Saturday, May 31, 2008

GOP Fur Flies in the Utah Treasurer's Race

Serious dissension within the normally cohesive Utah GOP?

With the June 24 primary looming three weeks hence, things are heating up in the Utah State Treasurer's race. This morning's Salt Lake Tribune reports that GOP candidates Richard Ellis and Mark Walker are exchanging nasty accusations. Cathy McKitrick provides the essence of the story below:
What one candidate called "doing the right thing," the other has labeled a fabrication and dirty politics.
Such is the present state of the Republican race for the state treasurer's job, a snoozer of a contest in most election years.
Richard Ellis, the current chief deputy state treasurer, filed a complaint Friday with the Lieutenant Governor's Office, saying that Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, violated state election law by offering him a job if he'd drop out of the race.
"This is a Hail Mary pass." Walker said of the allegation. "With three weeks to go in this long nominating process, it seems my opponent is getting desperate and his only option now is to sling mud."
Ellis said his decision to file the complaint stemmed from recent media reports. The Tribune received a tip about a March conversation that included the job offer. Ellis confirmed it, while Walker said the talk took place but no offer was extended.
"It likely wouldn't have surfaced if The Tribune had not received a tip," Ellis said. "Now that it has come to light, it needs to be dealt with. It's the right thing to do and I stand by that, even though it opens up a can of worms."
Read the rest of the troubling details here.

And now that this matter has been referred for official investigation, here's the rub: Assuming the matter is ultimately dropped into Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's lap, there are pesky conflicts of interest issues also to be dealt with. Today's story provides the gist:
Under state law, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert will review Ellis' petition and determine if an investigation is needed. If so, the information gets referred to state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Shurtleff is a hefty contributor to Walker's campaign and has publicly endorsed him, including nominating him at the state Republican convention earlier this month.
Today's story also helpfully provides the language of the statute that Walker is alleged to have violated:
Utah Code Section 20A-1-608. Promises of appointment to office forbidden
(1) In order to aid or promote his nomination or election, a person may not directly or indirectly appoint or promise to appoint any person or secure or promise to secure, or aid in securing the appointment, nomination, or election of any person to any public or private position or employment, or to any position of honor, trust, or emolument.
Whether this current brouhaha is symptomatic of a genuine rift within Utah GOP ranks we do not know. We do however vow to keep a close eye on this developing story, and further express our confidence that Lt. Governor Herbert and A.G. Shurtleff will handle this matter in a manner consistent with the highest ethical standards.

As an aside... can we see by a show of hands how many Weber County Forum readers were even consciously aware that the State Treasurer post is actually a Utah elective office?


danny said...

Remember how during the city council election the lady who was running against reflexive Godfreyite Brandon Stephenson dropped out of the race after Godfrey appointed her to a commission?

The law cited appears to apply to that, except in Godfrey's case he did it to keep his lackey in office so the lackey could keep voting for Godfrey's spending so Godfrey could keep getting kickbacks.

In Godfrey's case there is one degree of separation that would probably save him and Stephenson from being charged.

Curmudgeon said...

Ha! Pikers. To see how the pros do it down in New Mexico, check out Tony Hillerman's reporting ["Mr. Luna's Lazarus Act"], included in a volume of his reporting called "The Great Taos Bank Robbery." He found a candidate for a local election in NM who was hired by a rival candidate to run against him [in a large field]. Mr. Luna, being Hispanic, was expected the siphon off just enough votes from the major opponent of the guy who hired him, to allow the man to slip in to a victory. But when the election was over, the guy didn't pay Luna what he'd promised. So Luna sued to get his pay for running an intentionally losing campaign. Hillerman found out about the lawsuit and unraveled the whole thing. Fascinating look at how ethic politics works in a highly multi-ethnic state, and at political skullduggery at ground level. I'm afraid even your Utah GOP guys have a lot left to learn about skullduggery, Rudi... but I admit they're learning fast.

Girlfriend said...

Walker is full of shit. He did violate the law when he offered Ellis a job. The political corruption in this race is unbelievable.

Walker was sure to lose his house seat this term to Democrat Laura Black. He truly is a do-nothing punk. So why would GOP leadership pick a loser like Walker over an experienced man who actually has experience and who is trusted?

Richard Ellis isn't part of the GOP Mafia. He actually has a soul. Too bad the GOP henchman are doing all they can to get Mark Walker, aka Landslide, elected. What do you think is in it for them?

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