Richard Piatt ReportingDemocrat Donald Dunn claims Republicans are 'in the gutter.' They're so desperate to overthrow Democrat Jim Matheson, they're breaking the law. In fact, Utah Republicans admit a series of campaign flyers mailed to thousands of second district voters are an 'unfortunate mistake.’
If anything, this shows how much there is at stake for Republicans who want to replace Democrat Jim Matheson with John Swallow. The flyer is creating a firestorm: Democrats claim it's sleazy, inaccurate and illegal. And today Republicans admit they messed up.
The campaign flyer that is sparking a host of outrage is critical of Congressman Jim Matheson for supporting a bill that allows children of immigrants in-state college tuition. It says the Utah State Republican Party paid for it. But it is also distributed by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
That omission is significant, according to Utah Democrats. They claim a lack of full disclosure is illegal.
Donald Dunn, Utah Democratic Party Chair: "We believe it's clear that there were federal elections laws broken by the NRCC, the Utah Republican Party, and the John Swallow for Congress campaign."
But that's not all. Democrats also claim the state party and the John Swallow for Congress campaign cooperated in the creation of the flyer -- also illegal.
The latter point, Republicans deny. But they are embarrassed about something else. Both the immigrant education measures targeted in the first flyer and another flyer happen to be attacking Republican measures. The education bill was sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch and Congressman Chris Cannon.
State Chairman Joe Cannon says the state Republican party was led to believe it had no control over the flyers and would have tried to stop them if he had known.
Joe Cannon, Utah Republican Party Chair: "We at the party probably made a mistake and I feel bad about that. It was not our intention to be this negative and this down and dirty. And there's a lot of confusion over the new law."
Meanwhile, Democrat Jim Matheson is outraged at the efforts to 'win at all costs', he says.
Rep. Jim Matheson, (R) Utah: "I don't think the Republican Party and my opponent are being straight with the public. I think they're distorting my record, they're making things up. They'll even put members of their own party under the bus to beat me."
Credit or blame for the flyer, and for many Swallow ads goes to a nationally known consultant at Arena communications. He did not comment today. Swallow didn't either, but in the past he told me he regrets the tone the ads in this campaign have taken.