As former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist started his official run against longtime U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch on Wednesday, the young challenger is also facing what is quickly becoming a standard election-year campaign tactic – a huge GRAMA request that, on its face, appears to be politically motivated.
UtahPolicy has obtained records of a broad-reaching request made to the Utah State Senate – made by individuals not easily identified.
So far the request has not been fulfilled because it will cost at least $325 – an amount not yet paid by the two folks asking for it, one Chris Ritter and Amanda Salario.
Using GRAMA – Utah’s open records act – to glean information about political opponents is becoming a staple of campaign tactics.
It’s not illegal. In fact, GRAMA was specifically designed for ordinary citizens to get government records.
Still, some see it – especially some current officeholders – as a way to throw out a large net in an attempt to find anything questionable in an officeholder’s official actions.
In 2009, former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett’s campaign started a large GRAMA request in Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s office. Shurtleff was saying at the time he was going to challenge Bennett in 2010.
Ultimately, Shurtleff did not get in that race. But the AG complained loudly about Bennett’s campaign taking up time and efforts of his staff to fulfill the GRAMA request.
Liljenquist, a Bountiful Republican, resigned his state Senate seat three weeks ago, clearly making way for his challenge to Hatch this year.
(Under Utah law, a sitting legislator can’t raise campaign funds during the annual 45-day general session, which runs from late January to early March. Liljenquist and other legislators, including Reps. Dave Clark and Carl Wimmer, looking at higher office this year are resigning their seats so they can raise funds in early 2012.)
Liljenquist’s U.S. Senate campaign site – www.danforutah.com -- Wednesday announced his federal campaign. You can learn more about Liljenquist and why he is running at that site, which includes a long biographical/political video.
UtahPolicy could not immediately identify either Ritter or Salario. Sources in the Senate say they, also, couldn’t find the two folks seeking the Liljenquist GRAMA data. The pair has been communicating with the Senate via written mail.
According to the response to the GRAMA requests, the pair wants any Liljenquist communications with leaders of Freedom Works – an out-of-state PAC that has already come out against Hatch’s reelection. Freedom Works even had a room rented at the 2011 state GOP convention where they were passing out anti-Hatch material.
The Senate response says the two asked for:
• Any communication regarding immigration.
• Any communication regarding GRAMA.
• Any communication regarding 477 (as in HB 477, last year’s controversial open records act reform bill).
• Any communication regarding 116 (as in HB116, the controversial illegal immigrant guest worker bill).
• List of other immigration bills from last session.
• Any communication regarding SCHIP (A working-poor, child health insurance bill Hatch passed).
• Any communication regarding redistricting.
• Any communication regarding a cruise.
• Any communication regarding a plane crash.
• Any communication regarding a settlement.
• Any communication regarding/to or from Bain (as in Bain and Company).
• Any communication regarding/to or from ACS (as in Affiliated Computer Services, a Sandy computer repair firm).
• Any communication regarding/to or from Commercial Solutions Group.
• Any communication regarding/to or from Choice Humanitarian (the Utah-based humanitarian group whose airplane flight Liljenquist was on when it crashed in Central America in 2008).
• Any communication to or from any organization.
• Any communication regarding/to or from email@example.com.
• Any communication regarding/to or from (state Sen.) Steve Urquhart.
• Any communication regarding/to or from Stephen Hunter.
• Any communication regarding/to or from firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Any communication to or from 1.801.369.2836.
• Any communication regarding/to or from HJR Consulting.
• Any communication regarding/to or from Focus Services (A Liljenquist relative works at the marketing firm).
• Any communication regarding/to or from First Call Savings (Liljenquist is president of the house-finding service).
• Any communication regarding/to or from Focus Direct (A Texas direct mail firm).
• Any communication regarding/to or from Utah Labor Commission.
As the reader can see, that is a long list, with a number of items having to deal with Liljenquist’s political activity.
For example, Hollyonthehill is Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, who has long been an advocate for Liljenquist to run against Hatch. The 801-369-2836 is also Richardson’s cell phone number.
Urquhart, R-St. George, endorses Liljenquist in the new campaign video.
The “plane crash” and “settlement” requests may have to do with a deadly small plane crash Liljenquist survived several years ago, a crash he talks about in his new campaign site video in which he suffered severe leg injuries, and where 10 people died.
Liljenquist says it was that life-changing event that leads him to “want to make a difference with my life.”
The Bain Co. is the financial firm U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney ran and in which Romney earned hundreds of millions of dollars – personal money now fueling Romney’s second run for the presidency.
The GRAMA requests also include any records of cell phone numbers to and from Liljenquist’s legislative phone, text messages, emails and many other “records.”
Liljenquist did not return UPD calls for comment Wednesday.
Dave Hansen, Hatch’s campaign manager, said it was well known that Liljenquist would challenge Hatch this year. “And his getting in the race doesn’t change what we’re doing at all,” said Hansen.
Hansen said Hatch’s campaign has made no GRAMA requests on Liljenquist.
“I have no idea who these two people (Ritter and Salario) are; never heard of them,” said Hansen.
As one might expect, however, the Hatch campaign has done some opposition research on Liljenquist.
“But it is all public record stuff, doesn’t need a GRAMA request – like the fact that (Liljenquist) missed 20 percent of the state Senate votes last year,” said Hansen.
Unless the pair pays the $325 required to start the GRAMA search, no further action on the request will be made, Senate sources told UtahPolicy.