Like Gill, Rutt Bridges is a self-made man who rose from a humble background and earned a fortune developing software, and Bridges also hopes to use his compelling life story-and his fortune-to make his way in the political arena.
After graduating from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Bridges worked as a geophysicist in the oil industry, moving Denver in 1980 to write software that could analyze sound vibrations to help find new deposits of oil and gas. After years of struggle and debt, the software eventually became hugely popular in the industry and Bridges made a fortune, with his personal wealth estimated between $30 million and $40 million.
In 1998 Bridges left the software industry and began pondering what he should do with the rest of his life. The next year he launched his own think tank, the Bighorn Center for Public Policy. Bighorn has championed several different causes, from the "no-call" list that cracked down on telemarketing to an unsuccessful effort to convert most Colorado elections to mail balloting.
Bighorn also floated a plan to place an initiative on last fall's ballot that would have reformed certain parts of the TABOR amendment. Bridges planned to fund that campaign generously, but the idea was called off after he and his staff decided the timing was wrong and they might lose. That decision proved to be a windfall for Democrats, as Bridges instead used the money he had set aside for that effort to fund Democrat-friendly 527s (groups named for the tax loophole that allows them to exist under campaign finance laws) and get-out-the-vote efforts