Friday, October 31, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
So.... If this is true (remember, they said they'd be done in early August, and that didn't go so well), we have 7 Days of Drama starting Wednesday.
On Wednesday and Friday, Greg Hughes and Phil Riesen have the Ethics Committee conducting private hearings on their ethics complaints. This blogger is particularly irked by the private nature of these hearings. Think about it: If you are blasted in the media over a leaked ethics complaint, as Hughes has been, does it not make sense to have a public clearing of the air? This seems to be a manipulation of a process established to protect against just the sort of "October Suprise" many believe that this situation represents. If so, the process needs to be reformed, because a private vindication of a publicly aired grievance cannot possibly repair the damage to those who are innocent. As one person associated with Watergate inquiries who was later cleared of wrongdoing said, "Where do I go to get back my good name?" The Ethics Hearings may not answer this question, but whatever the outcome, the Legislature is certain to attempt an answer next year.
Then, on next Tuesday, the 14th, the Davis and Weber Co. Attorneys should present their findings in the Ellis/Empey/Walker probe. This could be the beginning of vindication for Walker, which is my sincere hope. I have endorsed Dick Clark, the Democrat, for this office due to the way this probe began. I challenge Richard Ellis to tell the public the truth in the wake of whatever the outcome of the investigation: Did your campaign receive legal services as an in-kind contribution from the UEA, or are your disclosure reports incomplete? This is a question I do not imagine Ellis will answer, but the public deserves to know.
To my friends, Rep. Hughes and Mark Walker, best of luck to you this week.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
First, a poker analogy.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.(Ecc 3:1, 7)Despite the loud and relentless nature of politics, there are indeed times for silence. But for the friends of Greg Hughes, it is a time to speak. Now.
With an ethics charge against Rep. Hughes now filed, the most explosive charge is based entirely on hearsay. Two different versions of the same conversation. But in the drive by media, such accusations can ruin the public's trust in their elected leaders. That's why I took today off from work: Greg Hughes has many friends, but we must speak. I spent today on comment boards, defending, explaining, attempting to give insight to the public, asking for them to withhold judgement. It cost me a day of leave time at work. But I refuse to stand by idly, while my friend has his reputation run through the mud.
By all accounts, I should be in bed right now. I will wake up in just a few hours to get to work by 6:30. But I can't sleep. It's happening again. And I'm not sleeping til I get this out.
It looks like Phil Riesen, Sheryl Allen, and the smear machine are lining up their next target: Representative Greg Hughes. Not content to have caused a media stir and near legislative ethics war earlier this year, Allen and Riesen are considering filing an ethics complaint against Hughes. KSL ran with this story tonight, which had been packaged neatly for John Daley. How else do you explain that KSL has the documents that were never filed with the Ethics Committee, and remain unsigned by the required three house members?
The complaint against Hughes seems to be three parts, though only the most explosive allegation is covered by Daley:
1. Hughes offered Susan Lawrence, a legislator dethroned in the 2006 election by Phil Riesen, $50,000 in campaign cash if she would switch her vote, or sit out, on Vouchers.
2. Hughes pressured people not to support Republican Ryan Wilcox against a sitting legislator, Republican incumbent Glen Donnelson, who lost in this year's Republican primary.
3. That Hughes attempted to pressure Margaret Bird her race against Hughes in this year's Republican Convention. Hughes trounced her handily.
Knowing Rep. Hughes, and having volunteered for a campaign event of his, with more to come soon, I knew something like this was coming. Right after Rep. Walker resigned, rumors swirled all over that Riesen and Allen were so pleased with their work spurring his resignation, that they would take on a new target: Rep. Greg Hughes.
That was months ago. The problem for Rep. Hughes: How do you counter accusations you know are coming, but that you have no clue as to the substance because you've done nothing wrong? Answer: You cannot. So when the lid blew off these allegations Tuesday, Hughes was anxious to get his hands on them. If you watch the KSL story, it seems that's what Hughes was on the Hill for: He came to confront his accusers, while Chris Bleak, Chief of Staff to Speaker Curtis, asked him to wait it out while Curtis checked the complaint's claims.
So now that the accusations are out, and the "bribery" accusation stands out, what do I think really happened?
1. On the bribery allegation, I have some insight. I was at the Republican Party in 2006 during Susan Lawrence's tough race against Phil Riesen. Parents For Choice in Education were very active in trying to find candidates to support, knowing that by having more Republicans in the legislature, vouchers were more likely to pass. So, my guess is that this is how this alleged conversation between Rep Hughes and Susan Lawrence probably played out:
Hughes: Susan, you're in ill health, and the Democrats aren't pulling punches this year. They've got Phil Riesen coming after you with guns blazing, and you need to be ready for the fight of your life. I know you don't like vouchers, but I think if the voucher folks know you are willing to listen to their ideas for a new bill, not even to vote for it, but just to listen, they'd be willing to offer you some support. Would you at least consider talking to these folks?
Lawrence: Thanks, but I think I've got this under control, and I'm just not comfortable with vouchers.
Hughes: Susan, it's going to take $50,000 to beat him. I want to help. Just let me know, and I'll see what I can do.
(Interestingly, Lawrence spent about 20k on her campaign, while Riesen pumped in about $45k.)
Now that's speculation on my part, sheer and utter speculation. But I'm confident that's about how it went down. Is that bribery? No way! It's like any other interest group: If, for example, Equality Utah sends you a questionairre, or wants to interview you to check your stance on issues, they will likely donate to your campaign if they feel you are someone they can work with. That's how this whole system works. No money for votes: It's knowing that, should vouchers or gay marriage or whatever issue the interest group has should come up, you won't ignore their voice mails, emails, requests for meetings, etc.., they will at least be able to talk to you and give their side before you cast a vote.
I have some questions, not the least of which is a question I raised about Richard Ellis and his complaint: Timing. When Ellis filed his ethics complaint, it had been nearly 2.5 months since the alleged bribe attempt, and Ellis had just nearly been eliminated at convention. And just as early/absentee voting is about to begin, Ellis files his ethics complaint. Convenient, eh?
Now, Riesen and Allen have dredged up this complaint. It's based on an event at least 2 and a half years old, and it is utter hearsay. And the letter Susan Lawrence wrote? It's dated September 3rd, 2008*. Thats 27 days ago. What in the world were they waiting for? Answer: This thing has October suprise written all over it. Maximum exposure, maximum damage.
This will not stand the sniff test.
Finally, one last thought. It's been 3 months since the Davis and Weber prosecutors got the Treasurer's Race probe from the Attorney General's Office, and still Mark Walker waits to hear his fate. Does anyone believe that, unless Hughes forces this into ethics committee himself, that he will have any chance at justice, and any hope but to be burned in effigy by the likes of Bob Bernick, Rebecca Walsh, and Holly Mullen? Don't bet on it.
It's 2:20 AM. There's more to this, but it will have to wait until tomorrow night.
*Edited 2:00PM 10-1-08. Originally a typo, I said "2009". Woops.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Earlier this year, I started listening to The Who. One of the Blue Dogs in the Legislature introduced me to it, for which I am grateful. One of their greatest songs is "Eminence Front", a song Pete Townshend wrote during the early part of the 80s, and the lyrics seem particularly appropriate during this time of economic uncertainty. Townshend's composition, both lyrically, and musically, depict flashy lifestyles, partying, and stylish clothes, all apparently the product of immense wealth. But Townshend is not deceived:
The drinks flow, People forget.
That big wheel spins, the hair thins, People forget,
Forget they're hiding.
The news slows, People forget.
The shares crash, hopes are dashed, People forget,
Forget they're hiding
Behind an eminence front,
Eminence front - it's a put on.
Take a listen to the song. Buy it on ITunes. Because as I watch this financial crisis, born out of Democratic housing goals, American greed, and inflated home values, I keep turning back to this tune: In spite of all that wealth brings, in the end, it's an eminence front. Because as "shares crash, hopes are dashed", people are remembering, you can only hide behind your wealth for so long.
So as I consider what I would do, were I making this $700 Billion decision that is as philosophically heavy as it is economically, remembering the transitory nature of wealth is an important reminder to put value on those things which truly matter.
I encourage everyone to take some time, and reflect on this, and pray that our Congressional leaders, perhaps as much as ever before, get some kind of divine wisdom on this decision. Because as phony as this eminence front is, wealth can do wonderful things for our lives.
Economic depressions may serve to refocus us, but certainly do not bring great happiness or greater prosperity to Americnas generally. Paraphrasing Neal Maxwell, though we may travel through fiery furnaces in life successfully, wise men do not line up for another turn. Whatever decision they make, it is my hope that Congress is not starting up the queue.
Monday, September 29, 2008
For anyone listening to Monday's debate between Huntsman and Springmeyer, this was quite evident. When Huntsman claimed "$1 Billion increased education spending over 3 years" under his administration (that's 40% more), Springmeyer countered with this:
"I don't know where Jon is getting his numbers, but off his own budget, it was just barely revised, public ed (in) fiscal year 2009 only provided a point three, 3/10ths of one percent increase in public ed...that's off your own website."(Let's not get into Bob Springmeyer refusing to grant the Governor the dignity of the title Utahn's saw fit to grant him, and just calling him Jon. It's a classic, yet classless political move.)
Huntsman is right, and Springmeyer is wrong. In fact, Springmeyer seems to be attempting to tell the truth in order to obscure the reality of what Huntsman and the Legislature have done for public education, but he fumbles the truth and ends up lying. In fact, .3% is not the number in 2009, it's 3.0%. That sounds small, but it's over $92 Million dollars. Feel free to check me on this, but the budget is clear at http://www.governor.utah.gov/budget/Budget/Agency%20Summaries/FY2009/14_Public%20Education.pdf He may not of intended it, but by attempting to muddy the waters on education funding, Springmeyer ends up lying.
On another note, and a very boring one at that,Springmeyer whines that the Tax Commission is failing to release TC-23 reports, apparently in some sinister ploy by the Governor to hide public information. Now, for those unaware (that's 99.9% of Utahns), a TC-23 is essentially the Tax Commission stating what revenues are, and sometimes, predicting what revenues might be according to current trends. A forecast of sorts. What Springmeyer doesn't seem to realize is that the reports he whines about not seeing are reports that detail the first 2 months of the fiscal year that have only been compiled 3 of the past 10 years, and are generally just part of the Quarterly report issued by the Commission. So he's complaining about receiveing a report that is rarely issued, and that few people are even aware exists. Springmeyer is probably whining about this at the behest of Bob "Dirty Bernie" Bernick of the DNews, and Doug MacDonald, former Tax Commission economist. Are you bored yet? Me too, and Doug Fabrizio sensed the ticky-tack nature of this attack, moving the debate on.
But by all means, Mr. Springmeyer, continue fighting for those TC-23s. Send mailers out about it. Doubtless, half of the 1/10th of 1% of people who know what you are talking about will find your TC-23 complaints to be the main issue driving them to the polls...
One last note on the debate: Governor Huntsman gets the first ever Ninth Circle "Quip of the Day" for his take on the Salt Lake City Weekly. When asked about a Holly Mullen article in the liberal SLC rag, where Editor Holly Mullen (wife of Ted Wilson, who is a good Springmeyer friend from what I know) essentially says Governor Huntsman is a leader unwilling to use his political capital, willing to coast and not take on the issues of the day, the Governor responds in full dry wit mode:
"...that comes from a great newspaper, by the way, the Salt Lake Weekly, which is where I go to get all my information, since we don't have any other reliable papers in the state."Meantime, this is one thing the people of Utah should understand about their Governor: He is a diplomat, and a kind man, but do not mistake his gracious and calm demeanor for a man devoid of passion, intellect, or pride. In fact, in my 28 years, only Neal Maxwell has impressed me more with his talent for dry one liners. Having spent time around both men, these quips are rare, but always richly deserved by the target.