Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Buttars watch your back

The political story of the day is about why Sen. Majority Leader John Valentine stripped Sen. Chris Buttars of his Judiciary Committee chairmanship but not his seat on the committee. (Sorry Brian and super obvious story)

According to Scott Sabey of the Utah Bar,
Valentine [told Sabey that he] had "taken a political hit'' for stripping Buttars of his chairmanship in February, after the senator wrote a letter chastising a judge for a ruling against [his] friend and political ally [Chris Buttars]
The Senate president feared he could lose his leadership spot if he kicked Buttars off the committee, Sabey told the [Utah Judicial Council, a] panel chaired by Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham and responsible for making policy for the judiciary.
Sabey told the council that Valentine feared that Sen. Mike Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, could beat him in a leadership election later this year if Valentine suffered any more political damage.
The bar association preferred to keep Valentine as Senate president, and was willing to give Valentine a pass on his prior commitment [to Buttars, Sabey told the council.]

In response, Valentine sounded like a drunken sailor: "My gosh," Valentine said. "There are parts of that that are accurate and parts of that that are like, 'Wow, I've never heard some of those things before.'"

Which parts are accurate, Sen. Valentine, the fear of Waddoups? Your prior commitment to Buttars? (Because Valentine just signed, along with other Senate leaders, a letter endorsing Buttars in the primary) Your sharing of Buttars's ideology? Your taking a political hit? That last one is most certainly true.
But Valentine said Monday he left Buttars on the confirmation committee because he spoke with the committee's new chairman, Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, a committee member, and they agreed he should stay on.
"If I lose the presidency to anybody it's because I lose the votes and I've got more than enough votes now and I'm not worried about anything in this issue that is going to affect the run for president," Valentine said. "This is really strange."
So I guess he is suggesting that the part about Waddoups is not true. But not that he never directly says Sabey's statements were false (either in that Valentine didn't say them, or in that Valentine was not afraid of losing his leadership position). Moreover, Waddoups has run for the job the past two times, and I am sure he would like it. So I don't think we can just assume that Sabey was making stuff up to impress the Judicial Council.

The fact remains that Valentine not only knew about the inappropriate letter to a judge who ruled against Buttars's friend, but also helped Buttars write it. Why won't any reporter ask both Valentine and Buttars what changes Valentine suggested Buttars make to the letter while it was being drafted? We all know Valentine should have suggested that Buttars not write the letter at all, and given Buttars a lecture about judicial independence and the rule of law. But the question remains what was he thinking, and why did Valentine do it? Sabey's account of what Valentine told him seems at least plausible and is the only explanation I have seen about why this all happened.

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