Tetris Group Helped Get Diebold Machines Into UT; SLC Mayor's Office 'Frustrated'
and it's all 'legal' --- mayor says it depends on the definition of lobbying
By Winter Patriot on 8/14/2005, 12:13pm PT  

Or maybe it depends on whay you mean by "is" ...

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

Here's a chilling story from Salt Lake City, which one of our friends noticed at The Salt Lake Tribune. It's the kind of tale that Brad eats for breakfast, but for me it's the sort of thing I gag on.

I don't mean "gag" in the way you might think, that the overwhelming nature of the sleaze takes away my appetite. Instead, I mean: Brad would be able to understand all this --- and explain it to you --- a lot better than I can. But he's away --- the slacker! --- and so it falls to this lowly and nearly frozen blogger...

I've read the article, Lobbyist challenged on voting machines: Legal. But ethical? S.L. County's lobbying firm also works for the devices' manufacturer, several times, and the words of Derek P. Jensen are finally starting to seep into my very thick skull. I'm even starting to get a handle on the cast of characters! Listen:

Peter Corroon is the Mayor of Salt Lake County.

Blaze Wharton, Dan Hartman and Paul Rogers are principals in The Tetris Group, a lobbying firm which is paid to lobby for the Salt Lake County Mayor's Office.

The Tetris Group also has other clients, one of whom just happens to be Diebold Election Systems, a manufacturer of touch-screen voting machines, on which The BRAD BLOG has reported many times --- often in less than glowing terms.

Last month, as part of their bid for the lucrative statewide election machine contract, Diebold made a presentation at the Salt Lake County Government Center. They were escorted to this presentation by their lobbyists --- the Tetris team --- who also just happen to work for the county Mayor's Office. One slight problem: the Mayor's Office never asked Tetris to do this for to them.

Peter Corroon: "We never asked Tetris to go out and lobby the state to get the Diebold systems. They came in with Diebold..."

As regular readers of this space already know [all too well], Diebold's machines are crap not always reliable, and as Jensen writes, Salt Lake County "leaders continue to unleash a litany of complaints."

For their part, Tetris has set up what apears to be a classic runaround: Wharton is referring all questions to Hartman, who isn't returning any phone calls. And Rogers cannot even be reached. So that end of the trail is set up just about the way we'd expect it.

Gavin Anderson is Deputy District Attorney of Salt Lake County and he says the push "to determine an economic conflict must come from the mayor's office", according to Jensen, who quotes Anderson as saying:

There's nothing in the law ... It's a matter of the county saying, "Do we trust these guys or are they going to be in Diebold's pocket?" ... As a contractor, they could say: "Hey, Tetris, are you looking out for our best interest?"

Maybe I'm nearly frozen but I'm still functional enough to realize that this sounds like a good idea!! Is there anybody home over at the Mayor's Office?

And what does Diebold say? According to Jensen:

A representative for Diebold insists there is no conflict with Tetris because the lobbying firm represents the county mayor's office, not the county as a whole.

Wow! That's mighty reassuring, is it not?

Well ... don't take my word for it. I'm too cold to make any sense anyway. You should read Derek P. Jensen's Lobbyist challenged on voting machines and enjoy the full reassuring story in its original context.

Thanks, as always. I'll be back. But I gotta go try and thaw out for a while. Brrrr! What a cold story!

P.S. I heard from Brad last night, albeit briefly. He is doing fine, getting some R&R, and heading back to the wild lands. He sends you his best regards. He also says "Watch for some heavy Cannon Fire, coming to a blog near you, on Monday".

I can't imagine what he means. But we shall see...