Jonathan Johnson’s insurgent campaign to wrest the GOP nomination from incumbent Gary Herbert got another big fundraising boost from Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne.
Wednesday Johnson’s campaign announced they had received another $250,000 donation from Byrne, bringing his total contributions to the campaign to $850,000.
Johnson’s campaign likely announced the donation to get ahead of the news cycle. The last large donation from Byrne was reported in the Utah news media on a Friday evening and dominated the political news conversation for an entire weekend. Johnson’s campaign likely decided to take the hits that they knew were coming and released the news on their terms.
Nonetheless, Herbert’s campaign has teed off on news of the latest donation.
“Utah voters should ask the important questions: Who is Patrick Byrne? Why has he given nearly $1 million to Jonathan Johnson? And why would Johnson allow one man to be the sole funding source of his campaign?” said campaign spokesperson Marty Carpenter in a statement. “It has become painfully obvious one man is trying to buy the governor’s office by running his employee and registered lobbyist and funding him at an unprecedented level.”
Herbert’s campaign also noted that Byrne has “fought for policies Utahns have rejected” like education vouchers and the struggle to overturn Utah’s Amendment 3, which prohibited same-sex marriage.
Johnson, perhaps anticipating the attack from Herbert, said in a statement “Patrick has not asked, nor would he ever ask me, for a favor in return for his donation. Let me be perfectly clear –I have never, nor would I ever, make a promise associated with a donation.”
Herbert has repeatedly slammed Byrne as Johnson’s “sugar daddy.”
Herbert has his own fundraising troubles, as he was caught on tape saying he would be willing to meet with campaign donors anywhere and anytime, referring to himself as “Available Jones.” He also drew some fire for scheduling a fundraiser in conjunction with his energy summit and suggesting a fundraising “speed dating” event with lobbyists.
Johnson has struggled to gain traction with Republican voters who will be the only Utahns allowed to cast a ballot in the closed primary election later this month.