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In audio, Utah guv says he will 'go anywhere' to meet with campaign donors — for a check

Published May 16, 2016 12:34 pm

Blunt talk • Audio sheds light on the reality of political fundraising.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An audio recording of a meeting between Gov. Gary Herbert, his campaign staff and more than two dozen lobbyists and supporters highlights the governor's eagerness to raise money for his campaign and his willingness to play ball with donors.

The fundraising strategy discussed in the meeting was to schedule rounds of 20-minute, one-on-one meetings between the governor and generous donors to discuss issues of their choice.



"However we want to do this — if we want to have multiple meetings or we sit down and talk and you give us a check later or before. However you would like to do it," Herbert said in the meeting, after one lobbyist questioned the appropriateness of discussing policy issues at the same time checks are handed over. "I'll just say, I'm available. I'm Available Jones."

"Available Jones" is apparently a reference to a character from the old-time comic strip Li'l Abner, a hillbilly from the town of Dogpatch who was always looking to make a buck and was available for a price.

Later, a baseball pitcher who was available to pitch with little rest used also the nickname.

The recording obtained by The Tribune demonstrates Herbert's willingness to do what it takes to raise money for his re-election campaign against Republican challenger Jonathan Johnson, to the point that, he told attendees at the Alta Club breakfast last month, he would be turning over to others day-to-day operations of the state.

"Just so you know, this will be unprecedented for me, because I will be going on the high giddy-up campaign trail for the next few weeks. The state's going to be run by Justin [Harding, the governor's chief of staff] and the lieutenant governor," Herbert said. "So I will go anywhere. I will meet with people. We'll come to your office, you bring them in and we will give them quality time, but we've got to raise the money, there's no ifs, ands or buts, we've got to raise the money somehow."

Herbert's campaign finance director, Liv Moffat, said in the recording that the campaign wants to raise $1 million by June 1, and pressed the lobbyists in attendance to get checks that had been promised for the governor's annual gala in September to the campaign as soon as possible.

Moffat also laid out a fundraising arrangement that the campaign had used with Doug Foxley, a prominent lobbyist now working on the Herbert campaign, where lobbying clients of Foxley's apparently paid for 20-minute meetings with the governor.

"We gave [Foxley] two hours, we paraded seven clients in at [Foxley's] office, we went to [his] office, 20 minutes, collecting checks and talking specifically about their issues," Moffat said. "We're not going to do that for $1,000. But that's something. We'll schedule it, you can come have 15 to 20 minutes with the governor."

Later, Moffat said she has complete control of the governor's schedule and can make the fundraising meetings happen.

Campaign finance disclosures identify at least five of Foxley's clients who gave donations to the governor's campaign on the same day: Big West Oil gave $4,500; Peak Minerals, $5,000; Gold Cross Ambulance, $5,000; Maverik convenience stores, $7,500; and the Utah Association of Financial Services, $5,000.

Assuming the other two clients gave comparable amounts, the campaign likely raised more than $37,000 in the two-hour span.

In the recording, one lobbyist appears to bristle at the idea.

"I have a question regarding talking about issues and giving money at the same time," said lobbyist Jodi Hart. "My clients would not be comfortable doing that."

Hart has not returned phone calls about the event and her objections, and was not the source of the recording.

Lobbyist Spencer Stokes, who is also working on the Herbert campaign, responded to Hart's expression of concern by joking that the governor doesn't want to meet with Hart's clients, anyway, drawing laughs. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the state's chief election officer who oversees campaign finance laws, then steps in.

"We need to be very careful about that and that's a very, very good point," he said," This isn't a 'Come give us a check as a condition …' "

Herbert interrupts: "There's no quid pro quo at all."

Herbert said he may disagree with their clients on the issues "but if nothing else, we'll give you the results that you want."

Listen below to two clips from the Alta Club breakfast. See the box on this page for a transcript.

Johnson said reading reports of the Alta Club meeting was bad, but hearing the recording of the meeting was stunning.

"I'm shaking, that tape makes me so mad," Johnson said. "That's what's wrong with career politicians. They will do anything to stay in office. To hear the guffawing coming from the wooden-door Alta Club from a group of elite insiders, that just disgusts me.

"It may not be illegal under Utah law, but that's not the threshold we should hold our governor to," Johnson said. "It's complete pay-for-play and it's the kind of reason that non-politicians don't run for office."

Herbert said in a statement that the "harsh reality" is that campaigns for public office are extremely expensive to run.

"If you are super-wealthy, you can self-fund your campaign. That is not an option for me or for most Utahns who are willing to serve," Herbert said. "Like the vast majority of candidates, I have built a broad base of support and spend a significant amount of time fundraising during each election cycle. I strictly adhere to election laws and full disclosure requirements.

"As someone who holds high office and seeks re-election, I hold myself to the highest standards of integrity required to earn and maintain the public trust," the governor said.

Herbert then took a jab at Johnson, who's board chairman of Overstock.com and has had the majority of his campaign paid for by Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne and from Johnson's personal wealth.

"The real question about fundraising that ought to be asked in this campaign is: What are the motivations of Patrick Byrne and what are the obligations of Jonathan Johnson in allowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a contributions from a single funder?" Herbert said.

Johnson acknowledged that Byrne has paid for "about half" of his campaign, but said he has been left with few options because potential donors fear that if they support Johnson's campaign, the governor will punish them.

"It's hard to be a challenger," Johnson said. "I've talked to many people, probably many who are clients of those well-heeled lobbyists, who said, 'Jonathan, you need to win, I support much of what you're doing.' And when I say, 'How about a check?' they say, 'I can't, because when the governor sees my name on your donor list, the hammer will come down. I have contracts in front of the state. I have business in front of the state.'"

Herbert and Johnson are battling for the Republican nomination, heading into the June 28 primary election. Johnson beat Herbert at the Utah Republican Convention, 55 percent to 45 percent, setting the stage for the primary. A recent poll showed Herbert leading Johnson 74 percent to 19 percent among registered Republicans in the state.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

Transcript of portions of a breakfast meeting Gov. Gary Herbert had at the Alta Club last month with donors and supporters

First excerpt:

Liv Moffat (Campaign fundraiser): • I just want to get very specific: $1 million dollars before June 1. So I need gala money in before June 1. Commitments that have been made, like Merit Medical and Questar, we need it in now. We have some awesome events coming up. Our golf tournament is sold out, we just scheduled another one for June 13. We have a brand new health care roundtable that SelectHealth will be a major sponsor of. Leavitt Partners is hosting and Dave [Gessell, executive vice president of the Utah Hospital Association] and Dirk [Anjewierden, director of the Utah Health Care Association] are helping me plan that, as well. I also want to thank Spencer Stokes and Paul Rogers for paying for your breakfast this morning and arranging for that.

Doug Foxley, we gave him two hours, we paraded seven clients in at his office, we went to their office, 20 minutes, collecting checks, talking specifically about their issues. We're not going to do that for a thousand dollars, but that's something. Talk to me, we'll schedule it. You can come and have 15 to 20 minutes with the governor and anything we can do to get that gala money in.

Second excerpt:

Gov. Gary Herbert: • Just so you know, this will be unprecedented for me, because I am going to be on the high giddy-up campaign for the next few weeks. The state's going to be run by Justin [Harding, Herbert's chief of staff] and the lieutenant governor [Spencer Cox]. So I will go anywhere. I will meet with people. I will come to your office, you bring them in and we will give them quality time, but we've got to raise the money, there's no ifs ands or buts; we've got to raise the money somehow.

Jodi Hart (lobbyist): • I have a question regarding talking about issues and giving money at the same time, my clients would not feel comfortable doing that.

Spencer Stokes (lobbyist and campaign staffer): • He doesn't really want to talk to those clients, either. [Laughter]

Herbert: • However [it] works for your folks.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox: • We need to be very careful about that, and that's a very, very good point. This isn't, 'Come give us a check as a condition …'.

Herbert: • There's no quid pro quo at all. We may disagree with some things with your clients, but I hope we all understand we don't want to be one-issue-oriented people. There's a plethora of issues out there and, again, probably the only person in this room that agrees with me on 100 percent of the issues is me, and even that may be questionable. So again, we're not going to agree on everything. But if nothing else, we'll give you the results that you want. So however we want to do this, if we want to have multiple meetings or we sit down and talk and you give us a check later or before. However you would like to do it, I'll just say I'm available. I'm Available Jones.

 

 

 

 

 

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