A bad legal strategy doesn’t equate to fraud.

I’m no supporter of Ken Ivory’s public lands crusade.

I’ve written before about how flimsy I think the legal theories are underlying his claim that the federal government has some enforceable legal obligation to return public lands to western states.

Ken Ivory
Utah House Member, Representative Ken Ivory

In my view, they are not supportable by any coherent legal analysis, and they border on the frivolous.

And I dislike Ivory’s theory even more because I happen to think there’s merit to the idea of more local control of public land, and Ivory’s quixotic crusade sabotages what could productive efforts at reallocation by making enemies and diverting energy and resources away from meaningful negotiation.

Furthermore, I think people are right to be concerned about the fact that Ivory seems to have, for all intents and purposes, become a single issue legislator principally focused on leveraging his ability to put Utah at the forefront of the public lands battle into a source of funding for his nonprofit, the American Lands Council, which is now his principal means of personal financial support.

The American Lands Council is a 501(c)(4) tax exempt nonprofit funded principally through donations by political subdivisions and interest groups, who pay membership dues at varying levels, for the purpose of carrying on the public lands fight.  It’s principal expenses appear to be Ivory’s salary (and the salary of a couple other employees, including, apparently, his wife) and travel expenses.

All this is distasteful.

At this point, I think West Jordan’s voters would be better served to find someone else to represent their interests in the state legislature, as Ivory’s focus is clearly elsewhere.

But, recently, an organization known only as the Campaign for Accountability, has taken things a step further, by accusing Ivory of fraud, on the ground that he is purposefully selling ALC’s member organizations a bill of goods in order to get them to donate to his nonprofit on the basis of hope in a legal theory he knows doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in heck (this is Utah, after all) in succeeding.

This seems, to me, to be a bridge too far.

I’m willing to call Ivory’s legal theories weak.  I’m even willing to say that I’m confident they would not prevail in court.

But they are not made up out of whole cloth.  They are (at some weak level) rooted in the text of the Utah Enabling Act.

And, most importantly, I can’t say (i) that Ivory doesn’t believe them himself, and (ii) that they are completely without basis, which is really the point I have to arrive at before I can accuse him of fraud.

And I certainly can’t say that he’s not sincere. Ivory hasn’t mislead anyone about what it is that he’s doing.  As far as I can tell, he’s been forthcoming about ALC’s goals means and methods.  He’s a true believer.

And just because he’s a believer in something quixotic (aren’t we all, sometimes?) doesn’t mean he’s out committing fraud.


 

 

For those who are interested, I’ve included American Lands Council’s 2012 and 2013 Form 990 returns, embedded below.

http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/455/455274255/455274255_201212_990EO.pdf

 

http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/455/455274255/455274255_201312_990O.pdf