- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A proposal to require more disclosures in Utah election spending advanced in the Utah Legislature on Tuesday.

The bill, from Rep. Douglas Sagers, requires a person, group or entity to file a report when they independently spend $1,000 or more to advocate for the success or defeat of a candidate or ballot proposition.

The independent expenditure applies to spending that’s not coordinated with a candidate, a candidate’s committees or a political-issues committee.

The House Government Operations Standing Committee approved the bill 7-0 Tuesday morning. The measure now must be approved by the full House before it can be considered by the Senate.

Sagers, R-Tooele, said he brought the bill because the public has a right to know who is spending money on campaigns.

“If somebody sends out a flyer in the last two days before the election, you don’t have time to react. Campaigns can be won or lost on that, and the public’s misinformed,” he said after the committee approved the bill. “We just need sunshine out there to know what’s going on - who made what contribution and why.”

Beyond disclosing spending more than $1,000, Sagers‘ bill would require reports to include details about what the money was targeting and how it was used.

Violations would result in a $100 fine for individuals and $1,000 for groups or entities.

Sagers said he’s been thinking about the issue for several years, but hopes there will be support among lawmakers following a House committee’s investigation last year of former Attorney General John Swallow.

Swallow, a Republican, resigned late last year after months of allegations of misconduct and several investigations. He denied wrongdoing and says he will clear his name as a private citizen.

Shortly after he stepped down in December, a special House committee that was investigating Swallow reported that his campaign appeared to have obscured donations from the payday-loan industry through hidden ties to political action committees and nonprofit groups.

It was unclear how much Swallow knew about the activities, but investigators said the donations appear to have been funneled through various groups and used for political donations and attacks in other campaigns.

Lawmakers on the fact-finding investigative committee are planning their legislation this year based on their findings.

Sagers said he was not motivated by the investigation or its report, but he hopes his bill would prevent a similar situation.

“The more light we shine on elections,” he said, “The better off we’ll be.”



HB 39: https://1.usa.gov/1cR1MLt

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