Friday, October 12, 2007

Isn't it illegal to buy votes in Utah?

It is hard to write about this topic today. It seems like good people have been bombarded with the worst kind of political dirty tricks imaginable now for the past four or five months. This isn't the way Utah really is. And I hope that the real Utah can still be salvaged when this campaign by Parents for Choice in Education is over, when their money from All Children Matter in Michigan is all spent, when their money from the secret donors from Missouri and elsewhere in the county is run out, and when their political operatives and opportunitists have gone back to wherever they came from. They have dragged good people through a nasty political mess unnecessarily and I'll be glad to see them close up shop on November 7.

Here's why I write this. Either Parents for Choice in Education and the people they've hired with their out-of-state money are incredibly, incredibly stupid -- and I use these words carefully, and purposefully -- or they are incredibly, incredibly ignorant of how to persuade Utahns that their voucher referendum is a good idea. Not once have they told Utah voters what their referendum says, spelled it out line by line and explained why they propose the details that they propose. Tiffany Erickson of the DesNews wrote this morning here (,5143,695217976,00.html), "Compounding the problem is that voters don't have a lot of facts."

When she asked the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics about it, he said "voucher supporters, at this point, are going to have difficulty securing the votes needed to implement the law."

Which is probably why they've bombarded people in their homes with nasty push-polling on the telephone, bombarded them on television with commercials about Ted Kennedy, bombarded them on the Internet with emails from fake websites. Now, worst of all, PCE is advertising to pay people to vote.

The evidence is posted at Utah Amicus here ( So is a "retraction" that sounds like they regret being caught more than they regret adopting a truly stupid -- and probably illegal -- election strategy. Like I said, this is not the way good people behave, and I'll be glad when they go back home and take their bad ideas with them.

Here's the post:

The following letter was sent out by The Free Capitalist Project:

Help the School Voucher Campaign!

Parents for Choice in Education is conducting a “Friends and Family” campaign during these last few weeks before the Nov. 6 special election. We need you to help us to get as many people as possible out to vote for Referendum 1!

We are looking for the following information/qualifications of each person who signs up:

Must provide Name, Address, Phone Number(s), and e-mail address

Must be a registered voter (deadline for mail-in registration is Oct. 9)

Must be willing to put up a yard sign (or equivalent)

Must commit to voting for Referendum 1 on Nov. 6 (or prior via absentee ballot)

If you are motivated and have a desire to help this campaign succeed, as well as earn a little money in the process, you can sign up with Parents for Choice in Education to become an “advocate”. As an advocate, you agree to seek out your friends and family and solicit their commitment for this important cause. In addition, if you provide your field manager with a minimum of 25 names of persons who have committed to voting for Referendum 1, and those persons actually vote, you can earn $10 per person. That’s $250 [30 pieces of silver] for the 25 names, plus an additional $10 for every name after that. (Side note: All yard signs will be provided by Parents for Choice in Education through their Field Managers.)

Brandon Dupuis
Field Manager, Northern Utah
Parents for Choice in Education

Jim Speth
Field Manager, Southern Utah
Parents for Choice in Education

So any enterprising family who wants to earn spending money can sign up one of its members as PCE "advocate," vote on Election Day and go have dinner on PCE's tab, thanks to Brandon Dupuis, Jim Speth and the Free Capitalist Project.

And here's who's behind the "Free Capitalist Project" (

Founded by Claud R. Koerber in 2004[6] the Free Capitalist Project held its first public event in Las Vegas, NV in November 2005...

The foundation of the FCP grows out of Koerber's personal search for prosperity. He filed for bankruptcy in 2001 amid financial failure in connection with his business

The first Free Capitalist Forum was organized in St. George, UT in early 2006...

The organization's official headquarters address is Washington D.C., while the main office staff is located in Provo, UT.

The highest concentration of members currently exists in the Rocky Mountain region of the USA. Effective August 2007, members meet in local "Free Enterprise Forums" that typically meet on Thursday nights. Members are not required to pay a membership fee, however following the one hour Thursday night Free Enterprise Forum meetings, the FCP holds "Prosperity Quest Study Group" sessions which are open only to FCP members who have become "Free Capitalist Apprentice Members" which includes the requirement to have paid a $250 fee and a $30 month fee.

The free Capitalist Project has established both national and local agendas for civic service. A few notable examples of the national Free Capitalist Project's civic service record include:
--Voter Awareness and Support Event for Mayor Rudy Giuliani August 08, 2007.
--Key Support for Milton Friedman's vision of School Choice, via the Utah Universal Voucher Law.

This is the same Rick Koerber who has given more PAC contributions to PCE than any other individual except Patrick Byrne, as I showed here ( and here (

At the same page where Utah Amicus has posted this letter offering payment for voting, Amicus has posted a "retraction" it received in email.

We apologize for the previous email that was sent out this afternoon regarding the voucher election and recruiting advocates. It was simply incorrect and misrepresents the Free Capitalist Projects' grass roots efforts. Neither Parents for Choice in Education nor the Free Capitalist Project will ever provide incentives that appear to pay people to vote. The earlier email was sent by determined and sincere individuals who are working diligently, but the Free Capitalist Project and Parents for Choice in Education did not approve, authorize or see the email in advance. We are sorry for the miscommunication. We treasure our form of government and encourage all of you to inform and educate your friends, family and neighbors about school choice and what it means to improve our public schools and Utah's education system.

In its note following the "retraction," Amicus makes what I think is a good point.

This must have been “world’s shortest vote-buying campaign ever” and it is just another example in a long line of dirty tricks. Both PCE and Free Capitalist obviously had to know about the e-mail. No one at Free Capitalist would put PCE’s name to an e-mail without discussing it with them first. If this were not the case, we would expect to hear from PCE denying any involvement in the e-mail.

The retraction doesn't discuss holding the perpetrators responsible. Quite the opposite…they actually seem to be praising the “determined and sincere” vote-peddlers who are “working diligently.” At least they admit it wasn't a prank – just people passionate to inject “market incentives” into our democracy. It works for fast food, and the Utah Legislature – why shouldn't it work for votes, too?

“We are sorry for the miscommunication?” How about – “We were shocked to see an e-mail from our servers that encourage people to buy votes. We found the individuals responsible and they no longer work for Free Capitalist Radio. We're so sorry for this terrible mistake…” But no, the people still have their jobs, they are “determined and sincere,” and “diligent” workers. And in spite of this self-righteous hubris they couldn't help but include, in the *retraction* mind you, yet another unrestrained “vote for vouchers” pitch.

So far, only Ms. Erickson at the DesNews and Paul Rolly at the Trib have taken notice. In Ms. Erickson's report here (,5143,695217972,00.html), PCE denied any involvement with the group founded by their second-largest individual contributor. Mr. Koerber first blamed it on a "volunteer," then acknowledged that the volunteer's bigger mistake was sending the email to a broader email list, not just to his Free Capitalist Project members.

Koerber said it was supposed to go to only Free Capitalist supporters but instead went to a broader list.

Mr. Rolly's report went a little further here (

With polls showing overwhelming numbers of voters poised to repeal the voucher law that was passed by the Legislature last winter, voucher advocates got so desperate Thursday they sent an e-mail from the FreeCapitalist Project offering money for pro-voucher votes in next month's referendum election.

But then someone must have let them know it usually is considered illegal to buy votes, so they sent a second e-mail several hours later retracting everything they said in the first e-mail.

The original e-mail said Parents for Choice in Education is conducting a "Friends and Family" campaign in which "advocates" are encouraged to sign up friends and relatives who commit to voting in favor of the voucher law in next month's referendum election. If the advocate provides his or her field manager with 25 names committed to voting for vouchers and they actually vote, the advocate gets $10 per person, or $250 for the 25 names, the e-mail said. Plus, the advocate will get $10 for each voter they get beyond the 25.
So, as the old saying goes (a bit amended): If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with a bribe.

1 comment:

JM Bell said...

If you can buy a legislator, why couldn't you buy a vote?