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Swallow scandal helped break logjam on ethics bills

No caps » Lawmakers still kill long-sought limits on campaign donations.

First Published Mar 14 2014 12:04 am • Last Updated Mar 14 2014 12:04 am

A flood of ethics bills passed the 2014 legislature, thanks to the scandals that toppled former Attorney General John Swallow. But some long-sought reforms — such as finally creating campaign-donation limits — again failed to pass.

The special committee that investigated Swallow suggested many reforms based on how it says Swallow gamed the system. Among them is a requirement that candidates can no longer report lump sums paid to political consultants or credit-card companies without detailing how the money was spent. The committee said Swallow did that to hide spending that voters would find offensive.

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Another reform requires candidates to disclose business partnerships and relationships for a year prior to filing for office. Swallow transferred holdings into his wife’s name the day he filed his disclosure as a way to hide conflicts of interest.

Other reforms create penalties for obstructing a legislative probe or for not disclosing donations in a timely manner. They create a process for civil enforcement of legislative subpoenas. Still, lawmakers killed bills that would have created donation limits. Utah is one of only four states without them. Supporters argued that would help ensurepoliticians are not beholden to large donors. Critics said it would hurt transparency.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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