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Op-ed: Don’t let memory of Swallow pass without campaign reform

By Blaine L. Carlton

First Published Mar 08 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 08 2014 01:01 am

The Swallow fiasco has raised numerous concerns regarding campaign disclosure issues. It is particularly troubling that Swallow and his campaign advisers used various entities to keep the public from knowing that the payday lending industry was supporting his campaign.

It is also troubling that former Rep. Brad Daw was targeted because he tried to pass legislation regulating the payday lending industry. Both the investigator hired by the lieutenant governor and the investigator hired by the House of Representatives uncovered serious problems with campaign disclosures Swallow failed to make.

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The Utah Democratic Lawyers Council calls upon the Legislature in this current legislative session to make changes to Utah’s campaign disclosure and finance laws to begin the process of limiting the corrupting influence of excessive money in the political process.

The Legislature should impose strict limits on campaign contributions. A Salt Lake Tribune poll found that 69 percent of Utahns favor limitations on campaign contributions. A majority of states have adopted campaign limitations.

We support HB297 sponsored by Rep. Brian King and HB237 sponsored by Rep. Kraig Powell to place reasonable contribution limits on political action committees, corporations, labor organizations, and individuals.

Candidates running for state and local offices should be required to itemize campaign expenses charged on credit cards. Rep. Patrice Arent is working to see that this requirement is written into our election disclosure laws as a way of disclosing to the public where campaign contributions go and what their origins are.

The time frame for disclosure reporting should be shortened, and the penalties imposed for violating our campaign election laws should be strengthened. We support the efforts of Senator Stuart Reid in this regard.

As further information comes to light regarding the Swallow investigation, there will undoubtedly be other campaign reform proposals which should be seriously considered by the Legislature.

But if the governor and the Legislature are serious about preventing corruption in state politics, then they must begin to address the issue head-on in this current legislative session. The citizens of the state demand that legislative action be taken now.

Blaine L. Carlton is president of the Utah Democratic Lawyers Council.

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