Andrew McCullough's Blog

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Fair Debate

August 16, 2014

There has been a lot of discussion, and some anguish, this week over the fact that the Facebook Political Action Committee made a contribution of $10,000 to the election campaign of Sean Reyes. Supporters of the Democrat, Mr. Stormont, mounted an on-line petition to get their candidate a similar contribution, and pointed out Mr. Reyes' staunch defense of Utah's prohibition of same sex marriage. After fuming for a time myself, and after some thought, I sent the following letter to the Facebook Political Action Committee earlier today:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

By now, you may be aware of the controversy caused by your sizable donation, in May of this year, to the election campaign of our present Attorney General, Sean Reyes. I thought it worth this effort to inform you of some things of which you may not be fully aware.

First, Utah has become a “one-party State”, in which Democratic candidates rarely win major office, and are in a tiny minority in the State Legislature. Part of the dominance by the Republican Party is due to a huge financial advantage enjoyed by their candidates, who are regularly the recipients of large contributions from corporate interests. You may not be entirely aware that our last two Republican Attorneys General, Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow, are currently facing a number of felony counts for “influence peddling” charges, arising in part from those large contributions. Many in the state are discouraged and disgusted by what they have seen in this regard.

So, Mr. Reyes was temporarily appointed at the end of last year, and required to run for office this year in a special election. He most likely will win easily, despite the bad taste left by his two predecessors, because of the dominance of his party.

As you might guess, he is raising substantially more money than either the Democratic candidate, Charles Stormont, or I, the Libertarian Party candidate. Your contribution is one of his largest, and it just looks and feels like “business as usual” from special corporate interest groups. He doesn’t need your money, but you are certainly free to offer it. Nevertheless, to many people in this State, it looks and smells bad, especially in light of the ongoing legal battle over same sex marriage rights, which Mr. Reyes has recently appealed to the United States Supreme Court. While he says he is just doing his job, many think he has gone overboard in his mean spirited arguments that marriage “means nothing” if it just serves the adults who engage in it; and that marriage should be centered around procreation. I only wish your people had read his filings before they sent this contribution.

Well, we all know that “what’s done is done”. I, however, have a suggestion and a request. Mr. Reyes will win no matter who does what from here on. But it is important to the State of Utah to have a healthy debate. Please consider a contribution to Mr. Stormont, and also to me. I am running a serious campaign, and I have championed a more free society. The “war on drugs” has made criminals of a whole generation, and the militarization of our police has made us all less free. The State has no legitimate interest in who we love, or what we smoke in our own homes. Contributions to me and to Mr. Stormont will encourage a real debate over important societal issues. And, if you were to act to “level the playing field” a little, you would be winning a great deal of good will from those who “do not march in lockstep” in our one-party state.

I am not suggesting a contribution for my own campaign in the same amount as that given to Mr. Reyes. But it would certainly be reasonable to suggest $500 or $1,000. A like amount to Mr. Stormont would make all Utahns believe in our system a little more, and would act to remove the suspicion that “big corporate money” owns our state.

Thank you very much for any consideration you may give. By the way, I ran for this office in 2012 as well, and I received 53,000 votes, or 5.4%. I am not running to win, but to change the nature and the quality of the debate. In order to do that, I must make myself heard. It would be good for our state in general if this debate were encouraged.

W. Andrew McCullough
Libertarian Party candidate
for Utah Attorney General

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Equality For All

August 6, 2014

Here is my letter to Equality Utah concerning their upcoming "Allies Dinner":

A friend reposted your announcement of the Allies dinner in September. I would love to go, except of course, that I can't, because I do not see your organization as politically fair. I am the Libertarian candidate for Attorney General. Our party fully supports equality, and we announced it both at Pride and in an ad this month in Q Salt Lake. But I am cut out completely from the possibility of an endorsement, or even an acknowledgment that I exist. I understand that your organization claims to be looking for "viable" candidates, but that almost invariably means Democrats. The irony of that decision is that there are very few "viable" Democratic candidates in Utah, for major office. I concede that the Democratic candidate for AG will likely get more votes than I will; but he has no better chance than I do to win. It seems to me that a candidate who cannot get more than 35% of the vote is not really viable. I have been an active supporter of the cause for many years, as the Chair of the Libertarian Party and a long time board member of the ACLU of Utah. I stood on the capitol steps on that June day in 2003 when the Supreme Court announced its decision in Lawrence v. Texas, and I celebrated freedom. I have contributed money to the current litigation, and I have previously given money to your organization. It makes me sad that I cannot do so now.

I look forward to the time when my party is recognized as a strong supporter of the cause of equality, and we are at least acknowledged for that support. When that happens, send me an invitation to your dinner, and I will see you there.

W. Andrew McCullough
Libertarian candidate for Utah Attorney General

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

"Reforming" the process for choosing our AG

August 5, 2014

My Facebook friend Robert Gehrke wrote an article in Sunday's Trib about suggestions for changing the AG election to being nonpartisan, or appointing him, to take the politics out of it. I wrote him a letter telling him why we should not do either of those things. Here it is:

Just read your article on "reforms" suggested for the Utah Attorney General, including appointment of non-partisan election. As you well know, I have been a candidate for this office several times. It all started when a close friend was arrested and strip searched over an allegation of driving under the influence of marijuana. My beautiful friend actually had a speech impediment, which caused her to speak a little slowly, and caused the officer to write in his report: "The lights are on, but nobody's home." After the drug tests came out negative, they sent them back to the lab and told them to try again. Only at the last minute did they drop the DUI charge for lack of evidence. We sued, and the AG fought tooth and nail to protect the incompetent and vindictive officers. It seemed so simple to me that a serious mistake had been made, my client had been strip searched in a misguided attempt to find the drugs that were not there, and that the state should pay compensation. The AG did not agree. the very small settlement we got in the end only made me more angry, and I decided to run for the office myself.

Why? Because I wanted to make some major changes in the way the office operates. I want the AG to represent the people, not law enforcement. I want them to stop the mean spirited attacks on gays, and I want them to stop trying to fill our prisons with marijuana users. The way justice is administered is indeed political. A criminal prosecutor has the discretion to either prosecute to the fullest or to show mercy (and sometimes common sense) in being more reasonable. The AG has great influence in the legislature on adopting laws which may result in long prison sentences, or to suggest alternatives like rehabilitation. Many people may see me as a bit of a kook for running for this office several times without a real chance of winning. but one thing continues to motivate me in doing so: the way things are run now needs change. The war on drugs is a disaster and needs to end. Militarization of police is a terrible mistake that needs to stop. Somebody needs to say these things, and give people alternatives. It would be a serious mistake to make the office "nonpartisan" on the assumption that all we need is a good lawyer at the helm, and that it is not important to know that lawyer's philosophy concerning the use of force by the State.

Thanks for listening.

Andy
W. Andrew McCullough
Libertarian candidate for Attorney General

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Utah Debate Commission

July 27, 2014

Following is the text of a letter I sent this morning to the Utah Debate Commission, which has announced that there will be a debate between candidates for Utah Attorney General who show 10% support in an august poll.

To the Utah Debate Commission:

Thank you for sending me information on the Utah Debate Commission. Obviously, the debate format is designed to exclude "minor party" candidates, and will almost certainly exclude me. I received 5.4% of the vote two years ago, which is a decent showing for a "minor party" candidate. I may do better this year, but it is not likely that I will have reached 10% by August (a time when few people pay much attention to politics).

So, I will not participate in further interaction with your commission. I will leave you to stock your debate with "viable" candidates - Democrats who can reliably expect 25% to 30% of the vote, but will not come close to actually winning.

I learned something important in a high school social studies class many years ago. Eugene Debs ran for President 5 times on the socialist Party ticket. He did not come close to winning. A reporter asked him why he kept doing it when he had no chance of getting elected. He said his job was not to get elected, but to put new ideas into people's minds, and to "change the nature of the debate." I will not get elected this November, but Libertarians are changing the nature of the debate. On important legal issues such as the disastrous "war on drugs", marriage equality, and the militarization of our police, my party has been in the forefront of demanding change. And, on these and other important issues, we are winning. The GOP, with their religious morality, is a true dinosaur. Yes, they will win again in Utah this year; but they will lose the fight to prevent freedom.

Your guidelines simply make sure that only the old, tired, and discredited ideas of the past will be heard. The debate for Attorney General will not address the important issues and give people the opportunity to embrace real change. Shame on you and those others who work to throttle real debate. Your debate will have little merit except to give Mr. Reyes further opportunity to trumpet his intolerance and support for oppression.

Andy
W. Andrew McCullough
Libertarian candidate for Utah Attorney General

Thursday, July 03, 2014

"Dark Money" in race fo Utah Attorney General?

July 3, 2014

Here is an article just published about financing the race for Utah Attorney general this year. Kind of rolling my eyes about the tag "perennial candidate", but I guess I have been doing this for a while. I have written about this before: that a candidate for a smaller party does not run to win, but to change minds on the issues. And we are winning on the issues. We have supported "marriage equality" for 40 years. It will not be stopped now. We have supported an end to the "war" on marijuana users for just as long. And we will win this one also. Now we must fight back on the "militarization" of our police and against the "surveillance state." So much left to do.

This weekend will be my 66th birthday. No, I really can't keep doing this much longer. This would be a great time to make a small donation to my campaign against the police state. See my website at www.andrewmccullough.org for instructions. And tell a friend. "You have nothing to lose but your chains."

http://utahpoliticalcapitol.com/2014/07/03/dark-money-rules-in-reyes-ag-run/#

Monday, May 26, 2014

Just a brief note

May 26, 2014 As my campaign goes forward this year, I intend to write her from time to time. I admit, however, that I find the format of Facebook easier to use for short notes. If you use facebook, "like" me there at www.facebook.com/andy4utahag

Here is a link to an interview just published with Q Salt Lake Magazine. Pass it on to a friend. http://gaysaltlake.com/news/2014/05/24/conversation-andrew-mccullough/

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Battle of Ideas

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.
 
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