The Count My Vote citizen initiative petition is now officially shut down, following the compromise in political party candidate nomination reached in SB54, passed earlier this month and signed by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert.
But Friends of Count My Vote will continue to operate to monitor the rollout of SB54 and to encourage increased voter participation in Utah.
Meanwhile, CMV’s next financial report will be due later this spring, just before political party state conventions.
As of the last report, year-end 2013, the Political Issue Committee – headed up and run by former GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt and other top Republicans and Democrats in Utah – raised $810,901.
Add in the small amount of cash raised in 2012 and the $153,882 raised between Jan. 1 and March 1 of this year, and the CMV effort topped $1 million.
Not bad, for a PIC that many Utahns didn’t know much about.
A UtahPolicy review of the CMV fundraising is a perfect example of raising money in the Beehive State.
Utah has no campaign contribution limits – not for candidates, not for political parties, not for Political Action Committees or Political Issue Committees.
That allowed Leavitt et al. to hit up some heavy-hitters for big-dollar donations.
And a few of them may have had some personal reasons for disliking the caucus/convention system that the CMV petition aimed to mute.
While Leavitt has often said the caucus/convention system has some virtues, he was booed at the state Republican Convention in 2000 and forced by disgruntled, arch-conservative delegates into a primary election with – and this is an honest assessment – a man little-known both by the delegates and Utahns in general.
Leavitt swept aside the intra-party challenger in the Republican primary on his way to winning his third gubernatorial race.
You can see all the donors to CMV here, under the group’s original PIC name of Alliance for Good Government.
You’ve heard about some of the major donors before:
-- Leavitt himself gave $25,000. He’s made his millions in the Leavitt Group, a family insurance company whose associate members stretch across several western states.
Leavitt now operates Leavitt Partners, a health care consulting firm he set up after being the secretary of Health and Human Services under the George W. Bush administration.
-- Gail Miller, widow of Larry H. Miller, the Utah Jazz/car dealership owner, gave $100,000, then several additional donations of $9,000 each. Gail Miller is also one of the leaders of CMV
-- Norma Matheson, widow of the late Democratic Gov. Scott M. Matheson, also gave $25,000. Norma Matheson joined Leavitt and Gail Miller as CMV leaders.
The real genius of the CMV fundraising was the breadth of the big-donor giving, adding in the mixture of old-guard, civic-minded folks, and the newly-wealthy, or hi-tech up-and-comers.
And the donor list shines a light on what became a real problem for Utah GOP chairman James Evans.
A glance at CMV’s $25,000 club – those who gave that amount or a bit less – reflects some of the supporters of the Utah Republican Party.
And even though the state GOP Central Committee – populated with conservatives who really, really hated CMV and its threat to their beloved caucus/convention system – may have wanted Evans to oppose the petition, Evans needed many of the CMV Republican donors to also give to his party.
It was a thin line to walk.
UtahPolicy has been told by several sources that some traditional givers to the Utah Republican Party held back their donations to see if Evans would financially oppose CMV.
No way these Republicans were going to give money to the state party, just to see their cash used against CMV, which they supported.
While the anti-CMV group, Utah First, got donations from several county Republican Party organizations, the state GOP never gave any money to oppose CMV.
Here are a few of the Republican folks (or businesses, for businesses can give pre-tax dollars in Utah) that supported CMV financially:
-- Garff Enterprises, $25,000. Bob Garff is a former GOP speaker of the Utah House.
-- DelRoy Hansen, $25,000. Hansen is a long-time GOP supporter.
-- Merit Medical, $25,000. Founder and chairman Fred Lampropoulos ran for governor in 2004, lost in the state GOP convention and is a strong party supporter, often hosting meetings of the GOP Central Committee at his South Jordan headquarters.
His wife, Anne-Marie, was a GOP state House candidate in 2012, losing in a close race to the Democratic incumbent.
-- John Price, $25,000. Price is a former national committeeman for the Utah Republican Party and a party financial supporter. He was named U.S. ambassador to a small African island country mainly because of his aggressive fundraising for the National Republican Committee.
-- H. Roger Boyer, $25,000. Boyer, a developer and former business partner with Kem Gardner, a Democrat who also gave $25,000 to CMV, is a long-time GOP supporter.
-- Alan Layton, of Layton Construction Co., gave $25,000 to CMV. He also is a Republican supporter.
-- Khosrow Semnani donated $15,000.
CMV also had support from traditional Democrats – several of whom consistently advocate for gay rights in Utah.
Even though the Utah Democratic Party tried to stay out of the CMV fight – outgoing chairman Jim Dabakis often said CMV was a battle inside the Utah Republican Party – some of its major supporters, now and in the past, gave money to CMV:
-- Ian Cumming, the Democratic philanthropist/businessman, donated $25,000. Cumming basically funded the Utah State Democratic Party for years back in the 1980s.
-- Bruce Bastian gave $10,000, as did Jane Marquardt. Bastian and Marquardt are leading gay rights advocates who support the party and Democratic candidates.
-- Omar Kader also gave $10,000.
CMV tapped into several wealthy families for cash.
The late James Sorenson made his money in medical technology, one of only a few Utah billionaires.
JLS Holdings gave $10,000 and Joseph Sorenson gave $30,000.
Harris Simmons is the chairman of Zions Bank (which is a UtahPolicy sponsor).
Harris Simmons gave $10,000; Simmons Media donated $3,887 in-kind to CMV; L.E. Simmons gave $20,000; and David E. Simmons gave $10,000.
Rich McKeown, another CMV leader, told UtahPolicy that by the time all the bills are paid, he expects little cash to be left over in the Count My Vote coffers.
“It is extremely costly to collect these signatures” on the CMV petitions – around 102,000 voter signatures are required to get a petition before voters.
Within two weeks, said McKeown, the core group of CMV leaders hope to announce a new effort: Friends of Count My Vote.
It is still unclear what shape that group will take, McKeown said.
“But we will move to the next step. We contemplate being active” in the future “increasing voter participation” in Utah, said McKeown.
Whether the new group will be a Political Action Committee or something like a 501c(4) is yet to be decided, he added.
Of course, a 501c(4) (named after the section of IRS code) is the vehicle a number of local and national groups use in political activity – and is greatly criticized by open government advocates because donations to a c(4) can be kept private.
It was a 501c(4) that disgraced former AG John Swallow and his campaign consultant, Jason Powers, set up to funnel pay day lender money into negative campaigning against a Swallow opponent and a legislator who tried to better control pay day lenders.
McKeown said the new Friends of Count My Vote will pick a organizational structure best able “to advocate for greater voter participation.”
Finally, McKeown acknowledges that the financial base put together for CMV would never be seen in a general political campaign – because CMV was supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“It is accurate to say” that the CMV donor list is unique in Utah politics.
“This really was a bipartisan group – a group that wanted election reform, greater voter participation, a direct primary component, and had the (financial) capacity to help,” said McKeown.
“You will hear more from us soon,” he added.