Group denies sending letter that slams candidates in Utah County House contest
Published: April 11, 2014 02:28PM
Updated: April 10, 2014 08:57PM

The Florida-based think-tank Foundation for Government Accountability filed a complaint Thursday with the Utah lieutenant governor after an apparently fraudulent letter with the group’s name was sent to delegates in a Utah County legislative district, praising one candidate and slamming his two opponents.

“We have never, and do not, engage in campaign-related activities,” wrote Jonathan Bechtle, general counsel for the nonprofit foundation.

The letter was sent to Republican delegates in House District 57, where state Rep. Brian Greene, of Pleasant Grove, is being challenged by former Rep. Holly Richardson and John Stevens, whom Greene beat in a 2012 primary. The contest is among those to be decided Saturday by GOP convention delegates.

The letter praises Greene’s conservative voting record, while criticizing Richardson for resigning from the Legislature after a year in office to run a U.S. Senate campaign and questioning inaccuracies in Stevens’ résumé.

The letter uses the foundation’s logo and purports to be from the group’s Utah chapter, which does not exist.

“This blatantly false representation is, at best, a clumsy attempt to steal our credibility in order to affect the outcome of the election in District 57,” Bechtle wrote, “and at worst, a direct attempt to undermine our tax status with the Internal Revenue Service, as federal law prohibits us from intervening in political campaigns.”

He asked the lieutenant governor’s office to conduct a full investigation to determine who was behind the letter and, if possible, file criminal charges.

It is not the first time that anonymous mailings and skullduggery has come into play on the eve of Republican conventions.

In 2012, an anonymous letter was sent to at least a few delegates questioning whether congressional candidate Chris Stewart had embellished his record as an Air Force pilot. Stewart’s opponents were accused of plotting to bring him down and angry denials spilled out on the convention stage, but Stewart went on to win the nomination.

And in 2010, a mailer was sent to delegates purporting to tout Mike Lee’s religious convictions, contrasting it with then-U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett’s supposed devotion to Washington. It later was revealed that a lobbyist who was a Bennett supporter orchestrated the attack.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke