It’s nice to have a lot of political money to spend.
But many Utah GOP legislative candidates are shaking their heads over mailers going into their districts paid for by Americans For Prosperity – a political group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
The flyers hit mailboxes this week in around 30 districts of Republicans and Democrats alike who last session voted for three “tax raising” bills that the AFP opposed, said Heather Williamson, state director of Americans For Prosperity.
And oddly enough they went into 20 or so state House and Senate districts where some of the incumbents don’t have any Republican opposition (but a few do).
They even went into Senate districts where the GOP incumbent IS NOT on the ballot this year – but in mid-term.
Americans For Prosperity is an archconservative group that often opposes incumbent GOP members of Congress or state lawmakers who don’t match up with their less-government agenda.
But they aren’t going to get Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, this election year. He’s not even up for election, and won’t be on any ballot.
“I’m guessing – and it’s only a guess – that they sent my flyer out for one of two reasons,” said Weiler – who has been in an ongoing fight against the Keep My Voice, anti-SB54 crowd this spring.
First, the Utah chapter of AFP “is just stupid – they didn’t know I wasn’t up for election this year.”
Or, he added, perhaps the group feels “this is a shot across the bow that I need to be more Tea Party or Libertarian in my voting and representing my constituents.”
“Either way, I’m just kind of chuckling to myself over this,” said Weiler.
Not so, said Williamson.
The group did what they call the “accountability” mailer into districts of lawmakers who voted for those three issues – around 30 lawmakers.
But in a day or two they are sending out “thank you” mailers to around ten senators and representatives who voted against those three measures, she said.
Weiler has been in contact with some other GOP legislative incumbents and said from what he can tell all the flyers are the same – just change the name of the incumbent and their picture on the front of the flyer.
The flyers complain about three issues the target incumbents supported – although clearly the characterizations of the votes can be disputed.
Weiler’s flyer says:
“He voted to increase your property taxes.”
“He voted to give more money to UTA and raise your sales tax.”
“He voted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.”
You can say “yes” to each of these -- but there are qualifiers.
Property taxes may well go up in some school districts through a local property tax equalization effort and freezing of the basic levy – actions long desired by education supporters and GOP lawmakers.
Reforms inside the governance of UTA may lead to more money for the troubled agency.
And after voting down full Medicaid expansion several times, lawmakers did approve a revamping/expansion of the federal health care for low-income Utahns if the feds pick up more of the cost.
All in all, the above items were generally supported by Utahns and specifically by GOP Gary Herbert.
Weiler’s district, while in Davis County, has produced more moderate Republican lawmakers than, say, Utah County.
But Orem Republican Rep. Keven Stratton said Weiler, also got hit with a similar AFP flyer – just the name and picture being different.
And Stratton is one of the more conservative members of the Utah House, and he has NO GOP opponent this year.
No Democrat filed against him, either, only an Independent American candidate who has no chance of unseating Stratton.
Williamson said opposing incumbent legislators who face primaries or general election opponents was not an issue this election year.
“We are a grassroots organization, who tries to hold (politicians) accountable to their constituents. We want their constituents to engage their legislators” and ask them why they voted for “tax increases,” said Williamson.
Around 1,000 flyers went out into each of the legislators targeted for their anti- or pro-tax votes, she said.
“At least they used a decent picture of me” on the flyer that went out in his area, said Weiler.
He added that so far two constituents had called him asking about the flyer, adding he is glad to explain his votes on those issues.