Campaign finance loopholes closed this year

craig hallRepresentative Craig Hall had a couple of great bills this year. One of them was HB246, officially titled “Government Ethics Revision,” which dealt with reporting deadlines and lobbyists.

Whether through deliberate intentions, neglect or ignorance, some candidates were not filing reports on time – and there were no consequences. Representative Hall, an advocate for ethics, openness and transparency, ran a bill to close that loophole.

Because of HB246, members of the public can more readily access campaign contribution information with a new button on the legislative website. (Right now, you can go to the current disclosure website and click on any candidate whose financial donations you wish to peruse.)

Candidates must also report donations within 3 business days if they are within the 30 day reporting period before a contested election. No more holding on to donations until after an election, just so people can’t see one’s donors.

There are also some teeth to the bill. Candidates are fined $50 or 15% of the contribution being reported past the deadline, whether in dollars or in kind. That money goes to the general fund.

There is also increased transparency into the lobbyists on the Hill. They are now required to:
*Notify legislators which entities they representing as they begin communicating about a bill or issue.
*Wear name tags at the Capitol, at least 18-point font.

This bill was one of the most substantive pieces of legislation dealing with campaign finance in several years. The Lt Governor’s office sent a personal letter to Rep Hall thanking him for the time and effort he put into the bill and in collaboration with the Lt Governor’s office. The letter said in part:

Your work on the campaign financial disclosures bill was a huge step forward in making sure we have a more closely-regulated disclosures system.

The ceremonial bill signing for this and the election law reforms sponsored by Rep Jim Dunnigan will be in the Gold Room at the Capitol on Friday, May 16 at 3:20 pm.

Comments

  1. Compared to the meaningful provisions in the Utahn’s for Ethical Government proposal that were brushed aside this is too little too late. Most of what the legislature has passed in this area has been “window dressing” compared to what really needs to be done to clean up campaign finance problems in this state, the most obvious of which is the lack of contribution limits in state contests.

  2. JBT, I don’t know that I think UEG’s proposal is the wisest path to go…in fact, it’s far from it. I’d hardly call this window dressing. Given that this piece covers lobbyists, has substantial penalties for failure to comply, and requires faster reporting, I think this is a significant step and meritorious.

  3. Below are the meaningful and much needed campaign finance reform proposals put forth by the UEG. Fact: Utah is one of only 4 states that do not have a limit on campaign contributions. Fact: Utah legislators use their own campaign money to buy influence and power in the legislature by giving it to other legislators in return for their allegiance and support. Fact: Lobbyists representing groups and corporations that have given large contributions get more face time with legislators than the individual citizens they were elected to represent. Fact: The legislature did pass bills addressing #5 and #6 below, but they were watered down compared to the UEG proposals.

    1. Legislators and legislative candidates are prohibited from giving monies from their own campaign accounts to other campaign accounts or accepting money from others’ campaign accounts.

    2. Legislators and legislative candidates are prohibited from accepting campaign contributions from corporations, labor unions, nonprofit associations.

    3. Legislators and legislative candidates are prohibited from accepting contributions that exceed $2500 per individual and $5,000 per political action committee.

    4. Legislators and legislative candidates shall NOT use monies from their campaign accounts for personal use.

    5. A sitting legislator may not accept a gift from a paid lobbyist (except for light refreshments of negligible value).

    6. Each legislator shall file a detailed financial disclosure form (revealing potential conflicts of interest) with the Commission each year: Sources of spousal income above $3,000 are included in the disclosure.

  4. Ronald D. Hunt says:

    JBT,

    Point 5, is meaningless in Utah, It is still legal for a Legislator to be a paid lobbiest. As Utah has a “part time” legislature, which sounds nice but effectively means their is no limit or prohibition on the types of jobs a sitting legislature may occupy when they are not currently in a legislative session.

    Example, Senator Howard Stephenson is the head of the Utah Tax Payers association, a lobbiest group that is paid to lobby on behalf of Centurylink, comcast, and other large out of State business interests.

    • Of course the UEG initiative would have banned legislators from also serving also as a lobbyist while they are in office and for a period of two years once they have left the legislature. This was another much needed reform that was brushed aside by our self-serving legislators.

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