The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) sent a letter to Utah lawmakers analyzing a proposal by the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Democracy. The Commission calls for imposing contributions limits on Utahns for the first time.
“The most credible academic analyses have consistently found no correlation between contributions and influence over legislation,” said CCP Research & Government Relations Director Laura Renz. “As the Supreme Court recently ruled that corporations, unions and nonprofit groups can spend unlimited sums on election ads, it’s important for the state to keep the right of Utahns to donate to candidates they support intact.”
CCP’s letter also cited our research comparing differing contributions limits in states to public corruption, as measured by Department of Justice statistics. We found no relationship between contribution limits and corruption. The three least-corrupt states in the country — Iowa, Nebraska and Oregon — do not have contribution limits.
Furthermore, Utah was ranked in 2008 by Governing Magazine as the best-governed state in the nation – tied with Virginia for a grade of A -.
In Utah, individuals can donate to candidates for state office in unlimited amounts, which must be publicly disclosed, allowing citizens to determine whether a contribution may impact a legislator’s decision-making.
Any effort to squeeze out contributions to candidates is also likely to simply divert money in the process, away from candidates’ campaign committees and into independent groups like 527 organizations. After California imposed contribution limits, such outside political spending rose 6,144 percent.
“Legislators should keep in mind that Utah isn’t broken, and campaign finance restrictions won’t fix it,” said CCP President Sean Parnell. “Limiting the freedom of citizens to contribution to candidates and causes they feel passionate about will not reduce corruption in Utah. It will simply restrict cherished First Amendment freedoms.”