Mike Lee and Evan McMullin’s U.S. Senate race is probably Utah’s most expensive political contest
The contest between Republican Mike Lee and Independent Evan McMullin is possibly the most expensive race in Utah history. The two campaigns raised over $18.3 million in total and spent over $15.5 million. Outside groups added nearly $15.8 million in support or opposition.
Those numbers eclipsed the 2012 U.S. Senate race, where Republican Orrin Hatch raised $11.5 million while spending $13.1 million. His opponents in the primary and general elections did not cross the $1 million threshold in contributions or expenditures. In 2018, Mitt Romney raised $5.5 million and spent $5.2 million.
In his first re-election run in 2016, Lee raised just over $5.8 million and spent just over $5.5 million. Misty Snow, his Democratic opponent that year, raised just $76,000 and spent $35,000. Lee won by 40 points. Lee raised $1.7 million in his first Senate race in 2010.
Money running through the Lee vs. McMullin contest also tops Utah’s 2020 gubernatorial race, which saw 8 Republican candidates raise and spend around $15 million, the majority of which is earmarked for the gubernatorial race. GOP nomination.
According to financial information from the Federal Election Commission, Lee raised more than $11.1 million on Tuesday, while McMullin raised about $7.2 million.
The two campaigns are nearly equal in the amount of money they have raised from individual donors. Lee’s cash benefit is primarily due to just under $2 million in donations from political action committees and an additional $1.3 million from other Republican office holders and candidates. McMullin received no contributions from PACs.
Most of the individual donations to both campaigns came from Utah, but most of McMullin’s donations in dollars and number of contributions came from Beehive State. Just over a third of the dollars McMullin has raised so far – 35% – come from Utah, while more than half of the total number of donations for which donor information is available – 58% – come from Utah.
Lee raised 24% of his individual Utah dollars out of 33% of his total donations. Lee got an additional 17% of his contributions from Texas, while just under 17% of McMullin’s dollars came from donors in California.
How do they spend this money?
Both campaigns spent heavily on TV advertising, which makes sense since Utah voters can’t turn on the TV without being overwhelmed with ads for that race.
Lee has spent more than $2.3 million on ads, including $1.9 million since the June primary. McMullin’s camp lost $2.1 million on television advertising, most since July.
Lee has spent heavily on digital advertising, spending more than $356,000 on online ads and nearly $812,000 on “digital consulting.” McMullin spent just under $900,000 on “digital email consulting.”
The polls cost Lee’s campaign nearly $600,000, including nearly $200,000 of that total in September and October. McMullin’s team spent $327,000 on surveys, most of it in the past two months as well.
As the hackneyed saying goes, “You have to spend money to make money”. That’s true for Lee and McMullin, who have invested a lot of money in fundraising. Lee spent $644,000 on fundraising consulting, an additional $229,000 on telemarketing, and $295,000 on direct mail fundraising. McMullin said he spent nearly $500,000 on fundraising consulting.
Lee spent a startling $432,000 to secure his place on the primary ballot, paying a signature collection company to collect the 28,000 signatures he needed. This equates to approximately $15 per signature.
Super PACs spurred the flurry of TV ads and direct mail competing for voters’ attention, pumping more than $15 million into the race.
The two biggest spenders are the super PACs Club for Growth Action, which backs Lee, and the Put Utah First PAC, which is behind McMullin. Put Utah First spent more than $4.8 million on the race, almost entirely to oppose Lee, while Club for Growth Action spent $4.3 million.
FEC rules don’t allow coordination of campaigns and super PACs, but there is a connection between Lee’s campaign and super PAC Liberty Champions, which spent more than $1.6 million to attack McMullin. Thomas Datwyler is the campaign treasurer for Lee and Liberty Champions.
Although the fact that the same person manages the finances of a campaign and a super PAC may raise eyebrows, it is not against the rules.
“An individual can be treasurer of both authorized campaign committees and super PACs without violating the ban on coordination,” explained Saurav Ghosh, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center.
Datwyler has served as treasurer of political action committees that have endorsed politicians ranging from Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to incumbent Rep. Madison Cawthorn.
“Thomas Datwyler, in particular, is a professional treasurer and, according to the FEC website, is currently treasurer of 118 super PACs and 126 authorized committees and joint fundraising committees,” Ghosh added.
One of the PACs linked to Datwyler, 1820 PAC, is reportedly under federal investigation for a scheme to funnel illegal campaign donations to Republican Senator Susan Collins’ 2020 re-election bid. Axios reported the he last year the FBI believed a Hawaii defense contractor used a shell company to funnel $150,000 in donations to a pro-Collins super PAC and reimbursed Collins’ campaign contributions.
Earlier this month, Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s campaign committee reimbursed him more than $1,100 for mileage, even though Hagedorn died in February. Datwyler is listed as treasurer of this committee. Insider reported that it is unclear who received this money.
Datwyler did not respond to requests for comment.
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