Some wealthy Utahns show how much they love, or despise, politicians by how deeply they dive into their personal bank accounts.
For example, Harry Hill, a director of Oak Lawn Marketing of Salt Lake City, gave Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a hefty $100,000 this election cycle.
Brian Fitterer supports President Donald Trump five times as much. The owner of Investment Property Group, who lists a Park City address on his donations, has given Trump $511,200 so far.
James R. Swartz apparently despises Trump nearly that much. The co-founder of the Accel venture capital firm, who also lists a Park City address, gave $400,000 to PACRONYM, a political action committee that says on its website that it aims “to get Trump the f--- out of office.”
Utah’s gubernatorial candidates this year (at least the Republicans) also felt plenty of financial love from big donors.
For example, unsuccessful candidate Thomas Wright received $230,000 from Fred Lampropoulos, CEO of Merit Medical Systems, and his brother-in-law.
Unsuccessful candidate Greg Hughes, a former Utah House speaker and developer, received $275,000 from former House Majority Leader and developer Kevin Garn and $440,000 from current House Majority Whip and homebuilder Mike Schultz.
But no Utah individual gave more than Karen Huntsman. She donated $1.675 million to her son, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who narrowly lost the GOP gubernatorial primary.
At least 25 Utah individuals gave $100,000 or more during this two-year election cycle to federal and state candidates, PACs and parties, according to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis of disclosure forms through Aug. 23. Not surprisingly for a heavily red state, 80% of donations from those big donors went to Republicans; 14% to Democrats; and 6% to ideological or industry PACs.
Following is a look at those top donors:
• No. 1, Karen Huntsman, $1,677,700. The widow of industrialist/philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. gave all of her donations to her son, the former governor, except for $2,700 that she donated to Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.
She gave more than $1 million to her son after he lost in the June 30 GOP primary, which helped fuel talk about him possibly waging a write-in campaign against the winner, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Huntsman decided not to run as a write-in.
She didn’t just give her son money. She also appeared in a TV ad for him, which included saying how proud her own father — the late Latter-day Saint apostle David B. Haight — was of the former governor.
Karen Huntsman and her late husband are among the state’s (and nation’s) best-known philanthropists. That includes, for example, founding the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, starting the Huntsman Environmental Research Center at Utah State University, and giving more than $50 million in aid to Armenia to help after earthquakes.
• No. 2, Brian Fitterer, $515,650. He gave the most of any Utahn to Trump, $511,200.
While federal law limits direct donations to federal candidates’ campaigns to only $5,600 for the combined primary and general elections, court rulings and other changes in recent years have allowed megadonors to give those candidates more than $500,000 in one check to joint fundraising committees between a candidate, the national party, state parties and other party arms — which all have different donation limits.
Fitterer, owner of Investment Property Group who made his fortune in mobile home parks, gave $511,200 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee.
In 2011, Fitterer sponsored the Miss USA swimsuit competition — a pageant then owned by Trump. The pageant entrants that year in Las Vegas wore a high-end line of bikinis called Kandy Wrappers, produced by a Fitterer company, according to Willamette Week.
Fitterer gave another $4,450 to GOP congressional candidates around the county in this election cycle. The only donation he gave to a state candidate in Utah was $100 to gubernatorial candidate Hughes.
• No. 3, state Rep. Mike Schultz, $465,650. The Republican developer from Hooper is the current House majority whip. Most of his donations — either out of his own pocket or from his campaign fund — went to help Hughes.
That included giving $250,000 directly to Hughes’ unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign, plus another $190,000 to the Hughes Leadership PAC — for $440,000 total.
Schultz also gave $3,250 to the leadership PAC of current House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville.
Most of the rest of his donations went to help GOP Utah House members or candidates. He also gave $8,400 to unsuccessful 1st Congressional District candidate Kerry Gibson and $2,000 to unsuccessful 4th Congressional District candidate Kim Coleman, a state representative.
“I just like good solid leadership,” Schultz said, explaining that he gives to candidates who he believes will provide that. “I’m going to continue to be involved in giving campaign donations going into the future as long as I am able to do it.”
• No. 4, James R. Swartz, $421,900. All of his donations went to Democrats, or Democratic-leaning PACs, the most for that party from any Utah donor.
That includes $400,000 that the founder of the Accel venture capital company gave to PACRONYM, a PAC that aims to defeat Trump.
The only donation he made to a Utah candidate was $2,800 to Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah. Swartz donated another $11,300 to Democratic congressional candidates nationally.
Swartz is also a movie producer, including winning an Oscar for the documentary “Icarus,” exposing the Russian Olympic doping scandal. In 2018, he was the executive producer of “Our New President,” the story of Trump’s election told entirely through Russian propaganda.
• No. 5, Kem C. Gardner, $396,800. While he is a Democrat, the developer actually donated more to Republicans this cycle. He gave $88,400 to Democrats, and $308,400 to Republicans and groups that support them.
Part of the reason is that he wrote an op-ed encouraging Democrats to change their registration temporarily to Republican so they could vote and have a voice in this year’s GOP primary — which Gardner said was the real election for governor because Democrats are so outnumbered here.
He put his money where his mouth was and gave $100,000 each to GOP candidates Jon Huntsman and Greg Hughes.
Of note, he and his family partnership gave $70,000 to the leadership PAC of Wilson, the Utah House speaker.
The Gardner Co., which he controls, gave $25,000 to the Utah State Democratic Committee, and $10,000 to the Utah Republican Party.
No. 6, Deb Sawyer, $314,700. The Salt Lake City peace activist is chair of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. She gave 81% of her donations to ideological PACs, and 19% to Democrats.
That included giving $225,000 to the League of Conservation Voters and $25,300 to the Council for a Livable World.
Her only donation to a Utah candidate was $5,600 to McAdams.
• No. 7, Kevin Garn, $314,200. The developer, who is a former Utah House majority leader, gave almost all of his donations, $275,000, to Hughes, a fellow developer and former House speaker.
He also made a couple of interesting donations to Democrats: $5,600 to McAdams and $1,000 to Democrat Greg Skordas, who is running against incumbent Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Garn also gave $5,000 to the leadership PAC of Wilson, a fellow developer and current House speaker.
Garn resigned from the House in 2010 after revelations that he hot-tubbed nude with a minor 25 years earlier and had paid her to keep it quiet.
• No. 8, Soul-Sun Goe, $310,280, and No. 10, Nadejda Goe, $294,363. The couple, who live in Snowville, made all of their donations to Republicans. Soul-Sun Goe is president of Ocean Star International, a company that harvests brine shrimp eggs from the Great Salt Lake to make aquarium fish food.
Combined, they gave $50,000 to the Trump Victory committee, $109,500 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $150,000 to the national Take Back the House 2020 campaign.
Nadejda Goe did not donate any money to state candidates, but Soul-Sun gave $100,000 to Huntsman and $50,000 to Reyes.
• No. 9, Jeffery Bray, $266,613. The CEO of Medquest Pharmacy, who lists a Park City address, spreads his money around but favors the GOP. He gave 60% to Republicans, 26% to Democrats and 14% to industry PACs.
Among his bigger donations were $39,100 to a leadership PAC for Utah Rep. Chris Stewart (plus $5,600 to his campaign), $6,750 to 4th Congressional District GOP nominee Burgess Owens, $5,000 to Rep. John Curtis, and $3,800 to Sen. Mike Lee.
• No. 11, Fred Lampropoulos, $239,339. The CEO of Merit Medical Systems gave almost all of his donations — $230,000 — to unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate Thomas Wright, his brother-in-law.
He also gave $2,800 to Curtis and a bit more than $6,500 to a PAC formed by his Merit Medical.
• No. 12, Eric Kamerath, $235,300. The Utah attorney gave all his donations to Democrats, including $35,500 each to the Democratic Congressional Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
He donated to just one Utah candidate, $5,600 to McAdams.
• No. 13, William K. Reagan, $220,200. Reagan and his Reagan Outdoor Advertising gave to 76 members of the Utah Legislature — a body with 104 members — or candidates this cycle.
Cities in the past have criticized Reagan Outdoor Advertising for trying to persuade legislators, amid its consistently widespread donations, to override billboard restrictions imposed by cities.
Reagan and his company gave 97% of their donations to Republicans. Reagan also gave $100,000 to the Trump Victory Committee.
• No. 14, William Perry, $214,442. The owner of the construction-management firm of William Perry and Associates gave most of his donations — $150,000 — to the conservative Americans for Prosperity.
That group was founded by conservative brothers David and Charles Koch, and is their primary political advocacy group. It helped make the tea party movement a political force.
• Donors of $100,000 to $200,000. The Tribune analysis found 11 Utah individuals who donated more than $100,000 but less than $200,000.
They include: Brad Bonham, CEO of Walker Edison and an unsuccessful legislative candidate, gave $196,550, all to Republicans; Philip Purcell, executive with Continental Investors, $167,400, 97% to Republicans; Gail Miller, best known as owner of the Utah Jazz, $163,200, 96% to Republicans; Heidi Pestana of Provo, $150,000, all to GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham; and A. Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, $148,228, 83% to Republicans.
Also, Art Lipson, retired from Western Investments, $146,500, 89% to Democrats; Alexandra Bray, wife of Medquest Pharmacy CEO Jeffery Bray, $144,400, 66% to Republicans; James Clarke, founder of Clarke Capital Partners, $126,800, including $125,000 to Spencer Cox; Scott Keller, CEO of Keller Investments, $111,209, all to Republicans; Harry A. Hill, president of Oak Lawn Marketing, $100,000, all to Joe Biden; and Barbara Barrington Jones, $100,000, all to Jon Huntsman.
Finishing a bit below that $100,000 line is someone who has been in the news a lot this past week: Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen, who is now selling that soccer team after pressure because of insensitive comments he made.
He donated at least $85,000 this cycle including $30,000 to unsuccessful GOP attorney general candidate David Leavitt, $25,000 to Spencer Cox and $5,000 to Democrat Ben McAdams.
Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Paul Huntsman, the chairman of The Tribune’s nonprofit board of directors.