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BEATTIE WANTS TO SINGLE OUT `BENEFITS’ FROM LOBBYISTS

SHARE BEATTIE WANTS TO SINGLE OUT `BENEFITS’ FROM LOBBYISTS

Senate President Lane Beattie is frustrated that lobbyist reports make it look as if legislators accept expensive evenings at political fund-raisers.

So, he introduced a bill this week that tries to separate the "actual benefit" a lawmaker gets from such events from the campaign contribution part of the equation.But Beattie's bill, heard Friday in a hastily called committee meeting, is opposed by Utah Common Cause, a citizen lobby group.

In justifying his bill, Beattie said legislators don't personally benefit by $150 in attending the Governor's Ball, for example. The only benefit is the cost of the dinner. Most of the money goes to the governor's campaign fund, and the lobbyist who bought the lawmaker's ticket gets credit with the governor.

But, said Betsy Wolf, director of Utah Common Cause, you can't get into the fund-raiser by paying the price of the dinner. "The benefit to the (legislator)" is the same as it is to anyone else - the cost of the ticket. Beattie's bill creates a "huge" loophole in the law, and lobbyists will be buying lawmakers' way into charitable, political and private fund-raisers as a way of gaining influence, Wolf said.

She also worries "entertainment" at such events isn't taken into the equation in Beattie's bill and only the food and drink is counted. Thus, if a dinner cost $15 but an accompanying round of golf cost $40, the lobbyist wouldn't have to list the lawmaker's name on his reports. Only gifts exceeding $50 to lawmakers must carry the legislator's name on the lobbyist report.

Beattie recognizes the problem, saying he'd seek an amendment that picks up entertainment activities that directly benefit a lawmaker, like a round of golf, Jazz ticket or ski pass, which can, on occasion, be part of a political or charitable fund-raiser.

Beattie said Friday evening that his bill will be heard next week by the entire Senate.