The Salt Lake Tribune reported over the weekend that show 82% of the campaign contributions for our state Legislature come from corporations or special interest groups. On average only 6% of the campaign money for our Legislature came from voters in their district.
I was floored! This looks troubling coupled with the recent passage of the massively unpopular tax reform. It was reported that 2/3 of the voters in Utah opposed the Tax Reform Bill, but it still passed. This begs the question: Is the Legislature out of touch with the voter or are they serving special interest and corporations instead of Utah?
Last year, the people of Utah passed three propositions because the State Legislature failed to take action on the important issues of Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana, and the gerrymandering of Utah’s Congressional Districts. The Legislature decided not to accept any of them as written and wanted to modify them and make them “better.”
For example, the expansion of the “Socialist” Medicaid was altered to add a work requirement. People on Medicaid now need to apply for 48 jobs within 3 months of acceptance to qualify for the Medicaid expansion. And if they get a job offer, they have to accept the insurance that the company offers even if it is worse coverage. People on Medicaid live at up to 130% of the federal poverty limit. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t working; it means they have low-paying jobs. Maybe the Legislature will tackle the issue of companies providing livable wages and benefits and increasing minimum wage. But I am not holding my breath.
The job of a representative is to represent the people of their district, not the corporations or special interests. The trouble is when one party has a super-majority in the state house and feels comfortable getting re-elected, they may begin to stop listening to their constituents and start thinking that they know what is best for them and all of Utah.
Running for election is expensive. And politicians need support to run. When politicians receive contributions, it is only natural that they feel beholden to the contributor. The corporation or group are supporting the politician because they want something. And the politician wants their support, so they help them.
The problem is if our state representatives receive 82% of their contributions from special interest groups and corporations, then they will probably serve special interest groups and corporations and their desires 82% or more of the time. So it’s natural that maybe a politician will begin to forget who they serve — especially if they don’t hear very often from their constituents.
And it is the voter’s fault as well. Some of us don’t know who our Senators and Representatives are. Some of us don’t know how government works. Or the agenda for the Legislative session or how to follow the legislative session. Some of us don’t call or email our concerns. Some of us don’t vote. Or vote straight party. Some of us don’t care because we don’t understand.
I encourage you to educate yourself about the Legislative Session. Find out who your representatives are. How they vote. If you have concerns, email or call them. Learn about all future candidates. Support candidates with donations and campaigning when possible. The only way to change things is to change things with our own actions. We need to stop the excessive flow of corporate and special interest campaign money in Utah Politics.
Jeff Saunders is a resident of Tooele City.