Where the $un don’t $hine
March 16, 2016
Money in politics has become one of the hottest topics of the 2016 presidential race, and surprisingly, one of the most agreeable. Though they differ on the details, most candidates have suggested we need campaign finance reform.
Bernie Sanders has been very vocal about what he calls the "rigged economy" and big-money politics. He has often bragged he does not have a super PAC, a group that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money under the Citizens United ruling.
As per usual, Donald Trump doesn’t offer any specific policy platform on the issue, but he has disavowed super PACs and often says we need to find a way to keep money out of politics. And trust him, he will do this. And it will be terrific. It will be the best money out of politics you’ve ever seen.
Even Ted Cruz agrees there’s too much money in politics, coining the term "Washington cartel" to describe it.
It’s the one thing the candidates can all seem to agree on. But given a vote that took place last week, our legislature seems to agree to disagree with everyone else. Utah lawmakers are all about keeping money in politics.
Last week the Utah House reversed its decision to reject Rocky Mountain Power’s STEP legislation, which clean air advocates say penalizes solar customers and will "kill solar in Utah."
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Lawmakers took a vote and the bill failed 33-40. Then they went to dinner, came back and voted in favor of the bill 46-26. According to legislators, they’d "come to a new understanding of the bill" they’d voted down just hours before. Which seems to be code for "Rocky Mountain Power picked up the tab at dinner."
Considering few of them drink, my guess is they are pretty cheap dates, too. Perhaps the napkins were $100 bills.
Rep. Earl Tanner, from West Jordan, said this bill was not in the best interest of ratepayers. In fact, he called it "a shareholders’ wish list."
Other critics agreed, saying it would grant the utilities monopoly more power when it came to rates and solar energy.
That’s because Rocky Mountain Power, which projects its costs annually and reports actual costs one year later, requested that 100 percent of the costs that exceed projections be passed onto its customers. Currently, if the company’s costs are higher than projected, 70 percent of the overage is passed on to ratepayers. The other 30 percent is absorbed by the company.
Rocky Mountain Power argued that having the customers pay for all overages will help them manage costs. Duh. If you spend more than you make, and someone else has to cover that gap, it’s pretty easy to manage your costs.
If there is even the slightest bit of merit to Rocky Mountain Power’s claim, where is the rebate when the company’s projections exceed what they actually spend? I’ve certainly never gotten a check from them. We have about as much of a chance of seeing an overage rebate from Rocky Mountain Power as Kim Kardashian has of getting an invitation to join Mensa.
But if we’re to get a rebate on anything, it should be on our legislature. They can afford it. Rocky Mountain Power alone gave $48,000 to Utah politicians in 2015, a nonelection year. In 2014, the company forked over $79,000. Seems pretty clear most of our lawmakers have a "buy my vote" policy.
Which is pretty astonishing if you think about the implications. What if teachers accepted bribes to change a grade? Or what if you could give a cop a check after committing a crime? Or treat a judge to a nice, expensive dinner right before he had to make a decision on a lawsuit you’re involved in? These types of incentives are scorned everywhere else. Why are the welcomed in politics? Shouldn’t the only "outside" voice lawmakers listen to be the voters? And above all, can’t we wrap up the "war on Christmas" before we start a new war on solar?
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis.