You probably know that all political campaigns require donations to be successful, what you may not have considered was the fact that not all political donations are monetary in nature. Often times, people can contribute to campaigns by volunteering their time to a cause or candidate they believe in. This is known as an “in-kind” contribution, and, when certain career campaigners volunteer, it poses an interesting question.
When a career campaigner signs up to volunteer on a campaign their work is considered to be much more valuable to a candidate and campaign when compared to a true believer who may not have much political experience. Professionals don’t often spend volunteer time making phone calls, sealing envelopes, or constructing campaign signs, for example. Instead, their primary responsibilities and roles are more aligned with creating a campaign strategy, providing insight, and working with other political movers and shakers to target donors and gain endorsements.
But, despite the professional nature of what these career campaigners are doing, the time is still recorded as simply an “in-kind” contribution… during a regular, general or primary election. If an office vacancy takes place midterm, like when former Attorney General John Swallow resigned, professional campaigners and registered lobbyist do not have to report their time to the Lieutenant Governor’s office.
That is where SB 30 – Modifications to Lobbyist Disclosure and Regulation Act from Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Bountiful) comes in. The bill, if successful, would require lobbyists and firms who employ lobbyists to report donated time to potential appointees.
The bill requires lobbyists to report assistance given to potential appointees within a business day of providing the assistance or help. Considering that most appointments are made in relatively short amount of time, it is not unreasonable to provide a short turnaround time on reporting any assistance from a professional. Lobbyists and firms are well connected within the political community and their influence could easily sway the deciding parties with little to no money required.
Near instant reporting is far from impossible, and the rare nature of such elections means that an individual or firm most likely would not find the reporting too burdensome. Furthermore, the quick turnaround time allows the public a better opportunity to learn about who is assisting whom.
Midterm appointments are quite rare in Utah, but with recent appointment to the Attorney General’s office and to the vacant seat once held by former Senator John Valentine (Republican – Provo), show that there is a very real need for such legislation.
It is unclear how successful legislation like this will be as it makes its way through both chambers. Lawmakers often tout that they are in favor of greater disclosure, but when the rubber meets the road, they often balk at what should and should not be reported.
To contact Senator Weiler, click here or call 801-599-9823.
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