Since the beginning of time, government accountability has been rooted in the same struggle: where there is power, there is potential for corruption. We’ve seen this throughout our nation’s history, and it’s no surprise–power can be intoxicating. Leaders all around the world and throughout history have proven to be real-life examples of just how destructive this intoxicating responsibility can be.
But power is a privilege. If unjust actions by leaders are not met with consequences, corruption has free rein to grow. We as Americans and Utahns must not forget that one of our country’s founding values was holding people accountable to the law, no matter how powerful the person. The public servants we vote into office take an oath to serve the common good, not themselves, and accountability is an integral part of that.
There generally seems to be a problem when it comes to leaders listening–or rather, not listening–to the voices of the various communities they represent. Although we do have some impressive leaders working here in Utah to bring about positive change, we also have leaders abusing their power. We saw it when state legislators repealed ballot initiatives that over half the state voted for, and we saw it when a few state leaders entangled themselves in the hydroxychloroquine scandal. It should alarm each and every one of us when local and state leaders ignore our needs, and instead choose to prioritize business and elite interests.
If a democracy is truly run by and for the people, then accountability and transparency in government and elections are absolutely critical. We the people have the prerogative and duty to ensure that our representatives have a clean and uncorrupt record. Power is a privilege, not something to be abused, and with no campaign contribution limits in our state, private entities with money can–literally or figuratively–line the pockets of politicians and consequently obstruct the power of the people.
In 2018, Utahns voted on three ballot initiatives, and all three of them passed with over 50% of voters in favor of each one. You would think these victories would’ve been cause for celebration, right? Actually, no. Each one of these initiatives was either amended or repealed and replaced, undermining the original intent of these propositions. Ultimately, the outcome was a watering down of what the people wanted in favor of what lawmakers wanted. Though there were protests and pushback from constituents, elected officials were not held accountable. Sadly, this only confirms that our state has a long way to go when it comes to embracing the values of a truly representative government.
Now, in the unprecedented time of Covid-19 as our state has taken swift action to respond to the crisis, accountability and transparency have been the top priorities here at Better Utah. As we’ve watched private companies take on such a hefty load of the response efforts, our dedication to holding people accountable has become all the more essential. Recently, a private company, Meds in Motion, sold 20,000 packages of hydroxychloroquine–an unproven drug that the FDA has now warned against for treating Covid–to the state for $800,000 with the support of Senate President Stuart Adams. The outrageous price-tag and concerns from medical professionals is why we ended up filing a complaint with the Utah Department of Consumer Protection. Soon after we filed our complaint, Governor Gary Herbert’s office got the state a refund for the $800,000. And while the Department of Consumer Protection has informed us that they will not be able to look into the matter, we’re hoping the Attorney General will take it up.
With the 2020 election right around the corner, it is imperative that we cling to the values of good government more than ever before. As all Utahns prepare to cast their ballots come November, we must not neglect the local and state-level races that will greatly impact our everyday lives.
I believe we can build a better government where this degree of vigilance is not necessary. The first step toward improvement is electing good people who care about transparency and good governance. Honesty should not be a unique quality in a politician, it should simply be the standard. I hope voters remember this come November. I know I will.
Kathryn is the political coordinator for Better Utah.