A large loophole in the state's new campaign disclosure law must be closed next year or candidates for governor and other statewide offices won't have to report their finances until just seven days before the general election if they are unchallenged within their own political party.
"I can see now how it (the loophole) was created, but it certainly wasn't our intent. I'll definitely try to change it," says House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo, sponsor of the campaign disclosure bill that passed during the final week of the 1991 Legislature.The change can be made by the 1992 Legislature and take effect before a new governor is elected in November next year. Thus, the item doesn't have to appear on agenda for a special legislative session April 17, said Lt. Gov. Val Oveson, whose Election Law Task Force drafted the original campaign disclosure bill.
Oveson and Harward said the intent of their bill was to place legislative candidates on the same reporting footage as statewide elected officials. Before the new law was passed, legislative candidates didn't even report finances before their election, only 30 days after the election.
The push to make legislative candidates report before their elections included making the reporting dates of statewide offices and the Legislature the same. Legislators, however, are part-time officers, and most House and Senate members didn't like having to report their campaign finances as often as the original bill required - seven days before the party convention, seven days before the primary election and seven days before the general election.
They amended the bill to say a candidate only files a pre-convention report if he faces an intraparty convention challenge, or files a pre-primary election report only if he faces a primary. Unfortunately, no one noticed that the change also applied to gubernatorial, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer and auditor candidates as well.
Thus, if a gubernatorial candidate didn't have a convention or primary challenge he wouldn't report at all until seven days before the general election.
The old law required gubernatorial candidates to file three times before the election.
Harward said traditionally the party not holding the governor's seat tries to clear the political decks - "Give their candidate a clear shot at the office without a convention or primary fight, focus their resources, if you will."
On the opposite side, traditionally the incumbent governor has no challenge from within his own party - so he doesn't have a convention or primary fight as well.
Gubernatorial races are costing about $1 million these days. Thus, there likely could be two $1 million campaigns for governor - the Republican and the Democratic - with no financial reporting until just seven days before the final election, giving very little time for the press and public to find out who is bank-rolling gubernatorial campaigns.