Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Utah majority leader and lobbyists vacation together abroad
Ethics » Lawmaker Brad Dee says no political talk allowed during recent trip to Europe.
First Published May 24 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated May 24 2013 01:01 am

Utah House Majority Leader Brad Dee returned this week from a trip to Europe that included an eight-day Rhine River cruise with three prominent Capitol Hill lobbyists and their spouses.

While the trip is not a first, and does not appear to violate legislative ethics rules, since the couples paid their own way on the vacation, experts say it raises questions about perception and propriety.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"I totally understand that these people can be friends. The problem is the perception of this is problematic on so many levels," said Thad Hall, a political scientist at the University of Utah.

Along with Dee, R-Ogden, and his wife, Marsha, were Rob Jolley, Dave Stewart and former House Speaker Greg Curtis, who combined represent more than six dozen clients.

Several of those clients were cities that received millions in earmarks for road construction projects through a major bill Dee sponsored the past two years.

The four couples left for Europe on Mother’s Day and floated down the Rhine River, making stops along the way in the Swiss and French Alps for dining, hiking, shopping and touring castles in the historic mountain towns. They returned Wednesday.

Dee said the couples were meticulous about dividing up the bill, making sure each paid their own share, and he offered to show the receipts to anyone interested.

Good friends » "They’re very good friends. I can guarantee that we never talked politics, because we’re not involved in legislation right now. I wouldn’t allow for any discussions of the day. No lobbying took place. I was with my spouse. That was just the way it is," Dee said.

"I’m not going to hide from the fact that the former speaker of the House went on to become a lobbyist, but I don’t know how I can say, ‘I can’t be friends with you anymore,’ " Dee said.

story continues below
story continues below

Curtis, who served in the Legislature until 2009, said he and his wife have been friends with the Dees for 15 years. They own homes in St. George and coordinate their trips and activities in southern Utah to spend time together.

"We set the parameters of our relationship such that Brad understands the rules and what they are," Curtis said. "I’m not going to let someone’s definition of appropriate or inappropriate determine who my friends are and who I can socialize with."

Jolley said it’s not uncommon for legislators and lobbyists to develop relationships that extend outside of the Capitol.

"It isn’t the first time you’ve had legislators and lobbyists vacation together, probably won’t be the last either," he said.

Indeed, in 2007, then-Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo, and current House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, and their spouses spent two weeks in a villa in Italy with lobbyist Paul Rogers.

All parties said at the time they were close personal friends and each paid their own way on the trip.

Appearances » "I understand how people could wonder about it, but here in Utah where the relationship with lobbyists and legislators is so close because we have a part-time Legislature, they really have no staff … there are going to be some legislators you click with and some you don’t," Jolley said.

Hall said there are two legitimate sides to the issue.

People become friends, and it doesn’t make sense for them to stop being friends because one of them happens to be a lobbyist.

"The flip side, of course, is even if what I said is true, it looks really bad," Hall said. "As a legislator and even as a lobbyist, they should want to look like they’re not engaging in activities that are violating the spirit or the letter of the law."

Next Page >

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
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.