In an effort to have more clout in the legislature, the Democratically controlled Salt Lake County Commission has hired a high-powered Republican to do its lobbying.

The county will pay former state senator Paul S. Rogers $40,000 a year to help pass laws on Capitol Hill.Ironically, County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi once called for an ethics investigation of Rogers when he was a senator and Horiuchi was chairman of the state Democratic Party. Horiuchi said Thursday that was the biggest mistake he made. Rogers was exonerated unanimously by a committee that included four Democrats.

"That was the darkest moment of my chairmanship," Horiuchi said. "Clearly, I was wrong."

Rogers also contributed $1,250 to Horiuchi's recent campaign for the County Commission seat. But Horiuchi said the contribution had nothing to do with the county's decision to hire Rogers.

"When he donated money I was 30 points behind," Horiuchi said, meaning that the donation was not given with the intention it would be repaid with favors. "That certainly plays no role in my thoughts on this."

Horiuchi said taxpayers actually will save money if Rogers is successful. He will try to persuade lawmakers to fund a Salt Palace expansion and to approve increases in tourist taxes to maintain the facility, and he will try to give counties the authority to levy taxes on utility bills.

Horiuchi said the county will cut property taxes if it gets the authority to tax utility bills.

"We think it is fiscally prudent to seek outside help this year," said Horiuchi, who was a lobbyist before running for office. "We think our county-attorney lobbying team is terrific, but with last year's failure of the Salt Palace bills we figured we needed extra help. We look at this as an investment and as a safeguard for our residents."

He also said it will help to have a respected Republican lobbyist in the Republican-dominated Legislature.