Gov. Norm Bangerter's annual fund-raising event - the Governor's Ball - will still have a lot of people attending Saturday night, even though he isn't seeking re-election next year. But it will also have some uninvited guests - pro-choice abortion protesters.
Michelle Parish, executive director of the state American Civil Liberties Union, confirms that opponents to Utah's new, tough anti-abortion law will be picketing the ball, held this year at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.National Organization for Women president Molly Yard, in town for a regional NOW conference, may also picket. Many of the protesters will be wearing formal dinner attire, as will the official guests at the black-tie affair.
The ACLU and NOW have organized national boycotts of Utah, going so far as placing full-page advertisements in national newspapers criticizing Bangerter and the Utah Legislature for passing a restrictive abortion law. The ACLU and Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam last week agreed before a federal court that the new law will be stayed until its constitutionality is determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Legislature meets Wednesday in special session to make technical changes to the new abortion law, and while the ACLU and NOW hope the law will be drastically changed or repealed, that is unlikely.
Protesters aside, Bangerter expects another successful ball this year. Sale of tickets, which cost $125 or $150 apiece, has been brisk, especially considering the governor announced some months ago that he wouldn't seek a third four-year term in 1992. The ball should gross more than $200,000 and net about $120,000, says Lt. Gov. Val Oveson.
Oveson, who is running for governor next year, is a certified public accountant and treasurer of the Governor's Ball Political Action Committee. The ball PAC has had as much as $250,000 in it at times. The latest filing, December 1990, shows a balance of $162,113.
Legally, Bangerter can use the ball money for any purpose. He could keep the cash when he leaves office, the only requirement being he'd have to declare the income on his personal income taxes.
But Bangerter, who made a million dollars in the construction business before entering politics full-time, says he'll keep none of the money. Most of the PAC, which could reach $200,000 or $250,000 by the 1992 election, will be donated to Republican candidates.