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Perhaps new Utah House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo, was helped by more than mere discontent with former Speaker David Clark when she ousted him last week.

Money, some suspect, might have played a role, too, though Lockhart and Clark both downplay that connection.

The employers of Lockhart's lobbyist husband, sister companies Micron and IM Flash, made campaign donations to 49 of the 58 House Republicans elected this year. Meanwhile, Clark himself donated to 16 — but 11 of them also received money from the employers of Lockhart's husband.

Lockhart edged Clark 30-28 in the leadership election last week, surprising many members. It was the first such caucus ouster of a sitting speaker in at least three decades.

"I worry a great deal about those types of donations," said Kim Burningham, a former lawmaker who is chairman of Utahns for Ethical Government. "I can't prove for a fact that they have an impact on legislators as they vote for speaker, but the way to make sure that they don't is to eliminate them."

The reform referendum that Burningham's group is seeking to put on the ballot in 2012 would ban donations from corporations — such as those made by the employers of Lockhart's husband. It would also prohibit politicians from donating out of their own campaign chests to other politicians, as Clark did.

"Leaders often get a lot of donations from lobbyists and then redistribute it. It's highly inappropriate," Burningham said.

But it's also common — both on the state and federal levels — for leaders to help out colleagues with donations. On the federal level, for example, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., an icon of the tea-party movement, funneled more than $250,000 this year to U.S. Sen.-elect Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Disclosure forms indicate that Clark donated a total of $26,000 to 19 House Republicans who won this year and participated in the election for speaker. Donations ranged between $500 and $3,000 each.

More than twice as many members received money from Micron and IM Flash. Lockhart's husband, Stan, is a registered lobbyist for the two firms.

The two companies gave a total of $24,700, but they spread it among 49 House Republicans in donations of between $100 and $1,000 each. Clark received one of the small $100 donations, and no money was given to Rebecca Lockhart. Micron and IM Flash also donated to several Democrats as well as to senators — not just House Republicans.

Both Lockhart and Clark say donations weren't made with the intention of influencing the speaker's election.

Lockhart said she doesn't discuss with her husband what Micron does to help keep a firewall between their separate political activities.

"We didn't talk about it, so I don't know who Micron gave to" or why, she said.

Stan Lockhart, a former state Republican chairman, referred questions to the company.

Spokesman Daniel Francisco said Micron donates based on whether individual candidates, including Democrats, have a philosophy that is in harmony with its own. When asked if the speaker's race was among considerations, he said, "I'm not even going to address that because I don't feel a comment is warranted."

Meanwhile, Clark said he gave donations designed to help elect more House Republicans.

"I always try to get more Republicans elected and to bring conservative values to the House," he said.

Clark added that he had heard about the widespread donations to House Republicans by Micron and IM Flash. He said he didn't want to comment, except to say, "I would be curious about how much they gave last time" — when Lockhart wasn't running for speaker.

They gave half as much in 2008 to a slightly smaller pool of members — $13,800 that year to 44 House Republicans who were elected. Francisco said among reasons that Micron gave less two years ago was that the recession was deeper and that, with an improved economy, the company was able to afford more this year.

Both Lockhart and Clark said they don't know if donations influenced the speaker's election.

"You would have to ask the members," Clark said.

Similarly, Lockhart said, "You would have to ask them." But she said she believes the election centered on her theme of seeking a more inclusive style by the speaker.

Rep.-elect Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, received $3,000 from Clark and $700 from Micron and IM Flash. He said the donations "were nothing that factored into the calculus on my vote" for speaker. Instead, he said he focused on who he thought would do a better job.

Still, Ivory, though just elected to the House, said he was aware that Stan Lockhart is a lobbyist for Micron and IM Flash and that he is married to the new speaker.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, received $1,000 from Clark and $500 from Micron and IM Flash. He said it didn't affect his vote directly, but added that accepting money does bring some indebtedness.

"To be frank with you, when someone gives you money, you have an obligation at least to talk to them," he said. "If they give you help, or walk your district with you, you at least should hear them out." —

House rules

Utah House rules say that "a lobbyist, volunteer lobbyist, or government official may not … participate in committee assignments or leadership races of the House of Representatives."

The rule doesn't define the word "participate." Utah law has no prohibitions or limits on corporate, lobbyist or legislator-to-legislator campaign donations.