PAC of Wolves

Like most of you, I have been disappointed in the abusiveness of what many of the so-called “super-PACs” are doing. I first was introduced to them as I watched that awful, untruthful video about Bain Capital and Mitt Romney. The ones who are “affiliated” with some of the candidates I support have disappointed me, too. FreedomWorks, the anti-Hatch PAC is awful but have at least left the state for now. Freedom Path, the secretive pro-Hatch PAC might even be worse. I got an anti-Liljenquist mailer just yesterday from them—and it was as disingenuous as any I’ve seen. These PACs treat me like I am stupid—just waiting to swoon by every wind of advertisement. They forget that his technique doesn’t go over well in Utah County. Here’s a blurb from an article I wrote on Bill Orton in 1991:

With two days to go a now infamous full-page ad appeared in the Utah County Journal. The ad showed a Karl Snow family portrait with the caption “Karl Snow and his family.” Next to that picture was one of Orton, all alone, with the caption “Bill Orton and his family.” The ad continued: “Some candidates want you to believe that their personal values don t [sic] matter. Most issues facing the United States Congress seriously affect our families. Values do matter! Vote Republican.” And then, in smaller type at the bottom: “Paid for by the Utah Republican Party.”

The ad proved to be an affront to the voters and was unapproved by Karl Snow (though it seemed to follow the general strategy mentioned earlier). Republican campaign specialists began playing the equivalent of “who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” trying to find out who had placed the ad. Prominent elected Republicans were quick to criticize. “I was totally offended by the ad,” Senator Orrin Hatch said later. “I’ve seen a lot of stupid things in politics, but this ad was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

[Bill Orton won handily.] Where in the early 90s this ad was a rare moment, we are bombarded with it constantly now. In the mail today I got a letter from the Liljenquist campaign reprinting an article from the Utah Taxpayers Association that disembowels the Freedom Path argument pretty thoroughly. I’ll put it at the end of this blog. (I also got an anonymous email yesterday attacking three of the Utah House candidates.)

I’ve had several people tell me they don’t like Liljenquist because of Freedom Works. If that is solid reasoning, we shouldn’t vote for Hatch either because of Freedom Paths. They’re both simply awful and have huge funding outside the state.

Last point. Many want to legally do away with super PACs, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently voted to allow.

I don’t think we should do away with them as long as we have a free press and alternate voices. One wise man told me as I was headed down a challenging path, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” I think the PACs have created more discussion and energy in our political sphere. I think the bad ones are ultimately exposed for who they are and encourage, like with the Bill Orton anti-campaign, the opposite of what they intend.

I now know more about Dan Liljenquist’s work in the Utah Senate than ever before.

So, let’s keep all the awful super PACs and the energy they create. I’m growing fond of them!

Here’s the article from www.utahtaxpayers.org:

Setting the record straight: Super PACs inaccurately describe record of 2-time “Taxpayer Advocate of the Year” Dan Liljenquist

While the Taxpayers Association has made no endorsement in this year’s US Senate race, we feel it our duty to present the facts to claims we feel are misleading.

Freedom Path, a super PAC supporting Senator Orrin Hatch’s reelection is lodging two complaints about former State Senator Dan Liljenquist, who hopes to replace Senator Hatch in the US Senate. First, they allege that Liljenquist supports double dipping by state employees. Second, Freedom Path accuses Liljenquist of inappropriately missing a large share of votes while in the Utah Senate. The first accusation is demonstrably false, and the second reveals a disappointing willingness to shade the truth.

State employees “double dip” when they retire from their state job and begin collecting retirement benefits, then take the same or a similar job with the state and continue to accrue towards their retirement. According to a 2009 report by the Legislative Auditor General, paying into a reemployed state retiree’s retirement account cost the state $400 million between 2000 and 2008. Without
Liljenquist’s reforms, Utah taxpayers would have accrued another $900 million in expenses by 2019.

Regular readers of The Utah Taxpayer will recall that the Utah Taxpayers Association honored former Senator Liljenquist for reining in double dipping. Senator Liljenquist sponsored SB 43 in the 2010 General Session. SB 43 gave retired state employees wishing to return to state employment a choice: they can either forgo their retirement allowance, or earn additional credit toward their retirement benefit. However, they can no longer do both.

Anyone familiar with the legislative process knows that crafting and brokering approval of legislation this path breaking requires a great deal of hand holding. Competing groups like fire fighters, the
judicial system, the police and other public employees all want to protect the system they benefit from, and they all have powerful allies within the lobbying corps and the Utah Legislature.

Crafting good policy (like his 2010 pension and post-retirement employment reforms and his 2011 Medicaid reforms) that wins passage through both the House and the Senate demands meeting after meeting after meeting. (Importantly, the Legislative Fiscal Analyst estimated that the Medicaid
reforms in SB 180 would save Utah nearly $800 million in its first 7 years.)

To make sure SB 180 passed the House, Sen. Liljenquist participated in dozens of meetings with various stakeholders. In doing so, he relied on his Senate colleagues to make sure other good bills moved forward, and bad bills were stopped. However, he was on the floor when his vote was needed on close votes.

Having spent more than three decades in the U.S. Senate, Senator Hatch undoubtedly understands the need for this kind of hand holding in passing path-breaking legislation. Nevertheless, Freedom Path is faulting Liljenquist for missing many floor votes in 2011. While technically accurate, their ads distort the real picture of Liljenquist’s service, and what Utah taxpayers expect of their elected officials.

It is disappointing that Freedom Path is besmirching Senator Hatch’s illustrious career this way. Instead of decrying Freedom Path’s misrepresentations, Senator Hatch seems content to ignore inaccuracies, as long as they help his reelection effort.

Senator Liljenquist’s legislative record earned two “Taxpayer Advocate of the Year” awards. Reforming Medicaid, pensions or post-retirement employment individually would have been difficult. Sen. Liljenquist did all three. Your Taxpayers Association will not sit by as outside interests misrepresent those important reforms. We are committed to setting the record straight, so Utahns can cast an informed vote based on accurate and full information.

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