Only one month after its debut, Taxpayers for Utah has raised $167,702.17 for its battle against three tax limitation initiatives that, if passed, could cost state and local governments $330 million.
The bipartisan coalition released Friday a list of major contributions, challenging the Tax Limitation Coalition to make the same disclosures.Local media and utilities led the list of major contributors to the coalition. KSL TV-Radio, KUTV, Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune each gave $7,500. Utah Power & Light Co. and US WEST followed with contributions of $7,000 each. Questar, parent company of Mountain Fuel, gave $3,000, and the Ogden Standard Examiner handed over $2,500.
Contributions from UP&L and Questar were not taken from ratepayer funds, the group said.
Leucadia Inc. donated $5,010. The corporation is a New York financial holding company whose assets include Salt Lake's Terracor. Leucadia's chairman, Ian Cumming, is a Utah resident.
Other contributors were: Northwest Pipeline, $1,500; Utah Stockbrokers, $1,010; Arthur Anderson & Co., $500 and Utah Farm Bureau, $500.
The remaining $109,682.17 came from nearly 3,000 contributors, said Patrick Shea, co-chairman of Taxpayers for Utah's fund-raising drive.
"Our disclosure goes beyond legal requirements, and we would ask, in fairness, that our opponents do the same," Shea said. "When we announced the formation of our organization on July 11, we pledged an open, honest disclosure of our activities."
"The fact that we're just getting started and 3,000 people have already put their money up represents the most profound statement that could be made," said Michael O. Leavitt, a member of the group's executive committee.
The nature of the major contributors highlights the danger of the initiatives, he said. "Many of the contributors have sophisticated economists available to them. It is evident that these companies have concluded the initiatives would be a disaster to our state."
Leavitt said the hefty contributions by several media also underlines the danger in the initiatives.
"I think the media have concluded that they have a responsibility to protect the financial and social integrity of our society," he said. "The near-unanimous conclusion by Utah's most important media organizations to oppose the petitions should be viewed as a clear signal to the public that these petitions go too far and pose a serious economic threat to our state."
Several financial institutions have also promised large contributions to the coalition, Leavitt said. "We have not yet received them. I think they are in the process of gathering the money."
The group expects the flow of contributions to continue. "I think we'll ultimately get substantial contributions from every major business in the state." Greg Beesley, leader of the Tax Limitation Coalition, could not be reached for comment on the disclosures.