With several wealthy businessmen in the governor's race this year, the question of private money spent for public office is once again being raised.
Republican Jon Huntsman says, "I won't spend a dime of my own money in the race, which is, I believe, a handicap since others may spend their own money." Huntsman is a multimillionaire owner of a chemical company.Independent Merrill Cook says he will spend some of his own money on his campaign, but he won't contribute more than what is raised from supporters. Cook is also a millionaire, a successful businessman.
Gov. Norm Bangerter is also a millionaire, but most of his assets lie in property, a non-liquid investment. Bangerter shut down his homebuilding firm after being elected in 1984. Bangerter's campaign manager, Dave Buhler, says the governor won't spend one cent of his own money.
Democrat Ted Wilson is a former teacher. He says he doesn't have any money to spend on his campaign, so won't.
"I made the political mistake of my life when I spent too much of my own money on the Salt Lake City mayor's race," Cook says. He lost that race, and his personal spending was an issue.
Huntsman says he won't be making that mistake. But while he pledges not to spend any of his own money, he will loan his campaign money.
"You have start-up costs, and I started late in this race. I'll help out early on," Huntsman says. In fact, he has loaned his campaign $100,000. "It will be paid back. It may already be paid back," he says.
Cook smiles over Huntsman's loan. "Oh, tell me about it. I loaned my mayoral campaign money, and it's surprising how those loans just never seem to get paid back. The campaign ends on election day, and the loans become contributions."
Setting aside the question of outright contributions or loans to campaigns, Democratic Party Chairman Randy Horiuchi says that well-to-do businessmen can completely legally help their political ambitions through their businesses.
Horiuchi should know. He helped run Kem Gardner's 1984 Democratic gubernatorial campaign. Gardner, a millionaire developer, lost to Wayne Owens in the Democratic primary.
"It's easy to circumvent the required (campaign finance) reporting systems," says Horiuchi. "We never did these things in the Gardner campaign. But, hey, we thought about doing them." Some of Horiuchi's ideas:
Employees of the candidate's business can work on the campaign full- or part-time while getting their regular salaries. "They can help in organizing the campaign, recruiting volunteers, etc.," Horiuchi says. "Attorneys and accountants cost money. If you use your business's professionals, you can save a bundle."
Any moderately large business can provide a myriad of in-kind services to a campaign telephones, long distance and local calling; copying; desktop publishing; and computer services. "Almost every business has computers. If the business has enough computer capacity, the candidate can put voter lists, volunteers, that kind of information into the computer and pull it out in different forms. It's a great asset that can cost other candidates a lot of money."
Relatives associated with the business, or even those not associated, and company employees can contribute money. "You list them on the financial report, but maybe the press or opposition candidates can't track them down and tie them directly to the candidate." Employees can be reimbursed by the candidate through bonuses or salary increases for money donated to campaigns.
Finally, vendors who regularly deal with the candidate's business can be urged to donate products or cash. "Maybe the guy who sells you envelopes says your people can use his office's phones. Or maybe a vendor owes your business $5,000, he contributes supplies or money to the campaign and you call it even." In Utah state and local elections, contributions directly from businesses are legal.
"There is great temptation to use your own money in a campaign," Horiuchi says. "Especially when you are in a real dog fight and your people keep telling you that if only you had $25,000 or $50,000 more for a final TV blitz it could mean the difference between victory and defeat."
Considering how close the governor's race will be this year, it appears the gubernatorial candidates' pledges will be tried to the fullest.