Utah's first full-time political consulting firm is no more. Public Affairs Advisory Group has closed its doors.
PAAG chairman Mike Leavitt goes back to his insurance brokerage firm - The Leavitt Group; CEO Bud Scruggs has left to be Gov. Norm Bangerter's chief of staff; and president Jon Memmott joins a private law firm.For the last four years, PAAG has been the firm to run a Republican campaign in Utah.
Leavitt and Scruggs (Memmott joined the firm 18 months ago after a tenure as Bangerter's chief of staff) ran the multimillion-dollar campaigns of Sens. Orrin Hatch and Jake Garn and consulted - sometimes paid, sometimes unpaid - on the campaigns of dozens of other Republican candidates.
Leavitt and Scruggs are admitted political junkies. They've worked on most of the Republican campaigns of the late 1970s and 1980s, including Dan Marriott's second race for Congress, Robert Wright's 1984 gubernatorial campaign, Hatch's and Garn's last two races, Gov. Bangerter's two races, Proposition No. 1 several years ago and on the Taxpayers For Utah campaign this year.
In 1984, Leavitt worked full-time for several months on the Reagan-Bush campaign. He was in charge of planning and polling in the northeastern states. It was his work that campaign year in Washington, D.C., that he first thought about forming PAAG.
Scruggs was working for the Senate Judiciary Committee as an attorney at the time, but had served as Leavitt's deputy campaign manager in 1982 when Leavitt was Hatch's campaign manager.
"I knew I had to set up some formal (political) organization if I was to do what I wanted in politics and still keep my business going. Bud and I talked about it back in Washington. We drew up a four-year business plan. Politics is timing and we knew the next four years (1984-88) would provide the Garn (1986) and Hatch (1988) races. With those we could earn enough, we believed, to keep PAAG going and take on other races where our interest and commitments allowed."
Said Scruggs: "PAAG was a vehicle that allowed Mike and I to do things politically that we could have never done alone - like advise on a number of races while we ran the major Senate contests."
PAAG did work.
Asked how much money PAAG made, Leavitt joked: "My mother always told me it's impolite to talk about money." But PAAG made a good income from the big Senate races. "We charged a commission and a percentage on the media buys our advertising firm made," Leavitt said.
"We made less money than (Jazz star) Karl Malone. But just a little less," joked Scruggs. PAAG averaged five to seven employees, with a peak of 11 at one time.
Leavitt said PAAG could have remained open. "But we three, Bud, Jon and I, decided we'd achieved what we'd set out to do, we've had the most tremendous experiences, worked hard and made some money. We just decided to do different things now."
But Leavitt admits that the political consulting business in Utah looks bleak the next several years. There is no statewide race in 1990, the first time in 12 years there won't be a U.S. Senate or governor's race. Senate and gubernatorial races raise and spend millions of dollars, and it takes commissions from those kinds of campaigns to carry consultants over the lean months and years.
"We'd have to go outside Utah to find races (in 1990), and while we probably could have done it, we just didn't want to," Leavitt said.
"Come 1992 (when there is a governor and Senate race), who knows. We're keeping our (Republican voter) lists current. We could start up again, if that's what we want to do. For now, we're closing down," Leavitt said.