Rep. Jordan Tanner, upset over a Utah House committee killing his bill that would have banned lobbyist gifts greater than $50, said last month "Jazz tickets are being passed out like candy" on Capitol Hill.

He wasn't exaggerating much.Newly filed lobbyist financial disclosure reports show thousands of dollars in Jazz tickets and other "athletic events" went to lawmakers during their 45-day session which ended Feb. 28.

There were 529 registered lobbyists during the 1996 legislative session. Most had not filed their reports as of midday Tuesday. The reports are to be postmarked by the Monday night deadline, and many trickle in over the week.

A total of the reports filed so far shows that $32,830 was spent entertaining the 104 part-time lawmakers during the session. That's $315 per lawmaker so far, but that amount will rise. Lobbyists spent more than $80,000 on entertaining lawmakers in 1995, year-end reports show.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Utah was the king of Jazz tickets, giving out $7,343 worth of them to legislators. Apparently none of the tickets was valued at greater than $50 because lobbyist Paul Warburton, who filed the report, didn't list any legislator by name.

Utah's lobbyist law says that if a gift costs $50 or less, the amount must be listed but not the name of the lawmaker who took the gift. Gifts greater than $50 a day must be accompanied by the legislator's name who took it.

In fact, few of the several dozen lobbyist reports filed with the Lieutenant Governor's Office by midday Tuesday had lawmakers' names attached.

House Minority Leader Frank Pignanelli works for Blue Cross Blue Shield as a lawyer and said Tuesday he prepared Warburton's report. "We have a skybox in the Delta Center (which holds 20 people or so) and I was told each ticket was worth $18. But I checked into it and it may be that each ticket was worth $50, especially when you include the food served (in the box). If it is $50, we'll list by name each legislator who attended."

However, those attending weren't told beforehand that their names might be listed, "and some may not like" being listed, Pignanelli said.Many of the reports didn't say what the gift was, either, but just listed the date of the gift. In a number of cases, those dates match Jazz home games. Other gifts are just listed as "legislative contact" with a dollar sum attached.

Ever since lobbyists have had to file spending reports on legislators beginning in 1992, it's been clear that Jazz tickets - or tickets to other sporting events like University of Utah basketball games or women's gymnastic meets - are popular items to give the part-time lawmakers.

Some legislators refuse such gifts and aren't happy being painted with the broad brush by the media. And the anonymous gift-taking for the less than $50 level naturally results in all legislators being lumped in together.

But others make no bones about accepting entertainment from lobbyists, it seems. This past session, for example, longtime Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, accepted $200 worth of Jazz tickets to two different games, courtesy of lobbyist Byron Fisher and Anheuser-Bush, a beer maker. Court-side seats at a Jazz home game run about $100 a ticket.

Another big-hitter in the Jazz/athletic event league is Ruland Gill of Questar Corp. He gave lawmakers a total of $1,827 worth of "athletic event" tickets during the 1996 Legislature. Again, no legislators' names came with the report, so the tickets must have cost less than $50 apiece. One evening cost $540 and 12 lawmakers attended at a cost of $45 apiece, Gill's report shows.

In fact, the $50 reporting level was apparently closely watched by lobbyists and lawmakers alike.

Lobbyist Doug Foxley, who carries some of the biggest-name companies in the state on his client list, spent $540 entertaining lawmakers this past session. Nine times Foxley spent $49 a legislator. None of his gifts/entertainment cost more than $50 per person; he lists no names on his report.

Annette Herman, a Health Trust Inc. lobbyist, held partisan events, it appears. At one event she hosted House Speaker Mel Brown, Majority Leader Chris Fox, Majority Assistant Whip Kevin Garn and fellow GOP House members Bill Hickman and Pete Knudson. Another night she hosted Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell, Minority Assistant Whip Joe Hull and Democratic senators Rex Black and Eldon Money, her report says.