Most Utah legislators being sold to highest bidder

Last week the Salt Lake Tribune reported on campaign contributions. According to their research, 7% of all legislative campaign contributions come from average citizens, just your everyday constituent of a senator or representative.

That’s right, just 7%, or 70 cents out of every $10 donation–not even enough to buy a soda from a vending machine. So where do they get the rest?

It will probably come as no surprise that the majority of it comes from special interest donations. Lobbyists, corporations, political action committees, advocacy groups and business leaders donate 82% or $8.20 of every $10 donation.

An even more disturbing number from the report is 25–that’s the number of legislators who got 100% of their donations from special interests. That means that 1 in 4 legislators did not bother to raise a single dime from the average citizen, preferring to take the big checks from special interest groups.

Ask most legislators what that money buys and you will likely be met with feigned indignation over the implication. But we aren’t stupid. Access to elected officials is a commodity and money helps buy access.

If a legislator receives phone messages from two different people, one an average non-donating constituent, and the other a corporate lobbyist who made a large donation, who do you think gets called back first?

In fact, in a separate story last week it was reported that Senator Mark Madsen, a Republican from Saratoga Springs, has personal and financial connections with a property owner under consideration in the possible prison move. He defended his relationship with this political donor and insider while also stating that he doesn’t even bother to return constituent calls regarding concerns over the very same issue.

Despite repeated efforts by Representatives Brian King and Kraig Powell to pass legislation that would place limits on campaign donations, legislators refuse to curtail their own money train.

So it is important to know just who is footing the bill for your own senator and representative. This information is readily accessible on our website Click on the Follow the Money link, type in your legislator’s name and you’ll see every donation they’ve received. Trust us, you’ll be surprised. Then you’ll be shocked. Then you’ll be angry.

As the legislative session is almost upon us, this information is more important than ever. It is crucial to know who is funding our legislators and who stands to gain from the legislation they propose.

Legislators will defend their actions and say they are merely donations from supporters, but we prefer to call them what they really are–investments. And no one makes an investment without expecting a return.

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.

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