Something is fishy here. Senator Mike Lee is under attack. He’s a conservative Senator who ousted a Republican incumbent in 2010. He’s a strong voice for the Right, and refuses to be bought. There are only a handful in the Senate, and that’s what’s wrong with Congress.
Yet on August 13, 2014, one of Utah’s top two papers – the Deseret News – ran a story about alleged illegal campaign funds for the popular Senator Mike Lee’s campaign that were somehow tied to the Attorney General scandal that has two former Utah AG’s facing criminal charges.
Yes, I do believe that scandal is somewhat hyped and politically motivated. They typically are. That’s the nature of politics today. Republicans in the State legislature were quick to distance themselves from the scandal. Democrats delighted in the opportunity (Alliance for a Better Utah is very involved) as well.
It gets worse. The opportunity is also attracting others from the private sector as well now, including a man who has filed a $33 million civil law suit against former AG Swallow claiming that he was the cause of their losing their home in exchange for a campaign donation.
There’s blood in the water, and this is beginning to look more like a vicious shark attack.
What evidence do I have that the AG scandal now linking Mike Lee is at least in part politically motivated?
According to the Deseret News article, now Bob Bennett’s “mainstream Republicans” and his ardent supporters are in the game. Mike Lee unseated Bob Bennett in 2010. This group includes the DC lobbyists that are attacking Utah’s grassroots caucus system, which has been for the unstated, but obvious, purpose of retaliation by unseating Senator Mike Lee in 2016.
Matt Sanderson, the lobbyist quoted in the Deseret News article, just happens to be the same lobbyist behind Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC, created to mock Republican candidates in 2012. These are the same lobbyists that raise money for the Democrat National Committee. Now they are getting into the Utah AG shark tank.
So hungry are they, these “Buy My Vote” supporters have invested thousands of dollars into a campaign to destroy Utah’s grassroots caucus system. They began a petition campaign, but were running short. The Utah State Senate rescued them, under the sponsorship of Senator Curt Bramble, by passing a bill that would virtually destroy the grassroots caucus election, putting it into the hands of corporate cronies. But then Senator Bramble is from Chicago, so that was not surprising.
Many lobbyists who play this power game typically view themselves as above the law. It is also not surprising that Matt Sanderson from Caplin & Drysdale was criticizing Mike Lee. That’s the very same lobbyist firm that created the 26-page legal brief presented to us in the State Republican Central Committee in 2013 to establish why Utah’s caucus system is supposedly “unconstitutional.”
They are wrong.
An attorney has stepped forward to bring a compelling case he has won in Idaho to the Utah Republican Party proving the unconstitutionality of the state legislature or any outside entity (“Count My Vote”) to force a private corporation (which political parties are) to change its rules on who its voting members can be.
Are you corporate board members listening up? How would you like anyone outside your company to legally impose themselves on who YOUR voting members are? This is a gross violation of the First Amendment right of assembly, and if it stands, other private corporations could be in jeopardy.
These power-hungry lobbyists want to replace Utah’s grassroots system with a Connecticut-dual system type of elections. That is a system which Connecticut Republican Party leaders themselves would like to end because it has put their Primary elections into the hands of the rich and famous that can petition successfully to get on a ballot because they’ve got all the money to pay petitioners. It has also turned their elections by majority vote into plurality elections. No one candidate wins the majority, causing excessive in-fighting within the Party between Primary and General elections.
This is also the same lobbyist firm with which the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute Director Kirk Jowers is affiliated. Jowers has been a major and vocal opponent of Utah’s caucus system and has for several years been speaking to local groups about how Utah must become an open Primary system, and assisting the “Buy My Vote” petition campaign.
Along with former Governor Mike Leavitt and Leavitt’s political campaign consultant LaVarr Webb, who also does political opinion-shaping for KSL, Jowers is part of this faction of rich and famous corporate cronies still retaliating against Mike Lee’s ouster of their friend Bob Bennett.
I personally like Bob, even though I ran against him in 2010. But the fact remains that his ardent supporters have been conspiring for ways to get one of their “own” back in power again. They call themselves “mainstream” but they are more representative of the Old Guard politics, and that model does not fly anymore, especially with Millennials and Gen-Xers.
Add to this mix another factor: Bob Bennett is now a DC lobbyist himself. Emeritus Senators never retire, they just become lobbyists, and lobbyists make sure they have their bases covered.
The Temple Mailer Story
Take Congressman Chris Stewart, for example. His brother Tim Stewart had to pay a very “steep” fine of $1,400 to clear his 2010 FEC violation for producing a “sting” postcard (the “temple mailer”) in an 11th hour attempt to incriminate Mike Lee to help his friend Bob Bennett, for whom many Stewart family members have worked over the years. Tim Stewart is now the managing director of Bob Bennett’s lobbyist firm.
Their plan to defeat Mike Lee by portraying him as the bad guy a couple of days before the convention was foiled. Through the caucus system, the grassroots were seated on the delegate floor, and they did the right thing: they unseated an incumbent that was ranked the 9th most liberal Republican in the Senate and in the top 10 of the Senate and the top 5 of those who sat on the Banking Committee that had received the highest campaign donations from Fannie Mae. That was the catalyst of that 2008 TARP banking meltdown.
It was an emotional defeat for the incumbent at the Utah State convention and it was national news. Afterward Senator Bennett (who the delegates treated very rudely when he went down that day, unfortunately I must say) was being encouraged to put his name on the Primary ballot as a write-in. It was even speculated whether he could run as an Independent. In either case, his supporters were convinced he would win because in Primaries, name recognition typically does win among the low-information voters.
I will be criticized by the “Buy My Vote” (actually “Count My Vote” but I have to be truthful) supporters for this comment, but it is a fact: Primaries bring out the more “low-information” voter because those elections are driven by TV and radio sound bites, which give the voter little information, and the candidate with the money typically wins the day. Enter “Count My Vote” leader LaVarr Webb and lobbyists, and the pollsters who make their consulting fees off of Primary and General elections – and incumbents.
I became close to Bob Bennett’s son Jim, who was an extraordinary campaign manager and spokesman for his father. He was of course very distraught when his father didn’t make it through the convention. The Bennett team was a class act. They always treated me with great respect. The emotional response is understandable. But what has happened since is of great concern.
Bennett decided not to put his name on the ballot, and instead his loyal supporters gathered and promised they would retaliate and that “he” – or “they” would be back in 2012. Senator Hatch saw the writing on the wall and his brilliant campaign manager Dave Hansen and political director Kitty Dunn worked the delegates and drilled down deep into the voter pool to get enough Hatch delegates seated – to the tune of several million dollars – that he at least limped through the convention and into a Primary. It was an amazing feat the challengers put up, since this was a lifelong incumbent and career politician. If Utah did not have a Caucus system, this would have been nearly impossible.
But enough more moderate-liberal delegates were seated to pull Senator Hatch through. Frankly, these were the more “low information” delegates who were brought in with only one mission in mind: re-elect Senator Hatch because “We need his seniority and leadership to be on that all-important finance committee,” which he would chair.
But that doesn’t happen when you are in the minority in the Senate, and it was unlikely that Republicans would take the Senate that year anyway. That’s why I call those delegates “low information voters” – they bought the story hook, line and sinker. The rest of us who know how politics works were shaking our heads in disbelief.
Once into a Primary, it was a given that Senator Hatch’s incumbent status and name ID would pull him through by the additional low information voters who were swayed by expensive and lobbyist-bought radio and TV ads putting fear into every voters’ heart that without Senator Hatch’s leadership, the nation would crumble.
The more moderate delegates also gave us Congressman Chris Stewart, another low-information candidate who couldn’t even identify what form of government we have when we were in debates, nor did he know what the Federal Reserve was. He was the Bennett payback candidate.
The DC lobbyists and Bennett, who was given a standing ovation by the new Hatch delegates, had won the day – keeping it all in the family. The Stewart brothers, nephew and brother-in-law now had bases covered on several levels of government:
- A Congressman (Chris Stewart)
- A Clinton-appointed Chief Judge of Utah’s District Court (Ted Stewart)
- A Director of the Utah National Guard, and later a Deputy Attorney General (Brian Tarbet)
- A Director of Utah’s Environmental Quality (Cody Stewart – protecting Congressman Chris Stewart’s company’s federal procurement contracts) and,
- A lobbyist managing Bob Bennett’s lobbyist firm (Tim Stewart- the man responsible for the Mike Lee “temple” mailer).
Oh, the web of nepotistic connections.
I was one of Mike Lee’s opponents, but I am among the first to support Mike, and I believe his strong voice is needed in the Senate now more than ever. If you agree, please help with a generous donation as we prepare for the showdown in 2016.
I also know who Caplin & Drysdale’s Sanderson is and why he could possibly be motivated to get in the middle of the alleged illegal campaign contributions and the Utah AG scandal. Here’s an infamous photo of him with Stephen Colbert assisting with the establishment of that satirical SuperPAC to undermine Republican candidates.
This allegation against Mike Lee is more than opportunistic. It’s what smells so rotten in D.C. It is so entrenched in payback and retaliation and the utter lust for power and control from DC. This more than smells like Caplin & Drysdale is in cahoots with whatever it takes to get Senator Mike Lee out of office and rto eplace him with their crony. It stinks.
When I ran for U.S. Senate, I learned a lot about how little control the voters in Utah have in electing their Senators. Mike’s election was a fluke and very unusual – driven by the general outrage of Congressional overreach and massive debt. When the 17th Amendment made the election of Senators a popular vote instead of the decision of the state legislature, the states lost local control – of everything. It is now in the hands of those Washington lobbyists who give the profession such a bad name – those who care little about which side of the aisle they support. Their main goal is more power and control. For that, incumbents are the life blood for these sharks. We see this playing out with Sanderson protesting too much with his rant against Mike Lee in this article.
Candidate Accountability in a Morass of Laws and Regulations
I don’t profess to have any inside information one way or the other that an FEC rule was broken in this case. If people understood how many rules and regulations they themselves are probably breaking on a daily basis (just read the 74,000+ pages of the IRS code alone), they would not be so quick to bite.
Practically speaking, how in the world would a candidate have known the source of these funds – or even the campaign’s treasurer – if indeed these allegations are true? From my experience as a federal candidate in a statewide race, it would be nearly impossible to know whether a check that came to my campaign was actually a check written from a third party that was then written directly to the campaign by another individual.
How would YOU know? Seriously. You could ask, and you would have to take that donor’s word.
Politics has become a nasty business. A very successful and respected businessman who was recruited to run for political office once told me, “You can live a good life. Be a good family man. Build a successful business. Be honorable in your community service and religious charity. But run for public office, and within 24 hours, your entire life’s reputation can be destroyed.”
Another thing I learned about running for public office is that because of this shark tank, good, honorable people are less likely to run. It is the way business is conducted that makes them shy away. Lobbyists play the power game and are the sharks waiting to eat you alive and spit out your carcass, unless they can control your vote. And make no mistake, they will do anything they can to destroy you on Election Day if you aren’t in their pockets.
That would describe Senator Mike Lee’s plight. He is not in any of these lobbyists’ pockets – yet. That is the political motivation behind the criticism from RINOs and lobbyists. Lobbyists love incumbents. The grassroots do not. We’ll check that one out when Senator Lee’s third term rolls around, because that is typically the turning point.
Meanwhile, 2014 is an opportunity to grow the ranks in the Senate with more Mike Lee’s, Ted Cruz’s and Rand Paul’s. It is their new and fresh energy, and their strong, courageous and unafraid voices for states rights and restoring local control who are not yet bought by the sea of some 39,000 swarming self-interested sharks in the Washington DC cesspool that will turn this nation around.
If you agree, we need your support today as we build for 2016. Your generous contribution of $35, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 or more is needed so that we can continue to get truthful messages to broader audiences all across the nation.
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PS. No, not all lobbyists are sharks. Just the bad ones that care more about their own pocketbooks than your liberty.
Something is fishy here. Senator Mike Lee is under attack. He’s a conservative Senator who ousted a Republican incumbent in 2010. He’s a strong voice for the Right, and refuses to be bought. There are only a handful in the Senate, and that’s what’s wrong with Congress. Yet on August 13, 2014, one of Utah’s […]Read More