Opinionated @ CFE

How Not to Submit a GRAMA Request


If you’re looking for a somewhat entertaining read, look no further than the response to the Utah Democratic Party’s request for redistricting information. The Office of Legislative Research and General Council (OLRGC) responded to what can only be described as a fishing expedition of a request, a massive trolling net designed to scrape up all kinds of irrelevant flotsam in the hope of finding one small thing of value.

And how broad is it? It demands every single record related to House, Senate, and Congressional redistricting to or from any legislator or their staff. As I’ve mentioned before, the House and Senate maps both passed their respective houses almost unanimously, so what good does it to to request all of the records relating to these maps? It’s almost designed explicitly to be rejected as a freebie, and it hints that there’s really no evidence to support a lawsuit. Anyone who has actually worked with GRAMA knows that the most successful requests are specific and targeted, not overly broad.

More hilarious are the ground upon which the Party is requesting a fee waiver. The law provides that fees can be waived if the primary beneficiary of the release is the general public. In the request, however, the Party says rather bluntly that they intend to use the records in a potential lawsuit. They still insist, however, that the public is the primary beneficiary. Uh, what? Last I checked, the OLRGC is not designed to be a legal research team subsidized by the taxpayers, and if your intent of the request is to start suing people, it’s insulting to try and pretend that your primary objective is to look out for the public good.

Another portion of the law provides that a fee can be waived if it is related to the individual filing the request. Stunningly, the Party tried to insist that it is an individual under the law (ironic since most of them oppose Citizens United), a claim that OLGRC saw right through. They also dismissed the claim that because the fee “may” be waived that they are required to.

I find myself wondering if the legal eagles planning their lawsuit are rank amateurs or if they just want to see what sticks. I’ve said before that the legal threats are both poor strategy and a waste of time and money. This latest sloppy move only confirms it.

The Redistricting Lawsuit Blunder


Every decision we make is a calculated risk, trying to figure out if the reward and odds of success are worth the potential pain. Most of the time, we do fairly well. Every now and again, someone, somewhere, will make such a boneheaded miscalculation that the rest of us will scratch our heads and go “huh?” Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dababkis is having one of those moments right now.

For those of you not paying attention, Dababkis threatened a lawsuit over the current redistricting effort due to perceived gerrymandering. I’ve looked at some of the proposed maps and, yes, I think the Sumsion 6 Congressional one in particular is a real stinker. It’s kind of a problem, though, to threaten to sue over a map that hasn’t even been adopted yet. Already some substantively different maps have been seriously discussed (including one from Speaker Lockhart that actually looks half-decent), and there’s still plenty of time for back-and-forth to create more new maps. Throwing down the threat now is petulant foot-stomping.

This doesn’t even get into the risk/reward problem that following through on such a threat presents. Consider that the odds of winning a lawsuit on redistricting are extremely slim. Even if such a suit succeeded, we’re talking about maybe 3-4 total seats affected in the legislature. And the cost? I’d say a good six figures after all of the inevitable appeals. (Them lawyers don’t come cheap.) It’s a very high cost with a very small reward and a very high risk. The money might as well be put on red down in Vegas.

The whole affair has been correctly pegged as grandstanding. Dababkis isn’t enough of a rank amateur to think that any suit filed would actually succeed, but he knows that he can score a bunch of political points with the party faithful, even if it is a complete waste of their rather limited funds. Unfortunately, it’ll stop there, and fail to resonate with the rest of the electorate.

The Senate Nomination Race (no, the other one)


The press and most bloggers have been fixated on the current Republican nomination race for US Senate because, hey, the odds are in their favor of winning handily in the general election. Little attention is being paid to what’s going on on the other side, though. Sam Granato and Christopher Stout are currently vying for position on the ballot and what’s going on there has been rather telling.


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