Chris Herrod on: Being a better Republican than all the other Republicans in the swamp.

Someone challenged me about the corrupting influence of SB 54.

Obviously, anytime you have an entire industry that is created from a single piece of legislation, one would expect conflicts. For example, according to the SLC Tribune, Spencer Stokes owns “Gather” which is a signature gathering company.  Regardless of who you supported in the Governor’s race, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Spencer Stokes would be the one to mail to delegates the slimmest letter (at least in my memory) against Jonathon Johnson two days before the state convention.  (I would say the same about Johnson had he sent such a letter against Herbert two days before the convention so Governor Herbert couldn’t respond.)  Johnson campaigned on the fact he would repeal SB 54 which would have destroyed Stokes’ business.

Neither should it come as a surprise to find that Stokes, other lobbyists, and Count-My-Vote supporters gave heavily to Senator Bramble and his PAC as well.  One would expect that a signature gathering business which owes its birth and total existence to Senator Bramble’s SB 54 would donate to him. CMV supporters gave more to Bramble than I spent on my entire campaign.  This demonstrates why Utah has “Pay for Play” reputation.

Lobbyists benefit when races become more expensive because legislators become more dependent on the lobbyists for their money.  SB 54 and SB 114 make this worse.

Senator Bramble told me and others that he would raise a $1,000,000 if I ran.  Well, you can see his financial disclosure here.

Not a million, but he spent over $103,000 against my $12,767.30 (and yet I still won same-day voting but I lost in early voting and vote by mail . . .  vote-by-mail and early voting basically makes elections twice as expensive because all one’s literature must be sent out at least 3 weeks early and then again right before the election.  I found this out the hard way.)  But Senator Bramble must have had a harder time raising $1,000,000 than he thought.  Why else would he risk the following?

UCLP

Senator Bramble controls the Utah County Legislative PAC (UCLP) which has caused a lot of controversy in the past. Some problematic entries in the UCLP’s financial disclosure:

Exp. Date Name of Recipient Purpose I L A Expenditure Amount
1/26/2016 Gather Signature gathering $4,000.00
3/8/2016 Utah Senate 3d House Legislative staff gifts $378.00
5/11/2016 G1 Consulting Voter ID, election analytics & survey $14,800.00

But I haven’t been able to find these expenditures as in-kind donations on Senator Bramble’s personal financial disclosure or others as according to the Lt. Governor’s office the law requires.   Bramble’s most trusted confidants in Utah County . . .  Senator Henderson and Representative McKell  . . .  don’t show anything either. I’ve yet to find a Utah County legislator that benefited from these expenses and so I can only assume that they were for Senator Bramble’s personal benefit.  Neither does any Republican senator in Utah show an in-kind donation.

In the grand scheme of things, failing to report an in-kind donation of $385 to the Senate 3rd House last year (and questions about who paid previous years) is probably not that big of a deal.  It’s not right but we all make mistakes.  (The Senate 3rd House provides meals, snacks, drinks, and other misc. support functions for senators.)

But what about a $4,000 donation?  A $14,800 donation?  When is it a big enough issue to express concern?  If Bramble were a conservative legislator, the democrats, the press, Pignanelli/Frank and Rolly would be all over it. They’ve gone after conservative legislators for much less.  But since it’s Bramble, and he’s pushing their agenda, I guess there’s no need to investigate.  Welcome to life in Utah . . . and politicians and the press wonder why their numbers are so low.

But the bigger issue for the election process.  Is it possible that such money or lack of disclosure made a difference in an election?  Who knows?  I assumed Bramble’s personal campaign disclosures were correct.  A donation from the UCLP for signature gathering would have spurred investigation on my part and I could have rallied additional support.  How much money does it take to flip 230 votes?   So I guess it’s safe to say, I was out spent over $120,000 to $12,500 or roughly 10 to 1?

But lobbyists’ money doesn’t affect elections, right?

Yet Senator Bramble uses the name of all Utah County legislators to raise funds and so many Utah County legislators probably aren’t happy that Senator Bramble used UCLP as his personal slush fund  – to pay Senate 3rd House expenses and for signature gathering which most Utah County legislators voted against.  Several legislators had a miserable Spring because of SB 54. There’s also the question of whether an in-kind donation is legal during the session is also an issue, but relatively minor.

In addition, Utah County Republican Party funds were co-mingled with the UCLP in 2008 when the party gave $54,000 to the UCLP.   Is it fair that these funds were used in an inter-party fight?  But once again, with the help of Senator Henderson and Representatives McKell and Gibson, the Utah County Legislative Pac is back in full-fundraising mode which raised $51,500 for a “Reagan Dinner” before the session.  Forgive my cynicism for not believing that all Utah County legislators will benefit equally.

And some say there is no swamp here in Utah.

-Chris Herrod