Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
An AP investigation into Chinese government efforts to influence Utah lawmakers has drawn scrutiny to elected officials’ trips abroad — and a lack of transparency around who paid for them.
Driving the news: Rep. Candice Pierucci (R-Herriman) is renewing a call for state officials to disclose when foreign governments help pay for their travel to conduct state business.
Details: As many as 25 Utah lawmakers have traveled to China every other year since 2007, with the Chinese government and host organizations helping pay for the trips, AP reported.
Why it matters: AP identified several instances where Utah lawmakers acted to Beijing’s benefit.
Catch up quick: Pierucci this year proposed disclosure requirements when someone else pays lawmakers’ travel expenses, but the bill didn’t get a vote in committee. She said she plans to reintroduce it.
Flashback: Last year, the state’s Senate President Stuart Adams (R-Layton) and Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) faced criticism for accepting travel paid for by the Qatari government to attend the FIFA World Cup.
What they’re saying: In a joint statement, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Adams said: “Utah is part of the global economy, and lawmakers remain vigilant when working and building relationships with entities around the world.”
Thought bubble, via Axios’ China author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The Chinese government strategy to influence state and local governments has become more important as China’s ties with the U.S. federal government have deteriorated. The U.S. government has increasingly sought to push back.
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