Rolly: State GOP doctors Tribune graphic to make Democrat look bad

Published October 12, 2012 1:14 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I recently made fun of a state Republican Party flier attacking veteran Democratic legislator Carol Spackman Moss of Holladay for being in the House too long. I noted several Republicans have been in the Legislature longer than Moss, but to the GOP, apparently, that doesn't matter.

Now, the state GOP has outdone itself.

A recent campaign flier goes to great lengths to paint Moss as unduly taking personal perks. But to do that, the party had to doctor a report in The Salt Lake Tribune last June to project a blatantly misleading image and, again, ignore the fact that nearly every Republican legislator does exactly what they criticize Moss for doing. (Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Bountiful, is the only senator who is an exception.)

The top of the flier says Moss has received $65,000 in hotel reimbursements but has had no receipts.

On the flier is a graphic from The Tribune's edition of June 14 with a headline that says highest-paid state representatives in 2011. It has Moss at the top with two legislators listed below her.

The actual graphic was in The Tribune Midvalley Close-Up section. For the flier, The Close-Up banner was removed and replaced with The Salt Lake Tribune masthead.

There are several Close-Up editions each Thursday that run in specific local areas and focus on coverage of those areas. The Midvalley Close-Up, which covers the Murray-Holladay area, only dealt with the legislators in that small circulation area. But its inclusion in the flier gave the impression Moss got more reimbursements than any other legislator in Utah.

Many legislators got more reimbursements than Moss. The flier conveniently eliminated the explanation that ran above the statistical analysis, which noted it was for that local community.

The hotel reimbursements are part of the total compensation package legislators receive and all but three legislators take it, including about two dozen Republicans who live within 20 minutes of the State Capitol.

There have been efforts to run legislation that changes the compensation method so lawmakers don't get hotel reimbursements if they don't need them. But the proposed changes have been squelched by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Both misleading fliers were paid for by the State Republican Committee, whose chairman, Thomas Wright, is the brother of Moss' Republican opponent, Anne Marie Lampropoulos.

Wright defended the flier, saying the party got the statistics from The Tribune. But he conceded the flier shouldn't have omitted the explanation that it was just covering the Murray-Holladay area.

He also defended the smack on Moss for taking hotel reimbursements, saying Democrats use the issue against Republicans. "Whether Republican or Democrat, it's wrong," he said.

Family feud: State GOP Chairman Wright is getting some grief from his own party's officers for engaging in what they allege are heavy-handed tactics.

Wright recently put in a request to county Republican parties to donate what money they can to the state party so it can use more resources in contested races, like the 4th Congressional District, and to support presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Morgan County Chairman Lars Birkeland said he objects, in a post on the Utah GOP's unofficial Facebook page.

"Does anyone besides me actually believe in local control and decision making? Last week, I was asked as the Republican Chair of Morgan County, to donate as much money as we have available to the state party to run things for the next two years. The more we could give the better. I don't get it and I don't like it. If they wanted to assess us our pro-rated portion of state expenses based on our population, that would be one thing ­— but to simply say: give us all the money you can and we will find a way to spend it for you ­— that doesn't work for me."

Other county chairs have expressed similar concerns, while some have gladly handed their money over to the state party.

Wright says it was not a demand, but a request, just to give the party more flexibility in putting money where it is most needed.

prolly@sltrib.com