Utah’s Own Chicago Political Machine: The Bram-Harts

Recently, Speaker Becky Lockhart tried to divert attention from her support of Utah’s amnesty bill (HB116) by attacking the congressional delegation. Likely, she did so at the behest of her chum, Curt Bramble. You would be surprised how intertwined the two high powered legislators are.

For starters, Stan Lockhart (the Speaker’s husband) is an influential lobbyist for Micron (click refresh in your browser for the page to load properly) and is also the former Utah Republican Part Chair and Utah County Republican Party Chair. However, one of his friendliest associations appears to be Curt Bramble. If you look at the Q4 report for 2010 (link above) look at who he spent the most on for dinner (and who knows how many times Bramble may have been the generic “Legislator” named at the other lunches/dinners).

Then, there’s the joint trip to Italy with lobbyists taken by…the Brambles and the Lockharts. However, the ties extend into political calculations:

I’m told that a few other GOP supporters warned Lockhart that he would have to be his own man as party chairman, and that the “Bram-harts” — as the couples are collectively known — would not be running the Utah Republican Party like their own little fraternity.

But someone didn’t get the memo.

…You see, the Republican Party is supposed to be neutral in intra-party races — at least on the face of it. Of course, like many cliques, the real party organizations are not that objective.

But this spring, Lockhart really blew it when he sanctioned a political fundraiser for what is now called the Fab Five — four Utah County House Republicans and one southern Salt Lake County House member, who are up for re-election this year.

The problem: Lockhart’s state GOP sent out the fundraising letters under the state GOP mailing privilege, while the state party is supposed to be neutral. And four of those five House Republicans are being challenged this year by fellow Republicans.

…Second screw-up: Back in Happy Valley, the Utah County GOP chairwoman decided that no GOP candidates would get the e-mail addresses of newly elected delegates — complaints about getting spammed in 2006 were made by some delegates. E-mails make it easier for the candidates to contact delegates who will be voting on them in the upcoming Utah County Republican Convention.

And, get this, the Utah County GOP secretary, who has all the delegate e-mails, is Susan Bramble — wife of Sen. Bramble, who also is being challenged by two Republicans for his own re-election this year.

…Fourth screw-up: One of Sen. Bramble’s GOP challengers, Jacqueline de Gaston, is complaining that while she can get the list of the GOP delegates in her race (even with the e-mails) she can’t find out how many of those are delegates elected in neighborhood meetings, how many are so-called “superdelegates” — party officeholders and others who get their delegate status without having to run in the neighborhood party mass meetings.

Seems the Utah County Republican Party may have a higher percent of those superdelegates (10 to 15 percent, believes de Gaston) than do other county parties (3 or 4 percent) — thus stacking the deck in favor of party insiders.

Perhaps a final straw? Party Chairman Lockhart’s daughter, who was living with her parents at the time of the March neighborhood mass meetings, attended a GOP mass meeting in her new neighborhood as she attends BYU this spring. So she was elected a delegate in a district that at the time she was not living in. But GOP officials say that is OK, since she will represent the appropriate area at the party convention.

And in all the discussions about GOP delegates and proper activity, guess who is the chairman of the delegate credentials committee at the Utah State Republican Convention: Sen. Curt Bramble.

The above aren’t the only controversies Senator Bramble has been involved in either and Bramble has a reputation for bullying  fellow legislators and the public. He is also known for steam rolling legislation through whatever the consequences may be and whoever may be caught up.

Given all the close links and coordination between the two groups, it can be argued that by getting Lockhart elected Speaker, Bramble was able to get control of the Speaker of House besides his own position in the Senate. And it shows. The close relationship has also given Bramble defacto control of House committee chair appointments – you’ll note his opponents do not have any appointments. But the plans don’t end there, it is rumored that Speaker Lockhart is also thinking of a run for the US House of Representatives.

The run may also be helped by what is rumored to be a close relationship between Bramble and the Provo Daily Herald’s editor, Randy Wright. You may also know him from the GRAMA working group which also includes…Senator Bramble. Basically, it appears that Bramble may also have a friendly, local mouthpiece at his disposal.

The media arm, the party/process influence, and the legislative control certainly add up to a well oiled machine for the Bram-harts. The irony of it all is that Bramble was born and raised in…Chicago.

UPDATE: Speaking of the Daily Herald: Look at the spin on behalf of the Bramble-Lockhart HB116 in this report: Lee open to talks on federal waiver for guest worker program.  Ignore the title and be sure to read the entire article.  In the latter paragraphs Lee says he would only consider it after other  legislation is passed and it would be years before it would really be considered.  In other words, Lee is politely telling them to dream on.

UPDATE (7/13): …and the Daily Herald editorial staff pulls in more cover for the Bramble-Lochart on HB116.  In the latest editorial entitled “Lee adjusts on immigration“, the editor(s) conveniently omit Lee’s stated preconditions (see above) before he would consider any waiver whatsoever nor did Lee ever retract his observation of the unconstitutional nature of the waiver.  As I said, Lee is politely dismissing the issue.

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