April 27, 2014
I have spend the last week in Albany, NY, working on a longstanding tax dispute with the State of New York. My client runs a "gentlemen's club" featuring exotic dancers. NY law imposes a sales tax on admissions to places of entertainment, but not those that feature "choreographed performances". It seems obvious to us that this is exactly what we are doing, and we won a tax hearing a few years ago over this question. The State appealed that decision, and it was reversed. We were told that we had not presented adequate proof that this is what we did; but we were welcome to try again for a new "audit period. So instead of presenting one expert witness, we presented four, in addition to several dancers and other evidence. We will not know for a few months how it went; but we feel we did make our proof. The State, of course, is expressing moral disapproval of what we do, even though one of their two auditors admitted that he has been to the club several times, to hang out withy the pretty young women. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression; and it also requires the State to treat all of its citizens equally, even those who do not meet government approval. As the Supreme Court said in the early 1800's, "the power to tax is the power to destroy", and the State is using this power to censor us.
My law practice is pretty much dedicated to fighting the State's attempts to prosecute those of whom they do not approve. I represent several "adult entertainment" businesses; and the State constantly uses its tax, regulatory and police powers to express its disapproval. Much of this exercise of power is over reaching, evidenced by the fact that I regularly beat them in court. Nevertheless, the fight is constant.
I also spend a lot of time fighting with the state over pot smoking. When someone is stopped for a minor traffic offense, an officer may declare that he "smelled a strong odor of burnt marijuana". The odor is invariably "strong". and, of course, there is no real way to contest his statement, even if no marijuana is found in the ensuing search. Much of the country has moved away from treating this like a major crime; but not in Utah. Cars are impounded and people are jailed for what often turns out to be a Class B misdemeanor. But the damage is done. The driver's will likely be suspended, and he will have a "drug offense" on his record. This continues in the face of increasing evidence that smoking pot is not a danger to the public.
At the same time, a major battle is going on over Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. The newly appointed Attorney General claims that same sex marriage is destroying the family and harming children, though he does not show proof of this. He also says that marriage is not really about adults, but is about children. He appears to maintain that those who actually marry are secondary in importance, and that their happiness is not important. As an older adult, I find the State's position both ridiculous and insulting. It makes me angry, and I want to be heard to say: "this is just stupid".
So, I am once again a candidate for Utah attorney General. I am not campaigning for gay marriage, pot smoking or exotic dancing. I am campaigning for a society in which people can be free to live as they choose, without the State interfering with very personal choices. This year I have several opponents, all of whom, at least to a substantial degree, favor more government control over your life than the government should have. As I have said before, candidates from smaller parties are not necessarily in the race to win, but more to introduce and support new ideas, and to change the direction of the debate. And speaking of debate, Utah now has a new "debate commission" which will hold televised debates for major offices, featuring "viable candidates". I have not yet been able to find out how a viable candidate is measured. I suspect they may claim that this means a candidate who has a realistic chance of being elected. We know, of cour4se, that in most major Utah races, only the Republican has a realistic chance of being elected. this standard should disqualify all the but the Republican candidate. but that would cut off the debate entirely. Some radio and TV stations have set a 5% cutoff in some reliable poll. Well, I poled 5.4% for this very office only 2 years ago, and that should be reliable enough. So, if you believe in a more free society, help me get heard, and help us spread our ideas. In the war of ideas, we are winning. We will win on same sex marriage, and we will win on legalizing marijuana. IN doing so, we will decrease the outrageously high proportion of our population who are in jail or prison for non-violent crimes. Tell a friend.