Mike Lee – Playing Utah or Being Played?
So is Mike Lee playing Utahns for fools or is he being played?
Follow the money trail
EnergySolutions, the large Utah-based nuclear energy waste storage corporation, had a candidate in the Utah Senate race. That was incumbent Senator Bob Bennett. He did not make it through the May 8 convention, but never fear – ES hedged their bets with another EnergySolutions champion from South Carolina who endorsed the young lawyer who argues that EnergySolutions’ rights trump Utah’s.
Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has received thousands of dollars over the last several years from EnergySolutions. In addition, his state recently voted to ban foreign waste, so he needed to find a new place to park it. Utah was the “lucky” winner.
In addition to the low-level radioactive waste, South Carolina needed a place to send depleted uranium. Over the protestations of Utah’s Governor Herbert, several boxcar loads of that uranium was recently shipped to Utah but Herbert secured a temporary court-ordered stay. If that were not egregious enough, ES is now trying to “blend” the waste so that the Clive facility can take the “hotter” B and C waste that Utahns oppose. If EnergySolutions can force Utah to take the depleted uranium tailings, they stand to make money. If Utah has to take the blended waste, EnergySolutions stands to make more money.
The big cash cow, however, is the foreign waste from Italy. If they are successful at forcing Utah to take the waste, EnergySolutions stands to make $6 BILLION in profit. $200K thrown on an election is pocket change.
Why Mike Lee?
Who better than a young lawyer who made over $600,000 in 15 months arguing that Utah had no right to refuse foreign waste? Mike Lee also had stock in the company, which he sold the day before he announced his candidacy — stock that rose in value, thanks to the tens of millions of dollars in stimulus funds that poured into EnergySolutions. It is likely the source of the “personal” money fueling his race, but the voters of Utah can’t know that because he refuses to file accurate FEC reports, even when reprimanded.
Senator Bennett was consistently with EnergySolutions and would have remained an acceptable choice to the corporation had he escaped the convention. However, Lee is the better choice as THE lawyer who won the case that Utah lost. To get around the fact that almost 80% of Utahns are opposed to the importation of foreign waste – including Utah’s governor – EnergySolutions resorted to hiring a lawyer who can argue both sides of a case without batting an eye. Will he also do this on the Senate floor?
When Mike Lee was the general counsel for Governor Jon Huntsman, he was against Energy Solutions and for states rights. He argued passionately AGAINST the importation of waste, saying he would “kill it, then dance on the grave” of that waste.
However, when he left that position, he took insider knowledge, turned it around and used it to argue against Utah. Governor Huntsman said of the betrayal that he was ‘highly disappointed’ that Lee was working with EnergySolutions. In spite of that, the state refused to back down on the Italian waste.” (Judy Fahys, “EnergySolutions Sues To Block Panel’s Say On Waste,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 5/7/08)
One candidate, Mike Lee, argues to force the state to take the waste and the other candidate, Tim Bridgewater, argues that Utah, as a sovereign state, should be able to decide something of this magnitude – the choice was obvious for EnergySolutions.
Get out of the way
Long before the Utah State Republican Convention where U.S. Senate candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee emerged for a primary run-off election, Senate candidate Cherilyn Eagar traveled to Washington DC to meet with a number of people and to work on getting her own endorsements. According to her campaign director, David Kyle, South Carolina’s Senator Jim DeMint suggested a line-up of his colleagues who might endorse her candidacy. All was going well until they discovered she publicly opposed EnergySolutions’ proposal to bring South Carolina’s depleted uranium to Utah.
DeMint and the Washington Establishment are now lining up behind the man most likely to bring home the bacon for EnergySolutions — the ES lawyer Mike Lee.
As I-Caucus has clearly demonstrated, there are many ways around campaign finance laws. One is to use multiple PACs to get individuals, lobbyists and other PACs to donate money far above the campaign contribution limit, then funnel that money to their candidate of choice. Mike Lee claims to have raised $115,000 online, yet it is Jim DeMint’s PAC that is responsible for $106,000 of it, with an additional $75,000 put in the race as an “individual expenditure.” Cozy with Jim DeMint AND Energy Solutions are Red State’s Erick Erickson and California Congressman Tom McClintock, both recent endorsers of the EnergySolutions lawyer.
Wanting a Senator who can bring home the bacon also means that if you cross EnergySolutions and their puppeteering, it could very well cost you your job. Popular radio talk show host Bob Lonsberry was fired yesterday after 10 years on the air in Utah. He was given no warning and, in fact, had just had a big party where his decade was celebrated and his success applauded.
But – he openly endorsed the other candidate in the race as a fighter who stood on principle. Not coincidentally, the #1 advertiser for KNRS, the station that fired him, is none other than … you guessed it … EnergySolutions. Also not coincidentally, EnergySolutions went to Tim Bridgewater earlier this week with a campaign contribution. Bridgewater rejected it. Bob lost his job within 2 days of his strong support for Bridgewater and Bridgewater’s rejection of the EnergySolutions offer – an offer that clearly has strings attached.
So just who is the puppet and who is the puppet master in Utah’s Senate race? Why would an out-of-state PAC and a couple of out-of-state politicians care about this race so much? What benefit is there to pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into this race? It’s because the trade-off is worth it. $200,000 in, BILLIONS out. For whom? EnergySolutions and the ones dancing under their strings.
Utah deserves better than this. Utahns are smarter than this. As a state, we have rejected the importation of foreign waste. Why would we want to turn a blind eye to a lawyer who uses the Constitution as a campaign prop to further his own career and line his own pockets? Make no mistake – electing Mike Lee means electing someone who has sold his soul lock, stock and barrel to EnergySolutions and outside interests. He will not be representing Utah to Washington, he will be joining Jim DeMint in “controlling the Senate” and turning Utah into the nation’s nuclear waste dumping ground.