Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Emerald City Council Considers Campaign Finance Disclosure Amendments

An invitation to our gentle readers to examine a new proposed ordinance amendment, and to offer their own comments, plaudits and critiques

Earlier this morning, Gentle Reader Dan Schroeder provided a helpful heads up on an item which is set for the city council's upcoming Tuesday agenda. Specifically, the council will be considering a newly-drafted campaign finance disclosure ordinance, clearly designed to address some of the problems arising from the recent Envision Ogden Money Laundering Scandal:
a. Campaign Finance Disclosure. Proposed Ordinance 2009-39 amending the Ogden Municipal Code by amending Chapter 8 of Title 1 to revise Campaign Financing Disclosure requirements. (Set/not set public input for June 2, 2009)
In connection with this, we'll post in raw form a pair of documents we received yesterday from Amy Sue Heaton, Communications Specialist for the Ogden City Council:
Press Release - City Council Considers Campaign Finance Changes
Proposed Ordinance Amending Chapter 8 Of Title 1
We're pressed this morning with real-life business, and thus don't have the time to subject these documents to our usual micro-analysis. We have taken the time nevertheless, to give the new proposed ordinance amendment at least a quick once over; and we thus offer (just to get the discussion going) our quick first-glance impressions of a few of the strengths and weaknesses of the current draft of the new proposed ordinance.

Here's a provision we liked a lot:
Paragraph 1-8-3 F. [Personal Use; Prohibition:] A contribution shall not be converted by any person to personal use. For purposes of this subsection, a contribution or donation shall be considered to be converted to personal use if the contribution or donation is used in a manner that would cause the candidate or former candidate to recognize the monies as taxable income under federal tax law.
Enacting this provision would be a positive change, we believe. Campaign contributions should not be morphed into a candidate's personal windfall.

We were positively impressed with the revisions of the newly renumbered Paragraph 1-8-6. These reworked provisions would distinguish between inaccurate disclosure statements which are filed wilfully, and those that that have occurred through mere inadvertence. No "quick cures" would be available henceforth under these provisions for disclosure statements which are fraudulently filed.

And here's a change in an existing provision that we don't like very much at all:
1-8-7 A. It shall be an infraction, punishable as provided by Section 1-4A-1 of this code, or its successor, for any person to violate any provision of this Chapter or to fail to file when due any required campaign finance statement or report specified in this Chapter or to 10 knowingly or willfully falsify or omit any information required by any of the provisions of this Chapter. [Emphasis added].
Currently, violations of Ogden's election ordinances are proscribed as misdemeanors, with existing penalties which allow violators to be removed from office, with the additional sanction of barring such violators from holding office in the future. We believe a softening of penalties would send the wrong message to potential violators. Election law violations ought to be considered serious offenses against the body politic, and such violations, if proven, should be punished with appropriate severity. This one, in our mind at least, ought to be a deal killer, at first glance at least.

That's it from us on this topic for now folks. We're pressed for time, as we said.

We're hoping that our tight schedule won't inhibit our gentle readers from devoting their own time toward offering their own comments, plaudits and critiques, however.

Don't let the cat get your tongues.


Curmudgeon said...

What penalties are provided for "infractions"? I'm not clear on that.

As for softening the punishments, I'm not sold on that either yet. But there is this point to consider: the existing stiffer punishments are not being enforced. For whatever reasons, no competent authority --- city, county or state --- is in fact enforcing them. It is at least worth considering that softer punishments more likely to be actively enforced are preferable to harsher ones that, experience suggests, will not in fact be applied.

I haven't thought all this through, and don't have enough information yet really, but I thought I'd at least raise the idea that lighter punishments may be more likely to be consistently applied than harsher ones, and so might --- I said might, not would --- serve the public better in the long run. Worth mulling over, at least.

googleboy said...

Utah Criminal Penalties

Laughing Me Ass Off said...

Guess who drew up the new ordinance.

Mayor Godfrey's lawyer, Gary Williams, that's who.

This new ordinance has more holes in it than a slab of quality Swiss Cheese, and it smells extra funny too.

When will the city council quit being such a pack of idiotic (though well intentioned) saps, realize they're way over their heads, and contract for their own full-time in-house lawyer? (Boss Godfrey has FOUR of those at his daily beck and call, btw.)

If you're in a divorce case, would you hire your spouse's lawyer to do your legal work?

Think about it, folks.

Wake up, City Council!!!!

blackrulon said...

A new ordinance has no use if not enforced. I have not seen any real effort towards enforcing laws. The new governor has stated that he does not enforce violations of campaign laws. This seems to be a p.r. attempt anmd not a serious effort to obey the law.

Dan Schroeder said...

What the heck does it mean for a candidate to "recognize the monies as taxable income under federal tax law"? If my uncle gives me a gift of $1000 cash and I spend it on a new bicycle, I wouldn't recognize the gift as taxable. Why is it any different if I receive the money as a campaign contribution but never get around to spending it on my campaign?

Ozboy said...

Sadly interesting how the council routinely has to try and pass new laws that plug the holes that the integrity poor Lil Lord and his Godfreyites keep sneaking through.

Dan Schroeder said...

The revised ordinance would eliminate all obligation of the city attorney to respond to an apparent violation or to a citizen complaint. See the stuck-out language at the top of page 9.

drewmeister said...

While I am heartened at any attempt to do SOMETHING about Godfrey & Co's lawbreaking (err, innocent clerical errors), the City Council better make damned sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. My suggestion would be to have this, and any future matters of this sort, be reviewed by an independent atty who isn't under the jurisdiction of his lordship, or in his lordship's ward or stake, or a relative of his lordship, etc. and the same with councilmembers. We seem to have lost comprehension of the term "independent" nowadays.

I'm very disappointed about the punishment reduction. If anything, the punishment should be increased, not decreased, and the burden of enforcing these laws should not rest on the backs of already-burdened taxpayers. What the hell does William's office do all day besides sue seriously delinquent parking violations and victims of the traffic ticket quota? There's no point in trying to close loopholes if you change the punishment from a slap on the wrist to be a kiss on the cheek.

I'm afraid this attempt to plug holes will only create even larger chasms for small, giant-foreheaded gnomes and their cronies to leap through. Be careful, City Council!! The force is strong on the Dark Side, and trickery is the only thing they're good at.

Curmudgeon said...

Comment bumped to front page

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