Andrew McCullough's Blog

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Salt Lake Times Article on my Candidacy.

This is the rough draft of an article to appear on the Salt Lake Times legal newspaper in the next week or so.

Utah Libertarian Makes His Case To Be Attorney General of Utah

By Alicia Knight Cunningham, Esq.

The Intermountain Commercial Record asked Libertarian Candidate W. Andrew McCullough to respond to questions regarding his party’s platform, why he’s running, his priorities if elected and his views on his chances of winning. His responses are highlighted below.

Why are you a member of the Libertarian Party? What part of the party’s platform resonates with you?

I am a freedom lover. I do not like the government telling me what to do. The Libertarian Party works for me. I was the Treasurer of the Young Republican Federation when I was young -- and naïve -- and I was active in Barry Goldwater’s campaign. I am a disaffected Republican because the Republican Party has become the party of the religious right. Republicans are on a moral crusade, and I do not agree with that. I am still a conservative on economic matters. I just want a more free society.

Why are you running?

I have been practicing law since 1973. I have seen over and over again attitudes in the Attorney General’s office that I think are unreasonable. For example, I had a beautiful young friend that had a slight speech impediment. She spoke a little slowly. She was stopped for a minor traffic violation and the officer wrote in her report: “The lights are on but no one is home.” The officer charged her with using drugs and took her down to the police station. He suspected marijuana test and inflicted her with a blood test. It took two weeks to get the result so he put her in jail. He tore her car apart looking for drugs. He demanded that they do a full body cavity search looking for drugs. I screamed bloody murder and the Attorney General’s office said: “To hell with you.” In the end, we got a small settlement, but it was not enough. I became a windmill tilting politician that day.

Again, four or five years ago I was sitting in my office. A man came into my office. He had just been released days before from prison where he was serving time for a crime he did not commit. He wanted compensation, and there was a new Utah law that allowed him to seek compensation. I talked to the Attorney General’s office and said, “You know and I know that he did not do it. He has an alibi. He has witnesses.” They said, “We do not care. We can block this on a technicality.” The District Court did rule against us, but the Court of Appeals granted the compensation. When I got the call that they were writing the check, I cried.

In both cases the Attorney General’s office should have represented the interest of the people. I do not think that the Attorney Generals we have had understand the proper role of their job.

What are your priorities if you win? Will you follow the platform of your party?

I do not deny that on a given day the majority of the people may disagree with what I might do. Last week the majority of the people in Utah wanted same sex marriage to be illegal. The majority lost. What won was individual freedom. It is in the interest of personal freedom for the state to stand aside and say ‘We do not care who you marry.’

We incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. Iran, China – those countries we think of as being oppressive -- we put more people in prison than they do. It needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. We should not spend millions of dollars putting people in jail because of a moral judgment.

Last weekend I spent a few hours at the rally against police violence. The police have become militarized. They have machine guns to use against their own citizens. Too many people have died. It must stop.

What do you think of your chances?

When I was in high school Social Studies was my thing. I remember studying class was Eugene Debs. He ran repeatedly for President of the United States as a Socialist. Obviously, he did not win. Someone asked him, why do you keep doing this? You never win. You’ll never win. He answered: “But I am winning. I am the one who suggested the 40 hour work week. My ideas are winning.” And if you look at same sex marriage and marijuana – we’re winning. They cannot stop us. I hope that I am part of the group that changes the future.

When my friend was strip searched, I realized that I was not doing enough. So I took out the soap box and stood on it. I will not win. But perhaps I can change some minds and help people realize that things can be changed.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Change is Gonna Come

An article in the Salt Lake Tribune last week contrasted the positions of the “major party” candidates for Utah Attorney General. Mr. Reyes, the appointed incumbent, believes it is his job to defend the laws of the State of Utah as far as he can, including seeking review in the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Stormont, on the other hand, believes that it is not in the interests of the State to continue to appeal a case that is very expensive, and is hopeless. The difference is indeed important, but the Tribune did not ask the really important questions, and did not get the important answers.

Mr. Stormont is a career State employee. When he inevitably loses his race for Attorney General, he will go back to being as assistant Attorney General, and doing what he is told. Today, while on leave of absence, he talks about changes in the office; but he does not talk about the changes that are really necessary. Because the important issues have not been addressed by the “major party” candidates, I have chosen to make one more effort to put the important issues before the public.

The Attorney General is an elected position, in the Utah Constitution. Some have suggested he (or she) should be appointed by the Governor. The U.S. Attorney General is appointed, and he serves at the pleasure of the President. In Utah, the Attorney General is independent and makes policy for the legal department. He often files “friend of the Court” briefs in cases around the country, to support legal positions he believes are important and correct. He makes important decisions as to how to interpret and enforce the law. He can decide what civil actions to file, and what appeals to take. He has “Prosecutorial discretion” as to what criminal charges to bring, and when to make “plea bargains” in the interest of justice. In most of these cases, it will make little difference which of the “major party” candidates might be elected. It will be business as usual, either with the Republican politician or the career bureaucrat.

I am the consummate outsider. I have never worked for the government, and I am not influenced by what government employees think is good for the government. I prefer to look at the job as legal counsel for the people of the State of Utah, and will work to promote their interests.

The “war on drugs” has become a war on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The police have been trained to see this important right as a “technicality”, to be dodged when possible. If there is a suspicion of drugs, they WILL find a way to get into your car or your house or wherever they think they are. And the basis for their suspicion can be weak. They might say they smell the odor of marijuana. It is hard to deny that, because there is no physical evidence left over from that smell. Or, they may say there is an air freshener in the car, in an effort to prevent them from smelling the drug. In a recent case, a client was held on a minor traffic case, while dogs were brought in, because a check of her driving record showed a previous drug violation. If I am elected, one of the first things I will do is insist that all police officers receive training on the Fourth Amendment, and why it should be important to them as well as those who are suspected of wrongdoing.

Separate from the Fourth Amendment implications, the whole question of putting people in jail for nothing other than possessing a small amount of marijuana (or other drug, for that matter) for personal use, should be re-examined. It is a terrible policy, and it is making a whole generation of young people into criminals. I would do my best to stop the “war on marijuana users”. I am the only candidate who would do so.

There are other examples of our major differences. A few years ago, I represented a man who spent over 4 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. We filed a legal action to collect compensation, as set out in law, for such situations. To my dismay, the Attorney General fought us tooth and nail; and they won at the trial level. I appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals, and I won. The day the State issued the compensation check, I cried, because I knew that my efforts had brought justice for one person, despite the best efforts of the Attorney General to prevent it.

I am now involved in a couple of cases where regulatory agencies have asserted authority far in excess of what the actual legislative act gives them. Without exception, the Attorney General pushes for the most oppressive interpretation of the law. If I am elected, I will expect regulatory agencies to rein in their tendencies to over-regulate.

In 2004, the people of the State of Utah voted to eliminate most “civil Forfeiture”. This is done by filing a civil action against the PROPERTY of someone who may be suspected of a crime, and the property has no constitutional protections. The property is then taken by the police for their own use, even without a criminal conviction. I have had several cases where people have carried more money than the police think is reasonable. The money is taken from them, and it is up to them to show that they were not going to use it to purchase drugs, or for other illegal purposes. This should never happen, and I will work to change the policy of the State back to what the people voted for by ballot in 2004.

I have more experience in the legal system than either of my opponents; and I have seen first hand the kinds of things that the State has done to increase its power at the expense of the individual. If I am elected, you can count on a wholesale change of attitude in the Attorney General’s office. Tell a friend.

The revolution is here. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Utah Family Magazine

My responses to questions sent from Utah Family Magazine. I do not know if the magazine has published them.

1. In relation to functions of the office for which you are running, what do you see as the 3 issues most pressing to families? How will you address those issues?

The state interferes with parents too often and too quickly.  I will work to make DCFS and other agencies more respectful of family ties and authority, and less likely to take children from the home or otherwise interfere with the family.  Only if a child is in real danger, the State should act

The state should try to keep families together when drugs or alcohol problems are present, emphasizing treatment over jail, which separates and destroys family units.  Addiction should be treated as a health problem, rather than a criminal one.   

The state should not impose its moral values on families which do not meet its definition of "traditional."  The state should not use mean spirited arguments to oppose the formation of family units (marriage) or to oppose adoptions into loving and supportive families.

2. How is your strategy different from those running against you?

I cannot speak for other candidates except to say that the present administration interferes far too quickly into very private family matters, and purports to impose an outdated moral code on "family values".  If I am elected, families will be more free to be who they are, and will not fear government interference.

3. What experience/qualifications do you possess that will help you in your efforts?

I have practiced law for over forty years, and have done much family law, including divorces, adoptions, juvenile court work and other work affecting families. I think I have gained a perspective that will help make some real changes in outlook in the relationship between the state and individual family units. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The "Utah Debate Commission" poll for AG

Today the Utah Debate Commission published its poll results. They took a poll in August of the major races in Utah, and determined who they would invited to their televised debates, using the results. They have already sent some letters out to candidates telling them that they will not be invited, based on the results, even though those results were withheld until today.

The Debate Commission previously promised to publish the results by September 15. One can easily tell why they waited until 4:57 PM today to do it. The results show that only 53.5% of their sample voters are willing to commit to one of the "major party" candidates, and that the Democratic candidate has less than 13% support! Their website disclaims the poll as a predictor of the election results. Obviously! Over 31% of voters remain undecided, and there was a whopping 14.5% support for an alternative other than the two candidates who will appear at the debate. Since it is obvious that the voters want something other than the two "major party" candidates, why doesn't the Debate Commission invite everyone, so the voters can decide for themselves?

This is just laughable. The debate set a threshold designed to include only two candidates. KSL radio and TV have long used a threshold of 15% for their debates. It is a very good thing for the Democrat that they did not do that this year.

Join me in protesting this stupid "Debate Commission". I start from a decent base of support, over 5%. I need people to help my campaign with contributions; and I need people to put up signs, "share" the news on Facebook, and otherwise help spread the word. This could be the year of total embarrassment for the two "major parties". Now, wouldn't that be fun?

Read my previous blog posts to see my stands on the legal issues in this race. If you agree, do something to help.

"You have nothing to lose but your chains."

Candidate Party Affiliation Percentage Polled
Charles Stormont Democrat 12.6%
Gregory Hansen Constitution 3.9%
Leslie Curtis Independent American 5.3%
Sean Reyes Republican 40.9%
W. Andrew McCullough Libertarian 5.3%
Other 0.3%
Undecided 31.7%

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

League of Women Voters

I received a message from the League of Women Voters this past week that they had published their annual voter guide without a response from me to the three questions they had sent all five candidates for Utah Attorney General. Well, out of those five candidates, one did respond, so I have to assume they did send out the questions, though I have no record of having received them. Apparently, neither did Attorney General Reyes (or he chose to ignore them because he sees no need to engage in a campaign). shortly after that, I received a message from an individual voter asking me why I had not responded, and giving me the questions again. So, I am going to post my response here.

1. If elected, what is the single most important thing you would do to gain back the public's trust in the Attorney General's Office?

Answer: I still don't know if either of the two previous Attorneys General broke any laws. I would like to hope not, as I rather like Mark Shurtleff as a person. He has always been friendly and decent with me. Nevertheless, he and his successor left the impression that they had favors for sale in return for large campaign contributions and/or vacations, use of expensive cars and airplanes, etc. Pictures of Mr. Shurtleff in the private jet and the Lamborghini car owned by a businessman who was under suspicion for illegal business practices were everywhere on the internet. I have no favors for sale, and I will not have my photo taken showing "conspicuous consumption". It is not my thing. If I am elected, I will strive to treat all those I deal with with equal fairness. My approach to prosecution will not be as aggressive as some. I have little interest in putting people in jail for being sick (using drugs) and engaging in other activity which essentially is none of the State's business. But I will deal firmly and fairly with those who hurt and abuse others. It will not matter if they are "party faithful" or other privileged people. If the law is too harsh, we will work to make it lees so. As one might expect, I have no large contributors, so I owe nobody any favors. That will not change.

2. Do you think the Attorney General's office has a responsibility to advise the Utah State Legislature and/or the Governor's office against lawsuits posing a great financial burden to Utah's tax payers? Please explain your position.

Answer: In Utah, as in many other states, the Attorney General represents the interests of the people, not the Governor. I intend to take that responsibility seriously. I will not defend the unlawful actions of State employees; and I will not encourage the State to believe that it should throw great resources into lost causes. It is certainly the responsibility of the Attorney General to defend a law passed by the Legislature. But endless appeals and the use of mean spirited and untenable arguments are neither necessary nor appropriate. Specifically, I would do my best to end the State's defense of the prohibition of same sex marriage. After the appeal to the Tenth Circuit, the Attorney General has certainly done his duty. Anything further is not only a waste of resources, it is an insult to many citizens of the state who do not march in lockstep with the majority on this very personal question.

3. What solutions will you pursue to prevent fraud/abuse in issues such as payday lending and business opportunity enterprises (Biz-Ops), as well as to combat identity theft.

Answer: There is nothing inherently unlawful or fraudulent about the payday lending business or those businesses which "sell" business opportunities. Obviously, if they do engage in unlawful or fraudulent practices, they should be prosecuted and shut down to protect our citizens from their practices. I have personal concerns about payday lenders. There seem to be so many of them, and they appear to make such high profits. Certainly, they must be fair and honest with their customers, who tend to be those who can not afford the high interest rates that they are charged. I am not sure the answer is to prohibit or tightly regulate them. Utah previously had a usury statute, which was repealed by the legislature. Perhaps these enterprises fulfill a real need. But I am certainly open to looking carefully at their practices and doing what is necessary to stop abusive practices. For one thing, I will take no large campaign contributions from them, and I will owe them no loyalty when complaints come in that need to be reviewed.

If you agree with my positions, tell a friend. This is not a campaign that will spend large amounts of money. I need those who like what I stand for to pass the word.

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
 
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