The WAY I see it: Utah politics are the new ‘Chicago politics’

OPINION – What is corruption?

The word comes partially from a loose translation of Latin, that language they used to teach in high school to weed out the college-bound from the bar-bound.

The words “co,” “con” and “cor” in Latin mean “together” or “with.” “Ruption” means “broken” or “to break.”  For all you Latin scholars out there, let me be hasty in pointing out that those definitions are rough. Were it not for the fact that I was a Latter-day Saint while taking Latin I would have been one of those bar-bound my sophomore year.

Corruption is simply something replete with breaks.

I submit to you that the cliché “Chicago politics” is outdated.  It once was a slur to refer to the broken political system of that city; corruption was rampant in Chicago.  Today we see people like President Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and we still chant, nationwide, “Chicago politics.”

Perhaps we need not look to the eastern sky to see the red haze of corruption. Perhaps it is unnecessary to read the signals of that city’s political smoke screen to get a clear view of corruption.  Maybe, just maybe, we could look a little closer to home.

Dare I actually use the phrase to describe political corruption?  I shall. I fear the Chicago political machine far less than I fear “Utah politics.”  Utah politics are broken.

I shall not delve into the John Swallow matter in any depth. It speaks for itself.  A local man, Jeremy Johnson, raised concerns about corruption in “high places” with respect to Swallow.  Some pointed fingers at Johnson with a jaundiced eye.  Then a marvelous number of others announced their perceptions of the impropriety of Swallow. Well, now today, we have a cautious legislative investigation into this corruption.  And our best response was: “Yeah, our local legislator is the chair of the committee.” I say “was” because Rep. V. Lowry Snow did resign as chairman of the House Special Investigative Committee yesterday.

What do we get from the attorney general? “You can’t impeach me, I’m special.”  Then we begin hearing stories that he may sue the state over his civil rights being violated due to the investigation.  Now the Attorney General’s Office can’t even continue with the prosecution of Marc Sessions Jenson, a man who is already facing felony charges. Why? Because the attorney general is implicated in conduct related to those charges.

Seriously?  Really?  When a man can’t do the job he has been specifically elected to do because of improprieties, isn’t that sufficient reason for impeachment? I say yes!

The derogative on the political wordscape is “Utah politics.” Chicago will be sending their thank-you note soon.

Swallow has consistently sought ways to evade his accountability. His rhetoric makes civil people choke on everything this guy tries to get us to swallow.  There is much better available to the state.  One example is Snow of Southern Utah‘s District 74.

“My top concern with the investigation of Attorney General Swallow was that it be conducted with integrity and transparency. I felt it was in the best interests of the committee to step aside in order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest,” Snow said. “This will allow the public to focus on the investigation, and not on who is doing the investigating.”

Now, that is how a integrity-gifted representative of the people should act.

But Swallow does not sit atop the corruption tree as a lone vulture. It is crowded.

Utah’s Lt. Gov. Greg Bell has had his own share of legal issues dealing with the universal subject of corruption, along with various other departments of the state.

The Department of Health, with a clearly trumped-up set of fallacious conclusions, forced one of our local businesses to close. Their real reasons, when the bureaucratic jargon is stripped away, had nothing to do with quality of service Dixie Ambulance provided.  The foundation of their rushed judgment was over technical mathematical calculations. The result? Routine complaints from patients and medical professionals about the new service.  The state’s pandering politicians “broke” was working.

The impetus behind the bureaucratic mess was that one of our own local state senators appears to have snuck around behind the scenes, pulling strings.  Yet, in his Swallow-like rationale, he does not believe that lobbying for one company that pays him is somehow wrong. So let’s set the record straight.

  • The local community elects a man.  He then campaigns for a Salt Lake City corporation to drive a local business out of existence.
  • A state senator votes on the budget of a state agency.  He then lobbies that department to fulfill his fantasy of punishing his constituents.
  • The local constituent that is driven out of business registers complaints about the senator and runs for public office.  A Salt Lake news station decides to humiliate the constituent by running a news story on the evening news that even the National Enquirer would be ashamed to run (this writer believes connections exist between the  Salt Lake News station and the state senator).

The state electoral process has run very nicely for many years with the caucus system.  Yet, because a former governor and his Republican elite friends are dissatisfied that citizens express their views, what happens?  A massive effort, supported tacitly by high-ranking state officials, funds a campaign to force the people out of the caucus system.  Why?  Because the wealthy desire to simply “buy votes” with expensive media campaigns when they are out of touch with the community’s values.  Oh wait, I forgot: That is why Swallow raised so much money.

If we are not careful, 20 years from now the disdain the public has now for “Chicago politics” will have changed to their opinion of “Utah politics.”

That is the WAY I see It.

William Way is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News. Additional writings may be found at

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  • utah_1 July 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Some good points.

    The caucus & convention system in Utah is the best way to make sure a grassroots process can win over large amounts of money. It is the only way someone with $100,000 can go against someone with $2 million in election funds.

    We have a system that that does NOT favor the incumbent, wealthy or famous. This is a good thing.

    Our problem with voter turnout is it has not kept up with the population increase. The voter turnout keeps going up but not as fast as the population. Some of that is the younger voters, where Utah has a larger percentage of them and they aren’t, as a group, as involved. Also those moving in and not understanding our system.

    We already have a “bypass” system, filing as an unaffiliated candidate. You go straight to the general. Someone doesn’t think they can win if vetted by average citizens asking one on one questions, can run and spend the money. Why should they be a party nominee if they are going to bypass the party?

    If you change the way our Utah primary’s work, you could have two republicans in the general election ballot (or two democrats).

  • utah_1 July 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Bypassing the caucus/convention system will not create more participation. There are 4,000 state delegates and many more county delegates that spend countless hours vetting candidates to be on the ballot. They are selected by those that attend the neighborhood election caucus meeting. The current one-on-one candidate vetting by delegates cannot be done well any other way.

    When people realize this Count My Vote initiative will give them less of a chance to participate but give media and power brokers more power, they will not sign any initiative. This is a power grab and it isn’t by the neighbors you elect as delegates.

    If you are going to run as a Democratic candidate, you have to comply with their rules. If you are going to run as a Republican, you have to comply with their rules. If you don’t like those rules, you can run as unaffiliated, independent or as a third-party candidate. Count My Vote is attempting to change all party rules by changing state laws by initiative, thus bypassing the political parties and the Legislature.

  • Maggie July 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    With all due respect sir , I too moved here from the east, Although Utah may not be perfect, you and I both evidently found something about it we liked or we could have moved anywhere we wanted.
    I do not pretend to know very much about what is going on in SLC or with John Swallow except for what I read in the paper, but I would say before we start throwing mud balls lets get the info.
    Let’s encourage and get involved in fixing problems rather than the really silly comparison to Chicago.
    We really do have a long way to go before we get there. Calm down, take a walk in this beautiful town, meet some nice folks who work hard every day to make this a great place to live and if that does not work ,go downtown and take a ride on the Carousel. If you don’t , I am afraid soon, you will be comparing us with Detroit and our elected officials to what is in DC with all the real corruption. Perhaps we are not as sophisticated as those folks, but then ,who wants to be?

  • J Robertson July 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Lets face it, Mr. Way brings up some valet points. Yes, Bill Way pulls the covers back on a couple of subjects in, well in Bill’s way of pointing out that the road apples being kicked down the road are possibly a little soft on the inside. A corrupt, wet road apple deserves our attention. Thank you Mr. Way.

  • Guest July 27, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I think in 20 years its going to be called “American politics” its not just Utah its the country

  • Josh, July 29, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    The corruption and constitutional violations seem to be increasing in how blatant they are — maybe because so many have been getting away with it. I agree with previous poster who mentions it is nationwide I just read an article on how bribery is actually legal in Virginia (governor had daughter’s wedding paid for by someone with issue on the table). I also agree with Maggie, that there is a lot to love about the area and that is why we are here — which makes Mr Way’s article that much more important. We must stand up for right and turn back corruption.

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