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Why the Democratic leader gave to the GOP

Published January 12, 2012 3:52 pm

Politics • Basketball bargain lands Dem chairman on GOP donor list.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Fans of the Utah Jazz can let partisanship slide sometimes. Ask Jim Dabakis.

Dabakis, the state Democratic Party chairman, showed up in financial disclosure reports, making a $1,250 contribution to the Salt Lake County Republican Party.

Dabakis made the donation back in February, before he was the party chairman. A Republican friend, Ellie Muth, had dragged her Democratic friend to a Republican fundraiser, headlined by conservative commentator Mary Katharine Ham.

The GOP had a fundraising auction and one of the items was a suite to a Utah Jazz game for the highest bidder and a few dozen friends. Dabakis said the box, donated by Merit Medical CEO Fred Lampropoulos, was going for $1,000, but had to be worth six or seven times that much.

"I went, 'Hell, that's a great deal.' So I bought the box and then invited a whole bunch of Democrats, and actually a bunch of Republicans, too," Dabakis said. "I just stumbled on a great bargain."

County Party Chairwoman Julie Dole said she was thrilled. "We love taking his money as a true profit, you bet," she said.

The fallout from the event: Dabakis was so outraged by Ham's speech that night that it pushed him toward running for state party chairman.

"It was the beginning of the, 'This is preposterous what these guys are doing,' " he said. "I was totally inspired when I left there that there was something seriously wrong with our state when someone comes and is applauded for saying stuff like she did."