The Trib has an editorial decrying Utah’s campaign finance laws. I happen to agree with their position, but I don’t feel like the public has reacted with anything beyond apathy.
During the last election cycle, a handful of candidate were accused (some, rightfully so, IMNSHO) of being a bit too cozy with certain contributors. In every case, the incumbent was re-elected, often with wide margins. Campaign finance may be broken, but the public doesn’t care.
[Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy] member Bruce Hough contends that campaign contributions are a form of free speech and therefore should not be restricted. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed in a 2000 decision upholding state limits on contributions. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens, said “money is property; it is not speech.”
And Utah candidates are raking in the property, with the big bucks coming in big chunks, primarily from corporations and political action committees. Five-figure donations are common.
It wouldn’t happen in most states. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Utah is one of just six states that allow unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for state offices. And it’s one of just 13 states that place no limits on donations to political parties and political action committees. That has to change.
Commissioner Hough, a Republican national committeeman, also says that transparency — the complete and speedy disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures — will keep lawmakers honest. But according to a 2009 study by The Center for Public Integrity, Utah is also failing in that regard. The state’s campaign disclosure laws garnered a grade of F, ranking 47th in the class.
Salt Lake Tribune, Lawmakers for sale: Campaign contribution caps needed