Tag Archives: Jim Matheson

Utah is becoming even more Republican…if that’s even possible.

Last night, or early this morning, I engaged in some hyperbolic jousting over Twitter with the inestimable Deb Henry, a candidate for Vice Chair of the Utah Democratic Party.

Amidst the trash talk, Deb reminded the world why she is running for Vice Chair of the Utah Democratic Party (yes, our state has one).

As I read her comment, I couldn’t help but wonder: can Utah really elect any more Democrats than they already do? In that vein of thought, wouldn’t it make more sense that to win you would need to increasingly be a Republican in this state? You know: if you can’t beat’m, join’m. Continue reading

Utah still missing a permanent federal prosecutor?

When will Utah get a permanent U.S. Attorney?

If you recall, Utah has been without an appointed federal prosecutor since the last one, Brett Tolman a Republican appointee, stepped down in January of 2010. At the time, Rep. Jim Matheson‘s choice for the job, David Schwendiman, had been rebuffed and rumors floated that a Republican–Scott Burns–would be appointed instead.

Carlie Christensen, right, seen with federal prosecutor Richard McKelvie, will be acting U.S. attorney for Utah. (Barton Glasser, Deseret News)

In the meantime, Carlie Christensen, one of Tolman’s deputies, was given responsibility for Utah’s U.S. Attorney office, and, last year, the President appoint her interim U.S. Attorney a 120 day period until a permanent appointment could be made. That was in July.

Eight months later, Utah still has Carlie Christensen. Without a doubt, there haven’t been any complaints about her work, and maybe President Obama is willing to let sleeping dogs lie. But it begs the question: why not put a permanent person in place to run the federal prosecutor’s office?

Half of life is showing up

It’s often been said that most of life is showing up (Woody Allen quantified it as “80 percent,” so who am I to argue?).  So what does it say about our political candidates who won’t show up?

In Utah, the presumed front-runners are not showing up. Complains Douglas Mortensen with Salt Lake’s Rotary Club:

For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, the club received “no thank you” responses from each of the leading candidates in the races for governor, U.S. senator and U.S. House of Representatives. The tacit but unmistakable message from Gov. Gary Herbert, Rep. Jim Matheson and candidate Mike Lee: “I don’t want to risk my huge lead in the polls by appearing in a public forum where I might be subjected to fair questions concerning my ability to lead and my true position on substantive political issues.”

One of these gentlemen agreed to come only if his opponent were not invited and only if he didn’t have to answer questions from the floor. I have a hard time imagining Abraham Lincoln placing such conditions on his public appearances.

I can’t judge whether it is out of cowardice or arrogance that none of the candidates would show, or if it was something else. I can say that it doesn’t seem very good for a healthy republic when representatives won’t talk to voters, regardless of their political stripes. Mortensen compared it to athletics, unfavorably.

Politics as the marketplace of ideas, and an open exchange of views, it seems, has been replaced by TV and radio spots. The candidates with the biggest pot of campaign contributions pay for and get the glossiest ads. Those ads, as heart-warming, emotional and professionally-crafted as they may be, do not allow follow-up questions. They address issues superficially, if at all. When they do, they present but one side and too often the less-funded side goes unheard.

As spectators at sporting events, we tolerate this “chickening out” by the front-runner. Though we sometimes boo when a pitcher intentionally walks the opponent’s best hitter with the game on the line, we accept it as part of the game. When a boxing champ ducks his highest-ranking contender to fight a lesser-skilled opponent we may even empathize with him for wanting to extend the length of his purse-winning career.

But politics is not a sporting event. Politics is where we decide who is going to spend our tax money and how they are going to spend it. It’s where we decide how open our institutions of government are going to be, what kind of people are going to be appointed judges, whether prisons or schools get built, and who decides which bidding contractors get to repair our public roads.

When governance is concerned, we deserve and need to hear from the candidates in open, face-to-face events. No hiding. No stalling. No running out the clock. If you’re ahead, prove you deserve to be ahead by subjecting yourself and your views to questions, if not from your opponent, at least from open-minded inquiring citizens.

Don’t tolerate “chickening out” by the front runner. Force him to show up.  Because if he’s not, he’s skipping out on 80% of life, not to mention 80% of his responsibility to voters.

Utah still short a US attorney

Seal of the United States Department of Justice
Image via Wikipedia

Utah is still short a US attorney since Brett Tolman stepped down at the end of 2009.  This blog has reported on this issue previously, noting that the Obama Administration has been looking at appointing a Republican in place of the Democrat proposed by Rep.e Jim Matheson. With Rep. Matheson failing to get any traction, and in the midst of a challenge for his seat, Rep. Jason Chaffetz has urged President Obama to act so that the seat does not remain empty.

“While the acting (now interim) U.S. Attorney has by all accounts done an admirable job filling in, the fact remains that the position is vacant and has been for nearly a year,” Chaffetz wrote. “Simply put, the people of the State of Utah need and deserve a U.S. Attorney.”

(thanks to Thomas Burr and the Salt Lake Tribune)

Matheson out of loop on Utah’s US Attorney

We’ve mentioned the strange case of the possible selection of Republican Robert Burns for US Attorney of Utah by Democratic President Barack Obama.  Usually, the President selects members of his own party, and usually with the suggestions and advice of members of his party in the state.  In Utah’s case, there are few of these.

Utah has one Democratic Congressman: Jim Matheson.  He’s Utah’s sole congressional link with the most powerful elected official in America, the President of the United States.  But does thePresident call Jim when he wants to make policy or appoint persons in Jim’s home state of Utah?

Nope.

Rep. Jim Matheson says he doesn’t know why the White House rejected his favorite candidate for U.S. Attorney or why the vetting process dragged on for more than a year.

He also bristled at the news that the White House is considering a Republican for the top federal prosecutor spot in Utah.

The comments mark the first time Matheson has publicly addressed the U.S. Attorney controversy since the White House in early July told David Schwendiman that he would not become the nominee.

Schwendiman, a senior federal litigator with decades of experience, was Matheson’s first choice for the opening and he had been considered the presumptive U.S. Attorney among Utah’s legal and political insiders for nearly a year.

Neither the White House nor Schwendiman will explain what went wrong. And apparently no one has clued Matheson in to what happened either.

“It’s between the White House and Schwendiman,” Matheson said Wednesday.

Matheson did, though, question why it took the White House so long to reach a conclusion.

“I’m frustrated with the time, it seemed like it took forever,” he said.
(Emphasis added)

So much for representing Utah in Washington, D.C.

Schwendiman’s rejection, coupled with the consideration of Burns, is unusual because the White House typically relies on the senior member of Congress from the president’s party to recommend people for open offices. As an example, Matheson recommend his brother, Scott Matheson Jr., a former law school dean, to be a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. President Barack Obama has since nominated Scott Matheson to the post.

Matheson spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend has said the congressman would seek a clarifying conversation with White House officials before submitting another recommendation to determine what they are looking for.

But apparently that isn’t going to happen.

But Jim is going to follow up, right?  And make sure that he has a say in picking Utah’s US Attorney, right?

Orrin Hatch US Senator

Image via Wikipedia

Matheson said he has no intention of discussing this with the White House: “No. I’m not sure what she’s talking about.”

Ok, then maybe not.  So who is the White House calling to get its nominees?  While it’s not clear, because the White House isn’t saying, Robert Burns does have connections to Senator Orrin Hatch.

While he continues that process, the White House has moved in another direction, starting to probe the background of Scott Burns, a former deputy drug czar under President George W. Bush and a favorite of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Interesting.  Senator Hatch is a 34 year veteran of the Senate and is rumored to be facing the reelection battle of his career in the 2012.  What better time to flex his muscle and show his political power on Utah’s behalf then in the two years before the election when voters are actually paying attention?

(Thanks to the Matt Canham and the Salt Lake Tribune)

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