Libertarian attorney Andrew McCullough never envisioned making politics a career. That is, not until one of his friends ran afoul of the highway patrol.
As McCullough tells it, an officer pulled the young woman over on her way to a picnic. Because of her slight speech impediment, he thought she was driving drunk or under the influence of drugs. The officer then arrested her, searched her car, and booked her into the Davis County jail where she received a body cavity search. He found no drug paraphernalia in her car and a urine sample tested negative for illegal substances, yet the charge stuck. McCullough represented her in court.
“This is years ago,” said McCullough, who can’t recall the case without tearing up. “It made me so mad that I filed [to run for] attorney general, and I did because I felt the attorney general’s office was jerking my client around. If I were attorney general and I’d saw someone who had been abused like that, I’d say lets talk about the size of the check. I’m still upset.”
Upset enough to write to then-Attorney General Jan Graham explaining why he would not only decline to contribute to her campaign, but would actually oppose her. And upset enough to run against attorney general candidates of both main parties in the past four election cycles. This year, he said, will be his last attempt for the office.
Although politics is relatively new career path for McCullough, he has long made his living as an attorney specializing in the First Amendment (specifically freedom of speech and assembly). His clients in this area include a number of Utah adult entertainment outlets, including Doctor John’s Lingerie boutique, strip clubs and escort services.
“Needless to say, the government at various levels is always trying to regulate us to death,” he quips. “We think we provide a free speech service and they should leave us alone.”
McCullough is also well-experienced in law cases pertaining to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement and under which fall such issues as the right to privacy and protection from unlawful arrests. These include not only cases like that of McCullough’s friend, but cases of specific interest to gays and lesbians. The most recent was the 14th Street Gym’s suit against Salt Lake City.
The suit alleged that police had unlawfully searched the gym, patroned largely by gay men, in 2004 and 2006 on suspicion that men were walking around naked and having sex in steam rooms. In 2004, the gym was temporarily closed and received a 90-day suspension of its business license for operating a “disorderly house.” Two years later, the police searched the gym again and arrested two men for having oral sex in a steam room. They summarily closed the gym, and slapped its owners with public nuisance charges.
In April, an appeals court ruled in the gym’s favor, stating that officers had no proof the owners condoned the sexual activity and that the sex was private activity.
The second case, Provo City vs. Willden, involved a man accused of violating a city ordinance against soliciting sex in public by leaving a note in a Provo men’s restroom asking men to call him if they were interested in meeting up for sex. A policeman made an appointment with Willden and arrested him.
In his brief, McCullough and his law partner at the time argued that such solicitations fell under the right to freedom of speech. After all, they argued, the Provo ordinance would not prohibit a man in a park from asking his wife to go home and have sex with him, or a man hitting on a woman. The Utah Supreme Court agreed, and declared the ordinance unconstitutional – so long as the sex was not for hire.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has cited this case in a brief supporting Republican Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s appeal of his arrest for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom.
“I’m very pleased and proud about that,” said McCullough, who sent Craig a letter after his arrest inviting him to publicly admit his sexual orientation and join the Libertarian Party.
McCullough’s support for gay people has, he said, lead many to assume that he is himself gay, including one Salt Lake Tribune reporter in 2004. Although McCullough is straight, he said that he feels “a tremendous kinship with the gay community” because of the suspicion and discrimination he has faced as a single man “in LDS Society in particular.”
“The assumption is that gay men are going to cause trouble, that if you don’t watch them they’ll fondle you or I don’t know what,” he said. “I’m damn tired of it.”
He said he’s also tired of two more ways in which he sees the state as acting as “an instrument of oppression:” Department of Child and Family Service workers removing children from their homes without solid proof of abuse or wrongdoing, and the war on drugs. He calls arresting people for marijuana use, for example, “absolute stupidity” and a big deterrent for addicts who won’t seek help out of fear of arrest.
“We do it because we say they use substances that are dangerous to themselves,” he said. “I don’t think people should use substances that are dangerous to themselves, but if they do it’s not my business. I would pretty much end the war on drugs and in doing so I would cut the prison population by 30-50 percent. I’d also cut your need to pay the taxes – it’s expensive to lock people up.”
Many Utahns seem to share McCullough’s disgust at the status quo. Indeed, several of them approached McCullough at the Libertarian Party’s booth during the 2006 Utah Pride Festival, asking him to run again and promising to donate to his campaign if he would. When they made good on their promises, McCullough also solicited donations. Although he said his campaign is by no means wealthy, he added that he has amassed enough money “so I could be credible.”
He said he was “very, very disappointed,” however, that Equality Utah was not among his political or financial supporters this year. Although the gay rights organization gave him a favorable mention, it endorsed Democratic hopeful Jean Welch Hill instead. McCullough criticized the endorsement in an open letter appearing in the Sept. 11 issue of QSaltLake, in which he accused Equality Utah of becoming “a captive of the Democratic Party” for endorsing only Democrats this year.
Whatever the outcome of this year’s election, McCullough says he hopes to get candidates and the public talking about issues pertaining to individual freedom and what to do when the state wrongly interferes with those freedoms.
“I want the state to stop hurting people,” he said. “I can’t do it by myself, but all anybody can do is his best.”
Visit McCullough’s campaign Web site at andy4ag.com.