Utah Politicians Can Take Money and Run

Utah Politicians Can Take Money and Run

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John Daley ReportingNearly $200,000, that's how much money Workman had left in her campaign account. Now she's pocketing all of that money, and apparently that's okay with some other Republicans -- those who control things up on Utah's Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers in the Senate today had a chance to say "no" to the personal use of campaign money. Instead they see no problem if a politician wants to spend campaign money on whatever they want. One lawmaker calls it a "matter of trust."

She was Salt Lake County's first mayor. Now she's become the poster child for debate over the rules that govern public officials. The latest example, Nancy Workman cut herself a check for her remaining campaign funds from her campaign account. Total sum, nearly $175,000.

In court today Workman defended the move.

Coincidentally, up on Capitol Hill today lawmakers debated a new bill from Democratic Senator Karen Hale which would ban the personal use of campaign funds. There are currently no limits on spending of campaign funds. Election officials say lawmakers and other candidates running for office have even used campaign funds to pay parking tickets and fines. One candidate said they were meeting constituents at home and wondered if the rules permitted them to buy a new kitchen table.

When former Governor Mike Leavitt left office he spent thousands of dollars on a huge going-away party with caterers, flowers, photographers and music, $23,000 in bonuses to aides, and he reimbursed himself $12,500.

Hale says the wide-open rules erode respect for public officials.

Sen. Karen Hale, (D) Salt Lake City: “The public truly does expect us to raise the bar.”

But Republicans on the committee wonder how to define "personal use."

Sen. Bill Hickman, (R) St. George: "If I use it to pay for motor fuel as while I'm traveling back and forth, some of it may be personal use if I don't run straight to the capitol and then straight home. It gets a little fuzzy.”

Sen. Parley Hellewell, (R) Orem: "To be in the legislature I figured I needed five suits. If I go buy me a new suit when one wears out, is that personal? I dunno. I don't know if I want somebody deciding if that's personal or not.”

All three GOP Senators vote against the bill, killing it for this session. Polls show the public strongly supports ethics reform on Capitol Hill, but once again this year, those measures seem to be going nowhere.

Sen. Karen Hale, (D) Salt Lake City: “I think there are many legislators who don’t see there’s a problem.”

Today the Senate shut down an effort to require lawmakers to disclose gifts they accept from lobbyists, currently it’s the lobbyists who have to do all the disclosing.

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