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Op-ed: Cross-party effort needed to keep money from poisoning politics

By Kirsten Park and Rachael Sweeten

First Published Aug 29 2014 05:05 pm • Last Updated Aug 29 2014 05:05 pm

Utah is one of only four states in the country allowing unlimited campaign contributions from unlimited sources in statewide races. If reasonable limits were in place, the political landscape would be far different, and far less corrupt, than under Utah’s system of government for sale to the highest bidders.

Consider this glaring example: What would the attorney general’s race currently look like if contributions were limited to less than $3,000, as in U.S. House races? In fundraising, Charles Stormont would be leading Sean Reyes, the acting attorney general. Excluding five mega-donors to the Reyes campaign (one of them a PAC that has contributed an obscene $100,000), Reyes would have raised only $25,605 (42 percent from Utah), compared to $28,979 for Stormont (76 percent from Utah). Reyes has received contributions from 34 donors, while Stormont’s campaign has received contributions from 174 donors, more than five times the Reyes campaign.

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However, under Utah’s corruption-inducing campaign laws, Reyes is able to report $167,775 in campaign donations (more than half from one out-of-state source, a PAC financed almost entirely by large corporations). The lopsided campaign receipts convey the message that Reyes is clobbering Stormont and that anyone wanting to back the winner should contribute to Reyes when, in fact, Stormont has received far more Utah support and would be leading in fundraising if Utah had reasonable limits to prevent the kind of corruption that recently led to 21 felonies being charged, collectively, against two former Utah attorneys general.

Following the money trail today, in Utah and across the nation, reveals that donations from PACs, corporations, and extremely wealthy individuals are flowing to whichever party or candidate serves the interests of the biggest donors. Safeguarding long-term public interests will require all of us to set aside the team mentality of being a political party partisan and instead work together to restore greater democracy. Cooperation among members of all political parties, and those without any party affiliation, can restore ethics and voter power in our political process.

The local organization, Reclaim Our Republic, is a grassroots group of people identifying variously with the tea party, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Justice Party, the Libertarian Party and no party. We agree to disagree on many other issues, but we have joined together to focus on one core problem that is subversive to our constitutional republic. Our mission is to unite people across the political spectrum to eliminate the corrupting influence of money and ensure that government serves the public interest. We welcome the participation of all who are committed to help reclaim our republic from the oligarchs and plutocrats who now are in control, and from the elected officials who do their bidding.

Among our goals are to (1) achieve limits on the sources and amounts of contributions to races for state-wide offices; (2) ban gifts to elected officials from lobbyists and others seeking special access and favors (e.g. no more golf outings sponsored by oil and gas lobbyists or free Jazz seats paid for by those seeking special favors); (3) set reasonable limits on campaign contributions in state and county races; and (4) end the revolving door that permits elected officials to cash in on their influence by shifting from elected official to paid lobbyist.

Through cohesive, persistent, aggressive grassroots action by people who will not allow partisanship to deter their engaged citizenship, we can each help ensure that government serves the people, not simply those who have become so accustomed to buying their way with our government.

Kirsten Park and Rachael Sweeten are volunteers for "Reclaim Our Republic," www.facebook.com/ReclaimOurRepublic




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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