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Candidates for Utah’s governor cash checks, loan themselves money

Posted at 8:59 AM, Jan 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-11 11:20:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY — New campaign disclosure reports show a number of Utah’s candidates for governor are cashing checks and, in some cases, loaning themselves money.

The reports, filed Friday with the Lt. Governor’s Office, show who is ahead in fundraising — and who is giving them money.

Provo businessman Jeff Burningham led the 2019 fundraising race with $1.5 million for his campaign. But the reports show that over the past year, he loaned his campaign $825,000. Burningham also received $200,000 from Heidi and Jeff Pestana (Jeff being the CEO of Utah County-based software company ObservePoint). The campaign also received contributions from Burningham’s colleagues at Peak Capital Partners. Jaime and Catherine Dunn gave him $50,00; and Jeff and Kim Danley gave $50,000. A company called “5 Chumps LLC” also contributed $40,000.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox reported nearly $1.2 million in fundraising in 2019 with a lot of small size donations. Cox transferred $100,000 from his campaign account for Lt. Governor. He also got $50,000 from Governor Gary Herbert’s political action committee. Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller gave Cox’s campaign $50,000. Pacificorp gave him $25,000. He reported another $25,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee. Management and Training Corp. gave him $10,000; as did Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard.

Former Utah governor and U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., who is running for his old office, reported $520,527 in contributions in 2019. They include a lot of contributions from members of the wealthy Hunstman family. His mother, Karen; brother, Peter; and brother, Paul; gave a combined $105,000. Developer Kem Gardner contributed $50,000. So did Zions Bank president Scott Anderson.

Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, who jumped into the race this week, has not yet opened a gubernatorial campaign committee. However, his Hughes Leadership PAC reported $519,625 in contributions in 2019. Big donations included $100,000 from developer Kem Gardner; $125,000 from House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper; $75,000 from former House Majority Leader Kevin Garn; $15,000 from current House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville; $5,000 from EnergySolutions and another $5,000 from a company belonging to former Salt Lake City mayoral candidate David Ibarra.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton reported $291,982 in contributions, with some as small as $5. She loaned her campaign $150,000. Winder Newton’s brother, Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, contributed $10,000 to her campaign through his political action committee. Another PAC associated with them, Utah Values PAC, contributed $18,400. Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller gave the Winder Newton campaign $5,000; Zions Bank chairman Harris Simmons also gave $5,000; so did Acadia Health Care and Mountain West Commercial.

Thomas Wright, the former Utah Republican Party chairman, who also entered the race last week, has reported no campaign contributions.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zachary Moses reported about $5,800 in campaign contributions in 2019, mostly loans to himself. Nikki Pino, who filed to gather signatures for governor as a Democrat, has not reported any campaign contributions.