Utahns say we want open and honest government and call for legislative campaign finance and ethics reform, but we continue to be ignored by the politicians in power. Matter of fact, it seems to be getting worse. We now see bullying and retaliation against some who speak out, and the loss of civility spills into the halls of the people's House. Even in middle schools we see better behavior, but then, they have adult supervision.

Any effort to introduce reform legislation each year gets killed and never sees the light of day. And those in power grab more each year. Two years ago, for every $100 in donations legislators received, $96.70 came from special-interest groups or from their own pockets, according to the Deseret News. Now, some don't even bother to campaign in their own districts. They don't have to — they have lobbyists to bankroll their campaigns.

Like all institutions, those in them resist change, and, over the years, they create more devices to insulate themselves from criticism, deny any wrongdoing, or try to justify their actions. And while 97 percent of the public wants ethics and campaign finance reform, lawmakers ignore the public's voice and keep doing the same. We forget that institutions don't change unless it is done by outside forces, because those in power cannot be trusted to be self-critical. They become entrenched and seek to amass more power and become more focused on serving those who keep them there — those special interests that feed off the institution. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

We like to think that we elect people we believe are honest, ethical and have the public's interest in mind, and they usually are and do, but once in office, many seem to lose the lessons they were taught by their parents about doing the right thing. They quickly get addicted to the trappings of power, and they fall prey to the false adulation they get from special-interest groups. They are in denial about their failings.

Come Nov. 4, we have the responsibility to change all that. Without any evidence, we hope that our government will be more transparent and ethical. Then there are those among us who complain about the Legislature but love their own legislator. It leaves one wondering if our Legislature really is a reflection of who we are as a people. We say we want an open and honest government, accountability, ethical and free of vested interests, yet we keep electing the same politicians who fight to keep their power and punish their dissenters.

For those of us voters serious about bringing ethics to state government, we might consider calling those legislative candidates running in our district to get a commitment to work for legislation that will support some of the proposals regarding campaign finance and ethics reform made by some legislators and the governor — ban gifts, require full campaign finance disclosure including all money from lobbyists, (legislators and lobbyists should list that information quarterly on their Web page), establish an independent bipartisan commission on ethics and ban former legislators from lobbying legislators for two years.

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Too many incumbent legislators have had plenty of time and chances to return the confidence and integrity voters should expect from their leaders, but they continue to ignore the people's interest for their own political career. Since they have shown an inability to change, it's up to the voters to do their duty to make change. That's how our government is supposed to work. As the TV infomercials urge, "Don't wait, pick up the phone and call right now to get the $19.95 special deal," or in this case, to get good government.

What a deal.


A Utah native, John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations; been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards; and filled White House appointments, including deputy assistant secretary of labor and as a member of the commission on Hispanic education. E-mail: jdflorez@comcast.net