A Most Sacred Trust – The Line Between Lawmaker & Paid Lobbyist?

Representative Ken Ivory and his wife Becky recite the Pledge of Allegiance on the floor of the Utah House. Photo Credit: Deseret News
Representative Ken Ivory (R) and his wife Becky recite the Pledge of Allegiance on the floor of the Utah House.     Photo Credit:Deseret News

Where is the line between acting as a lawmaker on behalf of your constituents, and acting as a paid lobbyist? As the 2015 legislative session draws near, one Representative on Utah’s Capitol Hill may be drawing near it.

On November 10, 2014, a new Utah nonprofit was registered under the name “A Most Sacred Trust,” its tax status was approved only 6 weeks later, on December 22. The group advertises its mission as being to “restore trust in our school system by educating children, parents, teachers, administrators, and legislators about the realities of sexual abuse in our schools and how we can protect both children, and the adults who educate them, by establishing a safer system for all”—a laudable goal, to be sure.

Their website, mostsacredtrust.org, encourages visitors to financially support the organization, accepting both one-time and monthly monetary commitments.

The group is also touting that they have three pieces of legislation that will be run in the 2015 legislative session, which begins at the end of January—no small feat when you consider the number of nonprofits, special interests, lobbyists, corporations, and citizens in the state which would love to have their agendas promoted with legislation, and that most bills take months of work, planning, and effort before making it onto the list of proposed laws to be heard.

So how did the fledgling organization manage to get their goals before the legislature so quickly? According to tax and business filings with the state, the president of A Most Sacred Trust is Becky Ivory, wife of Representative Ken Ivory (Republican – West Jordan). The organization was registered under the name of Representative Ivory’s personal law firm, Ivory Law P.C., and all of the group’s legislation is being run by Representative Ivory himself.

This isn’t the first time the Ivorys have created an organization related to the Representative’s legislation. Representative Ivory has developed a name for himself over the past few years by pushing legislation that would forcibly take control of public lands in the state away from the United States, and turn them over to the Utah legislature to decide whether to keep or sell them. The legislation has resulted in massive disagreements between supporters of a Utah-takeover of U.S. lands and environmental groups and scholars who say the constitution does not grant individual states the authority to force the U.S. to turn over land that is being supported by tax dollars from all over the country.

In the case of the public lands takeover, Representatives Ivory and Becky Ivory created another nonprofit, called the American Lands Council, where Ken serves as President and Becky as Communications Director—both draw a salary from the company, and Representative Ivory listed ALC as his occupation when he filed for re-election. As Representative Ivory’s legislation has caught fire in local and national media, it has opened the door for him to travel all over western states under the American Lands Council banner, giving paid speaking presentations to conferences, special interests, and other lawmakers. According to its most recent 990 forms, in 2012 the American Lands Council brought in just over $122,000 thanks largely to the publicity around Representative Ivory’s own legislation.

Is there an ethical issue with a lawmaker and his spouse creating situations where they directly make a living off of the legislation they run?

“I don’t see a conflict,” Representative Ivory told Utah Political Capitol in a phone interview. “My wife is a constituent, just like how several of my other constituents have organizations or businesses working on problems. My job is simply to solve the problems.” According to Representative Ivory, it makes no difference whether or not he and his family benefit financially from the issue.

To be sure, child sex abuse in schools is a worthwhile cause, and one very personal to Becky Ivory herself. On her biography on the Most Sacred Trust website, she describes how she herself was abused by a teacher for several years during Middle School. She told UPC “It took me 11 years before I was finally brave enough to go to my school district and tell them what had happened. … They fired [the accused teacher], but then hired them back two years later without even telling me or talking to me about it.”

Like Representative Ivory, Mrs. Ivory says she sees no conflict in having him run legislation that could directly benefit their family financially. Because the organization is so new, she says, there is not yet a steady stream of donations coming in, so for now it is an all-volunteer operation. “I wish there was a salary. Maybe someday,” she added. “If we can get more attention, then maybe we can get to that point.”

The Utah legislature’s rules about conflicts of interest and members financially benefiting from their own legislation are pretty murky. In fact, situations similar to the Ivorys’ have happened in the past, says House Speaker-elect Greg Hughes (Republican – Draper).

“We’ve had spouses involved in public policy before,” says Hughes, pointing to outgoing House Speaker Becky Lockhart (Republican – Provo). Speaker Lockhart’s husband, Stan Lockhart, lobbied for STEM digital learning programs as well as IM Flash Technologies while Speaker Lockhart was serving. “We didn’t ban Stan from the Hill,” says Hughes. “As long as it’s disclosed and in the light of day, I don’t see a problem with it.”

But Representative Stephen Handy (Republican – Layton), who serves as co-chair of the House Ethics Committee, says the situation with the Ivorys’ new business could cause “a bomb” among his fellow lawmakers. “I don’t know if its an ethical violation or not. But we have to be really careful and be concerned about the public trust.” He also added that while he has a high personal level of respect for Representative Ivory, “as both a legislator and a citizen, I think the level of transparency is going to be a big question.”

The text and precise content of Representative Ivory’s legislation on behalf of A Most Sacred Trust is not yet publicly available, but Becky Ivory assured UPC that “there will be no [public] money allocated to [A Most Sacred Trust.]” However, if the Ivorys’ American Lands Council serves as a model, then the new legislation could drive a lot of public interest in the organization, which means higher donations and potentially new speaking engagements around the country, which means more revenue for the Ivorys, which means more legislation around the country, which means more revenue, etc.

Where’s the line between acting like an elected official and acting as a paid lobbyist? Does it make a difference if the cause is a really good one? Utah could be about to find out.

Eric Ethington is a journalist, activist, and researcher. Originally from Utah, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. His writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Public Eye magazine. Follow him on Twitter @EricEthington.

16 Replies to “A Most Sacred Trust – The Line Between Lawmaker & Paid Lobbyist?

  1. How us this any different than government employees serving in the legislature? Clearly their votes benefit their employment and compensation.

    Interested in feedback to that thought.

  2. Utah politics at least on the ‘R’ side has always been what can we do to enrich each other and our families at the expense of the taxpayers. Nothing will be said or done as the sheeple perceive it as a perk coming with the job.
    As long as none od the faithful are hurt too badly no blood no foul. Just like church ball.

    1. This. Is a matter. Of charging. The country. To. Fix. A problem. Cunningly. Endorsed. By. You’re. Own. Flock. With. No feedback. From. The. People. Who are. Really experiencing. The hardship. This. Discrimination at it,s. Finest. Picking. And. Choosing. Who support. You’re. Perspective. On. The. Problemm charging. The goverment a additional paycheck. For a scientific. Mental. Experience. Expedition. That,s. The. Problem. If. You were. Living. In. The. Problems. Suffering. And. Just. Being. A representatives. With. No. Discriminatory. Actions. Taken. With out. Any. In put. From. The. Pros. And picked. Cons. You wan’t to answer. Is deceptive. And. Ignorant. Politics.

    2. What. Was that. My point. Is that. Politics should. Not be about capatalising off ov. Goverment. Problems. By charging. Additional money. To sponsor. You’re personal. Gripe. Abusing. The. Powers. Of govermenFr. Personal. Agendas. Is. Unethical. And. Discriminatory. Some. Republican. Politicians. Think. That. The. Civil. Rights. Law. That. Out. Lawed. Slavery. Is. Okay. But. As you can. See. Discrimination. Is still unlawfully. Practices. By. Lawyer. Who work. For. The system. Dummy. The system. Down. With personal. Discrrimination. On. Othere. People that are not like. Them. Some. Politicians. Believe. That the naacp. Has. Strong. Edorsememts. But. Wear. Really. Is the. Money. Support. For. Enforcing. Federal. Law. Compared. To/some. Stupid. Energy. Expedition. Or some. Stupid. Fight. About. Land. Utah. Don’t take care. Of the land. They. Got. See. Discrimination. Is heavily. Practices. Lobbied. By. Discriminatory. Interest. To violate. The. Constitutional. Law. Of all. Men. Are created. Equal. Abusing. And. Using. Citizens. Based. On. How. Ignorant. They are. To law.IsIs the same. Thing. As a sex. Assault. It,s a disrespectful. And violating. Act. Against. Another. Person. Private. And even. Goverment. In. Utah. Violate. This. Law. By just. Discriminating. And just hiring. White. College graduates. Only. Violating. Against. African American. Violating. The. African. American. Male. Is the core. Violation. Because. There. Are. Hardly. Enough african. American. Men. Involved. Or. Part. Of the goverment. Process at all

  3. Utah politics at least on the ‘R’ side has always been what can we do to enrich each other and our families at the expense of the taxpayers. Nothing will be said or done as the sheeple perceive it as a perk coming with the job.
    As long as none of the faithful are hurt too badly no blood no foul. Just like church ball.

  4. We citizens have been violating our code of conduct. The proof, I describe, has always been in our faces…………But we don’t open our mouths……Ask UAG Sean Reyes what his beliefs are? I filed a misconduct against him for not responding to my filed written complaint against our Gov. and lobbyist Cody Stewart………They did what the US Supreme Court said was lawful………….To bad I was not their to remind them about Corporate mission laws…………
    We here in Utah can teach the world the meaning of Equal Under All Laws, bribery is not included in our Constitution for the United States of America. Because bribery violates citizen equality under law.
    Deseret News (comment on hold, but you can go see others that were approved)

    brotherJonathan, SLC, UT
    DeseretNews ask- Rep. Jim Matheson: Before you leave office, please do one last great service for your Utah voters.
    I have asked many times:
    “What is your ethical beliefs on corporate share holder’s money spent on public elections?”
    Is that spending justified??
    You owe this to We The People.
    Please for Heaven’s Sake Open Your Mouth my brother”

    Survey For Public Officials & Citizens About Bribery.
    (Attorneys are officers of the court)

    I agree/ believe that corporate contributions (under corporate mission laws) are lawful:
    Sign here:
    Name(print)_ Sign_ date_

    I believe/ agree that corporate political contributions (using share holder’s money)
    are not lawful and violate state and federal bribery statutes because of “corporate mission laws” that protect share holders funds (from fraud/embezzlement); funds must be spent on profit, potential profit or humanitarian expenditures only. So intent cannot be freedom of speech but seeking influence for profit.
    Name(print)_ Sign_ date_

    BRIBERY: The offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties.

    All Citizens Share In The Blame For Not Opening Our Mouths..

    http://www.deseretnews.com/user/comments/865598897/Doug-Owens-Mia-Love-file-candidacies-for-4th-Congressional-seat.html (newest first)

    ASK YOURSELVES………DO YOU BELIEVE SHARE HOLDER’S MONEY IS EVER SPENT ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH? of course not that would be ridiculous and without merit…
    I have asked both houses leadership and many others what their opinion truly is.
    Which we have not been………….silence is agreement…….WE THE PEOPLE,..
    Email, Facebook JonathanPeterson1466, or mail to my address.
    Also email or call: UAG Sean Reyes for consideration. E-Mail: uag@utah.gov , (801) 366-0260
    Jonathan L. Peterson
    Behavior Research for Humanity
    3670 S. Red Maple Rd.
    Salt Lake City, UT 84106 208-650-1346 ph. (or P.O. Box 802, SLC,UT 84101) jlp1997@msn.com
    (my work behavior research for humanity, helped produce this survey showing our true reality, using the facts on hand.)

  5. Just approved, consider true principles of democracy, now clearly violated.
    DeseretNews comment Heroes 2014: Meet the disruptive visionary president of the new American university

    SLC, UT
    Public administration: Principles of democratic government should be engrained in his logic and reasoning.
    Did you know principles of democracy are not taught in schools or universities in direct ways.
    Let me show you:
    What is the highest principle of any true democracy?
    #1- Citizens must share equality/impartial treatment under all laws..
    Would you all agree?
    #2- Any law that violates that principle is not fair or just, so cannot be lawful.
    #3- The only exception to that rule or highest principle is a law that enforces equality otherwise lost to the citizenship body.
    Such as disabilities, (within guidelines for those laws to be fair and just) shall not be discriminated against or denied public access.

    Do these 3 principles agree with each other?
    If 1,2 and 3 are our most important principle of citizenship / democracy:
    A- How in the world can Corporate Share holder’s money be spent on bribery and we don’t even debate its justification.
    B- How in the world can we allow Slave-based Drug laws, that give special permit powers to citizens:
    who do not hold public office and have pricing and distribution control over a commodity?

    A&B Violate Equality.
    Instinctual caused blindness!!!

    (Why don’t you ask UAG Reyes or Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant for their expert opinions!!!! So we can end unlawful violation of our equality, before it is to late! ) not included in Deseret News post…….jp

  6. The Ivory family. One of the most connected in Utah politics… in Utah business… and with LD$, Inc.

    They are the epitome of what was described in the Book of Mormon as Gadianton Robbers.

    If the GOP doesn’t clean up after themselves; if the Utah Legislature doesn’t clean up after itself; if LD$, Inc. continues to pander to Gadianton connections; if Utahns continue to vote straight-ticket-Republican … then they get what they deserve.

    I just wish they wouldn’t take the rest of us down with them.

  7. In his article, Mr. Ethington twists the truth in an effort to try to make himself relevant in a world that thrives on hatred and cynicism. Gratefully, I don’t live in that world. I live in a world that focuses on making our communities a better place to live…let the naysayers say and do what they will. I, for one, will continue to stand.

    Our goal at A Most Sacred Trust is to restore trust in our school system by educating children, parents, teachers, administrators and legislators about the realities of sexual abuse in our schools and how we can protect both children, and the adults who educate them, by establishing a safer system for all. My husband is a Utah state legislator and has been working closely with the Utah State Board of Education for several months now to clean up our laws on sexual harassment and professionalism in our schools and asked me if I would be willing to share my story with them and give them my insights as a former child victim.

    At first, I was extremely hesitant. My past has some elements of darkness and shame, and though I have come to terms with them in my life, I do not enjoy sharing it with the world. However, when I discovered on Halloween this year that my molester had a handful of other victims, I knew that I could no longer bear being silent. I announced to my husband that not only would I testify to the legislature about my experience and help him make sure the laws were drafted correctly, I was going to start my own non-profit to help educate others how to protect themselves and their children. Honestly, he had no choice in the matter, but he was extremely supportive and felt that this might be a powerful step for me in my journey of healing.

    I have met with the State Board of Education, school teachers, principles, and counselors to get their opinions on the bills. They have all been wonderful to work with and they see the need for these changes and already, great strides are being made towards better protecting our students and great teachers, as well as elevating the level of professionalism in our education professions.

    In Mr. Ethington’s article, he claims that somehow A Most Sacred Trust is a scam between a legislator and his wife to make money by manipulating the system in our favor. And though he knows the facts do not support his claim, his readers do not. So, let me take a moment to separate the facts from his fiction.

    Fiction: Ken Ivory is a paid lobbyist of A Most Sacred Trust.
    Fact: Ken is not paid by A Most Sacred Trust. He is listed as the registered agent, which simply means that when the state of Utah sends the corporate renewal notices, it will go to his law firm. He is in no way, shape or form a lobbyist.
    Fiction: Becky Ivory is getting paid by A Most Sacred Trust.
    Fact: I, Becky Ivory, have sunk my own money into this organization to try to prevent others from experiencing the same hell of sexual abuse in our school system that I have. Whatever donations A Most Sacred Trust happens to receive in the future will be used to educate students, parents, teachers, administrators and legislators about the needs for safe, professional boundaries in our schools.
    Fiction: Somehow, the Ivorys will financially benefit from these bills.
    Fact: There is NOTHING in any of the bills going forward that will send money to any of the Ivorys or the organizations of which we are a part.
    Fiction: the Ivorys started another organization in order to get rich off of the American tax payers.
    Fact: The organization, American Lands Council was started by county commissioners in Nevada and Utah and they asked my husband to be the president of it, for which he gave up his job and began working full-time for them. I never had any affiliation with the organization until they asked me to write weekly articles for them and keep track of the communications, for which I get paid hourly at the standard rate for such work. All non-profit organizations are required to file 990 forms which are available to the public every year that spell out the income and salaries of all officers. Our salaries are not hidden for the American Lands Council or Ken’s legislative position, and all income taken in the future by A Most Sacred Trust will also have to be disclosed to the public.

    I would keep going, but the fiction is so thick Mr. Ethington’s article should be called a novel.

    What is Mr. Ethington doing to protect Katie, a young woman who was so badly sexually harassed by her high school teacher only a couple months ago that she avoids school at all costs now because absolutely nothing was done to prevent it from happening again? What is he doing to help us avoid situations like that which happened to a Harriman woman who was forced to have sex with a teacher more than 1,000 times in a two year period…at school? What is he doing to stop the convicted stalker who is teaching 3rd graders in Tooele? I’ll tell you what he’s doing…absolutely nothing. But I am proud to have formed an organization whose sole purpose is to do something about it. I am only one of a board of directors. Where this organization goes will be up to them, and up to the public who will or will not choose to fund it.

    A part of me feels sorry for Mr. Ethington, and those like him who viciously attack anyone holding public office, regardless of the truthfulness of their claims. In this day and age, it’s hard not to distrust all politicians. There are plenty of people out there using their positions of power for their own gain. Their are people devising clever schemes to make a quick buck off of the public. So how is anyone to know who to trust? The answer lies in the old scripture, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

    I encourage you to follow us like a hawk. Read the legislation. Look at the filed 990s at the end of every year. Follow our pages and activities to see what we are actually doing. Only then will you know if we are who we say we are and if we do what we say we will do.

    I think that rather than ignorantly accusing others of making a living through nefarious means, Mr. Ethington ought to answer the question, why is he making money by spreading such fabricated and harmful lies?

  8. “To be sure, child sex abuse in schools is a worthwhile cause, and one very personal to Becky Ivory herself. On her biography on the Most Sacred Trust website, she describes how she herself was abused by a teacher for several years during Middle School. She told UPC “It took me 11 years before I was finally brave enough to go to my school district and tell them what had happened. … They fired [the accused teacher], but then hired them back two years later without even telling me or talking to me about it.”

    That entire work of fiction doesn’t even pass the smell test.

    Middle school is grades 7-9 here in Utah, that’s three years. How does one suffer abuse for several years during a three year period?

    11 years later she finally brought it forward, since we already know it happened during several years over that three year period, let’s assume it was eleven years after ninth grade, so she would have been 24 or 25 at that time. So why would the school contact a former student that left their building and grounds eleven years earlier?

    And based on her comment here on this story, I’d say that building fantasies and trying to convince others those works of fiction spawned out of her imagination are actually reality is a hobby of hers.

    At least she can take comfort in knowing that it was the voters of Utah that were gullible enough to send her corrupt husband into a position of power so the two of them could abuse the public trust. Disgusting.

  9. Eric Ethington is not a journalist. A journalist would actually take time to research a story. A journalist would get all of his facts straight before attacking and assassinating someones character. Eric is nothing but angry and full of himself. I can’t believe people read this crap. Eric talks of the Ivory’s American Lands Council, if he was s true journalist he would have learned long ago that the American Lands Council was created by County Commissioners, not the Ivory’s and the controlling board is made up of mostly County Commissioners. Ken Ivory didn’t create American Lands Council, nor does he control the actions and work that American Lands Council works upon. A wise man once told me that you don’t say things about others that you don’t actually secretly feel about yourself, I guess Eric is one miserable self hating individual then. I’m sorry Eric has a problem with the truth, I would call him a journalist with an agenda but I don’t see him as anything remotely close to a journalist.

    My $.02

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