Utah lawmakers received $96K in contributions from alcohol, tobacco companies

Governor opts to return money after Deseret News inquiry

Published: Saturday, Feb. 2 2013 2:10 p.m. MST

A few alcohol- and tobacco-related bills likely will be introduced during the upcoming legislative session, but 2013 is not expected to be a significant year for alcohol- or tobacco-related policy.

Senate Minority Assistant Whip Pat Jones, D-Holladay, who was not up for re-election in 2012, said she purposely tries to avoid accepting donations from such lobby groups.

"I'm not judging anyone else who does, but I feel like for me, because I do champion health issues on the hill, I've made an effort over the years not to accept this money," Jones said, "and most of the PACs and lobbyists know that, so they really don't offer it anymore."

Jones also said she's a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counsels people to abstain from using alcohol and tobacco.

"It just doesn't square with some of those things I believe in," she said.

House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who received $2,500 from Altria, $500 from Anheuser-Busch, $500 from the Utah Beer Wholesalers Association, and $250 from Reynolds, said he has no problem accepting donations from alcohol and tobacco companies.

"I really don't distinguish 'sin issues' when it comes to accepting campaign contributions," Hughes said. "There are tax policies that impact our regulatory climate and business interests, and organizations that have a vested interest in those policies are going to contribute to campaigns."

House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said he did not know a $2,500 donation made to his campaign by Altria was from a tobacco company.

"I have no idea what Altria is," Dee said. "I voted for a tax increase on tobacco products, so I don't know why a tobacco company would be donating to my campaign."

Dee also received $500 from the Utah Beer Wholesalers Association and $250 from Reynolds.

Several PACs and political organizations also received contributions from alcohol and tobacco companies. The two PACs run by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, the Utah House Republican Election Committee and the Speaker's Victory Fund, received $5,250 and $4,000, respectively. 

Utah's Prosperity Foundation, run by former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, received a total of $6,000 in donations. The Utah Democratic Party also received a $2,500 donation from Reynolds, and the State Republican Campaign Committee accepted $3,500 from alcohol distributors.

Campaign finance disclosures from 2012 can be accessed at www.disclosures.utah.gov.

E-mail: mmellor@deseretnews.com

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