Merrill Cook's company, Cook Associates Inc., was the single largest contributor to a political campaign last year, giving $448,714.38, all to Cook's independent, and unsuccessful, gubernatorial candidacy.
Lt. Gov. W. Val Oveson released the 1988 report on Utah's political action committees' finances Thursday, saying $2 million was spent by PACs on statewide candidates. 1988 was the first year PACs were required to reveal their finances.At the outset, Cook said he hoped to spend $300,000 to $400,000. He thought he could raise half and spend half himself. But as the campaign wore on, Cook said it became apparent that an independent candidacy, without a party organization to raise money, couldn't come up with $200,000. A millionaire, Cook took over more of the spending himself.
Oveson said he was pleased with the way PACs and corporations complied with the new reporting requirements but that more laws are needed.
He wants lawmakers to require political interest committees, which contribute money toward initiatives and issues rather than candidates, to report their contributions. He also wants PACs to report their contributions to political parties.
But Oveson, whose responsibilities as the state's chief elections officer include receiving and monitoring campaign finance reports, said he is happy the state finally is requiring PACs to report.
Oveson said he is forming a committee that will study what additional PAC laws are needed. The committee will consist of two legislators, two PAC officials, two representatives from corporations and three citizens at large. The committee will begin its work in May and end in September.
The largest of the 79 Utah PACs in 1988 was the UA Political Education Committee, which donated $511,278 to candidates. The Democratic Governors' Association was second with $320,330 in contributions.
Seventy-five corporations reported giving a combined $941,622 to candidates during the year.