What to do about Utah's corrupt political culture?


Here's the scenario:

On the one hand, we have a candidate for Utah Attorney General that is probably the most qualified the state has seen in decades. He's a respected county attorney of one of Utah's most populous and diverse counties, with a tremendous track record in cleaning up gang violence and creating innovative solutions to drug addiction. He's spent his whole career in criminal law, and refused to actively fund raise among lawyers in his community because this former seminary teacher felt it would be an unethical conflict of interest.

On the other hand, we have a political operative and professional lobbyist and fundraiser who has no experience in criminal law, having spent much of his career working in the payday loan industry. He didn't turn away money from anyone in his quest to raise over a million dollars, including special interests doing business with the state of Utah. While moonlighting when he was the former assistant AG, he became involved in an influence-peddling scandal that had the Provo Daily Herald and the Salt Lake Tribune calling for his resignation, and Ogden's Standard Examiner citing the actions of this individual as an ethical "cesspool". This cesspool is simply a continuation of the previous AG's administration,where flying on private jets and accepting huge amounts of campaign cash trumped the business of being Utah's chief law enforcement officer.

Now for the quiz: Which of the above candidates win the AG race? The answer: In Utah, it's no contest. Candidate #2 wins in a landslide. Why? Because he's a Republican.

This is the latest in a long line of political scandals, in a state where powerful special interests who do business with the state of Utah are free to spend unlimited amounts of cash in campaign contributions to political figures. We are embarrassingly unique in the level of influence peddling and corruption we tolerate.

The problem here is not corrupt individuals. The problem is a corrupt system. D&C 121:39 teaches us that even the best of men will fall if given unlimited power. And we must be brutally honest in diagnosing the root cause of this corrupt system:  Most Utah Mormons consistently vote for the Republican candidate, without putting forth any effort whatsoever to actually investigate the candidates or the issues involved. They do this in direct violation of repeated counsel from the highest leadership of the Church.

This might sound melodramatic, but Utah has only one hope. It's us, the LDS Dems. It is our mission to help our fellow Latter-day Saints actually believe the words of the prophet, that the Church does not endorse any political party or candidate, that all political parties have principles consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that we should carefully and prayerfully study each individual candidate and issue. If we don't work to bring about this change, who will?

We need to use this latest scandal to get people's attention. It's time to "come out of the closet". The LDS Dems executive committee has exciting plans for 2013, including:

  • A bold messaging campaign, including billboards along the Wasatch Front proclaiming our values.

  • A new push for enlarging our membership

  • Work to strengthen our organization outside of Salt Lake County

  • Monthly "Family Home Evening" activities, where we will talk gospel principles, not politics, with the goal of inviting friends and neighbors

We plead with all of you to take an active role. When the letter comes asking for donations to fund our messaging campaign, give generously. Attend LDS Dems activities and leadership meetings. Get involved in local LDS Dems leadership; we are in critical need of proactive leaders in areas outside of Salt Lake County especially.

Our fellow Latter-day Saints are too unselfish, too kind, and too good for us to sit idly by and allow them to continue to vote straight ticket Republican, in violation of our prophet's counsel. It's hard and often frustrating work, but nothing you could do in 2013 could have a more lasting effect on our state. Together, if we speak boldly and with conviction, we can perform miracles.

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