Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It is absolutely the responsibility of the attorney general to enforce the state's minimal election laws

By Jean Welch Hill
Candidate for Utah Attorney General

It is time to end Utah's appallingly lax enforcement of what few campaign ethics laws it has.

The latest example of our fair state's laissez faire attitude toward campaign finance and disclosure is the recent Salt Lake Tribune article noting that heavy hitting, sophisticated corporate donors failed to file the required financial contribution reports with the Lieutenant Governor's office.

Despite these clear violations of state law, the response of our top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, was "that's not my responsibility."

It is absolutely the responsibility of the attorney general to enforce the state's minimal election laws. Given that $147,910 of the money contributed by corporations without proper disclosure went to the Attorney General, the least he could do is provide his generous benefactors with a reminder letter that the corporations do need to file a disclosure statement.

The attitude of Utah's current Attorney General toward ongoing violations of state election law is one of many reasons Utah's Republican dominated government continually fails to heed voter demands for ethics reform. Poll after poll shows that Utahns want comprehensive reporting of all lobbyist activities, yet the Legislature consistently refuses to even discuss the many bills brought forward by Democratic legislators. With an attorney general who is more than willing to ignore the violations of his own donors, there is little hope for reform.

Which is one more reason the state needs a Democratic attorney general with extensive experience prosecuting ethical violations. As a Democrat, I have little interest in maintaining the status quo of limited, and often untimely, lobbyist disclosure statements. As a prosecutor of educators who violate their professional ethical standards, I recognize the value of high standards for public employees and will advocate to raise the bar on elected officials to at least the level currently maintained by public school educators.

Violations of law are the responsibility of the state's Attorney General. To state otherwise shows a lack of respect for the state's Constitution and an unwillingness to fulfill the duties of the office.

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