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Utah court won't expedite campaign finance ruling

Utah court won't expedite campaign finance ruling

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Supreme Court won't fast-track a ruling on whether candidates can use a political action committee and a personal campaign account in their bid for public office.

Independent candidate for lieutenant governor Steve Maxfield had asked the court to make a declaratory judgment on the issue in hopes of getting Gov. Gary Herbert removed from the ballot.

Associate Chief Justice Matthew Durant issued an order denying Maxfield's request on Tuesday. Durant did not rule on the merits of the petition -- only whether an emergency ruling was warranted.

Maxfield said Wednesday he will ask a district court to rule on the larger issue, which he's amending to include a complaint against Democratic nominee Peter Corroon. That ruling likely wouldn't occur until after Election Day.

"I'm going to stick with it. Either we have a state and a country worth fighting for or we don't," Maxfield said.

At issue is a line in state law that says state office candidates and those who work on their behalf can only raise money and make expenditures for their elections through their campaign committees.

But state law also allows political action committees to raise and spend money for "political purposes," which is defined as the attempt to influence voters for or against candidates for public office.

Herbert uses a political action committee and a personal campaign account, which Maxfield contends is illegal.

In Utah, it's not uncommon for political candidates and officeholders to use political action committees rather than traditional officeholder or campaign accounts. PACs have much less frequent reporting requirements than traditional campaign accounts.

Transferring money from a PAC to a personal campaign account also makes it much more difficult for the public to track who is donating to a campaign.

Elections Director Mark Thomas said the lieutenant governor's office is still reviewing Maxfield's original complaint against Herbert and one against Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

"We're still processing them. This doesn't change any of that," he said.

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

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Brock Vergakis writer


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