Opinion: WINNERS & WHINERS: Governor’s Race Exposes the Lurid Underbelly of Utah Politics
The most egregious example of this is Governor’s Herbert’s recent behavior concerning campaign contributions and access to his office in exchange for a check. Hear the audio here.
In a SL Tribune article, Herbert made the following statements to lobbyists and supporters during a private meeting at the Alta Club last month soon after he failed to win at the GOP State Convention:
“Just so you know, this will be unprecedented for me, because I will be going on the high giddy-up campaign trail for the next few weeks. The state’s going to be run by Justin [Harding, the governor’s chief of staff] and the lieutenant governor,” Herbert explained.
“However we want to do this — if we want to have multiple meetings or we sit down and talk and you give us a check later or before. However you would like to do it,”
“I’ll just say, I’m available. I’m Available Jones.”
“So I will go anywhere. I will meet with people. We’ll come to your office, you bring them in and we will give them quality time, but we’ve got to raise the money, there’s no ifs, ands or buts, we’ve got to raise the money somehow.”
At one point, lobbyist Jodi Hart chimed in: “I have a question regarding talking about issues and giving money at the same time,” “My clients would not be comfortable doing that.”
That was when Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state’s chief election officer who oversees campaign finance laws, including overseeing his own, and Herbert’s reelection, then states “We need to be very careful about that and that’s a very, very good point,” he said,” This isn’t a ‘Come give us a check as a condition …’
Herbert interrupted: “There’s no quid pro quo at all.”
He then when on to emphasize that even though he may disagree with their positions on issues, “but if nothing else, we’ll give you the results that you want.”
Liv Moffat, Herbert’s campaign finance director, said “We gave [Foxley] (a lobbyist working on the Herbert campaign) two hours, we paraded seven clients in at [Foxley’s] office, we went to [his] office, 20 minutes, collecting checks and talking specifically about their issues,” Moffat said. “We’re not going to do that for $1,000. But that’s something. We’ll schedule it, you can come have 15 to 20 minutes with the governor.”
USN Related Story: Governor Herbert Pulls Out All the Stops: Opens Door for Donors.
Is this Utah… or Chicago?
This is the type of behavior that one expects to see in Chicago or New York, but not here…. certainly not here… in Utah … where we are conservative and expect our leaders to conduct themselves appropriately in a way that reflects our high standards without even a hint of wrong-doing.
Herbert claims that he was disappointed in himself and insisted that he had done nothing illegal or unethical.
In a Yahoo article, Herbert stated: “We didn’t know we were being recorded— we thought we had all friends there,” OOPS.
Herbert’s opponent, Jonathon Johnson, after hearing the recording, stated: “I’m shaking, that tape makes me so mad,” Johnson said. “That’s what’s wrong with career politicians. They will do anything to stay in office. To hear the guffawing coming from the wooden-door Alta Club from a group of elite insiders, that just disgusts me.” “It may not be illegal under Utah law, but that’s not the threshold we should hold our governor to,” Johnson said. “It’s complete pay-for-play and it’s the kind of reason that non-politicians don’t run for office.”
Johnson has produced a video entitled ‘Herbert tells donors that even if he disagrees with them, “we’ll give you the results that you want.”‘See the video here.
In a Deseret News article, the Democratic candidate for governor Mike Weinholtz, said in a press release : “It’s disgusting that the current governor would sell his time to the highest bidder in such a blatant display of naked greed. It is the very example of what is wrong with career politicians,”
Weinholtz also stated in another DN article: “The governor says there will be no quid pro quo for these checks, but I believe he is selling access to the highest office in the state, and this is an abuse of power,”
In an SL Tribune story, ‘University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless said the governor’s meetings with donors appear problematic to him, but ultimately it will depend on how voters perceive the issue.’ “There’s a difference between the law and ethics. It’s legal. It comes down to: Is it ethical?” Chambless said. “There’s money involved, and the question is to what extent there is a quid pro quo here. You would hope all it does is give access. … [But] the average person in Utah doesn’t get 20 minutes alone in a face-to-face with the governor.”
The Governor’s behavior has garnered the attention of at least one national media source. Breitbart News posted this headline: Utah Gov. ‘Speed Dates’ With Lobbyists, Will ‘Meet Anywhere, Anytime’.
The Poor Me Campaign
Governor Herbert is trying to justify his actions by claiming that he is the underdog and must somehow try to catch up with Johnson’s massive financial advantage.
“If you are super-wealthy, you can self-fund your campaign. That is not an option for me or for most Utahns who are willing to serve,” Herbert said.
Marty Carpenter, Herbert’s campaign manager, said “Unlike his opponent, the governor is not an independently wealthy man, so fundraising is a necessary part of running a campaign.”
There’s only one factual problem with those statements. In a pre-convention financial disclosure reports
filed with the state in April, Herbert had around $800,000 compared to just over $11,000 for Johnson.
Since the convention, Herbert has declared $388,000 in new contributions compared to Johnson’s $4,300.
To date, according to the statements, Herbert contributions have totaled $602,670 against Johnson’s $47,321.16.
Weinholtz has collected $1,160.
Herbert’s financial advantage is obvious. His billboards are everywhere and he has just started a television campaign. Johnson has a Facebook page.
Johnson responded to Herbert’s ‘poor me’ comments:”It’s hard to be a challenger,” Johnson said. “I’ve talked to many people, probably many who are clients of those well-heeled lobbyists, who said, ‘Jonathan, you need to win, I support much of what you’re doing.’ And when I say, ‘How about a check?’ they say, ‘I can’t, because when the governor sees my name on your donor list, the hammer will come down. I have contracts in front of the state. I have business in front of the state.’”
Winner – Johnson
Whiner – Herbert
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