Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Fundraising Follies

bernick mugWell, Utah GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has done it again – shot himself in the foot over campaign fundraising.

Over the last several days The Salt Lake Tribune revealed that in an Alta Club meeting with lobbyists the governor said he was “Available Jones” – an old cartoon character who was available for work anytime.

“Available” in Herbert’s context means he is available to meet with big campaign donors to discuss their issues – with the understanding that there would be no quid pro quo on donations to gubernatorial actions.

But it still looks bad.

And this is not the first time Herbert has suffered so. You may remember several years ago he met with some contractors who were bidding on a huge state project, then got a check.

Put under pressure – and in the latest case, the pressure coming because Herbert finished second to GOP challenger Jonathan Johnson in the state Republican Party convention – Herbert sometimes reacts poorly.

One may say he suffers from foot-in-mouth fundraising disease.

I don’t for a moment believe Herbert is corrupt in any way. He is an honest man.

But he can get carried away – which he says he did in the Alta Club meeting.

My wonder is who is advising Herbert in these fundraising efforts?

Setting up a system where anyone can get 10 or 20 minutes of the governor’s time for significant donations – it’s just not smart political thinking.

I remember when former Gov. Mike Leavitt set up a fundraising process whereby big donors give – the number $25,000 sticks in my mind – and you could have a weekend with Leavitt at his family’s Loa ranch in central Utah.

The weekend included horseback riding, fishing, and even cowboy poetry readings around the old campfire.

And over several years more than a dozen big shots paid the money and had time with the governor and other big shots (and some cowboys).

Now, unlike Herbert’s Alta Club meeting, no one tape recorded Leavitt’s fundraising rope-and-corral events.

Actually hearing Herbert talk about how he was available to meet anyone, anytime, for some money was unseemly.

But it is not illegal, or even unethical.

Politicians meet folks all the time and ask for money.

The national media has been reporting how sitting U.S. House members should make campaign donation calls for two to three hours A DAY to raise the money needed for their every-two-year campaigns.

The money required to run these campaigns is nuts, crazy.

Herbert says he needs more than $1 million, and he’s already running TV ads in his primary race against Johnson (who has complained loudly about Herbert’s fundraising, but is asking for money, as well).

Herbert is still likely to win the primary race June 28.

And since no Democrat has won the Utah governorship since 1980, the GOP nominee is odds-on favorite to win in November.

Thus, this could be Herbert’s last race, and his last big efforts at fundraising – for Herbert says he’s retiring after four years if voters give him another term.

That’s good for the governor.

For he doesn’t seem very good at fundraising, as this last week’s ordeal for him shows.