Sunday, April 05, 2009

Envision Ogden Political Contribution Money Laundering Scandal Redux

Ace Reporter Schwebke continues to dig and report

Top notch Scott Schwebke writeup in this morning's Standard-Examiner, shedding more light on details of the Envision Ogden political contribution money laundering scandal. Ace Reporter Schwebke has been playing the gumshoe this week doing interviews, and adds this additional info to what's become a rapidly developing and eye-opening story:

1) Political Donors: Schwebke has interviewed several; and to the last one of them he quotes, none admits to having been told beforehand that their donations would be applied to the campaigns of Eccles, Johnson (or Godfrey.) Most are expressing their ire and righteous indignation; one isn't.

2) Envision Ogden: Mr. Schwebke clarifies who currently runs Envision Ogden. Jeff Lucas admits to being the current Treasurer. Abe Shreve, who's currently lying low, apparently still heads the organization.

3) Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate (FNURE): Although the facts surrounding this shadowy organization still remain murky, Mr. Schwebke does add several tantalizing facts to the story plot. While Blain Johnson goes on record to the extent of representing that FNURE was operated by employees of a title company (Lincoln Title, which operates from Mr. Johnson's office building,) Johnson mysteriously and inexplicably refuses to name names. Even more strangely, attorney Mel Smith, both a partner in Johnson's law firm and the owner of Lincoln Title, claims he knows nothing of FNURE at all. And to top it all, Jeff Lucas, the Envision Ogden treasurer who would have presumably written $20 thousand+ in checks to FNURE, claims he doesn't know beans about this shadowy campaign funds middle man either. The silence on this aspect of the story is deafening, and strains credibility, to say the very least.

Although Mr. Schwebke has done some fine work on this story, there still remains much to be done.

Among other things, it would be interesting to get more information on Envision Ogden's Salomon Center Sneak Preview. Did Envision Ogden actually lease the rec center for the night, or did Boss Godfrey merely provide them keys to the place gratis?

32 comments:

whew! P.U. said...

It's time to get out those expensive sniffers the City bought a few years back. I am pretty sure if they fire those babies up it will lead them to the raunchy details of Envision Ogden, and FNURE.

See Below said...

Smells like Dog Crap!

RJ Svengali said...

Although the silence sounds deafening when worthy reporters such as Mr. Schwebke queries FNURE, one can be certain there is occurring lengthy, intense, secretive and clenched gnashing teeth conversations late into the night between Blain Johnson, the hourly employees of Lincoln Title, owner Mel Smith; also Mayor Godfrey and his pocket-rocket city attorney shout back and forth, we can almost here them from out our window.

These would be the type of phone calls where the participants go out into the yard, so that spouses and children are not able to eavesdrop.

The Godfr-Damn is evidencing cracks that poorly trained civil engineers did not foresee; no one wants to be caught withour sandbags in the flatland below when the Godfr-Damn is breached; while up in the formerly pristine mountain valley, one sudders tho think what might lay in the mucky bottom of that ill-conceived public reservoir?

A politico might add: the civil engineers need to return to university and complete a refresher course in corruption 1010.

Their brand of corrupt public stewardship is a embarrassment to on corrupt politicians statewide.

We luv dis town, yo.

ET said...

Reporter Scott Schwebke's article is attracting some interesting comments:

"Just_the_facts:..........Thank you Mr. Schwebke, for writing such a clear article, to follow up with all the questions left unanswered by your SE article on Envision Ogden from last week. Not to mention all the questions asked in the threads of that article. As well as the comment threads on Envision Ogden articles on WCF.

I was shocked to read that Jeff Lucas reported to you that he did not know what FNURE was:

"...Little is known about FNURE. Jeff Lucas, an accountant from Morgan who is treasurer of Envision Ogden, said he has no information about the organization. The organization is listed as Northern Utah Friends of Real Estate on Envision Ogden's federal disclosure report.....In 2007, Envision Ogden donated $1,500 directly to Johnson's election campaign and $20,700 to Northern Utah Friends of Real Estate, IRS records show. FNURE then provided $10,990 to Johnson and $9,700 to Eccles from the funds it received from Envision Ogden........"

As many people reading this article and comments know, and as stated above, Jeff Lucas, accountant/ treasurer of Envision Ogden, wrote all the checks for any funds dispersed out of Envision Ogden bank account. Most treasurers & accountants would want to know what the funds were going for. It would be their job to inspect any bill they had to pay, as well. And be sure that the bill was correct re services rendered. I am sure Jeff Lucas looked into FNURE, before writing checks for such LARGE AMOUNTS, as reported above. To determine what services would be RENDERED to Envision Ogden by FNURE. So my guess is that he is merely just trying to dodge a bullet headed for him. Ditto Abe Shreve. Neither one of them, based on what I have read here and on WCF, wants to be hung out to dry for the sake of Envision Ogden OR FNURE. Who would?"

Bullet Sponge said...

If this mess keeps getting worse Dan S. is going to need bodyguards. I nominate Svengali and his 5 gun-toting pals.

I love the poo-pooing of this serious issue though... "Oh we got caught stealing? We'll just put the merchandise back on the shelf and no harm done!" lol right.

Curmudgeon said...

Over a century ago, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew one of the most famous political cartoons in American history. It depicted the Tweed Ring in NYC, headed Nast believed by the then-notorious "Boss Tweed" with each member of the ring pointing the finger of blame at the next one in line.

With so many involved in Envision Ogden's re-directing money donated to it to the Godfrey, Eccles and Johnson campaigns [without the knowledge of the donors] now claiming they don't know from nothin' or have no comment or, mysteriously, can't be found [the organizers of FNURE], or are hiding from SE reporters, perhaps Nast's "Tweed Ring" cartoon should be redrawn with Ogden faces and names.

A copy of Nast's cartoon can be found here." Enjoy.

G'n'R lives said...

Do we know all the political figures who took money from these organizations? Or was it just Eccles and Johnson?

dan s. said...

G'n'R:

It appears that all the FNURE money went to Eccles and Johnson. Envision Ogden also gave $1500 to Johnson directly, and made at least $4684 in direct expenditures in support of campaigns that included Godfrey's and perhaps others. Then in 2008, EO gave $2000 to Jeremy Peterson's campaign.

That's all we know. If there were other campaign expenditures they were probably smaller than these.

blackrulon said...

Will a "cure" similar to the one approved by attorney Wulliams make this all go away?

Conference Weekend Listener said...

I find it interesting that FNURE gave so much money to people running for office. I thought there are limits as to how much money an individual or company can donate to an individual running for office and if they give more there are reporting requirements?

More needs to be known about FNURE.

What kind of company is FNURE registered as, a PAC, a non profit an LLC or a for profit? Wonder based on their registration if they are in legal compliance with the size of their donations to the candidates? Also interesting to note that either on the same day that Envision Utah gave the money to FNURE (or the very next day), FNURE gave the money to the people running for office. Didn't even wait for the check to clear or allow for the mail to get the check to them. This tight a timing suggests that the money was hand delivered and as such people know who the people are on both sides of the transaction.

Nothing is more disappointing then when someone continues to lie to you when he knows that you know he's lying.

Blaine Johnson appears to be lying.

dan s. said...

CWL:

You're thinking of contribution limits for federal candidates. Ogden puts no limits on campaign contributions, nor does the state of Utah. Salt Lake City does, and Ogden could if it wanted to.

FNURE doesn't appear to be registered anywhere. But Ogden doesn't require PACs to register. Again, it could if it wanted to.

marvin said...

Dan: If FNURE has been operating as some kind of business, receiving and disbursing funds, shouldn't it be registered in Utah under a fictitious business name, even though it might not be required to register as a PAC? Most states have laws which impose that requirement on people who operate buwsinesses under fictitious names. Does anybody know the law in Utah?

History is truth! said...

Why doesn't the paper ever ask Godfrey why did he let the High adventure center be used for politics, and Does He get away with out ever being held accountable for what has happen here? He is involved in all of this but he will find a fall guy like shreeve to go to Jail and yet Godfrey is the one that is behind it all. Come on Newspaper lets follow the money and cut to the chase at the truth of it all.

danny said...

As a sometime critic of the Standard-Examiner I must say this article by Scott Schwebke was fine work. It's the sort of thing that newspapers are supposed to be about, and is the sort of thing that makes people trust their paper and want to subscribe to it. Very nice.

On the other hand, this level of lawlessness and lying by Blain Johnson now rises to level of needing to be reported to the State Bar Association. They couldn't care less about lawlessness and lying on the part of their members, but Blain Johnson's behavior makes lawyers look inept and stupid, and that is something the bar DOES care about.

City Councilman Blain Johnson, you arrogant, condescending, lying shyster, it's time for you to burn.

Insider said...

There are several highly suspicious PACs like the "Citizens for Private Property Rights", "The Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate"(FNURE) and various other "unregisterred" PACs which are used to funnel campaign finance donations from the Utah Realtors Association to candidates they figure will do their bidding. They decided apparently that the word was getting out in 2007 so they simply disguised the bribery money they claim is legal campaign finance donation money to go underground. They do in fact operate like organized crime syndicates and the Feds. have on occasion charged them Nationally with Racketeering under the RICO Statute I do believe and according to Governing Magazine.

The URA interviews candidates carefully and get pledges of support in exchange for political donations to prospective legislators. And they lieterally run their campaigns for them, finance them, etc. in exchange for their loyalty to Realtor Association drafted and written legislation.

Scott S. should look to Chris Kyler, Brian Kohler, and for Northern Utah Michael Ostermiller...all lawyers and the "rainmen" for URA under the table money lobby money and influence peddling. But of course to expose the most wealthy and powerful lobby group in Utah is to bite the biggest advertising "hand that feeds" the Standard Examiner. Little wonder why so many are afraid to out the perks!

democrat said...

Keep on complaing about the republican culture of corruption.

It will not stop, until you elect DEMOCRATS.

No republican will take down another republican.

curious 1 said...

As long as Republicians have R (LDS) behind their name democrates don't have a chance.

As a lifelong democrate and liberal it is frustrating to see illegal donations, unreported and unnamed sources being brought to light and it is business as usual in Utah. Until the citizens demand accountability and following the laws already there or making new laws to make them accountable.

Just filing ammended campaign funding doesn't make it right they should re-sign if they were honorable. I'm sure they know who gave them money and now want favors.

Bill C. said...

As Schwebke slowly probes deeper and deeper, City Attorney Gary Williams becomes through all appearence either very stupid, or corrupt.

RudiZink said...

Two reader comments moved to new article thread

PayPal user said...

Jeff Lucas is the person operating PayPal who took campaign contributions for Matthew Godfrey during the last campaign.

The fees paid to PayPal for this service were not listed on Godfrey's campaign expense sheet.

Jeff Lucas operating PayPal to earn his fee would certainly know who was using the service.

Mystic norman said...

$20,700 was donated by the Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate. Jeff Lucas is an accountant who tallied up the contributions and filled out the disclosure paper work.

He may or may not know who the FNURE PAC actually is and who is behind it since in Utah there is no legal requirement for PACs to disclose who they actually are and who is behind them.

Talk about deceptive and scheming and "mystic" secretive bull shit! But the the LDS are used to such since they have not filed any financial reports with the IRS since 1959. How the people of this State can tithe to such an unaccountable bunch of business people and lawyers posing as spiritual leadership, quorum of the seventy, apostiles, prophet, etc. is beyond any ability to understand.

But they do and are and thus seem perfectly comfortable doing the same thing year after year. Einstein's definition of insanity was what?...."Doing the same thing over and over...and expecting different results?" Or was that stupidity he was defining?

danny said...

Bill Moyers covers again, what no one else does.

Institutional Fraud

Ogden City Councilman Blaine Johnson, lying fraud, you went too cheap. If you're going to be a scam artist, at least do it for more than ten grand. Get out your clown paint, bozo!

For Honesty in Ogden's Politics said...

Danny,
You said, "On the other hand, this level of lawlessness and lying by Blain Johnson now rises to level of needing to be reported to the State Bar Association. They couldn't care less about lawlessness and lying on the part of their members, but Blain Johnson's behavior makes lawyers look inept and stupid, and that is something the bar DOES care about." The State Bar does care about the ethics of its practicing attorneys and they will investigate Blain Johnson's ethics concerning his campaign. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see his license suspended for some time.

It would be interesting to know what Mike Ostermiller's office address and whether he is connected with FNURE. He is very chummy with Godfrey so it wouldn't surprise me if he is the head guy of FNURE. Too bad that real agents aren't held accountable for their lying and cheating.

Come on Council, we REALLY NEED AN ORDINANCE governing PACS!

Insider said...

The Utah Realtor's Association has gotten "Michael" Ostermiller an appointment to the Davis County Economic Development Committee.

Talk about the "goat being in the garden"!

Kyler's brags (interview with Governing Magazine) about how they have "people" everywhere; on Commissions, Committees, Councils at every level of government (town, city, municipal, county) and not just running the Utah State legislature is a very rare "fact".

Ostermiller is the President and chief council of the Northern Utah Realtor's Association and partners with Kyler and Kohler. He would certainly know about the anonymity of PACs and the laws in Utah. But a law suit could well prove to unearth some of this dog excrement smelling manipulation by low lifes entrenched like parasites on the backs of honest Utahans.

Curious 1 said...

When they run campaigns out of their business and then deduct these expenses on their taxes we are paying for political campaigns.

Sue Wilkerson who supported Jeremey Peterson against Neil Hanson ran his campaign out of their office. How can she be the only realtor that has a monopoly in Ogden city for city owned homes. Seems like we should bid this position out or rotate it to get the most money for city coffers.

6% commission??? said...

I have a relative who was interested in purchasing a home in the central historic area of Ogden a while back. This particular home was one of the Ogden City porkjects where they buy a HUD home, have a FOM contractor go in and update everything and bring it up to current code then put it on the market listed with this Wilkerson character. If you want to buy one of the homes, you HAVE to go through Wilkerson's Terraventure office. My relative loved the home and felt good about the price but ended up not making an offer (and ultimately ended up buying another home in a similar area) because of the listing agent.

Ogden has enough employees in the economic development department- why don't they have one brush off their Realtor license and save the taxpayers Wilkerson's commission fees? These homes practically sell themselves.

RudiZink said...

Good point, 6%Commish

Bill Glasmann comes to mind. He's an employee of the Economic Development Department, and he already has a real estate license. And given the stalled pace of economic development in Ogden, he probably isn't doing much lately, aside from drawing a high five-figure paycheck.

Some enterprising Ogden City Employee ought to suggest this under Ogden's new employee rewards program.

At 6% a pop it could save some serious bucks, and would be a win-win for prospective home buyers and the taxpayers alike.

As an added bonus, it would cut another FOM sponge off the "FOM Gravy Train."

Definitely nothing wrong with that.

retired ogden realtor said...

Having read the last two comments, I think there may be some confusion here. If Wilkerson's HUD repo listings are subject to a 6% commissision, a buyer's agent would normally be entitled to a 3% split, leaving the other 3% as commission for Wilkerson as seller's agent. So there would be two commissions to be split if the buyer was employing his or her own agent. Are you telling us that Wilkerson nets the entire 6%, and that there's nothing left to compensate an agent who brings Wilkerson a buyer?

Curious 1 said...

Interesting how Wilkerson can develop property on 25th across from the old Weber Club and have a shared driveway for 2 homes. Some of the mayors friends can have special rules just for them.

I don't think she is interested in historical preservation, just out to make a buck at taxpayers expense.

Insider said...

"But a law suit could well prove to unearth some of this dog excrement smelling manipulation by low lifes entrenched like parasites on the backs of honest Utahans."

So much about the Utah Realtor Association is nefarious and lacks ethical standards we desperately need a representative lawmaker who understands what is and is not ethical. Then we need them to stand up against these low life's who have infiltrated the Realtor profession.

The one we got just is not cutting the program...just acting out and grandstanding without results year in and year out.

Why any Commissions? said...

Question for "retired ogden realtor"

Why is there a 6% commission? Why when virtually every other State in the Union allows home sales based upon the Internet?

Why is Utah (driven completely by the Utah Realtor Ass.'s) the only State which has blocked Internet sales and their much much lowered "commissions" of 2%?

But then I think you know the reason...

The notion that a City would fund RDAs and redevelopment projects using our tax money - only to in- turn allow a single Realtor, or any Realtor at all, to make a Commission whether split 3% and 3% between Realtors is not only immoral it should be illegal.

And it is any where else in America. Would be here too if the apathetic citizens and sheep of the this State were not mindless jellyfish with no backbone. You know the ones who believe everything the Bishop tells them to believe and who to vote for.

The more I read about poor Ogden and the shape its in from FOM, the more I shutter to think someone like Chad MacKay could be actually chosen to replace the Weber County Attorney based solely upon his very very distant relative David O. MacKay. Certainly not based upon any other real qualifications. And if he gets in, standby for RAM! You think it is bad now? The WCF needs to be coming out for Florance big time since he at least seems experienced.

curious 1 said...

Lets see, the city has a HUD home, fixes it up with city money in the thousands. Then puts in on the market with only one realtor and then pays a commission on the gross cost of the home.

So we taxpayers pay a realtor with friendly ties to the mayor a commision on the sale of the home. Sweatheart deal for the mayors friends, can't loose any money if you stay friendly with the mayor. Almost sounds like racquetering, or a Ponzi scheme or the mafia.

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