A political attack ad accusing state Rep. Brad Daw of backing Obama-style health reform so angered the legislator that he and his colleagues voted unanimously to change state law to require PACs like the one that sent the piece to disclose donors more frequently.
The mailer was sent to voters in Daw’s Orem district by the Proper Role of Government Defense Fund, a political action committee run by Jason Powers, a prominent political consultant in the state. It also was sent to every legislator, which several lawmakers said they saw as a clear threat.
Daw and his colleagues were upset enough about the mail piece that they amended a campaign disclosure bill Thursday night before they adjourned to require PACs like Powers’ to report contributions every 30 days.
Daw said he believes the direct mail piece was retribution from payday lending companies for a bill he sponsored to impose new regulations on the industry. Powers has done work for the payday lenders in the past.
"The fact they sent it to my district and everyone in the Legislature indicates to me they’re trying to send a message: ‘Don’t mess with us. Stay away from payday lenders,’" Daw said.
He said there would be no other logical reason to send the ad, since he didn’t have an opponent when the mailer was sent — Republican Dana Layton has since filed to run against him — and there were no proposals to mandate health insurance coverage
But Powers said the mailer had nothing to do with payday lenders.
"That’s a weak attempt by Brad to try to twist it," Powers said.
Powers said he had heard that there might be legislation introduced next year, after the election, to impose an individual mandate in Utah. So he looked for an egregious example of recent health care mandates, found a bill that Daw sponsored in 2007, and decided to highlight it.
"This is [informing voters] of the bill he sponsored to impose mandates on Utahns to buy health insurance and if they don’t do it they get six months in jail. It has fines stronger than Obama’s," Powers said. "The intent was to say an insurance mandate bill at any level of government is not the proper role of government."
The mailer shows an altered picture of Daw and a black-and-white photo of President Barack Obama. Both are wearing surgical caps and the caption says both Daw and Obama support government-run health care.
The flip side says "Stop Brad Daw" and compares Daw’s 2007 bill, which didn’t make it out of a House committee, to Obama’s federal health reform.
The bill would have required Utahns to buy catastrophic health coverage, and would have imposed fines if they didn’t. Daw said he had the bill drafted as a precaution since, at the time, Gov. Jon Huntsman was considering an insurance mandate and Daw said he wanted to make it as narrow and minimal as possible.
Daw points out that he also co-sponsored legislation to opt out of federal health reform and sponsored a bill committing Utah to an interstate health compact this year, seeking to have Congress turn over control of health programs to the states.
"That kind of campaigning is very negative and I’m personally very disappointed that we’ve fallen into that here in Utah," said House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo.
Requiring PACs to disclose donors within 30 days would let the public know who’s behind future advertisements, Daw said. Currently, the PACs only have to report donors at the end of August and at the end of each year.
Powers has never reported any donors but said he would comply with whatever requirements are put into place. He said most of the money for the Daw ad came out of his own pocket.
"It just kind of makes you sick inside that someone could do … that," Daw said. "Eventually I realized this is so over the top and so vile that the vast majority are going to say this is ridiculous."
HB493, fifth substitute, awaits final action by Gov. Gary Herbert.
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