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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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(| Tribune file photo) Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
News of Shurtleff/Swallow scandal spreads ...

A few months ago, a reporter for The New York Times, who has a background of covering political corruption in a state that has lots, took notice of the big scandal that was then, and is now, dragging on in Utah.

A Campaign Inquiry in Utah Is the Watchdogs’ Worst Case — Nicholas Confessore | The New York Times

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"It is the nightmare scenario for those who worry that the modern campaign finance system has opened up new frontiers of political corruption: A candidate colludes with wealthy corporate backers and promises to defend their interests if elected. The companies spend heavily to elect the candidate, but hide the money by funneling it through a nonprofit group. And the main purpose of the nonprofit appears to be getting the candidate elected ...

" ... What is rare about the Utah case, investigators and campaign finance experts say, is not just the brazenness of the scheme, but the discovery of dozens of documents describing it in fine detail. ..."

And, today The Washington Post’s civil liberties and criminal justice blogger weighs in on a more recent development:

Aggressive police raids for thee, but not for me — Radley Balko | The Watch | The Washington Post

"It’s amazing how quickly a politician can change his position when he becomes a victim of aggressive government policies he previously supported.

"Witness Mark Shurtleff. During Shurtleff’s 12 years as Utah attorney general, he set up a unit called the Statewide Enforcement of Crimes by Undocumented Residents Strike Force — or the SECURE Strike Force for short. The unit sent armed police to raid businesses that were suspected of employing undocumented workers, suspected fake ID makers and suspected human traffickers. (To his credit, Shurtleff did actually support fairer immigration policies while in office.)

"Some of the unit’s targets have been legitimately dangerous people. Others, like suspected copyright violators, probably weren’t. A video of one of these raids that I posted a couple of years ago (no longer available online) showed armed SECURE Strike Force cops breaking down the door to a home to serve a warrant for pirated CDs. (They did at least knock first.)

In fact, Shurtleff sent his strike force on so many raids of suspected copyright violators that in 2012, the Recording Industry Association of America gave him an award. ...

" ... I bring all of this up because Shurtleff and his successor John Swallow are currently under investigation for allegedly violating campaign finance law. That investigation recently led to a raid on Shurtleff’s home. He wasn’t in the house at the time, but his son and daughter were. And now that it has affected members of his family, Shurtleff has taken an active interest in the growth of aggressive police tactics. ..."

Feds perform guns-drawn SWAT raid while investigating campaign finance allegation — Police State USA



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