Writing a set of practical disclosure rules for candidates and their finances ought to be easy. The public has an interest in knowing everything that could signal a purchase of influence or control by outside interests.
How strange, then, that forces within Salt Lake County government are trying to make the financial disclosure of political committees such a complicated thing.A reform proposal has languished in the County Government Center since the beginning of the year. Originally, it would have required any political committee to register with the county, name the people who donate more than $250 to it and tell where the money was spent. Now it has been amended and rewritten to, among other things, allow anonymous donations and to allow people to volunteer time, talents and assets to the committee without disclosure.
If the county commission approves this proposal, the public would have a right to feel insulted.
Financial disclosure laws are enacted to prevent donations from being anonymous. That's the whole idea. Allowing nameless contributions would introduce the opportunity for abuse. Regardless of whether a candidate who receives money knows the identity of an anonymous donor, the public would have ample reason to mistrust.
Likewise, they would have reason to be skeptical of the types of volunteer services and goods that would be free from reporting requirements. Presumably, a sign company could allow a candidate the use of a billboard and businesses could provide expensive products with the understanding that the candidate would respond with favors once in office.
Added to all this, the proposed ordinance would allow committees to funnel money to candidates without reporting who donated until the candidate runs for office again.
One wonders who the drafters of this proposal thought they were fooling, or which segments of the community they thought wouldn't see through this transparent attempt to allow murky politics to thrive within the county.
The need for a county disclosure law is obvious. In the past, political action committees have funneled thousands of dollars to candidates without giving the public the slightest hint as to the source of the money.
But the proposal being offered would be, at best, a partial solution. That's why the county commission should reject it in its present form and demand a disclosure law that details where all political contributions originate and in whose accounts they eventually end up.