It’s Utah’s most expensive race: Where is the money coming from?

Oct 24, 2022, 7:59 PM | Updated: 8:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — They’re hard to miss, taking over your TV, mailbox, and cell phone: ads supporting or opposing Sen. Mike Lee and challenger Evan McMullin.

The campaign for Utah’s senate seat is now the most expensive in state history, with more than $25 million brought in by candidates, and spent by Super PACs on ads.

Millions in outside spending

Looking at the fine print, many of the advertisements aren’t from the candidates themselves, but various political action committees.

According to OpenSecrets.org, spending through Sept. 30 shows $9,459,791 by outside groups to support or oppose a candidate in this race.

Outside spending for Lee showed a price tag of $2,537,782 supporting his candidacy, with $2,520,935 spent opposing it.

As for McMullin, $696,250 had been spent supporting the candidate, whereas $3,704,824 was spent in opposition.

Only one PAC, Put Utah First, spent money in support of McMullin. Put Utah First is also one of the biggest spenders in the senate race, with $3,201,379 between Jan. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022.

Based in Salt Lake City, Put Utah First is a new PAC, founded last year. Its largest funder was Blake Murray, CEO of Divvy, a budgeting software company in Draper.

Not far behind in spending is Club for Growth Action, a Super PAC based in Washington, D.C. Organized in 2015, the national group has brought in more than $72 million since Jan. 2021. Of that, $3,100,472 has been spent in ads opposing McMullin, with $6,745 spent supporting Lee.

Club for Growth Action’s largest donor is shipping supplies billionaire Richard Uihlein from Illinois.

So far, ten Super PACs and four PACs have contributed to outside spending in Utah’s senate race.

Utah donors vs. Utah dollars

Super PACs aren’t allowed to give directly to candidates, but PACs can.

Looking at FEC data from Jan. 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022, KSL found PACs were the top three fiscal donors to Friends of Mike Lee, with Club for Growth gifting $137,715, Senate Conservatives Fund giving $80,123, and Democracy Engine PAC supporting with $63,410.

Lee’s campaign told KSL 48.6% of all their donations came from Utah donors. This includes unitemized contributions, which are under $200 and are not required to be given to the FEC.

The campaign did not indicate what percentage of donation dollars came from the Beehive State, but itemized data shows donors giving $200 or more, about 18% were from Utah.

McMullin’s campaign filings show no money received from PACs. His top donors are private individuals, all giving under $6,000, and residing in Maryland, Utah, and New York.

His campaign office sent contribution data that included smaller donations and showed 47% of all campaign money came from Utah, with 54% of donors based in state.

With a little more than two weeks before Election Day, and a reported 12% of voters undecided, it’s expected even more money will funnel into this race.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you

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It’s Utah’s most expensive race: Where is the money coming from?