Take Christopher Brauchli literally and in January 2009, when a certain president returns to cutting sage brush in Crawford, this attorney might actually have to work to find material for his columns.
But who’s he kidding? In person, as in print, Brauchli trades in sarcasm. Witness this Swiftian lead from a column about the estate tax and minimum wage from last August:
“The poor are such a nuisance. Just when Congress tries to bring sense to its self-created chaos, the poor get in the way. The most recent example is the collision between the very poor who are paid the minimum wage and the very rich that happen to die.”
While there are stranger things than an outspoken liberal lawyer in liberal Boulder—home to the Tibetan Buddhist Naropa University, Wild Oats health food stores and more granola grannies than a Chicago Seven reunion tour—Brauchli’s weekly column, “The Human Race and Other Sports,” is more than a manifestation of the local political sensibility. It grew out of a popular lawyerly pastime: ribbing fellow lawyers.
“When I was president of the Boulder County Bar Association, lawyers were expected to deliver homilies each month to their colleagues, and I found it really patronizing,” Brauchli recalls. “So I started making fun of us.”
For nearly three decades, Brauchli did just that in a monthly column called “From the Wool Sack” for the Bar Association’s journal, The Colorado Lawyer. He soon found that his interest in ripping lawyers was superseded by his desire to let loose on politicians. As he became more political, he found more appropriate outlets, like the Longmont Daily Times-Call and Boulder’s Daily Camera. For a time he even self-syndicated his work with runs in the Los Angeles Times, the Laramie Daily Boomerang and other papers around the country.
Today Brauchli is syndicated through a host of progressive Web sites like Common Dreams, CounterPunch and Spot-on—all of which publish a spectrum of liberal opinion. And while, at 72, he might be outside the core blogger demographic, Brauchli appreciates Internet publishing as much as, if not more than, his younger colleagues.
“When I started this in ’85, I would go every Saturday morning to the library and I’d paw through the newspapers,” Brauchli recalls of his days clipping files. “With the Internet, when I finish a column I go online to see if I missed anything.”
Of course, the Net produces its own riddles in the form of seemingly instantaneous responses.
“Some people send back one and two pages commenting on a column and expressing their opinion, and I just wonder who in the world has the time to respond to a guy who they’ve never heard of? It’s just amazing to me,” Brauchli says.
Brauchli enjoys more free time these days since becoming of counsel at Hutchinson Black and Cook, where he landed in 1999 after 35 years with his own firm. His work mostly involves estate planning, trusts and wills. This leaves him more time for politics, as well as his other passion: playing violin in an amateur string quartet.
The question of what to write has never been tough for him: whatever makes him angry.
“I get an awful lot of e-mails from people saying, ‘Write about this,’ ‘Write about that,’ and I just have a standard reply: ‘George Bush sends me all my material.’”
Reading the archives on his Web site, www.humanraceandothersports.com, one finds this isn’t quite the case. Among those who have provided fodder for Brauchli: Pervez Musharraf, Imelda Marcos, the Chinese government, Catholic bishops, the pharmaceutical industry’s Washington lobby and the many problematic fronts on the war on terror. The corruption and self-righteous arrogance of the political class are favorite themes.
While being an outspoken political attorney might have its drawbacks—Brauchli says a small number of clients have steered from him because of his views—mostly it’s a logical extension of who he is: someone not inclined to keep his mouth shut.
“People ask me why I do it and I say, ‘If you have a spleen, you should vent it once a week.’”