Democrats try to question Swallow, call for ethics reform

Published: Friday, Feb. 15 2013 6:45 p.m. MST

King said Utah has created a culture where campaign contributors have come to expect to have a say in public policy decisions. Large amounts of money, he said, have an "insidious and corrupting" influence.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said lawmakers have been very proactive on ethics issues in recent years, citing efforts to create the independent ethics commission to investigate complaints against members of the Legislature, as well as new restrictions on meals and gifts.

Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, has a bill to create an independent ethics commission in the executive branch — governor, attorney general, state treasurer and state auditor.

"What we've done seems to be effective," said Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser.  "Of course, there's always something that might happen, and there is a process for us to deal appropriately and have public involved in that process."

The Sandy Republican said there's a "high probability" that Valentine's bill will pass this session.

Neiderhauser was less definitive on proposals to cap campaign donations, saying it has been debated before but that it could be debated again.

Neiderhauser also was careful not to mention Swallow in his comments on ethics reform. Senate Republicans, however, did familiarize themselves with the Utah's impeachment process after the allegations against Swallow surfaced and before the session started last month.

"If there comes an impeachment process, we act as judges. For us today to comment in any way upon the situation of the attorney general would be inappropriate," the Senate president said. "We need to remain as unbiased as possible if we're called on to do our constitutional duty. We believe in due process and the presumption of innocence."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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