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Huntsman's pre-presidential PAC raised lots of cash

Published August 31, 2011 7:37 pm

Politics • Wealthy friends and family members wrote some big checks
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Washington • Supporters of Jon Huntsman's eventual presidential run were raising money as early as January to lay the groundwork for a possible bid, months before Huntsman officially resigned from his job as U.S. ambassador to China, a new filing shows.

The Horizon Political Action Committee, based in Utah, took in more than $2 million from January through July and spent all but $20,000 on research, raising money and consultants, many of whom went on to work for Huntsman's White House campaign.

The PACs finances, revealed for the first time Wednesday night, show a $90,000 payment to the company of Huntsman's chief strategist, John Weaver, less than a week after the former Utah governor said he would leave his ambassadorship. Huntsman officially resigned April 30.

Huntsman was forbidden from planning a political run while serving in the Obama administration but it appears those gearing up for his presidential bid wanted to get a head start before their candidate even came back to the states.

Huntsman's presidential campaign spokesman Tim Miller — who took in $35,000 from the PAC himself — distanced the campaign from the committee when asked for comment.

"Horizon PAC is a completely distinct organization from Jon Huntsman for President," Miller said Tuesday "The campaign has received absolutely no gifts, assistance, or contributions from the PAC."

Though there can be no mistaking the PAC was a Huntsman baby.

Most of the big donations to the group — Utah doesn't limit political campaign donations and allows corporations to give — came from Huntsman family members and friends.

Television magnate Herbert Seigel, one of the richest Americans, and his wife, Jeanne, gave a total of $400,000 to the PAC and Dallas-based development company, Trammel Crow, forked over $250,000 in one check.

Huntsman's family, including his father, Jon Sr., mom, Karen, and brothers, gave a total of $750,000 from their considerable wealth.

Gail Miller, the widow of the late Utah Jazz basketball franchise owner Larry H. Miller, gave $100,000.

The two officials listed as officers of the PAC, Zions Bank President Scott Anderson and advertising guru Tim Riester, did not return calls seeking comment about the filing.

Interestingly, the PAC continued to pay consultants even after Huntsman formally launched his presidential campaign and filed legal papers with the Federal Election Commission. Huntsman's first campaign manager, Susan Wiles' Wiles Consulting, received a payment for $7,500 two weeks after Huntsman's bid was official.

State PAC money cannot be used for presidential campaigns under federal law.

Since January, the PAC doled out big paychecks to several of the people who are now or were involved in Huntsman's campaign.

Weaver, the strategist, took in $216,575 for his Network Companies. South Carolina strategist Richard Quinn pocketed $100,000, and Wiles, the first campaign manager who resigned from the effort, took in $109,885.

A company called For Bahm Marketing was paid $228,000, though it's unclear who runs it or what the firm is.

More locally, Huntsman's former gubernatorial spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley, got $28,000 in payments for her strategy firm.

Huntsman's presidential campaign doesn't have to file campaign finance reports on its contributions and expenses until October.


Gov's political fundraising

Gov. Gary Herbert's Political Action Committee, Friends of Gary Herbert, raised $135,901 so far this year. The largest donation came in two checks totalling $35,000 from the Utah Association of Realtors. He got another $25,000 donation from developer Kem Gardner. Herbert is a former realtor and was at one time president of the statewide association. Other donations included $15,000 from energy companies and $5,000 each from Dave Checketts of SCP Worldwide, Zions Bank and Micron. The single biggest payment from the PAC was $$14,853 to R&R Partners for advertising and website services.