Campaign contributions are a funny thing in Utah. On one hand, anybody, anywhere can donate as much money as they want to any state or local race (unless individual cities and counties have set up their own laws restricting donation amounts). This means that a candidate running for office could receive tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from an individual or company, and no laws are broken. But, on the other hand, we have very strict laws about anonymous contributions…sort of.
Currently, state law says that no candidate can receive more than $50 from an anonymous donor; problem is, there are no teeth to the law – if a candidate receives $51 or $50,000 anonymously, about all that happens is that a candidate gets a slap on the wrist and possibly an opponent bringing up the issue at a campaign event.
There is a bit of a trade off with this bill, but one that seems very reasonable. The trade off is that candidates can receive up to $100 in anonymous contributions (as opposed to $50) with no penalty. But the flip side is that the moment $101 comes in, the candidate has to give the money to either the state (or county, or city) to be placed back into the general fund or to a certified non-profit. A real “punishment” takes place when people try to give under the table.
Adding to this, political parties and political issue groups will be severely restricted in making these gray area “anonymous” contributions. They can only give $100 cash contributions to a candidate – anything above that and a solid paper trail must exist to explain how contributions were being used. This leaves ample room for a party to pick up things like party supplies, but they couldn’t cater an entire event and not report it.
The only real problem with this entire bill is that it still does not have a whole lot of teeth, but at least it is growing some baby teeth – and that is a start. This is a good bill and it protects citizens (and frankly candidates) from undue anonymous interference.
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Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill
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