20200507 GOP Debate 02

The four GOP candidates for Utah governor have spent, combined, more than $6.1 million in their attempts to win the June 30 primary election.

And individually, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, former state House Speaker Greg Hughes, and former state GOP chairman Thomas Wright, have all spent more than $1 million each, new campaign finance reports filed with the Utah Elections Office show. The reports show spending and fundraising since the mid-April state Republican convention.

Two of the campaigns -- Wright and Hughes -- see rich contributors kicking in the lion’s share of their overall donations.

Here’s the break-out:

Jon Huntsman

Huntsman has raised $805,665 since the April GOP convention, with a total of $1.89 million collected since he started his campaign last November.

His biggest donor in the latest report is his mother, Karen Huntsman, who gave her son’s campaign $250,000.

Huntsman’s father, the late Jon Huntsman Sr., became a billionaire through his international Huntsman Corp. plastics production firm, and each of the Huntsman children were left more than $100 million through company assets.

Huntsman has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in local TV and radio advertisement buys, his report shows.

Some of his largest donors in his latest report are: Barbara B. Jones, $100,000; Phil Purcell, $50,000; C. Boyden Gray, $50,000; Prime Power Sports, $15,000; C & C Stahel, $25,000, William Mack, $25,000; Clark Ivory, $10,000.

Huntsman clearly understands that the June 30 GOP primary is the real race for governor. He has spent most of his campaign money, $1.83 million, only having $61,000 in cash.

Whoever wins the GOP primary will have no trouble raising funds for the general election against University of Utah law professor Chris Peterson, the Democratic nominee who has no primary.

Spencer Cox

Cox is the overall campaign fundraising winner so far. He has raised $839,802 since the state GOP convention, for a total of $2.3 million. He’s spent $1.87 million and still has half a million dollars in cash.

Cox has been running for governor for a year, has extensively traveled the state, and has a large small-donor operation, with a boatload of individual gifts of $10 and $20.

The largest donation, $75,000, on the Cox latest filing is from the National Education Association, the national union of public education teachers -- a group conservatives love to hate.

Some of the other noted donations to Cox include Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz and local car dealerships, $25,000; Smith 507, $50,000; Management Training Corp., a private prison operator, $30,000.

Cox has paid Y2 Analytics $28,600 for polling. Y2 Analytics is also the polling firm used by UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2News, but the firm bifurcates its polling operations; there is a “firewall” between the partners who poll for UtahPolicy.com and the partners who poll for Cox -- the two groups don’t share polling information.

Cox has spent more than $670,000 on advertising buys by Fluid Advertising, which on its homepage touts a number of clients, including, interestingly enough, the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, which, of course, is the Huntsman family’s flagship cancer-fighting research and hospital philanthropic operation. The Utah Department of Health is also a Fluid client; Cox heads the state’s coronavirus fighting effort.

All campaigns, after their normal financial reports are made, have to disclose contributions when checks are cashed. In Cox’s supplement report is a $10,000 donation from SEBMEDIA, California-based media firm that specializes, in part, with campaign crisis management damage control. This is a donation, not an expense.

Interestingly enough, Cox has been using the non-profit mailing status of the Utah State Republican Party, his financial disclosures show. So far, he’s paid the party $41,046 for mailers.

Huntsman and Wright can’t use the party’s non-profit mailing status because they did not come out of the April state convention, only Cox and Hughes did, and under internal party rules only “convention nominees” can use party resources -- like the non-profit mailing status, which saves those candidates up to 40 percent off of campaign mailer costs.

Those party internal “favorites” rules are a source of contention among Republican candidates who get into the closed party primary -- which is paid for by taxpayers -- via SB54 signatures.

Greg Hughes

Hughes has raised $1.46 million so far, has spent $1.1 million, and has $337,400 in cash, with just over a week to go before the primary. Hughes has raised $829,400 since the convention, as polls show he’s been gaining on the two leaders, Cox and Huntsman.

Hughes has loaned his campaign $358,000, reports show.

In fact, Hughes's fundraising and spending is really a story of four men, including the candidate -- the quartet of men have donated 83 percent of all the money Hughes has collected.

Mike Schultz, a successful homebuilder and current state House majority whip, has donated $440,000 to Hughes: Both to his PAC, the Hughes Leadership PAC and to Hughes campaign. Hughes mentored Schultz when he was a two-term speaker.

Former House leader Kevin Garn, a developer and hotel owner, has donated $275,000 in total between the PAC and campaign. And developer Kem Gardner, a conservative Democrat, kicked in $150,000 to Hughes’ PAC.

Hughes has spent $5,760 in using the state Republican Party’s non-profit mailing privileges.

Thomas Wright

Wright is a successful Realtor, whose statewide firm specializes in selling high-end homes. Wright has loaned his campaign $388,000, with his real estate firm donating another $25,000.

A number of well-known realtors have individually, or through their firms, donated tens of thousands of dollars to Wright. The Utah Realtors Association has donated $100,000.

Wright is the brother-in-law to Merit Medical boss, and GOP big-hitter, Fred Lampropoulos, who has donated $225,000 to Wright.

Wright picked as his lieutenant governor running mate U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, who is retiring this year from his office. Under federal campaign rules, members of Congress can donate money from their federal account to a state race, as long as the donation is legal under state law.

Utah has no campaign donation limits in state races, and Bishop For Congress has given $280,000 to the ticket.

Lampropoulos has donated 16 percent of Wright’s money, as did Bishop. With Wright’s loan, that means the three men donated 60 percent of the Wright/Bishop campaign totals.

It’s legal for any state candidate to pay campaign debts after financial filing deadlines, so we won’t see all of the GOP gubernatorial candidates’ primary spending until future reports are filed.