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Attorney general candidates Sean Reyes, Charles Stormont scrutinize campaign donations

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 3 2014 9:09 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 3 2014 9:09 p.m. MDT

Charles A. Stormont, Democratic candidate for Utah attorney general.

Brooke F Scott, Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic attorney general candidate Charles Stormont can't go anywhere without the scandal surrounding John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff coming up.

"It's front and center for most people. They want to know what you're going to do to make sure we don't see that again," Stormont said.

Some people, he said, even ask about his criminal background, "which I can summarize: none."

Stormont faces Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes, whom the governor appointed after Swallow resigned last December. Reyes has had his hands full since taking office with the same-sex marriage case and other high-profile litigation.

"He's handling it," said Alan Crooks, Reyes' campaign consultant. "He's putting in enormous hours up there right now."

Both candidates are also raising money for their campaigns, a prospect made more difficult in the wake of bribery and other criminal charges filed against Swallow and Shurtleff. They're also more careful about the pledges they accept because of the pay-to-play allegations leveled at the two former attorneys general.

So far this year, thanks to some sizeable contributions, Reyes has raised more than three times that of Stormont.

Reyes has taken in $284,675 and has $115,388 on hand, according to his latest campaign finance report filed this week. His largest donors in the past quarter are Washakie Renewable Energy and Chantal Burnison, the founder of a California-based pharmaceutical and skin care company. Each gave $20,000.

Crooks said the campaign scrutinizes every donation, particularly the ones from industries that might be subject to an investigation. He said it has turned down some contributions or not solicited others because of perceptions about the business.

Stormont has raised $81,086 on mostly small contributions and has $52,149 in the bank, according to his finance report. His largest single donation is $1,500 from the Laborers Political League.

"We feel good about where we're at," Stormont said, adding he has raised more than the Democratic candidate in 2012.

He said he made a "concrete" commitment to not accept money from certain industries, including payday lending, multilevel marketing and online business coaching and mentoring. He said he wants to avoid companies for which the state Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission receive lots of complaints.

"Those are industries the attorney general needs to be able to take a good objective look at when issues arise and we want to make sure we're able to do that," said Stormont, an assistant attorney general who took an unpaid leave of absence to challenge his boss.

Stormont said he's trying to make up the money gap with Reyes by doing a lot of work on the ground, including going to local parades, county fairs and community gatherings. Reyes, too, has attended those events.

Libertarian candidate Andrew W. McCullough has raised $3,182 and had $787 on hand, according to a finance report.

The Reyes and Stormont campaigns say they intend to put up billboards and buy ad time on TV and radio.

Stormont said his message will focus on building name recognition and issues. Reyes, too, will use ads to help voters get to know him better, Crooks said.

So far, there is only one scheduled debate between the candidates. The Utah Debate Commission will host the televised event at Brigham Young University on Oct. 1.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics

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