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Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office: Lee didn't willfully violate law

Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office: Lee didn't willfully violate law



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office said Thursday that Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mike Lee didn't knowingly or willfully violate the state's laws for registering as a lobbyist.

Complaints were filed against Lee and his primary opponent, Tim Bridgewater, for speaking to state lawmakers on behalf of clients without registering as a lobbyist. Lee is an attorney and Bridgewater is a businessman who does some consulting work.

Lee said he didn't find it "the least bit surprising" that he was cleared.

"I was confident that the lieutenant governor's office would conduct a thorough and complete investigation," he said.

Lee had asked the lieutenant governor's office if he needed to register as a lobbyist if he was only answering legal questions. He was told he did not need to if that was the case.

However, Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas said Lee may have done some lobbying when he testified at a 2008 legislative hearing on behalf of Allied Waste.

"He did answer some technical questions. There is some question if perhaps he stepped over that line from being the technical legal guy to perhaps into lobbying," Thomas said. "We had some legislators who said 'Yes, he did lobby.' Other say 'No, he did not." So based on all of that, we concluded that there was certainly no willful or knowing violation."

A knowing and willful violation is the standard under state law. Those found to be in violation can face a $1,000 fine and can lose their lobbying license.

The complaints against Lee were sent in the runup to the primary by fax by someone who identified themselves as Kelly Smith, and another by e-mail by a Bryan Duncan. Neither provided contact information to the Lieutenant Governor's Office.

An e-mail by The Associated Press to the address Duncan used to file his complaint was returned as undeliverable.

"It was right during voting of the primary and I don't' know if that has something to do with it. I suspect that there's probably some politics behind it, but nonetheless we did do a full faith investigation," Thomas said.

The complaint against Bridgewater was filed by Clearfield resident Brad Caldwell, who said he is a friend of Lee and Bridgewater's. He said he filed the complaint because of a news report he had read saying Bridgewater had contact with the sponsor of an energy bill in 2009 that could have affected one of his clients, Raser Technologies.

Thomas said there was no evidence in the complaint to go by.

"We had no one who really recalled the situation or scenario. We talked to Bridgewater. He gave us his side and we had nothing to dispute that," he said.

Caldwell said he was satisfied with the lieutenant governor office's determination.

Lee won the GOP primary to replace defeated Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett in June.

He faces Democrat Sam Granato in November.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Brock Vergakis Writer

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