Friday, September 24, 2010

Ethics Reform

The Utahns for Ethical Government sent me a questionairre by email.  Here is the email and my responses:

Utahns for Ethical Government

                                                                                                            September 7, 2010
Dear legislative candidates,

            We would appreciate your answers to the following five questions. Please respond within the next 2½ weeks--by Friday, September 24th [now Tuesday, September 28th]--by hitting the reply button on this email and checking your answer in the blank spaces provided. We believe that interested voters have a right to know your position on our legislative ethics initiative, and we will post these responses on our website and release them to the media. Please include your name at the bottom of your response to facilitate an accurate tabulation.

1) Do you support the ethics reform initiative of Utahns for Ethical Government that would establish a strict code of conduct for the Utah Legislature and a genuinely independent ethics commission to advise the Utah Legislature? (The full initiative can be accessed on each subpage of our website under “Full Petition.” www.utahethics.org )
            Yes _____
            No __X___

2) If you answered yes to question number 1, skip to question 4.  If you answered no, do you support the initiative if you take into account that if the initiative is passed by the voters, the Legislature itself can amend the initiative to clarify any unintended ambiguity that might cause unintended consequences?
            Yes ___
            No __X__

3) If you do not personally support the ethics initiative, are you nonetheless willing to support the constitutional right of Utah voters to vote on our initiative without new roadblocks from the Legislature?
            Yes __X___
            No _____

4) If you are elected, will you oppose changes to Utah’s initiative laws that would make it more difficult for an initiative to get on the ballot (for example, raising the number of signatures required, making electronic signatures invalid)?
            Yes _____
            No __X__

5) If you are elected, would you support lowering the number of Senate Districts or the number of signatures required to place an initiative on the ballot?
            Yes ____
            No __X__

Comments/Clarifications? _The Ethics Reform initiative as it is currently constituted is well intended but over reaching and will have significant unintended consequences.  We need simpler reforms that are rooted in common sense without trying to create a complex construct of behavior management for elected officials.  Some behaviors should simply be criminalized rather than deemed “unethical”.  However, other perceived misbehavior can simply be dealt with by the voters at the ballot box.    

Also, due to the nature of our republic and the responsibility each citizen has to participate in our process, I believe that maintaining the minimum standard for signatures required to get initiatives on the ballot is good policy.   I do believe that physical signatures should be required rather than being electronically submitted due to the ease in which misinformation and popular spirits pervade such a medium.  Keeping ballots, votes, and signatures in the real realm will protect our republic from the mobocracy and vacillating dispositions of the virtual realm. 


MORE THOUGHTS NOT INCLUDED IN THE QUESTOINNAIRE:
I kept my response in the email brief but here are a couple of ideas that I support for ethics reform:

1.  Elected officials should have a 1 year cooling off period before becoming lobbyists
2.  Campaing contributions should never be transferable to a candidate for personal use but should be given to a charity or other worthy cause when that candidate has ended his or her political ventures.
3.  Officials should not accept gifts of any kind from lobbyists (with the exception of a group meal at a large gathering).
4.  Officials should not harass, intimidate, or manipulate state employees whose jobs may affect the interests of a candidate.

These are simple and straightforward reforms.  The initiative proposed has many complicated and confusing constructs that would hurt more than help our state.  

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