howardnlby Howard Stephenson

The 900 pound gorilla now weighs in at far less than it used to.

For many years the Utah Education Association (UEA), the state’s largest teachers union has had the largest political action committee (PAC) in the state due to having the state collect its political contributions by payroll check off. The amount collected has fallen from $180,000 in 2002 to $155,000 in 2003 and $40,000 in 2004.

The main cause for the reduction is the implementation of Voluntary Contributions Act, commonly known as Paycheck Protection, which was supported and pushed by your Taxpayers Association. In addition to the dollar loss the total number

of UEA members making annual contributions to the PAC has fallen from 68% to 6.8% according to the UEA’s May newsletter.

At the UEA House of Delegates meeting UEA President Pat Rusk rode into the auditorium on the back of a motorcycle driven by UEA Director of Government relations Vic Arnold, both dressed in black leather in an attempt to rally delegates to contribute more. Director of Government relations Vic Arnold told delegates that “the association will cease to be a major player in Utah politics without contribution changes.”

Rusk, also wearing a t-shirt with the message “Girls Just Want to Have Funds,” said that with passage of Paycheck Protection “They (legislators) got exactly what they want.”

Utah Public Employees Association (UPEA) which also was once a major player in Utah campaign funding has also been affected by the Paycheck Protection legislation. The amount collected by UPEA’s Citizen Action for Public Employees political action committee ( CAPE) has seen its collections fall from nearly $300,000 in 2001 to $18,000 in 2002 and $0 in 2003.

In the meantime, the Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) PAC which Taxpayers Association Vice president Mike Jerman (who doesn’t wear black leather) serves as volunteer Chairman, is growing and gaining momentum in the fight for tuition tax credits and school choice. In the past few years the Parents for Choice PAC has out-raised and outspent the UEA. In the last two-year election cycle PCE PAC contributed $322,000 to Utah political candidates.

Utah ‘s largest PAC is that of the Utah Realtors Association which contributed nearly $355,000 to campaigns during the last two-year election cycle and had a balance of nearly $850,000 on hand at the end of 2004.