Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tribune article on weird Utah County Republican plan to screen out candidates who support the ethics initiative


Utah County GOP wants candidates to declare stand on ethics initiative
Politics » Initiative official says, 'Ethics reform is a nonpartisan issue.'

By Cathy McKitrick

The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 03/24/2010 08:17:44 PM MDT

Utah County Republican leaders will ask each of their party candidates next week to fill out a form disclosing whether they signed petitions for a pending ethics reform initiative in what some view as an odd type of pre-election screening.

The expansive initiative, sponsored by Utahns for Ethical Government, served as the goad for lawmakers to pass several bills in the recent 45-day session, including legislation to form the state's first independent ethics commission.

But GOP legislators and the state Republican Party criticize the initiative as over-reaching and poorly drafted.

"We've already decided that as a party we oppose the [UEG] initiative," said Utah County GOP Chairman Taylor Oldroyd. "So we're asking candidates to declare one way or the other."

The candidate form also asks candidates to pledge to support only Republicans running for office and, if elected, to maintain the highest standards of honesty, morality and integrity.

After a question about which, if any, parts of the party platform the hopeful disagrees with, the form inquires whether the candidate is a supporter of the ethics initiative.

The information will be tabulated in time for the county's April 24 convention, where delegates will cast votes to thin races with multiple contenders.

"There's a few that have a different opinion and that's fine," Oldroyd said. "We just feel the voters and delegates need to know."

So what if a candidate skips the declaration?

"There is no punishment for not signing, but delegates and voters may not view this favorably," Oldroyd said in an e-mail to The Salt Lake Tribune .

Dixie Huefner, UEG's communication director, puzzled over Utah County GOP's new requirement.

"It seems to be inconsistent with Republican values of freedom, choice and liberty," Huefner said. "I don't understand the narrowness of their view since ethics reform is a nonpartisan issue."

In Davis County -- as heavily Republican as Utah County -- candidates will not have to divulge their support or opposition to the ethics initiative.

"We just require that they register as a Republican," said Davis County GOP Chairwoman Shirley Bouwhuis.

"The initiative hasn't even come up here," Bouwhuis added. "Unless it's something against the Republican Party, we believe in freedom of choice."

Weber County Republicans also make no such inquiry of candidates.

"Absolutely not," said Weber GOP Chairman Matt Bell, noting that someone was gathering initiative signatures at his crowded caucus meeting Tuesday night.

"That's Utah County," Bell said. "They can do whatever they want."

Ethics legislation versus initiative

The citizens' initiative would create an independent ethics commission that holds an open hearing on any non-frivolous complaint. The Legislature's new panel conducts the entire screening process behind closed doors.

The initiative allows any three individuals to file an ethics complaint against a lawmaker. The new law allows two residents to lodge a complaint, but at least one must have firsthand knowledge of the alleged violation.

The initiative contains campaign caps. Utah is now one of four states lacking such limits.

No comments: