Meals. Golf games. Sports tickets.
Once again, the latest lobbyist disclosure reports that had to be filed Thursday with the state Elections Office show Utah lawmakers received these and other gifts from representatives of a wide variety of private and public organizations.
Because state law only requires recipients to be named if the amount of the gift is valued at more than $50, most reports don't specify which lawmakers accepted the offers made by individuals hired to represent interest groups.
So when SelectHealth lobbyist Eliana White listed nearly $800 in meals for lawmakers during the second quarter of 2008, she did not have to name any of them because the individual cost apparently always fell below the $50 threshold.
Nor did veteran lobbyist Paul Rogers, who represents more than 30 clients including the Utah Bankers Association. Rogers had more than 50 separate meal and entertainment expenses listed that totaled over $1,000 but none exceeded the limit.
Same for Questar lobbyist Rey Butcher, who reported eating six meals and attending three athletic events with 89 people identified only as "officials" and other guests, adding up to a total of more than $2,100.
But Pfizer lobbyist Shelby Fletcher went ahead and reported that her only expense last quarter, nearly $32 for a dinner at the Market Street Grille, was for Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful.
And several lobbyists even reported their campaign contributions. Under the law, it's up to candidates to disclose where their money comes from and their next reports aren't due until Sept. 2.
"We encourage full transparency," said Joe Demma, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert who oversees the state elections office. "Obviously, we are fans of full transparency, so while the law may not require it, it's not ever a bad thing to do."
Peggy Harrison, lobbyist for the Utah Rural Telecom Association in Central Valley, submitted a list of $100 and $200 donations to more than dozen legislators. She said she knew she didn't need to report the $4,900 in contributions but decided to do it anyway.
"I just like to be honest and up front, and I think everything should be disclosed," Harrison said. "We had no lobbying this quarter, none. But we did do contributions because this is a campaign year."
William Rose, a lobbyist for ATK Space Systems and Sensors in Clearfield also listed a campaign contribution, a $1,000 donation to Senate Assistant Majority Whip Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse. Rose, though, referred to Killpack as a representative, not a senator.
Lobbyist Brian Allen, whose clients include the Utah Transit Authority, reported giving $100 in campaign maps and information for the failed school board campaign of Teresa Curtis, wife of House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy.
There were a number of lawmakers who accepted meals and tickets above the $50 limit.
Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake, and Sen. Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley, played golf and had both breakfast and lunch at the Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in Midway courtesy of Qwest lobbyist Eric Isom, who picked up the nearly $180 tab for the pair.
Rep. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy, also hit the links, with Kennecott lobbyist Gina Crezee paying $115 for Kiser to participate in the Utah Mining Association Golf Tournament, a fundraiser held at the Riverbend Golf Course in Riverton.
Seven lawmakers including two Democrats took Jazz tickets worth $960 from Stan Lockhart, the head of the Utah Republican Party and a registered lobbyist for his employer, Micron Technology and IM Flash.
Salt Lake Democratic Sens. Ross Romero and Scott McCoy got basketball tickets, as did Republican Sens. Howard Stephenson of Draper and Pete Knudson of Brigham City and Republican Reps. Kerry Gibson of Ogden, Paul Ray of Clearfield, and Lorie Fowlke of Orem.
Several legislative leaders and, in some cases, their family members, took tickets to a National Conference of State Legislatures forum in Washington, D.C., from lobbyist Steve Proper, who represents Comcast and the Utah Cable and Telecommunications Association.
Proper paid for more than $1,300 in tickets for a list of lawmakers that included House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara; House Assistant Majority Whip Brad Dee, R-Ogden; House Speaker Curtis; and Senate Assistant Majority Whip Killpack.
Kelly Patterson, director of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy said the state's disclosure requirements make it hard for voters to find out who's attempting to influence their representatives."The disclosure system isn't as transparent as it could be," Patterson said. "This is largely a process that is carried out outside the scrutiny of the public. And if you can get what you want by not going public, why go public."
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