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Lawmakers decline tickets

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Thanks, but no thanks.

That's what members of Utah's congressional delegation are telling the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Olympic planners had offered Utah's congressmen free access to Olympic sporting events, but representatives will have to politely decline. Utah's senators may soon follow suit.

The Olympic access would violate the House Ethics Act, which limits gifts to less than $50. It may also violate a similar rule in the Senate.

"We appreciate the offer, but we will have to decline," said Alene Bentley, district director for Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson.

The rejection came on the heels of a U.S. House of Representatives Ethics Committee decision that said representatives, even if they were acting in their official capacity, couldn't accept access to Olympic sporting events because the general public would have to pay more than $50 to gain similar access.

Heather Barney, press secretary for Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, said the senators will abide by whatever decision is levied by the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee.

"As far as wholesale tickets to events, we will abide by whatever Senate ethics decides," she said.

SLOC trustee Ken Bullock criticized Olympic organizers for offering the tickets to Utah's congressional delegation in the first place and wondered why at least the House Ethics Committee seemingly stood on higher ground than Olympic organizers.

"Why are they trying to corrupt our congressmen?" he said. "This is reinforcing some of these things we've been trying to clean up."

That cleanup stemmed from the Olympic bribery scandal, which saw Salt Lake bidders accused of trying to buy the votes of International Olympic Committee members with more than $1 million in cash and gifts.

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com