Saturday, March 01, 2008

Josh Romney comes to his senses

Maybe Josh looked at all the money that Jim Matheson has in the bank, or maybe Jim's 59% victory in 2006, or the fact that Jim is the most popular politician in Utah, but I doubt the reason Josh Romney demurred running against Jim Matheson was the reason he gave to the press.
Josh Romney said Saturday he has decided not to run for Congress so he can spend more time with his young family after being away for much of the past year campaigning for his father, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"It's been a lot of excitement for the family, but it's been a tough year for us as well," Josh Romney told the Deseret Morning News. "We're just not quite ready to hop into another tough race."
Or maybe he is telling the truth, but he puts his family over service to his country.
At an "Ask Mitt Anything" forum this morning [August 08, 2007] in Bettendorf, Iowa, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quizzed about whether any of his five sons are serving in the U.S. military.
"My sons are adults. [Gov. Romney said] They’ve chosen not to serve in the military in active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. … And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president."
Now that Josh has served one "tour of duty," I guess he gets to spend the rest of his life in America with his wife and children, unlike actual members of our Armed Forces, the vast majority of whom have already served multiple tours of duty.

I wonder who the Utah Republican party will come up to be the sacrificial lamb against Jim this year? I vote ex. Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Buttars or House Speaker Greg "20 votes" Curtis. Not that the Utah Democrats don't have their sacrificial lamb duties as well for the guy that gets to lose to Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Friday, February 29, 2008

quote of the day

I don't usually quote LDS scripture, but a Mormon co-worker pointed out this line to me with regards to Sen. Buttars and his colleagues who like to throw around their power to intimidate others.
"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." --D&C 121:39
Pretty apt isn't it? Now for a more secular source:
"Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
--Lord Acton
Speaking of which, I have in my hot little hands a copy of the Buttars letter in its entirity. I am currently debating the ethics of posting a scan of it on the internet.

State Senators realize they're embarrassing

Sadly, I am not referring to those involved in the Buttars letter scandal, but rather the I.B.-schools-are-anti-American-scandal.
Although HB266 passed the House unanimously earlier this month, it ran into trouble when Dayton said she was "opposed to the anti-American philosophy that's somehow woven into all the classes as they promote the U.N. agenda," then voted with Peterson and Stepheson to kill the bill.
Since then, current and former I.B. students and their parents have deluged [Republican Sen. Margaret] Dayton and other lawmakers with e-mails asking them to reconsider. I.B. students from Syracuse Junior High School also visited the Capitol and [Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay] has worked behind the scenes to resuscitate her proposal.
"I talked to wiser, more reasonable people . . . who realized it would be an embarrassment to our state if that story went national," she said. "The public outcry was so big."
The one positive thing out of this was that these kids learned how to lobby their state legislature and they as members of the public need to keep a watchful eye on the Legislature.

Sen. Dayton apologized "for not being more appropriate" when she characterized International Baccalaureate programs as "anti-American," and blocked $300,000 for I.B. programs. Rep. Moss was able only to get a third of that money back.

My question is where did Sen. Dayton get her information that I.B. programs were "anti-American"? Was it the word "international" that scared her off? Or that fancy word "Baccalaureate," you know, the "B" in "B.A."?
"It's an extraordinary program," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday of I.B., in which his own son is enrolled. "We need more of them, not fewer." Dayton acknowledged Thursday that the program "does a lot of good things in Utah." She said she was concerned about "what happened in other states that had trouble with it" and worried about making sure entities outside Utah weren't controlling education.
What exactly has happened in other states that she is concerned about? Does she really think that some international organization is indoctrinating Utah children? The whole point of I.B. programs is that you take a test at the end that makes your students directly comparable to students at schools in the U.K. and other english-language based schools in other countries. I had a German friend in college who went to a college prep school with lots of kids from the U.S. embassy and American businessmen's children and he took I.B. courses so he could go to an American University.

Sen. Dayton blames her performance on her constituents.
"I apologize for not being more appropriate in my comments in committee," Dayton wrote. "It was my understanding that members of the public were planning to express concerns about the I.B. program. When they did not present in committee, I felt a need to reflect their concerns."
Does she and othose who wrote/called her really the same people who think the U.N. is trying to take away our guns and the government is trying to poison us by putting floride in our drinking water? If so, Sen. Dayton, you don't have to be their mouth piece. US Rep. Jim Matheson gets lots of letters every day asking him to hold hearings on Area 51 and how the moon landing was faked (I read some of these letters), but he doesn't give voice to those conspiracy theorists. He actually tries help Utahns by blocking Italian nuclear waste from coming into the state. Sen. Dayton could learn a thing or two from him it seems.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

mum's the word

Sen. President John Valentine just told his caucus of Utah Senate Republicans to shut the heck up and stop talking to the media. Because he knows the press is hunting for more Sen. Buttars stories.
"Be careful with your communications" is the message that Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, gave Wednesday. He has brought up the issue repeatedly during the GOP's closed-door caucuses. "We live in a fishbowl and everybody is constantly looking through the fishbowl. Remember what your communications mean."
What does that mean, 'Your communications mean pissing me off?'
"Just look at the statement," Valentine said, referring to a posting to the Senate majority's blog that stated while Buttars was exercising his "right to communicate his opinion privately with another public official" in his letter to Pullan, once the letter became public, Senate leaders were concerned it "may now have a negative effect on the confirmation process of new judges."

Valentine said Wednesday he is defending Buttars' right to express himself. "I don't have control over what any individuals do in any body. But what we do have is we do have a process that says, 'Be reasonable, be responsible with your communications."'

The Senate president said Buttars "really, truly believed that there had been an injustice. He felt like he should communicate that belief. He didn't call for action, he didn't say, 'I'm going to get you.' He said, 'I'm really disappointed."'
Or is he telling his colleagues to not be so stupid as to write a letter on Senate stationary when they are pissed? Instead, use the phone. That way, you can "have a different recollection" when confronted with your intimidation tactics. Folks this scandal isn't going away just because Buttars is not the chairman anymore (he still is on the committee).
"Any ex-parte communication attempting to influence a decision in an ongoing case is inappropriate," said State Bar executive director John Baldwin.

Bar president V. Lowry Snow has indicated that Buttars' removal from the chairmanship does address part of the bar's concerns.

Baldwin said the bar feels there is a need for "broader education" among lawmakers of the importance of a fair and impartial judicial system. He said the bar was not about to take specific issue with Buttars' letter but that any appearance of inappropriate influence on a judge should be dealt with.
Balwin is right, these Senators still haven't learned the real lesson.
There are indications that Senate leadership knew about Buttars' letter as early as last June. The Senate majority blog posting states that Valentine and others saw an early draft and that the Senate president "offered some suggested edits."
Inquiring taxpayers want to know, what kind of edits were they? "I think you should put a comma there" or "you forgot to call him a 'liberal activist judge' for ruling against your friend" or "make sure you hint at his confirmation process so he understands how much power you have over him?" Even it those "suggested edits" were in the nature of 'tone it down,' they all should have known better than to allow Buttars to mail that letter after he had shown it to them.

This wasn't one rouge Senate chairman on one of the most important and powerful committees on Utah's Capitol Hill, this was the collective 'wisdom' of a number of Utah Republican State Senators, apparently including the Sen. President himself--a member of the state bar.

More importantly, Buttars letter puts his terrible legislative proposals in a more sinister light:
As co-chairman of the Judicial Retention Election Task Force, Buttars spent last summer calling for change in the way judges are evaluated and retained.

He sponsored a bill, SB105, that would take the job of evaluating judicial performance away from fellow judges and place the task in the hands of a new bipartisan commission whose members would be appointed by the three branches of government.

Many judges, including [Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine] Durham, have said there is nothing wrong with the current evaluation system and do not believe the bill is necessary.
The whole point of the bill, it is now clear despite others' previous demurring, is for the Utah legislature to make the state Judiciary their wholly controlled subsidiary. If legislators get to set up the evaluation methods and be on committees that evaluate judges, and their evaluation depends whether a judge rules in favor of a friend of theirs, then we have no justice system. It really is that simple. Thankfully, Sen. Buttars also said stupid racist stuff, so hopefully his bills will become untouchable. Gov. Huntsman already has effectively shot down the anti-domestic registry bill by vowing to veto it. Now he needs to take a stand on behalf of an independant judiciary.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buttars' s slow-moving ethics violation

Remember that highly inappropriate letter Sen. Buttars sent out to a judge on Senate stationary? Well, it turns out my praise for Sen. Pres. Valentine's stripping of Buttars's chairmanship should have been more qualified:
In it, Buttars reminded Pullan that, as chairman of the confirmation committee, he had advocated on Pullan's behalf and was embarrassed by a decision he rendered against Gibby. He accused the judge of "bias" and questioned his integrity.
Pullan entered the letter into the court record. It also came to the attention of the Judicial Council, the panel chaired by Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham that oversees Utah's courts, which sent the letter to Senate leaders in June.
"We gave the letter to President Valentine for the Senate to deal with internally," said Richard Schwermer, assistant administrator of the Administrative Office of the Utah Courts. The council did not provide any recommendation with the letter, he said. "If we have issues, we let him know. . . . It was an issue. We let him know about it."
A spokesman for Valentine said in a statement late Tuesday that Buttars' letter was a "private expression of disappointment to a judge he helped confirm."
It was an exercise of the senator's First Amendment rights, and made no threats and demanded no action, said Ric Cantrell.
"The scope and impact of that letter changed dramatically when it was published statewide. Senate leadership was concerned the letter may have an impact in the judicial application and confirmation process," the statement said.
I am sorry, but that doesn't pass the laugh test in spin doctoring. Here's why:
Wendell Gibby [the "longtime acquaintance of Buttars" on whose behalf the erstwhile Chairman wrote the infamous letter] would be surprised if Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, punished Sen. Chris Buttars over a letter the latter sent a judge last May, chiding him for a ruling over a land dispute involving the Mapleton developer and city officials.
After all, Gibby said, Valentine gave the letter his nod of approval before Buttars, R-West Jordan, sent it.

"It would seem odd to me that Valentine would sack him for something he approved," Gibby said.

Moreover, the letter wasn't a "private expression of disappointment," it was a veiled threat laced with accusations of ideological bias. Since time and time again it is clear that Sen. Buttars doesn't know the first thing about the law, and more importantly, because it is unconstitutional (separation of powers anyone?), Buttars is the last person who should be telling a judge how to rule in a case.

The political scope and impact of the letter changed dramatically when it got released to the public, I think it is pretty clear that they didn't care about intimidating judges when they tried to sweep the letter under the rug when it was first brought to their attention.
Senate leaders had known for months about Sen. Chris Buttars' letter scolding a state judge who ruled against his friend, but let him continue to head the committee that screens judicial appointments until the letter hit the news media.
[Utah State] Bar President Lowry Snow said there was enough concern about the letter that the bar's board of commissioners scheduled a conference call Monday to discuss what to do about the issue. Shortly before the call took place, however, Valentine announced Buttars had been replaced as chairman by Sen. Greg Bell, R.-Fruit Heights.
Asked whether Buttars' removal as chairman satisfied the Bar's concerns, Snow said, "We believe it's a step in the right direction."
I am sure that was just a "coincidence." And getting the State Bar upset is worlds away from having the local chapter of the NCAAP or ACLU on your case, it is a big deal. Afterall, Sen. President Valentine is an attorney.

Sen. Buttars is becoming a burden and embarrassment on the majority in the Senate and Utah Republicans in general daily. This story has morphed from "is it racism?" to "is he unethical?" Anytime the story stays alive and changes angles, you know you can't shake this bad coverage. If I was Sen. President Valentine, I would demand Sen. Buttars not run for reelection or threaten to strip him of his committee assignments and possibly primary him. With the possibility that Utah Democrats might get enough seats to filibuster in the Senate next time thanks to vouchers, the last thing Senate Republicans need is questions about their ethics and overbearing nature.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Buttars late than never

It seems saying racist crap and threatening a judge who ruled against your friend while chairing the Judiciary Committee does have consequences.
Sen. Chris Buttars has been stripped of his chairmanship of the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee, which screens the governor's nominees for the bench, and replaced by Sen. Greg Bell.
Senate President John Valentine announced the change today, but would not say why the decision was made, beyond noting that it is the prerogative of the president to select committee leaders.
And this is what he spent yesterday doing:
Sen. Chris Buttars stood at a microphone at Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday and apologized to the congregation for racially insensitive comments he made on the floor of the Utah Senate.
"All I can do," Buttars said, "is say I'll beg your forgiveness. It was wrong. It was stupid. And I ask, if it's possible, forgive me."
Sen. Pres. Valentine seems to have stripped Buttars of his chairmanship more for the letter and less for the offensive comments. And that letter to the judge is really what makes him unfit to chair a committee overseeing the judiciary.
Reports of the letter, which the judge filed in the case as "ex parte communication," reportedly caused a stir in the legal community.
Retired University of Utah law professor John Flynn called Buttars contact with the judge "far beyond the pale."
"No elected representative should engage in that kind of conduct, particularly if they have a position of power in the Legislature dealing with the judiciary," Flynn said. "It's just not an appropriate thing to do."
As much as Sen. Buttars would like, this story has lots of legs. He should really compare notes with ex-Sen. George Allen, who could have been the presumptive Republican nominee for president right now if he hadn't called a college kid Macaca.

targeting the Mathesons

In 2004, Scott Matheson Jr. ran for Governor and had the misfortune of running against an as famous name--Jon Huntsman Jr. Now in 2008, it seems the Romneys are thinking of doing the same thing Scott's little brother Jim.
Josh Romney, son of former presidential contender Mitt Romney, says he's been approached about running for Congress against incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah. He says he hasn't ruled out the possibility.
Josh is one of the few Romneys that still lives in Utah and would pit Utahn's professed love of Mitt against their professed love of Jim.
"I haven't ruled it out," Josh Romney, 32, of Millcreek, said of becoming a candidate himself. "I'm pretty young, but I've had good experience on the campaign trail." Plus, he said, he likely could count on his father's supporters here in Utah.

He also has to consider whether he's ready to take on the rigors of another race and spend more time away from his wife, Jen, and their three children, Owen, 1; Wyatt, 3; and Gracie, 5; as well as his career in real estate development.

Josh Romney is the only one of the family's five sons who lives in Utah. His father, who served as the head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, was considered a "favorite son" presidential candidate in Utah.

Mitt Romney collected more contributions in Utah than in any other state except California and won Utah's Feb. 5 GOP primary with 90 percent of the vote. He and his family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as are the majority of Utahns.
As of the end of 2007, Jim Matheson has $859,823 cash-on-hand and won 59% of the vote two years ago. Plus, he is now in the majority and could get more dough if he is a target given that he is on a big committee and the Democrats are going to hold onto the House and Senate next year (and seem likely to gain seats). So that is the downside for Josh. The upside is that he will have plenty of free press and easy ability to raise money.

This is probably the most serious challenge Jim has ever faced, but now he is in his 4th race for Congress has built up a reserve of good will from people all over the district. And the standard attacks that have been trotted out against him have failed spectacularly in years past. Nevertheless, Utah was pretty immune to the big Democratic wave last year so another wave this year might not make any difference here. I would be really worried for Jim if Mitt was still in the race, but then again, Josh would be working for his dad if Mitt could still win the nomination.

The irony is that if Republicans had the Democrats' rules for delegate selection, Romney would have been in Obama's boat after Super Tuesday--essentially tied--and if Democrats had used the Republican rules Clinton would be in McCain's position. But since things aren't reversed, Obama is now in the lead for the Democrats and McCain is going to be the GOP nominee.

Jim Matheson hasn't decided whom to support this time as a superdelegate. Last cycle, he supported Gen. Wesley Clark, who is hoping to be Hillary Clinton's VP pick. Sadly for Clark however, that prospect looks unlikely, but he didn't say anything bad about Obama so he still could have a good position in an Obama Administration.

As for Jim, I think he would survive against Josh Romney, but it would be a lot uglier than his races in the past four years.