AP

Democrats and tech leaders spend big on independent in Utah

Oct 31, 2022, 3:33 PM
Independent U.S. Senate candidate Evan McMullin listens as his campaign manager talks to members of...
Independent U.S. Senate candidate Evan McMullin listens as his campaign manager talks to members of the media about special interest groups running misleading ad campaigns against McMullin at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tech leaders and Democratic Party-aligned groups are among those funneling millions into Utah to support independent Evan McMullin’s bid to unseat Republican Sen. Mike Lee.

The race has been inundated with outside spending, with super PACs unaffiliated with either the Lee or McMullin campaign spending heavily on glossy mailers and attack ads on the local affiliates of the four major television networks in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

The sheer amount of money pouring into the race reflects how McMullin has turned Utah from a political afterthought to a legitimate battleground. The outside spending supporting him also illustrates the traditional partisan dynamics at play in the independent-versus-Republican race and the emerging reality that some Democratic Party-aligned groups and donors see McMullin — an anti-abortion conservative — as one path toward preventing Republicans from retaking control of the Senate.

McMullin and Lee’s campaign have raised $6.9 million and $8.6 million respectively, campaign finance filings published Friday that cover up to Oct. 19 show.

Though they’re spending heavily on their own campaign ads, consultants and staff, the candidates are receiving boosts from independent expenditure committees that aren’t allowed to coordinate with their campaigns.

The most active among them is a pro-McMullin super PAC called Put Utah First. It’s spent $5.1 million throughout 2022, including $3 million from Oct. 1 to Oct. 19.

The group has received most of its funding from Blake Murray, the former CEO of the financial services technology company Divvy. Murray is among a number of Utah technology leaders supporting McMullin. It’s also received $250,000 from American Bridge’s political action committee. American Bridge has spent $45 million nationwide on the midterm elections and is also running attack ads in traditional battleground states such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Evan McMullin has support from a galaxy far, far away

Put Utah First got an additional $100,000 from the Republican Accountability PAC, which is also running ads against Senate candidates including Herschel Walker in Georgia and J.D. Vance in Ohio.

Put Utah First has also received $700,000 in total from members of the Cumming family, which owns POWDR, one of the Rockies’ largest ski resort operators. POWDR’s founder and chairman John Cumming; his wife, Kristi; his mother, Annette; and his brother, David, are longtime Democratic donors and this cycle have also contributed to Planned Parenthood’s political action committee, the Arizona Democratic Party and Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly.

The group’s attack ads against Lee are set to ominous music, portraying the second-term Republican as an obstructionist unwilling to compromise in Washington, D.C., and highlighting various votes against spending bills that would have funded benefits for first responders and veterans.

While not mentioning their own source of funds, the Put Utah First ads blast him for taking campaign contributions from special interest groups.

Sunday Edition: KSL NewsRadio 100th anniversary; Why are Utah Democrats backing Evan McMullin?

The super PAC did not respond to request for comment. The McMullin campaign said it wasn’t allowed to coordinate with outside groups spending in the race, but that the contributions sent directly to the campaign reflected support from across the political spectrum.

“We’re proud of the cross-partisan coalition we’ve built to unite Utahns and solve the mounting problems our state and our country face,” Kelsey Koenen Witt, McMullin’s campaign spokesperson, said. “It is a lie from the Lee campaign and his allies that the Democratic Party is financially supporting Evan.”

Independent expenditure groups supporting Republican Senate candidates throughout the country are defending Lee and investing in attack ads and mailers against McMullin, including the Koch Network-backed Americans for Prosperity, the Consumer Technology Association, Liberty Champions PAC and Crypto Freedom, a pro-Bitcoin PAC affiliated with Club for Growth.

The conservative Club for Growth Action PAC had spent more than $3.7 million to oppose McMullin as of Oct. 19 and said last week that its total spending had grown to more than $8 million. One of the group’s ads attacks McMullin’s past remarks about Republicans that led to a lawsuit. McMullin said the ad was inaccurate and libelous and has taken legal action over it.

David McIntosh, the group’s CEO, said Club for Growth Action felt it needed to spend money defending Lee and attacking McMullin given the other side’s outside spending, to ensure Utah didn’t “take away the opportunity for Republicans to get a majority in the U.S. Senate.”

“We think it’s important that voters in Utah know it’s a clear choice between Mike Lee, a Republican and a conservative, and Evan McMullin,” he said on a call with reporters this month.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November ...
Meg Kinnard and Michelle L. Price

Trump says beating of Nichols ‘never should have happened’

Former President Donald Trump says the footage of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers is “horrible” and that the attack “never should have happened.”
1 day ago
Demonstrators participate in a protest against the police killing of Tyre Nichols on January 27, 20...
Adrian Sainz, Associated Press

Memphis authorities release video in Tyre Nichols’ death

Video showing five Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, a Black man, has been made public.
2 days ago
An Egyptian archeologist speaks at a recently discovered tomb dated to the Old Kingdom, 2700–2200...
MOHAMED WAGDY

Egypt unveils tombs and sarcophagus in new excavation

Egypt on Thursday unveiled dozens of new archaeological discoveries, including two ancient tombs, at a Pharaonic necropolis just outside of the capital Cairo.
2 days ago
This image taken from video provided by the NAOJ & Asahi Shimbun, shows spiral swirling through...
Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press

Camera captures night sky spiral after SpaceX rocket launch

A camera atop Hawaii's tallest mountain has captured what looks like a spiral swirling through the night sky. Researchers believe it shows the aftereffects of a SpaceX rocket launch when the company's Falcon 9 rocket sent a GPS satellite into orbit.
2 days ago
Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, i...
LINDSEY BAHR AP Film Writer

‘A Thousand and One’ wins Sundance grand jury prize

"A Thousand and One," a drama about an impoverished single mother and her son in New York City, won the Sundance Film Festival's grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition, while "Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project" was awarded the top prize in the U.S. documentary category.
2 days ago
A Yanomami youth carries a toddler on his shoulders at the Saude Indigenous House, a center respons...
Eleoneore Hughes and Edmar Barros, Associated Press

Why Brazil’s Yanomami are being decimated by disease, mining

Severe malnutrition and disease, particularly malaria, are decimating the Yanomami population in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, and on Jan. 20 the federal government declared a public health emergency.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Democrats and tech leaders spend big on independent in Utah