Friday, March 16, 2007

how to bribe...I mean lobby...a Utah legislator

Conveniently, the office of legal counsel to the Utah State Legislature provided this handy-dandy guide [PDF] of the do's and don'ts of trying to curry a legislator's favor via gifts.

For example, the new law "do not include [disclosure requirements on]:a food or refreshment item not part of a meal that is $5 or less; a publicly presented
award that is $50 or less." However "reimbursement expenses for all travel, lodging, or meals are reportable expenditures." This means if a lobbyist were to buy a huge amount of [let's say] pizza for the entire appropriations staff and leadership staff [including the Representatives and/or Senators] while they are putting the final touches on the budget, I don't have to report it because if I assume everyone gets a slice or two, each person only got >$5 worth of food.

Conversely, if I am a legislator, I have to report the "cost of admission to
professional or collegiate sporting event, regardless of cost; tangible personal
property greater than $10; food or beverage greater than $50; all gifts given in one day, if the total gifts in the day are greater than $50." Ironically, this bill requires lobbyists to be more ethical in their disclosure than legislators. A lobbyists, who "just so happens" to have been the legislator's high school/college/grad school friend or co-worker can treat them to $49.95 worth of food and beverage and no disclosure is required. And since most legislators don't drink alcohol, this means they could dine out a places like the New Yorker and never have to report a thing.

Finally, the bill "Remove[d] a reference to legislators under the Utah Public Officers' and Employees' Ethics Act related to restrictions on receiving a gift unless it is reported." Nice to know other state government employees have to be more ethical than their elected legislators.

Without disclosure, how will voters ever know how "on the take" their Representatives and Senators are?

1 comment:

DME said...

I know that Rep. Ralph Becker, as the longtime sponsor of the lobbyist gift ban bill that this was diluted into, was thoroughly unthrilled at the meals loophole. But the concept got decent coverage during the Session, particularly by Bob Bernick, and perhaps (??) this is a first solid step in the right direction.

Huntsman's empahsis on it in his state of the state didn't hurt either.