Ethics Becoming Campaign Issue

Ethics Becoming Campaign Issue

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Richard Piatt ReportingOne candidate for Governor is turning up the heat on the topic of ethics in State Government. And, according to voters, it's a position they like.

At the same time most voters in Utah want gifts banned, lobbyists spent about $136,000 worth of dinners, sports tickets and concerts on public officials last year. From prime seats at Utah Jazz games to prime rib at a fine restaurant, freebies are a job-perk to some officials in Utah government.

But a recent Dan Jones poll for KSL and the Deseret Morning News shows the public feels the opposite. 66 percent say they favor a ban on lobbyists’ gifts to legislators, when asked if they support such legislation this year.

In the recent past, strong limits on gifts have not passed the Senate, even though some have passed the House. Now it's become a campaign issue. Today Jon Huntsman Jr. addressed the issue by proposing a five-point ethics plan that includes term limits and full disclosure on gifts.

Jon Huntsman Jr., Republican Candidate for Governor: "I'd rather go down in flames working my best to create a real grassroots campaign, than have to write a check from my pocket to cover it. That's just not the way I'm going to proceed."

There is not consensus in the Legislature about a limit or ban on gifts. It's something another candidate, the House Speaker, would like to change.

Rep. Marty Stephens, House Speaker: "We really haven't had any scandals or problems in the Utah legislature. But it's also as an elected official I think you have a further duty to avoid the perception that these things could happen."

The issue is not partisan either. The Democrat front-runner for Governor, Scott Matheson, also lists ethics as a priority. And Representative Ralph Becker has tried repeatedly to push freebie-reform.

Rep. Ralph Becker, (D) Salt Lake City: "I think there is enough of a tinge of a concern about our own dealings that we have and that the public has that we should just remove doubt."

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