One of the pleasant fictions of this year's U.S. Senate campaign was that Republican Sen.-elect Mike Lee was some sort of firebrand, independent, Tea Party I'm-against-the-establishment -- dare we say Palinesque? -- renegade Republican. It was all nonsense.
Lee, as a corporate lawyer who has worked for EnergySolutions and 1-800-Contacts, is the very definition of an entrenched, cozy-with-big-business, establishment GOP pol.
So it is no surprise that an establishment politician, such as Lee, would choose a lobbyist very cozy with big business to be his chief of staff in Washington D.C. Lee hired former Weber County Commission chairman Spencer Stokes for the job. Stokes, who Lee says "has an encyclopedic knowledge of Utah politics," was also former executive director of the state GOP party. Stokes is very connected. He is registered to lobby for 18 organizations, including the Utah Association of Energy Users.
Our future junior senator is a conservative Republican, just like many others. It's tempting to call him a hypocrite for all his talk against the establishment prior to the election. But his swift move to even more connected corners of the establishment likely helps our state. It's fine to shout anti-establishment pabulum at less politically sophisticated voters during a campaign, but if you take it too far you end up screaming about President Obama's birth certificate on some obscure Web radio station.
And we have confidence that Stokes will do a fine job as Lee's chief of staff. Both he and the senator-elect are two peas of the same pod and will likely move smoothly in the way Washington works. However, if earmarks survive the latest attempt to ban them, we do hope Stokes can talk Lee out of his promise to seek none of the economic boomlets for our state. We would prefer to see earmarks banned, but if Congress won't, it's insensible for Lee to not work to bring a few dollars to our state, particularly for education. The man Lee beat, Sen. Bob Bennett, did a good job securing them for Utah.