June 1, 2015 In The News, News

Utah ‘snake oil salesman’ Rep. Ken Ivory accused of fraud for hitting up counties in three states for public lands fight donations

The Salt Lake Tribune

By: Brian Maffly

Image: Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo

For years, Rep. Ken Ivory’s critics have argued that he uses faulty logic, distorts history and the law, and relies on dreamy assumptions to support his campaign seeking state control over the West’s public lands.

Now they are calling the Utah state lawmaker a crook, alleging he engages in deception to funnel local tax dollars into his own pocket.

In formal complaints filed Monday with attorneys general for Utah and two other Western states, a watchdog group accuses Ivory, a West Jordan Republican, of scamming local governments to divert taxpayer dollars to his nonprofit American Lands Council (ALC).

“It’s not simply a question of Rep. Ivory speaking his mind about what he thinks should happen. He is soliciting on the promise that if you give us money we can get public land returned to your state,” said Anne Weismann, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Accountability. “More than half of the money they raise goes to him and his wife.”

Weismann submitted similar complaints to Montana and Arizona, asking their attorneys general to investigate ALC’s fundraising. She contends, as have numerous other critics, that all reliable legal and economic analyses of tranferring public land to the states concluded the idea has no legal foundation and could prove costly to the receiving states.

The group called Ivory a “snake oil salesman” in a press release Monday.

Ivory did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

He has long accused the federal government of mismanaging the West’s public lands to the detriment of forest and range health and of rural communities that have traditionally relied on access to public land for grazing, timber and minerals. Transfer backers say the state can do a better job and increased revenue off the land will cover the cost of management.

From around the West, however, academics, sportsmen’s groups, liberal politicians and conservationists have blasted Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, which Ivory shepherded through the 2012 legislative session and Gov. Gary Herbert signed. Critics say the transfer really aims to throw open Utah’s landscapes to extractive uses and motorized recreation without the hassles of federal land-use planning and safeguarding endangered species, water quality, archaeological sites and other natural values.

The Utah law demanded the federal government hand over 30 million acres by the end of 2014.

With that deadline long past, Utah now is investing $2 million to advance the fight in the halls of Congress. And Ivory’s ALC hired lobbyists to rally support for land-transfer legislation in other states, including Montana and Arizona.