Buy My Vote: Elites Pour Money In To Crush Citizen Candidate Selection

About two years ago, a bunch of political power-broker elites met with the intent to kill the Utah caucus system. I obtained one of their emails with their agenda for the meeting (held in an exclusive club – go figure). Essentially, they all have sour grapes that they couldn’t get elected and find a way to push the system back in their favor rather than having to more directly deal with the great unwashed. What better way to do so than make campaigns so expensive and cost prohibitive that only their big money-selected candidates will be able to enter?

Thus, they decided to try to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and push for a virtual or actual primary only system under the guise of “Count My Vote” (including an initial $500,000 in cash). As such, let me repost my explanation on how this ruse works and why they hate the caucus system so much:

Equalizer: The Neighborhood Caucus System

We are aware of a push to kill Utah’s neighborhood caucus system and are confident of who the actors behind the push are.  But why should anyone care?  Why not do as they wish and move to a primary election only?

Simply put: a primary-only system rips power from you and your neighbors and places it squarely in the hands of elite interest groups with oodles of cash.

Right now, by attending a caucus meeting, you virtually shut out the big money interest groups.  You know your neighbors, their principles, and their character.  A big money group isn’t going to gain traction endorsing someone in such a meeting; nor can they when you realize that hundreds of these meetings are occurring at the same time.  These meeting are the greatest means of empowering the unconnected ‘little guy’ and true grass-roots action.

Next, after the meeting, you and/or your neighbor has been elected to represent the neighborhood at the party’s convention to whittle down candidates who will either go on to a primary election or straight to the general election (depending on the percent of votes they garnered).  The convention is also very effective at interdicting big money and outside influences.  At the convention candidates court a manageable number of typically highly motivated, issues-oriented voters and they have a list of who they are and how to contact them.  The result is that candidates can comfortably run shoe string campaigns and literally individually meet with each voter.  Another benefit is that, in this phase, campaigns tend to focus on issues and specifics rather than fluff like expensive baby kissing ads.  That means candidates who aren’t politically or fiscally well-connected have a fighting chance to be considered and nominated for the office they seek.  It opens candidacy up to John Doe rather being so cost prohibitive that you need connections to big donors or independently wealthy.

The caucus and convention system grates elites as well as in-state and out-of-state political money pushers because it simply sucks so much power out of their hands.  Once we hit primary and general elections, the elites can begin to peddle their influence as campaign costs skyrocket in an effort to contact potential voters with the fluffy mailers and ads lacking any substance (sadly, yes that wins elections and it’s the voters fault).  However, these special interest groups only gained any significant power after you and your neighbors had their say and chose the candidates they could fund.  The political elites and big donors want this constraint knocked off and want to become the king-makers without distractions.

I urge you to attend your neighborhood caucus and contact your neighborhood’s delegates.  The neighborhood caucus is the great equalizer – use it!  If you are not sure who they are, someone in your neighborhood does or you can contact your party offices and they should be able to tell you.  I also ask that you contact the Governor and your state Representative and Senator and ask them to oppose any and all efforts to kill the caucus system…unless you are particularly fond of big money influence in politics and a deluge of vacuous political ads lasting for months…

They’re now on Plan D: Pump money into an initiative effort (with paid, not volunteer, signature gatherers, of course) to trick citizens to give greater political power to the political elites and big donors. Don’t fall for the gimmick.

For more posts documenting the caucus-killers antics click here. For some more information and satire on the County My Vote group, see

Addendum: Adding a video that sums most of the points made above:

Additionally, the proposed initiative ironically makes getting on a primary ballot harder by increasing the signature threshold (again favoring the well-funded and politically-connected): “The Count My Vote Proposal Hurts Ballot Access

Finally, an important problem I had not thought of is that the primaries will turn rural Utah into “flyover country” for state-wide election races ( Congressional, Governor, Attorney General etc).  In a primary, the candidates will need the biggest bang for the buck by targeting (and catering to) the largest voting pools.  Those pools primarily reside along the Wasatch Front.  With the caucus system, rural delegates must be contacted, with a primary, population centers become the focus.  Rural Utah will be largely ignored and lose influence and representation by state-wide office holders.

15 thoughts on “Buy My Vote: Elites Pour Money In To Crush Citizen Candidate Selection

  1. What we have with the Count My Vote campaign is moderate Republicans trying to take back the reins in state government that have been in the grip of the far right members of their party. The moderate Republicans more accurately represent the views of the majority of Utah’s citizens, unlike those on the extreme right who represent the pockets of ultra liberals in Utah and Washington Counties.

    Calling those moderate Republicans names like “the elites” and making unfounded accusations of trying to “buy elections” are the all to familiar tactics of the extreme right whenever they feel their power and control are being threatened. Fortunately the people of Utah including Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans will see right through this smokescreen and vote the right way, just as they did on the voucher issue.

    The days of the extreme right stacking neighborhood caucuses taking advantage of the apathy of the moderates to make sure only their candidates get on the ballot are coming to an end. If one remembers the last election, the LDS Church also weighed in to have a broader representation at the neighbor caucus meetings in order to stem the tide of extremism on the right that embarrasses not only the state of Utah, but the Church as well.
    Calling the extremists with an axe to grind “the great unwashed” actually fits that group quite well. Since the light of new ideas rarely makes its way into cleanse their stale, and stagnant minds, their ideas and ideology really does develop the stench of the “unwashed” over time.

  2. Go look at who’s behind the initiative (click the ’email’ link). It is made of of the longtime political elite and powerbrowkers. Every citizen who wants to can affiliate and attend a caucus (for what it’s worth, I’m unaffiliated).

    All these guys want is to allow money to play a larger roll in determining the elections. It’s a fact that candidates with little funding stand a much lesser chance of getting their message out in large, expensive elections (even for State Reps/Senators we’re talking in the $100,000s). The delegate proccess allow them to reach out on a far less expensive scale and have a shot (as I explained above), regardless of party. Furthermore, anyone can also run as an independent during the general election.

    You insinuate that “moderates” didn’t attend their caucus meeting. I disagree with that but let’s say they didn’t. Who’s fault is that? What would it say if the “moderates” didn’t turn out for a primary and the your perceived left or right extremists “stacked” the primary vote? Does that mean we should invalidate the results? No the primary would stand and opponents would have to do better. I might add, that this has occurred many times throughout US election history (including recently).

    Yet again, the condescention in your concluding statement is quite apparent.

  3. The “name calling” you are engaging in is so very typical of the extreme right. Labeling those you disagree with in order to turn public opinion against them is one of the oldest dirty tricks in the book. Remember the “czars” in the fight to bring ethics into the Utah Legislature. You are calling those who support primary elections “the political elite and powerbrowkers”. (By the way, what are powerbronkers anyway?) In reality they are intelligent and thoughtful MODERATE conservatives who want to take their party and state back from the extreme right fringe of the party WHO DO NOT REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE MAJORITY OF UTAH’S CITIZENS.

    Moderates, liberals, and independents in Utah have watched for years how Gale Ruzicka and her extreme conservative “ilk” have stacked neighborhood caucuses, taking advantage of the apathy of those who do not have an axe to grind, and insuring that only those with the most extreme views are on the ballot. It is this tactic that prevented Bob Bennett, an effective and well liked Senator, from getting the opportunity to be re-elected, in spite of the fact that he had the SUPPORT OF THE MAJORITY OF UTAH’S CITIZENS. What did the far right extremists give us in his place? None other than the embarrassment of the century, Mike Lee who is on a kamikazi mission to not only hurt the country, but to do irreparable harm to his political party in the process.

    You are making the assertion that “all these guys want is for money to play a larger role in determining the elections”. You have no way of knowing what “these guys” want. To make that assertion means that you think you have the ability to read other’s minds. (Do you hear voices in your head too?) What they/we want is to make sure candidates on the ballot represent the views of the majority of Utah’s citizens, not the pockets of ultra conservatives in Utah and Washington counties. What they/we want is to prevent mistakes like Jason Chaffetz and Mike Lee from happening again.

  4. …and unlike you I don’t shout and use condescension and have some personal hatred against an individual (you seem to have some real animosity towards Lee in particular). Thanks for proving my point.

    As for Lee, as I recall he was in a primary. Bennett backed his opponent. I believe Lee had less funding that Bridgewater as well but he managed to win anyway. I guess that primary was stacked by those knuckle-dragging teabaggers™ and should be invalidated….maybe that’s why you seem to hate him so much.

    If you want to support more special-interest money in politics with the associated attack ads, vapid flyers in you mailbox etc, be my guest.

  5. Attacking the messenger instead of responding to the points made in the argument is another common tactic used by the extreme right. It generally indicates there is no intelligent counter argument to be offered. From the link you provided, here is the stated goal and purpose of this group.

    “This demonstrates the high level of concern many Utah Republican leaders have about the tone of our politics and the need for the mainstream majority to assert itself in the selection of our elected officials. We need to ensure that a small, but vocal, faction doesn’t control the nomination process or dominate legislative activity. We are really excited to have you involved. It’s a terrific group.” What could be more clear than that?

    Another common tactic of the extreme right is to accuse the other side of doing exactly what they themselves are doing, in order to deflect attention to what they themselves are doing. The case in point is accusing the “elite interest groups” [name calling again] of ripping power from you and your neighbors. The reality is for the past decade, the far right extremists have been stacking the caucuses, getting their delegates elected to the convention in order to insure that the candidates who support the more moderate and mainstream do not even make it to the primary. This is the real case of ripping power from “you and your neighbors”.

    FACT: In the past decade the Utah Republican Party has taken a sharp turn to the right.

    FACT: The views of the extreme right do not represent the views of the majority of Utahns.

    FACT: The “pre-selection” of candidates by a small faction denies the public the opportunity to vote for candidates who more closely represent their views.

    FACT: Those on the far right including those who vehemently oppose Count My Vote are in the minority in the state as a whole.

    FACT: In a representative form of government an unhealthy situation exists when the minority can manipulate the system to gain disproportionate power and influence.

    I am looking forward to discussing the facts of this issue, that is if you are finished “attacking the messenger”, ascribing your own ulterior motives to the group you oppose, and putting negative labels on your opponents to detract from their stated purpose.

  6. Heh. You’re the one who came out attacking the messenger and ranting about the “extreme right”, Mike Lee, and Jason Chaffetz et al. and intimating I and those opposed to the initiative are not “intelligent” and have “stagnant minds” (I suppose we should bow to your superior intellect and let you tell us what to think at all times). You’ve said nothing to refute my post on how the caucus system provides citizens much greater control of the process and limits the power of special interest groups as well as limiting monetary influence and cost of a campaign for those with few connections or little personal funding.

    As I’ve repeated (and am done repeating), just as in a primary, party members (citizens) are welcome to turn out (or not) and vote and have their voice heard. Turnout may favor one faction or another, just as in a primary…you know like the primary Mike Lee was selected in (I guess that was also due to “apathy of the moderates”). Furthermore, your final “fact” would eliminate primaries and even many general elections due to their low turnout (” the minority can manipulate”)…either that or make it a crime not to vote so every eligible citizen would be forced to cast a ballot. If he majority feels they don’t like the candidates any party offers, nothing precludes them from voting for a different candidate or party including independents (I’ve done so in almost every election). Why can’t you do that?

    Continue to focus all you want on one group or individual rather than the points of the post. Continue your condescending rants all you want but I am not going to be cowed by such and believe readers are turned off by that type of behavior. That’s as much as I’m going to engage you further on this matter.

  7. “You’ve said nothing to refute my post on how the caucus system provides citizens much greater control of the process and limits the power of special interest groups as well as limiting monetary influence and cost of a campaign for those with few connections or little personal funding.” Read carefully as I am focusing on the points of the post.

    The caucus system provides a small vocal minority the means to control the outcome of elections by pre-selecting far right candidates over the others. Are they not a “special interest group”? It is true that to run in a primary requires more funding. That is the way our voting system works. If your extreme right candidates are supported by a large number of the population, they should have no problem raising campaign funds to purchase signs and get their message out.

    From the Count My Vote literature:

    “In statewide races, a maximum 3,500 Republican delegates and 2,645 Democratic delegates have the power to decide who will be on the November ballot without letting the 699,000 Utah voters registered with the GOP or the 164,000 voters affiliated with the Democratic Party have a say.

    No other state has a system that gives so much power to a small group of party leaders over the selection of candidates which disenfranchises most of the state’s population.

    The lack of political competition this system produces is considered to be one of the biggest reasons there is such low participation among Utahans. The state went from number 1 in the nation in terms of voter turnout in 1968, to 39 in 2012, with a record low ranking of 48 in 2008.”

    These are the facts. Calling my posts “condescending rants” simply means that you are losing the argument. By the way my final fact does nothing of the sort. It makes a statement that a political system is unhealthy when a vocal minority can grab power disproportionate to their numbers. Such dominance of a minority is undemocratic by its very nature. Defending an undemocratic system that is the status quo makes on “undemocratic”, does it not?

  8. …and in all those years (including the ones with highest turnout Utah had…..a caucus system). Plus, by your numbers, we increased turnout from 48 in 2008 by 9 points in 2012 with the same system. Primaries won’t change that because the real reason behind turnout is that Utah is not a battleground state and will remain such for the foreseable future. If/when that changes, we’ll see turnout rise. Thus, even under a primary, a “…small vocal minority the means to control the outcome of elections by pre-selecting…” their perferred candidate. “699,000 Utah voters registered with the GOP or the 164,000 voters affiliated with the Democratic Party have a say” by turning out to their meetings just as they may during a primary (and many of them don’t turn out for the primary either). If one faction within a party or population wants to block another, all they need to do is turnout whether that be at a caucus meeting or primary, it makes no difference. Further, the losing party may also run as an independent if they so desire.

    If you can’t figure out how you are being condescending, re-read your posts where you question peoples’ intelligence among other things. If you can’t see it for yourself, there’s nothing more I can do.

    Thanks for admitting that primaries are cost prohibitive to ‘common joe’ candidates. A person with small means will have little chance to get their message out to potential donors compared to one backed by large corporate and entrenched political interests with big war chests. Hence why grassroots campaigns struggle and frequently fail. They’re simply drowned out by the financial dominance and media reach of the big-money campaign – which is voters’ fault for demanding they be spoon fed information rather than seeking it out themselves. Most voters are completely oblivious to the other candidate because they didn’t get a glitzy mailer or TV ad from them. A bunch of small donors tend never to make up the gap with large corporations and political machines.

    Democracy you suggest wouldn’t involve electing represtentatives. By definition our entire system of Senators and Representatives is undemocratic and thankfully so.

  9. So much for “not going to engage you further”. 🙂 Do the math. There are 699,000 registered Republican voters and only a maximum of 3,500 Republican delegate slots in statewide races. That means that .5% of registered Republicans determine which candidate even makes it on the ballot for the general election. If 60% of the delegates (2100) vote for any one candidate, then there won’t be a primary election. Those 2100 delegates are a mere .3% of registered Republican voters.

    This is the inequity the “Count My Vote” group wants to remedy. Polls indicated that Bennet was ahead of Lee in support by Utah Republican voters. In spite of that fact, the actions of a small minority of delegates made it impossible for those voters who preferred Bennet over Lee to even cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice.

    Opposition to the “Count My Vote” by the far right begs the question of why they are afraid to play on a level playing field in which candidates are selected by a broader cross section of members of their party. Name calling, straw man arguments, creation of red herrings, and hyperbole are once again being used by the “vocal minority” in our state in a desperate attempt to hold on to power. My guess is that the citizens of Utah are bright enough to see through their B.S. and do the right thing (instead of the right wing thing) for a welcome change like they did on the voucher issue.

  10. I know…I like watching you dig (edit: that was low, sorry). Plus, the name calling with “right wing” straw man arguments you use are a bonus.

    The percentages you refer to are the elected representatives and friends/neighbors of those Republicans (many of whom also do not turn out for primary elections). I would hate to see the percentages for registered voters (or voting-age population) electing the actual Representative/Senator in the primary or general election. That can’t be good…and again indicates a desire for a full-on democracy that the founding fathers had investigated and entirely rejected. All republicans or democrats or other party can come to their caucus and elect their neighbors (not some stranger) just as they do during primary and general election…except there, they do elect a stranger to represent them.

    Not only was Bennett dead last by delegate votes (final balloting) and no one hit the 60% threshold (and Lee even lost to Bridgewater) but his influence was far gone in the subsequent primary. If Bennett was so wildly popular, his endorsed candidate (Bridgewater who won the delegate vote) should have handily defeated Mike Lee. Evidently, the majority of Republicans were not interested in Bennett and Lee prevailed in that Primary election.

    I like that, if I choose to affiliate and attend, I can vet my neighbors who are issues-oriented, willing to go into details, and also cut out the big money/donor influence. I like that non-politically connected folks have a chance to become a candidate. I also like that independents can run in the general election if they disagree with a party’s choice (or platform). I wish we had more of them – maybe that’s where the CMV group should place their money and efforts.

  11. Even the title of this blog entry “Buy My Vote: Elites Pour Money In To Crush Citizen Candidate Selection” is false and misleading. In the 2010 primary between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater there were a total of 38,488 votes cast. That means there were 38,488 citizens who selected the candidate of their choice at the ballot box. Compare that to just 2,100 “citizens” (60% of delegates) who would otherwise make the candidate selection for the state.

    The reason that there is such low voter turnout in Utah, one of the lowest in the nation, is that we have a 1 party system in this state—partly due to the legislature’s gerrymandering which takes political power away from the state’s largest city and population center.

    Republicans don’t bother to vote because they know the Republican on the ballot will win. Democrats and independents don’t vote because they know their candidate doesn’t have a chance. A Republican Primary for all practical purposes determines the winner of the general election in most cases because of the lopsided political arena we live in.

    Because of this dynamic if a Primary election were held every year, there would be far greater turnout because for the first time in a long, long time, every voter will know that his/her vote really counts. Hence, “Count My Vote” really means “My Vote Counts”. Do we really want all the power in the hands of .3% of all Republican voters? Or do we want the power to rest with the thousands upon thousands who come out to vote in the primary?

  12. Reiterating, those delegates were elected by tens of thousands of citizens (60,000 2010 and 125,000 2012) and are citizens themselves. Furthermore, as previously noted, the caucus provides a means for “citizen candidates” (ie common citizens with small to moderate means and political connections) to have a prayer of being considered for nomination. This will simply not be the case with a primary requirements of extensive fundraising and a large campaign apparatus.

    By the logic employed, we are all disenfranchised whenever our Rep/Sen casts a vote as they represent a miniscule portion of us (same applies to those voting in primaries). The remedy for such would be to go to an Athens-style full democracy which was, thankfully, rejected for a constitutional republic.

    Other than, possibly, the first election or two (if CMV pours money into it then too), turnout won’t change as Republicans continue dominance. It is also noteworthy that Utah stopped the caucus and went with a primary system from about 1937-1947 and turnout was so bad (around 10%) that the caucus was reinstituted. Note: 1937-1947 also exibited a dominance by the Democrat party. 1960 saw 78%, 1968 etc. saw 39% turnout under a caucus system the main difference being a viable alternative party (1960-64 saw a political party battleground) – that is the real turnout factor and CMV does nothing for it (maybe they should put their money into funding an alternative party/candidate if they were truly serious about turnout).

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