More PAC Money Swirls Around Jackie Biskupski’s Campaign

A political action committee with long-standing ties to Jackie Biskupski has stepped in a second time to help her quest for Mayor.

The Alliance for Better Leaders (AFBL) is polling in Salt Lake City on behalf of Biskupski. Some residents became suspicious of the survey when they were asked if any of the following statements would make them more or less likely to vote for Mayor Ralph Becker:
  • Mayor Becker supports a $150 million golf bond, but still plans to shut down Glendale Golf Course even though it is making a profit.
  • Mayor Becker redirected a $100 million bond to support his Broadway theater without the support or vote of Salt Lake City residents.
  • Salt Lake City has over $400 million in unfunded infrastructure projects, but Mayor Becker wants to spend more money on recreation.
All leading questions to be sure. Some have described the survey as a classic "push poll."
Maryann Martindale, the spokesperson for Biskupski, acknowledges AFBL offered to conduct the poll for them as a coordinated expenditure.
"We wanted to do some polling to get information," says Martindale. "We have no intention of releasing the results publicly. They approached us asking if they could help us."
Martindale says, since it is a coordinated expenditure between the campaign and AFBL, they will have to report it on the August 4th financial disclosures.
However, there may be a problem with that. Prior to Monday afternoon, AFBL had not registered as a PAC with Salt Lake City. City election law clearly states before a "political committee solicits or receives its first contribution, or makes its first expenditure," it is required to register with the city recorder. AFBL has been registered with the state since 2013, but they started making expenditures on behalf of Biskupski before registering with the city.
Robert Bergman, head of AFBL, told in an email his organization's failure to register with Salt Lake City was simply an oversight.
Martindale says they were unaware AFBL had not registered yet with the city.
Biskupski's connection to AFBL goes much deeper. Last year she solicited funds for the group to conduct a poll to see if she would be a viable candidate for mayor.
"I did help raise money for the poll and asked them to include those questions," Biskupski told at the time
To further illustrate the connection, an email obtained by has Biskupski asking for donations to AFBL to fund the poll, noting there's no limit on how much someone can give to the PAC. It's important to note the 2014 poll does not run afoul of Salt Lake City's election laws because Biskupski was not yet a candidate.
The current coordinated expenditure between Biskupski and AFBL does raise some concerns about whether this is a way to get around the city's $7,500 donation cap for contributions to candidates. For example, Don Skaggs made a $5,000 contribution directly to Jackie Biskupski's campaign on January 23, 2015. Just four days later, Skaggs donated $5,000 to AFBL. He made another $5,000 donation to AFBL on May 28.
Marcia Price is listed as making a $250 donation to Biskupski's campaign on May 28 of this year, but she donated $12,000 to AFBL on July 13. 
Here's a thought experiment. Imagine a candidate for mayor already has a donor who has made the maximum $7,500 donation to their campaign. There's absolutely nothing stopping them from forming a PAC that could then make a coordinated expenditure of up to $7,500, essentially doubling the donation to the candidate. Now imagine if a campaign had 10 PACs making coordinated expenditures. That's an extra $75,000 to the campaign, and it's all legal.
One of Biskupski's opponents, City Council Chair Luke Garrott, says this highlights a glaring weakness in Salt Lake City's campaign finance regulations.  
"It could lead to a political 'mutually assured destruction' for candidates," he said. "There are legitimate questions about free speech for sure, but this is an issue the City Council needs to address."
In a statement emailed to, Becker's Deputy Campaign Manager Laura Anderson said, “The second PAC raises concerns of a pattern, along with the real 'independence' of these organizations.”
AFBL and Biskupski's campaign say the poll should cost around $5,000, which is well within the coordinated expenditure limit of $7,500. That leaves another $2,500 AFBL can spend if Biskupski makes it through the primary into the general election.