Campaign donations from polygamist-owned company accused in $511 million fraud remain in Utah attorney general’s escrow account

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Attorney General Sean Reyes speaks during a news conference about the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act being signed into law. Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018.

A combined $50,985 in campaign contributions to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes remains in escrow after last week’s indictments of a Utah biofuel company’s CEO and CFO, a spokesman for Reyes said Tuesday.

The donations to Utah’s top law-enforcement official were set aside in 2016 after federal agents raided Washakie Renewable Energy, with Reyes’ team citing a need for additional information before determining whether to spend or return the money.

Alan Crooks, Reyes’ campaign spokesman, said Tuesday “it’s a bad thing” that Washakie’s Jacob and Isaiah Kingston had been indicted on fraud and money-laundering charges. But no direction or information has been given by federal investigators, he said.

“Everything’s locked down now,” Crooks said.

Crooks dismissed the premise of The Salt Lake Tribune’s inquiry as “stupid.” He declined to elaborate on the status of the Washakie donations or whether their escrow status would change as a result of federal charges against the Kingstons.

“I’m giving you zero comment, nothing, not even a ‘no comment,’ ” Crooks said. “It’s a ridiculous question.”

The Tribune was referred to Crooks by the Office of Attorney General, which said it would have no comment because it was a campaign matter.

State records show the $50,985 given to Reyes’ campaign was part of more than $100,000 in contributions to Republican candidates and election committees between April 2014 and January 2016.

In addition to Reyes, the Kingstons — members of a Utah-based polygamous sect known as the Davis County Cooperative Society — donated $15,000 to Gov. Gary Herbert, $27,500 to the Utah Republican Party, $1,000 to the Utah House Republican Election Committee and a combined $8,000 to members of the Utah Legislature, including $750 each to House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and House Majority Whip Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton.

Records do not reflect further campaign contributions by the Kingstons or Washakie after the 2016 raid.

Herbert said Tuesday that he was unfamiliar with the Kingston indictment or the status of the company’s donation to his campaign.

“As far as I knew, they were a legitimate operation,” he said. “We never know whether someone is doing something right or wrong.”

Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson said the Kingstons’ donation to the party had been used for “party operations,” but was unable to elaborate.

“That was before my time [as chairman],” Anderson said. “It’s been spent.”

He declined to comment on how candidates or election committees should respond to the indictment if Washakie donations remained on their books.

Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.

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