Their purpose is to "bring greater transparency and accountability to money in state politics" and they give each state a grade for overall performance in four categories: campaign disclosure laws, electronic filing programs, public access to campaign finance data, and disclosure web site usability.
If you look at the rankings, 10 states failed the test (literally received an "F"), and 40 states are considered to have passed. Utah comes in at the bottom of the passing states with a solid D-. The good news is, that's an improvement over the F's we've received in the past.
Improvements, But Come On...
The Deseret News covered the release of this report (http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,70025960.00.html) and gives a view of both the problems we still have with campaign finance transparency as well as the progress being made toward electronic filing requirements for candidates and a user-friendly database for the public.
Believe me, I'm all for appreciating improvement and success along the way, but please, a D-??? The grade Utah recieved is not just an indictment of the process and tools involved; I believe it is a clear indictment of our campaign financing laws, or relative lack thereof. In a state that talks a lot about values, morals, and ethics, our campaign financing laws (and the resulting questionable campaign financing ethics?) are some of the worst in the nation...almost to the point of being egregiously non-existent.
We Notice, We Care, We Want Reform!
In a January, 2007 report, KSL revealed that "an exclusive poll by Survey USA for Eyewitness News asked Utahns to ascribe a level of importance, on a scale of one to ten, of certain issues. Nearly a third gave campaign finance reform an 8, 9, or 10, ranking it as very important. Those in favor of campaign finance reform say special interests have too much influence, while those opposed say access to public officials should not be unfairly restricted." (http://www.ksl.com/?sid=847824&nid=148).
Just yesterday, a coalition of concerned groups launched an official campaign regarding government ethics reform. They are calling on the legislature to do its own house cleaning by addressing this very issue. Too many legislators, and the special interest groups who court them, are benefitting far too much from the current state of affairs. See the story at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=4288838, and take a look at the pledge to address reform that UTPS is asking legislators and legislative candidates to sign at http://www.utahnsforpublicschools.org/policycenter/good-government.php.
It's an age-old political dilemma: how does the common man compete with money and power? How do we hold our elected officials accountable for things we cannot see, track, and evaluate? I'm on the side of the little people who simply ask for honest disclosure and representation. We need to do some house cleaning, window cleaning, a good old scrub down from top to bottom. Transparency and ethics in government is achievable and we cannot let Utah fail this test year after year!