Lobbyists traditionally provide - for free - any reasonable request a legislator makes. Many legislators never make such requests and turn down the free tickets and offerings lobbyists push on them. But many, also, seek out special favors and take most lobbyists' freebies
A fair estimate of freebies offered a legislator in a year is $1,000, several lobbyist sources calculated.Lobbyists' gifts run the gamut of offerings. "Most of the serious lobbyists have season Jazz tickets and give them out to legislators. They pay for symphony or ballet tickets, that kind of thing," says one lobbyist. It's unlikely any single legislator gets or expects free tickets to every Jazz game or every ballet or symphony performance. But a number of legislators attend such events several times a year as guests of lobbyists.
Lobbyists who are closely tied to a political party often purchase special-event fund-raising tickets for legislators. For example, if Vice President Dan Quayle holds a fund-raiser for a local Republican, lobbyists would buy many of the tickets and give them to GOP legislators.
"The good lobbyists show up at the important NCSL (National Council of State Legislators) meetings (which are held out of state) and buy dinner for the legislators who've attended, maybe a round of golf. I've heard rumors that sometimes they'll pick up a hotel bill for a legislator's spouse (which wouldn't be paid for by the state). That wouldn't surprise me," one lobbyist said.
In years past, legislators living outside daily commuter distance of the Capitol received "very discounted" hotel rooms during the session from prominent hotel operators. Lobbyists helped in arranging those rooms and even picked up part of the tab, sources said. But that practice has decreased in recent years, sources added.
Anytime there's a special need, the more well-known lobbyists step in and help with money. Sometimes it's a gift for a well-loved legislator who is leaving or maybe providing food for a party, like Senate President Arnold Christensen's yearly summer party at his Bear Lake cabin.
Here's a list of what lobbyists or businesses traditionally provide for Utah legislators each year:
- Free lunches are provided during the 45-day general session and on interim study days throughout the rest of the year. The lunches cost between $150 and $300 for the 29-member Senate, maybe $500 for the 75-member House. Free breakfasts and dinners are also offered, but in recent years overworked legislators are attending those less frequently. (Some legislators contribute their own money to their house's Third House fund and so consider those "free" lunches paid for by themselves.)
- Free athletic tickets are provided by the University of Utah, Weber State College, Utah State University and other state-run schools. A season ticket to U. basketball games runs $216 this year, so free season tickets can amount to several hundred dollars.
- Local movie chain theaters give legislators free passes that can be used on any movie and free entry to special premiere showings of "big-name" movies.
- Each year during the general session a free ski weekend for legislators and their immediate families is provided by the Park City ski resorts. Lift passes and one night's accommodation is free, usually a dinner is paid for by a lobbyist. One year the Senate goes, the next year the House.
- A free snowmobile trip is arranged each year by the Utah Snowmobile Association for any legislator and his immediate family who wish to go.
- A free day for legislators and their families at the Hardware Ranch is provided by the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
- A golfing trip to St. George has become a tradition for many House and Senate leaders. The trip used to be mostly free, the cost picked up by lobbyists. But in recent years most of the golfers have paid their own way, although usually treated to a dinner or lunch by lobbyists who organize the trip.
- Free tickets to the Utah Shakespearean Festival are given to legislators who sit on education committees that traditionally hold special meetings in Cedar City each summer.