Coalition calling for ethics reform pledge from legislators

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A coalition launched a campaign today calling for open, honest, ethical and transparent government, and they're asking candidates to sign a pledge for legislative ethics reform.

Ethics reform is a perennial issue on Capitol Hill, and for years it has faced tough sledding. But a coalition of groups says the influence of money on politics is getting worse, and it believes the issue may be reaching a tipping point with the public.

Coalition calling for ethics reform pledge from legislators

The issue centers on gifts, like Jazz tickets from lobbyists to lawmakers, or the personal use of campaign funds for car repairs, clothes, babysitting, wedding gifts, even direct cash payment to themselves. Currently, that's all legal, but a coalition of groups, including Utahns for Public Schools, the PTA, UEA and League of Women Voters, is calling for change.

Bonnie Palmer, with Utahns for Public Schools, said, "We hear from the citizens out there that want changes at the Legislature, and they feel that they're not in power to make those changes because of the influence of the special interests that are up here lobbying and giving gifts and having that influence and access that other common folks don't have."

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is signing a pledge, vowing to support full disclosure of all gifts and meals by both a lawmaker and a lobbyist.

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, said, "We have to set rules, and we have to set reasonable rules. These are reasonable rules."

Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, said, "If that legislator is required to report anything that he receives and the dollar amount, he's going to think about whether or not he's going to accept that gift."

Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, said, "I think we have a real problem, and it's a perception problem. I think the public has become very cynical. I think they have a perception that all of us are in the pocket of lobbyists."

Coalition calling for ethics reform pledge from legislators

It would also ban personal use of campaign funds and require unspent campaign money go to charity, a political party or the School Trust Land Fund, and require accurate reports.

Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, said, "Our laws in this state are pretty strict on timely reports, but they're not so strict on accuracy."

Rep. Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake City, said, "I think the public should take note of those who will not sign it. And that's a pretty good indication of how those who do not sign it feel about ethics reform in the legislature."

So far no one in Republican leadership in either House has signed the pledge.


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John Daley


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