[Legislative Sleaze] In the ongoing contest over which Utah legislator is more unethical--Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, or Rep. Phil Riesen, D-Salt Lake City--it's looking like the calendar will win this one.
Rep. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy, and co-chairman of the House Ethics Committee, says he must follow a legislative rule and keep an upcoming hearing surrounding Hughes and Riesen closed to the public. Lawyers for Hughes and Riesen would like a court ruling to open the hearing, which was originally scheduled for later this week at the State Capitol. But both attorneys concede that cost and time are working against them.
The original charge in question focuses on an allegation that Hughes in 2006 offered then-Republican Rep. Susan Lawrence $50,000 to change her vote on the school vouchers bill from no to yes. Riesen got hold of documentation about the alleged bribe, and leaked the information to KSL-TV reporter John Daley last week. Now Hughes faces ethics charges for the alleged bribe. He's arguing Riesen breached legislative ethics rules and brought disrepute on the body (!!) by leaking the story to the media. Most Republican legislators, including House Speaker Greg Curtis, are painting the whole thing as an election season stunt orchestrated by Democrats.
While it's gratifying to see a little grease applied to the rusty spokes of legislative ethics in Utah, don't hold your breath waiting for an outcome. Hughes and several other Republicans who tried to force-feed vouchers on Utahns are locked in very competitive re-election battles this year. Kiser told The Salt Lake Tribune yesterday the task of getting to the bottom of this story will be terribly laborious:
"I think it could be a very long and drawn out committee meeting that lasts many days."
Translation (for those of us who didn't just tumble off the turnip truck):
"Uh, with only 29 days till the election we could really string this sucker out!"