Campaign Finance Reporting by Corporations
In 2013, I became aware of significant potential problems with the lack of transparency in the political process in Utah. Prior to that time, donations made to a corporation for use in a political campaign could be made anonymously, while those made directly to a candidate or to a Political Action Committee (PAC) or Political Interest Committee (PIC) were legally required to be disclosed.
As far as I was concerned, it didn’t make sense to have different standards for organizations all engaged in the same types of activities–political. If we were going to require some groups to disclose and not others, there would obviously be significant incentives for distortion within the process. I concluded that the public would be better served by greater transparency and consistency under the law. As a result of these concerns I sponsored legislation, HB 43, that would include corporations engaging in political activity as being required to disclose donor names, as had already been the law with regard to many other types of organizations.
In the end, I am quite satisfied that what Utah got was a much-needed boost to the openness of its political process and the ability of the voters to better understand the motives of those involved in that process. While I firmly believe in the fundamental right of free speech, it is imperative that the listener be allowed to determine who is doing the speaking in order to intelligently weigh the information expressed.
As it turns out, the passage of HB 43 has proven to be quite judicious in light of the revelations recently exposed as a result of the House investigation of former AG John Swallow. The inconsistency in the law had resulted in what was essentially a convoluted money laundering mechanism whereby candidates were able to pass contributions from PACs through corporate entities, generally 501(c)(4)s, thus shielding the identities of those who were bankrolling specific candidates and issues.
According to investigators, just one 501(c)(4), the Proper Role of Government Education Association, was able to funnel over $450,000 in contributions through its coffers. This money was then inserted into Utah races without donor disclosure and no ability of the voter to determine where it was actually coming from and what the motives of the funders might be.
In writing about this legislation in Utah Political Capitol, Curtis Haring stated, “If an individual or corporation is spending tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to influence an election – the public has a right to know who is paying for it. Hughes’ bill would provide a more level playing field and make the process more open.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Transparency & Accountability
Transparency in government is not a privilege, it is a right. Providing readily-accessible information strengthens our system by allowing citizens a front-row seat in the democratic process. Utah leads the nation in providing citizens access to bills, voting records, and both floor and committee speeches via our state’s advanced website.
This distinction in the management of Utah is a great benefit to voters and elected officials alike. Not only can voters more easily hold officials accountable, but it also gives officials the opportunity to refute unjust accusations or deliberate attempts to distort information.
The Pew Center on States Government Performance has named Utah the best managed state in the nation! A comprehensive study of all 50 states examined how state governments managed information, people, money and infrastructure. Republicans have led our state government for the past two decades and have instituted wise operating procedures and fiscal policies. Being ranked the country’s best is something we have worked diligently to achieve but also with an eye towards continued improvement.
There is a pivotal role that the development of Utah’s natural resources will play in stimulating our economy and securing America’s energy independence.
Even the most optimistic projections suggest that global demand for fossil fuels will continue to grow for several decades, especially as emerging economies seek to improve quality of life and increase production and productivity. In the United States, we produce approximately 8.5 million barrels of oil every day, but use nearly 20 million barrels for fuel, plastics and other manufacturing. As a result, we rely too heavily on foreign sources to meet our need for petroleum products.
Merit & Differential Pay
Merit and differential pay for employees is not only a common practice in other fields, it has produced great results. Some have said that public education is different and such a system would not work. I disagree. I have heard in the Education Standing Committee that much of the academic problems educators face with their students start with the parent’s commitment to their child’s education. If we are ready to accept the premise that some parents vary in their ability to raise their children, we should also be able to accept the idea that all teachers are not the same. I dare say that you will find bad teachers, good teachers, and great teachers in our schools.