This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For the first time this year, lobbyists at the Utah Capitol have been wearing plastic badges around their necks, clearly identifying themselves as hired guns on the Hill.
It may be the last time.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, is seeking to repeal the requirement that lobbyists wear special badges issued by the Lieutenant Governor's Office.
The problem, he says, is that, while it covers contract lobbyists or advocates working for particular companies, there are many who fall into a gray area citizen activists, nonprofit entities, government employees and others who aren't required to wear the badges.
With the lack of clarity, Bramble said, it makes sense to repeal the requirement, which lobbyists had grumbled about in the first place.
"There's a whole host of other individuals who are up here on a regular basis lobbying us and many of them may claim they're here to educate us and not lobby us," said Bramble, who co-sponsored the bill last year that created the lobbyist-badge requirement. "It appears we either need to have badges for everyone on the Hill or we need to repeal it."
Paid lobbyists would still have to identify who they are and who they work for when they initiate a conversation with a legislator.
Maryann Martindale, who wears a lobbyist badge on behalf of the Alliance For A Better Utah, a progressive advocacy group, said disclosing who a lobbyist is representing is a good idea, but the current requirement is incomplete.
It leaves out groups like the League of Women Voters and the Eagle Forum who aren't paid to work on issues before the Legislature.
Bramble's bill also would require nonprofits and third-party groups that spend money on political campaigns notify the candidates they are supporting how much they spent on their advocacy.
Bramble said the issue arises out of the investigation into former Attorney General John Swallow, when a supporter held a lavish fundraiser for Swallow but at the Swallow campaign's urging didn't report the full amount of the event.
Another example that arose from the same investigation came when payday lending groups pumped money into a nonprofit that bought lawn signs for Dana Layton, who then was challenging Rep. Brad Daw. Layton said she didn't know who paid for the signs until after the campaign. Payday lenders had targeted Daw for defeat because he supported regulations on the industry, and spent tens of thousands of dollars beating him.
Under a bill that passed in the aftermath of the Daw race, nonprofits and companies that spend money on a campaign are required to disclose independent expenditures.
Bramble's bill also has a provision that would let lobbyists spend $25 on meals for legislators, an increase from the current limit of $10. But Bramble said he plans to drop that change from the bill.