I would like to focus on a bill that is good in principle, yet still manages to miss the point of what the public has been calling for.
I have worked on many campaigns in my life, and one of the things I have always found shocking was the fact that candidates running for statewide offices could spend their campaign funds on whatever they pleased. As shocking as it may seem, I have heard stories of candidate’s wives spending campaign funds on a new dress or donations being turned right into car payments. In many ways, the system is rife for abuse.
Rather than address this problem, Representative Keith Grover (R – Provo, District 61) has proposed HB 17, Personal Use of Campaign Funds. Catchy bill title, right? Problem is, it entirely misses the mark.
You see, HB 17 would require that campaign funds be used for campaign activities…but only for municipal elections.
So, Representative Grover would like to ensure that those running for city council spend campaign funds on a campaign; but he does not want to take any measures to hold legislators (such as himself) to the same standard. In short, the bill would require every city to come up with rules regarding campaign finance by May of 2013.
It is easy to be cynical towards HB 17 (and rightly so), but I am going to take a more positive spin. One could assume that Grover wants to get the ball rolling on campaign finance overall, and sees reform at the city level as a good starting point. Indeed, this tactic is similar to the approach Equality Utah is taking to try and spread LGBT equality laws, and it is widely accepted as a reasonable tactic to affect change. The more cynical part of me wonders if this is little more than a tactic for the GOP to technically claim that they fought for campaign finance reform. I find it interesting that the bill is written in a way that requires approval of two-thirds of both the House and Senate before it could be signed into law (as opposed to the simple majority). This too points to the fact that Grover wants to send out a bill that allows the GOP to say that they voted for campaign reform, yet still not put anything on the books.
In many ways, this is a classic conundrum bill for me. On the one hand, I am all for campaign finance reform, but it is easy to question the motives behind the bill. I worry that this type of law will lead to a hodgepodge of campaign laws that would make it next to impossible for any sort of uniform law to be adopted down the road. This lack of uniformity could cause lawmakers to be hesitant to adopt any sort of statewide campaign finance law, if only because they view the newly created system as a mess – a mess they, themselves, created. I would feel far more comfortable if some sort of legislative intent were added to the bill to ensure that this is not the intent of the law.
Without an overhaul, I honestly don’t know if I can support this legislation. It could create a large mess for cities both large and small, and, frankly, does little to fix the real problem – namely, state level elected officials taking as much money as they want with little oversight.
To contact Rep. Grover, Click Here or call 801-319-0170
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill