Facebook Twitter

GOP governors spent $42,500 to fly New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Utah

Herbert, Swallow far outspend opponents

SHARE GOP governors spent $42,500 to fly New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — It cost more than $42,500 to fly New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Utah by private jet to speak at Gov. Gary Herbert's annual fundraiser last month, a bill picked up by the Republican Governors Association.

Herbert campaign spokesman Marty Carpenter acknowledged the price tag for the flight was higher than Utah's governor anticipated when he offered to cover travel costs for the sought-after New Jersey leader who waived any speaking fees.

"You've got a governor who is notoriously frugal," Carpenter said of Herbert. "I think we're all glad the RGA would cover it."

Candidates for state offices were required to file their final financial disclosure reports Tuesday.

Herbert, attorney general hopeful John Swallow and state auditor candidate John Dougall, all Republicans, held sizable money advantages over their Democratic opponents.

Christie, mentioned as a possible White House contender, is expected to become chairman of the RGA in 2014 and has been traveling the country supporting GOP candidates, including the party's presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

The cost of the flight as well as the contribution from the Republican governor's group to pay for it appeared on Herbert's financial disclosure form.

Not on the report is the bill for Christie, his staff members and security detail to stay overnight at the Grand America Hotel, site of Herbert's annual "Governor's Gala."

Carpenter said the hotel invoice came in after the Oct. 25 end of the reporting period and has yet to be itemized.

Whatever the final cost, Christie did help Herbert's fundraiser sell out weeks in advance and attract 19 sponsors who paid $25,000 each to attend a VIP reception with both governors.

The gala proceeds contributed about $1 million of the nearly $2.3 million Herbert has raised for his bid for a first full term in office. His Democratic challenger, Peter Cooke, has collected almost $360,000.

Herbert has also outspent Cooke significantly, reporting expenditures of more than $1.8 million to just over $294,000 for Cooke, a retired Army general making his second run for elected office.

The governor entered the final days of the election with nearly $432,000 remaining in his campaign account while Cooke, who loaned his campaign $15,000, has about $65,400.

Although Cooke received many small donations, he did get $7,500 from the United Steelworkers and $2,500 from the Utah AFL-CIO. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, who lost to Herbert in the 2010 special election for the remainder of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s term, contributed $1,000 to Cooke.

• In the attorney's general's race, Swallow hauled in just under $1.3 million, about a quarter of which came from two sources. He has spent about $1 million on his campaign.

GOP political strategist and Utah native Karl Rove's Republican State Leadership Committee gave $250,000 and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's Utah Prosperity Foundation donated $120,000. Swallow is Shurtleff's chief deputy.

Other large donors to Swallow include the Utah Association of Realtors, the Utah Association of Financial Services and Pfizer, all giving between $1,000 and $5,000.

Swallow's Democratic opponent, Weber County Attorney Dee Smith, has complained that there's too much money in politics. He has relied on small contributions from Utahns to fund his shoestring campaign.

Smith raised $65,200, with the largest single donation being $1,500 from the law firm Ballard Spahr. The firm gave the same amount to Swallow. Smith has spent $57,450 on his campaign.

• In the state auditor's race, Dougall, a former GOP legislator, raised $72,400, including $22,000 in loans from himself. Merit Medical, EnergySolutions and Nu Skin International are among his largest donors. Several GOP lawmakers also gave to his campaign.

Democrat Mark Sage took in $7,100, including a $509.20 donation to himself for the candidate filing fee. His largest contributions were $500 each from the Weber County Democratic Party and Utah Stonewall Democrats, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

E-mail: lisa@desnews.com, romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dnewspolitics, dennisromboy