In Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race, these candidates are their own biggest campaign donors

Former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson has loaned his campaign $2.8 million dollars, nearly 60% of his total campaign donations.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brad Wilson, a candidate for U.S. Senate, talks to delegates before the Davis County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Layton, on Saturday, February. 24, 2024. Wilson, along with several other candidates in the race to replace Sen. Mitt Romney, are their own biggest donors.

Can you buy a seat in the U.S. Senate? A trio of Republican candidates aiming to replace Mitt Romney have poured millions from their wallets into their campaigns hoping to do just that.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission finance reports, more than half of the total fundraising to the campaigns of Brad Wilson, Brent Hatch and Jason Walton have come from loans they made to their own campaigns.

Wilson loaned his campaign $1 million during the most recent FEC reporting period, which ended on April 7. Nearly four out of every five dollars Wilson raised during the period came from that loan. Since jumping into the race last year, the former Utah House Speaker has made three loans to his campaign, totaling $2.8 million, nearly 60% of all fundraising.

Moxie Pest Control CEO Jason Walton loaned his campaign $2.5 million, making up nearly 91% of his campaign cash.

Brent Hatch, the son of former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, loaned his campaign $999,730, which is just over 80% of his overall fundraising.

FEC rules allow candidates to repay those loans, including interest, using campaign cash.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Republican candidate for U.S. Senate John Curtis speaks at his campaign kickoff in Orem on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.

John Curtis, who is hoping to jump from the U.S. House to the Senate, received the most money of all the candidates from individual donors during the first three months of 2024, raising $673,000.

As a current member of Congress, Curtis already has a robust fundraising operation in place. He reported $183,000 in donations from political action committees and another $461,000 from his joint fundraising operation with the Republican National Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Conservative Climate Caucus. PAC donations accounted for nearly 15% of his total.

Wilson has the most extensive campaign operation of the 10 Republicans vying for the party’s nomination, with 20 salaried employees. In the most recent report, payroll-related costs for those employees accounted for more than 20% of his total spending.

Trent Staggs, the Riverton mayor, has leaned on high-profile endorsements from Republicans in former President Trump’s orbit, including Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. Those endorsements have not translated into a bounty of campaign cash. Staggs’ campaign reported approximately $33,000 in campaign donations in the days surrounding Tuberville’s trip to Utah and $3,700 in donations from the Gaetz appearance. Staggs also traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in February, which resulted in just over $5,000 for his campaign. Event space and catering for the event at Mar-a-Lago cost Staggs’ campaign $12,700.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attendees applaud U.S. Senate candidate Trent Staggs and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., at a town hall at Riverton High School on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

Wilson has just over $2 million in the bank, mainly due to the millions of dollars he’s loaned to his campaign. Curtis has the second-most campaign cash at $1.34 million.

Outside groups have been pouring money into the race to boost Curtis and Hatch. The Conservative Values for Utah super PAC, which is almost entirely funded by wealthy North Carolina businessman Jay Faison, has spent over $3 million in support of Curtis.

The Conservative Outsider super PAC, funded by the conservative Club for Growth, has invested more than $1.5 million in Utah to support Hatch’s candidacy. Hatch serves on the Federalist Society Board of Directors with David McIntosh, President of the Club for Growth.

A spokesperson for Club for Growth said their organization was not involved in Utah’s U.S. Senate race.

Utahns for Liberty, the pro-Brad Wilson super PAC, has spent $55,000 so far. The lone independent expenditure came in January for a digital ad attacking Curtis. The group’s major donors include Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, who gave $100,000 to the PAC.

Despite only being in office for less than five months, 2nd Congressional District Republican Celeste Maloy has collected more than $185,000 from political action committees (PACs). PAC contributions comprised more than 60% of the donations to Maloy’s campaign in the first three months of 2024.

The race to replace John Curtis

Four of the nine Republicans in the race for the open 3rd Congressional District seat are putting their own money toward the cause.

Entrepreneur Case Lawrence loaned his campaign $1.275 million, which makes up more than 75% of his fundraising. The $250,000 outgoing Utah State Auditor John Dougall put towards his congressional campaign accounts for more than 65% of his campaign cash.

State Sen. Mike Kennedy loaned his current campaign $156,000. Kennedy is no stranger to self-financing his political endeavors. In 2018, he put $422,000 of his own money toward his unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate.

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