Saturday, August 25, 2007

FloatGate: Raining on the GOP's parade

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.

5 comments:

Anne Bradshaw said...

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Anonymous said...

Did former Democratic congressional candidate Lily Eskelsen's uncompensated use of graphics arts students at Skyline High School to produce signage for her bids for National Education Association offices -- while not as political as the Utah GOP's Floatgate -- come close?

Voice of Utah said...

Wow, a blast from the past! I remember Lily Eskelsen (I think), although she wasn't an elected official, if I recall. Trying to think back...

Anonymous said...

Any political party asking any public entity to perform any work, paid or unpaid, is unethical and probably violates the Hatch Act.

You would hope that our politicians would be smarter. Perhaps it is sheer hubris, but none of this would have come to light if the original donor of the trailer bed would have paid to have the work done at MATC, and then donated it to the GOP.

The fact that the GOP specifically asked for MATC to do this work suggests that indeed they wanted some sort of favor or preferential treatment. If they were willing to pay, why not have a non-state entity work on it? There must be one welder in Utah County that is not on the MATC payroll.

The Utah County GOP's notion that this would be a good student project must be under the assumption that there is a burgeoning float welding industry nestled among the multi-level marketing firms in Happy Valley.

Anonymous said...

Having been in a position for many years to watch our Utah County legislators in action and up close and personal I can tell you that they are the most arrogant, self centered, self important people that ever crawled out from under a political rock and Curt Bramble is the worst. Knowing him as I do, I have no doubt that his intent when contacting MATC was to pressure the powers there to build his float for free. Everyone who knows him says the same thing so how does he continue to fool the people of his district?