selective legislators scheduled a special executive evening session and received my testimony and reviewed the audit documents. These legislators, with one abstention, unanimously voted to order the state auditor to conduct a full-blown fraud investigation. In that meeting in my presence, the state auditor was directed to subpoena the bank accounts of all those taxpayers whose tax accounts I had identified as revealing the pattern for fraud. The legislators also voted unanimously in my presence that no one was to leak information on this tax fraud scandal to the news media.
NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE ORDERED SUBPOENAS HAS EVER BEEN SERVED.
Within hours a legislator leaked selective bits of the restricted information to the press, creating a "backfire". This is a technique such as is commonly used to curtail a “threatening runaway forest fire”. The state auditors office (hereafter noted as SAO), instead of doing the ordered fraud investigation, was surreptitiously ordered to confiscate my files. Two junior auditors were assigned to the sham investigation, and were directed to idle away their time out of sight for several months in a remote office provided by the executive director of DOR while the SAO released monthly reports of no fraud being found. If neither the press nor the public raised a fuss, the SAO would then release a final audit report, swearing that there had been no tax fraud uncovered in DOR.
Having been tipped-off as to why so little public corruption gets prosecuted in Colorado, I had duplicated my audit files, storing the originals in a safe place. Thus unknowingly, the SAO confiscated only a copy of my files, which then armed state officials with their false sense of security, thinking that from then on it would be merely my word against all of theirs.
Our governor informed the press that no evidence of tax fraud had been found. A now defunct national accounting firm was then paid nearly thirty thousand dollars to cob-up a report to also state that there was no tax fraud in DOR. Interestingly, the accounting firm CPA who fabricated that sham report had come to my office and received my explanation on how the fraud scheme was set up before he began his assignment. I alerted him to efforts by top state officials to keep the fraud covered-up. When I learned that he was aiding and abetting the cover-up, I confronted him on the consequences of his fraudulent report. I assured him that it would only be a matter of time until the general public would learn the truth.
After I concluded that my efforts in DOR were useless, I maneuvered a transfer of myself from DOR to SAO. This maneuver was similar to jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Several bosses in SAO individually warned me that under penalty of law, I, now as a member of SAO, could no longer acknowledge my discovery of the corruption in DOR. After six months of my missionary work in SAO, “Mr. Big”, in the heat of rage, ordered me summarily fired. That defective firing was a blessing in disguise. It opened the door for me to file an action in our civil justice system to establish a record that I had been blocked from getting into our criminal justice system. It also provided me with the 24/7/52/8 time and freedom to solicit support from numerous other so-called guardians of Colorado’s public trust. I contacted officials in all three branches of state government
This scandal could not have been kept from public attention without the willful and knowledgeable aiding and abetting within each of our three branches of Colorado government, the Denver press, and a Washington administration which blocked prosecution to avoid taking down a supportive sitting governor.
During the litigation of my being defectively fired, the same AGO, that had ordered the OCSF to quickly abort its investigation of organized crime in DOR, defended the state auditor. The AGO did this by having the state auditor swear on the record that there had been no evidence of fraud. I subpoenaed the state auditor’s files to expose his perjured testimony and prior perjured audit reports. However, the CGA crashed an innocuously appearing legislative bill through on fast track and obtained the governor’s signature in the nick of time to secure those files beyond the reaches of my subpoena. That fast track legislative bill which the governor quickly signed into law had transferred the auditor’s files to the control of the CGA. My efforts to get the CGA to cough-up those files produced no more than a legislative figurative nose-thumbing toward all of Colorado’s honest taxpayers.
I then surprised state officials by offering my own files, that they thought had been confiscated by the state auditor and thus were now safely in their control, for entry as exhibits in the civil litigation. My files thoroughly discombobulated the AGO to suddenly blurt out, without examining my exhibits, that they should be barred from exposure in this civil case because they were known to expose criminal misconduct in DOR. Lawyers out in the real world might well expect to trade-in their licenses for jail time for pulling a criminal stunt like that.
It is another long, sad story as to how the Colorado Supreme Court has dealt with the misconduct of lawyers while they are on state payroll conducting state business.
After some eight years in litigation, our civil justice system finally convinced adversarial state officials that enough was enough with their repetitive appeals. State officials threw in the towel and I returned to what was left of a normal life, having experienced loss of employment, character assassination, professional blackball, economic strangulation, violation of my civil rights, and direct threats against my personal wellbeing. Upsides to this are the invaluable lessons we all can learn from it.
You may expect the foregoing to occur only in banana republics, and certainly not in El Colorado.
Coloradans can work from public records to flesh-out the language for ballot initiatives to reform problem areas as addressed in the proposed reforms discussed below. We have a sufficiently strong foundation for Colorado to become the cradle for a potential ground swell of several meaningful and durable political reforms of national watershed magnitude.
I have suppressed the more prurient details, so "coloradoburning" can also serve as a wholesome, upbeat, and redeeming foundation for the civics curricula throughout Colorado’s school systems. This will enable the next generation of public servants to avoid the plight of the current generation.
The foregoing, though lengthy, covers a minor part of the details, leaving more unsaid than said. A full disclosure would diminish the peace and dignity of state government. Also, it would send a quiver up the spine of the good folks in Denver to learn of those who were molesting the public trust while on state payroll before they moved on to the payroll down at Denver city hall. Our priority should be to look forward, not backward. If further details are required to neutralize opposition to the reforms, I should be able to provide them.
If any state officials, from the Lamm/Romer glory years forward, deny knowledge of corruption in DOR, get their denials in writing as my files may have evidence impugning their denials. The extent to which top state officials have sheltered selective tax fraud may mean that all prosecutions of tax fraud in Colorado during the past forty years have been defective.
I continue to believe that the vast majority of people in state government entered with honorable intent to serve like champions. Granted, there is no fool-proof safeguard to prevent a few charlatans from slipping in. But, it is the middle ground that is our big problem. The middle ground consists of all those “would be/could be/should be” champions who are intimidated by the dark side of politics and the pathologies of the bureaucracy. They pawn their moral compasses, reducing themselves to chameleons, squatting in the system, taking up space, going along to get along, and thereby shifting the balance of power to the charlatans who would otherwise be out-numbered by the champions. Charlatans and chameleons control and fuel the poisonous counterculture.
Without the charlatans, we would still have chameleons gumming-up the works. Without chameleons there would be no problem, because then the charlatans would be in jail. In CGA chambers, protocol prohibits champions within those areas from openly protesting the counterculture which takes the bloom off many of the commendable things they do.
Champions deserve our praise while charlatans deserve our contempt. The chameleons deserve our pity like latchkey children floundering beyond their ability to perform in a responsible manner in the absence of protective supervision and warm cookies and milk
In politics, the coin of the realm is electability which often trumps integrity. Candidates’ life blood is the flow of campaign contributions blessed by party endorsement. One election year I urged some candidates to campaign on dealing with this tax fraud scandal. Colorado’s two major party headquarters responded, by jointly issuing a so-called “code of campaign ethics”. That code did little more than threaten sanctions against any candidates who exposed wrong doing of others, which, if they had campaigned against the tax fraud, would have exposed the corrupt participating officials..
My lengthy efforts with local criminal justice produced little more than the explanation that public officials in their crime district are sheltered from prosecution for crimes committed in public office. Visits with members of the press harvested no more than several excuses as to why they could not deal with it. The best excuse was a local newspaper’s designated spokesman’s argument that his paper would not expose the tax fraud scandal because his readers did not want to know about it.
The irony in the following conflict between the champions and the charlatans in our state legislature may blow your mind. Here is what happened. At the time charlatans were retaliating against me for interfering with what was passing for law and order in our tax department, legislative champions were passing two new laws. One is at C.R.S. 24-50.5-101-107, and the other is at C.R.S. 18-8-115. The first law, commonly known as “whistleblower protection”, placed a duty upon all state employees to report wrong doings in state government, with protection from retaliation. The second law, which was an amendment to the Colorado criminal code, is commonly known as “duty to report crime”. The second law compounded the duty of the first law by requiring all Coloradans to report their reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, subject to possible prosecution for failure to do so. In neither legislative action did the charlatans either kindle the flicker of conscience needed, or muster the presence of mind needed, for them to have openly grandfathered-in their own exemptions from subjection to these laws, which they were in violation of while the ink was still drying on the governor’s signature.
If you are already medicating for high blood pressure and were upset over the “Saturday Night Massacre” of Watergate fame, do not, and I repeat, do not read the following paragraph.
After a major court victory during my litigation, I wrote to our governor and our state treasurer that under state law, C.R.S. 24-50.5-101-107, I should now be allowed to take the OCSF back into DOR to finish the organized crime investigation which was so abruptly aborted when I uncovered and reported the tax fraud. Their response was not in writing. Instead, the OCSF suffered a “Thursday Night Massacre”. That fateful Thursday afternoon when strike officers left work, they had jobs, offices, cars, telephones, and suspect files. When they showed-up Friday morning, they had no jobs, offices, cars, telephones, nor suspect files. During the night office locks were changed, telephone numbers were switched, and suspect files had been carted-off by inmate labor. Local press coverage gave the “Massacre” the appearance of a soap opera.
For some politicians it’s a short step, from post-election euphoria of knowing you are the peoples’ choice, to the snake pit where arrogance substitutes for honor, deceit for duty, incontinence for integrity, and political expediency for public service.
The same newspaper, that protected its readers from the burden of having to know about this scandal, trashed space on its op-ed page as a scribe opined that there must not be very much public corruption in Colorado because so little gets prosecuted. It is trash talk like this that hinders that paper’s readers from understanding, that when public corruption has infiltrated criminal justice, its presence is determined by what does not get prosecuted.
For starters, we need public dialogue in the following areas which are ripe for reforms.
1) Create a firewall between the state legislature and the state audit function. It’s unfair when state auditors have to choose between perjuring themselves or looking for another job. Consider receivership for the SAO pending the reform.
2) Privatize the state audit function with financial incentives for full disclosure of irregularities in state government. The legislature should be required to release all state auditor files on DOR activity during the most recent past forty years.
3) Put teeth in the Colorado criminal code to subject corrupt public officials to public nuisance and forfeiture laws. We need a foreclosure on the negotiated payments of undisclosed amounts of money, to public officials charged with corruption, to supplement their retirement benefits if they agree to retirement in lieu of prosecution, thus keeping the public from learning the extent of the corruption and who else may have also been involved. Upon conviction, corrupt public officials should be required to disgorge themselves of their assets to the extent of the taxpayer losses due to the corruption and the cost of its prosecution.
4) Revise the statute on limitations on prosecuting public corruption to not begin running so long as the involved official is being compensated from public funds. We need to put an end to criminal justice declining prosecution on the grounds the corruption was covered-up for so long that the statute on limitations had expired.
5) Reform the process of selecting candidates for judicial appointments.This is a delicate matter on which I will withhold comment at this time.
6) Extend term limits to also apply to the Colorado judiciary, including the state supreme court justices. (See comment for 5, above.)
Several other areas can benefit from public dialogue, including a few such as:
"Perils of privy power” – This addresses the unauthorized/illegal power vested in the hands of public officials who are privy to other officials’ misconduct that has not been publicly reported.
The removal of the cloak of secrecy on grand jury investigations involving allegations of public corruption. A free society has an inalienable right to know the extent to which key witnesses and critical evidence are manipulated away from grand jury consideration in matters involving allegations of public corruption.
Aeration of the secrecy of supreme court proceedings regarding discipline of lawyer misconduct whether or not done while on the public payroll. This is self-explanatory.
The modification of term limits to achieve the original intent. (Complex, but solvable.)
Give consideration to possible remedies for the disproportionate clout of the Colorado legal community in the governance of our entire state, in the light of its demonstrated incapacity to govern itself.
Standing against public corruption is somewhat like standing against the ocean tide. It may not be a viable choice for everyone. There are some prerequisites. You need to live by faith and not by fear. Know who you are. Exercise patience. Control your emotions. When you look in the mirror each morning, you better see a very ardent fan staring back at you, because you are not apt to pick up too many more fans along the way. If you are doing it for tangible reward, be aware that it may get you no more than one extra sentence in your obituary—saying that some folks didn’t think you were all that much fun to have around.
I lack in health and resources needed to effectively complete the reform effort without outside help. Nor do I know what interest, if any, you folks may have. Rest assured, Coloradans, you do have the power to make Colorado a better place, if you so choose. My next step depends on the response, if any, that precipitates out from this posting. I hope some public service organization and/or financial angel is interested in participating in this opportunity. Don’t let this continue. Public corruption must be brought under control. I need your support. Submit your show of support to:
George D. Lanes
813 S. Lee Street
Lakewood, Colorado 80226-3974