Utah lawmakers rake in cash before Legislature begins
The start of the 2014 legislative session also brings with it a 45-day ban on fundraising for lawmakers, setting off a frenetic scramble for campaign dollars in the weeks before the gavel drops.
For Capitol lobbyists, that can mean an email inbox crammed with fundraising invitations and cramped hands from signing all the checks handed out at the various functions.
In the three weeks leading up to the session, there have been at least seven campaign fundraisers for Utah legislators.
That includes House Speaker Becky Lockhart's "Bluegrass & BBQ" event held at Noah's reception center in South Jordan on Jan. 21. Tickets for the event started at $750, with sponsorships for the event running up to $10,000.
Perhaps more remarkable: Lockhart has said publicly she isn't running for re-election.
"My colleagues have been very supportive of me as speaker and I've enjoyed going around the state," Lockhart said, "and I look forward to helping my colleagues and other representatives in the next election cycle."
Lockhart could also use the money if, for example, she decided to run for governor in 2016.
"It could also be used to donate to other people's campaigns," she said. "It could be used for outreach efforts. It could be used as I travel as speaker of the House."
Even the Legislature's newest member, Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, who replaced Rep. Derek Brown earlier this month, had a fundraiser one sponsored by House Majority Whip Greg Hughes on Thursday evening.
Hughes, R-Draper, held a fundraiser of his own earlier this month, as well.
The Senate Republican caucus held its annual leadership breakfast Jan. 21, with tables starting at $1,500 for four people and running up to $10,000 for two tables of eight. A VIP reception was also held for those who contributed more than $3,500.
Senate Democrats had their annual fundraiser a week earlier, as well.
Lockhart said there is a narrow window for legislators to squeeze in their fundraising between the holidays and the start of the session. Campaign season officially starts with the filing period, which opens right after the session ends.
"This isn't out of the norm by any means," she said.