clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bennett, Shurtleff share few donors: Attorney general received lots of funds from local companies

One might guess that scores of Republicans likely give money both to Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and his GOP brother, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and that such donors now face a tough choice between the two officeholders as Shurt?leff challenges Bennett for his seat.

But it turns out that vastly different types of groups have donated to each recently. In fact, only eight donors gave to both during the 2008 election cycle.

Shurtleff received much of his money through huge donations (much larger than allowed by federal law in Senate races) from corporations, which by law cannot give directly to federal candidates. The cash usually came from local groups interested in his local work as attorney general, ranging from local law firms to payday lenders.

Bennett, meanwhile, received the lion's share of his donations from national political action committees interested in national issues, with donations coming in the smaller amounts authorized by federal law.

The differences could hurt Shurtleff, who may need to find a different or expanded donor base both to comply with federal law and raise the money he needs.

Meanwhile, Shurtleff's local money base and Bennett's national base intersected only rarely, records show. For donors identified in disclosure reports, the Deseret News found a mere eight that gave to both in the 2008 cycle, including:

EnergySolutions. Its PAC gave Bennett $6,000, and the corporation gave Shurtleff $10,000.

CitiGroup (banking and securities). Its PAC gave Bennett $5,000 and gave Shurtleff $1,000.

JP Morgan Chase (banking and securities). Its PAC gave Bennett $2,000 and gave Shurtleff $1,000.

Reagan Outdoor Advertising. The company gave Shurtleff $5,000. Corporations cannot directly give to federal candidates. But the company's principals, William and Julia Reagan, individually gave Bennett a combined $4,800.

Union Pacific Railroad. Its PAC gave Bennett $2,300, and the corporation gave Shurtleff $5,000.

Frank Madsen (former top aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch) gave Bennett $500 and gave Shurtleff $400.

Former U.S. Rep. Howard Nielsen gave $2,000 to Bennett and $100 to Shurtleff.

Hy Saunders (a developer) gave $2,300 to Bennett and $100 to Shurtleff.

A major problem for Shurtleff is that the $72,000-plus he had in his state account at the end of the year (the last disclosure available) is not easily convertible for use in a federal Senate race.

That is because much of it came from corporations, which, again, cannot legally contribute to federal candidates.

Also, much came in chunks larger than is allowed in federal races. For state races, no limits exist for campaign donations. But in federal races, individuals may give no more than $4,800 (for a primary and general election), and PACs may give no more than $10,000 for the two elections.

Shurtleff told the Deseret News that he will not mix his state attorney general funds with his U.S. Senate campaign funds, and essentially will begin from scratch in raising money for the Senate race.

"I'll do fundraising just for the Senate campaign," Shurtleff said. He added that he probably could move some of the $72,000-plus in his state account to his federal campaign. "But I don't want to be the test case" for the new Utah law that allows such activity (federal law also applies).

He may face some tough scrutiny, meanwhile, for such things as paying for a recent poll he commissioned to show how he might fare against Bennett, and such things as paying for a booth at the upcoming state GOP convention.

If he uses his state funding (after already saying he will not run for attorney general again), he will need to show that he raised money for that from sources legal under federal law.

Shurtleff said he wants to raise between $1.5 million and $2 million for his Senate race. Jim Bennett, Sen. Bennett's son and campaign manager, said the senator also figures he may need about $2 million.

Shurtleff said he will have fundraisers inside and outside of Utah — a Salt Lake City fundraiser in a private home starts off this effort June 22. "You really can't raise all the money needed just inside of Utah. And U.S. senators, while representing a state, also have interests outside their states, as well," the attorney general said.

Shurtleff also said he hoped to run an inexpensive "grass-roots campaign with the (state GOP) delegates. I believe we can beat (Bennett) in the (May 2010 Republican) convention," said Shurt?leff. "If not there, then in the five-week primary" which would end in a GOP primary vote in June 2010.

Adding he had no personal money to spend on this race, Shurtleff said his book on Dred Scott (a slave who traveled north to free state with his master, only to lose his freedom in a famous 1857 U.S. Supreme Court case) will be published in September.

Some income may come from that, especially through the possibility of a corporation buying the book in bulk to give to its employees, he said. Of note, some politicians have run into trouble when similar bulk book purchases were ruled essentially to be political donations and exceeded federal limits.

Jim Bennett, meanwhile, said his father is in strong financial shape. He had $625,000 in the bank as of March 31. Since then, Jim Bennett said, "We have had about the best quarter in political fundraising ever, raising about a half-million dollars" from sources around the country — giving him a big head start over Shurtleff.

That included about $255,000 in one event featuring former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. "We've hit the ground running," the younger Bennett said.

That has allowed Bennett to even do such things as run an early TV ad featuring Romney, to try to sway Utahns and state GOP delegates to him early. Jim Bennett said the senator has a well-established national donor base and will aggressively seek however much money he needs.

Dave Hansen, a campaign manager for Sen. Orrin Hatch who once managed the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Shurt?leff may have the toughest fundraising challenge ahead of the two.

For Shurtleff, a challenger to a strong incumbent, "the first $50,000 to $75,000 will come pretty easy," said Hansen. "They will be family and friends who have supported him before and are committed to him."

After that, however, it will be tough. "It is a lot easier to get $25,000 from a corporation," allowed under Utah law for attorney general's race, "than to get even $2,300 for a primary" in a federal race, he said.

Bennett and Shurtleff are not the only candidates in the race. Tim Bridgewater, a 2002 GOP candidate for Congress, has said he plans to run. Also, James Russell Williams III has filed documents with the Federal Election Commission saying he is running as a Republican.

E-MAIL: lee@desnews.com, bbjr@desnews.com