What may be the biggest contribution received so far by the organization formed to fight the tax initiatives - $20,000 from the Utah Public Employees Association - was not revealed last week in a voluntary disclosure of donors.
The association and other public employee groups were not on the list of donors released Friday by Taxpayers For Utah, which has been criticized as representing only Utahns who have their "snout in the public trough."Taxpayers For Utah reported raising some $170,000 since early this year, although the list the organization voluntarily released accounted for only $58,020 in donations from businesses giving $500 or more.
The rest of the money was described in the Friday press release by Taxpayers For Utah fund-raising co-chairman Patrick Shea as coming from some 3,000 contributors, "representing a broad spectrum of private individuals and small businesses."
A Monday press release from the organization elaborated on who those individuals are, stating that members of the UPEA and other public-employee groups gave money, but did not detail the amounts except for a $7,500 gift from a higher-education group.
Phil Mettra, the organization's campaign director, said Monday that only 200 of those 3,000 donors were not affiliated with one of the dozens of groups that make up Taxpayers For Utah.
He said the public-employee contributions making up the bulk of the donations that are unaccounted for were listed as coming from private individuals to protect the groups from the wrath of tax-initiative proponents.
"Basically, we were afraid of the personal attacks they're making on those organizations coming out in support," Mettra said. "It's getting pretty dirty out there. We wanted to protect those donors from any verbal abuse."
Much of the criticism directed at the anti-tax initiative movement has been aimed at public-employee groups, which supporters of the tax initiatives believe are only looking out for their jobs.
"We know we're in the middle of it," said Nancy Sechrest, the government affairs manager for the Utah Public Employees Association. She said publicity about UPEA's stand against the tax initiatives will make it even more uncomfortable for public employees.
Sechrest said the UPEA board made two $10,000 contributions from the association's general fund and is asking members to send $5 donations that will be turned over to Taxpayers For Utah.
Other public-employee groups left off the list include the Utah Education Association, public school administrators and superintendents organizations, and university and community college faculty organizations.
The public education employee groups contributed most of the $6,000 donated by Helping Organizations for Public Education, which also counts among its members local school board members, PTAs and parent groups for the handicapped.
In addition, the Utah Education Association paid a Taxpayers For Utah printing bill totaling between $11,000 and $12,000, Mettra said.
The university and community college professors and staff gave about $15,000 through various faculty organizations, including $7,500 from the Utah Association of Academic Professionals, said Utah System of Higher Education spokeswoman Vicki Varela.
The largest single contributions on the list released Friday had been the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, KSL-TV and radio, and KUTV, which gave $7,500 each.
Those media outlets were criticized Monday by a proponent of the three tax initiatives that would limit property taxes, roll back 1987 tax increases and give a tax break to parents of children in private schools.
In a Monday morning press conference, Greg Beesley, the head of the Tax Limitation Coalition, asked how the public could have confidence in the objectivity of the media "when those organizations have already put their money where their mouths are."
Later in the day, representatives of Taxpayers For Utah held their own press conference and called the newspapers, television and radio stations "good corporate citizens."
They emphasized the number of businesses that are part of Taxpayers For Utah, including the Utah Manufacturers Association and the Utah Cattlemen's Association, which joined Monday.
Beesley also said that because the Deseret News and KSL-TV and radio are all owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the public might infer that the church is opposed to the tax initiatives.
"The church itself has not expressed an institutional position on the tax initiatives," according to church spokesman Jerry Cahill. "The newspapers and broadcast entities owned by the church have wide discretion on contributions they deem to be for the benefit of the community."
Although Taxpayers For Utah had asked for a disclosure of donations made to the Tax Limitation Coalition, Beesley declined. He said that his group has raised about $20,000 since early 1987. Most of the contributions, he said, were in the $5 to $100 range.
However, the coalition has raised $4,500 in contributions of $500 or more, including the top donations of $2,000 from an anonymous individual and $1,000 from a company that Beesley said does not want to be named.