The brouhaha over a $13 million settlement to a losing construction team on the I-15 rebuild bid and its possible connection to large donations given Governor Gary Herbert reaffirms the need for campaign finance reform in Utah.
Did the winning construction team get the lucrative $1.7 billion project fair and square, and was it mere coincidence that one of the principals met twice with the governor and contributed some $50 thousand to the Herbert campaign during the time bids were being evaluated? Or did "pay for play" come into play? Was there a quid pro quo?
Governor Herbert and UDOT officials adamantly deny any wrong doing. For now, we'll take them at their word. At the same time we encourage the governor and all ambitious politicians to reevaluate a recommendation made last year by the Governor's Commission on Strengthening Democracy to establish a limit on campaign contributions.
The commission wrote: "We . . . recognize that campaign contributions facilitate speech. But we must also realize that money has the capacity to corrupt and to present the appearance of corruption. Our public discourse and civic engagement will never be sufficiently robust if ordinary citizens feel that they are priced out of the market."
The commission's recommendations for "meaningful" campaign finance reforms are outlined in its report. They are recommendations that should not be ignored.