Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Everyone is Thinking It

This is sweet satire. I saw his billboards last time I was in SLC and thought the same thing.

If my unofficial polling is any real sign of how the voting will go -- for him it isn't great. Everyone I know is either going third party or Ashdown.

I'm still not sure how I'll vote on this one. I doubt I can stomatch pressing his name on Nov. 7.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Religion and Politics -- SLCSpin

SLCSpin has been posting on LDS Church neutrality and the recent Romney/Boston Globe debacle. This issue is a valid issue, however the arguments are sometimes misdirected.

Regarding political campaigns and candidates, it is absolutely illegal for the LDS Church to endorse a political party or a candidate. Hence the church, every year, has the same letter announcing political neutrality read over the pulpit near election time. This is the church's official position and a disclaimer. The organization is forbidden from creating ties to parties or candidates. This is a point that is firmly established.

From this point on the water gets a little muddied.

In the same letter, individual members of the church are encouraged to participate in the political process. I'm inclined to believe this letter means all members of the LDS Church. Ethan had an issue with the president of the MOTAB Choir (Mr. Mac) being a campaign worker for Hatch. My question and issue with Ethan's argument is this: at what point should an individual's position in the church, force that individual to refrain from open support of a political campaign or party? I feel cases like this should only occur in cases like that of General Authorities, where an individual is fully and completely tied to church leadership and management. (All of my argument rests on the assumption that LDS members show respect for the neutrality policy the Church holds, which is sadly not the case sometimes)

The other issue where people look beyond the mark is in regards to the Church's lobbying activities. Lobbying is allowable under IRC Section 501(c)(3) (the tax exempt organization rule book)if a charity is lobbying on political legislation that it deems critical to the organization's mission and purpose. If you pay attention to the issues that the church openly lobbies they are always issues that are connected to LDS Church doctrine. In 1995, the church issued "The Proclamation on the Family" which served as a firm pronouncement of church doctrine, and gave the church greater ability to lobby against gay marriage without violating IRC 501(c)(3).

UPDATE : Ethan made a second post on the issue that made one very solid point "The LDS Church has always maintained its political neutrality. The problem doesn't really lie with The Church. I believe The Church is victimized by opportunistic politicians and also employees who do not understand the consequences of their actions." This hits a major part of the problem on the head, so the solution lies with the church making firmer policies with employees and employees emails, establishing what church leaders should refrain from visible political activities, and more solidly establishing its political neutrality among church members.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tax Season Over & A Few Weeks From Elections

Taxes are done for 2006, and it is the lull before next year. Time to Blog! With a few weeks to go before elections, I have a little bit to say regarding the upcoming elections. Although I have had a lot of disdain for a few of our local representatives, I have even more disdain for prominent national Democrats who would assume committee leadership positions if the Democrats succeed in defeating House and Senate Republicans. But since I have no say in national elections I will limit my remarks (except for taxes) to local representatives whom I can vote for.

I really don't want the Democrats in control of the house, mainly one committee -- The Ways and Means Committee. I love how many Democrats use a silly rhetoric regarding tax cuts -- "tax cuts only for the elite wealthy." This is false, and an open invitation to anyone who would like to have a lesson why. For the purposes of this post, I will simply say that nearly everyone of my clients at any income level has benefited from the tax cuts that have been around due to the current administration. The budget problems in Washington don't start with tax cuts, they start with spending!

Let us start with the senior Senator Hatch. This race is pretty much a vote where I cannot win. I wish a suitable Republican candidate could have made it to a primary, so at least I could have had a choice of a candidate in the party with which I choose to affiliate. That hope faded when Urquhart could not get the needed funding to fight Hatch. I have tried to hop on the Pete Ashdown parade, but couldn't get my heart behind a platform for which I had only a few points that I agreed with. So the decision I have left is to vote for Ashdown or a third party candidate, which is vote same thing, a step closer to a Democrat ran legislative branch. The other choice -- vote for the devil and hope that Hatch either has a stroke, retires, or gets embroiled in a scandal that forces his resignation. The choices are certainly bright on this one.

I am still firmly behind my congressman, Jim Matheson. However, I think he ought to consider leaving the Democrats. It is obvious that his support of Bush is too much for many Rocky Andersen/Cliff Lyon-esque "he ain't liberal enough" local and (I'm sure) national Democrats. On the other hand, I think most right-minded (an oxymoron for some I admit) Republicans would accept him as a moderate candidate. It has been rather pathetic to watch Lavar Christensen lame "Elect me, because I am warm body that claims the Republican party as its party"campaign. However, I have seen a large number of my neighbors putting out Christensen yard signs. Interesting, Interesting, hmmm.

On a local and municipal level, I will probably vote solidly Republican. I'll admit I haven't had much time to research my local candidates, I probably need to spend the next few weeks reading the voter manual that has been gathering dust on my counter.

I still get to vote for Steve U. at a local level -- HOORAY!

Just as a final note for anyone who wants to use Iraq as there ace in the whole, let me comment now. Iraq is a mess! I admit it. I've said often that I believe that this is going to be a difficult long-term commitment for which our nation probably doesn't have the fortitude to see to the end. The rightness or wrongness of the initial invasion is now irrelevant (at least to me) because we are already there. The choice that remains, is do we abandon Iraq now or do we keep trying to help a fledgling democracy survive. I'm not sure which party is best at answering this question, but I feel more comfortable with the Republicans so far.

As a stomach churning note, the Washington county Republican party really needs to act like at least a handful of people in this county have brains. I just heard a radio ad and it was the most condescending tripe I've ever heard. I felt like I was either a three year old or the only un-brainwashed person in an island of drones. Crap like this from Republicans, makes it embarassing to call myself a Republican.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hatch and Employees -- or Not Employees

This was interesting to hear and rather infuriating. Senator Hatch does not pay a single campaign aide as a employee. His campaign despicably tried to disclaim culpability because some (I'm guessing imaginary) tax attorney said it is okay -- aren't you (Hatch) an attorney? Out of all of the Utah candidates he is the only one that has taken this aggressive position regarding his aides. Matheson pays everyone as an employee, while Ashdown and Cannon pays some as employees and some as subcontractors. It is reasonable to believe that certain people would be in business as political consultants, and some as office campaign staff employees. Matheson takes a very safe and conservative position, and I can appreciate Ashdown, and Cannon's employment positions. However Hatch is flouting the very laws that he has been sworn to uphold, and even more offensive the very laws that are most burdensome to the American people.

IRS and State Guidelines have a handful of simple tests.

1.) Does the boss have significant control over how and when work is finished, and are they paid passed on time not work finished? I'm guessing that there is a least one employee who is expected to show up every day and work a solid eight hours. It seems from the article that many fail this test.

2.) Is the worker free to perform the same work for other clients? This means Hatch's subcontractor campaign manager can (and should) go work for Ashdown as a aide for Hatch's argument to work. I'm guessing that the contract between Hatch and Hansen does not allow for this kind of extra work. A subcontractor has no fiduciary duty! If an aide of Hatch wants to contract with Ashdown they can take campaign secrets with them to the opposition. I'm guessing that Hatch fails here, however this maybe a opportunity for Ashdown -- Subcontract with Hatch aides.

3.) Whether there equipment is provided or they have invested in their own equipment? I have no idea on whether Hatch qualifies on this issue. For me to sign off on his aides being subcontractors, I would expect that they not only provide their own computers but also all the campaign materials they distribute. I'm guessing many of his aides would fail this test in audit as well.

4.) Whether the worker is reimbursed for expenses or whether they are responsible for expenses themselves? The article claims that financial disclosures show many reimbursements for aides expenses.

5.) From Utah DEWS: Whether or not the contractor has proper business registration and licenses? City business licenses as well as state debase. I'm guessing all fail on this point. I did a business search for Dave Hansen, Hatch's campaign manager, and I found no likely business registration for his subcontractor campaign manager.

I cannot believe that a competent tax attorney would support such a position that Hatch has taken. It is colossally unfair for Hatch to do this, it is unfair to his opponent, it is unfair to his aides who are stuck covering taxes that should have been paid by Hatch's colossally large campaign coffers.

When I have clients that come in who have had employers use this (black area) aggressive tax position usually suggest the client turn the employer in. There are four phone calls that could cost the Hatch campaign heavily in fines and interest.

Utah Labor Commission (801) 530-6800

Utah Department of Workforce Services (801) 526-WORK

Utah State Tax Commission 1-800-662-4335


It is another verification to me that Hatch needs to go. I have client who call me and ask me to tell them it is okay to call employees, subcontractors and almost always (unless the circumstances pass State and Federal guidelines) say no, it is illegal, it is unfair to your competitors, it creates large legal liabilities, etc. I'm so grateful for honest public servants like Hatch who make convincing people to follow the law because of their example so much easier. I wonder how Hatch answers in that temple interview question "Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?"