Legislation Aims to Crack Down on Campaign Shenanigans

Utah State CapitolRep. Brad Daw, no stranger to campaign shenanigans, has introduced two bills aimed at repairing wrongs of the past.

You may recall that several years ago Daw, R-Orem, sponsored bills that would have curtailed the high-interest rates charged by payday lenders.

The lenders – one in particular – hired a political operative who went about raising money secretly and taking out after Daw, who ended up losing his seat to a GOP challenger.

Well, Daw came back, won his Orem District 60 seat again – and was a sideline incident to the subsequent investigations into the fall of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, who is soon to go on trial charged with a variety of felonies.

Anyway, this session Daw has introduced HB52, which is directly aimed at that political operative’s activities.

The bill “addresses exactly what happened to me,” Daw told UtahPolicy.

The operative “set up a phony committee to attack me.”

Daw’s second bill is aimed at a recent controversial battle in Orem and Provo over the Bus Rapid Transit election.

His HB20 would make it clear that any government entity – state, county, city or special district – can not use an official email, social network, or even media outlet – like a city TV station or radio station – to take any sides on ballot issues.

Daw says city bosses used various forms of taxpayer-funding media to promote the BRT.

“They say,” said Daw, “that it is OK” to “educate” citizens while the petitions were still be collected by opponents. But that is a “very liberal” reading of the plain English in the law, and should not have happened.

Daw says if the Legislature must make it clear that such advocacy by city officials with taxpayer dollars is illegal, so be it.

The Utah Supreme Court is allowing the Utah Transit Authority to continue its BRT planning, and work on the project will go forward while opponents’ legal challenge proceeds.

All laws passed by the Legislature, of course, can’t be retroactive. And so no penalties can come to those whom Daw believes have broken campaign laws in the past.

Violation by a government entity on the campaigning for or against a ballot proposition carries a $1,000 fine for the first offense.

And violation of the campaign “pass through” bill – which Daw believes cost him his seat — carries a $250 fine for the first offense and a Class B misdemeanor criminal sentence.