Analysis: Special interests gave most to Utah legislators
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – More than 90 percent of campaign contributions to Utah lawmakers came from special interests such as the health care and finance industries, according a newspaper’s analysis of disclosure forms.
State legislators received a combined $1.2 million in contributions last year with a little over $1.1 million coming from special or out-of-state interests such as corporations, lobbyists and political action committees, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .
About 3 percent, or $33,000, of the contributions came from people who lived in the district of the lawmaker to whom they gave. In addition, Utah voters gave about $59,000 to state lawmakers outside their home districts.
Among the largest individual donors in the state were EnergySolutions with $67,700, Utah Association of Realtors with $55,250, and Comcast with $35,500.
Dave Robison, chairman of the Utah Association of Realtors’ PAC, said it gives to people of any party who support the ideals of the real estate industry. Because campaigns can be expensive, he said, the donations help good people run for office.
“We focus on honest and ethical policymakers who also support homeownership, affordable housing, small businesses and free enterprise,” Robinson said.
By industry and interest group, the largest combined donors last year were health care with $173,420, waste treatment with $88,150 and finance with $79,846.
Most big donors typically give to many lawmakers and across party lines, focusing contributions on legislators in leadership positions or who sit on relevant committees, said Adam Brown, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.
“When you see giving across parties, it supports the claim they are not necessarily buying a vote,” Brown said. “If they are getting anything for it, it appears to be a chance to make their pitch.”
Republican state Sen. Wayne Niederhauser said that lawmakers do depend on and appreciate contributions, but they are going to listen to their constituents first because “they are the ones who vote, the ones who put us into office.”