Jewel Skousen, Republican candidate running for the House seat in legislative District 52, has made “fighting government corruption” a major component of her campaign platform. Specifically, she wants to take on the Department of Commerce, which investigated her husband, Rick “The Free Capitalist” Koerber, for fraud since 2007. Koerber is currently awaiting trial on federal charges that he ran a $100 million Ponzi scheme.
Skousen, on her campaign website, lists three top priorities including school choice, reforming family law and fighting government corruption. In regard to fighting corruption, Skousen’s website references a recent national survey that ranked Utah high for vulnerability to corruption.
“This is consistent with a Utah Legislative Audit a few years ago that only scratched the surface regarding abuses of power, arbitrary persecution of small-business owners, etc. in the Utah Department of Commerce,” Skousen says on her website. “Bureaucrats – even well intentioned – should not be running the State of Utah.”
By a “few years ago,” Skousen has referenced a 2008 audit of the Utah Division of Securities (UDS) that found the department lacked clear guidelines and was heavy-handed in the prosecution of certain cases. Following the release of the audit, UDS director Wayne Klein stepped down and was replaced by a new director.
City Weekly first reported that the audit that led to this turnover was brought in part by then legislator, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, a friend of Koerber, who was being investigated for securities fraud when Wimmer helped call for an audit on the division. Koerber at the time had an investing school called American Founders University, of which Wimmer was a student, and later, a guest on Koerber’s “Free Capitalist Radio Show.” While the state declined to pursue charges against Koerber in 2009, he was indicted on federal charges including tax evasion and fraud in 2009 and additional superseding indictments were brought again in 2011. The charges allege Koerber lead a lavish lifestyle while squandering $100 million in investments in a Ponzi scheme, where funds from new investors are used to pay off old investors.
Jewel Skousen, who did not return a comment in time for this post, was a former co-host of Koerber’s on his radio show. She later married him in 2009 after Koerber divorced his previous wife.
While tackling “political corruption” is a major issue for Skousen, it was also a major issue for her husband Koerber. Koerber routinely mocked and ridiculed state regulators on his radio show, saying they had the “IQ of a rat.” His website even depicted Commerce Director Francine Giani as a caricature of Cruella Deville from the animated film 101 Dalmatians.
In 2008, Koerber himself proposed reforms to state government strikingly similar to those now being proposed by his wife. Koerber that same year advocated for the state securities regulators to be moved from out of the Department of Commerce and put under the authority of the Attorney General’s Office (Koerber had met with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff privately in 2007 in a meeting brokered by Wimmer).
According to Skousen’s website, she would not only “restructure the Department of Commerce” but would “remove all law-enforcement functions from state bureaucrats to the direct responsibility of the Utah Attorney General.”
As City Weekly reported in 2008, this proposal was one that Wimmer had explored proposing at the Legislature himself, though, ultimately, he never did. While Wimmer was considering proposing such a bill, he told CW that to avoid a conflict-of-interest he would likely have another legislator act as a proxy and sponsor the bill for him.
“I [wouldn’t] want to be in a piece of legislation where I am that personally involved,” Wimmer said.
Note: This blog will be updated if Skousen returns a comment.