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Utah congressional races funded mostly by contributions

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As the 1998 Utah congressional races rush to a close one thing is clear, a lot of money is being spent on the campaigns, but not much of it comes from the candidates themselves.

And, boy, is that a change from recent years here.Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah, has over the last decade spent more than $3 million of his own cash on his various races. But now that he's an incumbent he has other sources, like PACs.

Democrat Lily Eskelsen isn't putting any of her money into her race against Cook, either. Now, one may quickly say that that's understandable, since Eskelsen is a sixth-grade teacher and, therefore, shouldn't have much money.

However, Eskelsen was also head of the Utah Education Association where for six years she made a nice income of around $60,000 a year. But more impressive is the work she's been doing for the National Education Association.

Eskelsen is on the elected executive board of the NEA and until taking a leave of absence to run her campaign this year, was traveling the country conducting teachers seminars for the national teacher union.

The NEA's latest filing with the U.S. Labor Department lists all of its board members and their salaries for the federal fiscal year of October 1996 to October 1997. Eskelsen is the third-highest paid member of the board, records show, and in 1996-97 was reimbursed $99,178, $59,320 of which was pure salary for what Eskelsen calls part-time work. The rest comes in "allowances" and "expenses."

So while she's no millionaire like Cook, she could have put some money into her own race. However, Federal Election Commission reports show Eskelsen has only put $286 into her campaign this year.

Eskelsen has been a very successful fund-raiser, with her campaign often noting that during various periods of the campaign she's out-raised Cook.

Combining Eskelsen's 1997 and 1998 FEC reports, through last week Eskelsen raised $513,413. That's an impressive number for a non-incumbent 2nd District candidate who isn't self-funding a campaign. Four years ago Enid Greene spent more than $2 million on her 2nd District race, but of course we know now that $2 million of that was her father's money illegally put into the race by Enid's former husband, Joe Waldholtz.

Eskelsen's campaign account has $91,904 in cash to spend on the last two weeks of TV and radio ad campaigns, her latest report show.

Cook has raised more money than Eskelsen over the past two years - $582,800. And he's not put one dime of his own money into the race - a first for the millionaire mining explosives company owner.

Cook had $189,817 in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period, meaning he probably has more money than Eskelsen for TV and radio ads in these last two weeks.

Both Eskelsen and Cook have been pounding away at each other over the airways. Eskelsen has an ad running that has Republicans hopping mad - one showing unflattering pictures of Cook over the years running for this or that office and saying he'll do anything to get elected.

But Cook has a tough ad also, one saying Eskelsen never met a tax hike she didn't like and as a union leader led a walkout of teachers in the late 1980s (Eskelsen was actually Teacher of the Year when that happened, wasn't yet the president of the Utah Education Association).

Eskelsen has support typical of Democrats running in the 2nd District, pro-choice groups; EMILY'S List, a group that gives to pro-choice Democratic women; and a number of teachers and college professors. Eskelsen also got a $500 contribution from Barbra Streisand.

Eskelsen has received $104,500 from labor unions, a fifth of her total contributions. Overall, she received 31 percent of her money from PACs.

Still, she is proud of the number of individual contributors to her campaign, saying they far outnumber both the total giving of PACs and the number of PACs contributing.

And on that account she's well ahead of Cook. His money flips the other way around. He received 70 percent of his money, so far, from PACs or other special interest groups, his FEC report shows. Only around 30 percent comes from individuals.

Cook's PAC contributors run the gamut of big-business contributors, with a healthy dose of financial services types. Cook prides himself on tax and financial market expertise.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, spent $2 million of his own money on his 1992 election. This time around his campaign says he hasn't put any cash into his race this year or last.

However, he did put some money into his campaign accounts in 1993-94 and 1995-96, FEC reports show. Bennett put $500,000 into his account four years ago, $126,000 two years ago.

In 1997 and so far in 1998, Bennett has raised $1.2 million. Over the past five-and-a-half years in office, he's raised $2.6 million. This year Bennett has raised a bit more PAC money than individual contributions - $227,475 to $220,593.

Dr. Scott Leckman, Bennett's Democratic opponent, is a general surgeon. He's raised $168,124 so far for his campaign, putting in $63,920 himself. That amounts to 38 percent of all the money he's raised, his FEC report shows.

Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, over the past two years has raised $274,737. That's historically about where the nine-term Republican from the 1st Congressional District has been financially. Hansen doesn't put his own money into his races.

The FEC report for Steve Beierlein, Hansen's Democratic opponent, had not made it into Lt. Gov. Olene Walker's office Monday morning. Calls to his campaign went unreturned. A summer FEC report showed Beierlein had given or loaned his campaign around $80,000.

Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, has no Democratic opponent this year. His report also wasn't in Walker's office Monday morning. Last year he raised $347,300, of which $164,677 was his own cash. Cannon is a millionaire, also.