Posts Tagged Mark Shurtleff
The problem of having an elected Utah Attorney General is that campaign contributions and other support tend to come from dishonest characters, not people interested in good government.
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Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff inadvertently confirmed on Twitter this afternoon that he’s running against Senator Bob Bennett in 2010.
Apparently thinking that he was sending a private text message, Shurtleff posted that he would be making an official announcement soon, and that he could raise significant amounts of money in Utah, California, New York, Arizona and Texas.
He added, “time to rock and roll!”
The postings were later removed, but here’s a screen capture of what his page looked like before.
Why would ethics be a problem among Utah politicians? By far, the majority of those in the legislature, and government leadership positions espouse personal commitment to their religious beliefs. This would seem to imply a devotion to moral and ethical conduct. Indeed, they often seem overeager to legislate morality for Utah’s citizens. But this year, it appears our legislators have turned introspective and are now showing concern about their own morality.
SL Trib tells us that up to 14 different ethics-related bills are currently being prepared for introduction in the upcoming January session.
On the heels of a campaign season rocked by allegations of bribery and influence-peddling, Utah lawmakers are crafting a bevy of bills to address campaign-finance reform, lobbyist gifts and the Legislature’s rarely used ethics investigations.
We only have to go back as far as October to be reminded of the ethics investigation into Republican Representative Greg Hughes’ alleged bribery of a fellow legislator. With procedural biases that favored the legislator, the ethics committee was unable to do more than find Hughes guilty of conduct unbecoming a legislator and an admonishment for him to apologize for his wrongdoing.
As to the ethics charges themselves, the committee gave Hughes a pass, not because it found him innocent, but because, in the Committee’s view, the legislature’s current ethics standards were too vague to be applied.
And just this week State Senator Howard Stephenson is being accused of using his senate position to threaten and intimidate employees of the Utah Office of Education for “shabby treatment of ProCert Labs, an Orem-based company whose services Stephenson had been advocating for years.”
In a series of heated e-mails and phone calls, Stephenson, who heads the committee that sets the public education budget, threatened to withhold support from the Utah Office of Education, suggested it be downsized and have work outsourced and that the malcontents mistreating ProCert could be fired. [snip]
[State Superintendent Patti] Harrington said Stephenson is the “singular example” of a legislator who has weighed in with the education office and, as the senator who controls the education budget, his wishes are hard to ignore.
Also this week, the state Lieutenant Governor’s office is looking into the possible misuse of the State seal on a letter of endorsement by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for DigitalBridge of Orem, just days before receiving a campaign contribution of $10,000 from the company. This just adds to the AG’s previous admitted misuse of official stationery for political purposes, as well as personally beneficial relationships with Ameriquest, payday lenders, and others.
And then there is state representative Aaron Tilton whose company Transition Power Development LLC, wants to build a 1,500-megawatt nuclear power plant, and representative Michael Noel, executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, who wants to provide the water needed for the project. These two men are vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Committee. Yet both claim no conflict of interest.
Certainly the laws are not designed to keep our public servants honest. We sort of leave it up to them to walk that line. And they know exactly where the line is, and they’ll walk right up and kiss it without stepping over. Seemingly moral and ethical individuals don’t always ‘choose the right’.
Let’s see if the next legislative session produces meaningful ethics laws or simply more fluff.
From KSL.com January 2008 regarding perks Utah’s top cop received from Ameriquest and payday lenders (more about those debacles at the end of this post):
“In order for me to buy into this, the whole nature of your investigation, I have to accept your proposition that campaign contributions buy things for people. And until you can show me the case where that’s happened with me, we’re done talking.”
A few years ago Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff admitted to using his official stationery and the state seal for political purposes. “My bad,” he said at the time, and promised to be more careful in the future.
Oops, he did it again. Adding to the spate of questionable activities among Utah officials this year, Shurtleff used his official stationery and the state seal for a letter to attorneys general all across the U.S. praising Orem-based DigitalBridge’s digital technology for crime data sharing. The letter was coincidentally timed within days of receiving a $10,000 campaign contribution from DigitalBridge.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
“It’s not an endorsement , not an advertisement. It’s far from that,” Shurtleff said Thursday. “So it does not violate the code.”
“When a company comes up with technology that will save lives or help solve an identity theft problem, I let my fellow attorney generals know about it,” said Shurtleff.
The letter to attorneys general around the country was dated Sept. 29, within days of his receipt of a $10,000 campaign contribution from the company. Shurtleff and DigitalBridge say the timing was a simple coincidence and that the attorney general had offered to write the letter nearly a year ago. [emphasis mine]
Not an endorsement? You be the judge. Here are a couple of excerpts from the letter (which was still up on the www.DigitalBridge.com web site as of this posting).
In light of the enormity of the information sharing problem and the lack of genuine solutions, I would encourage your attention to the technology presented at CWAG by Digital Bridge. In fundamental ways, Digital Bridge has conceived an approach to protected information sharing that, in my experience, is truly extraordinary. [snip]
Digital Bridge has developed a truly groundbreaking technology called Digital Packet Technology which enables sharing of processes, policies and information across organizational boundaries while maintaining context, security, privacy and control of the information as it is shared. For the first time, you can maintain control of your information as you share it with others in the justice and homeland security ecosystems.
Rather than try to describe the technology in any detail here, I would recommend that you see for yourselves its capabilities. . .[all emphasis mine]
When I was in marketing, we called this a testimonial letter—a highly desirable endorsement by one of your customers’ peers. And we particularly liked letters that actually included a sales pitch and a call to action.
in 2005 Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff accepted Rolling Stones concert tickets from Ameriquest — a company that was being sued by states all over the country “accused of deceiving customers, inadequate loan disclosures, and inflated appraisals.” But Shurtleff said it was okay since he and his daughter left the concert after the third song because his daughter didn’t “like” it. He joined the litigation against Ameriquest a month later.
Shurtleff also took a trip to the Bahamas, wherein “a national association representing payday lending companies paid for his plane ticket. Shurtleff accepted an invitation to give a speech at the group’s conference at a luxury resort in the Bahamas.” Shurtleff justified the trip by saying that he ended up taking his whole family on the trip and it cost him a lot of money.
At the time state records showed that Utahns had filed 120 complaints against payday lenders in the previous three years, but that Shurtleff said, ‘There have never been any criminal complaints or allegations filed against a group like that — and why not let them pay my trip?'”
This is video just snuck its way into my e-mail. Its pretty funny. I’ve been pleasantly surprised on occasion by Utah AG Mark Shurtleff. He can be compassionate when its under the radar, but the he keeps tripping on his ambition and gets himself on the wrong wrong wrong side of issues.
Here’s Mr. Shurtleff in the flesh bragging about suing the richest man in the world and promising USANA he won’t sue them.
Shurtleff clearly has other bigger ambitions. Lets send him on his way and elect a good woman instead.