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Shurtleff's fundraising trounces Hill's

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, a Republican, has raised a whopping $1.3 million over the last four years, has spent $730,000 in his re-election campaign this year and still has $154,200 in cash, new financial filings show.

Shurtleff's fundraising is impressive and may lead to further speculation that he has an eye on higher office in Utah some day. Shurtleff, a former Salt Lake County commissioner, seeks his third four-year term in Tuesday's election.

Meanwhile, Democrat Jean Welch Hill has raised $100,000 and spent $87,965 in her challenge to Shurtleff. The attorney general's race has at times has been an acrimonious contest, with charges of unethical conduct flying back and forth.

Libertarian Andrew McCullough, who has run for attorney general a number of times, has raised just $15,300 and spent $15,143.

Shurtleff, who is considered part of Utah's GOP establishment, but who has also angered his party's right-wing on several public stands he's taken, has been hampered in his campaigning this year because of a lingering serious leg injury — originally suffered in a motorcycle accident more than a year ago.

Hill and Shurtleff got into a personal/political tiff in 2007 over private school vouchers. Hill is an attorney for the Utah State Office of Education. She provided the State School Board with a legal opinion on the complicated school voucher bills passed by the 2007 Legislature.

Shurtleff disagreed with that opinion, and in essence Shurtleff opined that the board had to immediately implement the voucher law. Board members refused. The case was quickly heard by the Utah Supreme Court, where the board's decision was upheld and the two-voucher-law complication cleared for a November 2007 referendum vote by citizens.

Utahns repealed the voucher law by a nearly 2-to-1 vote — but the bitter voucher political fight both in the attorney general's office and in the state Legislature has lingered into this year's political campaigns.

The latest attorney general financial reports show:

• As has been the case in attorney general races for a number of years, some law firms get involved financially on one side or the other, or just give to both major party candidates.

Shurtleff, who as attorney general awards outside counsel contracts to law firms, got at least $118,900 over the last four years from local law firms and attorneys.

• He has also gotten $227,500 from various multi-level marketing firms, from NuSkin to USANA, Xango and Pre-Paid Legal Services. Shurtleff has often defended the firm's right to legally operate in the state, and he received from such firms about $1 of every $6 he raised over four years.

Multi-level marketing is sometimes attacked as akin to a pyramid scheme and has attracted legal action in other states. For example, a Wyoming attorney general investigation in 2001 led to fines for Pre-Paid Legal Services for its multilevel marketing system. That firm gave $80,000 to Shurtleff, and is his top corporate donor.

• Shurtleff has also received nearly $60,000 from payday loan firms. The companies charge annual interest rates averaging 521 percent interest in Utah for short-term loans. Shurtleff has been a defender of the industry, saying the loans are often a better deal for the poor than bouncing checks or paying other late fees.

• Some of the major individuals and/or firms giving to Shurtleff over the last four years are: Republican State Leadership Committee, $150,000, a national GOP PAC; Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc., $80,000; USANA Health Sciences, Inc., $71,000; and trial attorneys Siegfried & Jensen, $54,500.

• Shurtleff has contributed more than $31,000 to GOP candidates this year, tens of thousands more to local Republican parties. He gave $20,000 to the state GOP for its "I Can" public relations campaign.

Hill has accepted donations from: Bruce Bastion, $7,500, a gay rights activist; Equality Utah, a gay rights group, $1,000; labor unions, at least $10,900; law firm Jones Waldo, $1,000; the former owners/managers of the Salt Lake Tribune and their family members (Welchs and McCarthys), $12,600; Planned Parenthood, $2,000; and education officials, nearly $5,800.