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Huntsman campaign still deeply in debt, owes $5 million

Published February 20, 2012 8:18 pm

That debt includes $2.6 million the former Utah governor loaned himself before bowing out.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman left his presidential campaign deeply in debt when he withdrew from the contest in January, owing consultants and fundraisers nearly $2.6 million in addition to about the same amount of money to himself.

Huntsman's former campaign reported Monday that it still owes $5.17 million after pulling in only about $400,000 in donations in the last couple of weeks of the race. That debt includes $2.6 million that Huntsman loaned his campaign before he halted his unsuccessful presidential bid Jan. 16.

Huntsman's former campaign manager, Matt David, said there's been an aggressive effort to cover the debts left behind by the White House bid and many people have been paid since Jan. 31, the end of the reporting period.

"The governor will cover the debts with a combination of fundraising and personal funds," David said. "That process has already started."

Huntsman's debt includes about $244,000 to the law firm Arent Fox, which handled the campaign's legal work, and $356,000 to Strategic Perception, which is run by advertising guru Fred Davis. Davis was Huntsman's media adviser early on but later jumped to the Our Destiny super PAC, which was funded largely by Huntsman's billionaire father, Jon Huntsman Sr.

Monday's filing with the Federal Election Commission shows Huntsman owing many of his campaign fundraisers, consultants and staffers. The report shows that one man, listed as a speechwriter, is owed $27,500.

Huntsman, himself a millionaire, was forced to pump millions of his own wealth into his campaign as it struggled to gain traction. Most of that funding came in the front end of his Oval Office drive, though the FEC report shows him forking over $50,000 from his own wallet on Jan. 4 as he made a final push in the New Hampshire primary. Huntsman ended up with a disappointing third-place finish in that contest and dropped out of the race days later before the South Carolina primary.

The Our Destiny PAC, which spent about $2 million pitching Huntsman's candidacy in New Hampshire and South Carolina, also reported that Huntsman's father donated another $335,000 toward the group in January.

The elder Huntsman, who told The Salt Lake Tribune last month that the effort was "worth every penny," gave $2.25 million to the political action committee. That PAC couldn't coordinate legally with the presidential candidate's campaign, but it could accept unlimited funds.

The founder of Univision, A. Jerrold Perenchio, also donated $100,000 to the super PAC. Nike co-founder Phil Knight kicked in $25,000.

tburr@sltrib.com