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.