A big majority of Utahns say the state's virtually non-existent limits on campaign donations need an overhaul.
Our latest UtahPolicy.com survey, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, finds nearly 7 in 10 Utahns want more restrictive campaign finance laws. About a quarter said campaign finance in the state is fine the way it is.
Utah is one of the few states that imposes no restrictions on most candidates. Aside from some municipal regulations, state-level and legislative candidates can accept any size donation from any donor.
Another big loophole in Utah's patchwork of campaign finance regulations has already reared its head in the race for Salt Lake City Mayor. While donations to candidates are limited to $7,500 per donor, political action committees can make unlimited expenditures on behalf of a candidate as long as there is no coordination. That happened during the primary election when a PAC funded mostly by outdoor advertising companies started putting up billboards in favor of Jackie Biskupski, who is the chief rival of incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker. The PAC later added billboards for all of Becker's opponents.
Our survey finds Democrats and independent voters are much more in favor of restrictions on campaign finance than Republicans. 87% of Democrats and 78% of independents say they would favor campaign finance reform while just 58% of Republicans do.
That would make some sense as Republicans control most of the major offices in Utah. Why would they take steps to change a system that benefits them? They have been reluctant to do so during recent legislative sessions.
In fact during the 2015 legislative session, House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) sponsored a measure to put caps on political donations, but that effort was voted down by his colleagues.
Interestingly, those who say they are members of the Tea Party in Utah oppose limits on campaign donations. 52% of the small-government advocating group say the state's campaign finance regulations are fine where they are while 73% of those who are not Tea Partiers want limits.
Again, that makes some sense because one of the central tenets of the Tea Party movement is limiting government regulation, so any limits on campaign donations imposed by the government would be opposed by this group.
The survey was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from August 7-14, 2015 among 500 adult Utahns. It has a margin of error of =/- 4.99%.