Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Scott Sommerdorf l Tribune file photo) Rep. Derek Brown, R-Cottonwood Heights
Did Utah legislators violate rule on contributions?
First Published Mar 29 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated May 31 2013 11:38 pm

An apparent violation of a law banning legislators from raising money during the session has state election officials in a quandary.

After the legislative session ended March 14, the Thomas Paine Common Sense PAC — which is run by two House members and a former representative — filed a report showing 10 contributions totaling $1,975 coming during the 45-day session.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Under a Utah law that prohibits giving money to legislators or a PAC "controlled" by legislators during the session, the donors could be charged with a class A misdemeanor.

In this instance, however, all 10 of the donors are legislators, who were kicking in money to hire a research assistant to help them analyze and study the hundreds of bills introduced during the session.

"There’s no willful attempt to undermine the law. Otherwise why would you have reported contributions during the session?" said Rep. Derek Brown, R-Cottonwood Heights, one of the PAC’s two primary officers.

If the group had wanted to, Brown said, it could have pooled its resources without filing, since it wasn’t a campaign-related expense.

"The reason we [formed a PAC] was just to make it transparent," he said. "The irony, of course, is if we had been less transparent, this wouldn’t have been an issue."

Mark Thomas, the state elections administrator, said the office is looking into the filing, but criminal charges are not likely.

"Our options are we could do an administrative penalty" of up to $1,000, Thomas said. "We could just send a letter out reminding them to be careful of the law. Or we could send it over to the attorney general and say that the statute indicates a class A misdemeanor … which I’d be surprised if anyone picks that up."

Thomas said three of the legislators who were reported as having given money during the session said they wrote their checks before the session, but seven appear to fall inside the 45-day blackout.


story continues below
story continues below

The group made the same violation in its 2012 filing, but it was not caught by the lieutenant governor’s office at the time. Thomas said it marks the first time he can recall a violation of the ban on contributions during the session.

The in-session prohibition is among the issues legislators are asked about in an ethics quiz they must complete each session.

The Thomas Paine Common Sense PAC was set up in 2012 — the name a gentle poke at the more bellicose Patrick Henry Caucus — after several freshman legislators were frustrated a year earlier with their inability to keep up with the legislation moving in the final days of the session.

Brown said they hired a research assistant to drill down on certain bills, contact the parties that might be affected and learn more about the genesis and practical impacts of legislation.

"Truly the intent was … to do a better job of vetting these bills and really having some good discussion, void of lobbyists who, maybe they’re being honest or maybe they’re not," said David Butterfield, a former Logan House member who helped start the effort.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke



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

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.