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Issue in Focus:
How Citizens Enable Political Corruption

enabler: "To supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity...
to make feasible or possible...
" — Online Dictionary Reference

Foreword: Whether you have been reading our publications for a while or only recently, you may be wondering why Accountability Utah seems so "harsh" and "mean" to candidates and officeholders that some consider to be "good" or "conservative". Wouldn't it be better if we focused all of our attention on socialist Democrats? And why don’t we emphasize more of the good officials may do, rather than so much of the negative? Aren't we just hurting the cause of freedom by employing such "extreme" tactics?

Accountability Utah believes that, in order to secure a future of freedom, citizens must be challenged to confront the status quo interpretation of what politics is and how citizens should interact with their political representatives. In that spirit, we would like to respond to these questions, by addressing some of the related political weaknesses that we believe obstruct individuals and society from the pursuit of prosperity, happiness, and peace.


Weakness 1: "If the truth is unpleasant, it should be ignored, denied, or reinterpreted"

    Hellewell Campaign Lashes Out When his Record is Exposed

Weakness 2: "One Good Deed Justifies Wrongdoing"

    Master Deceiver John Valentine

    Playing with the Lives of the Unborn

    Chief Manipulator Howard Stephenson

Weakness 3: "The Perception of Order is Preferable to Truth"

Weakness 4: "Accountability May Harm My Self Interests"

Two Struggling Views of Politics

    Status Quo View: Politics = Family

    Alternative View: Government = Force, Controlled (or Not) by Sovereign Citizens

Conclusion: How the Cycle of Corruption Can Be Broken


Weakness 1: "If the truth is unpleasant, it should be ignored, denied, or reinterpreted"

The first weakness is one of denial, or a complete refusal to "dirty one’s mind" with the facts. We have been disappointed by citizens who look the other way, and trip over themselves to ignore, avoid, and minimize accountability.

Even worse, while witnessing their freedoms being torn asunder and being stripped of their dignity, these citizens construct elaborate excuses for the behavior of their officials. Excuses range from, "It’s because they are smarter than we are," to, "They know the intricate process better than we do," to, "They are wrestling with numerous factors," to even, "Well, we know they are well intentioned."

Beneath this reluctance to confront misbehavior, lies a tragic view of self-worth: These citizens believe they are not as intelligent as their officials, or worse, that they are not worthy of anything better than abusive treatment. They see their relationship with their "conservative" icons as unbreakable. Any incursion on that relationship, regardless of the truth underlying it, is equated to be an attack on their person. Persons holding to this outlook often spend more time attacking other citizens who attempt to hold wayward officials accountable than confronting political misconduct.


Hellewell Campaign Lashes Out When his Record is Exposed

For instance, consider Sen. Parley Hellewell's gubernatorial candidacy. While he was campaigning at the 2003 Weber County Republican Party convention, Accountability Utah volunteers exposed his votes to destroy freedom. These votes were documented in a flier rating his abysmal performance on tax and spend issues, as well as his refusal to take any meaningful action to bring two pro-life bills to the floor of the senate (see our 2003 Legislative Performance Report and our special report: "How Anti-Infanticide Bills Die in a "Pro-Life" Senate: A Summary of Facts & Eyewitness Accounts").

In response to this exposure of his actual political conduct, the Hellewell campaign, under the name of Stephen Stone, sent out an e-mail to state Republican party delegates, attempting to defend Hellewell's voting record. Quoting from the e-mail:

The "Weber Sentinel" article about Sen. Hellewell is seriously inaccurate.  The article is based on a report from Accountability Utah that considers only a small fraction of a legislator's voting record.

Each year, the legislature takes up over 1,000 bills — and Parley's record on all bills before the Senate is very conservative. Unfortunately, in grading legislators, Accountability Utah uses only a short list of bills and then makes sweeping generalizations. The resulting rankings are very unfair and distorted.

For instance, last year, using its limited approach, Accountability Utah claimed that Sen. Hellewell's voting record was equal to that of liberal Democrat Patrice Arent. That's unbelievable! When all other issues are factored in, Parley's record that year was as conservative as anyone else's. The criteria used by Accountability are simply too narrow and special-interest-driven to be considered valid.

This year, Parley worked hard for parental rights, healthcare choice, midwifery, the rights of small businesses, and other very critical conservative issues — yet Accountability gives him virtually no credit for his outstanding work. As a result, they show him as basically equivalent to Olene Walker.

How can the most conservative candidate running for governor be labeled one of the most liberal by an organization that claims to be a conservative watchdog? Only by ignoring all the data.

Absent in the message, however, was a factual rebuttal to the inaccuracies they claim exist in our report, or substantive arguments as to why Hellewell deserved to be graded less critically than other legislators with regard to the bills featured in our report. The denial of Hellewell's voting record continued on his web site:

In the 2004 Governor's race, the main issue is who is the "conservative choice." I believe that the majority of delegates to the May 8th Republican State Convention will be looking to elect a truly conservative Governor, one who will lead out in undoing a decade of runaway state government. …The question this year is, which gubernatorial candidate best exemplifies conservative principles — especially those in the Republican platform. I believe that I have as much claim to that distinction as anyone. I don't just talk. I DO. My record shows this.

The question is this: Should Hellewell be considered "conservative" or "constitutional" if he:

  • Refused to take meaningful action to force a vote on two anti-infanticide bills (HB 123 and HB 241 in 2003) and a bill to outlaw electroconvulsive (shock) treatment without informed consent (HB 109 in 2003);

  • Voted in favor of all eight tax and spend bills Accountability Utah graded in two years;

  • Voted for blatant gun control expansion (SB 140 in 2004), and to confirm the nomination of a gun control advocate (Ronald Nehring) to the Utah Supreme Court;

  • Voted to confirm the nomination of a private property confiscation zealot (Derek Pullan) to the Fourth District Court;

  • Voted to expand involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility without any due process (SB 27 in 2003);

  • Voted against due process for families (HB 198 in 2004);

  • Voted twice to grant immunity from suit (SB 55 in 2004) and limit financial damages (SB 225 in 2003) to government agents and agencies that abuse innocent citizens (to include outright homicide); and

  • Voted to pass this year’s SB 175, the bill that destroys Citizens Initiative B (passed by 69 percent of Utah voters in 2000), by voting to send it to a final senate vote?
    (Note: For additional detail, see our 2004 Legislative Performance Report and our 2003 Legislative Performance Report in .pdf format)

Hellewell's voting record ridicules his promotion as a "constitutional conservative". At this point, we often hear the response, "But the alternative is much worse!" Accountability Utah argues that we should not adopt a standard of "less unacceptable conduct is tolerable" to justify support of certain public officials. By selectively lowering our standards, we create an atmosphere of inequality and hypocrisy that prevents accountability and grants designing politicians the wiggle room they need to manipulate us.


Weakness 2: "One Good Deed Justifies Wrongdoing"

Sadly, many Utahns harbor the notion that it is wrong to hold officials to high standards of political performance. Even after significant abuses have been brought to their attention, they overlook them so long as the official in question occasionally caters to them (or appears to cater to them) on some issue they are particularly concerned about.

Designing politicians take advantage of the low standards of their supporters by voting for socialist or special interest legislation whenever they feel they can get away with it. And to ensure continued, misplaced loyalty, the politician will concede an annoying vote or two to keep his supporters sufficiently pacified. Senators and representatives even coordinate who will sponsor which piece of offensive legislation, based upon who they think can pull it off without losing too much grassroots support. The game is to cater to special interest lobbyists while minimizing their own political exposure and risk.


Master Deceiver John Valentine

A case in point is Senate Majority Whip John Valentine, infamous for wearing whatever hat best suits his political career at the moment. In 2003, Sen. Valentine sponsored Senate Bill 31, which aimed to gut Citizen’s Initiative B (passed by 69 percent of Utah voters in 2000). Valentine admittedly was approached by law enforcement bureaucrats to run the bill. For several months, Valentine avoided citizen requests to obtain a copy of his bill in order to provide input. After over 100 angry citizens confronted him at a town meeting in his neighborhood, he publicly withdrew his support and promised to involve citizens in drafting future confiscation (forfeiture) legislation. The citizens in question were not involved.

History repeated itself in the middle of the 2004 session, when Senate Bill 175, a secretly-drafted remake of Senate Bill 31, was sprung on citizens. Valentine knew full well that the bill was coming, but took no meaningful action to alert citizens or get them involved in the process (as he had promised) before the bill was steam rolled through the legislature. Valentine acquiesced to send his colleagues in the senate a citizen’s video that featured his 2003 town meeting and asked legislators to respect the will of the people. Valentine voted against SB 175’s final passage and told many citizens throughout the state that SB 175 was wrong — and assured them that he was staunchly opposed to it.

In a campaign letter to delegates in SB 175’s sponsor Chris Buttars’ district, however, Valentine and the other Senate Republican leaders praised SB 175 as,

"...Essential legal weaponry in Utah's fight against crime and drugs in our neighborhoods."

How can this be? It is more clear when one realizes that Valentine voted against an amendment by Sen. Dave Thomas to require that state police only work with federal police if they follow state safeguards for innocent property owners. By his actions, Sen. Valentine abused the trust and rights of all citizens, yet some still rally on his behalf.

Note: For more information on Sen. Valentine’s attacks on your freedoms, see his Pink Slip Report.


Playing with the Lives of the Unborn

As we reported in our 2004 Performance Report, for years the senate has filibustered and killed anti-infanticide bills. Last year, the senate broke the camel's back by collaboratively filibustering a bill to ban taxpayer funding of abortion on demand (HB 123 S4). Despite citizen outcry and anger, not one senator would stand up and fight for the unborn, or take any meaningful action. Senator Parley Hellewell (the self-proclaimed conservative discussed previously) stated:

"We would have only had 6 or 7 votes [in the Senate]."

Over the past year, citizens appropriately and relentlessly confronted senators for their cowardice and contempt. In desperate fear for their political careers, senators sailed Senate Bill 68 (Substitute 3) through the entire legislature this session (21-7 in the senate and 57-13-5 in the house). Even tougher than last year’s bill, SB 68 S3 prohibits the state and political subdivisions from using public funds for the performance of an abortion except in certain circumstances such as rape, incest, and life of the mother. It also provides penalties (Class B Misdemeanor and termination of government employment) for any government employee who knowingly authorizes the use of public funds for frivolous abortions.

This again demonstrates that many abusive officials are only sufficiently "motivated" to do the right thing when enough heat and political pain are applied — innocent lives notwithstanding. Last year, the unborn had no voice in the Utah senate. This year, an election year, senators publicly shed tears and relayed heart-wrenching experiences regarding the sanctity of infants. Several Democrats even fell over themselves to pass this bill.

Unfortunately, in the precious time it took to thrash senators for their vulgar obstruction, over 4,000 infants have been murdered in Utah via "therapeutic" or "elective" abortions. And many of those abortions were directly or indirectly paid for by Utah taxpayers. Those held captive to these political manipulations praise and defend these senators while ignoring and downplaying these horrific facts.
For more information, see our report, "How Anti-Infanticide Bills Die in a ‘Pro-Life’ Senate: A Summary of Facts & Eyewitness Accounts".

Like many victims of chronic spousal abuse, the fawning defenders of politicians always find an excuse for unacceptable behavior. Rather than demand respect, they prefer to tout whether the politician gives wonderful speeches on the Constitution, passes out copies of Bastiat's The Law, or allows them to sit in the legislative chambers from time to time.

This ill mentality of focusing on the supposed good, while ignoring the destruction of fundamental rights and our society, is akin to a judge who allows a man to go free because, aside from an occasional armed robbery, he is a wonderful philanthropist. Or the victim who thanks the perpetrator for leaving him one arm and one leg while chopping off the other arm and leg. Accountability Utah condemns the actions of officials who violate rights, regardless of other "good" they may or may not do.

Note: For additional information on continued attacks against the unborn in Utah, see our alerts, "Gov. Walker & Sen. Bramble Call for Taxpayer Funding of Euthanasia," and "Bramble/UDOH Pronounce Taxpayer-Funded Death Sentence for Unborn!"


Chief Manipulator Howard Stephenson

Howard Stephenson is a state senator and president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. Many view him to be "conservative" and an advocate of smaller taxes and limited government. The Los Angeles Times  described Stephenson and one of his recent activities as follows:

"President Bush "ought to be showing some leadership" to acknowledge the contribution of undocumented workers to American society, said Stephenson, a self-described conservative from a "very conservative, white section of the state."

Stephenson was a sponsor of the 2002 Utah bill that allowed children of illegal immigrants, Silvia Salguero among them, to attend state colleges.

He states his case with an eclectic mix of market economics and "compassionate conservatism."

"Every citizen who buys a flat of strawberries for $16, or who enjoys a cheap hotel room or an inexpensive restaurant meal is essentially demanding that people come across the border illegally to fulfill their economic request," Stephenson said.

The bill Stephenson championed was House Bill 144, which allows children of illegal aliens to receive resident educational status. This status grants them in-state tuition rates at Utah colleges and universities — all at taxpayer expense.

HB 144 blatantly discriminates against American citizens — particularly those who achieved their status through legal means — and encourages lawlessness. An American citizen who moves away from Utah for a couple of years loses his resident status. Under HB 144, an illegal alien retains his status forever, no matter where he resides or what taxes he does or does not pay.
Note: To see how your senators and representatives voted on HB 144, see our "Got Milked?" publication.

Stephenson's voting record does not portray a true advocate of smaller government. Of the 8 bills we graded in the last two years on taxes, spending, and regulation, this "taxpayer advocate" voted incorrectly on 6 of them — even sponsoring a bill (SB 22 in 2004) reauthorizing all of the onerous administrative rules of every Utah agency without so much as a substantive review or amendment. Many leftist Democrats scored better on fiscal issues.

Another of these bills was SB 147 in 2003, which Stephenson and the Utah Taxpayers Association publicly advocated. SB 147 added Utah to the multi-state Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP). The SSTP is a radical socialist ploy aimed at taxing the Internet, and granting additional governmental powers to non-elected pseudo-private agencies such as the Multistate Tax Commission. The SSTP opens the door for incredible abuse and even blackmail against corporations who refuse to "play ball" with unelected bureaucrats.

The evidence makes plain that this "compassionate conservative" is more appropriately described as a moderate to liberal Democrat. Howard Stephenson should more appropriately be termed the "taxing advocate," yet he is given a pass because of his affiliation with the Utah Taxpayers Association and because he "talks a good talk."

Note: See our 2004 Legislative Performance Report and our 2003 Legislative Performance Report (in .pdf format).  For more information on the Utah Taxpayers Association and Internet taxation, see "Why Are Utah Republican Legislators and the Utah Taxpayers Association Supporting Harmful Tax Increases?" and "Internet Taxation: The Deception of 'More Fair Government'".


Weakness 3: "The Perception of Order is Preferable to Truth"

Many politician-defenders fear that other citizens will begin to recognize the true nature of their "conservative" icons and stop believing Utah's proverbial phrase: "All is well in Zion." The potential ramifications of such a public revelation might disrupt social, political, and religious associations.

Politician-defenders place greater value on hollow affiliations and selfish, egotistical motivations than they do the cause of freedom: "If the truth is told, what will people think of me and the things I value?" These individuals would allow our entire society, and our posterity, to be destroyed before they would risk their own social status and the control they believe they should have over the minds of other people.

Note: Maintaining integrity in the midst of the tempting political atmosphere of bribery and corruption requires constant vigilance and self-reflection. No one is above enticement. We recommend the following Personal Gut Check as a reminder for all citizens who engage in the political process.


Weakness 4: "Accountability May Harm My Self Interests"

Many citizens are reluctant to hold officials completely accountable because they fear a supposedly worse alternative. "Who will provide for our needs if this abuser leaves?" they wonder, and, "Will I lose my access to the political bigwigs?"

Some so-called conservative Republicans, for example, complained that the "conservative" cause would have been better served had errant officials like Parley Hellewell or Marty Stephens been nominated as governor. They fear that Jon Huntsman and Nolan Karras will continue the Leavitt era of indecency and corruption.

Politician-defenders have accepted the diabolical lie that the lesser of two evils is somehow morally acceptable. By adopting this lie, they trade their integrity for the false hope that, in the vernacular of the Christian New Testament, an evil seed will actually bring forth good fruit. Like the abused spouse who refuses to act, their vision is both faithless and shortsighted.

They fail to see that as long as we allow corruption in the "conservative" ranks, we cannot expect anything but corruption from the new entrants we throw into the political meat grinder. When a new official goes to the legislature, his colleagues point to supposed "conservative" icons like Parley Hellewell and Marty Stephens as examples of what conservatives are supposed to do. Until these false icons are exposed and replaced with real, constitutional statesman — and these statesman are likewise monitored closely and held accountable — we will never significantly strengthen freedom in Utah.
For more information, see our training article, "The Achilles Heel of Conservatives".

Unlike Hellwell and Stephens, Jon Huntsman, Nolan Karras, and even Democrat Scott Matheson, are not incumbents who have already voted to strip you of your freedoms. The point is this: Utah will never receive any better until enough citizens are willing to hold errant incumbents accountable and force them to pay a political price — regardless of the potential alternative. Accountability Utah hopes that a revolution of thinking and acting is now beginning to bear fruit.


Two Struggling Views of Politics

These weaknesses point to two significant views that struggle for supremacy in the arena of politics. In order to restore government that is accountable and limited, these two views must be exposed and the status quo view must ultimately be defeated.


Status Quo View: Politics = Family

The status quo view — which has been indoctrinated into many citizens — equates politics as an extension of familial relationships. Politicians are viewed as family members and friends, distinguished neighbors and associates, and often as respected religious leaders. Political relationships become, in effect, a part of a living, breathing, special family or club. Special emphasis and value is placed on titles and affiliations and those who attain them are considered superior to those who do not.

Not unlike the spouse who tolerates serious misconduct in the home, those who zealously adopt this view advocate that citizens ignore abuses by officials, and overcompensate for the misdeeds of politicians by focusing only on the "good" that they do, rather than holding officials accountable. Ironically, they spend their time echoing the trademark fear of a dysfunctional relationship: "What will happen to our family (or my status) if he leaves us?"


Alternative View: Government = Force, Controlled (or Not) by Sovereign Citizens

The alternative view is that government is the application of force against other human beings. Political interactions are nothing more (or less) than a continuing series of communications between sovereign individuals who come together to form a government. These sovereign individuals communicate to determine to what degree they will exert force against one other.

These sovereign individuals can choose to utilize force with great care, wisdom, and respect for one another, or they can choose to utilize force in a haphazard, foolish, and unjust fashion. A desirable series of political communications would collectively safeguard the natural, or God-granted, rights that each sovereign individual possesses. An undesirable series of political communications would result in a government that tramples upon these protections.

This alternative view advocates that, by the design of our Creator, all participants enter these interactions as equals — equal in authority, right, weight, and importance. The admitted challenge of participants is to be appropriately blind to characteristics and affiliations that are superficial to the interactions.  For no one person is more or less important or special than another person, and titles, positions, or oratory skills are irrelevant. A farmer or a janitor enter these interactions with as much a right, and as high a stature, as a CEO or a pastor.

Individuals — and the merit they may bring toward creating healthy, wise interactions — should therefore be judged by their substantive actions, and in some cases, inaction. Political organizations, such as parties, clubs, and societies, are viewed as nothing more than inanimate entities.

In other words, officials and organizations are only useful or purposeful to the extent that they facilitate healthy interactions that move the individuals toward "good" government. If they obstruct healthy interactions, they are not useful or purposeful. As such, respect is granted or withdrawn based entirely upon action and consistency, and, because no participant is seen as particularly more invulnerable to error than another, aggressive and constant scrutiny, vigilance, and accountability are seen as both essential and desirable.

Representative government is unique in that certain individuals are elected to represent the interests of constituents. Elected officials surrender their equal status to a degree, and assume the role of servants and subordinates — literally "at will employees" for those who selected them.

The sovereign citizen, having other responsibilities to attend to, directs his elected servant to represent his interests and to perform the administrative functions required to protect his inalienable rights. The sovereign citizen does not surrender his power or status to the politician, any more than the trustee of a company surrenders power or status to his subordinate employee.

In Rights of Man, American founder Thomas Paine wrote of representative systems of government, that,

"Those who are not in the representation, know as much of the nature of business as those who are…

"Every man is a proprietor in government, and considers it a necessary part of his business to understand. It concerns his interest, because it affects his property. He examines the cost, and compares it with the advantages; and above all, he does not adopt the slavish custom of following what in other governments are called LEADERS…

"The government of a free country, properly speaking, is not in the persons, but in the laws. The enacting of those requires no great expence; and when they are administered, the whole of civil government is performed — the rest is all court contrivance."

History and common sense make plain the tendency toward corruption that is manifest in government of any kind: Men, by their fallible nature, lust to obtain and exercise power over other men. This lust tends to become more addictive and insatiable as power is attained. The higher the administrative function, the more likely he is to seek additional power over others.

The wise sovereign citizens who established our government recognized that any lawful government must be guarded by a healthy distrust of all servants who performed public duties. They wisely equipped our government with checks and balances designed to impair men from obtaining any more power than they require to perform basic administrative functions. They purposed to educate their posterity to retain distrust of their subordinates and to hold them accountable for their actions.


Conclusion: How the Cycle of Corruption Can Be Broken

In order to end the cycle of corruption, the politician-defender must, like Rosa Parks of civil rights fame, stand up to those who have relegated him to the back of the political bus. He must grow tired of the small scraps that his officials throw him to keep him pacified. He must take charge and begin to deliver uncompromised accountability to those who behave abusively. Once enough citizens decide to demand more, the politician’s game of deception and corruption is over.

Accountability Utah holds all officials up to the same standards and bias, regardless of their political affiliation. However, there is nothing more objectionable to us than officials who claim to be "conservative" in word, but who behave as rights destroyers in deed. When a candidate or official claims to be "conservative," we view their claim as nothing less than a challenge to more fully scrutinize their political behavior.

When purchasing a new car, Americans are highly suspicious of car salesmen. The multiple attempts that will likely be made to deceive and manipulate are legendary. We must apply this same wisdom and heightened scrutiny to all politicians, so that we can prevent them from selling our freedoms.

We hope that citizens will continue to — in ever-increasing numbers — join the cause of liberty and leave behind political appeasement, egocentric and self-serving access, hopelessness, and failure. Courageous political accountability can become an uncompromising banner to secure a future of freedom.


* * * * *

Permission to reprint this article in whole or in part is hereby granted provided that Accountability Utah is cited.  Citizens are encouraged to share this information with others. For additional resources, see our training article, "The Achilles Heel of Conservatives," our Official Speak Guide, and the articles and other resources available in the Citizen Training section of our Citizen’s Library.




If you have comments or suggestions, please email us at info@accountabilityutah.org.


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