November 26, 2015

Are Candidates Subverting Caucus Night?

If you’ve ever been a state delegate, or might again be a state delegate, you’ve been flooded in recent days by a veritable forest worth of glossy mailers.

It must be getting close to Utah‘s caucus night.  From the number of mailers arriving each day, you would think that the election was next week, instead of in the latter half of April. In fact, it’s only the selection of delegates that is this week, and there are those out here that question whether trying to stack the caucuses so much is really very good for our system.

Enter pundit Ethan Millard. He level’s his pen at a certain candidate for Attorney General and fires away:

Swallow is trying to get his supporters to become delegates pre-committed to him. Under this tactic, the legitimacy of an election is compromised from the beginning, with delegates never intending to represent their neighborhoods.

Swallow’s not the only one trying to stack the caucus meetings to elect a delegates who will represent him. Millard pegs Ben McAdams, Ross Romero, Carl Wimmer, and Dan Liljenquist, too. Ironically, he left out Senator Orrin Hatch whose campaign manager Dave Hansen told The Hill that the Hatch campaign has been focused on the caucuses for a year and a half.

“We’ve been at this campaign for a year and our focus has been on the caucuses,” said Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen. “We take them very seriously. Are we focused on them? Absolutely.”

Is it easy? No. But that doesn’t stop a cool hand like Hansen’s.

“In effect what you’re doing is putting together 1,820 individual campaigns all occurring on the same night, which is a massive task, to be honest with you,” Hansen said.

Brigham Young University Professor Adam Brown said both sides are well-organized but Hatch’s forces likely have the edge.

“Both Hatch and Freedomworks have sent me a pile of mail. If organization means mailing things out, then they’re both strong,” he said. “I’ve had several mailers from Hatch inviting me to those meetings to train to be a delegate. I haven’t seen anything like that from Freedomworks.”

So the candidates are trying to control who gets elected delegates. So what?  That’s called free speech, right?

It is. But that still doesn’t stop people from complaining about Super PACs that spend money unseat incumbents. And if it’s wrong for Super PACs to spend money in Utah, is it wrong for candidates to try to control the neighborhood caucus in neighborhoods they don’t live in?

Back to Millard’s argument:

This is a deliberate subversion of the caucus process as politicians stack the conventions with delegates committed to them, not committed to representing their neighborhoods.

These actions delegitimize the caucus and convention as a system to elect our representatives.

You decide.

On that note, let me show you what’s been going out this week.  First, “the nice” stuff, or mailers that I think help politics in Utah more than hurt.

This piece from Liljenquist's own campaign is a rarity in this election. It lays out his background (education at BYU and University of Chicago law school, career at Bain and as an entrepreneur, election to Utah Senate, etc) and his policy positions.

Inside, the mailer is content heavy. No distortions or misleading graphics. Just the facts, Ma'am.

Another benign and useful piece was this one from Orrin Hatch a couple weeks back. Clear, to the point, and an important message: If Republicans take the Senate, Hatch will head the Finance Committee. It also carried Mitt Romney's endorsement, a potentially persuasive piece in a state where Romney is clearly the favorite for President.

The front side of the Orrin Hatch "finance committee" piece. The only faux pas on this piece was the timing. It hit mailboxes the same day that Olympia Snowe retired, softening the argument because conservative Senator Crapo of Idaho stands behind Orrin in line for head of the finance committee.


And then things start to go awry. If this were just an intraparty battle limited to Utah, it might be one thing. But this year, heavy spending out of state PACs have gone to bat for both Orrin Hatch and his competitors. My previous analysis has found that those going to bat for Senator Hatch have been fast and loose with the facts (see here).  On the other hand, Freedom Works has spent heavily to talk about Orrin Hatch’s 36 year record in the Senate. Whether you like his record or not, it is what it is, and Freedom Works’ mailers have been far heavier on facts, if less rhetorical than the shadowy Freedom Path.

The mailers:


As I noted before, Hatch's "Finance Chair" mailer was poorly timed when Senator Snowe announced her retirement. And Freedom Works jumped on that.

This mailer pounds points that have been constant in Freedom Works' mailers: raising the debt ceiling, co-sponsoring an individual mandate, etc.

This mailer essentially says that Senator Hatch says one thing at home and another when in D.C. That might be a stretch...

...but if it is a stretch, it makes a reasoned argument for questioning his real intent. It's hard for Hatch to run from his 36 year record, and I think he's done a good job of framing the debate where it benefits him best. Voters could easily look at both sides and find reason to support keeping, or replacing, Utah's senior senator.

The biggest argument Tea Party folk are raising? Hatch's support to raise the debt $7.5 trillion.

Freedom Works dropped the hammer on the $7.5 trillion with this piece, waving the national debt (it's at 100% of GDP, by the way) in voters faces.

Inside Freedom Works' "debt" mailer, we see simply the amount the national debt increased in each vote by Orrin Hatch. It should be noted that a number of these bills were signed by Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Freedom Path (which I love to hate for how little transparency there is into who they are and where their facts come from) sent out this piece on Liljenquist. It looks dark and dangerous, but if you get past the image, the facts are relatively innocuous. Or just plain wrong. As I've indicated in past posts, Liljenquist did not just allow double-dipping to continue, he saved the state hundreds of millions by reforming it and pensions.

On the facts, Liljenquist did miss votes, but not an abnormal amount for how much legislation he was carrying. On double-dipping, it's actually Liljenquist's own bill that limited the practice. Last, Liljenquist voted, along with nearly the entire Utah legislature, to change Utah's GRAMA law, as well as did the Governor. Is this an attack on them, too?

Worst. Comparison. EVER. Whether you like Hatch or not, comparing him to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama is a stretch. Next we'll see Hitler and Stalin, too. Or maybe Darth Vader, or Voldemort.

And the backside. Does the comparison hold up? I'm dubious. 36 years in Washington means a lot of votes and a lot of policies. It's hard to believe all of that boils down to one theme.

Obnoxious. But then, it's by Freedom Path. Could we expect anything better?

Not only is it obnoxious, it's misleading. The facts are stretched (like the gum--ha!), not to mention distorted. and it does little service to our state or to informing voters. I would say this is just short of dishonest.

Also, obnoxious, if for a different reason. If you're on the Hatch campaign and reading this, don't send me a mailer that's so big. I don't need a wall portrait of Romney, or Hatch. (The penny is next to Romney's head for scale).

The opposite side of the giant Romney head mailer.

This piece, I think, might be one of the more effective pieces yet, and I'm surprised Freedom Works hasn't done more. It reminds voters of what they can do with a positive message.


Finally, this: a reminder from the Hatch campaign to attend caucus, support Senator Hatch to put him on the Finance committee, lowering taxes, balancing the budget, and so on.


Does this distort and corrupt our caucuses? That’s for you to decide. Whatever you believe, I encourage you to show up, ask questions of the people who want to represent your vote, and demand that they represent you, not the candidate. This is representation of our interests, not the candidates. Whether it’s perpetual candidates like John Swallow or esteemed Senators like Orrin Hatch, it’s ultimately about how what they are and what they vote will affect our families.

Show up, ask questions, and make a good choice. It only works if you do.

[The Hill] [KSL]

(Personally, I think the sheer number of mailers is because the guys over at Freedom Path saw my post debunking their “facts” and decided that they would hit me with so many I didn’t have time to debunk them again…but I could be a little walleyed about that).

“Time Changed Hatch” Mailer Factually Correct

Is Freedom Works as dishonest as Freedom Path?

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve looked at a couple of maligning mail pieces sent out by the shadowy Freedom Path PAC whose primary purpose appears to be to malign incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch‘s opponents.  Both mail pieces appear to distort and misrepresent Hatch challengers Chris Herrod and Dan Liljenquist. Read the posts on the “Two Scoops” or “Double dip” mailer here and the “Jobs not Made in the USA” mailer here.

As per my promise, I will also analyze for factual accuracy the mailers sent by the anti-Hatch Freedom Works PAC. This post looks at a mailer I call “Time Changed Hatch.”  As with the last two mailers, I have tried to go to the primary sources and have also reached out to the Hatch reelection campaign for any kind of response they might have. They have directed me to the site but declined to respond directly to the mailer any further. I have utilized their site to augment my research into the primary sources.  Since the site appears to be more focused on the larger Freedom Works mailer (as in, it’s 45 pages long), I expect finding it more useful when I present that analysis.

Analysis: “Time Changed Hatch” Mailer Attempts to Paint Hatch as Changed by Washington

The mailer opens with the following paragraph:

“In 1976, Orrin Hatch went to Washington. And just as time has shaped Utah’s unique landscape, thirty-six years as a Washington insider has changed Orrin Hatch into a big-spending, big-government politician.”

This, then, is the thesis of the entire effort to remove Senator Hatch from office and not really a fact so much as an argument. It’s classic Tea Party rhetoric.   The question: is Senator Orrin Hatch really a big-spending, big-government politician?

I will let you answer that yourself.  It’s really a statement that is relative to your own perception of what “big” is and whether it is good or bad. I will note this: Senator Hatch, with thirty-six years in the US Senate, has a record that has been examined by many organizations, lobbyists, and activists. As the Hatch campaign pointed out to me, the American Conservative Union has given him a lifetime rating of 90%, the National Taxpayer’s Union this year gave him the highest rating in Congress, and the Club for Growth gave him a 97% rating for his pro-growth policies. These are just a few. Find a more thorough list of organizations that have honored him here

Clearly, reasonable minds can disagree. So, I won’t answer the question about whether Senator Hatch is a “big-spending, big-government politician.”

On the other hand, the “Time Changed Hatch” mailer lists five specific bullet points in support of the statement that we can look at for accuracy.

The Statements: Five Votes or Types of Votes

  • Statement 1:Voted 16 times to increase the debt ceiling by a whopping $7.5 trillion–accounting for half of our nation’s debt.”

That Senator Hatch voted 16 times to increase the debt appears to be mostly TRUE, though I could only verify 14 votes, and I’m not going to discuss the total amount. (I suspect that somebody is going to correct me on the missing upon posting).

  1. Senate Vote #298 (Sep 29, 1981).
  2. Senate Vote #23 (Feb 6, 1981).
  3. Senate Vote #851 (Sep 23, 1982).
  4. Senate Vote #115 (May 25, 1983).
  5. Senate Vote #663 (Oct 12, 1984).
  6. Senate Vote #371 (Dec 11, 1985).
  7. Senate Vote #636 (Aug 15, 1986).
  8. Senate Vote #262 (Sep 23, 1987).
  9. HR 3136 (March 28, 1996).
  10. HR 2015 (June 25, 1997).
  11. S.2578 (June 11, 2002).
  12. HR 4 (April 1, 2004) .
  13. H.J. Res. 47 (March 16, 2006).
  14. H.J. Res. 43 (September 27, 2007)

Editorial Comment: Whether raising the debt at any one of these particular points is public policy question that I am not addressing here. It should be noted that a number of these votes (the first eight) occurred and were signed by President Ronald Reagan. With as often as we see politicians of all stripes (even Obama has tried) trying to channel the Gipper, I think it is relevant to note that President Reagan would have had to sign off on each of the debt increases that passed the House and Senate.

  • Statement 2:“Supported the “TARP” $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

This statement is TRUE.  Senator Hatch did vote for TARP. According to the roll call list, Senator Hatch, along with then Senator Bennett, voted “Yea” on H. R. 1424, better known as “TARP” or “Troubled Assets and Relief Program.”  The bill’s stated purpose was to “provide authority for the Federal Government to purchase and insure certain types of troubled assets for the purposes of providing stability to and preventing disruption in the economy and financial system and protecting taxpayers.”

  • Statement 3: “Voted for numerous bills filled with pork-barrel earmarks–in 2010 Hatch was the 3rd highest earmarker out of all 535 members of Congress.”

This statement appears to be TRUE.  If you surf over to, there is an excellent database on earmarks and what each member of Congress has earmarked.  If you click on the link on the left that says “Member’s with the highest total” you find a list of the top ten highest earmarking members of the Senate and the House. Senator Hatch was #3 on this list in 2010, the year in the Freedom Works “Time Changed Hatch” mailer. However, on that same page you can find that in 2009 Senator Hatch is not even in the top ten list.

Editorial Comment: Whether earmarks are “bad’ per se is an open question. Unlike a lot of other spending methods, earmarks are transparent and open, and, in reality, the way that Congress was designed to work. Federal earmarks account for only .5% of the budget, and in fiscal year 2010, cutting out Senator Hatch’s earmarks  (worth $358,815,000 for Utah) would have left another $10.7 billion in earmarks. If the federal government is going to spend, then earmarks are about the most benign and transparent way it happens.

  • Statement 4: “Co-sponsored the Obama-like Individual Mandate for Health Care, a law that forces individuals to purchase health insurance.”
, member of the United States Senate.

Image via Wikipedia

While it is TRUE that Senator Hatch did co-sponsor S.1770 in 1993per the “Time Changed Hatch” mailer, what is unclear is whether it was “Obama-like.”Looking further at the bill summary, the bill appears to provides for, among other things, “access to health insurance coverage under a qualified health plan for every citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States” (universal coverage regardless of citizenship status),  “nondiscrimination based on health status” (preventing insurance companies from discriminating based on preexisting conditions), imposes a mandate on states requiring them to comply with certain insurance certification and enrollment requirements, and allows an exemption from a universal coverage mandate for those with religious scruples that prevent participation in “health plan coverage” (that last one I thought was odd, but, there it is…).

Therefore, it does appear that S.1770 required that all individuals be part of the national healthcare plan, or what is better known as an “individual mandate.” While states may legally do as much within their own states (as did Massachusetts), whether such is constitutional on a federal level raises is an open question and will be argued before the Supreme Court this year. (See more about that debate here).

  • Statement 5Partnered with liberal Ted Kennedy as a co-sponsor of SCHIP, described as ‘…a precursor to the new [universal health care] system.”

This statement is TRUE.  Senator Hatch did co-sponsor SCHIP with Senator Ted Kennedy (and 23 other Senators, too) in 1997, as was highly reported in the news media at the time. It was seen as sufficiently significant at the time that Wikipedia even makes a note of  Senator Hatch’s co-sponsorship with the support of then First Lady Hillary Clinton in the second paragraph of the entry on SCHIP.  The New York Times reported at the time that

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a conservative Republican, today embraced a major Democratic effort to provide health insurance for half of the nation’s 10 million uninsured children, saying he would become the chief sponsor of the legislation.

Senator Hatch explained that he took the step across the aisle to show that “the Republican Party ”does not hate children,” and he added that ”as a nation, as a society, we have a moral responsibility” to provide coverage for the most vulnerable children.”

CONCLUSION: Freedom Works “Time Changed Hatch” Mailer is factually true.

While reasonable minds can, and do, disagree on the wisdom of the above cited votes by Senator Hatch, the statements Freedom Works makes are largely true. In fact, I’m not sure that any of them appear to distort his record in any way. The only statements that seem to be questionable, in my assessment are the following:

  • “…36 years in Washington Changed Orrin Hatch.” This is up for debate. Yes, the man is three and a half decades older, but change can swing both ways.
  • “Obama-like Individual Mandate of Health Care[.]”  I have not addressed how comparable the mandate Senator Hatch voted for and co-sponsored is to the American Healthcare Act because such would need more space and time than I care to give the issue and than you care to read. However, on its face, there are many relevant comparisons. (For more on the American Healthcare Act before the Supreme Court, go here).

The striking contrast between the mailers sent by Freedom Path (pro-Hatch) and those sent by Freedom Works (anti-Hatch) is stark. Where Freedom Path grasps at straws and makes very distorted spins on Liljenquist and Herrod’s records, Freedom Path takes an almost “high road” approach. “Here are the votes,” Freedom Works says, and “we think they lead to a certain result.”

With that in mind, please carefully consider the facts and whether they support your policy preferences. Freedom Path is demonizing Liljenquist and Herrod without any basis; Freedom Works is pointing out policy points with a very real basis in Senator Hatch’s record. Happy hunting!

[U.S. Senate Roll Call on H.R.1424] [S.1770 “Individual Mandate” Bill Summary] [S.674 “SCHIP” Bill Summary] [New York Times] [CQ Earmark Database]

Freedom Path’s “Outsourcing” Attack on Liljenquist Distorts Business Record

The latest mailer from Freedom Path falsifies Dan Liljenquist‘s business record. The shadowy group, organized legally as a political action committee, is running fast and loose with terms and smears Liljenquist with shoddy research, obscure sources, and false information. Frankly, it’s just dishonest.

Last week, I looked at the “Two Scoops” mailer sent out by the Freedom Path PAC (it’s also been called the “Double Dip” mailer). In that post, I found that the mailer was dishonest on all relevant facts, including flipping Dan Liljenquist and Chris Herrod’s record completely backward. Instead of noting that Liljenquist had passed groundbreaking pension reforms that made Utah a model for the nation, and that Herrod had supported and voted for those reforms, the mailer made it sound like Liljenquist and Herrod had tried to soften the reform.

Please check the post for the details, and please share it with those who may have received the mailers.

Today, we’re looking another mailer that attacks Liljenquist specifically. We could call it the “Outsourcing” mailer since it accuses Liljenquist of sending jobs to the Philippines at a time when the economy was at its lowest.

I found the mailer to be dishonest and to use several terms incorrectly.


  1. Did Liljenquist “outsource” jobs overseas? Answer: No.The first claim the mailer makes is that Liljenquist is outsourcing American jobs. According to Wikipedia, “outsourcing” is the process of “contracting a business function to someone else.” For example, when I decide I don’t want to hire an in-house lawyer because the cost is too high, I call up Brown Law  and contract a lawyer to do the work. It costs me less because I don’t need to support the attorney on my payroll once the job is done, and it gets me a person who can do the job right. Businesses do this for printing (Kinkos, anyone?), deliveries (FedEx), data and office software (Google apps), and food (catering from any number of restaurants), just to name a few.  It’s a very common practice.  It saves company money, does not cut jobs from the economy, and allows specialized companies to provide services at a higher level of quality.In fact, Dan Liljenquist’s former business–Focus Services–was an outsourcing company. It was the company that other companies called when they wanted to hire call center to receive calls from customers. It saved American companies money and provided jobs here in Utah, as well as in other states. It was, and is, a successful company, by all reports, and is one of the top 100 privately held companies in America.

  2. Did Liljenquist’s company conduct “offshoring?  Answer: Not really.Wikipedia also  notes that “outsourcing” is often confused with “off-shoring,”  “though a function may be outsourced without offshoring or vice versa.” The “outsourcing mailer” seems to indicate that Liljenquist sent jobs abroad.  I tried to check the sources cited by Freedom Path. The sources were so obscure as to be  impossible to find online, if they exist at all.  One quote they use in the mailer is taken so completely out of context as to mean something different than what it was used for in the article.

    So I called Liljenquist’s campaign to ask.

    “Does Dan Liljenquist’s companyoutsource or offshore jobs to the Philippines,” I asked.“No,” came the answer when I spoke with a top campaign official.

    While Focus Services does employ people abroad–specifically in the Philippines, they are not a replacement for positions here in the US. Rather, they are in addition to them. Because Focus Services is an international company and has international clients, the company needs to have call centers that can answer calls twenty-four hours a day. Got a client that has customer calling during day light hours in North America? They route to the North American call centers in Roy and Ogden, Utah, or  Dubuque or Clinton, Iowa. One of Focus Services 1,300 employees answers the phone. But if the client has customers in India? Or Japan? Saudi Arabia? Moscow? With days that start long before the sun comes up over the east coast of North America, the company needed someone to answer the calls of customers not in sync with North America. To that end, the company hired an additional  two hundred employees in the Philippines.

    Let me be clear: this is not outsourcing because Focus Services is not hiring an outside company to do what it could do itself. Nor is it off-shoring because it is not sending jobs abroad–Focus Services did not decrease the jobs when hiring in the Philippines, but rather expanded to compensate for the needs of international customers.

Should we be attacking a successful businessman for being a successful businessman?

At this point, I can’t help but ask: do we really want to support the message that a businessman should be limited from growing his company if it benefits people who don’t live in the United States? Are we so narrow and shortsighted that we cannot see that an American company that serves customers internationally is going to create more wealth and jobs  in the United States, as well?

I’m not the only one asking the question. Check this from a letter from Alan Mortensen of Bountiful that he wrote to the Standard-Examiner:

Focus Services ranks 23 on the top 100 private companies in Utah by the Utah Business Magazine. I have had the opportunity to visit Focus Services’ international headquarters in Roy, Utah, where Focus provides jobs to hundreds of Utahns, and encourages them to better themselves through education and community service.

I have been to Dan’s facility in Rock Falls, Illinois and met with several of the families his company employees in a town whose steel industry long ago disappeared. They are proud to work for Focus. I have met his manager in the Dubuque, Iowa, facility, who fought back tears because his family had health insurance through Focus when his wife gave birth to a premature baby.

Dan Liljenquist’s company gives hope to many Utah and American families, and his company has made the ultimate sacrifice when four Focus Service employees, all U.S. citizens, were killed in a business-sponsored service trip to Guatemala to build a school for the poor. Dan Liljenquist survived that crash with horrible orthopedic injuries, and yet he continues to give hope to those American families who lost their loved ones. Attacking Dan for having an international company is akin to attacking the Utah based LDS Church for being an international church with a presence in the Philippines.

Powerful stuff.

Conclusion: Freedom Path is lying…again.

If it’s not clear from what I’ve already said, let me say it again: the “outsourcing” mailer is flat-out lying that Liljenquist is outsourcing or off-shoring American jobs.

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