Friday, August 31, 2007

GOP legislators call up the Voucher Militia

In case anyone missed Rolly's column this morning, it's worth a quote. In it, he describes the latest example of state legislative leadership making an innocent, no-pressure request of the citizenry. (Well, of lobbyists, anyway--you know, those people whose clients, coincidentally, want legislative access and support.) Having moved on from parade floats, this time the innocent, no-pressure request was to help defeat the citizens' referendum on vouchers.

"Ask not what your GOP legislator can do for you," Sen. Curt Bramble said in a rousing speech. "Ask what you can do for your GOP legislator." According to Rolly, Sen. Bramble, Rep. Greg Curtis, and other legislators held a harmless little tea party to aid their pro-voucher cause:
About 20 lobbyists were summoned to a meeting Monday by legislative leaders who urged them to roll up their sleeves and help save the voucher law.

The meeting was held at the Utah Board of Realtors office and the lobbyists were put in the position of either committing to the pro-voucher campaign or rejecting a request from the very lawmakers they need to help pass their legislative agendas each year....

Those summoned to the meeting were asked to help defeat the November referendum that would repeal the voucher bill passed earlier this year. Most were lobbyists for business associations representing manufacturers, mining, homebuilders, small businesses, real estate agents, food retailers, trucking, the Chamber of Commerce, utilities and others.

The legislators explained to the captive audience that they were invited because their organizations were part of former Gov. Mike Leavitt's Business/Education Coalition, which issued a report in 2002 recommending various ways to improve education, including tuition tax credits for private schools.

Because their groups had already endorsed the voucher concept, the legislators said, they need to step up and help defeat those who want to repeal the law that provides up to $3,000 toward private school tuition.

They were asked to raise money for the effort and lend the names of their institutions in support of vouchers.

The lobbyists have been summoned to a follow-up breakfast meeting Thursday at the Board of Realtors to report on their fund-raising progress.
See? No pressure at all. Nothing to see here...


JM Bell said...

Having learned no lesson at all (or just not giving a shit) of doing things that look slimy and unethical with the parade float, the UT GOP gears up for another round of slimy and unethical looking doing secure in the knowledge that they'll be reelected.

Kudos to Rolly - the Finger to the rest of the media.

Referendum One said...

I saw it and had to take a long break before commenting on it. It defies what we all learned about public service, about the rights of citizens. Does no one have the authority to put an end to it? Doesn't it rise to the level of extortion? Blackmail? When I finally wrote about it, I said a hundred years ago, they would have called this highway robbery and our lawmakers would have been called the bandits. I guess the difference is that bandits today wear neckties and collect campaign checks.

The Senate Site said...

So, V of U . . .

Officials like Steve Mascaro and Kim Burningham are okay when they fight against the voucher law, but "pro-choice" legislators are out of line when they work for their point of view?

Sounds a lot like a double standard.

What if union power instead of GOP power were the burr under Rolly's saddle -- couldn't the UEA's work with teachers (many of whom support vouchers) also be sarcastically termed innocent, no-pressure requests"?

According to the article, this was a coalition who pushed the legislature for vouchers, back in the day. Why wouldn't "pro-choice" legislators work closely with them on a public education campaign? Do you begrudge the pro-voucher side the funding to even begin to compete with the NEA's $3 Million?

Nice picture of Curt Bramble.

Voice of Utah said...

Nice try, Ric. "Fighting for" or against vouchers isn't the beef here. It's the summoning of private citizens -- particularly a group whose profession is dependent on legislative access and influence -- and telling them that legislative leadership expects these individuals to raise funds for their cause. Imagine a judge contacting individual lawyers during a retention election and saying that he expected them to raise funds to run an ad supporting him, just because the Utah Bar Association (a group to which the lawyer belongs) once gave the judge an award or something. It's grossly improper pressure. I might be able to swallow a one-time meeting, because then people could decide for themselves if they wanted to do it, but no, there is to be a pop quiz -- another meeting to make sure they're actually doing it. Sorry, but that's really repulsive to us.

JM Bell said...

C'mon, Ric, there is a HUGE difference from an employee's union gathering to discuss an attack upon their livelihood to a group of elected officials gathering the people who pay for their elections giving marching orders to those same said money givers and favor askers for the attack upon someone else's livelihood in a way that looks. LOOKS, like an ultimatum for acquiescence or consequence.

JM Bell said...

By the way, how hard was it to refer to legislators from your team as "pro-choice?"

It strikes me as a little painfully ironic.

The Senate Site said...

Deliciously ironic, but not as much as "anti-choice" for the other side. I take perverse delight when either phrase is used in the voucher debate. Makes you think.

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