Tuesday, March 24, 2015

National Journal: Why Is Utah's Top GOP Strategist Trying to Take Down the Governor?

Dave Hansen, a former Republican Party chairman and adviser to Orrin Hatch and Mia Love, is working for Gov. Gary Herbert's likely challenger
Do I think that Utah's been doing well? Yes. Do I think it's been because of who was serving in the governor's office? I don't know necessarily that's true. I think that the legislature, I think the entrepreneurs and the business people in the community probably have a greater responsibility for the economic stability that we have here in this state. And I think that Jonathan can continue to make sure that Utah prospers, and I think with some new ideas and some fresh ideas will help.
Dave Hansen, Jonathan Johnson Campaign Manager
Why Is Utah's Top GOP Strategist Trying to Take Down the Governor?
March 22, 2015

[Herbert] is about as untouchable as it comes.I guess I'm sure Jonathan would tell you with a straight face that he's in it to win it, but right now I feel like it's completely out of his hands.
Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
Why Is Utah's Top GOP Strategist Trying to Take Down the Governor?
March 22, 2015

Interesting story concerning the Utah Governor's race, as we gear up for the upcoming 2016 Utah General Election. It seems that our "conservative-lite" Utah Governor is already experiencing some apparent intra-GOP "teas-party-style" flack, a full 19 months before our November, 2016 vote tallies. Here's the lede, folks:
Utah's Gary Herbert is one of the most popular governors in the country. Republicans adore him in his heavily conservative state. Yet one wealthy Republican is planning to take him on—and Utah's most prominent GOP strategist, Dave Hansen, has joined the effort.
Hansen, a former state party chairman, has spent recent years promoting the Utah GOP establishment. He helped Sen. Orrin Hatch navigate his 2012 primary and managed Mia Love's successful House bid, one of national Republicans' top target races in the country, in 2014. Now, Hansen has signed on to manage the gubernatorial campaign of Overstock.com chairman Jonathan Johnson, who would have to unseat Herbert in the GOP primary.
Hansen said he has nothing against Herbert but a desire for change grounded in his belief that governors should not serve more than two terms, which Herbert hasn't technically done yet. Herbert became governor in 2009 when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman resigned to become the U.S. ambassador to China.
Check out the full story, WCF political wonks:
"An aide who works for Johnson's PAC, Alex Iorg, said Johnson would start fielding interview requests come July or August 'when we get closer to the announcement.' But a well-staffed effort to take down Herbert is well underway, and it has one of Utah's most connected GOP players at the helm," according to Sunday's National Journal story.

This, folks will be an interesting race to watch, wethinks.

Comments, anyone?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Former Utah House Representative Carl Wimmer: The Role of The LDS Church in Utah's Politics

Our take?  There's an 800-pound Gorilla on Utah's Capitol Hill

In the interest of kick-starting a possible Friday morning Weber County Forum discussion, we'll highlight this extraordinary expose' from the "An American Dream Revealed" blog, authored by former 52nd House District State Representative, Carl Wimmer.

Here's the lede, folks:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just passed a pro-LGBT piece of legislation in Utah.
Does that sound odd to you? It does to me, but it is essentially true.
For years, there have been those in the Utah legislature who have pushed for statewide legislation that would prevent businesses and landlords from prohibiting homosexuals from working at their business or renting a home from them; they called it a “statewide anti-discrimination” bill.
And for years the legislation failed.
Year after year the bill sponsor would bring the bill forward simply to have it die before it got off the ground, but this year was different. This year the most powerful entity in the state of Utah, the LDS Church, endorsed the legislation.
This year the legislation passed.
Having served in the Utah legislature, I have been asked several times what role the LDS Church really plays when it comes to Utah politics, and until now I have remained largely silent. While in the legislature I was a faithful member of the LDS Church; to speak of things that might bring embarrassment to the church would have been unwise, not to mention political suicide. Today, the issue is very topical with the recent passage of the pro-LGBT legislation, and I feel it is time to break the silence and provide some insight:
Fasten your seatbelts; and read up, folks as former Utah House Rep Carl Wimmer "spills the beans":
Among other revelations, Mr. Wimmer presents a eye-opening anecdote, concerning HB116, an extremely controversial 2011 LDS Church-backed bill, dealing with illegal immigration and proposing the issuance of state worker cards to illegal immigrants.
The night HB116 was debated for final passage was insane. There was intensity I had never felt before or after on the house floor. It was the intensity that comes only from political bullying, and it killed me to know that this time the “bully” was my own church.
I was approached by a younger representative who was on the verge of tears. He expressed to me that he had just gotten out of a “PPI meeting” and asked if I had had mine yet. I knew what he meant and I was sorry for him.
A legitimate “PPI” or “Personal Priesthood Interview” is conducted within the confines of the LDS Church. It is an ecclesiastical meeting between an LDS leader and a male member under their “authority.” When I was an Elders Quorum President, I held PPI’s with the elders under my charge. A PPI is used to check on the spiritual welfare of the man being interviewed, and to make sure they are on the “straight and narrow.” But that is not what this legislator meant…
What he had just experienced was an intense, closed-door meeting with select members of house leadership and the LDS Church lobbyists who made it abundantly clear that when HB116 came up for a vote, he was to support the bill, period.
"So, what role does the LDS Church really play when it comes to Utah politics? From my experience, it all depends on how badly the church wants a specific piece of legislation passed," says Mr. Wimmer.

Our take?  There's an 800-pound Gorilla on Utah's Capitol Hill.

A Weber County Forum Tip o" the Hat to former State representaive Wimmer, for forthrightly providing this useful "insider's insight" into the often enigmatic interworkings of our Utah State legislature.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nation of Change: The Quiet Plan to Sell Off America’s National Forests

If  Rep Ivory succeeds in enlisting Rep. Bishop and the rest of our Republican dominated U.S. congress in this knuckle-headed scheme,  Ivory will no doubt get the last laugh

Distrurbing news item picked up by your blogmeister from the Nation Of Change website yesterday, whilst googling.  Here's the lede, folks:
A proposal to seize and sell off America’s national forests and other public lands could make its way into the House GOP’s budget resolution when it is announced this week.
In a recent memo to the House Budget Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, proposed that America’s public lands be transferred to state control. He then requested $50 million of taxpayer money to be spent to enable transfers to “start immediately.” The memo states that public lands “create a burden for the surrounding states and communities,” and “the solution is to convey land without strings to state, local, and tribal governments.”
Bishop’s plan and similar proposals to give away America’s public lands are controversial. A majority of voters in those regions believe the proposals would likely result in states having to raise taxes, open prized recreation areas to drilling and mining, or sell lands to private interests to cover the substantial costs of management.
Despite these concerns — and despite the fact that these proposals are extremely expensive, unpopular, and most importantly, unconstitutional — there is a strong likelihood that Rep. Bishop’s request will be included in the House GOP’s budget, thanks to intensive lobbying efforts by a handful of right-wing politicians and special interest groups.
Read the full story, Weber County Forum readers:
Surprise of surprises, Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory's grubby fingerprints are all over this cheesy plan to dispose of our precious public lands:
As reported by E&E Daily, the American Lands Council (ALC), an organization founded by Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory (R), hired a lobbyist at the end of last year to “educate congressional lawmakers on the benefits of relinquishing federal lands to the states.” Federal lobbying disclosure forms show that the ALC paid the lobbyist, Michael Swenson, $150,000 for just three months of lobbying work.
Cutting to the chase, we'll shine the spotlight upon this particularly disturbing paragraph:
A recent flood of state-level proposals to seize and sell off America’s public lands is the result, in part, of efforts by the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to disseminate ‘model legislation’ to conservative lawmakers in Western states.
Perhaps some of us had previously believed that the ethically-conflicted Rep Ivory had been merely tilting at windmills, in his all-consuming (and seemingly comical) quest to pull off  his proposed "sagebrush rebellion-style" land-grab:
Take our word for it, people.  If Mr. Ivory succeeds in enlisting Rep. Bishop and the rest of our Republican dominated U.S. Congress toward adopting this knuckle-headed scheme,  Ivory (and the Koch Brothers) will no doubt get the last laugh, folks.

We'll be closely watching future developments in this story, of course.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Neglected Good News from the 2015 Utah Legislature

Keep on voting Republican, Utah Sheeple

In the aftermath of Thursday night's 2015 Utah legislature closing gavel, here are a couple of recently-neglected stories which deserve some attention, wethinks. Seems that despite a flurry of proposed bills to "kill" our Republican dominated state legislature's landmark SB54, the original 2014 corrective legislation designed to create a dual track Utah political nomination system remains wholly intact:
The Deseret News provides this politically optimistic story about what's thus coming up for our Utah General Elections in 2016: 
The remaining flies in the ointment?
  • James Evans' Crackpot Utah GOP "Leader" still has the Utah Gop's  silly (and soon to be dismissed) lawsuit pending.
  • The Tea-party dopes in Utah legislature (tea party Weber County legislator Scott Jenkins, for instancc)  will still have the soon-upcoming 2016 Legislation to KILL SB54, once and for all.
Don't let the Cat get yer tongues.  And keep on voting Republican, Utah Sheeple.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Utah Supreme Court to Hear GRAMA Case on AG Investigation into Ogden Political Group - Updated

Weber County Forum Tip O' The Hat to the ever-persitent Ogden political watch dog, Dan Schroeder, along with the best of luck, as this long-prolonged matter finally comes up for adjudication in the Utah Supreme Court

Encouraging news via regular Weber County Forum contributor Dan Schroeder :

The Utah Supreme Court will soon hear oral arguments in a four-year-long dispute over records of the Attorney General’s criminal investigation of Envision Ogden, a mysterious political group formed in 2007.

Envision Ogden was organized in early 2007, ostensibly to promote economic development and recreation in Ogden. The group quickly raised over $87,000 in donations, much of it from businesses and other organizations including banks, hospitals, the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Then-mayor Matthew Godfrey solicited most of the major contributions to the group.

Unknown to the donors, however, Envision Ogden then funneled most of its net revenue--over $30,000--to political candidates and to the Utah Republican Party. Over $20,000 of these funds went to two Godfrey-supported city council candidates, who reported that they received the funds not from Envision Ogden but from an even more mysterious, unregistered entity called Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate. Envision Ogden further concealed its political nature by failing to register as a 527 political organization with the IRS until 2008, after its fundraising activities had ceased. (The name “Envision Ogden” may also have been intended to deceive donors, some of whom confused the group with Envision Utah, an unrelated nonprofit organization that promotes long-term urban planning.)

When Envision Ogden’s political nature was discovered in 2009, the Attorney General’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal investigation into possible felony violations including communications fraud and money laundering. However, the investigation stalled for nearly two years until it was finally closed in March 2011, around the time that the statute of limitations would have expired. No criminal charges were ever filed in the case. Although an investigator interviewed several of Envision Ogden’s donors, there is no evidence that investigators ever contacted Mayor Godfrey or any of the political candidates who received funds from Envision Ogden.

As soon as the investigation was closed, Ogden activist and blogger Dan Schroeder filed a request for the Attorney General’s investigation records, under Utah’s Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA). The AG responded by providing some records including a two-page report and several email messages sent among its staff, but withheld other records--most notably a collection of financial documents that it had obtained via subpoena from Envision Ogden’s bank.

Schroeder appealed the AG’s decision to withhold the bank records and a few others, and won a partial victory at the State Records Committee in August 2011. Both Schroeder and the AG then appealed this decision to Third District Court, where in October 2012 Judge Keith Kelly ruled in favor of the AG’s decision to withhold the records. Schroeder, now represented by attorneys at Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, then appealed Judge Kelly’s decision to the Utah Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1, in the Matheson Courthouse, 450 South State Street, 5th Floor, in Salt Lake City.

The principal legal question before the court is whether GRAMA requires the government to disclose financial records obtained via subpoena in the course of a criminal investigation, even when none of GRAMA’s specific exemptions apply to those records. GRAMA does exempt many records from disclosure, for instance, when disclosure would constitute a clear violation of an individual’s privacy, or when a business would be put at a competitive disadvantage through disclosure of its financial records, or when disclosure would compromise an ongoing investigation. In this case, however, the investigation is over, while the financial records are those of a defunct political organization that has not made any privacy claim and that was already required by federal law to disclose its major financial transactions. The Attorney General argues that the Utah Constitution broadly protects the privacy of financial records even in such cases. Schroeder and his attorneys argue that the constitutional requirement was met when the Attorney General obtained the records through a valid subpoena, and that GRAMA provides no applicable exemptions in this case.

Besides the legal issues, this court's decision in this case will determine how much the public will ever learn about Envision Ogden and the Attorney General's investigation. Although the content of the withheld records is unknown, it is likely that they would shed further light on Envision Ogden's financial transactions, including transactions with the mysterious Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate. The records would also show what information the Attorney General's office had in hand when the decision was made to close the investigation without filing charges.

Copies of the legal briefs filed with the Supreme Court in this case are attached.
A Weber County Forum Tip O' The Hat to the ever-persistent Ogden City political watch dog, Dan Schroeder, along with the best of luck, as this long-prolonged matter finally comes up for adjudication before the Utah Supreme Court.

Update 3/17/15 3:00 p.m.: Better late than never, the Standard's Cathy McKitrick is all over this story, too:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Morning 2015 Utah Legislative News Roundup

Lawmakers can't come to an agreement on Medicaid expansion. Legislators approve a gas tax hike. Public schools end the 2015 session as big winners

Via Utah Policy, and upon last night's conclusion of the 2015 Utah regular legislative session, here are this morning's "top ten headlines," folks:
  • Lawmakers are unable to come to an agreement on Medicaid expansion. Gov. Gary Herbert announces they will continue working on the issue and sets a July 31 deadline to come up with a plan [Utah PolicyTribuneDeseret News].
  • Gov. Herbert recaps the 2015 session with us and discusses what legislation he's eyeing for a veto [Utah Policy].
  • Lawmakers get a hike in the gas tax through the legislature just under the wire [Tribune].
  • Public schools end the session with more than $500 million in new money [Deseret News].
  • Here are some of the minor budget items lawmakers spent taxpayer money on this year [Utah Policy].
  • A bill requiring the full legislature to sign off on relocating the state prison wins final approval and heads to the governor [Deseret News].
  • Legislators are unable to find common ground on school board elections, leaving how candidates are nominated in limbo [Tribune].
  • Lawmakers approve a pay raise for the governor and other executive offices [Deseret NewsTribune].
  • Gov. Herbert signs the non-discrimination bill during a packed ceremony at the Capitol [TribuneDeseret News].
  • Minority report. Rep. Brian King wraps up the 2015 from the perspective of Utah's minority party [Utah Policy].
Don't let the cat get your tongues...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday Morning 2015 Utah Legislative News Roundup

Via Utah Policy, and with the 2015 Utah legislative session set to wrap up at midnight tonight, here are this morning's "top ten headlines," folks:
  • With less than 24 hours to go in the legislative session, lawmakers are still at an impasse on Medicaid expansion [Utah PolicyDeseret NewsTribune].
  • Utahns overwhelmingly back a shift in Utah's criminal justice system focusing that's focused on treatment over incarceration [Utah Policy].
  • The Utah Senate hijacks a House bill calling for non-partisan school board elections, swapping it out with a plan for partisan elections [TribuneDeseret News].
  • Lawmakers are still trying to come to an accord over a gas tax hike [Deseret News].
  • The Legislature gives final passage to historic non-discrimination legislation that includes protections for religious liberties [Tribune].
  • The House gives final approval to legislation allowing government workers to opt out of performing same-sex marriages [Tribune].
  • The public is split on whether police should be able to pull over drivers because they're not wearing a seat belt, but they're solidly behind a plan to ban drivers from making calls behind the wheel unless it's hands-free [Utah Policy].
  • A bill to equalize tax revenue among school districts barely passes the Utah House and now heads to the governor [Tribune].
  • Lawmakers send a bill making game fowl fighting a felony to the governor [Deseret NewsTribune].
  • Former Governor Jon Huntsman joins Sen. Mike Lee's re-election campaign [Utah PolicyTribuneDeseret News].
Don't let the cat get your tongues, O Gentle Ones...

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