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Paul Rolly: GOP boss publicly neutral, but privately, well ...

Published December 19, 2013 8:03 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

While Utah County GOP bylaws forbid party officers from endorsing or helping a Republican candidate in a convention or primary when other GOP candidates are in the race, chairman Casey Voeks posted on his Facebook page Nov. 22 that while he will remain "publicly neutral on who I will be supporting to be Utah's next attorney general due to county bylaws … I will be privately supporting and assisting a candidate."

He didn't say which candidate he would privately back.

On Dec. 11, three days before the State Republican Central Committee chose three nominees to send to Gov. Gary Herbert to replace John Swallow, Voeks' political role became clearer. "I work in politics and help candidates I support and believe in."

It also helps if the candidate pays him.

Voeks was paid $1,500 as a campaign consultant for candidate Bret Rawson, who was not one of the three selected Saturday by the Central Committee.

That raised a few eyebrows from fellow Republicans who wonder if it's a good idea for the party chairman to be a paid consultant for a Republican running against other Republicans.

But Voeks clarified his actions in his Dec. 11 post.

"After working for a candidate for one year for free, I decided I can't afford to do that. I take pay to cover expenses of my engagement in a campaign."

Voeks told me he did not violate county bylaws because they specifically deal with conventions and primaries. This was a special election by the Central Committee and didn't involve a convention or primary, he said.

Damn those disclosure laws • One reason for Voeks' clarification in his Dec. 11 post about taking fees from one of the attorney general candidates is that the cat was already out of the political bag.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, in the past legislative session requires that candidates in special elections to fill a vacancy must disclose their campaign finances before the special election. So Rawson's financial statement filed with the lieutenant governor's office revealed that Voeks was paid $1,500. Had Swallow resigned in June, before the law took effect, that deal could have been kept secret.

Could have been awkward • The financial disclosure also revealed that Rawson received $20,000 in campaign contributions from the Utah Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). That makes some sense since Rawson is the FOP's attorney.

But his close FOP colleague, who is the administrative law representative for the organization, is Salt Lake County Republican Chairman Chad Bennion.

You remember Chad. He is the one who held a rally against Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill after the Democratic prosecutor concluded that the fatal shooting of a 21-year-old woman by two West Valley City narcotics detectives was unjustified.

In his rant, Bennion suggested that Gill may hate cops, a comment that more-mature GOP officials quickly tried to dial back.

So if Rawson would have become attorney general, he would have been tied financially to the organization that he not only works for but also whose other top representative blasted the district attorney who is criminally investigating the now-former attorney general Rawson would have replaced.

That all could have made for a good soap opera.

prolly@sltrib.com