SALT LAKE CITY — A cease and desist order has been sent to the Utah Association of Realtors after a mailer sent out by the organization included the use of the official Utah State Seal caught the eye of Utah Representative Carol Moss. Moss tweeted disappointment that the organization sent out the mailer that “presents a misleading explanation of tax reform and possibly violates election law by using the Utah State Seal.”
Justin Lee, Director of Elections with the Lt. Governor’s Office responded with a cease and desist order, sent to the Utah Association of Realtors on Wednesday. Lee says anyone who wants to use the state seal has to get permission.
“In this case for this flier, we didn’t get any kind of application or give out any approval for its use. If someone uses the state seal without approval or permission, we send them a letter to tell them to stop using it because they didn’t get the required approval,” says Lee.
According to Utah Administrative Code, the State Seal is off-limits for general use without permission, and “in a political campaign, or in ways that may legitimize or assist to defeat another candidate for elective office; or to function as, or be construed to function in any way as an endorsement of any business, organization, product, service or article.”
The flier appears to promote proposed tax reform pushed in the Utah legislature, and asks recipients of the mailer to contact their legislators, and suggests visiting the website “SupportUtahTaxReform.com.”
A spokesman for the Utah Association of Realtors, Mike Ostermiller, says there was no malicious intent in incorporating the state seal in the mailer, nor does he know who decided to use it, but he does believe the motive behind the cease and desist order may be less than pure.
“Honestly, I think the whole issue of that is a red herring. I think all that is is a way for people who are against tax reform and the tax cut proposal that goes along with it is just a way to find an argument to distract people from the real issue which is a tax cut,” remarked Ostermiller.
He confirmed that the organization was asked to discontinue use of the likeness, and says they will comply. Ostermiller says the flier is meant to push an agenda of supporting tax reform that they believe will help Utahns.
Some lawmakers are aiming for a December special legislative session to push through tax reform, but others say many details are still in the negotiation process.