Gregory Peterson: Utah GOP Activist and Romney Supporter – and Rapist

See that guy in the photo above?  The guy posing with Mitt Romney? That’s Gregory Nathan Peterson, 37, of Orem, a conservative activist and “tea party power”.

He was co-chairman of a 2007 fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Orrin Hatch and others have “attended a barbecue Greg Peterson hosted what he called the Rocky Mountain Conservatives Conference at his lakeside cabin the past three years.” Grandiosely, Peterson called the most recent conference, held in May, “the CPAC of the West.”

Peterson, reports Deseret News, “faces 23 felony and two misdemeanor charges in connection with the alleged rapes of four women. One of those attacks, according to investigators, happened at his cabin near Heber City just one day after last year’s barbecue.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune gives the particulars:

Peterson was charged Wednesday in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City with 23 felony counts, including rape and kidnapping, and two misdemeanors. A jail log indicates U.S. marshals arrested Peterson in his cabin in Heber and booked him into the Salt Lake County jail. He remained there Thursday in lieu of $750,000 bail.

To say, as does the Tribune, that the news “caused ripples of unease Thursday throughout the GOP” is to understate the panic that has ensued in Republican Utah. After all, Mr. Tea Party Mover and Shaker, the guy everybody wanted to be photographed with, turned out turned out to be a serial date-rapist.

Take a peek at Michael Jolley’s blogpost about the 2011 event.  These folks have reason to be uneasy as they cavort at the cabin Peterson used in one of his rapes. As Jolley puts it, “around 300 of Utah’s most politically active conservatives” showed up at the event.”

It gets worse. Deseret News goes on to say that,

On his Facebook page, Peterson claims to be good friends with the Romney family and that he attended Brigham Young University with Josh Romney, the presidential candidate’s youngest son. He posted photos of himself with Mitt Romney and Josh Romney on Facebook.

And that “a Sept., 2. 2011, post reads, ‘Backstage w/Mitt in Boston before a big event. I have worked for and with Mitt Romney outside of politics for years. Great leader.'”

Well, if that isn’t embarrassing.

Mitt Romney Invitation from 2007 with Greg Peterson
Suddenly, nobody wants anything to do with Gregory Nathan Peterson. Including the Romney campaign.

Now to be fair, it wasn’t like Peterson was a Romney insider and probably not even a family friend, despite what he says (the Tribune reports that “Peterson has billed himself online as a “close personal friend of the Romney family”). He’s not rich, after all, claiming only to be a certified financial planner. He’s not a huge campaign contributor either: He only made a $2,300 donation to Romney’s presidential campaign on ’07 according to Federal Election Commission records.

But it’s interesting that while he was seen as a rising power everybody wanted to get into his orbit, including Romney and now that he’s an accused rapist, well, it’s a whole ‘nother story.

“We are appalled at this situation. He hasn’t been associated with our campaign since 2007 and you can believe he won’t be going forward,” the Romney campaign said Thursday according to the  Tribune.

Former state Rep. Carl Wimmer jumped the Peterson ship even before it ran aground on rape charges. He attended the conferences in 2010 and 2011 but didn’t attend the CPAC of the West because he’d heard through the local GOP grapevine that Peterson was in trouble – and his wife wasn’t comfortable around him (no surprise).

Wimmer says now, “There has always been a consistent pattern with Mr. Peterson. He takes credit for things he has not done. He overblows his accomplishments quite dramatically.”

Whatever level of association Peterson enjoyed with Romney and other Republicans, this is not a distraction the already trouble Romney campaign needs. Now granted, in some circles raping women makes you a hero, but even Republicans who turn a blind eye to rape (look at Congress’ behavior in response to the Air Force rape scandal) are not going to want to touch Peterson.

He’s small fry, seemingly, or so they’re all saying now, despite being photographed with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, as well as, of course, Romney, and so a lot easier to say, “No, I didn’t really know him.” As Deseret News reveals, “Utah officeholders Thursday were distancing themselves from Peterson. Some of them appear in photos with him that are posted on various websites.”

There seems to be something in the Republican gene that attracts people like Peterson, that encourages thuggish behavior. And rather than pointing fingers at Peterson, Republicans ought to be taking a look in the mirror and asking themselves what about their discourse might be responsible. The Republican Party is, after all, supposed to be the part of personal responsibility. The trouble is, that it’s always somebody else’s responsibility.


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