Hughes Warns Lawmakers Loose Lips Could Sink Political Careers

Utah State Capitol 10

After the embarrassment suffered by recently by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and his fundraising, House Speaker Greg Hughes told an open caucus Wednesday to “be very, very careful about what you say – at all times.”

The Salt Lake Tribune got hold a recording made several weeks ago where Herbert was addressing a fundraising meeting with lobbyists and others in the exclusive downtown Alta Club.

Herbert, who is fundraising for a costly primary with fellow Republican Jonathan Johnson, told those present he was “Available Jones” – and old cartoon character who would go anywhere and work for money.

In this case, Herbert said he would meet with campaign donors and discuss their concerns. But he was clear there would be no quid pro quo – no donations for governmental favors.

Herbert has since apologized – sort of – and said that he let himself down and should have been more careful with his words. He added that he thought he was “among friends” and that his comments wouldn’t be repeated, certainly not secretly recorded.

Hughes told his 63-member caucus that in this day and age, everyone, especially himself, needs to be careful what they say.

“You can be secretly recorded at any time” and anywhere, Hughes cautioned his membership.

Hughes is known for his candid talk, making jokes.

“Be careful about your sarcasm and being flippant” and name-calling said Hughes.

He said House members must remember that they can’t accept campaign checks on Capitol Hill, and can’t accept donations during the general session or in special sessions (which lawmakers held Wednesday evening).

If someone is offering a donation, and then starts talking about a specific issue or bill, then it is time to steer the conversation into a different direction – for there should never be donations in any way connected to a specific issue or bill, warned Hughes – who as a House GOP leader overseas the Republican House PAC, the campaign fundraising arm of the GOP Republican House majority.

In fact, Hughes was holding his own Political Action Committee fundraiser later Wednesday night – after the special session was over, and so it was allowable under House rules.

“We need to create very, very bright lines” between fundraising and any activity that could be considered harmful – especially with the media watching what legislators do.

“These are the times we live in. We need to be careful in speaking with lobbyists,” the speaker said.