Rocky Anderson

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Rocky Anderson
Rocky Anderson at MLK cropped.jpg
Anderson in 2011
33rd Mayor of Salt Lake City
In office
January 3, 2000 – January 7, 2008
Preceded byDeedee Corradini
Succeeded byRalph Becker
Personal details
Ross Carl Anderson

(1951-09-09) September 9, 1951 (age 70)
Logan, Utah, U.S.
Political partyJustice (2011–present)
Other political
Democratic (1999–2011)
EducationUniversity of Utah (BA)
George Washington University (JD)

Ross Carl "Rocky" Anderson (born September 9, 1951) is an American attorney, activist, and politician. He served two terms as the 33rd mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah from 2000 to 2008. He is the executive director of High Road for Human Rights and a founding member of the Justice Party.[1]

Prior to serving as Mayor, he practiced law for 21 years in Salt Lake City, during which time he was listed in Best Lawyers in America, was rated A-V by Martindale-Hubbell, served as chair of the Utah State Bar Litigation Section[2] and was editor-in-chief of, and a contributor to, Voir Dire legal journal.[3]

As mayor, Anderson was an advocate of several national and international causes, including climate protection, immigration reform, restorative criminal justice, LGBT rights, and an end to the "War on Drugs". Before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Anderson was a leading opponent of the invasion and occupation.

Anderson was named by Business Week as one of the top-twenty activists in the world on climate change.[4] He was a member of the Newsweek Global Environmental Leadership Advisory Board[5] and was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the top-ten straight advocates in the United States for LGBT equality.[6] He has received numerous awards for his work, including the EPA Climate Protection Award,[7] the Sierra Club Distinguished Service Award,[8] the Respect the Earth Planet Defender Award, the National Association of Hispanic Publications Presidential Award,[9] The Drug Policy Alliance Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award,[10] the Progressive Democrats of America Spine Award,[11] the League of United Latin American Citizens Profile in Courage Award,[12] the Bill of Rights Defense Committee Patriot Award,[13] the Code Pink (Salt Lake City) Pink Star honor, the Morehouse College Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award, and the World Leadership Award for environmental programs.[14]

Formerly a member of the Democratic Party, Anderson expressed his disappointment with that party in 2011,[15] stating, "The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper. It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party."[16]

Anderson announced his intention to run for president in 2012 as a candidate for the newly-formed Justice Party.[17] He announced on December 14, 2012, that he would not be running for U.S. Representative in 2014, or for U.S. President again in 2016.[18] He subsequently endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Early life and education[edit]

Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson was born in Logan, Utah, one of three children of Roy and Grace Anderson.[19] His parents both worked at Anderson Lumber Company, a local lumber yard founded by Rocky's great-grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant carpenter who had converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[19]

Though Anderson is not a Mormon, he was raised as one and was a practicing member of the LDS Church in Logan.[20] However, he has described his disagreement with certain doctrines of the LDS Church, particularly the denial prior to 1978 of the priesthood and hence temple ceremonies to men of black African descent (see Black people and Mormonism). Anderson also expresses disagreement with what he describes as the LDS teaching of personal moral abdication through obedience to people in positions of authority.[21] Anderson believes in the principle of personal conscience and individual accountability, and considers what he sees as a call for blind obedience as being incompatible with that principle.[22]

Anderson studied ethics, political philosophy, and religious philosophy at the University of Utah.[23][24]

During high school, Anderson played lead guitar in a rock and roll band, the Viscounts, and worked at a cabinet and roof truss plant. He also shingled roofs during his high school years. After graduating from Ogden High School,[25] Anderson attended the University of Utah, during which time he served as Treasurer for Sigma Chi Fraternity[26] and worked at various jobs, including as a truck driver, a roofer, and a gas station manager. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy, graduating magna cum laude.[27] After reading existentialist literature and several works on ethics, religious philosophy, and political philosophy, he had a "powerful epiphany. We can't escape responsibility, there's no sitting out moral decisions, and whenever we refuse to stand up against wrongdoing we're actually supporting the status quo."[28]

He started graduate school in philosophy at the University of Utah, then traveled to Europe and lived and worked for a few months in Freiburg, Germany before returning to the United States to attend law school.[29] In 1978 Anderson graduated, with honors, from George Washington University Law School, earning his Juris Doctor.[30]


After graduating from the University of Utah, Anderson worked at several jobs. He built buck fences at a ranch in Wyoming, tended bar in Salt Lake City, drove a cab, waited tables at a restaurant, worked at a methadone clinic, typed trucking bills, and worked in construction.[31][32]

Upon graduation from law school, Anderson returned to Salt Lake City to practice law. He participated in several jury trials in federal and state courts and handled appeals before the Utah Court of Appeals, the Utah Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the District of Utah (in an appeal from Bankruptcy Court) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.[33] Anderson had an extremely diverse legal practice and represented plaintiffs in dozens of major cases.[34]

Anderson practiced law for twenty-one years in Salt Lake City, beginning as an associate with Berman & Giauque and later being a partner in Berman & Anderson; Hansen & Anderson; Anderson & Watkins; and Anderson & Karrenberg. He specialized in civil litigation in several areas of law, including antitrust, securities fraud, commercial, product liability, professional malpractice and civil rights. He often represented individuals suing corporations or government entities, including plaintiffs in the following cases:

  • Bradford v. Moench: A consumer rights lawsuit in which Anderson asserted a novel securities law theory and achieved, in a precedent-setting decision, broad protections for depositors in inadequately insured "thrift and loan" companies.[35]
  • Scott v. Hammock: A lawsuit in which Anderson represented a young woman who had been sexually abused by her adoptive father. During the case, Anderson challenged the right of confidentiality that the L.D.S Church had asserted regarding non-penitential communications by the defendant with his Mormon bishop.[36]
  • University of Utah Students Against Apartheid v. Peterson: A case in which plaintiffs successfully asserted their First Amendment rights to symbolic speech after the university administration ordered them to remove shanties used to protest the university's investments in South Africa. (Anderson filed an amicus brief for the ACLU in the case.)[37]
  • Armstrong v. McCotter: A civil rights case involving a young mentally ill man, Michael Valent, who, while incarcerated in prison, died from a pulmonary embolism after being strapped naked in a restraint chair for 16 hours solely because of conduct linked to his schizophrenia.[38]
  • Bott v. Deland: A civil rights case that established, for the first time, protections for the rights of incarcerated people under the Utah Constitution far broader than under the United States Constitution. In that case, the Utah Supreme Court agreed that financial damages, not limited by state statute, are available for violations of the protections provided for incarcerated people under the State Constitution.[39]
  • Regan v. Salt Lake County: A class action challenging invasive searches, including strip searches, of women held on minor violations at the Salt Lake County Jail.[40]
  • Prettyman v. Salt Lake City: A civil rights case involving the excessive use of force by police, resulting in the breaking of a rod in the plaintiff's back.[41]
  • Hale v. Loader: A lawsuit involving sexual abuse of a female prison inmate by prison personnel.[citation needed]
  • Harding v. Walles: A civil rights case involving the sexual abuse of a male prison inmate by a prison guard.[42]

Anderson helped to spearhead the reform of Utah's child custody laws.[43] He worked to institute a program to help those who do not qualify for assistance through Legal Aid or Legal Services, but who are unable to afford to pay in full for legal representation.[44] Anderson served as Chair of the Litigation Section of the Utah State Bar Association[45] (when the Litigation Section was recognized by the Utah Bar Association as the Section of the Year[46]), and as president of Anderson and Karrenberg, a Salt Lake City law firm.[47]

When he was practicing law, Anderson was affiliated with several non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting civil rights, providing educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged children, improving the penal and criminal justice systems, and strengthening legislative ethics. He served as president of the boards of the ACLU of Utah,[48] Guadalupe Schools,[49] and Citizens for Penal Reform, which he founded.[49] He served as a board member of several other community-based, non-profit organizations, including Planned Parenthood Association of Utah[50] and Utah Common Cause.[51] On behalf of Common Cause, Anderson lobbied for stronger legislation pertaining to ethical conduct by elected officials, as well as for campaign finance reform.[citation needed]

While he was practicing law, Anderson opposed the Reagan Administration's efforts to overthrow the government in Nicaragua and some of the Administration's other policies relating to Latin America. He organized two trips to Nicaragua for dozens of Utahns for them to see the country first hand.[52]

Moved by the suffering of the friends and family members of several women who had been murdered in the Salt Lake City area, but whose killings Salt Lake City police detectives had failed to solve, Anderson worked pro bono for many months, reviewing documents and locating and interviewing witnesses. His work, together with the efforts of others, led to the eventual grand jury indictment and conviction of a man for one of the murders.[53]

1996 congressional campaign[edit]

After winning a contentious primary election against Kelly Atkinson by a margin of 11%,[54] Anderson ran for Congress as the Democratic nominee in Utah's 2nd congressional district in 1996 against Republican Merrill Cook.[55] Without any financial help from the Democratic Party (some local Democratic leaders viewed Anderson as being too liberal because of his support of the ACLU, his opposition to U.S. policy toward Nicaragua in the 1980s, and his opposition to the death penalty[56]), he garnered over 100,000 votes in the district.[57] Anderson lost the 1996 race to Merrill Cook by 29,680 votes, achieving 37 percent of the ballots cast versus Cook's 60 percent.

Mayor of Salt Lake City[edit]

Anderson ran for Mayor of Salt Lake City in 1999, defeating 10 other candidates in the primary campaign, before winning 60% of the vote in the general election against opponent Stuart Reid.[58] He won re-election by a 7% margin against Frank R. Pignanelli in 2003.[59]

Anderson's two terms in office were extremely eventful, with Anderson playing a leading role in hosting the 2002 Winter Olympic Games;[60] He organized and co-hosted dozens of mayors for three consecutive years at the Sundance Summit.[61] He also founded the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival, as well as providing national and international leadership regarding climate protection. He conducted a successful national campaign to require that airports across the country screen all checked luggage,[62] expanded the area's light rail system,[63] significantly expanded protected open space,[64] implemented an innovative and highly successful Restorative justice program[65] and created a city wide after-school and summer youth program.[66]

Many of Anderson's achievements were described in his State of the City addresses[67] and listed in a document provided to the public shortly before he left office.[68]

State Senator Chris Buttars of West Jordan publicly denounced former Mayor Rocky Anderson for having "attracted the entire gay community to come and live in Salt Lake County" after a Dan Jones poll indicated strong support for allowing domestic partnerships. In the 2004 election, 43% of the city population voted against banning same-sex marriage, in agreement with Mayor Anderson.[69]

Anderson chose not to run for a third term to be able to push for reforms of U.S. human rights policies and practices through grassroots organizing.[70]

Environmental and climate protection programs[edit]

Anderson addressing a gathering on global warming awareness.

Considered perhaps the "greenest" mayor in the United States,[71] Anderson gained international renown for his Salt Lake City Green Program[72] – a comprehensive effort to improve sustainability and reduce the City's environmental footprint – which achieved a 31% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations in just 3 years. Elements of the program, which Anderson described as covering "everything from dog waste to nuclear waste", included initiatives to improve the efficiency of the City's fleet and use of electricity, measures to make Salt Lake City more bicycle-and pedestrian-friendly, and co-generation plants at the City's landfill and wastewater treatment facilities that recapture methane to generate electricity.[73]

As part of the Salt Lake City Green program, Anderson committed Salt Lake City to the Kyoto Protocol goals in 2002.[74] He mandated that all city buildings use energy-efficient light bulbs and replace SUVs in the city fleet with high-efficiency, alternative-fuel vehicles.[75] Anderson almost doubled the city's recycling capacity in one year.[75] The City surpassed its Kyoto goals in 2006, seven years ahead of schedule.[73]

In 2003, Anderson received the Climate Protection Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency,[76] and the Sierra Club acknowledged his environmental work with its Distinguished Service Award.[8] In November 2005, the Salt Lake City Green program led to Salt Lake City receiving the World Leadership Award for environmental programs, presented by the World Leadership Forum in London.[77]

Anderson exemplified "green living" through personal example, including xeriscaping his entire yard,[78] installing solar panels at his home, recycling all recyclable materials, and using cold-water detergent, fluorescent bulbs, thermostat timers and a natural gas-powered car.[79]

While serving as mayor, Anderson informed and inspired other municipal officials about the importance of educating constituents about climate change and of taking measures to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[80]

For three consecutive years, he organized and co-hosted, with Robert Redford and ICLEI, The Sundance Summit: A Mayors Gathering on Climate Protection, attended by dozens of mayors from throughout the United States. At the Sundance Summit, mayors learned the science of climate change, how to communicate regarding the causes, consequences, and solutions to climate change, and best practices in cities implementing ground-breaking climate protection practices.[81]

Anderson also spoke on the subject of the climate crisis at side meetings at United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings in New Delhi, Buenos Aires and Bali, and at conferences in Sweden, Australia and across the United States.[82]

During Anderson's tenure as mayor, he created the "e2 Business" program, recruiting local businesses to implement major sustainability practices,[83] and led a national campaign against the environmentally and economically destructive use of plastic water bottles, which he has called "the greatest marketing scam of all time".[84]


Anderson is an ardent opponent of tobacco use, and has supported legislative measures to discourage smoking and to tax tobacco products.[85]

Ethnic minority issues communities[edit]

In December 2001, state and federal officials organized a raid at the Salt Lake City Airport to enforce immigration laws against undocumented employees, who were arrested, imprisoned and fired.[86] In response, Anderson created the Family to Family program, which made it possible for Salt Lake City families to provide direct emotional and financial assistance to the airport workers and their families, while gaining a better understanding of the plight of immigrants.[12] Additionally, the Mayor spearheaded a challenge to English-only legislation in Utah in 2000,[87] and later spoke at large demonstrations for comprehensive immigration reform.[88]

Anderson received the League of United Latin American Citizens's first-ever "Profile in Courage" award,[12] as well as the National Association of Hispanic Publications' Presidential Award, in 2006.[89]

Anderson signed an executive order in 2000 implementing a full-fledged affirmative action program in City hiring.[90] This program led to historic levels of ethnic minority hiring and retention in City government.[91] The percentage of the City government's workforce that was drawn from the ethnic minority community increased more than 30% in seven years, and the number of senior City administrators from the ethnic minority community has increased by over 85% since 2000. Thirty-two percent of Anderson's appointments to City boards and commissions, and one-third of the staff in the Mayor's Office, were of individuals from ethnic minorities.[90]

Along with Jon Huntsman Sr., Anderson co-convened the Alliance for Unity, a non-partisan group of religious and community leaders working to build bridges between diverse people throughout Utah.[92]

2002 Winter Olympics[edit]

After working with Mitt Romney and leading Salt Lake City through the 2002 Winter Olympics, Anderson handed off the Olympic flag at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.[93] One of Anderson's key achievements was working effectively with the Utah State Legislature and Mitt Romney in making certain that public safety needs would be adequately financed. Romney later said, "I think a lot of people would look at (the Olympic funding deal) and say it was a minor miracle. [Rocky] was instrumental, key, in reaching a solution."[94]

Anderson endorsed Romney's subsequent 2002 gubernatorial bid in Massachusetts.[95] Romney later endorsed Anderson's 2003 mayoral re-election campaign.[96] Anderson has criticized Romney's changes in position on certain issues since he decided to run for president of the U.S.[97] "The Mitt Romney who ran for and served as governor of Massachusetts was a very different Mitt Romney than has been running for President of the United States ... the real Mitt Romney — the Mitt Romney we all knew and [who] served as governor of Massachusetts — was very reasonable, very moderate — he felt that Roe versus Wade should be the end of the debate on choice; supporter of stem cell research — he was not the right-winger that he seemed to be when he decided he would run for President of the United States."[98]

Crime and criminal justice[edit]

Anderson was a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition,[99] a bi-partisan group with the stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets". The Coalition was co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.[100]

Anderson restructured Salt Lake City's criminal justice system and, after reviewing the peer-reviewed literature indicating that DARE is ineffective in reducing drug use, discontinued the DARE program in Salt Lake City schools.[101] Instead, he supported the implementation of other programs — ATLAS and ATHENA — that have demonstrated some success.[102]

He called for an end to the failed "war on drugs" and for better drug prevention education, the implementation of harm reduction policies, and the availability of substance abuse treatment on demand. He successfully lobbied President Clinton to grant a commutation of a lengthy prison sentence imposed on a Salt Lake City man who had already served several years in a federal penitentiary for his first and only conviction for violating drug laws.[103]

In 2000, Anderson asked the Salt Lake City Police Department to end its participation in the DARE program. He told DARE officials: "I think your organization has been an absolute fraud on the people of this country ... For you to continue taking precious drug-prevention dollars when we have such a serious and, in some instances, growing addiction problem is unconscionable."[104]

Instead of pushing for more minor offenders to be sent to jail or prison, Anderson constructed innovative restorative justice programs, which earned him a nomination for a second World Leadership Award.[105] He implemented reforms to ensure that mental health courts would channel mentally ill criminals into mandatory treatment programs rather than putting them behind bars. People arrested on drug charges, or for prostitution or the solicitation of prostitutes (as well as several other types of offenses), were sent through a comprehensive course of counselling rather than automatically being handed criminal convictions and custodial sentences. The results were better, and the costs far lower, than with the traditional retributive approach.[106]


Anderson promulgated an administrative rule which stipulated that when it considered bids, the city should give preference to companies that paid a living wage to their employees. One Republican legislator called it the "Rocky loophole", and was intent on closing it. The Utah Legislature then passed a statute prohibiting cities from giving such preference.[107]

Establishing a reputation as a fiscal conservative, during the 1999–2007 period Anderson increased the balance of Salt Lake City's general reserve fund by more than 62%, from $20.3 million to $32.6 million.[108]

Opposition to the 2003 war in Iraq and human rights abuses[edit]

Described by Amy Goodman as "one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration and the Iraq war,"[109] Anderson was a leading opponent of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the U.S., both before and after the invasion, and was the only mayor of a major city to advocate the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.[110]

He often spoke out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and in favour of impeachment,[111] including at several large rallies and state and federal legislative hearings, in Salt Lake City;[112] Olympia, Washington;[113] New York;[114] and Washington, D.C.;[115] and on national television and radio programs hosted by Amy Goodman,[116] Bill O'Reilly,[117] Keith Olbermann,[118] and Tom Ashbrook.[119] He engaged in a live debate with Sean Hannity that focused on Iraq and impeachment.[120]

Rocky Anderson meets Andy Figorski, an Iraq war veteran and anti-war activist.

Call for the impeachment of President George W. Bush[edit]

Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN after an anti-war rally marking the fourth anniversary of the invasion and initial occupation of Iraq, Anderson advocated the impeachment of President George W. Bush, commenting:

This president, by engaging in such incredible abuses of power, breaches of trust with both the Congress and the American people, and misleading us into this tragic and unbelievable war, the violation of treaties, other international law, our constitution, our own domestic laws, and then his role in heinous human rights abuses; I think all of that together calls for impeachment.[121]

Anderson did not spare his criticism of the Democratic Party, saying:

The fact that anybody would say that impeachment is off the table when we have a president who has been so egregious in his violations of our constitution, a president who asserts a unitary executive power, that is absolutely chilling.[121]

In 2006, he expressed his view of the Democratic Party:

:But what do I have to say about the Democratic Party? I'm ashamed, really, of how little leadership there has been. There has been just tremendous timidity on the part of the party, generally, although there have been a handful of exceptions. But, you know, we had one member of the United States Senate vote against the PATRIOT Act, the blank check that was given by Congress to this president, I think in total abrogation of the role of Congress under separation of powers and under the power to make war, to declare war. They gave that away to a president that didn't have his facts straight and, I think, was manipulating the intelligence to sell this war.[122]

Anderson researched, wrote, produced, and narrated a major multimedia piece concerning the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as the case for impeachment.[123]

Human rights advocacy[edit]

After almost eight years as mayor of Salt Lake City, Anderson decided that he would not run for re-election, and that he would instead devote himself to educating, motivating, and mobilizing people to push elected officials and others to take action to prevent or stop major human rights abuses.[124]

Anderson has stressed the importance of people at the grassroots level advocating for progressive change, stating, "We keep expecting elected officials will do the right thing, and the fact is they never do unless they're pushed."[125]

In January 2008 he founded High Road for Human Rights, a non-profit organization set up to achieve major reforms of US human rights policies and practices through unique, coordinated and sustained grassroots activism that complements the work of other human rights organizations.[126]

The principle which underpins the organization is that politicians will do nothing unless they are pushed. High Road is a bottom-up, grassroots-based organization founded "to make it clear there will be short-term political costs for those who continue to ignore these kinds of problems ... Every time a congressperson or senator comes home and they hold a meeting, there [should be] a group there pushing on the same issues", according to Anderson.[127] High Road has a growing membership base and active local teams of people who meet and work together to bring about change.[128]

The organization has a broad-based membership, with an Advisory Committee composed of prominent human-rights, environmental and political activists, as well as artists, actors, and writers, including Ed Asner, Harry Belafonte, Lester Brown, Hillary Brown, Ben Cohen, Daniel Ellsberg, Ross Gelbspan, Susan Joy Hassol, Mark Hertsgaard, Mimi Kennedy, Paul Rogat Loeb, Edward Mazria, Bill McKibben, Yoko Ono, Gus Speth, Winnie Singh, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Elie Wiesel, and Terry Tempest Williams.[129] High Road for Human Rights primarily addresses five issues: torture and the undermining of the rule of law, genocide, slavery, the death penalty, and the human rights implications of the climate crisis.[130]

Anderson testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on September 25, 2008, concerning executive-branch abuses of power,[131] and spoke at rallies organized by High Road for Human Rights in which he called for accountability for torture.[132] He has also researched, written, produced, and narrated two multimedia pieces focusing on torture and the undermining of the rule of law.[133]

For his work on human rights matters during his tenure as Executive Director of High Road for Human Rights, Anderson received the Morehouse University Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's Patriot Award.[134]

Criticisms of President Obama and the Democratic Party[edit]

After President Obama's election, Anderson was critical of many of his policy positions and staff selections. He opposed Susan Rice, whom Obama appointed as United States ambassador to the United Nations. Anderson criticized Rice for "doing nothing" to stop the Rwandan genocide as a staff member of the United States National Security Council.[127] Anderson was also critical of the appointment by Obama of John Brennan as his counter-terrorism adviser because Brennan, as a member of the George W. Bush administration, had publicly supported wiretapping, "enhanced interrogation" and the "rendition" of war-on-terror suspects to offshore prisons beyond the reach of American law. Anderson also pointed to what he described as Obama's change of position after he received the Democratic presidential nomination on the question of immunity for telecom companies that cooperated with the Bush Administration's wiretapping program.[127]

Deeming himself to be "non-partisan" in his critiques of policy, Anderson has subsequently gone on to fiercely criticize the Obama Administration in numerous areas, alleging that in certain respects its record is worse than that of the Bush Administration. For instance, he has stated:

I don't know what people were expecting, all this hope and change nonsense ... There's no question that we're seeing a continuation [of the harm to], and even in some instances a worsening of our republic under this administration. The Obama administration has contended that no documents stamped as secret by a government agent should ever be allowed into evidence by our courts. That even goes beyond what the Bush Administration did.

Anderson has emphasized the apparent discrepancies between Obama's positions as a candidate for the 2008 presidency and the actions he has taken as president, believing that "President Obama has betrayed us in almost every single way from being a candidate to being the President of the United States."[135] Anderson has pointed to Obama's failure to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, refusing to prosecute what Anderson deems to be the "war criminals" of the Bush administration, continuing renditions, violating the War Power Clause of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution by committing military troops to Libya without congressional authorization, and continuing, and even expanding, the occupation in Afghanistan. He stated that Obama is "the least deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize."[135]

Concerning Obama's alleged betrayal of the rule of law, Anderson has commented:

The complacency that has allowed wars of aggression, wars of choice, we weren't forced into them, they were totally illegal wars under international law, the kinds of war crimes that took place, with people just saying, even our current president, 'Oh, let's put that behind us. Let's not call people to account. Let's not enforce our laws ..."If these people had robbed the gold bullion out of a government safe, would we just say, 'Let bygones be bygones; forget the rule of law?[136]

On August 11, 2011, major news media in Utah reported that Anderson had denounced the Democratic Party and had resigned his membership. Anderson wrote in a letter to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that "Until the Democratic Party shows some spine and draws a line in the sand — that an end to the tax breaks for the wealthy needs to be part of any debt/budget bill — please take my name off your list."[137] He added: "I'm done with the Democratic Party. As I said on Amy Goodman's show a couple years ago, I've put my 'Proud Democrat' coffee mug in storage. I think now I'll just throw it in the garbage and have done with it" and that "The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper. It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party."[138]

Anderson has stated that despite his earlier belief that the Bush Administration would be merely an "aberration" in the history of the US, "President Obama has institutionalized some of the worst abuses of the Bush Administration."[135]

2012 presidential campaign[edit]

On November 29, 2011, the Salt Lake Tribune quotes Anderson as saying, "I'll be announcing my candidacy," for the 2012 presidential nomination of a new national political party. This party was not named, though it was later reported to be called the Justice Party. Its formation is reported to have been discussed among Anderson; Margaret Flowers, a medical doctor and proponent of a single-payer health plan; Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the Occupy D.C. movement; and former U.S. Rep. John Anderson, who ran for president as an independent in the 1980 presidential election.[139][140]

Anderson formally accepted the 2012 presidential nomination of the Justice Party on January 13, 2012.[141] His running mate was Luis J. Rodriguez, a Chicano activist and writer from California.[142]

In March 2012, Anderson announced that he was seeking the presidential nomination of Americans Elect in addition to campaigning as the Justice party nominee.[143][144] The following May, Americans Elect announced that it would not run a presidential nominee in 2012.[145]

Anderson was nominated by the Natural Law Party in Michigan and appeared on the ballot under the party banner with running-mate Rodriguez.[146] He also sought the presidential nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party,[147] but withdrew his bid for that nomination in August 2012.[148] He received 43,018 votes, or 0.03 percent of the vote.[149] He was also the nominee of the Oregon Progressive Party and received 0.2% of the vote for President in Oregon.[150]


In August 2005, Anderson violated Salt Lake City policy when he used $634 in public funds to purchase meals and alcoholic beverages on two occasions for musicians who performed at the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival and for visiting mayors from throughout the country. The Deseret News published four consecutive front-page articles on the story, and portrayed the purchases as "bar tabs,".[151]

When interviewed in September 2005 by the Deseret Morning News, Anderson stated that he disagreed with the policy, asserting that the provision of hospitality to out-of-town visitors is an important mayoral function, and that exceptions to the policy had been made previously.[152] The policy was subsequently changed to allow appropriate purchases of food and alcohol when entertaining out-of-town guests. Mayor Anderson used his private funds to reimburse the City for expenditures incurred while entertaining visiting mayors.[153]

The Deseret News soon generated additional controversy with its coverage of an interview that Anderson gave to The Guardian newspaper in London. Leading with the headline, "LDS Church Not Taliban, Rocky says", the paper noted that Anderson had compared life in Utah to life under the Taliban.[154]

Anderson later said the comment, intended to be light-hearted, was not directed toward the state, its residents, or the LDS Church. Rather, he said, the comment was directed toward local media, particularly the Deseret Morning News, which had originally characterized his alcohol and food purchases at a local restaurant as "bar tabs", and which had run articles about the fact that a Salt Lake City Reads Together book selection contained profanity.[citation needed]

In October 2005, local politicians accused Anderson of improperly spending public money. This time the issue centered around travel to Italy connected with the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.[155] Anderson responded that the trip to Turin was to continue the longstanding Olympic tradition of delivering the Olympic message and did not cost Utah taxpayers any money. The Salt Lake City District Attorney cleared Anderson of any wrongdoing in the case.[citation needed]

On June 12, 2007, following a meeting in a City Council workroom, Anderson was involved in a physical and verbal confrontation with a real-estate developer Dell Loy Hansen. After challenging Anderson to speak to him, Hansen reportedly knocked Anderson off-balance. Anderson responded by threatening to "kick [Hansen's] ass."[156] On June 18, a spokesman for Anderson indicated that the possibility of legal action against Hansen was being explored.[157] It has since been determined that no charges will be filed.[158]

Personal life[edit]

Though Anderson has acknowledged the importance of some fundamental moral lessons he learned as a young member of the LDS Church, and has described the value he places on his Mormon heritage,[159] he has spoken out about the LDS Church's alleged discrimination against gays and lesbians,[160] and written on this issue.[161] He appeared in the film, 8: The Mormon Proposition.[162]


  1. ^ "High Road for Human Rights". High Road for Human Rights. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
  2. ^ "S.L. Attorney to join 2nd District race", Deseret News
  3. ^ Ross C. Anderson, "Changes in Federal Discovery Rules: A Legacy of Chaos, Ineffectiveness, and Diversion from Real Solutions,"", VoirDire, Winter 1998, p. 11.
  4. ^ Article in Business Week "Individual Achievers: Individuals who stand out for their efforts to cut gases that cause global warming", December 11, 2005.
  5. ^ "Rocky is selected to advise Newsweek" Deseret News
  6. ^ HRC names the “Top 10″ straight advocates of LGBT equality,; accessed January 22, 2017.
  7. ^ "Exceptional Commitment: 1998–2009 Climate Protection Award Winners", United States Environmental Protection Agency website; accessed January 22, 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Sierra Club to give award to Rocky",; accessed January 22, 2017.
  9. ^ "Hispanic Group gives Anderson an Award" Deseret News; accessed January 22, 2017.
  10. ^ "Rocky gets award for drug policy reform", The Salt Lake Tribune; accessed January 22, 2017.
  11. ^ Bill Moyers and Barbara Ruth "Backbone Campaign Recognizes Two Progressive Heroes"Archived November 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
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External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Salt Lake City
January 3, 2000 – January 7, 2008
Succeeded by