A treasure: newspaper clips and more at the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office

A small sampling of the newspaper clips regarding former Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan's "furniture caper." (SOS photo)
A sampling of newspaper articles regarding former Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan’s “furniture caper” after she left office. (SOS photo)

News clippings from former Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan’s “furniture caper.” Scrapbooks from her successor, Natalie Meyer. And an unforgettable feature on Colorado tax zealot Douglas Bruce.

My new intern, Colorado State University student Julia Sunny, and I discovered a treasure trove of items Tuesday when cleaning out my office for a painting-carpeting project this weekend at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. I was told that my predecessor, Rich Coolidge, took two days cleaning out the office when he left last year, but there was still plenty of stuff in the drawers for me to sort through and admire.

Douglas Bruce in 1993 hugs his big ball of string. The photograph accompanied a story on the crotchety architect of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

As someone who spent 35 years working for  newspapers before becoming the spokeswoman for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams last August, I love newspaper clips. Yes, they take up space, but they’re so much fun to pore over.

The 1993 feature on Bruce was written after voters the year before passed his Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. I’ve posted the piece several times in later years after Bruce made news, kicking a photographer on the floor of the Colorado House and a conviction on tax evasion.

But to see the story in print was something else. In the article, Bruce called the then secretary of state a “crook,” the executive branch of state government “pimps,” the state legislature “prostitutes” and anybody else opposed to TABOR as “drones.”

I had heard plenty of stories about Buchanan and her court battle to get on the 1980 U.S. Senate ballot, but I never knew about a fuss over furniture when she left office.

Colorado State University student Julia Sunny handles Lynn Bartels’ infamous TV tray on the second day of Sunny’s internship at the Colorado Secretary of State Office. She helped pack up Bartels’ office. (SOS photo)

From The Associated Press in 1983: “Former Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan, after weeks of negotiations with state officials, on Wednesday returned 13 items of office furniture she once denied ever having.”

And from The Rocky Mountain News’ Peter Blake: “The state closed the books Wednesday on the Great Mary Estill Buchanan Furniture Caper.”

Buchanan said she purchased the items, including antique chairs, as “surplus property,” but the problem was state law barred the purchase. A grand jury was threatened.

Some reporters whose names graced those newspaper clips are still around and reporting. Blake writes for The Complete Colorado. Neil Westergaard, then with the Denver Post’s Capitol Bureau, is now the editor of the Denver Business Journal.