"Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules? Mark it zero!" — Walter, The Big Lebowski---
It's simple, Dude: People and companies who make donations to Gov. Gary Herbert get special treatment and, possibly, state contracts. At least, that's the contention of Peter Corroon, who finally came out swinging (okay, sort of swinging) in his race against Herbert on Friday. In a series of meetings with reporters, Corroon made it clear that he believes there is something fishy about how many donors to Herbert's campaign have subsequently received favorable treatment from the state.
To emphasize that point, Corroon is also planning to film more TV ads next week, although these will be much more hard-hitting than his previous ones. The tone is hinted at in the title of a 51-page memo that was also given to reporters: "Gary Herbert: Governor For $ale."
Donnie: "Walter, are you saying that Herbert is crooked and ..."
Shut the fuck up, Donnie!
Corroon is not making any accusations. No, because if he were, that would be an "attack," and Lord knows, Utahns hate political attacks. They want their political campaign run like sacrament meeting, not church ball. (Editor's Note: Josh Loftin yearns to write for Deseret Connect, and because he is reading blogs like this one about BYU football, he believes that he needs to reference LDS Church activities more often. We wish him luck.)
"I'm not accusing [Herbert] of anything," Corroon said during an interview Friday. "We're not talking about the governor as an individual, or going after his family. We're talking about public information."
Herbert's campaign spokesman, Don Olsen, begs to differ. He says that this sudden focus on Herbert's campaign donors is clearly the Corroon campaign going negative, which "has no place in Utah politics." Olsen vehemently defended the honor of his boss, repeatedly emphasizing that Herbert is "honest."
"This is the kind of campaign people are concerned about," Olsen said. "There are all of these important issues in the state, and he chooses to attack the integrity of a great man."
The main gist of Corroon's, ahem, questions is that there is a "pattern" with Herbert that is unseemly. In the memo, the campaign highlights about a dozen examples of companies who met with Herbert, donated money and then received favorable treatment. They include:
While the examples given are certainly questionable, in many ways they simply reinforce a fundamental problem with politics, in general: Those with money win, whether it's candidates or corporations. Corroon cannot accuse Herbert of breaking laws because, put simply, there just aren't many laws to break. And that is one of the things Corroon emphasized: campaign laws in Utah are broken. He would like to see caps on corporate donations and prohibitions on donations from companies that do business with the state.
The Dude: "It's like what Lenin said. You look for the person who will benefit and, uh ... uh ..."
Donnie: "I am the walrus."
So, what will be the upshot of this new shift in the campaign? Obviously, Corroon -- although he denied that he is going negative -- is recognizing that his Summer of Love has not budged the poll numbers. He needs to do something, so he's going to start hitting Herbert. Good for him. He needs to, as I've said before. Because right now, Herbert is winning in a landslide.
Will it work? It's risky. Anytime a candidate goes negative in Utah they run the serious risk of alienating more voters than they switch. Also, recent history has shown that while Utahns may claim to be concerned about political ethics, when confronted with actual scandals or solutions, they really don't care very much. That's why most of the legislators get re-elected and why the Utahns for Ethical Government could not get their initiative on the ballot.
Also, Herbert can simply say that Corroon is no better and then point to major donors to Corroon's campaign. Olsen, for example, mentioned Kem Gardner, and there's others. None of them are as big or as inconveniently timed as the ones Corroon highlights, but the general public may not care. Instead, they may throw up their arms because the whole damn system is rotten and then vote for the incumbent they know.
Any other words, Corroon may say "Governor for $ale," but voters may hear "I am the walrus." And who really knows what that means?