Ironically, when Governor John Hickenlooper’s 2002 conservation easements (CEs) underwent an Internal Revenue Service review, it resulted in Hickenlooper paying the IRS $52,000 in a settlement agreement in 2010 (in the midst of his gubernatorial campaign). Nowhere does it appear that the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR) questioned the IRS’s determination or sought repayment of Hickenlooper’s State tax credits, reportedly in the range of six figures.
In an effort to reach an equitable resolution of the dilemma for the farmers and ranchers, as well as the CDOR, State Representative McKinley offered a very reasonable bill in 2010. HB1208 simply stated the CDOR must produce prima facie evidence of fraud within one year, else the conservation easements be accepted. It was defeated by intense lobbying from the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, an alleged front for the brokers and water lobby (special interests).
This is the second installment of a three-part investigative report from US~Observer.
At the onset (2003) of the impending controversy, now spanning a decade, J.D. Wright (land owner/CE donor of Olney Springs, Colo.), was told by a tax credit broker that his conservation easement (CE) tax credits were unsellable. Wright then called State Representative Spradley, only to be informed that all questions should be directed to Larry Kueter. When Wright inquired of Kueter to find out who in State government he could contact for resolution, Kueter reportedly replied, “No one. We designed it (the legislation) to avoid a bunch of bureaucrats looking over our shoulders.”
According to an appraiser who attended a public meeting in Golden, Colo., Kueter (the influential lawyer and chief architect who developed the Colorado conservation program), told the attendees: “…the program was never designed for the ‘hicks’ who farmed and ranched to the south, it was designed to benefit rich Coloradans like ‘John Elway’ who didn’t have enough deductions to give them tax breaks.”
Imagine you use a licensed tax preparer to file your Federal income taxes, just as you have for the past 10 years. Using standard lawful deductions, you have always gotten some money back or at least reduced your taxes. The economy crumbles and Congress re-writes the tax code. You subsequently receive a letter from the Internal Revenue Service that states you are responsible for paying back all the money you have received over the years (resulting from deductions), plus multiple years’ worth of interest and penalties. Crazy? You would think.
Now imagine that it is a State land scheme you are dealing with and that your property, previously appraised at highest and best use for conservation easement (CE) purposes, has just been revalued by the State (which has no authority to do so) at “zero” and that you are being ordered to repay tax credits legally given to you over the past years, plus penalties and interest. Welcome to Colorado’s CE program. Under the guise of conserving land and natural resources for future generations through CEs, the State of Colorado has abused and bankrupted law-abiding citizens in a bait-and-switch scheme worthy of national attention.
The right against self-incrimination comes from the 5th amendment and it is as follows:
… [No] person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…
The right is more broadly applicable than it may seem on its face. Clearly, the right provides protection for a person to refuse to take the witness stand during a trial in which he is the defendant. However, this right also protects a person’s right to refuse to answer questions posed by government agents at any time, except in very limited circumstances (e.g. you should provide your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information to a police officer upon request if you’ve been pulled over in your vehicle).
“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.” — John Basil Barnhill (1914)
This quote is so simple and yet so profound in its truth. How then do we, the people, cause our government to “fear” us so that we may maintain liberty and live free? I believe the answer is in becoming educated about our rights as they are memorialized under the law, especially under the U.S. Constitution. Without knowledge and exercising of our rights, there is no incentive for the government to honor them.
“The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms and false reasonings is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced, that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that; and cannot be wrested from any people, without the most manifest violation of justice.” — Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 1775
According to the founding document of the United States of America, the Declaration of Independence, a just government is one that secures the unalienable rights of every person. Those rights are, in general terms, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or “life, liberty, and property” in the original “List of Grievances,” 1775).
A question was posed to me recently that deserves a clear answer: “What is political morality?”
It was posed in the context that morality is different from one culture or ideology to the next. I strongly disagree with this notion. Instead, what changes is the culture’s peer pressure or coercion of its members to accept what they know to be immorality. There is a universal morality understood by all humans except a few sociopaths.
The US~Observer has recently started an investigation into what is obviously a scheme to fraudulently obtain ranchers’ and farmers’ property for nothing or next to nothing by using controversial conservation easements. From what we know so far, the major players in this scheme are the State of Colorado, brokers and land trusts made up of or directed primarily by attorneys. At the time of this writing, the US~Observer believes that the ultimate goal of the perpetrators is to get control of the ranchers’ and farmers’ land, which includes water, mining and development rights.
This process in the State of Colorado concerning conservation easements began in 1999, when the land developers asked certain attorneys to design a State bill that would allow tax deductions and tax credits to be generated in exchange for landowners to donate all or portions of their property to go to conservation easements, reportedly to preserve the land for “ranching, farming, and open space,” thereby preserving natural resources. This bill was introduced at a time when the State enjoyed a surplus of tax revenue.
NYE COUNTY, Nev. — In US~Observer‘s last edition, US~Observer Chief of Investigations Edward Snook wrote: “DA Brian Kunzi is almost frantic in his efforts to destroy Shirley Matson. Kunzi appears to be hiding some things that are extremely important (damning) and rest assured, we will find out exactly what they are.”
One of the most expensive residential properties in Tonopah, Nev., is owned by former Nye County Commissioner Joni Eastley and her husband Dennis. Let’s cut right to the chase, readers.
Would you believe the accusations of a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal record who has been in and out of prison and in trouble with the law since 1982 without corroborating his story? Bent County, Colo., Undersheriff Tandy Hasser would and did when she arrested 68-year-old Fritz Sturges based solely on accusations from an officially identified “habitual felony offender” by the name of David Elmo Henry Jr.
Henry’s rap sheet is so long, it appears he seeks to get arrested for something every time he needs a free meal from a government-sponsored jail cell.