Several corporations have violated state law by contributing to local candidates without registering with the state, according to state records.
The law, passed by the 1988 Legislature, has Lt. Gov. Val Oveson fretting over enforcement. The deadline for registering was Dec. 8. So far, only 28 corporations have complied."We have no idea how many should have filed," Oveson said Monday. He believes corporations have violated the law because they don't know it exists.
Violations are class-B misdemeanors. Oveson said he will try to identify the corporations and ask them to register. County attorneys will be notified if any refuse to comply.
Oveson said he sees no logical reason for the law. "The intent, in my opinion, is to get to the point where the Legislature prohibits corporate contributions all together."
Some states already have such a law. Corporate contributions are outlawed on the federal level.
To learn which corporations have failed to register, Oveson and his staff will examine each candidate's financial disclosure forms and compare the lists of contributors to the list of registered corporations. The procedure will be tedious, he said.
So far, it appears most major candidates received money from corporations that failed to register. Violators include Cook & Associates Inc., the corporation owned by independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook. The corporation's loans and contributions to Cook's campaign totaled almost $500,000.
"We certainly would have followed it (the law) if we'd known about it," Cook said. "There's got to be some reasonable dissemination of information (from the lieutenant governor's office)."
But Gov. Norm Bangerter and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson also received contributions from corporations that failed to register. The 28 registered corporations contributed a combined $299,049.74.
The law was passed as part of a bill requiring political action committees to register. Oveson said he understands the reasoning behind forcing PACs to register.
"There is a difference between PACs and corporations," he said. "With PACs, there is no way of knowing who's behind them unless they register. All corporations, however, are on file with the Department of Business Regulation."
Oveson said about 90 percent of the PACs that contributed in Utah have complied with the law.