Utah Democratic Chair Jim Dabakis is on the hunt. Or perhaps more accurate, a fishing expedition.
He’s trying to force the Utah Legislature to let him play by different rules than other tax payers by giving him documents for free just because he claims to smell a rat, never mind that he lacks any proof.
Like Harry Reid claiming Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes, an assertion that can only be disproved by exposing Romney to undue scrutiny, Dabakis is claiming a foul against the Utah Legislature that can be disproved only by granting Dabakis special privileges not given to other mere humans (i.e. tax payers).
The Legislature should uphold its duty to the people of Utah and requiring Dabakis and the Democratic Party to pay for the documents Dabakis has requested, just like everyone else. Allowing Dabakis a special priviledge and to have them without paying would set a bad precedent of the Utah Legislature bowing to pressure from political party leaders.
It’s ironic, really. That’s a complaint that Dabakis is usually leveling against the Legislature about Republicans, not the other way around. Funny how things change when the shoe is on the other foot.
Last year, redistricting conducted transparently and according constitutional parameters redrew the political lines across Utah, adding a Congressional seat and compensating for shifts in population across Utah’s geography. Because Republicans control majorities in the Utah House and Senate (not to mention Republican Governor Gary Herbert), it was Republicans who made the decisions about where the lines were drawn. As Speaker Lockhart said during the redistricting process:
We’ve been elected as legislators to make tough decisions. We look at all sides, hear all arguments and do some serious soul-searching. And though the Legislature is constitutionally mandated to draw districts, we have involved the public at every turn.
That wasn’t enough for naysayers, though, and Speaker Lockhart foresaw there would be those who would never agree to the results.
It’s willful ignorance or outright self-importance on [the naysayers'] part that they won’t acknowledge that the very demands they are making are the very things that will get us successfully sued at a cost of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Their talk is cheap. Their threats are opportunistic. Their verbal bomb-throwing is meant to obscure the reality of a fair process.
Now, over six months after the Governor signed the bill adopting the redistricting maps created by the legislature, Utah’s Democrats are doing exactly what Speaker Lockhart predicted. Jim Dabakis, “Rumpelstiltskin” of the Utah Democratic Party, has gone to great lengths to make gold out of straw. Upon making a GRAMA request for all documents related to the redistricting, the Democrats found out that there were more documents than they bargained for–or could afford.
Like every other tax payer, requests for public documents must be paid for by the requesting party. Because Utah Democrats had only paid for a portion of the documents, they were given only the first third of the documents, until the paid for the rest. According to the Salt Lake Tribune
The party was allowed to take one of three boxes of prepared documents for the $5,000 it had paid, but was told which box it had to take. The Legislature will not give it the other two boxes unless it pays the extra $9,250, but the Legislature’s top leaders are currently considering the party’s appeal of that.
Apparently, the first box was, well, unhelpful to Utah Democratic purposes. Rather than showing a pattern of Republican conspiracy to corrupt the process, the box showed careful attention to tax payer comment and participation in the redistricting. The attention was so careful, in fact, that many of the documents showed material that was already available through open sources on the internet.
Unfair, cried Dabakis. Rather than fork over the extra $9,250 (like every other tax payer, journalist, or watch dog group that requested documents would have to do, or has done), he claims that the Utah legislature is hiding something by requiring him to pay for them.
“It appears to be clear that they sifted through and picked all the completely inane things and put them in the first box, with the idea that they could cover up the rest of whatever is there. I think it’s pathetic,” Dabakis said. “This has all been manipulated.”
But, remember, there isn’t any proof that it’s been manipulated. Never mind that he could have found any evidence just by purchasing the remaining material. Just think–at the low cost of just $9,250 he could have proved corruption in redistricting and started a law suit to reboot the process. Instead, he’s waited until just before campaign season and used it as a way to paint Republicans as corrupt and making laws out of the public’s eye. It’s an assertion that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, Robert Rees, of the office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, said to the Salt Lake Tribune: “There was no sifting through documents to pick out the bland ones. … The box provided happened to be the first set of documents produced through [our search] process.” As a member of the Utah Bar, Rees is under an ethical, and legal, obligation to tell the truth. Further, the members of the staff of the office of Legislative Research and General Counsel are non-partisan, serving the members of the legislature from both parties.
It’s akin to Harry Reid asserting that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes–just because Romney hasn’t released his taxes. The difference is that Dabakis can prove that he’s right–or that he’s wrong–just by playing by the same rules as everyone else and paying for the documents. It’s a fishing expedition, pure and simple, that hurts your opponent, but does little to advance the public interest.
Dabakis’ rants to the news media from the empty steps of the Capitol building isn’t about policy, redistricting or process–it’s about election year politics and finding an excuse for attention when Democratic policies are failing across the nation. That alone should be enough for the state legislature to ignore his request for special treatment; that it sets a bad precedent, though, is sufficient.
- Democrats say turn the documents over to ABC 4 (abc4.com)
- Democrats want Utah redistricting documents made public (abc4.com)
- Matheson campaigning at taxpayers expense (hollyonthehill.wordpress.com)