2018: Utah’s Tax And Spend Legislature, Governor, Our Schools Now and the Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce

Next time someone wants to tell me Utah has a conservative legislature, they can shove it. They’re either GOP(e) party hacks or entirely clueless.

At the end of the legislative session, the GOP-Governor-Chamber of Commerce group managed to jack up your taxes and enable a flimflam scheme to trick people into raising them further…all during a year of budget surpluses (because it’s not your money and labor, it’s really their money to play with).

Here’s what they did: The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce created yet another front group (Our Schools Now) led by a group of Utah’s wealthy elites. They started a ballot initiative pushing for another big tax increase on everyone but themselves. Then they could count on  their “Available Jones” (aka Governor Herbert) along with their shills in the legislature to cut a deal with them – much like the tactic used to begin to crush Utah’s neighborhood caucus system (in the form of SB54 a few years ago). Herbert is now out there on some dog-and-pony show about how he ‘saved’ everyone from some big tax increase. It’s total baloney.

What Herbert and the legislature did (again) is save the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce from spending their own money to run a ballot initiative that was likely to fail. Instead, they passed a couple of increases and will also use your money to fund a tax increase question for the next election. C’mon, when you’re a special interest group tied with the political elite, someone else pays for your initiatives.

So here’s the damage:

  1. They will encourage local governments to further raise the sales tax to dish more cash to the corrupt and fiscally irresponsible Utah Transit Authority (UTA) or its new name, the Transit District of Utah. UTA is (surprise!) promoted by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and politically well connected.
  2. They “froze” the rate of the state property tax dedicated to education for five years thereby exempting it from truth-in-taxation hearings . Sounds good, right? Nope. Normally counties drop the tax rate as your home valuation increases as they have a cap on how much they can collect each year. This ‘freeze’ holds the rate regardless of valuation which will result in a surplus (of your money) they will harvest.
    Tip: Be on guard for them extending the freeze in perpetuity and expanding it to other entities that take property taxes. Also watch for an increased tempo of home value evaluations to further boost their take. Face it, property taxes combined with spendthrift politicians mean you never really own you home.
  3. They will shove a question on the next election ballot asking for a 33% increase in the gas tax from $0.29/gallon to $0.39/gallon.
    Here’s the flimflam: A few actual conservative legislators asked that they phrase the ballot question to include the percent increase (33%) or the old/new rate (0.29-0.39/gallon), thus giving voters clarity and context. Niet! said our liberal GOPe legislators and blocked the motion. Now the Chamber et al. can try to pull the wool over naive voters and spin the increase as ‘just a small 10 cent increase’. It’s a significant increase ($2.00 per fill-up) and will impact family budgets. In addition, it will not add even one penny to road funds since the amount going to roads from the general fund will be reduced by the amount of the increased fuel tax.
  4. There’s no guarantee the Chamber/Our Schools Now won’t press for more tax increases…which their politicians can then again cave on to ‘save us all from a bigger tax increase’.

I will acknowledge that there was a small decrease in the income tax but overall the average citizen came out on the losing end since all this, along with the last few years of tax increases, is going to hit your family budget. But so long as our political betters and their buddies can continue to spend your cash like drunken sailors, we totally have the most fiscally conservative politicians….ever!



Bigger Swamp Playground? Rob Anderson, Count My Vote, And The Utah Republican Party

Earlier this month, I ran across a scathing report on Rob Anderson’s time with the Davis County Republican Party. He’s now Chair of the Utah Republican Party (GOP). I concluded the post with:

Will the state party (or media) address this at all or did Chairman Anderson find a bigger swamp to play in?

I may already have my answer. Two reports are out. A short KUTV blurb (Activist says “Civil War” in Utah GOP, special meeting Saturday). In this, a familiar tone is sounded:

“This disagreement with the governing body, and it’s rogue chair will end up in the courts,” said Bill Olson, retired CEO and Utah transplant, who immersed himself in state Republican politics. “He’s a rogue chair.”

For a more in depth report on what is going on, see the op-ed at Utah Standard News (NewsOp: Anderson Flips Again). The report gives much more background and was helpful for me. It notes that Anderson is attempting to usurp authority and may well be a plant by the Count My Vote folks:

Rather, his actions lend immense credibility to those who suspect he’s colluding with Count My Vote to bankrupt the Party, undermine the Caucus System, and silence the SCC.

As noted in the article, Count My Vote was pushed by high power political-media elites, many of whom stand to benefit from it:

If CMV passes, Utah’s media outlets will make a killing on primary campaign advertising. One political consultant stated “So much of this [CMV] has always been about lining the pockets of the consultant class. As a former (and sometimes current) member of the political consulting class, I can tell you that primaries are money makers for “campaign professionals”, and that mostly means media/ad buys.

Per KUTV, attendees include Teena Horlacher who is very familiar with Anderson’s (and his attorney’s) ‘ethical’ behavior while at the Davis County GOP. Let’s face it, the behavior was very swampy.

Better yet, it seems Anderson will be appointing an attorney for the SCC:

Anderson is also complaining about the special SCC meeting called for this Saturday. He says that the GOP attorney, who hasn’t been confirmed yet, has the opinion that the meeting is outside of GOP Bylaws.

If I were on the Utah GOP’s State Central Committee, I would be extremely careful about the attorney he appoints based on what went down at the Davis GOP. If it turns out to be his Davis County GOP days attorney, David Irvine, it only lends even more credibility to his association with Count My Vote since Irvine was (surprise!) a big proponent of it (just run a web search).

I haven’t heard what came of the Saturday meeting but I’ll try to update this if I find a summary somewhere. In the meantime, the SCC may want to keep an extraordinarily close watch on their indemnification protection…

UPDATE: Here’s a write up on the meeting which includes a link to a video of the entire meeting: UTGOP Chair Fails to Sabotage Successful Special SCC Meeting

Senator Bramble and Stan Lockhart In News Over Suspicious Political Behavior (Update)

Every once in a while, I check out Utah Standard News. This week I caught a report about some possible unethical, if not criminal intrigue at the Utah County and State GOP conventions.

Some of the actors are the “usual suspects” for me. I’ve written before on the cozy relationship between State Senator Curt Bramble and Stan Lockhart. I’ve also noted Bramble’s Chicago-style political ‘tactics’ (click here for all posts on Bramble). This may well be another example of such.

I’m only going to put a very small excerpt of the article here as it would be best to read the entire article (read to the end for the big stuff). Ultimately, the charges should be investigated and verified as what may have occurred strikes to the heart of the caucus system (which I’m a big proponent of) and integrity of the Utah County and State GOP as a whole.

Caucus Obstruction, Delegate Tampering & Voter Fraud in Utah County

In what could be the biggest scandal in the Utah GOP of the past decade, this tale of corruption involves two sitting Utah State Senators (Curt Bramble & Deidre Henderson), the new Utah County GOP Chair Robert Craig, legislative district officers, precinct chairs, and state delegates. Their activities include clear and blatant infractions of the GOP Constitution and Bylaws and could result in a multiple criminal investigations and charges of voter fraud.

EDIT: I just finished typing up the above and checked back on the USN website and there’s a follow-up article: UPDATE Part 2 : Caucus, Delegate & Voter Tampering. New info. Evidence. YAK info. Be sure to read it in full too – it includes some additional information along with some more personal reports of ‘anomalies’ along the lines of the first article and some possible better perspective on Sen. Henderson. Again, this stuff should be investigated and verified.

Obviously, some are having conniptions about it and State Senator Todd Weiler (Davis County) is on threatening the publisher with libel:

I know you’re the messenger, Ed Wallace. At least one of the people you lied about called me tonight for legal advice on a libel lawsuit. Hope you’ve got good insurance!

While I’ve found Weiler to be nice and polite in person (the couple of times I’ve met him), I’ve noticed he’s disrespectful, derisive and condescending online. Par for the course.

UPDATE: USN has posted another follow-up: FINAL UPDATE Caucus, Delegate & Voter Tampering. INCLUDING EVIDENCE.

UPDATE II: This is exactly why the caucus is so important and any potential corruption thereof must be investigated. Chris Herrod probably wouldn’t have had a prayer as he isn’t an establishment/donor class favorite. Thanks to the caucus and neighbors representing their areas and vetting candidates, he now has a chance:
Utah GOP delegates pick candidate to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz

He still has to make it through a primary and I doubt he’ll be favored by the establishment GOP. Check him out and consider helping him out.

ICYMI: Count My Vote Exposed For Violations, Investigation Requested

This came out on Friday, when many start tuning out of the news in anticipation of the weekend.  The Count My Vote group that wants to take away neighborhood elections and place political power squarely in the hands of political elites and big donors  (see here and here too) may have an legal ‘oopsie’ on its hands.  As Channel 2 reports (‘Illegal’ Actions Alleged Against Count My Vote – video at link):

Specifically, the complaint alleged corporate CMV donors have not filed necessary disclosures, that out of state residents have collected signatures, and that some of the petitions were left unattended—so no one actually witnessed petitions being inked.

Protect Our Neighborhood Elections also said a Washington School District Foundation director used a school “email system” to send out a notice about the initiative during school hours.  The email was allegedly addressed to “all WCSD Employees,” and was said to include the words, “Information about the Count My Vote Initiative is available at your school office to include signature booklets.  The petition deadline for signatures is January 31, 2013.”

More dramatic was an audio recording purported to be of a Count My Vote signature taker, who seemed to link the petition effort to kids’ lunches that were tossed at a local elementary school several weeks ago.

Here’s the full audio of the non-resident, “signature taker”:

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 UtahCountMyVote.com.

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.

Introspection: Legislator Ethics Versus Delegates and Voters – The Double Standard

I recently had a discussion with a friend about the Senate 23 election and how nice it was that my father isn’t the only one in the race running a shoestring campaign focusing on the issues and principles rather than wining/dining and expensive, colorfully vague pamphlets.  They replied that there’s an ethical double standard in politics and were right on the money (pun intended):

Everyone from the delegates to general election voters get all worked up over elected officials’ ethics in taking lobbyist money, dinners, and gifts. Public opinion poll after poll always notes how annoyed everyone is with gifts.  That’s great – we absolutely should care about who’s buying influence, how much they are getting, any impropriety therein, and how that may affect votes on critical/controversial issues.  However, has anyone ever polled the same respondents and asked: “Have you ever been swayed by a gift or expensive item from a campaign?” or “Do you feel you have ever pressured a campaign to provide gifts for you?”

Most won’t admit or realise it, but they likely have.

At the delegate and occasional primary level, free “meet the candidate” breakfasts or lunches etc. tend to attract more people.  Typically, expensive glitzy ads (TV, radio, or mail), chapsticks, pencils, cheesy t-shirts with negligible information tend to grab attention more than a set of black and white pages with fairly detailed positions on issues.  Yes, part of it has to do with our busy lives (I reject that as a reason to be an uninformed voter) but a chunk of it has to do with the fact that we like getting free junk.

Yet many of us finding time for a lunch or line for the goodies jump up and down about legislators doing the same.  Is it good for me and not for thee?  I know criticism stings and this isn’t the first time I’ve brought this up, but it is worth asking:

If you detest money in politics, do you engage in the same behavior you dislike in a legislator?

It would be nice if we got to the point of asking: “Why do they feel the need to give me this stuff for my consideration and why don’t their positions/principles suffice?”

SL Chamber, Political Insider Backed “Education First PAC” Officially Funding Shumway

Disclaimer: My father is on the Senate 23 race ballot but be aware that this blog is maintained separate from my father’s campaign and is not affiliated with his campaign.  His campaign items can be found at the citizensfortasfairness.org site.

In my post on December 21, 2011 “Utah Business PAC On Education: Taxes For Thee But Not For Me” I noted how monetarily and politically powerful groups/individuals had aligned themselves under the name “Education First PAC’.  In that post,  I also highlighted the fact that they were lobbying to significantly increase taxes on everyone else fortunately drawing some push back from Senator Waddoups.  I further noted that rather than use their money to directly further fund educational initiatives they have chose to use that money to lobby for a tax increase.  Prior to above post, I noted in another post that the PAC was after the Senate 23 seat and speculated that Shumway was their preferred candidate based on his associations and the quote from a Trib article:

Education First has no intention of unseating lawmakers it sees as hostile to education, but it will groom candidates to run for vacant legislative seats, such as that of Sen. Daniel Liljenquist, the Bountiful Republican who is resigning to mount a shot at Orrin Hatch’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

In an email, sent from the big lobbying firm, the Exoro Group, I think it is safe to say that the group is firmly behind Mr. Shumway and appears to be placing significant sums of money towards his campaign:

From: Kameron Lopez [Redacted]@exoro.com
To: [Redacted]
Sent: [Redacted]
Subject: Randy Shumway for State Senate

Randy Shumway
Candidate for State Senate

The Alta Club
100 East South Temple

Friday, January 6th
8:30 am to 9:15 am

Hosted by Mark Bouchard, Natalie Gochnour, and Bob Marquardt
Continental Breakfast and Beverages

Recommended donations: $250-$2,500.
Checks payable to Friends for Randy Shumway.

If you are unable to attend, but would like to donate,
please send checks payable to:

Friends for Randy Shumway
[Remainder redacted to protect personal information]

This confirmation should come as no surprise.  Just clicking the “About” page on the groups website reveals that Mr. Shumway is on the Steering Committee.  Take a look at the page as well for a who’s who of well established power players, several of whom attended Jowers’ meeting (ironically, also at the Alta Club) that served as a jump off point to neutralise the caucus system and who were also behind the rushed and flawed HB116.  The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is represented in the group and was a huge pusher of HB116 and has consistently opposed effective E-Verify measures (identity verification by employers to protect victim identites and prevent illegal workers – fugitives/illegal immigrants/deadbeat parent etc – from obtaining the job.  The Exoro Group (which sent this email) coordinated the Jowers’ meeting.

Another thought: This fund raiser will also help build a war chest should he lose this delegate election thus preparing him for the next delegate selection (caucus) meetings and subsequent election.