Armed with a lengthy list of bills to back them up, Utah Democrats are saying they’ve been proposing legislation for over a decade that would have prevented John Swallow-type scandals – but Republican legislators killed the bills.
“We’ve been running good governance bills for years. An ethical and moral government is critical to a healthy democracy,” says Democratic Party chairman Jim Dabakis. “For over a decade we’ve been warning that something like [the current John Swallow scandal] could happen, and have proposed legislation that would have prevented this whole mess. Unfortunately, our bills never became law.”
The lengthy list stretches back all the way to the 1997 legislative session, and includes 69 ethics and campaign finance bills – only 6 of which became law. That’s an average of more than four pieces of related legislation being proposed per year. The list includes everything from a ban on gifts to elected officials (Sen. Pat Jones) to a bill from the recent 2013 session by Representative Brian King which would have limited the amount of money elected officials campaigning for office (like Attorney General John Swallow) would have been allowed to take in.
“A crisis of ethics, like the one we find ourselves in today, doesn’t come out of nowhere,” says Democratic Representative Brian King. “Utah’s government has explicitly refused to put in place even a modicum of campaign finance regulation to stop corruption before it happens.”
Utah’s finance laws are some of the most lax in the country, and place no limits on how much money—or from whom—a candidate for office can take in. According to the Democrats, leaving the purse hanging open like that has created a culture begging to be abused.
“This could have been prevented,” says Dabakis.