When a candidate for office receives a donation, the laws regulating the reporting of that money should never be vague. But in many instances, different scenarios slip through the cracks and leave the system open to abuse.
According to current election laws in Utah, a candidate is prohibited from accepting anonymous cash contributions over $50. However, if someone were to donate higher than that amount, the law is rather unclear as to what happens next. If that candidate were to be approached by a constituent in the grocery store, and that constituent tries to hand them $75 for their campaign, the candidate is required to get that person’s name and report the donation. But what happens if a constituent were to drop off $75 in the candidate’s mailbox without any note saying who it came from? The candidate has no way of ascertaining who made the donation, so the common practice is just to accept the donation and report it as anonymous even though it was technically made illegally.
For most elected officials, that would be acting in good faith with no other recourse. However, it does leave a glaring loophole for abuse, where unethical lobbyists or other organizations could give large amounts of cash to an unethical candidate who then reports it as anonymous and lies about the situation under which it was received.
HB 38, from Representative Kraig Powell (Republican, Heber City), is a good cleanup bill that attempts to close that loophole. Under the proposed law, the limit for anonymous cash contributions is raised from $50 to $100 (not really a level of concern unless the limit were raised above $500). If a candidate were to receive anonymous cash above $100, instead of accepting the donation the candidate would be required to either turn over the money to the State for use in it’s general fund, a political subdivision (like a city or county), or they could donate the money to a non-profit 501(c)(3). The State, political subdivisions, and non-profits cannot give money to political organizations or candidates, thus the illegal contributions are kept out of partisan races.
The result is greater transparency in elections, and less anonymous cash in the political process.
To contact Rep. Powell, Click Here
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