Davis legislator proposes lobbyist disclosure requirements

Wednesday , December 11, 2013 - 2:28 PM

2014 Utah State legislature...

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY — A Davis County lawmaker, who says he has experienced both sides of the coin, wants to limit the power of lobbyists to influence political appointments to office.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is proposing legislation that would require the disclosure of a lobbyist or organization trying to influence a political appointment for mid-term vacancies, by requiring new disclosure rules.

Under the existing structure, Weiler said a lobbyist with long ties to state government can potentially offer to help a candidate with his campaign, help write speeches and design and print brochures, without any disclosure requirements.

By contrast, once in office, even a meal with that same person or organization is subject to disclosure.

A bill file for the proposed lobbyist reform has been logged with the Legislature; potentially putting it in line to be discussed when the 2014 legislative session convenes in January.

Weiler said the limits are not as far-fetched as they may seem on the surface. He noted all three of the state senators serving in Davis County, including himself, were political appointees. He said 25 percent of the people serving in the Legislature are mid-term appointees.

He said once in office, the power of incumbency is real and a mid-term appointee can be hard to beat or remove from office.

In Weiler’s case, he was appointed to replace former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who opted to run for the U.S. Senate. Weiler easily won a race to keep that state Senate office in 2012.

“What I’ve seen is a lot of lobbyists pick somebody and tell them they’ll help them,” Weiler said. He suggested that once helped, those appointees have an implied obligation to assist the organization or lobbyist who helped them get into office.

The Woods Cross Republican said his bill is not vindictive in nature, even though he has been on both sides of being the one helped, or the one running against an appointee who got that help, when he did not.

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