Poll: Majority of Utahns Favor Gift Ban

Poll: Majority of Utahns Favor Gift Ban

Save Story

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

John Daley reporting Campaign contributions, dinners and other gifts: Lobbyists on Utah's Capitol Hill spend lots of money to influence lawmakers.

Many elected officials see no problem, but an exclusive new Dan Jones poll shows the public does.

There's a clear disconnect here. The Dan Jones poll shows Utahns favor a variety of new ethics measures regarding gifts, lobbyists and campaign money.

But so far this session, the GOP-dominated legislature keeps shooting them down.

“Jazz games...meals...rounds of golf...”

Those are just of few of the freebies state lawmakers get each session. The rules lawmakers have passed for themselves make it perfectly legal. But it's not OK with Chuck Eddy.

Eddy was elected Mayor of Clearfield back in 1965, now he's up on Capitol Hill as an unpaid citizen watchdog.

Chuck Eddy, Director/Citizens Advocate: "I believe they like the money, and I’ve talked with some that like the ballgames. They like to go to the Jazz, it's some kind of elite thing that comes along with it."

Eddy favors an all-out ban on gifts, and he's not alone.

A new KSL-TV/Deseret News poll by Dan Jones and Associates shows 67 percent of those polled favor banning lobbyists from giving gifts to lawmakers. 29% do not support an a gift ban.

But this session a bill to ban gifts went the way of many similar proposals in the past: It never even made it to floor debate, failing in committee.

Senator Greg Bell, a Davis County Republican, favors more disclosure instead of a ban on gifts. His proposal, Senate Bill 102, would allow lawmakers to accept gifts but require disclosure of any gift worth more than 10 dollars. Currently lobbyists must only disclose gifts given to lawmakers worth more than 50 dollars Lobby disclosure reports are filled with meal after meal, gift after gift, bought for unknown "legislators" never named on paper.

Sen. Greg Bell, (R) Fruit Heights: "If there's nothing wrong with these meals, why not disclose them?"

Our poll shows 70% of Utahns favor that measure, requiring lobbyists to disclose any gift given to a lawmaker worth over 10 dollars. 22% oppose lowering the limit.

In a Senate committee, Republicans Parley Hellewell and Bill Hickman voted against the new disclosure bill, against lawmakers disclosing gifts over $10.

Sen. Bill Hickman, (R) St. George: "Is there something wrong with that? Can you buy me for a lunch, or can you buy for a Jazz ticket? I don't know anybody up here who can be bought for a lunch or a Jazz ticket or anything else for that matter."

Sen. Parley Hellewell, (R) Orem : "I don't think it's a problem. I don't think we have legislators being bought by a lobbyist group."

The disclosure bill failed on a two-two tie. The deciding vote, Senator Gene Davis, was absent when the vote took place.

Davis, a Democrat, says he's not sure how he would have voted had he been there, but questions the wording of polls in the media saying the term "gift" is too vague.

Sen. Gene Davis, (D) Salt Lake City: "That leaves a very broad, broad spectrum of what you mean by gifts. Does that mean a lunch? Does that mean a cup of coffee?"

While ethics reform measures fail every year in the legislature, the money involved continues to grow. Last year lobbyists spent more than 140-thousand dollars buying lawmakers meals and tickets. That's about $1,538 per lawmaker. Advocates for reform wonder if that money is corrupting the political process.

Sen. Greg Bell, (R) Fruit Heights: "Why are lobbyists willing to pay 50 bucks for a meal if it doesn't do them any good."

Chuck Eddy, Director/Citizens Advocate: "It surprises me that there would be any question! As far as I’m concerned the man ought to stand up, every one of them and say 'I don't want any of your money.' Don't bias me that way, and they're biased that way. There's no doubt about it. If it wasn't they wouldn't give it."

As this legislative session continues, we plan to "follow the money" and take a look at just how money--and those who spend it freely--are influencing the decision-makers and the decisions they make.

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast