An American Cancer Society breakfast in which state lawmakers were asked to support legislation to improve Utahns' health raised a question of whether the society itself might be breaking any laws.
Although the society's Utah Division spent $500 to serve a breakfast to more than 20 legislators Wednesday, the organization had not registered any lobbyists with the lieutenant governor's office.But the issue may become moot, because a society spokeswoman said afterward that the group plans to register a lobbyist.
Carla Glasker, public information director for the Cancer Society's Utah Division, told the Deseret News late Wednesday that the division has allocated $2,500 to its Public Issues Committee for legislative issues, and the committee decided Tuesday to use part of that money, less than half, to pay a lobbyist.
A pair of bills to restrict smoking have been filed this session. Tobacco interests, the American Lung Association and the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Utah have already registered lobbyists.
Lynn Summerhays, board chairman of the Cancer Society's Utah Division, said the society considers its breakfast presentation to have been education, not lobbying.
However, at the presentation's end, he told lawmakers, "The Utah Division of the American Cancer Society supports HB53, which we have had the opportunity to review, and strongly supports any additional legislation which seeks to restrict and ultimately eliminate the sale and distribution of tobacco products."
State law requires registration of "any person who receives any contributions or compensation or expends any money for the purpose of attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by the legislature. . . . "
The fact that legislation was discussed was not planned, said Glasker. "Initially, the purpose of our breakfast was to establish the American Cancer Society's presence in the legislators' minds."