M.O. for Utah AG: sue the federal government

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.
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For two years, the Swallow saga filled the news. Ultimately, it was our election law violation complaint–and the subsequent investigation and recommendation of charges, that led to Mr. Swallow’s resignation.

And although Swallow is no longer in charge, that doesn’t mean we aren’t keeping a close eye on the Attorney General’s office. There were office policies and insider quid pro quo that helped contribute to the corruption and a reluctance for transparency that can make it challenging for the watchdog.

The office of Attorney General is embroiled in several legal battles with the federal government and not just the obvious one, like the marriage equality case winding its way toward the Supreme Court, but several cases over public land.

At a recent hearing of the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands at the Utah State Legislature, Attorney General Sean Reyes was asked about the cost of these lawsuits.

Interestingly, he wouldn’t answer, or rather, he wouldn’t or couldn’t give a factual answer.

He asked for the question to be better defined, “what do you mean by cost?” he asked.

When pressed to give a rough estimate Reyes responded, “I have no idea.”

His response is troubling, not only for his lack of knowledge but also his lack of concern over the true fiscal impact of these lawsuits to taxpayers like you and me.

It is easy to hate the federal government. It is easy to make them the bad guy. The harder and more important thing is to find the balance between state and federal governing, to recognize the important role the federal government plays while asserting our state voice without the use of hyperbole and partisan rhetoric.

Legal experts across the state, including the Utah State Legislature’s own legal staff, view many of these lawsuits as unwinnable.

We deserve to know the truth.

Is a lawsuit based on case law, precedence and validity, or is it based on partisanship, misplaced distrust of the federal government and unrealistic promises?

If it is the former, then we deserve to understand the cost of the lawsuits and to understand the pros and cons of continuing the fight. If it is the latter, we deserve an answer from our elected officials about why they are wasting our hard-earned taxpayer dollars tilting at windmills.

We all deserve these answers and we’re going to keep asking the questions until we get them.

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