Photo: Al Hartmann, The Salt Lake Tribune
A fool and his money are soon parted. When the fool is an elected official, it is other people’s money that disappears.
Still, the law can only do so much to protect us from ourselves. Not every money pit, bad investment or other squandering of funds is a crime.
So it is not much of a surprise that an investigation by the Utah Attorney General’s Office into the doings of the American Land Council has ended with no finding that anyone should be charged with a crime.
When a good-government group from Colorado [sic] suggested that the business model for state Rep. Ken Ivory’s ALC amounted to not just a political flimflam, but an act of criminal fraud, the attorney general’s people interviewed many of the county officials who have chipped in to the group’s cause. When none of them presented themselves as victims of a scam, the A.G. closed the book on the case.
Fraud is not a victimless crime. If nobody stands up to accuse the alleged criminal of deceit, there’s no case to pursue.
The Ivory caper, though, would hardly be the first time in the annals of bad investments that the investors are in denial, either because they continue to hold out hope that the gold mine will produce or because they are just too embarrassed to admit that they have been so easily taken in.
Ivory’s promise is that if people give him money — much of it county money that came from the federal government in the first place — he will somehow convince or force the United States of America to turn over to the states, or sell to private owners, hundreds of millions of acres across the West.
County officials are particularly susceptible to buying such pie in the sky because, quite truthfully, they are tired of dealing with the tax-exempt absentee landlord that is Uncle Sam. Privatizing, developing and taxing many of those acres, the hope goes, would boost economies, enrich tax bases and repopulate dwindling communities.
So far, the only success Ivory can claim is the $155,000 in salary and benefits he and his wife have drawn from ALC supporters over two years.
What Ivory fails to mention — and his benefactors refuse to see — is that the chances of success for such a dream are slim to none. And that rural areas across the nation are rapidly hollowing out, even in Plains and Midwestern states where the feds own little if any land.
But what is the most galling about Ivory’s fundraising success is that all of what’s wrong with his plan is open and public. His snake oil is clearly labeled for anyone who cares to do the slightest bit of research.
And the cure for all of it lies not in court, but in ballot boxes all across the state.