Ethics and lawmakers

A postscript to my last post: Many of you questioned what I knew about Rep. Kevin Garn’s indiscretions years ago, in light of stories in this paper about how certain reporters knew he hot-tubbed with a teenager and paid her off, but didn’t report on it.
The answer is I knew nothing. I am editor of the editorial pages. It would be odd, indeed, for a reporter to want to call an opinion editor to involve him or her in discussions concerning a story. Garn never met with the editorial board. This newspaper published a story that said Garn met with reporters and “several editors” and confessed back in 2002. No one invited me. If you understand how newspapers work, you know it would have been terribly odd to do so.
That said, I join many people here who have questions about why the story wasn’t published. I hope we haven’t heard the last of it.
But let’s move on to a related topic: ethics reform. It’s interesting to me that, under the new rules signed into law, if Cheryl Maher and a friend had filed a complaint against Garn before the new ethics commission, it would have been dismissed. That’s because the matter was “leaked” to the public.
Admittedly, that’s an extreme example. Garn has resigned and may face other legal troubles. He’s not out of the woods.
But the troubling thing is the Legislature’s new ethics rules automatically dismiss any charges that are leaked to the public, which provides a convenient way out for any lawmaker.
Some of what the Legislature passed is great. I like the tougher new $10 limits on gifts and meals, although I don’t understand why it wasn’t simply made $0. The difference between $10 and $0 is slight, except that it allows some creative wiggle room. The new limits on the use of campaign funds for personal expenses was good.
I’ve had lawmakers from both sides of the aisle tell me they could not continue serving in the Legislature if the petition being circulated by Utahns for Ethical Government becomes law. There is no question that this petition would be tougher than what lawmakers have passed. I also think the Garn case, and the Sheldon Killpack DUI arrest, will help the initiative. They feed into the idea that lawmakers are running amok.
Go to the UEG Web site, read what they are proposing and tell me what you think. If the petition makes it on the ballot in November, would you vote for it?

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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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