This is why good people don't get into politics. —Sean Reyes
SALT LAKE CITY — A Nevada-based super PAC has flung another round of attack ads in the direction of Utah's attorney general race.
With just five days until the Republican primary election, It's Now or Never Inc. has paid for new radio advertisements pointing out an incident referred to in a 2008 City Weekly article about Sean Reyes, who, at the time, received national recognition as Young Lawyer of the Year. In the article and the 58-second radio spot, Reyes, a candidate for attorney general, is quoted for his apparent involvement in a 1993 "road rage" incident.
"… that's not the temperament we'd expect from Utah's next attorney general," states the advertisement, followed by instructions to find the article in its entirety. It's Now or Never spent $140,000 since last week on the last-minute anti-Reyes ads, according to documents filed with the Utah Lieutenant Governor's office.
Turns out, the experience is partially what led the then-22-year-old Reyes to pursue a law degree and develop skills to protect himself and his family, the candidate said. No citations were ever given after Reyes allegedly pursued some teenagers who had vandalized his vehicle.
"This is why good people don't get into politics," Reyes said. His legal counsel has advised him to file for defamation regarding the "sensationalism and drama," and Thursday, the campaign filed cease and desist orders with all stations paid to run the ads.
"These ads are defamatory in nature and cast Mr. Reyes in a false light," the document states. "They constitute outrageous smear tactics to damage his reputation and negatively influence his chances to win this election."
Reyes' opponent, deputy attorney general John Swallow, did not address the latest actions Thursday, but through a spokeswoman denied any association with the political action committee.
"We had nothing to do with those ads," said Swallow's campaign manager, Jessica Fawson. She said the ads might have appeared because "every Republican race is under the microscope this year."
"We're actually really proud of the fact that we've been running a positive campaign," she said. "From the very beginning, it has focused on the issues and we're proud of that."
Donors to It's Now or Never fall under a registered 501c4 organization under the same name and aren't required to be disclosed beyond that, according to the PAC's attorney, Anthony Ferate of Oklahoma. While it is registered in Las Vegas, the super PAC can participate anywhere in the country.
"We are a conservative-based organization and we want to make sure the right people make it into office," Farate said, adding that Swallow "seems to be a good candidate."
Farate said he's never met Swallow or Reyes, but was contacted by others throughout the country who feel strongly about the Utah race. Listed on the PAC's registration documents are other conservative and political consultants.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said that with little accountability, super PACs exist to be negative. Candidates, he said, are expected by the public to portray civility and don't typically go into the negative aspects of a campaign themselves.
"Super PACs try to rip down the other candidate and that heightens the cynicism, heightens the apathy of people wanting to get involved and makes it really difficult for us to trust anyone who is elected, even when they are both great people potentially," Jowers said.
The attorney general race, he said, has been contentious, with both candidates taking heat from various outside groups.
"They can hit hard, they can hit cheap, they can hit late, and they can hit dirty," Jowers said.
Reyes said that while seeing and hearing the ads is difficult for him and for his family, "we are focusing on our message, our campaign has kept it clean."
"I want to let everybody know that there's no truth to these false accusations and these hit ads," he said. "It's human nature, if people are saying things about you that aren't true, you'd be right there, front and center, trying to set the record straight."
Contributing: John Daley