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A.G. fundraising during Utah legislative sessions targeted

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Posted - Feb. 6, 2018 at 8:52 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes plans to hold his annual campaign fundraiser at the posh Deer Valley Resort on the first weekend of March.

But under a bill filed Monday, prospective donors would be prohibited from contributing to the attorney general, lieutenant governor, state auditor and state treasurer while the Legislature is in session.

Legislators and the governor are already banned from raising money during the 45-day session that runs from the end of January to mid-March. The governor also isn’t allowed to solicit donations through the 20-day bill signing period after the session.

"It makes it fair. We don't want the Capitol to be a place where people come up and raise funds, especially when we're in session and doing the people's work," said Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, sponsor of HB320.

Wheatley said Utah's statewide elected executive officers should he held to the same standard as lawmakers. He said he believes it was an "oversight" that the lieutenant governor, attorney general, state auditor and state treasurer were not included in the current law.

The legislation would also ban political action committees or campaign committees controlled by any of those elected officials as well lawmakers from collecting money during the session.

"It's a very logical bill," Wheatley said, adding he believes there is bipartisan support for the measure.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said the attorney general should be subject to the same restrictions on fundraising as legislators and the governor.

"The attorney general plays a key role in what we do in passing laws, is weighing in on those issues. He has to defend what we pass," Niederhauser said. "And so, yeah, I think it raises enough eyebrows when you're raising funds during that because we strictly prohibit any kind of fundraising as a Legislature."

The Senate leader, who shook his head when shown a copy of Reyes' fundraising invitation, suggested he should know better.

"If you're that close to the legislative process, you probably should be subject to the same things and just be wise about it. Do we need to pass a law for that to happen? I wish we didn't," Niederhauser said.

Wheatley said he was not aware of the Reyes' upcoming fundraiser until after he drafted the legislation.

"If that becomes law, we will be supportive," said Alan Crooks, Reyes' campaign strategist. "In the meantime, anyone who would like to come out and support the attorney general, please get in touch with us."

Should the bill pass, Reyes would have to find another time to seek as much as $20,000 for "title" sponsors to his “ski summit” where, according to a flyer, donors would “enjoy the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’ at the iconic Deer Valley Resort, along with a great lineup of activities.”

In addition, the March 1-3 fundraiser offers "presenting" sponsorships at $5,000 and "supporting" sponsorships at $3,500. Reyes is up for re-election in 2020.

The 2018 Legislature started Jan. 22 and ends March 8.

If the proposal passes with a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, it would become law upon approval of the governor.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche Email: Twitter: dennisromboy

Dennis Romboy

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