Gov. Norm Bangerter's campaign manager thinks Ted Wilson and the Democratic Party are trying to hide significant contributions by the state's major labor union to Wilson's gubernatorial campaign.
Dave Buhler finds it suspicious that the Utah Public Employees' Association, the union representing most state workers, gave two $10,000 contributions and a $2,500 contribution to the State Democratic Party within days of the party giving Wilson, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, contributions in the exact same amount.But Randy Horiuchi, Democratic Party state chairman, said the contributions are only coincidental. "They had absolutely nothing to do with each other."
State attorneys with expertise in election law say Utah law does not expressly prohibit a contributor to a political party from earmarking a gift for a particular candidate. However, a new law on political action committee financial reporting and a law regulating candidate financial reporting could be interpreted by a court to prohibit such actions, although that has not yet happened, attorneys said.
Such "under the table" giving may, for political reasons, be advantageous to the giver and/or the candidate, either of whom may not want to be tied directly to such a campaign gift.
When contacted by the Deseret News for comment, both Horiuchi and Rob Jolley, Wilson's campaign manager, thought it was against state law to "launder" money in that fashion.
Party financial reports filed with the Lieutenant Governor's office show that on Jan. 15 the UPEA gave the state Democratic Party $2,500. On Jan. 21, the party gave the Wilson For Governor campaign $2,500.
On April 13, the party gave Wilson $10,000. On April 15, the UPEA gave the party $10,000. On June 7, the party gave Wilson another $10,000. On June 15, the UPEA gave the party $10,000.
"The first $10,000 UPEA gave to the party was a specific request I made to them for money so we could hire an artist to start work on our legislative candidates' brochures," Horiuchi said. "The second $10,000 was another specific request I made to the UPEA to pay for part of our voter canvass."
A spokeswoman for UPEA's political action committee said, "We gave the money to the (Democratic) party for them to use in any way they saw fit for their candidates. We're planning on giving (the party) another $5,000 as well." She said UPEA hasn't formally endorsed Wilson yet, but likely will do so and will likely contribute to his campaign at that time.
Jolley said the party has, since the party's financial filing deadline, given Wilson another $5,000. "Perhaps some money from UPEA has found its way to us. I don't know," Jolley said. "The party promised us $30,000, and so far have given $27,500 (the exact amount UPEA has contributed, or will contribute, to the party)."
"But we're not ashamed of any of the money labor or business or individuals have given us. We want UPEA money and endorsements. We want Realtor money and endorsements. We're proud of the fact that 70 percent of our contributions come from business and individuals." Jolley said the latest allegations by Buhler are further examples of the desperate tactics being employed by the Bangerter campaign because their candidate trails Wilson in the polls.
"Bangerter and Buhler are spending more time on trying to find such skulduggery than on legitimate campaigning. It's that mentality that doesn't lead to good government," Jolley said.
He added that Bangerter is concerned that so many businesses and Republicans have given to the Wilson campaign that the governor is attempting to discredit Wilson for accepting any labor union money.
"We've decided, as party leaders, that if we can give (party) money to Wilson, we will do it every time. We believe as the governor's race goes, so goes many of our legislative races," said Horiuchi, who also works as a $1,000-a-month paid consultant for the Wilson campaign and is a paid lobbyist for UPEA as well. As of the reports' deadline, June 30, the Democratic Party hadn't given money to any candidate except Wilson.
"I can't prove anything, I guess," said Buhler. "But if Wilson is getting more labor union money than he already has, well, the voters should know about it."