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Is cash key to picking leaders?

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Deseret Morning News graphic

Utah's leading Republican legislators spent more than $140,000 this election not on radio ads or signs or mailers.

Nope. These hopeful Republican legislative leaders gave the money to fellow GOP candidates for the House and Senate, counting on the cash to result in leadership-race votes.

Tonight at 5 p.m., the winners of House and Senate GOP seats will meet in closed caucuses to elect their leaders, who will run the 2007 and 2008 Legislatures. Minority Democrats will also pick leaders — but the majority Republicans will run the legislative show.

The races for leadership are in some ways more important than the legislative elections that took place Tuesday, for the leaders form policy, oversee floor debate and often orchestrate compromises between the House, Senate and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

"You give, so hopefully you can find some friendly Republicans" who in turn will support your leadership race, says Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, who seeks the open post of House majority leader.

All House members were up for election this year, and so had to file financial disclosure reports, which disclose donations from would-be leaders to party candidates.

But senators serve four-year terms. Only 16 of 29 Senate seats were up this year. And several of the GOP senators — including both men seeking the top job of Senate president — running for leadership posts weren't up for election and so don't have to file 2006 campaign finance reports until the first of the year.

Some of the would-be leaders' donations can be tracked through the disclosures of GOP Senate candidates. But if a leadership candidate gave cash to sitting GOP senators who weren't running this year, those donations won't show up until January.

Through available disclosures and interviews, the Deseret Morning News found that at least $92,700 was given by would-be GOP leaders to Republican House candidates — many of whom were incumbents seeking re- election.

At least $49,600 was given by Republican senators who wish to be leaders to GOP Senate candidates, the newspaper found.

Tonight's Republican leadership elections will see if any of these funds turn into critical votes for the Senate president, speaker of the House and other two-year leadership posts.

Clark is in a tight race with Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, for House majority leader.

And Clark and Urquhart set this year's records for giving to fellow GOP representatives and Republican House candidates who may have lost their races Tuesday.

Clark gave $31,510 through the end of October, his report shows.

Urquhart gave $33,992 to fellow Republicans, his report shows.

That's more than $60,000 donated by the two men running for House majority leader.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy — who barely won re-election to his House seat Tuesday — has a much easier leadership race tonight. He is unopposed for a second two-year term.

House Majority Leader Jeff Alexander, R-Provo, won re-election Tuesday but is resigning his seat to become an unpaid economic adviser to Huntsman.

Historically, House leaders move up the leadership ranks to become speaker. Urquhart is the current majority whip. Clark is House vice chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, is once again in a leadership battle with Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville. Valentine edged Waddoups for the president post two years ago.

Valentine said he didn't give any money to current GOP senators who didn't have a race this year. "I gave only to (Republican) candidates who were running" in 2006, he said. And he said he tried to help those in tough races.

Valentine's financial report is not filed until January. He said he gave a little over $15,000. "I gave most to those who had highly contested races."

However, Valentine and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, also raise money for, and helped start, the Utah County Legislative PAC. Bramble is running for Senate majority leader. That PAC gave $25,000 to GOP Senate candidates this year. So, says Valentine, donations from that PAC could also be considered as donations from Valentine and Bramble to their colleagues, as well.

Republicans hoped to pick up at least two seats currently held by Democrats. High on the picking post were two Salt Lake County east-side districts held by retiring Democratic women senators — Patrice Arent and Karen Hale.

If the GOP candidates had won, they would be voting tonight for new Senate leaders. But the Democrats held on to both those seats.

Dirk Anjewierden IV had a tough — and unsuccessful — race with Rep. Pat Jones, D-Cottonwood Heights, for Arent's seat. And a look at who gave to him shows who hoped to get Anjewierden's vote today — if he had won:

Valentine gave him $3,000; Bramble gave him $1,500; Waddoups gave him $1,000; Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse (running for assistant majority whip), gave him $1,500; and Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Sandy (running for assistant majority whip), gave him $800.

Commenting on his race with Urquhart for House majority leader, Clark said: "We took a different tack (in giving.) I was more broad-based, Steve more targeted."

In other words, Clark gave less money to more GOP House candidates, Urquhart gave more money to fewer candidates. Both men watched what the other was giving, so the totals are actually rather close.

Clark gave $500 and $1,000 donations to 34 candidates; Urquhart gave $1,500 or more in donations to 18 House GOP candidates, reports show.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com