Friday, April 25, 2008

I feel it in my fingers...

I feel it in my toes, anti-incumbent fever, and the feeling grows. The top two stories (A-1 above the fold right below the paper's banner) were on the public's dissatisfaction with Utah politics.

One was on the Utah County Republican Party and a re-hash of the daughter delegate story, now with the new news that the challenging party caved. But there are more delegate accusations now.
The most inflammatory new allegation is that an unnamed party official tried to block someone from becoming a delegate because the person would oppose Bramble at the convention.

The accusation was made by a respected former state GOP officeholder who requested anonymity. He said a party official called him before last month's neighborhood caucus meetings in which delegates are chosen and asked him to help keep a woman opposed to Bramble from being elected as a delegate from his precinct.

Republican Party bylaws require party officials to remain neutral during a convention race between two Republicans.
There are more listed in the article, which you can read about if you are interested. Suffice it to say, the local party activists are clearly VERY unhappy with their current leadership. Otherwise, all of these complaints would not be getting in the newspaper.

Next up, a "How corrupt is your state rep/senator?" article. They make this great graphic.

A computer-aided search of those candidates by the Deseret News shows GOP Utah County incumbents on average got $4,984 so far this year from special interests, while the GOP candidates challenging those incumbents got, on average, only $267 from special interests.

"Special interests always want to give to a winner," says Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. "And incumbents are proven winners. In Utah, particularly, where corporate giving is allowed, that is the lowest-hanging fruit for incumbents. So they take that easy money instead of working harder to raise money from individuals and constituents. Challengers can't get the special-interest money, so they have to go to individuals."
As usual, Kirk Jowers does my work for me, explaining a critical point. But his comment doesn't explain this:
Earlier this month, House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, told his GOP caucus that the House Republican PAC would give money to incumbents who are being challenged within the party — a new policy for House GOP leaders, who used to give money only after the Republican nominees were picked.

So what does the Deseret News consider a "special interest?" anyway?
Some special interests gave to virtually all of the incumbents seeking re-election in Utah County. EnergySolutions donated to 13 of the 14 GOP incumbents (all but Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork). Injury law firm Robert J. Debry & Associates gave to eight; the Utah House Republican Election Committee (a legislative leaders' PAC raising money mostly from special interests) gave to seven; Siegfried & Jensen gave to six, for example.

The pro-voucher Parents for Choice in Education was offering significant help to four pro-voucher incumbents facing challenges — and was the single-largest donor overall to Utah County incumbents among special interests at $5,044 total.
Now there is nothing wrong with advocacy groups contributing to people who they support because the politician agrees with them on their issue. The strategy of "buying access"--giving money to who you think will be the winner in hopes that you can later talking him into voting your way--is troubling. But this next practice really ought to be illegal in Utah (it is illegal in many other states and at the federal level):
Sometimes special interest donations allowed lawmakers to put money directly into their own pockets. For example, Dougall gave himself $10,314 to repay an old campaign loan he had made. (He faces no opposition Saturday.) [Rep. Christopher] Herrod [(R-Provo)], who does have opposition, similarly took $5,000 to repay himself for old loans.
Paying back loans they once made to their campaign is just a step or two away from using that money to buy themselves a boat or a house. I will be shocked if incumbents don't fall both at the primary and at the general election stages of this year's legislative elections.

1 comment:

Brian Watkins said...

I will be shocked if incumbents don't fall both at the primary and at the general election stages of this year's legislative elections.

Really? I've been watching Utah county politics for a few years and I'd be shocked if any of the incumbents fall or even com seriously close. Abusive cronyism and outright thievery seems to be what the Utah County Republican Party stands for.

I expect it to continue that way until we Democrats figure out how to win an election or two down there in Happy Valley.