The Utah Education Association and its affiliated teacher unions are by far the largest special interest contributor to Utah legislative races this year, political action committee reports show.
And GOP candidate Norm Nielsen has received the most teacher money. Nielsen defeated GOP Rep. Pat Nix in her Orem House district in the primary election and now faces Democrat Helen Weeks and Libertarian Neil Skousen in the final election.Nielsen received $6,609 in cash and services from the UEA and Utah County teacher PACs, records filed with the lieutenant governor's office show. At least, Nielsen was the leader among those PACs who met the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline. The UEA PAC itself met the deadline, but PAC reports from the UEA's affiliate Davis Education Association, Granite Education Association, Salt Lake City Education Association and some other political actions committees didn't make the deadline. To get a total of all teacher union giving, the Deseret News added the UEA PAC report with affiliated teacher PAC reports.
Likewise, the latest reports from the AFL-CIO and Utah Public Employee Association PACs didn't arrive on time.
Still, the UEA is so far out front of the other campaign contributors, it won't be caught. In fact, in some cases the UEA gave more money to candidates than even their own political parties gave them.
The latest reports contain campaign contributions through the end of October. The UEA has donated $71,768 so far and still had $25,000 left over, money it may yet give to candidates and report on the next PAC statement, due 30 days after the Nov. 6 election. All but a couple of thousand dollars of the $71,768 went to legislative candidates, mostly to moderate Republicans and Democrats. There's no limit on how much a candidate can accept from one group or individual.
The teacher union specifically gives to moderate politicians who run against conservative legislators who don't support the union's goals. The Nix-Nielsen race is a good example. In that Republican district, the moderate Nielsen passed the UEA litmus test and was given money, which helped defeat the two-term Nix, a conservative whose views didn't reflect UEA goals.
The UEA gave $1,000 or more to 18 Democrats and nine Republicans, including the primary giving. But those Republicans got larger chunks of money. Of the five top money recipients, four are Republican incumbents.
House races in Utah generally cost between $5,000 and $10,000. No one knows how much Nielsen has spent on his race so far. Legislators have specifically exempted themselves and their challengers from filing financial disclosure statements until 30 days after the election. Legislators are the only group of politicians in the state that doesn't report campaign contributions and expenditures until it is too late to inform voters.
The UEA's financial impact on a campaign can be significant. For example, Sen. Lorin Pace, R-Salt Lake, lost his primary race this year. He received $4,000 from the UEA. Primary losers have to file a campaign report 30 days later, and that report shows Pace raised $15,570. Thus, the UEA contributed a fourth of Pace's campaign money. The union's contribution percentage can be higher. In 1986, then-challenger David Steele, a Republican, got 77 percent of his primary contributions from the UEA. He beat incumbent conservative GOP Sen. Dona Wayment in that year's Republican primary and coasted to victory in the heavily Republican district in November.
Cash is only a part of the UEA's political help in legislative races, however. The union has under contract, as it has in the past, a campaign consulting firm to help with issue research for candidates it supports and cull from legislative records questionable votes made by incumbents it opposes. Officials of the UEA say they don't "target" incumbents they don't like, just support their challengers. But conservative Republican candidates hate seeing their opponents getting the kind of money and help Nielsen and other UEA-supported candidates receive.
Here are the candidates who got $1,000 or more from the UEA and its affiliates:
Sen. Haven Barlow, R-Layton, $5,772; Democratic candidate Drew Daniels, House District 67, $5,729; Rep. Walt Bain, R-Farmington, $5,393; Republican candidate Irby Arrington, House District 39, $4,000; Rep. Stan Smedley, R-Bountiful, $3,600; Democratic candidate Paul Hiskey, House District 47, $3,000; Rep. Joe Hull, D-Hooper, $2,846; Rep. Robert Slack, R-Washington, $2,696; Democratic candidate DeMont Wiberg, House District 12, $2,397; Democratic candidate Byron Anderson, House District 11, $2,296; Sen. Winn Richards, D-Ogden, $2,136; Rep. Grant Protzman, D-North Ogden, $2,008; Rep. David Jones, D-Salt Lake, $2,000; Rep. Kurt Oscarson, D-Sandy, $1,900; Rep. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, $1,500; Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, $1,500; Democratic candidate Ken Creer, House District 65, $1,500; Rep. Max Young, D-Salt Lake, $1,300; Rep. Tim Moran, D-Spanish Fork, $1,300; Rep. David Adams, R-Monticello, $1,200; Rep. Bob Anderton, D-Salt Lake, $1,200; Democratic candidate Scott Howell, Senate District 4, $1,100; Sen. Richard Carling, R-Salt Lake, $1,000; Rep. Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake, $1,000; Rep. Allan Rushton, D-West Valley, $1,000.