Utah Republican Brad Daw might have lost a primary last June, but the four-term lawmaker is hoping to have the last laugh on the state's political operatives Daw thinks cost him his seat. Daw has been the driving force behind an anti-push polling bill that state House Majority Whip Greg Hughes (R) has championed in the legislature. A final vote on H.B. 44, as it's formally known, is expected next week.
The law requires the "disclosure of the person who pays for a poll regarding a candidate or ballot proposition" and "imposes a fine for failure to make the disclosure described in the preceding." The new law would make polls "the equivalent of a campaign commercial," says Howard Fienberg, a spokesman for the Marketing Research Association, which together with the American Association of Political Consultants has lobbied against the bill.
"It taints the research because it's making a direct comparison in the mind of the respondent," Fienberg tells C&E.
Brian Chapman, the managing director of Provo-based BCR Political, has been the industry's spokesman in the state. His argument that "message testing in elections in Utah will likely disappear" if the bill passes has fallen on deaf ears as lawmakers have rallied around Daw, who lost his primary to Dana Layton.
The first Republican to get Daw to a primary, Layton was aided by a PAC run by Jason Powers, an operative famous for leading the Club for Growth's campaign against ex-Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010. Powers' group said Daw had supported "government health care" and compared his legislative record to that of President Obama. It amounted to "thousands of dollars" that went to getting that message out through push polls, according to Daw. "It's disturbing that someone can spend that much money and not report any of it," Daw told the Deseret News before the bill passed the House in a 64-8 vote. "If we have funds that aren't accounted for, we lose more in the public trust or the public process."
The bill is now on the Senate's calendar but didn't make it to a second reading Friday as lawmakers were honoring veterans before they adjourned for the weekend. The Senate could take up the bill against as early as Monday. Fienberg says pollsters should brace for impact.
"It's going to hurt response rates in Utah long term," he says. "It's hard enough to get people to respond to research at this moment, anyway, this will make it even harder."