Utah even has a website devoted to transparency of state and local government finances.
It seems, though, that that era of transparency is over. In fact, the last thing the state Elections Office’s website for finding corporate donations is, is user-friendly.
Three years ago the Legislature made a barely noticed tweak to Utah’s election law that exempted corporations from filing political disclosure statements.
Now, in order to find what a corporation donated, you need to download a spreadsheet of all political contributions for the year, cross-reference names and companies to determine what companies gave to each individual legislator and add them all up.
Most Utahns do not know how to go looking for such information, and the rest would stop at the word “spreadsheet.”
Three years ago, you could go to the lieutenant governor’s website and click once to find a company’s disclosure statement.
Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, who sponsored the bill in 2015, argues that before the law, there was a “redundancy” because individual legislators “have to disclose who [they] get donations from.”
He argues that the information is already there.
The Director of Elections, Justin Lee, similarly argues that the purpose of the change was to not “force double recording from entities because it’s already being reported somewhere else.”
Except that it isn’t double reporting because a company would only be reporting once. As it is, companies aren't reporting at all.
The fact that an individual legislator reports a donation from EnergySolutions (the Legislature’s largest donor) does not mean that having EnergySolutions also report its donation, along with its other donations, is redundant information.
It means that it’s easily accessible. And transparent.
The goal should be more transparency, not less.
The Legislature still requires labor unions, political issues committees and political action committees to file disclosure reports, even though that information is also available on individual legislators’ reports.
Not all companies have stopped filing disclosure statements. But EnergySolutions has, as well as Pfizer Inc., SelectHealth and Maverik. Drugs, health care and energy. Those are important issues in today’s Legislature.
According to the lt. gov.’s website, companies “can make unlimited expenditures for political purposes or political issues in Utah.” Requiring companies to report donations, so that taxpayers can find that information quickly and easily, is the least they can do.
The Legislature should not be excluding friends and donors from transparency fundamentals.