SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert hasn't even been inaugurated after winning the office for the next two years, but he's already looking for money to fund his next election.
A fundraising dinner following Herbert's Jan. 3 inauguration ceremony at the state Capitol is expected to cover not only the cost of the event, but also boost his political action committee coffers.
"This will be the last real opportunity to raise money until summer," said Joseph Demma, campaign manager for the governor's big win in November that carried a price tag topping $3 million.
Governors, who are prohibited by law from raising money during the legislative session and immediately after, typically rely on galas held annually throughout their four-year terms to raise most of their campaign cash.
But Herbert is in a unique position when it comes to fundraising because he assumed the office mid-term after Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. resigned in August 2009 to become U.S. ambassador to China.
Because of a recent change to the state constitution, Herbert had to immediately launch a run for the remaining two years of Huntsman's term. His next election is in less than two years, November 2012.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and an adviser to the governor, said the shortened term means Herbert has much less time to collect the cash he needs to run.
"The governor is in a little tougher spot because he has to run in 2010 and 2012," Jowers said. "Normally, you can give everyone a break for two years. He doesn't have that luxury."
Kelly Patterson, head of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said Herbert has no choice but to keep raising money.
"Fundraising is driven by the immediacy of the cycle," Patterson said. "He's essentially required to dive back in."
Demma said the situation "has created some interesting political dynamics," especially when it comes to money. He credited Herbert's chief fundraiser, Karen Hammond, with accomplishing the "incredible Herculean effort" of raising some $3 million.
There's been some grumbling about her using the inauguration to make money because contributors were initially getting tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. While the ceremony is free and open to the public, seating is limited.
The governor's office quickly stepped in with assurances no tickets would be sold to the ceremony, described as "a time-honored tradition" by Herbert spokeswoman Angie Welling.
"Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as by invitation," Welling said. "Contributors receive an invitation to the off-site dinner only."
And while the inauguration fundraising package was originally priced as high as $5,000, Demma said donors are now being asked for between $500 and $2,500. But Welling said any amount is welcome.
"There is no set contribution amount, nor is there a 'price' for the dinner," she said. "The private dinner is simply a thank you for supporters. ... Any communications to the contrary of this information were inaccurate."
Welling said the contributions are intended to offset the approximate $30,000-$40,000 cost of the inauguration ceremony for taxpayers. Additional funds would be available for political purposes.
Utah-based Hammond is seen as an aggressive fundraiser who has collected cash for former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's run for governor in California.
Hammond didn't return a telephone call seeking comment about her work for the governor, but Demma didn't dispute her reputation.
"That's her job, to find opportunities to accomplish her mission, which is to help the governor raise enough money to accomplish his mission," Demma said.
Still, he acknowledged donor fatigue is always a concern. Especially since Herbert is also seeking contributions of as much as $150,000 to help pay for next summer's National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City.
"That's the tricky part about fundraising," Demma said. "We're just super appreciative of everyone who stepped up and continue to do so. ... But just like we wouldn't ask someone to volunteer 90 hours a week, we have to be respectful."
In his last election, questions were raised about the influence of the governor's campaign contributions on the award of state contracts. His Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, went so far as to compare Herbert with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But Herbert won 28 of Utah's 29 counties, including Salt Lake. Demma said that shows Utahns aren't worried about the governor's fundraising activities.6 comments on this story
"I don't think they're as interested in underhanded accusations as much as they are in the integrity of the individual," Demma said. "There was a concerted effort by some to portray the governor as having his office for sale. It wasn't true and the public knew it wasn't true."
Jowers suggested Herbert could become more confident in his fundraising efforts this election.
"It would certainly be a rational response to be emboldened," Jowers said. "Those types of accusations don't stick because the people of Utah trust him."