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Legislators should don NASCAR-style endorsement uniforms

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2010-03-02 -

The Legislature is again debating what level of transparency will inoculate them from accusations that they are mere patrons to their corporate donors. I have a better idea. Let's logo the lawmakers.

Let me pull those lawmakers out of their Capitol Hill bubble for a moment and introduce them to the real world of busy people who are not political junkies, but care about the future of our state--and nation--nevertheless. These people want to be informed, but they don't have the wherewithal--after working two jobs, or 60 hours without overtime at their one job--to access some government database that's difficult to use, lacking on features, and so overly organized that the broad picture of who is funding our lawmakers' campaigns is lost in so many micromanaged data points. The people I'm talking about--think about those that vote, but not in every election--are not going to check the campaign finance database as it is currently constructed, and who can blame them? Smart folk like Holly Richardson rightfully point out that there are so many ways to cheat the system, even if a citizen spends time learning how to use the database, it's not at all clear that the information in their has integrity anyway.

So, I propose that lawmakers who take corporate money do so at whatever level they want, but we create a system whereby the larger the donation, the more prominent that corporation's logo must be upon that lawmaker's person, like NASCAR drivers. Let lawmakers who oppose increased tobacco taxes do so with the Altria (marker of Marlboro and others) logo emblazoned across their chests. Let the defenders of foreign nuclear waste do so with EnergySolutions' logo splashed across their butts. Would any lawmakers in Utah even accept big tobacco money anymore if they had to wear the logos on their chests? I doubt it.

My point is lawmakers' in the state of Utah don't want transparency regarding their donations, they only want a fig leaf to claim that they're in favor of transparency. If they were really into transparency, we would already have a system that identifies quickly which lawmaker receives the largest donations from corporate health care interests. Alas, that's a rather large research project as things currently stand.

While I'm ranting on the subject, let me say to Lt. Gov. Greg Bell that he is capable of making a much better campaign finance disclosure database Web site. I have a hard time using that thing and I work in the biz. I would love to do some beta-testing of the current system with "average" Utahns and see just how many out of 10 can actually navigate the thing to answer some basic questions whose answer hide within its depths.

When we find that barely 3 out of 10 can use it proficiently--that's my prediction--maybe then we can revisit my NASCAR-style disclosure idea. But since lawmakers are only looking for slightly larger fig leaves, probably not. follow_jesse.jpg

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