Campaign Finance Bill Held In Committee

Ut moneyAfter a lengthy discussion, the House Government Operations Committee decided to hold Representative Brian King’s (Democrat – Salt Lake City) Campaign Finance bill on Tuesday.

King’s HB 60 – Campaign Finance Amendment would place contribution limits on donations from individuals, businesses, and political action committees. The caps range from $10,000 to $40,000 indexed for inflation and depending on the entity.

King testified on behalf of his bill, calling the status quo as “turning off the public.” King noted the trend of increasing disengagement from the public and their feelings that their efforts don’t matter and talked in length about how the bill was brought upon by the scandal surrounding former Attorney General, John Swallow. King noted that based on his observation, the limits set forth in the bill would not affect House or Senate candidates considerably, but would play a factor in statewide races such as Governor or the Attorney General.

Representative Lee Perry (Republican – Perry) asked of King how much the bill would factor into “dark money” being given and spent in Utah elections. “It wasn’t this money we’re talking about in your bill that caused the problem, it was dark, hidden money” said Perry. King admitted that the bill would not affect “dark money” as those funds cannot be restricted based on the Supreme Court decision in Citizen’s United vs. FEC. The case ruled campaign restrictions from corporations to be unconstitutional, resulting in the creation of Super PACs, which have no contribution caps or disclosure requirements.

Representative Brad Daw (Republican – Provo) asked how the legislation would affect third party spending, citing his own 2012 campaign where outside money was spent against him. King explained that it is currently difficult for state to regulate third party organization’s money and the further consultation with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on that matter was needed. “There is no magic, no silver bullet [to reducing corruption]” said King.

The conversation resulted in many members wanting to further discuss and potentially amend King’s bill to include other entities like political interest groups and political parties as well as changing the cycle of aggregate funds could be limited, to which King seemed open to. Concerns were also around the ability to combat dark money with disclosed money. Committee member Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Democrat – Salt Lake City) motioned to hold the bill for further discussion, which unanimously passed. This is King’s third attempt at campaign finance caps for Utah elections.

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