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GOP operative following, filming Utah Democratic chief

Published August 24, 2011 6:46 pm

Politics • Democratic chairman says "everyone is welcome" at his appearances.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After new Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis hosted a radio show during which two top state GOP officials said they support ending public education, Medicare and Social Security, Republicans now have a cameraman following Dabakis to possibly catch him saying something stupid.

They are paying a cameraman to follow Dabakis on his current "Red Rock Tour" through southern Utah to talk about public land issues and to urge creation of a congressional seat there.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright acknowledged that his party sent the cameraman. He said the cameraman may not attend all of Dabakis' events, but the party would at least have some county GOP officials at all of them to take notes. "We have operatives all over the state gathering data and intelligence to help us do our job."

Wright said Dabakis "has been on the offensive playing 'gotcha' politics and taking personal comments out of context," referring to Dabakis hosting a KRCL radio show last week in which Utah Republican Party Vice Chairman Lowell Nelson and Secretary Drew Chamberlain did such things as criticize the party and call for the abandonment of public education.

After their appearance, Todd Weiler, a former Utah GOP vice chairman, said he would take a resolution to the party's central committee seeking to restrict those party officials from speaking for the party.

As for Dabakis, "he needs to stop this 'gotcha' politics and trying to divide our party in two," Wright said.

The GOP chairman said the party is not trying to catch Dabakis saying something stupid as "much as we are just trying to hear what he is saying. We refuse to give him a pass, or simply accept what the media reports or what is posted on Twitter or Facebook." He said the party is not violating any privacy or rights, and merely is trying to keep up with Dabakis' claims so it can rebut them.

He adds that it was good that the cameraman was at several of the events, which he said were poorly attended — so that was captured, along with what was said.

Dabakis said he figured the cameraman was working for the Republicans and didn't think that "it was the Libertarians or the Green Party."

Dabakis said he and his aides asked the cameraman about who is employing him. "He said that he just wanted to do this," Dabakis said, noting the cameraman followed him from Provo to Kanab and Moab and more remote locations.

"He's a very genial and nice chap, and he has been at every public appearance," Dabakis said. "I couldn't be more thrilled that Republicans think that it's worth videotaping everything I say."

The Pride in Utah website, which bills itself as "the Eyes and Ears of Utah's Queer Community," first posted that the cameraman is following Dabakis, guessed he was employed by Republicans and said the GOP may be seeking its "very own Macaca."

That refers to an incident in 2006 when former Sen. George Allen, R-Va., was seeking re-election and pointed to an Indian-American aide of an opponent who was filming him. Allen called him by what he said he thought was the made-up name of "Macaca." It turned out to be a insulting term for people of color in some European countries. Allen's campaign never recovered.

When Dabakis was asked if he had said anything on camera so far that could cause trouble, he said, "I'm always saying stuff. But I don't care who tapes it. Everyone is welcome to our meetings."