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Washington • It appears that even runaway election victories cost serious money. Mike Lee's latest campaign finance report shows he spent $1.5 million on his massive victory over Democrat Sam Granato, with roughly half of the spending coming after he won his party's nomination in a June primary.
The report, covering the period from Oct. 14 to Nov. 22, shows that Lee raised about $225,000 to end his campaign and spent $272,000. The senator-elect spent $124,000 on advertising and $65,000 on campaign staff salaries during this time.
He ended the campaign with $112,000 left in the bank but $58,000 in debts to vendors, according to the filing provided by his campaign.
Granato's camp has yet to provide his report to The Salt Lake Tribune. Senate reports, unlike the electronic reports required in the House, are actually mailed to the Senate and not usually publicly available for a few days. According to his last report, which doesn't count the last two weeks of the race, Granato spent about $220,000.
While Lee's total is significant, it is about $1 million less than Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, spent on his re-election campaign in Utah's 2nd Congressional District. That race was much more competitive, with Matheson beating Republican Morgan Philpot by just 4 percentage points. Lee beat Granato by 29 percentage points.
While Matheson spent $2.45 million on the race, Philpot, a former state legislator, spent $370,000 on his campaign, with nearly half of that coming in the last few weeks before Election Day. Philpot also reported spending $28,600 of his own money.
His contributions in late October included $5,000 from Sarah Palin's political action committee and $5,000 from the Republican National Committee, essentially the only party help he received.
Lee received some backing from party elders, but received much more help from Sen. Jim DeMint and his Senate Conservative Fund, which spent millions helping tea party-supported candidates through independent expenditures. DeMint funneled more than $200,000 into Lee's campaign.
In the most recent report, Lee disclosed $14,400 in contributions from six members of the Rawle family, which owns the Check City payday loan business. He also received $2,400 from Spencer Stokes, a prominent Utah lobbyist he has since hired as his Senate chief of staff. Lee also received $1,000 from country music star Hank Williams Jr.