Utah GOP Trying to Shake Off Fundraising Problems

Utah GOP Chairman James Evans is starting a heavy push to raise money for the state Republican Party.

Evans is also seeking re-election in the Aug. 15 state GOP convention for another two years as party leader.

And raising needed funds now may stop some criticism of James’ party leadership – as sources tell UtahPolicy that the party is facing financial challenges.

In off election years like 2015 registered political parties (yes, the Utah GOP is still a registered political party – a whole other story there) only file one financial report – a year-end for 2014.

That report, seen here, shows that the party had $167,994 in cash on Jan. 1, 2015.

But just two weeks earlier Evans and party leaders filed a federal lawsuit against the GOP-controlled Utah Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert challenging SB54, a compromise candidate nominating law passed by the 2014 Legislature and signed into law by Herbert.

And, UtahPolicy is told, fundraising for the party fell off a bit after that.

Evans and the party’s Central Committee recently decided to make what changes are needed to the party constitution and bylaws so it can become a Qualified Political Party for 2016 under SB54.

The federal lawsuit continues, however.

The end of May, Evans named his predecessor, Thomas Wright, as the new state party fundraising chairman.

And within the last two weeks, Evans has gotten Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, to square off against each other to see who can raise the most money for the state party.

By Aug. 15, and Evans re-election vote before 4,000 state delegates, Evans clearly wants to re-energize the party’s finances, as Utah’s dominant political party starts its 2016 campaign season.

An interesting note:

In the 2014 election year, then-Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis – now a state senator – oversaw an impressing fundraising drive, ending 2014 having raised $953,910 for the state party.

During that same election year, Evans’ GOP raised $711,302, or nearly $250,000 less than the minority Democrats.

Now, 2014 was a good election year for Republicans; one Evans can be proud of.

Mia Love took the 4th Congressional District, and for the first time in a decade Republicans now hold all major state and federal offices in Utah.

The Democrats are near record low numbers in the state Senate and state House.

There are so many Republicans in the House (63) that the majority caucus room off of the House Chambers is being expanded during this interim so GOP representatives and the public can fit in for the caucus’s open meetings during the 2016 Legislature.

Yet the state party appears to be struggling in fundraising this year, no doubt in part due to the state party’s opposition to SB54, which while always opposed by party leaders was supported by a number of traditional big party donors.

On Evans' Facebook page’s post on the Wright fundraising appointment are a number of comments from the party’s right-wing members, saying they hope the party can rid itself of “old boy” contributors, who are withholding funds because of the SB54 party opposition.

Bringing Wright, Niederhauser, and Hughes into the fundraising picture appears to be an attempt to regain some of the GOP’s previous cash-raising swagger.

Here are some interesting fundraising notes from the Democratic and Republican 2014 contributions’ lists:

  • Rick Votaw is Evans’ director of special projects for the party. Votaw gave the GOP $36,000 last year.
  • Gay rights advocate Bruce Bastian gave the Democrats $25,000 last year while Jane Marquardt gave $30,000.
  • And the Minnesota Farm Labor Party gave Dabakis’ Utah Democratic Party $85,500 last year. Who knew Dabakis was a farm boy and cheese producer?