Karl Snow and the case of the unfortunate stock investment - it just won't go away for the 3rd Congressional District Republican.
It won't go away because Snow's political opponents won't let it.Now an "independent" citizens group calling themselves Utahns for Ethical Government, whose leader professes no allegiance to Democratic congressional candidate Bill Orton or Snow's former GOP opponent John Harmer, are making the same old charges involving Snow and convicted stock manipulator Michael Strand.
I've looked at dozens of documents concerning the Snow/Strand/penny stock connection. I've interviewed Strand, talked to Snow half a dozen times and talked to principles in the aborted deal involving Unique Battery and Global Oil. This is what I make of it:
Snow was almost greedy. He was a hair's width away from making a big mistake. He ultimately didn't get involved in the stock deal not because he thought it immoral or sleazy, but because he believed some principals were polygamists - not the best of reasons.
He did nothing illegal, however. No criminal complaints have ever been filed against him, he's not named in any lawsuits.
Basically, here's what happened: After losing in 1984 GOP gubernatorial race, Snow, a Brigham Young University teacher, became interested in penny stocks promoted by Strand - a man who Snow befriended personally and who helped Snow financially in his statewide race.
Strand told Snow about a new deal: a car battery that recharges quicker and lasts longer than normal batteries. The battery company was going public, Strand was handling the initial stock offering. Snow had a chance to make a killing in the penny stock market, if all went well.
Penny stock investments are very risky. The idea is to get in on the ground floor, preferably before the stock is even issued, ride the wave quickly and sell out fast - before the stock tumbles, as it usually does.
Strand told others in Unique Battery that he was bringing in Snow, a former Republican leader in the state Senate. Snow's name would help sell the stock and the batteries, Strand said. Snow would get 100,000 shares of stock free for being on the board.
Snow investigated the company, talked to the battery developer, spoke to BYU physics professors about the new technology. The new battery sounded like a winner. He was set to jump in. He signed some documents saying he had shares in Unique Battery, even though he never did hold them, and would trade those shares for 100,000 shares of Global Oil, the new company buying out Unique Battery.
But then Snow came to believe that some of the Unique Battery executives, who'd run the new Global Oil, were polygamists. He backed away. No BYU professor was going to sit on the board of a company run by polygamists, no matter how much money he could make. Another BYU professor, Percy Kalt, after talking with Snow - their recollections of that conversation differ dramatically - decided to buy into Global Oil. Kalt paid $5 a share. At that rate, Snow's 100,000 shares, which he did nothing to earn, would have been worth half a million dollars.
Kalt ended up losing his $30,000 investment in Global Oil. Kalt wanted his money back from Strand. He fire-bombed Strand's home in an effort to extort the money from Strand. Kalt served a short jail sentence for his acts.
Meanwhile, Snow slowly distanced himself from Global Oil. He did attend some meetings at Strand's headquarters but steadfastly says he refused the position of vice president or to sit on the board. He says he refused the 100,000 shares (although he did buy some Global stock independent of Strand and ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars on that investment). However, the 100,000 shares of Global stock was issued in Snow's name in June 1985. Apparently that stock stayed in Strand's control. Snow never held it. However, several years later Snow did sign over some of those 100,000 shares of stock to Strand "as a favor." He received no money for the stock he signed over.
Also in June 1985, Snow suggested to an advertising woman, who worked on Snow's 1984 campaign, that she contact Strand to get some money she said Snow owed her for campaign work. Strand, it appeared, was willing to pay off some of Snow's campaign debts.
What to make of all this?
Is Snow a crook who should be rejected outright from congressional service? No. Remember, he lost money on his stock dealings with Strand and has never been named in any court document.
Did he dance on the edge of becoming a wealthy man through a questionable penny stock promotion? Yes. Did he let his good name be used to sell penny stocks - encourage others to buy the stocks? Snow says no, Kalt and others say yes.
In my opinion, the Strand episode won't cost Snow the election in the heavily Republican 3rd District. But it will haunt him for years to come. His political opponents - Republicans and Democrats alike - will see to that.