In Utah a Smack Down Between a Donor and University Institute Director

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October 10, 2011; Source: Salt Lake City TribuneAt the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute, director Kirk Jowers has been promoting an initiative that would allow political candidates to sidestep the primary system and go straight to a general election. And in doing so he has, apparently rubbed some Tea Party types the wrong way. Tea Party activists say that the move would allow well-funded Republicans to “crush their movement and regain control of the state Party.”

Those activists, according to this article, have been supporting the grievance voiced by Peter Valcarce, a donor to the University, who claims that his donation was diverted into a scholarship fund named after Jowers and his wife. This, he claims, is theft.

Jowers, for his part has countered with a charge about Valcarce’s philanthropic motivations, “He needed to get rid of the money…He approached me in November 2007 because his foundation had been found fraudulent by the IRS.” Jowers does not here explain why that makes him any more credible than Valcarce. In fact, the IRS did audit the Valcarce Foundation “and found that from 2001 to 2006 the nonprofit primarily loaned its money to Valcarce, which he paid back sporadically. In 2006, the foundation had $711,000 in assets and it had loaned exactly $711,000 to Valcarce. It gave no money to charity.” The IRS demanded that the foundation be closed and that the money be distributed that same year.

Valarce gave the $200,000 of the funds to University of Utah and the rest to Brigham Young University. It was in the thank you letter that Valcarce learned that $75,000 went into the Jowers scholarship fund and he immediately protested asking that the money be transferred to a fund named after his high school debate teacher and alumnus of the school. Jowers neglected to follow through with the change until Valance confronted him at which point he transferred $40,000 but retained $30,000 which he promised to pay over the course of a few years. Not surprisingly, this went over like a lead balloon “I think Kirk Jowers is a man obsessed by his own image, and he’ll do anything he can to be a Utah political celebrity…He has relied on my donation to fund his scholarship. I want other people out there considering to give to the Hinckley Institute to know that.”—Ruth McCambridge

  • Common Sense

    Valcarce claims that Jowers is obsessed by his own image, but he fails to acknowledge that all Hinckley Institute directors are required to have scholarships in their names.

    For example, when I served as a Hinckley intern several years ago, I received the R.J. Snow Scholarship, named for a former director.

    When Valcarce donated the funds, he gave the Institute full discretion regarding how it was to be used. Funds from the Jowers Scholarship go to benefit students, just as any other fund.

    Jowers did absolutely nothing wrong. Clearly, Valcarce is threatened by Jowers and this is a desperate attempt to hurt his reputation.

  • PJ

    I’m sure all Hinckley Institute directors have scholarships in their names; however, I’m also sure they worked hard and long to receive those donations. Here, Jowers basically took Valcarce’s donation and set it up under his own scholarship (unbeknownst to Valcarce).

    I completely agree with Valcarce in that this action would be constituted as “theft” under any other situation.

    More than anything there should be an audit of the funds, and the University of Utah should take an even closer look at Jowers. His own hubris should bring himself down, not the university.

  • More common sense

    Actually, Valcarce did not give the institute “full discretion.” He stated that he would name the fund at a later date. He ended up naming the fund after Congressman Rob Bishop – some news outlets actually reported that fact.

    If Valcarce is threatened or not it doesn’t matter, does it? Jowers STOLE $75,000 and only returned it (actually a portion) after he was caught….twice.

    Jowers hurt his own reputation by being dishonest and borderline criminal.