Monday, December 13, 2004

Utah's Special Interests Have the Floor

If money equals speech, as lapdogs to rich/corporate America like to argue, special interests in Utah are screaming.

As Lee Davidson and Bob Bernick Jr. report in the Deseret Morning News, special interests provided $4 of every $5 raised by all legislators in their last winning campaigns; twelve of every thirteen Utah legislators collected at least half their campaign money from special interests, and most far more than that -- some nineteen legislators received all their money from special interests.

Even worse, only one of Utah's 104 legislators received a majority of his money from residents of his own district. Incoming House Majority Leader Jeff Alexander didn't collect a penny from his constituents. "I just didn't need to," he said.

For the article, special interests were defined as:
corporations and their officers, trade and union associations, lobbyists and others with agendas at the Capitol. Political party PACs that give money to candidates were also included because the PACs in turn receive most of their money from special interests.

To be sure, most citizens are likely to favor some agenda from their representatives in government, but a quick look at the top contributors and top contributing industries shows that it's not Mr. Smith that's going to Salt Lake City - it's Utah's bankers, realtors, and lobbyists.
A significant part of the equation which has led to these groups' dominance over the Utah statehouse are the state's lack of contribution limits and lack of a ban on corporate contributions.
If the citizens of Utah want to take their government back, those two areas are a good place to start. If the opinions of the Governor-elect and Lieutenant Governor are any indication, they should expect a stiff fight.

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