Wow, you go out of town on business for a week, and are rewarded on your return with a fun little GOP 'scandal' with pretty colors. True, you can't tell from the media reports what really happened in FloatGate, and the chance of an actual ethics inquiry is about the same as Hillary Clinton keynoting the state GOP Convention. But it's something different at least. As we understand it:
The Republicans wanted their own parade float, but didn't want to and/or couldn't build it themselves. Someone decided to call MATC, the Mountainland Applied Technology College, and ask if its students might do the work. In itself, that does not seem improper. We assume that a private person could ask the same thing, if he was willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, the call was made by senate majority leader Curt Bramble, who says he merely inquired, without exerting any political pressure. Come on. When a publicly funded institution gets a call from a highly placed legislator, that is inherent pressure. If it wasn't political, why would Bramble have dialed the number personally? Why wouldn't some low-level person in the party have called? The concept itself might not have been inappropriate, but the execution was.
Until a MATC employee (who will probably be legislated out of a job soon) blew the whistle, someone had also decided that the GOP wouldn't have to pay for this float. Utah County legislator Becky Lockhart, wife of GOP chair Stan Lockhart, says it wasn't her. She says she offered a check both before and after the project. One school of thought believes that it's true, that such high-profile party officials would not be dumb or arrogant to blatantly violate the law by having a public institution do a partisan project for free. Proponents of that theory figure that campus president Clay Christensen simply bent over a little too far backwards in sucking up to The Powers That Be.
The other school of thought is that GOP party officials might not be that dumb, but they are that arrogant. Republican legislators in this state have de facto immunity from ethics inquiries, and they are at no risk of losing re-election, so heck yeah, they push the envelope.
Which version is correct? We don't know. All we know is that there are an unlimited number of jokes that can be made about this, for now and all eternity. Between China junkets and Float fodder, the Utah Legislature is a local blogger's dream.
P.S. The above photos are of the actual infamous float.