Ending the ‘culture of corruption’ will take more than a resignation

culture of corruptionOver the last year, I’ve talked a lot about the “culture of corruption” that the Attorney General has been steeped in.  I’ve mentioned before that some people within my own party have told me to “Sit down, shut up and stop rocking the boat.”  Not likely. Corruption is never OK. Cover-up is never OK.  Those who think it is need to step away from politics.

It’s disturbing to me that anyone can look at the type of corruption that came out of the AG’s office and brush it off.

It’s disturbing to me that some people are OK with the type of campaigning that got John Swallow into office. Whatever it takes to win, right?

Not so much.

A huge chunk of the House investigative committee report on Dec 19 and 20 focused on “campaign operative” Jason Powers, his companies, PACs and 501c4’s. Recently unsealed warrants show Powers to be right in the middle of this investigation.

Powers – on behalf of payday lenders and John Swallow – set about to destroy former Rep. Brad Daw. Apparently believing he is untouchable, he continues to brag about his take-down of Daw on his consulting website. Daw was not his only target.  He also displays multiple examples of his “Guidant Strategies” work that often looks eerily similar to the Brad Daw attacks.  And those are the examples he publicly admits to.

Campaigns are about the future, about what candidates offer to the people they would like to serve and even about drawing contrasts between you and your opponents.  It is NOT about bullying your opponent to try and get them out of the race. It is NOT about deceiving the public. It is NOT about threats and intimidation and retaliation. (In fact, those things are already against the law.)

The attention to Jason Powers’ tactics does not seem to have slowed his desire for retaliation. Rep. Greg Hughes ran a bill last year to require transparency for these shadow groups. He has now been told that he can expect a primary opponent and a slew of negative mail, just like Brad Daw.  In fact, anyone who has been outspoken against Powers or Swallow or payday lenders should probably be prepared for an onslaught.  (That is if Powers is not too busy with warrants and subpoenas and all that……)

Jason Powers has had many clients.  There were likely people who hired Jason Powers who did not realize the extent of his nastiness but they can no longer claim ignorance.  His “style” has no place in Utah politics.  The type of people who would hire him – or anyone thinking they’ll just step in and fill the void – have no place in Utah politics.

Ending the culture of corruption must go further than the resignation of John Swallow. The bullying must end.  The win-at-all costs mentality must change.  The politics of personal destruction must be condemned.  If Jason Powers is out of the picture, but candidates are willing to hire those who would take his spot, no good will have come of all this.

I am heartened to hear a growing chorus of voices speaking up for solid ethics in campaigning and in governing..  There are GOOD people involved in politics. A number have spoken up about the importance of public trust for months now.  I hope at the end of this mess we have more sunlight and an abolition of the dark tactics that have spread too far into Utah politics.

We deserve no less. 



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  1. Hear, hear!

    Thanks for your willingness to speak out on this subject! This column should be required reading for every Utah voter.

    I gained a small amount of insight into how good people end up walking in gray areas in a recent Utah House race in my district. There was a tea party candidate who was attempting to unseat what some might call a moderate Republican – I’m more inclined to call her a reasonable Republican – and when the challenger couldn’t gain any traction he began resorting to the kind of bullying and dishonesty that you mention in this column (although the stakes were much lower and there wasn’t any money involved). At one point I had to stand up to a general authority emeritus of the LDS Church (who supported the tea party candidate not because of religious affiliation, since all the candidates were LDS, but most likely because they were both from the same area in a different state) because I simply couldn’t support a candidate who engaged is underhanded tactics regardless of what their purported political philosophy might be.

    I’m sure JBT will read this, so let me state for his benefit that I don’t believe that underhanded tactics are the exclusive domain of either political party, and trying to score political points on the basis of this Republican or that Democrat being corrupt is not particularly helpful; in fact, that kind of posturing and polarization is an enabler of corruption. One-party rule most likely favors corruption, as you have previously noted, but then the obvious solution for Utah’s one-party situation is for the Utah Democratic Party to at least attempt to appeal to Utah voters.

    So, Holly, thanks again. I’m still baffled as to how the “little people” can get a clue with about this type of corruption. In retrospect, with regard to the John Swallow campaign, it’s pretty obvious that Sean Reyes and Troy Rawlings were aware of Swallow’s corruption. BUT THEY DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT. And I guess I can understand their reticence to go there, because people like Swallow and his handlers could probably turn that against them quite easily. [And, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know whether Reyes is any better than Swallow. I sincerely hope he is.] There’s a certain disturbing asymmetry when dishonest people compete in the public domain, and I don’t know how to balance the scales except that “we” (as if little people such as I have any influence) need to cultivate a culture of integrity so that the dishonest folks can’t get a toe-hold.

  2. Aimee Newton says:

    I agree, Holly! You can differentiate yourself from your opponent. You can also examine your opponent’s voting record, but there are “below the belt” campaign tactics that are just not right. Christian values of treating people kindly shouldn’t go away just because someone is running for office.

  3. Well said, Holly. The toxicity of these types of campaigns isn’t a left or right issue either. It effects all parties and candidates and ultimately results in even more cynical and disengaged voters. People want to feel there is at least some level of integrity in the campaign process, and people like Powers (and the win at all costs culture you describe) diminsh that.

  4. I get tired of hearing conservatives say that all the Democratic candidates have to do to get elected is to appeal to Utah voters. Let me share my experience in Utah County. There have been several very gifted and qualified people in my party who have been willing to run for office in this county despite the fact that it typically is a waste of their time and money. In fact upon closer inspection, their values and priorities fit hand in glove with the values of the voters in their area since most of them are LDS and their views are more moderate than progressive. Polls show that their views on support of public education, care for the poor, sick, and elderly and promoting clean air and water are even more in line with voters than their Republican opponents. Why then do they lose by 30 or more percentage points? I’ll tell you why. A very common tactic regularly employed by the Republican Party in Utah County is to paint the local Democratic candidate as having the same views and values as the national party platform on abortion, handgun control, condoms in schools, gay rights and any other hot button issue they can use to their advantage. It makes no difference if the LDS Democratic candidate holds the opposite views on these hot button issues as the national party which represents a large demographic area, the Republican Party gleefully casts that stain on them knowing that it will turn voters away.

    The reason that Utah is dead last in funding for public schools is not that we can’t afford to do more with our large families, it is because of the priorities of the Republicans who dominate the legislature. Roads, buildings, tax breaks for corporations, a flat tax so the wealthy pay the same percentage as the poor, are all a higher priority than educating our children. Electing Democrats would change that scenario. Did you know the last year that Utah was not last in education funding in the U.S. was the last year that Democrats controlled the state legislature. As soon as Republicans took control we dropped to last place and have been there ever since. A coincidence? I think not. Democratic candidates have been voicing the values and priorities of the Utah voters, especially on issues of local and state significance. If the public would take the time listed to them instead listening to the Republican lies and demagogery Utah might just get a two party system again someday.

  5. I see you’re not willing to give up insulting Republicans in an effort to sway them to vote Democrat. I don’t think it’s going to work.

  6. Just telling it like it is Pops. If the shoe fits. . .

  7. It doesn’t.


  1. […] Ending the ‘culture of corruption’ will take more than a resignation (hollyonthehill.com) […]

  2. […] Ending the ‘culture of corruption’ will take more than a resignation (hollyonthehill.com) […]

  3. […] Representative Brad Daw.  Daw was replaced by Layton after a nasty intraparty nomination fight that saw dark money, revealed during the John Swallow investigation on Capitol Hill, smear Daw for supporting […]