When your job is to befriend Utah legislators, you don't join causes legislators don't like.
An analysis by the Deseret News shows that while 35 former lawmakers endorse the Utahns for Ethical Government legislative ethics citizen initiative, that list is nearly void of names of lawmakers who are now registered lobbyists.
There are 30 former legislators who are now lobbyists, plus one current lawmaker who also is a registered lobbyist.
But there are only two names common to both lists, the newspaper found.
Several sources told the newspaper that lobbyists/former lawmakers don't want to anger current legislators, especially GOP leaders, and so are staying away from the initiative.
The married couple Rod and Paula Julander, who both served as Democratic lawmakers, are registered lobbyists and initiative supporters. Former Sen. Paula Julander represents a nurses' association; former Rep. Rod Julander a social workers' group.
Paula Julander said she doesn't know why more former legislator/lobbyists are not supporting the initiative. "I just believe in ethical government," she said. "And I only lobby for nurses (she used to be a nurse), the only group that I would lobby for, paid or unpaid."
Except for the Julanders, there is a clear split in opinion among former part-time legislators.
"Our business is not upsetting legislators," said one former lawmaker who is now a contract lobbyist. (A contract lobbyist doesn't work for one client or business, but carries a stable of clients.)
And it is pretty clear where most legislators are on the UEG initiative — they are against it, the lobbyist added, asking not to be named.
"I was never even contacted" by UEG and asked to support the initiative. "And I know these (UEG) guys pretty well. Maybe they just assumed (lobbyists) wouldn't support it" — an assumption that so far has turned out correct.
In fact, GOP legislative leaders have been some of the most vocal critics of the initiative, a few saying it is unconstitutional on several fronts.
A review of the 35 former lawmakers endorsing the initiative shows that many are either Democrats or were considered Republican moderates, who at times had their own disagreements with their more conservative party colleagues.
For example, former GOP Rep. Jordan Tanner endorses the initiative. Tanner, who served 10 years during the 1990s in the House from his Provo district, was known for his failed attempts at ethics reforms — his bills dying year after year in either the House or Senate.
"You don't see many recent legislators or the (former GOP legislative) leaders" on the UEG list, said the unnamed lawmaker/lobbyist. The initiative sponsors "had to go pretty far back to dig up these guys," the lobbyist noted. Only 10 of the 35 UEG-endorsing former legislators served in this decade.
The biggest name on the initiative's list is former Rep. Olene Walker, R-Salt Lake, who as lieutenant governor became governor in 2003 after former Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned to join the Bush administration.
Walker was majority leader in the Utah House — and hoped to become Utah's first female speaker — before she was defeated in her legislative re-election bid in 1988.
As governor, Walker had some rocky relationships with GOP legislative leaders, at one point threatening to veto the whole state budget if money wasn't found for a public school reading program.
Of the 30 former lawmakers who are now registered lobbyists, 16 were in Democratic or Republican leadership, including a few speakers of the House and presidents of the Senate.
Kim Burningham, chairman of UEG and a former Utah GOP House member himself, said he put together part of the calling list seeking initiative endorsements from former legislators.
"It was not a methodical thing" to exclude lobbyist/former legislators from the solicitation list, said Burningham, "but I probably figured they would not be interested" in joining up.
Trying to get some major political hitters in Utah to endorse the initiative, like Mitt Romney, former Gov. Leavitt or the like "is not on the agenda at this time," said Burningham.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was very popular here, is out of reach. As U.S. ambassador to China, Huntsman is expected to stay out of local politics, including endorsements.
e-mail: [email protected]