This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There's something rotten in the state of Utah, and the stench is wafting from the U.S. Senate campaign. Both sides in the battle to retain or oust Sen. Orrin Hatch are benefiting from barge loads of secret donations. When high office is up for sale to the highest bidders, no republic can survive the resulting corruption. Ask the Romans.
The latest disclosures, or nondisclosures, surround Freedom Path, the nonprofit corporation that former associates of Hatch have created to fund "independent" efforts in behalf of his re-election. Two of three members of the organization's board, Scott Bensing and Mark Emerson, are former political associates of Hatch. The third board member, Steve Troop, apparently is not. All three have Utah ties.
But that's about all that the public can find out about Freedom Path from federal disclosures. The group has spent about $570,000 on ads and other efforts to support Hatch's re-election and trash his opponent, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, but the donors of that money have not been revealed. Preserving the anonymity of donors was a goal of the organization from its inception. That's why it was incorporated as a nonprofit under IRS regulations.
On the other side of the campaign, there's FreedomWorks, which has spent some $781,000 on its effort to "retire" Hatch. That outfit is only slightly more transparent. It is a so-called super PAC (political action committee) that must disclose its donors, but it has succeeded in shredding the paper trail by transferring large donations from its parent company to the PAC.
FreedomWorks is the baby of former U.S. House Speaker Dick Armey of Texas. Based in Washington, D.C., it helped to oust U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah in 2010.
You can lay this stinking mess at the feet of the 5-4 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled in Citizens United in 2010 that corporations, labor unions and individuals could make unlimited contributions to independent political campaigns.
In this context, "independent" means that these election operations do not coordinate their efforts with the formal campaigns of the candidates they support. But in many cases, that separation is a fig leaf because the resulting super PACs often are run by former aides of the candidates whose election they support.
Until a constitutional amendment is enacted to reverse Citizens United and its equation of money with political speech protected by the First Amendment, Americans can expect the stench to get more fetid with each election.