Utah Supreme Court hears arguments on campaign fundraising

Published March 6, 2012 3:42 pm
Court• Supreme Court considers claims filed by former candidate for Utah lieutenant governor Steve Maxfield.
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A former candidate for Utah lieutenant governor on Tuesday argued to the state's high court that candidates can't lawfully use both a political action committee and a personal campaign account to raise money.

Steve Maxfield, who ran as an independent in the 2010 special election won by Gov. Gary Herbert, argued that the current governor broke campaign finance laws and should be ousted from his position.

Maxfield filed a petition in 4th District Court in 2010 alleging that Herbert broke law that stipulates candidates running for political office and their employees can only raise funds and spend money on elections through campaign accounts. State law, however, also allows political action committees to raise and spend money for "political purposes," defined as the attempt to influence voters for or against candidates for public office.

Herbert used a political action committee and a personal campaign account, which Maxfield argued is illegal. Utah political candidates commonly use political action committees rather than traditional officeholder or campaign accounts. "PACs,"as they are referred to, have fewer reporting requirements than traditional campaign accounts —which leaves voters in the dark on who is giving how much money to candidates, Maxfield argued.

"The top-elected [officials] are charged with enforcing election law and not violating it," Maxfield said.

David J. Jordan, told the high court that Maxfield's views of the law are flawed and his case has no merit. The state has a mechanism in place for financial disclosure, which Herbert followed, he said.

Jordan argued that Maxfield's motive is trying to get Herbert removed so he can propel himself into office. Maxfield and his running mate, Farley Anderson, only received 2 percent of the vote in 2010. Herbert received more than 60 percent.

"He thinks he found a "gotcha" in the statute that he can knock out [his opponents]," Jordan said.

The high court took the arguments under advisement and will issue an opinion later.


Twitter: @mrogers_trib

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