Utahns for Ethical Government (UEG)
Why Sign the UEG Ballot Initiative?
1. The UEG ballot initiative will place Utah among the ethical leaders of the 50 states instead of at the back of the pack.
- Utah is one of only 10 states without an Independent Ethics Commission.
- Utah is one of only six states that do not set limits on campaign contributions.
- Utah has been given grades of F and D- on its disclosure reporting requirements by two separate independent organizations.
2. Signing the UEG ballot initiative will show the Utah Legislature that voters care about legislators’ integrity and ethical behavior.
- The Legislature has taken only small steps to reform itself.
- The Legislature needs to be accountable to the people, not to special interests.
- Legislators work for us, not the other way around.
3. The UEG ballot initiative will give voice to the people, whose voice is being drowned out by special interest money.
- The fundamental right of one-person-one-vote is significantly diminished and access is limited when one person’s vote competes with so much corporate money and with unlimited contributions from a few wealthy individuals and groups.
4. The UEG ballot initiative will help legislators.
- UEG ethical standards make it easier for honest people to remain honest.
- UEG ethical standards clarify what is not acceptable and will protect legislators from lobbyist and special interest pressures.
- The Commission will develop a mandatory ethics training program for the Legislature and legislative staff.
- If a legislator is in doubt about an action, the legislator can seek an opinion from the Commission to determine whether the contemplated action would be ethical.
5. The UEG ballot initiative will prohibit legislators from accepting gifts (for example, meals, athletic tickets, entertainment, and travel) from lobbyists.
- Legislators are already paid per diems ($54 for food and $120 for lodging), so their living costs during the session are covered.
- Accepting gifts creates the perception, if not the reality, that special interest groups are buying access and votes.
Did You Know?
Did you know that under current law:
- Legislators can be lobbyists while serving in office. They also can lobby for themselves or a business (if it is not primarily a lobbying organization) as soon as they leave office.
What’s the matter with this?
1) Utahns do not know whom their legislator is representing while in office--the public or their lobbying organization?
2) We do not know whether the serving legislator is tempted to vote a certain way while in office in hopes of securing a job or a lobbying contract after the session ends.
No man can serve two masters with equal faith. The master should be the people of Utah, not the lobbying organization.
- Legislators can accept appointments to corporate boards when the corporation may have matters to come before the Legislature and when the principal qualification to serve is the legislator’s status as a legislator.
- Legislators can sponsor bills that give a specific financial benefit to themselves or their business interests without sufficient disclosure of their conflicts of interest.
- Legislators are not prevented from using their official positions to threaten judges and agency heads and to get employees of the executive branch fired for not ruling a certain way.
- Legislators can spend campaign funds on non-campaign personal expenses.
- Legislators can contribute to each other’s campaigns with money that was given to them for expected use in their own campaign. They can acquire a war chest and give money to other legislators or legislative candidates to curry favor with them and influence legislative leadership decisions.
- Legislators can accept unlimited donations to their campaigns from individuals, corporations, and other special interest groups.
This citizen-led initiative will improve the ethical landscape,
assuring that legislators do not profit or appear to profit
from their positions of trust.
Follow us at www.utahethics.org and on twitter and the UEG facebook page.
Supplementary Information for Signature Gatherers
1. The UEG initiative is nonpartisan.
- It is supported by Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and other voters.
- Its supporters include a number of former legislators and community leaders, both Republicans and Democrats.
2. The UEG initiative preserves the constitutional authority of the legislature to discipline its own members but provides a measure of independence from legislative politics.
- The Independent Ethics Commission will be an arm of the legislative branch of state government selected by legislative leadership.
- The five Commissioners will be selected at random from a pool of 20 qualified citizens, all of whom must be unanimously agreed to by the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate. The Commissioners must agree to operate in a non-partisan fashion.
- The Commission will review complaints of ethical misconduct submitted by any three persons, and decide whether to dismiss the complaint or to hold hearings and make recommendations to the Legislature with respect to the discipline of a member.
- The Senate or House decides whether to accept or reject the recommendations of the Commission but must do so in a public vote.
3. The Office of the Independent Ethics Commission will be a small office.
- The office will have a paid Executive Director and small staff.
- The staff will have the expertise and technology to conduct investigations and gather evidence for the Commission.
- The Commissioners will not be salaried but will be paid a per diem to cover their expenses for actual days worked.
4. Our initiative is a separate initiative from the Fair Boundaries (redistricting) initiative to establish an independent commission to redraw the boundaries for federal and state legislative districts after the 2010 census.
- The initiatives are congruent because both are interested in improving public trust in their government and reducing partisanship in decisions that should be nonpartisan, but they focus on different problems and have different sponsors.
5. Our initiative is not part of the work of the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Democracy, which is focusing on election law reform, campaign financing, and lobbying and which will make recommendations to Governor Herbert in November.
- The original charge to the Commission to study ethics and redistricting issues was withdrawn by Governor Huntsman under pressure from legislative leaders, which gave increased importance to the work of Utahns for Ethical Government and Fair Boundaries.
More detailed information is found in the Executive Summary and Frequently Asked Questions sections of the UEG website at www.utahethics.org. The complete initiative can be downloaded from the website, along with favorable editorials that have been published since the initiative was launched on August 12th.