Mitt Romney has not only raised a lot of campaign cash from Utahns in his presidential race, but he's spending a lot of it here as well.
New campaign financial disclosure reports, analyzed by the Deseret Morning News, show that while Romney has raised $3.8 million from Utahns, he's also spent $605,442 here. That is more, for example, than any local congressional candidate or any candidate for that matter has spent here this election cycle.
What is Romney buying?
He spent $30,000 on Mitt Romney bobblehead dolls from Asian Sources in Cedar Hills (a small company owned by his brother-in-law, Rod Davies). They were given to donors who gave at least $96 to the campaign during its "Sign Up America" day that sought to gain 24,000 new supporters in 24 hours.
Also, the campaign spent more than $22,000 to cater events when Romney or top officials visited the state, from nearly $9,400 at the Gateway Grille in Kamas to $1,500 at the Deer Valley Resort.
The campaign paid Shannon Norton of Lehi $3,000 to photograph Romney events here. It paid $720 to a valet parking firm. Romney spent about $170,000 on local high-tech companies consulting on Web services.
But the really big money about 70 percent of all that Romney spent here, or more than $450,000 went to strategists who are helping him figure out how to raise money. Whatever they are doing is working well in this state, since an eighth of all that Romney has raised nationally has come from Utahns.
Most strategists are not talking about what exactly they do to help raise funds and what groups they are targeting and how. Interestingly, many of them also do not list business or home phone numbers.
The local operation is run, in part, by John R. Miller, a Midwestern millionaire with a home in Deer Valley, where Romney also owns a home. Miller's John R. Miller Enterprises (as listed on the campaign reports) has an office on the top floor of the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Salt Lake City. But the firm's telephone number is not listed, and an assistant to Miller at the plush office said the firm is not actually a business.
John R. Miller Enterprises was paid $29,924 for "finance/travel," Romney's campaign filings show. Miller did not return telephone calls for comment.
The person who received the most for "finance consulting" $141,723 was Karen Hammond of Farmington. She did not respond to a note left at her home seeking comment about what exactly she does for the campaign, and the campaign did not return phone calls about it.
Another fund-raising strategist who did not return phone calls was Don Stirling, manager of Rainmaker Sports & Entertainment (where his partners are Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller and Blake Roney, chairman of Nu Skin Enterprises.) Rainmaker was paid $75,000, or $15,000 a month for the past five months for "finance consulting," reports show.
Last year, Stirling created a national controversy when the Boston Globe newspaper received and published a leaked copy of an e-mail that Stirling had sent, while working directly for Romney's campaign, that raised questions about whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was helping raise funds and build support for Romney. Both the church and Romney campaign denied that was the case.
A group of Romney backers that included Stirling apparently went too far in seeking support from alumni of the LDS-owned Brigham Young University. They sought to use alumni lists from the BYU business management school to solicit support, giving the color of church support.
However, the church remains neutral in all political races, and Stirling and others had to back away from the BYU connection.
Spencer Zwick is Romney's campaign fund-raising staffer, a former Utahn who got to know Romney when he was his driver during the Salt Lake Olympics. Zwick has several connections to Utah, including his father, Elder W. Craig Zwick, a member of the LDS Church's First Quorum of the Seventy. Spencer Zwick did not return telephone calls for comment.
One fund-raising strategist who returned a phone call was Max Farbman. He is a well-known political consultant/fund-raiser, used extensively by several Utah politicians, including former Gov. Mike Leavitt, who had Farbman basically run his extensive political action committees during his 11 years in office.
"I'm doing fund-raising strategies across the country, not just in Utah," Farbman said. "The vast majority of my work is outside the state."
Also willing to talk to the Morning News about a new Web tool used both for fund raising and to help residents do grassroots political work was Tricia McGarry. She was a vice president for mediaFORGE, which developed special Web software and services Romney is using. MediaFORGE just sold those operations to Cobalt Communications Group, of which McGarry is president and owner.
Romney had paid mediaFORGE $139,000 for services.
McGarry said the Web tool, which can be seen at www.mittlink.net, puts a high-tech spin on grassroots work. In the old days, people excited about a candidate might pass out lawn signs to neighbors or talk over the fence to them. The new system gives them tools to send e-mails, videos, donation pleas and more to their friends.
Those participating earn points for their activities, which in turn can lead to rewards ranging from campaign merchandise or invitations to events. Participants can achieve different participation levels, from "citizen" to "revolutionary," "minuteman" or "hero."
"If the campaign needs to respond" to an attack or other issue, McGarry said they can send video or other materials to participants "to quickly spread it to their friends and associates." It also allows the campaign to identify which helpers are most active and effective, and send more resources to them.
The Web tool also allows participants to send pleas for money to others. "It is personalized, and the e-mail comes from them and not the campaign. It comes as a heartfelt message about something they are passionate about," McGarry said. It also might get through fire walls that could identify and stop e-mails from campaigns as unwanted spam.
"Voters need to know about this. One of the big stories (is) how so much money has been raised, and how much candidates have been spending to do it," she said. "Candidates who use (Internet) platforms like this are spending their money wisely and getting good use of their resources."
comment on this story
Romney basically lived in Utah for three years when he headed the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.
He made many contacts in Utah and was credited with resurrecting the scandal-ridden Games and making them an athletic and financial success.
His connections here have led to strong support for Romney within the Utah business and civic community. He by far leads all other presidential candidates in Utah, according to polls conducted by the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV.
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