As delegates prepare to attend the state Republican and Democratic parties’ conventions this Saturday – both at the Salt Palace Convention Center – new financial filings show the Democrats have three times as much money than their much larger Republican counterpart, a review by UtahPolicy shows.
Under state law, political parties must file pre-convention financial reports, showing how much money they have raised and spent since the first of the year.
The Utah Republican Party has just $22,523 in cash on hand, their filing shows.
And the lowly Democrats – who hold far fewer offices in the state – have outraised and outspent the Republicans for the first few months of 2016, a big election year for all.
The Democrats have raised $164,401; the Republicans just $102,560.
The Democrats have spent $192,989; the Republicans $113,099.
For some time pro-SB54 Republicans have been saying that the strong opposition to the new dual-track candidate law has been harming state GOP fundraising – as a number of previous big donors, both private individuals, and corporations – have been sitting on their money, not wanting it used in the Republicans’ court cases.
State GOP chairman James Evans, who was re-elected to a second, two-year term last summer, at first assessed county parties for some of the lawsuit’s costs, then set up a separate fundraising effort to pay attorney fees.
And, indeed, the new GOP filing has no expenditures on the court case.
But the Republican filing also shows the absence of a number of corporations or groups that historically have given to the state GOP.
In fact, if not for several contributions totaling $35,000 by EnergySolutions, a west desert hazardous waste firm, the state GOP would be in the red.
Evans has not returned several UtahPolicy messages for comments.
In the past, Evans has said he fundraises as need be, that the party is healthy financially and whenever he needs more cash he asks historical donors to make good on previous promises to send in checks.
State party conventions are expensive to put on. But they can also be money-makers as candidates and special interest groups rent convention booth space, and delegates and guests are asked to make donations during the convention time.
During the summer 2015 GOP convention, Evans started a unique program whereby anyone who gave the party $25,000 could speak before the delegates.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Johnson did just that and got to address the convention.
So far this year, Johnson, an executive with Overstock.com, has donated $5,500 to the party; GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has given $6,000. Both will address delegates Saturday as part of their campaigns for governor.
Herbert went the signature route under SB54 and has already been certified to the June GOP primary ballot by getting 28,000 signatures of registered Republicans.
Johnson chose only to go before delegates, and so must get at least 40 percent of the vote on Saturday to get into a primary with Herbert. Herbert will also be voted on by delegates, but can’t be eliminated.
The GOP filing reflects the significant number of Republicans who attend the party’s March caucuses, where they made small donations – from $1 to $50.
The Democrats also had a large caucus turnout, but their report doesn’t reflect such grassroots giving.
Other generous donors for the Republicans include $5,000 each from 1-800 Contacts and Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.
Democratic significant donors include Zions Bancorp, $5,000; Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, $4,250; Rocky Mountain Power, $4,000; Bruce Bastian, $8,500.
Also, gubernatorial candidate Michael Weinholtz, $20,000; and fellow candidate for governor, Vaughn Cook, $10,000.
Jane Ann Marquardt, $15,000; Doug Owens’ campaign committee, $7,000; Evenbrite, $7,800.
Some gave to both parties, 1-800 Contacts also gave $6,000 to the Democrats, and EnergySolutions gave the Democrats $5,000.
It costs around $3 million to hold a primary or general election in Utah, but the parties don’t pick up the cost of a primary election – where party nominees are chosen — the taxpayers do.