Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Utah GOP: "Insider" Bennett Unseated by Two Faux "Outsiders"

Over the weekend at the Utah GOP convention, three-term Senator Bob Bennett was ousted by two far-right GOP contenders, both of whom enjoyed support of the Tea Partiers.  How true are these candidates to the Tea Party's insurrectionist principles?  About as true as an LDS history document provided by Mark Hofmann.


A few reminders first: The Tea Partiers are funded by the Koch family, big oil, big coal, Americans for Prosperity, who are also funded by billionaires, and Freedomworks, Dick Armey's moneymaking outfit. The movement is sustained by an insider's list of corporate billionaires and GOP public relations firms. Its most influential members are relatively wealthy people. Among its rank and file are people on welfare, people on Medicaid, people supported by the VA, social security, disability and the like. It's not an insurrection, it's not truly grass roots, although it has tapped in to anger--anger at Obama's election (remember these people were never angry at big spender George W. Bush) and in all sincerity, fear of government spending, primarily because they don't understand it. There's also a contingent of well-educated conservatives with libertarian tendencies who support the TPers, and have been unwilling to distance themselves from the TPers' incoherence, racebaiting, and informational deficits because these soft libertarians need all the friends they can get--because the model of pure free markets doesn't exist and deregulation has failed. That's the context; it's a context of political ignorance and hate, but it's been mobilized in response to uncertainty and the very, very modest reforms (and largely dishonest reforms) of the Obama administration.

In Utah, that kind of enthymematic fear, and ignorance about specifics, is often elevated to a spiritual plain. I know, because I spent the first 29 years of my life in Utah. There are millions of Mormons, for example, who believe that conservative politics are divinely sanctioned. I am not exaggerating.

So let's talk about the candidates that beat Senator Bob Bennett:

From GOP Watch at msnbc:
Tim Bridgewater nearly reached the needed 60% threshold to avoid a runoff. He got 57%, attorney Mike Lee finished second with 43%. In the second round, Bridgewater got 37%, Lee 36%, and Bennett finished third with 27%, putting him out of the running. In the first round, Lee finished first with 29%, Bridgewater second with 27% and Bennett third with 26%. The Salt Lake Tribune points out that “Bennett becomes the first Utah senator to fail to get his party's nomination since Democrats tossed out Sen. William King in 1940 over King's opposition to The New Deal.”
Now, Tim Bridgewater is an insider, and that makes his victory, and the TPers' endorsement of him, rather ironic. In fact, Bridgewater is a creature we don't hear much about, but one that's quite common: He's simultaneously a "businessman" and a political insider with the establishment. Read Robert Gehrke's extensive description of Bridgewater's life and career in his May 5th Salt Lake Tribune article. Bridgewater
did a stint at the tail end of the Reagan Administration, working for the Export-Import Bank collecting bad loans in Central and South America. ... Working in Washington, Bridgewater met Dick Richards, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and went to work for the Ogden native. ... "We were doing government consulting, I guess I'd call it lobbying business," Richards said. Their clients included aerospace companies and the Kingdom of Thailand. "Tim is a bright guy. He's pretty innovative. He's aggressive. He's ambitious and he works hard." ... Richards also introduced Bridgewater to the politically powerful, including President George H.W. Bush and his son Neil, who partnered with Bridgewater to launch Interlink Capital Strategies in 1994. ... In addition to his business ventures, Bridgewater has been active in politics for years. He supported the Bush family's political endeavors, becoming a "Pioneer" by raising more than $100,000 for George W. Bush's presidential bids in both 2000 and 2004 and he raised money for the senior Bush's presidential library. ... He raised money for Jon Huntsman Jr.'s campaigns in 2004 and 2008, and served as the then-governor's volunteer education chief, trying to negotiate wiggle room in the federal No Child Left Behind mandates. In '08 he was also western regional campaign director for John McCain's presidential bid."
This is the "outsider" that beat alleged "insider" Bob Bennett. Now let's talk about Mike Lee: Lee is the FreedomWorks candidate. He should have to wear the brand name on his shirt, matter of fact.  They made him, in a safely indirect way, by smashing Bennett's campaign, and they weren't alone. The conservative Club For Growth "spent $172,000 opposing Bennett's re-election, according to its FEC filing, but has not given any money directly to Lee's campaign."

Lee is not one of the common people.  He made $600,000 last year as a lawyer defending oil shale developers and prescription drug companies--as well as Energy Solutions, a radioactive waste storage company in Utah that does extensive business through government contrasts (can any Tea Partiers out there tell me whether this is "socialism?").

Plus, pardon the tangent, there's some creepy stuff going on with Mike Lee. Longtime Tribune columnist Paul Rolly reported the following:
An apparent endorsement for GOP Senate candidate Mike Lee placed on YouTube starts out with a picture of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith that morphs into Lee. It could be an out-of-control supporter of Lee that the campaign has nothing to do with, or it could be an opponent trying to make Lee look weird. Lee's deputy campaign manager Dan Hauser said the campaign had nothing to do with the video. He said someone they suspect is with another campaign was distributing it to different Facebook pages. The morphing is accompanied by the LDS hymn "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" and beneath the Joseph Smith-turned-into-Mike Lee video is the quote: "And for this very purpose I have established a Constitution of this land by the hands of wise men whom I raised unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood."
Of course, candidates secretly endorse these kinds of things so they don't have to accept responsibility for them. Lee's campaign manager has clarified that the Lee camp wasn't responsible for the video, but did not distance the campaign from the message in the video.  So far as I know, Mr. Lee has not personally disclaimed this advertisement, or denied its enthymematic message. If anyone has such information, please get it to me.

So there it is, folks: The two "outsiders" and tea party endorsees who beat Bennett are, respectively, a wealthy lawyer whose clients include big pharma companies and a radioactive waste disposal company that thrives on government contracts, and a Washington D.C. insider-lobbyist who is tight with the Bush family and was a coordinator of the McCain presidential campaign.

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