The state Republican Party is about broke.
But its rival, the Utah Democratic Party, has plenty of money.
GOP state chairman James Evans says it is nothing to worry about.
“I have more than $200,000 in commitments” from various groups and individuals.
“And as I need it, I call those commitments in,” Evans told UtahPolicy on Monday.
Of course, the state GOP doesn’t have much work left in this election season – most its candidates are likely to win in November, no matter the voter turnout, and even those who are in tight races will be raising their own funds.
Still, it is a bit odd that after the primary season the dominant party in Utah should have only $18,000 in cash. You can see the latest state GOP financial filing here.
State Democrats have $203,500 in cash, as of the pre-primary reporting period that ended just before the June 24 party primary election, reports filed with the Utah Election Office show.
The Democratic filing is here.
In fact, if the Utah GOP had not received contributions from its own legislators and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert’s PAC, and transferred $43,000 from the party’s federal account (state political parties have both state and federal accounts), the state party would be in the red as of the end of June, filings indicate.
But that would never happen, says Evans.
Anyway, why compare how much money Republicans and Democrats have on hand? He asks.
“We’ve spent our money on our campaign plans. What races do they have to worry about? They don’t have any races” they can win, Evans said.
Monies flow back and forth between the federal and state accounts all the time – it is a normal thing.
But the Utah GOP’s federal account is worse than its state account – out of which all state activities, and support for state and county candidates, comes from.
UtahPolicy found that the GOP federal account, as of the end of June, had only $4,352 in cash.
The Democrat’s federal account had $221,158 in cash.
Evans told UtahPolicy at the first of this year that the state party was looking to raise $100,000 just to conduct a major turn-out-the-Republicans effort before the March neighborhood political caucuses.
While no one expected the GOP turnout of 2012, when Mitt Romney was on the presidential ballot, and Sen. Orrin Hatch’s campaign conducted its own massive supporter caucus drive, Evans still wanted grass-roots Republicans to turn out in March – if for no other reason than to show Count My Vote organizers that average GOP voters really liked the neighborhood caucus/convention process and didn’t want to switch to a direct primary, as the then-CMV citizen initiative petition would have done.
There was a decent GOP turnout at the March caucus meetings. “We raised even more than $100,000,” said Evans. And all is fine financially in the Utah Republican Party, he adds.
But the CMV petition became moot after the 2014 Legislature – led by GOP lawmakers – reached a compromise in SB54. The petition drive ended. And come 2016 (unless drastically changed by the 2015 or 2016 Legislature) there will be a dual-route to party primaries – either through the caucus/convention process, or through candidates gathering a set number of voter signatures.
In any case, Evans’ efforts, and other expenses like the May state GOP convention, has left the GOP coffers about dry.
The CMV did require one thing that has turned out to be a real advantage, says Evans.
Because some big GOP donors supported CMV – and put off contributing to the state party because they feared some of their money would be used against CMV – Evans instituted a new, small donor program.
“Now the grassroots know they have to contribute to help the party operations; and it is working out well,” said Evans.
In the future, should there be another conflict with the big donors – like CMV – the small donors will broaden the party’s financial base, and it will be better for every Utah Republican, said Evans.
There are GOP fundraisers planned through November, said Evans. “But we already have pledges that meet our goals – and we’ll execute our strategy.”
Meanwhile, Democratic chair Peter Corroon said he’s pleased that the Dems have a little over $200,000 in the bank.
“But it’s all spent, committed,” said Corroon, who took over the chairmanship earlier this year when Jim Dabakis resigned for health reasons.
Corroon said Democrats plan a large voter turnout campaign this fall. “We hope to be able to win some close races.”
Dabakis put an emphasis on fundraising, and when he resigned he said that the Democratic Party in Utah was in good financial shape.
Dabakis, who is gay and married his long-time partner during the 17 days in December when gay marriage was legal in Utah, broadened the contribution base of the party.
But he also concentrated on very progressive issues, like gay marriage, leaving some old-time Democrats worried that Corroon and other party leaders would have to re-emphasize traditional financial bases, like labor unions.
And if you think right-wing organizations don’t have any financial interest in the Utah GOP, think again.
The Utahns for Choice in Education – the vouchers group that is playing increasingly influential roles in GOP politics locally – has donated $600 this year.
While Freedom Works – a Tea Party group that opposed Sen. Orrin Hatch in 2012 – has donated $3,500 to the Utah GOP, records show.
A UtahPolicy review of the two party’s financial reports also shows that one old-time Democratic donor is back, and in full force.
The Ian Cumming family – who were main-line Democratic contributors back in the 1980s – is donating big bucks to the Utah Democrats.
Ian Cumming, a financier/philanthropist, left Utah in the 1990s and officially moved to Wyoming, although his son, John, continues to run the now-troubled Park City ski and summer resort, just one of the family’s financial interests.
The resort is in a legal battle over rights to operate ski runs and lifts on property now controlled by a competitor.
In any case, the Cumming family gave the Democratic Party around $100,000 in 2013, about one-fifth of the $555,572 the party raised in total last year.
In 2014 the Cummings have so far donated around $45,000, again around a fifth of all money contributed to the state party this year.
And here’s a strange duck GOP contributor: In the 2013 Legislature, a Senate committee advanced – for the first time ever – a bill that would provide statewide protections for gays and lesbians in housing and employment.
While lawmakers were in session, Equality Utah – the main gay rights advocacy group in Utah – gave the Utah GOP $13,000, with leading gay individuals also giving money to the Republican Party, records show.
But in the 2014 Legislature GOP senators, in a closed caucus, decided not to advance, or even debate, a number of gay rights bills. No action was taken on any of them.
In April, Equality Utah gave $3,150 to the GOP. Part of that money could have gone to buying a booth at the state GOP convention and an advertisement in convention’s official brochure.
Corroon said he doesn’t see the GOP’s finances as a problem for them. “When they need it, they can always get a large donation from one of their (federal or state) officeholders. We (Democrats) don’t have that source.”