This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The campaign clash over education vouchers has run up a tab that easily would fund Utah's voucher program well into its second year.
The more than $8 million in campaign expenditures, reported to the Lieutenant Governor's Office on Tuesday, included $2.6 million alone from Utah-based Overstock.com's Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne and family.
The contributions from Byrne and his parents, John and Dorothy, made up three-quarters of the $3.5 million pro-voucher forces raised since September. Earlier in the campaign, Byrne gave $290,000.
"I have been lucky to be the recipient of the American dream," Byrne said. "Whether you want to become a teacher or artist, an entrepreneur or doctor, having a great education is one of the keys to reaching dreams."
The voucher program, which narrowly passed in the Legislature, must survive a referendum on Tuesday to be enacted.
Fundraising and spending between Oct. 27 and the election won't be disclosed until January, under requirements of Utah law.
Most of the spending on both sides went to pay for the relentless campaigns that have targeted residents through TV, radio, newspapers, billboards and direct-mail ads.
The consulting company that did many of the pro-voucher ads has in the past worked for the campaigns of Huntsman and for EnergySolutions. The main media consultant on the other side is a Democratic firm that has worked for Hillary Clinton.
The Washington, D.C., foundation of free-market guru Milton Friedman contributed $232,000 in support of Utah's voucher program, which, if approved Tuesday, would be the most comprehensive in the nation.
The anti-voucher Utahns for Public Schools reported receiving $3.4 million, including contributions from teachers' unions in 20 states, from Maine to Alaska. Much of that money originated from the National Education Association, which, overall, donated more than $3 million to the Utah voucher opposition.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office still is trying to track down a donor who paid for a series of radio spots, placed by Crowell Advertising, that quoted Mormon scripture in support of vouchers.
The mystery contributor may have violated Utah election law, said the Attorney General's spokesman Paul Murphy, because he or she did not register as a political issues committee. Any sanctions against the group likely will not occur until after the election, Murphy said.
The voucher program would cost $5.5 million in its first year and $8.5 million the second, according to projections from the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Office. It would reach $430 million over its 13-year phase-in.
So far, the voucher battle has cost one and a half times what Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Scott Matheson Jr. spent in the last gubernatorial election.
Voucher supporters say Utah's program would help low- and middle-income families send children to private academies. Depending on household income, an eligible student could qualify for as much as a $3,000 annual grant. Because the program's funding would come from the state's general fund, instead of the school fund, it would leave extra funding for public school districts, proponents say.
But opponents, including the umbrella anti-voucher group Utahns for Public Schools, argue the state's public schools, which have the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation, should be adequately funded before any public money goes to vouchers.
The proposed program's $3,000 maximum subsidy would cover only part of most private-school tuitions. Because the program has no income ceiling for vouchers, opponents say it would almost entirely subsidize middle- and upper-income families' private-school students.
If all the money spent on the referendum campaign so far went directly to the classroom, it would have:
* Paid to educate 1,586 students - or all of the students in Kane and Rich counties - for a year.
* OR covered the annual costs of 72 average-sized classrooms.
* OR provided 4,200 private-school vouchers worth $2,000.
Source: Calculations based on U.S. Department of Education statistics
* Total spent: $8.4 million
* Pro-voucher: $4.4 million
* Anti-voucher: $4 million
Sources: campaign finance disclosures, Utah Lieutenant Governor's Office