Jon Huntsman's Utah Gubernatorial Campaign Contributions (GRAPHICS)

06/21/2011 03:46 pm 15:46:04 | Updated Aug 21, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The state of Utah is one of the most libertarian when it comes to the financing of campaigns, giving a leeway that GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman took full advantage of in his campaigns for governor.

Utah allows corporations to donate directly to candidates and places no caps on contributions. It also allows politicians to set up outside political action committees and then funnel money directly to their own campaigns.

Huntsman ran two statewide election campaigns and left behind a trail of campaign contributions that have yet to be scrutinized at the national level. HuffPost collected all contributions to Huntsman's gubernatorial campaign committees and his state-level political action committee, Governor's Special Initiatives PAC, revealing a portrait of a contender with significant ties to high-level party power brokers.

Huntsman raised a total of $6.5 million for both his campaign and his political action committee. It's vital to include his political action committee contributions, since the former governor used this committee as a principal account for donors and then transferred those contributions to his official campaign committee.

This allowed Huntsman's campaign to disclose donors fewer times during the year. Campaign committees in Utah have a quarterly filing schedule, while political action committees need only disclose twice a year.

The chart below shows that the political action committee accounted for one-third of the contributions received by Huntsman for his campaigns for governor.

The State of Utah has a much more lax set of campaign finance laws than most people are used to on the national level, such as the ability of individuals and corporations alike to donate directly to candidates with no limit on contributions.

Over two election campaigns, Huntsman raised $2.7 million from individuals, $2.5 million directly from business accounts, $900,000 from himself and the rest from other accounts, including political parties.

This split in the type of contribution is represented in the chart below:

The biggest donors to Huntsman's campaigns, aside from himself, include some big Republican donors in Utah.

The single biggest contributor to Huntsman's campaigns was J. Steven Price, the head of the Price Realty Group. Price and his company combined to contribute $109,365 to Huntsman's 2004 campaign. The influential real estate developer is a big donor to Utah politicians and Republican candidates.

The second biggest individual donor to Huntsman was Patrick Byrne, founder and CEO of Overstock.com. Byrne, a strong proponent of school vouchers, contributed $75,000 to Huntsman's first gubernatorial run in 2004 after Huntsman promised that he would be "the voucher governor."

Ultimately, Huntsman did not strongly back a voucher proposal, instead he suggested that citizens educate themselves on the issue. The voucher proposal failed, which infuriated Byrne. "If any opponent emerged, he would have my unqualified support," he fumed before Huntsman's successful reelection run.

The top contributing business was the Utah-based juice company Xango. The company makes and markets a collection of juice drinks made with mangosteen. Xango contributed $65,000 to Huntsman's campaigns and is also a big contributor to other Utah politicians including donating $48,200 to the elections of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Another major individual contributor to Huntman's campaign was Robert Lichfield, who donated $70,000. A major Republican donor, Lichfield was Mitt Romney's Utah state finance chief during the former Massachusetts governor's 2008 presidential bid. Lichfield stepped down from this post after an organization running youth treatment centers that he was affiliated with, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, faced multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and abuse.

It's unclear whether Lichfield is still active in party politics. His last contribution came in the form of a 2010 maximum donation to the failed reelection campaign of Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah).

Corporations also piled in big sums to Huntsman's campaigns. Comcast gave $40,000, Sinclair Oil gave $43,000, Qwest gave $51,248 and the for-profit college company Apollo Group gave $25,000.

Huntsman's biggest out-of-state donors were M. Anthony Burns, a Miami-based businessman who is on the board of Huntsman's father's company, and David Matlin, the CEO of the New York City-based private equity firm MatlinPatterson Global Advisors. Both donated $25,000 to his campaign.

Other notable donors include Texas homebuilder Bob Perry ($25,000), who bankrolls the Karl Rove-linked Super PAC American Crossroads and News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch ($1,000).

Most of the donations to Huntsman's campaigns were in-state donations. These contributions largely came from the area surrounding the capital, Salt Lake City.

Below you can see a map with contributions from Utah donors separated by ZIP code. (Some contributions did not include ZIP codes and, thus, have been excluded from this map.)

The data for this post comes from the website of the Lieutenant Governor of Utah and TransparencyData.com.

Jake Bialer contributed to this report.

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