Opinionated @ CFE

Eric Isom is No Friend to the Taxpayer

Apr
07

My jaw just about dropped when I saw that Qwest’s top lobbyist, Eric Isom, was running for a seat in the state legislature. (House District 15, to be exact.) He’s currently up against 3 other Republicans at the upcoming convention. What’s shocking about this is that if delegates in his district truly knew who he is, he’d be turned out on his head. In this post, I intend to full lay out why Eric Isom is completely unfit for public office in our state.

For starters, there’s the whole lobbyist thing. It’s bad enough that Sen. Howard Stephenson is both lobbyist and legislator, but to add one more to the heap? Mr. Isom comically claims that, if elected, he would resign his position as a lobbyist at Qwest and take another position with the company. How exactly does that resolve the conflict of interest? Even if he resigned from the company entirely, I doubt that would magically balance his votes as a lawmaker. I don’t know what other employment Mr. Isom would find given that his position prior to that was as a lobbyist for the GOP. Do you really want another professional lobbyist in the legislature?

As part of Eric Isom’s work with Qwest, he has sought out the elimination of price controls on basic phone service which sharply increased costs for customers across the state. Qwest is also reportedly seeking a $50M rate increase from you, the taxpayer, to finance their network construction plans. This is despite receiving over $2.7B in benefits from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to build advanced fiber optic connections to every customer in the state and promote better competition for phone service. Do these sound like the actions of someone who’s looking out for the taxpayer… or looking for a handout for a multi-billion dollar corporation? Do you think he’ll stop doing it once elected?

It’s also worth noting that residents of Layton could see a nice, hefty tax increase thanks to the actions of Mr. Isom’s employer, Qwest. In 2004, Qwest successfully lobbied for SB66, a bill that placed strict financing restrictions on any municipality seeking to build a municipal telecommunications system. Layton was a part of UTOPIA at the time and was stuck with a commitment to build the network while not being allowed to bond for more than half of the total system cost. Imagine trying to build a skyscraper when you could only borrow half of the money! This restriction combined with Qwest’s frivolous lawsuit against UTOPIA, which was dismissed, has seriously degraded the financial health of the network and will likely cause increased taxes, decreased services, or both in Layton for at least several years. Do you want someone in office who would represent and push those aims?

Delegates and voters in Utah State House District 15, do not vote for Eric Isom. To do so is to encourage more malfeasance and corporate welfare at the hands of his current employer, Qwest.

Howard Stephenson, Hypocrite

Feb
12

Sen. Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah “Taxpayers” Association, finds himself in the middle of picking market winners and losers in Paul Rolly’s latest column. Apparently our lobbyist senator pressured a purchasing committee to pick a favored vendor even going so far as to have the RFP re-written to be tailor made for the company. Now the company is bankrupt and the state is out $3.5M with nothing to show for it. And yet, this same Senator and the organization he heads spend an awful lot of time talking about how UTOPIA is unfair market competition and how the free market should rule.

Howard Stephenson, you’re a hypocrite.

Why is Nobody Else Bothered By Rep. Holdaway's New Job?

Oct
09

When I initially read that Rep. Kory Holdaway was resigning his seat in the legislature to become a full-time lobbyist for the UEA, I found myself thinking “great, another revolving door lobbyist.” I had fully anticipated some kind of blogging outrage at the revolving door especially in light of the current ethics initiative being proposed. To date, the only mention of this I have seen is a small blurb in this week’s City Weekly. Isn’t anyone else concerned about this?

While Sen. Steve Urquhart points out that Rep. Holdaway’s existing personal relationships may help repair relations between the legislature and the UEA, groups that have often been at odds one with another, that existing relationship is the problem. Rep. Holdaway will be able to get face time that many other lobbyists would not and peddle influence that another lobbyist would not have.

This kind of behavior is what’s at the core of the concerns over ethics in Utah. Yet, for whatever reason, bloggers, news media, even the people spearheading the ethics petition have failed to latch onto this. Stop giving Rep. Holdaway a free pass and let him have it.

Current Ethics Efforts Put Effort Into the Wrong End of the Problem

Oct
02

After the legislature decided to do as close to nothing as possible about perceived ethics problems earlier this year, some citizens were left a bit steamed. There do appear to be a lot of conflicts of interest in the legislature (like a full-time lobbyist as a legislator) and while there have been some rather blatant conflicts of interest (I’m looking at you, Aaron Tilton), tightening up gifting, spending, and lobbying rules is an ineffective way to take care of the problem.

The real problem is that when each legislator is given enough power to push through legislation on their own, they become a magnet for lobbying. No matter how many rules you make, no matter how many laws you pass, no matter how harsh the punishment, the problem of a single legislator wielding considering individual influence and power will still exist. This is only compounded when the number of constituents represented by each of them increases, resulting in a need for even more funding to effectively campaign for office.

I think the appropriate remedy for this situation is to keep adding members of the House of Representatives, both at the state and federal levels. Not only do you dilute the power of the individual lawmakers, you greatly increase their responsiveness to constituents and spread the lobbying dollars much more thinly. It may also put an end to oddly-drawn district boundaries since they can be made smaller and thus more compact. The door is also opened to third-party and independent candidates who can invest plenty of time and not a lot of money.

Additional rules only create additional loopholes. Let’s go for a solution that really takes care of the problem.

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