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GOP CONSERVATIVES LAMBASTE LAWMAKERS

Calling itself Grass Roots, a new conservative caucus within the Utah Republican Party has lambasted a number of state legislators, Republicans and Democrats, and ranked them according to "conservative" principles on more than a dozen votes over the past two years.

Many Utahns "will be surprised and disgusted to learn that their so-called conservatives in the Legislature are voting for special interests and high-priced lobbyists instead of with the people who elected them," says Mills Crenshaw, media director for Grass Roots and a host on KTALK radio.Crenshaw said he and the members of Grass Roots - which he numbers at 16,000 - are going to expose those who say they are conservatives but vote the other way. "We're going to break the myth of Republican conservatism," Crenshaw said, breaking a glass window with those words on it during a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday morning.

By Grass Root standards, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature didn't do very well on votes the caucus says reflect true conservatives' positions on open, limited and efficient government. The votes are documented in a 12-page newspaper Grass Roots is sending to supporters. The newspaper will be printed at least two other times before the November election, and votes on "family and freedom" will be listed.

No senator, Republican or Democrat, got the 70 percent approval rating the caucus says is a passing grade on open, limited and efficient government. Only nine GOP House members got a passing grade of 70 percent or higher.

Four Republican senators even got lower marks than the average grade of Democratic senators. Scoring lower than the Democrats are Sens. Fred Finlinson, R-Murray; Craig Peterson, R-Orem; Haven Barlow, R-Layton; and John Holmgren, R-Bear River City.

Three GOP House members were ranked below the Democratic House average. They are Reps. Brent Haymond, R-Springville, and Ann Smedley and Nancy Lyon, both R-Bountiful.

Speaking to all Utahns but especially Republicans who thought they were electing conservatives, Crenshaw said, "You gave (legislators and other elected officials) your vote. You trusted them. But they turned against you. They betrayed you."

Former GOP state vice chairman Donna Dahl, also a former Utah House member, is vice chairwoman of Grass Roots. "We (in Grass Roots) are Republicans," she said. "We support our party. We want others who say they are conservatives to support our party and its platform as well. We want them (GOP lawmakers) to get behind the (party's platform), or we'll find others to run who will."

Grass Roots will ask GOP legislative candidates to fill out questionnaires, and the group will decide whom it supports based on those answers, she said.

Grass Roots used 13 Senate votes and 16 House votes in the 1991 and 1992 sessions to rank the 104 legislators. Several of the votes used came on ethics bills - lobbyist financial disclosure and how much money a lobbyist had to spend on a lawmaker before the lawmaker's name had to be listed on the lobbyist disclosure form. Both last year and this year, lawmakers refused to lower the reporting threshold from $100 to $50 per event. Lobbyists disclosure forms show that few lawmakers were named at the $100 level.

Other votes used in the ranking had to do with legislators giving themselves pay raises, votes on bonding and on whether $200,000 should be used to subsidize the horse racing industry.

According to Grass Roots' ranking, Senate Minority Leader Eldon Money, D-Spanish Fork, was the worst senator, getting only a 9 percent rating. The worst House member was Rep. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley, who got a 14 percent rating. The highest Senate rankings went to Sens. Delpha Baird, R-Salt Lake, and Alarik Myrin, R-Altamont, both at 62 percent. The highest House ranking went to Rep. Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake, at 87 percent.

Dahl said that when she lobbied two GOP senators this past session on a matter close to the hearts of conservatives, they told her that the opposing special interest had donated hundreds of dollars to their campaigns but would fight them in the next election if they opposed the issue. "I was shocked. If you can't vote your principles, what good are you," said Dahl. She declined to name the senators.

But Crenshaw said if the "so-called conservatives" in the Legislature don't straighten up, "separate from Grass Roots, I'll use my other forum (KTALK radio) to name names."

Since the mid-1980s, various groups, including the Utah Education Association, have targeted conservative GOP lawmakers for defeat. In some cases, they've been successful. Former Rep. Lloyd Selleneit of Bountiful was himself defeated by a moderate Republican supported by the UEA. Selleneit is chairman of Grass Roots and says conservatives are organizing to fight back.

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(Additional information)

How lawmakers rank

Here's how Grass Roots, a conservative caucus in the Republican Party, rates some state legislators. A "high" rating means the individual generally agreed with the group's position on "conservative" principles reflected in a dozen legislative votes.

- Highest senator: Delpha Baird, R-Salt Lake, and Alarik Myrin, R-Altamont, both at 62 percent.

- Highest representative: Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake, at 87 percent.

- Lowest senator: Eldon Money, D-Spanish Fork, who got a 9 percent rating.

- Lowest representative: Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley, who got a 14 percent.

- Republican senators lower than the average Democrat ranking: Fred Finlinson, R-Murray; Craig Peterson, R-Orem; Haven Barlow, R-Layton; and John Holmgren, R-Bear River City.

- Republican representatives lower than the average Democrat ranking: Brent Haymond, R-Springville, and Ann Smedley and Nancy Lyon, both R-Bountiful.