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Provo is moving slowly on PAC plan

SHARE Provo is moving slowly on PAC plan

The City Council intends to move slowly on a proposal to require political action committees to register with the city recorder's office.

The council asked its attorney Neil Lindberg on Tuesday to draft an ordinance to be considered at a future meeting. It set no timetable.Councilman Mark Hathaway wants PACs and political initiative committees (PICs) to file disclosure forms with the city to prevent anonymous campaigning. Provo, he said, doesn't need "a repeat performance of what happened in the last election."

A group calling itself Ethics 4 Provo ran newspaper ads opposing the election of mayoral candidate Lewis Billings and the re-election of Councilman Greg Hudnall. Both candidates won anyway on Nov. 4.

The group's chairman, Kent Barrus, refuses to name those who financed and place the ads.

Provo's law would be patterned after a state statute and Salt Lake ordinance. Both call for PACs and PICs to provide lists of officers and financial disclosure statements. State law requires organizations to register after collecting or spending at least $750. Salt Lake City has no contribution or expenditure threshold and requires all PACs and PICs to register with the city recorder's office regardless of their finances.

Hathaway initially wanted Provo to set a $100 threshold but said Tuesday he prefers it be set at zero.

Councilwoman Shari Holweg said she still has many questions about the ordinance.

Under such a law, groups such as the Academy Square Foundation, which spearheaded a ballot initiative to raise property taxes to refurbish the old Brigham Young Academy for a library, would have had to register. So would the organization that campaigned against the bond.

Anyone starting a petition and raising money to promote or oppose an issue also would have to register.

Holweg said she fears such a law would be onerous and could stifle public involvement in local politics. Some people, she said, aren't anxious about having their names on file with the city recorder. She also questioned the constitutionality of a reporting requirement as it relates to freedom of speech and freedom to assemble.

"You're going to have a lot of educating to do here," Holweg said, adding the law would create additional expenses and paperwork in the city recorder's office.

Council Chairman Hudnall said the council simply wants to study the proposal at this point. It won't be adopting an ordinance anytime soon, he said.