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News » Hits & Misses

Release the Records

A public records battle reaches the state's Supreme Court; more Energy Solutions malarkey and who exactly is donating to the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation?



Release the Records
At first, it looks like someone just didn't want to fork out the $200 for government records. But one case, now before the Utah Supreme Court, is much larger and more significant than that. Appeals on a fee waiver went back and forth so often that at one time, Salt Lake City actually appealed its own decision. All this to keep some public records out of the hands of those people concerned about placing soccer fields in open space near the Jordan River. The Jordan River Restoration Network started asking in 2010 for public records for Salt Lake City's $22.8-million Regional Athletic Complex. The city "sued us as a calculated strategy to delay and avoid disclosure of the requested records, and stonewall the public, in order to conceal sensitive information about a multi-million dollar boondoggle project", says the network's director, Jeff Salt. The Supreme Court will decide, but now in 2018, it looks like the city's strategy worked.


Nuclear Fallout
In Utah and maybe the nation, it's all about money. You might have noticed that the Legislature approved a $1.7-million inspection fee break to EnergySolutions, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, which also noted that lawmakers received thousands in campaign contributions from the company. Only the naïve believe ES needs a break—they are pretty much a monopoly. What they do need is a thorough inspection with some frequency. You know, this is a nuclear-waste company—the largest in the nation. It would be nice if the public knew the storage site was safe. While this is not a tax break, the Brookings Institution recently gave Utah high marks for how those work—you know, in the United States of Corporate America.


Shady Influence
The Salt Lake Tribune might be a shadow of its former self, but once in a while, it gets journalism right. Take the story on the Hatch Center, a bricks-and-mortar homage to the great, not-yet-late, Sen. Orrin Hatch. The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation has already raised $6 million and is aiming at $100 million for a center, which, like the state's homeless shelters, has yet to be sited. What's the big deal? Hatch is still in office and donations to a nonprofit do not need to be disclosed. And they aren't. Can you say "political influence?" You can easily connect the dots. Zions Bank's president also heads the Hatch Foundation board, and Hatch has had a sudden change of heart about how banks should be taxed. And that's just one. Some corporations did make public their donations, but mostly under fire. You might ask why the foundation is so hesitant to release its donors' names. That's a good question.