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State agrees to pay legal fees over unconstitutional campaign law

First Published      Last Updated Aug 11 2016 05:13 pm


Donor disclosure » Groups only have to reveal those whose ‘major purpose’ is political advocacy.

Utah taxpayers will be on the hook for $125,000 in legal fees after a law aimed at forcing secretive political groups to disclose information about who funded them was deemed unconstitutional.

Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, then House majority whip and now House speaker, sponsored the legislation in 2013, trying to force groups like the shadowy nonprofit Proper Role of Government Education Association that had targeted and defeated Orem Rep. Brad Daw to reveal where their money was coming from.

The group had been funded by payday-lending companies intent on beating Daw because he had sponsored legislation cracking down on the industry.




But the Utah Taxpayers Association and Libertas Institute sued, saying that they were engaged in constitutionally protected political speech and forcing them to disclose donors would be an unjust infringement on that speech.

The plaintiffs argued that the law was overly broad and, if the law stood, they would be prohibited from weighing in on ballot questions or possible initiatives unless they disclosed all their donors.

The state ultimately capitulated, entering into an agreement last month that the disclosure requirements were unconstitutional unless related to political entities whose "major purpose" is political advocacy.

The state agreed not to prosecute groups for violating the law and to pay the legal fees for the lawyers with the Alexandria, Va.-based Center for Competitive Politics who represented the plaintiffs.

On Tuesday, those attorneys and Parker Douglas, the federal solicitor for the Utah attorney general, agreed that the state would pay $125,000 for the legal costs.

Douglas' boss, Attorney General Sean Reyes, was among those who was attacked by the Proper Role of Government groups, which were run by the political consultant working for John Swallow, Reyes' opponent in the 2012 GOP race for attorney general.

Swallow won but was forced to resign amid a sweeping corruption probe.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

 

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