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Paul Rolly: Payday lenders and Utah's 'Best': What a combo

Published May 9, 2014 7:33 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The lobbying firm of Foxley & Pignanelli recently bought advertising space touting that it had won a Best of Utah award.

The firm won in a new category created by the Best of State organization. It was the government relations category under the community development-public sector section.

Coincidentally, the CEO of Best of State Awards is Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, according to her conflict-of-interest form at the Legislature.

Layton won her seat in 2012 by ousting incumbent Republican Brad Daw in the GOP primary. That came after Daw had been smeared by a number of campaign fliers accusing him of, among other assertions, being a socialist.

The fliers were paid for by a newly formed political-action committee: The Proper Role of Government Defense Fund.

That PAC also gave Layton several thousand dollars in campaign contributions and, it turns out, was a shadow organization created specifically to defeat Daw without identifying who was trying to do so.

The donors to the PAC, organized by political strategist Jason Powers, were not revealed under the loopholes created by the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United ruling.

The actual donors, subsequent investigations have revealed, were members of the payday-lending industry who targeted Daw because he had sponsored legislation to tighten payday-loan rules.

So Layton was aided dramatically in her race against Daw by payday lenders.

And who are main lobbyists for that industry?

Foxley and Pignanelli.

The A list • Another Best of the State award winner, by the way, was accused scammer Jeremy Johnson for his humanitarian work in Haiti.

Who accepted the award in 2010 for Johnson? Former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who, along with his handpicked successor, John Swallow, is being investigated for his activities, including his cozy relationship with the payday-lending industry.

Is the guv laughing? • Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart did an interesting thing last week.

The Provo Republican all but announced she was running for governor — at a Democratic fundraiser.

Lockhart was one of a number of politicians — Republicans and Democrats — invited to do short stand-up routines at a May 1 fundraiser for Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

The comedy performers included House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka and "Sister Dottie Dixon," male comic Charles Lynn Frost dressed in Mormon drag.

But Lockhart was more than just funny, given the speculation that she will challenge Gov. Gary Herbert for the Republican nomination in two years.

Lockhart brought a Herbert bobblehead doll, placed it on the stage and tapped it with her finger, so the doll kept bobbing his head up and down while she spoke. Then she mentioned that McAdams offered to provide her with a teleprompter for her speech.

"Teleprompters are for governors," Lockhart said. "Ask me in 2016."

All the fundraiser's comedy routines can be viewed at http://www.unitedwestand-up.com.

Rain on the parade • In explaining the Days of '47 committee's rejection of Mormons Building Bridges as an entrant in the July 24 parade this year, Executive Vice President Greg James told The Salt Lake Tribune the organization is consistent in banning those that may create controversy.

Bridges is dedicated to improving relationships between Latter-day Saints and the gay community.

Gee, you can't get any more controversial than that.

I'm reminded of some past Days of '47 rejections because the entrants were so controversial.

I wrote in the 1990s about the rejection of the Clydesdales because kids might see the horses and think about beer. In a later year, the horses did appear in the parade.

Then there was the time the parade rejected a Utah Jazz float because the Jazz Dancers were too risqué.

Another time, the parade chairman barred an association of square dance clubs from the traditional pre-parade dancing activity, telling the group's president that square dancing attracted "riffraff."

prolly@sltrib.com