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UEG News

Listed in General

Paul Rolly: FBI, D.A. probing alleged forgery at Utah Legislature

May 30 2013 (Salt Lake Tribune)

Tribune’s Rolly reports on FBI investigation of forged electronic signature on UEG petition. Read more.

Utah’s revolving door keeps spinning out lobbyists

Mar 20, 2012 (Salt Lake Tribune)

Read the Salt Lake Tribune article on the revolving door between legislators and lobbyists.

House Bill 119

Mar 12, 2012

Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D) sponsored HB 119, which requires the LG to study electronic signatures for use on ballot propositions, candidate petitions, and petitions for political party organization and registration.  The LG is to report back to the Government Operations Interim Committee by September 2013. The intent of the legislation is to require a careful examination of ways in which electronic signature gathering for political purposes can be made manageable and secure under state law.

UEG did not take a position on the bill because we believe that the LG’s refusal to certify our electronic signatures for the November 2012 ballot was contrary to the statutes and cases governing electronic signatures in our state at that time and, even without these violations, an unconstitutional act. Indeed, the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that electronic signatures could be used to qualify a gubernatorial candidate for the ballot. These pre-existing statutes and precedents, some of them on the books for nearly a half-century, were wiped out—peremptorily and without any study—by an amendment to our elections code that was enacted in the 2011 general session of the Utah State Legislature.  UEG contends, in view of the fact that Utah law recognized the validity of e-signatures in the electoral context for so long, that further study is redundant and that, at a minimum, the legislature should be saddled with the burden of persuasion for reversing this long-standing rule of law in our state. Regardless, Representative Chavez-Houck’s bill is a positive step toward the day in which, once again, even the Legislature acknowledges in statute and regulation that electronic signatures can be secure and fraud-resistant and can take their proper place in the political life of our state.

Key specifics of the bill (to be codified at 20A-67-1a-2, subsection 14) are as follows:

3) The study shall evaluate:

(a) how to sign a petition on the Internet using a holographic signature that is in an electronic format maintained by a government agency;

(b) the security, development, ownership, management, format, and content of a secure Internet portal or website on which a registered voter may sign a petition;

(c) the security measures necessary to:

i) verify the identity of a registered voter who signs a petition on the Internet; and

(ii) insure the integrity of a signature;

(d) changes to the process of collecting, verifying, and certifying a signature, if the signature is collected on the Internet;

(e) whether verification is necessary for signatures collected on the Internet;

(f) which election official should be responsible for the certification of signatures collected on the Internet;

(g) whether signatures on a petition should be public information;

(h) the removal process of a signature collected on the Internet;

(i) what percentage of signatures should be collected on the Internet or in person, statewide or by Senate district;

(j) what information regarding the petition should be available on the secure Internet portal or website, including who may submit the information and by what deadline information should be submitted;

(k) the time the lieutenant governor, county clerk, or municipal clerk may spend certifying a petition if a registered voter is allowed to sign a petition on the Internet;

(l) the processes, if any, that exists in other states to allow a registered voter to sign a petition on the Internet; and

(m) any other issue related to allowing a registered voter to sign a petition on the Internet.

Special interests busy providing perks to legislators

Mar 12, 2012 (Salt Lake Tribune)

Read the March 5th SL Tribune article on the loophole that allows Utah legislators to receive meals paid for by lobbyists.

The Insidious Creep of Corruption

Feb 28, 2012 (KSL, Salt Lake Tribune)

Jack Abramoff’s swing through Utah ended Friday morning at the Capitol, where he met with several lawmakers and warned them to be on guard — that corruption can be an insidious creep that quickly ensnares a politician.

The infamous lobbyist, who spent time in federal prison for fraud and bribery, said he was able to prey upon human nature and exploit it.

“A good lawyer needs to know their jury,” he said.

His message was for politicians to be wary — that corrupt lobbyists will look to gain advantage by identifying their needs, whether paying back campaign debt or knowing vulnerabilities.

He spoke for about five minutes to the rural caucus at the Capitol — introduced by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab — before doing a small book signing for several lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, and Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo.

“On the news, he seemed so much larger than life,” Dee said. “I guess he’s trying to show that he’s an ordinary guy.”

But he also provides a grim perspective about the influence of money in the system and when corruption begins.

“It starts the moment after they’re elected to Congress,” Abramoff said, “and their leadership helps them reduce their debt by introducing them to lobbyists who give them money — and that’s before they’re even sworn in.”

Abramoff is attempting to pay off about $23 million in restitution due to those he defrauded before his conviction in 2006. He is doing so partly by selling copies of his book and partly by collecting speaking fees, where he uses his tale to educate lawmakers on the dangers of bribery.

At one point, he had addressed the Kentucky Legislature as part of an ethics class, and Kathy Smith, who helped organize Abramoff’s trip to Utah, said she would like to see something similar in Utah and will help try to organize it next year.

“We should try,” Smith said. “At first, part of me was skeptical, but I think he has an important message to convey.”

Abramoff would like to repeal the 17th Amendment, institute term limits and curtail the influence of money in politics.

Cherilyn Eagar, who is running for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, spent some time talking to Abramoff and said his message resonated. She said the cautions and warnings are very real on the campaign trail.

“It’s certainly difficult as a candidate to raise money from sources that aren’t tempting,” she said. “How do you get elected and stay away from that? It’s very tough. But there are very good people out there, and we have grass-roots donors.”

Abramoff’s Utah visit was a short stop on a West Coast swing of lectures and book signings.

Gym fees? Utah politicians find loophole in ethics law

Jan26, 2012 (Salt Lake Tribune)

Read the story in the Jan 23rd Salt Lake Tribune re large loophole in Utah’s ethics law, which supposedly stopped the use of campaign contributions for personal use.

Redistricing Update from Utah Citizens’ Counsel

May 17, 2011

Check out the Utah Citizens’ Counsel’s 4 different congressional district maps and explanations on their website.

Also, on Thursday, May 19th at 7:00 p.m, the UCC will host an online meeting to present and explain its 4 different maps and provide a public forum for comment and questions. Interested participants can find more information on the UCC website under the May 16th press release.

Delegates to the Davis County Republican Party convention pass resolution condemning SB 165

22 April 2011

Resolution for the Davis County Republican Party Organizing Convention held at the Davis County Conference Center, 22 April 2011.  Resolution passed. Sponsor: Anthony Black, County Delegate, Precinct BO03
Whereas HB 477, an attempt to inhibit the ability of the electorate to inform itself, was repealed, but only under duress, and

Whereas SB 165 is an affront to government by the people, placing an unacceptable barrier to citizen initiatives, and

Whereas SB 165 is also an insult to those trying to inject ethics into he legislative process, and

Whereas these bills and actions of the Legislature have shaken the trust and confidence that the electorate should have in the Legislature, and

Whereas these bills and actions of the Legislature reflect poorly on the Republican Party:

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Davis County Republican Party Organizing Convention condemns SB 165 and the closed meetings of the Republican caucus in the Utah Legislature.

Be it further resolved that the Davis County Republican Party Organizing Convention encourages the Utah Legislature to operate more openly and transparently, and to show more respect for its constituency.

Be it further resolve that copies of this resolution be sent to: Gary R. Herbert, Governor of the State of Utah; Michael G. Waddoups, President of the Utah State Senate; Rebecca D. Lockhart, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives; all Davis County delegates in the Utah State Legislature.

Update on HB 477

Mar 18, 2011

UEG is a supporting organization of the repeal of HB477.  UEG is not, however, the actual organization that is spearheading the effort. Steve Maxfield is chairman of the SaveGrama organization.You can get more information and sign up to volunteer and donate at http://www.savegrama.org or http://www.thepeople-voices.org The latter source indicates that for more information in the Salt Lake County area you can call

  • Collette at 801-532-2147, or
  • Quang Dang at 801-243-3180.

Utah Dem seeks campaign contribution limits

Feb 07 2011 (Lee Davidson, Salt Lake Tribune)

A governor’s commission called for it and Utahns consistently favor it in polls. So Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, introduced a bill Monday that would cap campaign donations — but she openly doubts that it will go far.

“I’m doing this to further discussion on it,” she said. “But many of my colleagues view campaign contributions as a form of free speech, and oppose this. ... Frankly, I don’t know if it will ever get out of the Rules Committee” for debate.

Her bill would limit donations to candidates for statewide office, such as governor or attorney general, to $10,000 per donor; $5,000 per donor to legislative candidates; $40,000 per donor to state political parties; and $10,000 per donor to state political action committees.

“Those are the same limits proposed by the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy” created by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Chavez-Houck said. “I was a member of that commission. I have been disappointed that most of the recommendations it made have been pushed to the side. I am doing this to try to keep the debate alive.”

The federal government imposes limits on donations in federal races, such as for the U.S. Senate and House. But Utah has none for state races — and also allows corporations to donate directly to candidates, which federal law bans for federal races. (Chavez-Houck’s bill would still allow corporate donations.)

Chavez-Houck said the current system — with no limits at all and contributions of $50,000 or more common to gubernatorial candidates, for example — has led to allegations and belief that state officials sometimes do favors for big donors. She said limits would help restore confidence in government.

An example of the controversy that can erupt came last year when a company was awarded a $1.1 billion contract to rebuild Interstate 15 in Utah county after it and its leaders donated $87,500 to Gov. Gary Herbert — and another company alleged that the state improperly tweaked bids to award that contract.

Herbert’s democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, made the contract and donations a central campaign issue.

Anticipated Count of Petition Signatures

December 30, 2010

UEG has heard rumors that the completed count of our petition signature drive may be reported soon by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. Several possibilities loom:

  1. The verification process will reveal that we obtained sufficient signatures and, despite instructions to county clerks not to certify signatures, the LG will determine that our initiative meets the requirements to be placed on the 2012 ballot.  We then will begin planning the campaign for voter approval.
  2. The process will reveal that we obtained sufficient signatures, but the LG will decline to declare the total to be sufficient for the 2012 ballot because of an interpretation of the initiative statute that differs from our interpretation. In this case, we will head to court to resolve the issue.
  3. The count will indicate that we failed to gain the necessary signatures in one or more of the required Senate Districts. In this case we will examine the tabulation. Because our informal earlier count indicated that we had enough surplus signatures to allow us to reach the goal, we will try to ascertain how the count has fallen short.  We must determine whether the signatures were counted in the same way by each county clerk.  If not, then questions of an equal protection violation will arise. This, too, may take us to the courts for resolution.

We have acknowledged from the outset that the courts will likely have to resolve the obstacles that opponents keep raising. We will be pursuing our initiative regardless of the nature of the LG’s announcement.

Politicans spending campaign cash freely

Dec 6, 2010 (Lee Davidson, Salt Lake Tribune)

About $1 of every $5 that legislative candidates spent this year was on items that personally benefited themselves or friends, despite passage of a new law designed to restrict that, according to an analysis of spending by The Salt Lake Tribune.

That means that campaign cash — which mostly comes from special interests — doesn’t just help elect lawmakers but is converted by some into perks.  Read the rest of this story at the Tribune’s website.