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Who is leading the 2022 money race for Utah’s congressional seats?

Rep. Burgess Owens’ campaign spends a lot — nearly $150,000 per month.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart answers a question during his visit to the Democratic Caucus meeting at the Capitol, on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Cash is not the most critical part of a political campaign, but it’s close. The ability to fundraise can show whether a candidate is serious or destined to be an also-ran.

For instance, Independent candidate Evan McMullin outraised incumbent Sen. Mike Lee in the last three months of 2021 by an almost 2-1 ratio. But Lee has a lot more campaign cash tucked away, so McMullin has a long way to go to catch up.

A big campaign war chest can keep incumbents safe by scaring off would-be challengers.

Let’s dig into the year-end filings for Utah’s four congressional districts to see how much money they can raise and how they’re spending it to understand better how those races are shaping up as we roll into 2022.

2nd Congressional District

Outside of the U.S. Senate contest, this could be the marquee primary election matchup in 2022. Veteran incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart is facing a primary challenge for the first time. Lawyer Erin Rider is taking the signature route to the primary ballot, which would deny Stewart the ability to grab the nomination outright at the GOP convention.

Stewart raised $168,582 in the latest reporting period and has $439,674 in the bank.

Rider came out of the gate strong after jumping into the race in Nov., tallying $113,442 in contributions. But she only has $34,364 in the bank. Rider paid signature-gathering company Gather $47,600 to collect signatures.

Nearly 45% of Stewart’s donations came from PACs and industry groups. Those entities accounted for almost $75,000.

Stewart received $5,000 from the colorfully-named “Eye of the Tiger PAC,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s leadership PAC. Scalise’s reelection committee also kicked in $2,000 to Stewart.

Stewart’s reelection bid received $10,000 from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Majority Committee PAC.

3rd District Republican Rep. John Curtis is also giving Stewart a helping hand. His campaign committee donated $4,000 to Stewart. Curtis’ Utah First PAC kicked in another $2,900.

Curiously, Stewart’s campaign donated $1,000 to Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer. Meijer was one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection. Meijer was also one of 35 Republicans who voted to approve the committee’s creation to investigate Jan. 6. He also voted to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt for refusing to cooperate with that committee.

1st Congressional District

It doesn’t take a financial whiz to see Rep. Blake Moore is in great financial shape heading into his first reelection bid. The freshman Republican reported $158,456 in donations during the last three months of 2021 and has $426,816 in available cash so far.

Moore’s challengers for the GOP nomination reported ... a lot less.

Andrew Badger donated $2,500 to his campaign, which paid for a campaign launch video, leaving his bank account empty.

Alena Ericksen discontinued her campaign, but not before lending herself $5,000 for the effort. She also reported $250 in small-dollar donations. Her only expenditure was $999 for a website.

Republican William Campbell has not filed any paperwork with the FEC.

4th Congressional District

Rep. Burgess Owens’ campaign is a fundraising machine, pulling in $576,564 in the last quarter. Nearly 83% of that cash came from individual donors.

That prolific fundraising is needed because Owens’ campaign spends a lot — nearly $150,000 per month. His campaign still has $639,562 in cash on hand.

Jake Hunsaker, challenging Owens for the GOP nomination, reported just $2,735 in donations but has lent his campaign $45,000 so far.

Republican Nicholas Huey suspended his campaign after reporting $12,500 in contributions.

3rd Congressional District

Rep. John Curtis also has a significant financial advantage over two Republican challengers.

Curtis reported $793,528 in the bank, which is more than 176 times as much as challenger Jason Preston, who has just $4,486. Brandon Casper did not report any donations.

In the most recent fundraising period, Curtis hauled in $181,150, with most of that ($113,400) coming from PAC donations.

Preston reported $16,002 in donations this quarter.

Another fundraising avenue

Congressional fundraising is often a team sport. Several candidates have joint fundraising committees or leadership PACs to raise money and donate to other candidates.

Lee’s leadership PAC is named Lead Encourage Elect (LEE PAC). It pulled in $103,200. A huge chunk of that money came from other PACs. Lee’s PAC doled out campaign cash to several Republican candidates, including Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Rep. Chris Stewart.

He’s also a part of several joint fundraising committees.

  • The Mike Lee Victory Fund, which contributes to Lee’s campaign, the Utah Republican Party, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. From this source, $153,091 flowed to Lee’s campaign and another $30,126 to his leadership PAC.

  • Red Victory 2022, a joint fundraising committee Lee shares with Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran. Red Victory also raises funds for Lee’s Lead Encourage Elect PAC and Moran’s Free State PAC. Lee’s campaign received $16,835, and $1,963 went to his leadership PAC.

  • Cornyn Victory Committee, which raises funds for Lee and Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Lee’s campaign added $51,627 from this group.

Stewart’s leadership PAC is the Freedom 21: Fighting for Freedom in the 21st Century. He also participates in the Chris Stewart Freedom Fund, a joint fundraising committee with the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Freedom 21 raised $66,077, allowing Stewart to donate to a handful of other Republicans and give nearly $30,000 to the NRCC. The Chris Stewart Freedom Fund pulled in $113,500, with $10,000 going to his leadership PAC and almost $50,000 to his campaign.

Owens also has a leadership PAC named Just Win Baby after his time in the NFL playing for the Oakland Raiders. That entity pulled in $94,000 in donations and made several donations to Republicans, including Michigan’s Rep. Peter Meijer.

His joint fundraising committee raised $70,000 — $37,751 went to his campaign and $3,376 to his leadership PAC.

Curtis’s leadership PAC, Utah First, raised a little more than $26,000, only making a $2,900 donation to Chris Stewart. The Team Curtis Joint Fundraising Committee raised $27,400 from just three donors. The largest was $10,000 from Merit Medical CEO Fred Lampropoulos. $6,366 went to his campaign and $3,658 to his PAC.

The Expect More Leadership PAC is affiliated with Moore and raised $18,500. Randy and Maureen Schumway gave the PAC $10,000. Randy Schumway is the founder of the Cicero Group, where Moore was a consultant. The PAC made no donations.

What did they spend the money on?

The biggest expenses for campaigns were for consulting or staff and fundraising.

Owens spent $80,342 on “strategic consulting,” $63,734 for fundraising consulting and another $4,000 for field consulting. Owens’ campaign also shelled out $13,653 for fundraising services and nearly $10,000 to rent contact lists to assist in raising funds.

Lee recorded $63,257 in consulting expenses, $41,158 for compliance consulting and $43,550 for digital consulting. Another $40,619 was for telemarketing fundraising.

Evan McMullin had $82,280 in fundraising consulting expenses and spent another $53,971 on the payroll for campaign staff.

Republican Senate candidate Becky Edwards recorded $156,970 for campaign consulting.

Moore recorded $28,779 for fundraising consulting and another $30,328 for campaign consultants.