Utah Gov. Cox’s campaign raised over $800k last year, but also spent a ton of cash

Financial disclosures show the governor’s campaign spent more than $120,000 on the investigation into a former campaign manager who was accused of sexual misconduct.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Governor Spencer Cox speaks during The PBS Utah Governor's Monthly News Conference, Dec. 16, 2021 at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City. Financial disclosures show Cox's campaign raised more than $800,000 in 2021.

Gov. Spencer Cox raised more than $800,000 in campaign contributions during his first year in office, far more than his two predecessors pulled in during non-election years.

And although Cox’s campaign raised a lot of money in 2021, they also spent a significant sum, including more than $120,000 on an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against the campaign’s former manager.

Cox’s 2021 year-end financial disclosure filed this week show his campaign raised $809,612.82 last year, while also spending $671,556.62. Overall, his campaign netted $138,056.20, leaving the governor with just over $650,000 total in his campaign account.

For his 2020 election, Cox totaled just over $4 million in contributions. Cox was in a competitive primary election against three Republican rivals. Former Gov. Gary Herbert raised $2.3 million for his 2012 campaign and $3.4 million for 2016. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman raised $935,354 for his 2008 election.

Non-election year fundraising for both Huntsman and Herbert fell off significantly. In 2009, Huntsman’s campaign raised $374,159. Herbert’s off-year fundraising was anemic. For example, for 2015, the then-governor raised just $12 in campaign cash. The main fundraising action for Herbert in non-campaign years was through his leadership PAC.

Cox’s campaign does not have a PAC registered with the state.

Where did the money come from?

Most of Cox’s donations came from corporate entities, which kicked in more than $511,000. Corporate donations were just over 60 percent of all contributions to the governor’s campaign fund.

The next most significant source of campaign money came from individual donors, which accounted for nearly $175,000, or about 22 percent of the total.

The rest of the donations were from political action committees and industry groups. Those organizations gave just under $145,000 to Cox, or about 18 percent.

The largest corporate donations to Cox came from Zions Bancorporation at $50,000. Deseret Power and Price Realty Group each contributed $25,000, while Reagan Outdoor Advertising sent $20,000 to the campaign.

Dominion Political Action Committee, the political arm of Dominion Energy, was the biggest PAC contribution, giving Cox $25,000.

Zions Bank President Scott Anderson and businessperson Gail Miller were the most generous individual donors. Miller gave $30,000 while Anderson donated $25,000.

How did they spend the cash?

A large portion of the expenditures reported by Cox’s campaign had to do with the pomp and circumstance surrounding his inauguration and expenses related to fundraising.

Cox spent about $65,000 on his January 2021 inauguration at the Tuachan Amphitheater in Ivins.

In November, the bill for Cox’s fundraising gala at the Grand America Hotel was nearly $145,000. That included $55,000 for the entertainment, comedian Nate Bargatze. Individual tickets to the event cost $650. Sponsorships cost up to $25,000.

An October fundraising event at the Talisker Club in Park City cost nearly $26,000. Cox’s campaign also spent just under $31,000 on gifts throughout the year.

Campaign manager controversy

Late last year, Cox’s campaign was rocked when longtime ally Austin Cox, who managed Cox’s winning 2020 campaign, resigned abruptly following accusations of sexual misconduct.

Spencer Cox announced an investigation into Austin Cox’s tenure, which revealed “previously unreported hostile conduct” toward other campaign employees.

The financial disclosures reveal Cox’s campaign paid $100,000 to AC Strategies, Austin Cox’s consulting business, in 2021. The total included a $40,000 payment in January, plus $5,000 each month. On Oct. 1, just days before Austin resigned, the campaign made a $20,000 payment to AC Strategies for “consulting services and fundraising fees” that Austin had not yet billed the campaign.

The disclosures also show a $121,288 payment to Ballard Spahr for “legal fees” on Dec. 20. The expenditure is related to the investigation into allegations surrounding Austin.

Cox’s campaign does not have any employees, leaving The Salt Lake Tribune with no way to get comment on Cox’s campaign finances. Austin Cox could also not be reached for comment.