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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Herbert unethical in fundraising

By Jonathan Deesing

There are a lot of ways to get $1 million: winning the lottery, working hard, or marrying a dying millionaire. Perhaps the easiest way is to consign oneself to being a special interest group lackey in Utah. You might even get a governorship out of it.

The last method was one employed by Gov. Gary Herbert last week, when he raised more than $1 million in a single night of fundraising, the largest in Utah’s gubernatorial history. He was able to do this in part by not following former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s tradition of not taking donations of more than $10,000. Instead, Herbert accepted donations as large as $50,000. Luckily for Herbert, Utah is one of only five states that does not place caps on campaign donations, a fact he has exploited to its fullest extent.

This is yet another show of Herbert’s main goal during the next year: winning an election.
Another obvious indication of this was when he instructed legislators not to pass any liquor legislation during this election year that he would have to veto or sign. This means he is even unwilling to enact more restrictive liquor laws that generally please Utah’s conservative majority. This is particularly telling of how insistent Herbert is on not upsetting any balance and thus his re-election chances.

His predecessor was committed to improving such laws and recognized the positive effect they could have on our state. Conversely, Herbert has taken a stance not of neutrality but of fearful limbo.

Perhaps it is too early to judge the governor’s political accomplishments or future potential.
Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said, “the time to really judge him will be after the upcoming legislative session.” Herbert is facing an $850 million deficit, Jowers said, and he has an election coming up quickly.

Unfortunately, with his most recent efforts toward securing his governorship, the election will likely be a foregone conclusion regardless of what happens on Capitol Hill next year. A million dollars in the bank is intimidating for Democrats in Utah, where they are already underdogs. As a result, we are likely going to be blessed with limited options for governor next November, because any right-minded Democrat would not waste time and money running in an election that was decided the day Herbert put an “R” next to his name.

Herbert has attempted to justify his outrageous campaign funding by saying it is ethical as long as he incorporates full disclosure of donors and amounts. Still, 45 other states disagree. So does the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah’s Democracy, which includes Jowers, who serves as its chairman.

None of this matters, however, as Herbert has already shown his aversion to ethical politics when he committed himself to opposing a proposed citizens ethics initiative two weeks ago. He presented dubious reasons for doing so, but in all likelihood, he was simply trying to maintain good relationships with lawmakers whose actions would be called into question by this initiative.

I would like to have a governor who is more concerned with positive change than furthering his own career, and maybe we have one. The upcoming legislative session will be a true test of his capabilities. But drawing from his most recent actions, as the election draws closer, Herbert will show his true colors, which might just be winning at any cost.

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