Thursday, May 31, 2007

connect the dots


Deseret News May 31, 2007:, a California-based nonpartisan group that says it seeks to illuminate connections between money and politics, looked at donations from payday lenders nationwide. But it focused on seven states where it said the percentage of overall donations that came from payday lenders was higher than elsewhere: Utah, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
"We found that during the last eight years, as total industry campaign contributions in these states increased, state laws allowed the industry to continue operating without significant restrictions," it said in a new study.
It said payday lenders gave $76,200 to state-level candidates in Utah between the 1996 and 2006 elections. ...a higher percentage than was given in most states.
...about a dozen bills were proposed but failed in the Utah Legislature in that time either to cap the high interest rates the industry charges or to more tightly regulate it.
(The study numbers may indeed have problems — but payday lenders may have actually given more than it said. The Deseret Morning News in a quick, noncomprehensive look at databases Tuesday, identified at least $95,000 that such lenders gave in Utah in the period. About 20 percent came of that from out of state. But the study identified only about $76,000, and said 85 percent of it came from out of state.)
The Morning News found in 2005 that Utah has more payday loan stores than 7-Elevens, McDonald's, Burger Kings and Subway stores — combined.

Deseret News May 27, 2007:
a Deseret Morning News review of all bills introduced in the 2007 Legislature shows, is that a fourth of the session's legislation came with clear or possible conflicts of interest involving the measures' sponsors.
Insurance agents sponsored bills on insurance regulation. Police officers carried bills on criminal penalties. Contractors sponsored bills on construction. Teachers carried bills on education.
The percentage of lawmakers' conflicts of interest may actually be even higher than 25 percent because some lawmakers reveal little of their real conflicts in their personal disclosure forms, using only broad or vague wording.
And Utah lawmakers can't escape their conflicts of interest when it comes to voting on bills. Unlike members of Congress or other state legislatures, Utah's legislators, due to internal rules, must vote on a bill even though they may have a clear conflict of interest.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, says there is great value in having a part-time, citizen legislature.
But, he adds, there is a hidden conflict of interest on legislation that few people talk about: Legislators' legal ability to take cash out of their own campaign accounts and spend it any way they wish.
"It is almost legalized bribery," said Jowers, "if a lobbyist or special interest group gave money to a legislator's campaign account" in hopes of getting special treatment. "If they gave you $10,000 or $20,000, that is the ultimate conflict of interest."
At the very least, legislators should pass a law that says they can't use campaign cash for personal use, Jowers said.

Deseret News May 31, 2007:
It is "disingenuous" for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. to call a special session on vouchers before the Nov. 6 public vote, says House Speaker Greg Curtis, who vows to "vigorously" fight against repealing HB174 if such a session is called.

KSL April 12, 2007:
In the House there was a similar show of loyalty to the side that gave the money -- 96 percent who got money from the pro-voucher group voted for and 78 percent who got money from the other side voted against.
Pro-public school money generally went to Democrats. Pro-voucher donations generally went to Republicans, including GOP House Speaker Greg Curtis, who by many accounts used his considerable clout to pressure some members to vote Yes.

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