Utah Gov. ‘Speed Dates’ With Lobbyists, Will ‘Meet Anywhere, Anytime’

Utah Governor Gary Herbert on October 6, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah Governor Gary Herbert faces a strong challenge in the upcoming Republican primary and is marshaling his resources for the June 28 election.

In a recent fundraising strategy session with his campaign team and allied lobbyists, which was recorded, Gov. Herbert discussed meeting with rounds of lobbyists one-on-one in kind of “speed dating” to discuss policy issues.

“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 a recording obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ll just say, I’m available. I’m Available Jones.”

Herbert’s campaign finance director, Liv Moffat, laid out the basics of the fundraising strategy based on a recent event with prominent Utah lobbyist Doug Foxley.

“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 explained in the recording. “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.”

Utah is one of the few states that doesn’t limit campaign contributions. Individuals, businesses and labor unions can make unlimited donations to political campaigns. Gov. Herbert, when he was first running for the office in 2009, defended the unlimited contributions as a way to ensure that candidates who weren’t wealthy could raise the funds necessary to compete for office.

The unrestricted contributions, however, take on a different shade when the candidate is the sitting Governor of a state.

Herbert went on the stress the importance of raising significant funds for the upcoming primary election. He even acknowledged on the tape that he was turning over the running of the state government to his Chief of Staff and Lieutenant Governor during the campaign.

“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 explained.

“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 said.

Herbert is facing a strong primary challenge from conservative businessman Jonathan Johnson. At the recent Republican Party state convention, Johnson won the backing of 55 percent of the Republican delegates, which triggered the statewide primary. If a candidate receives the backing of 60 percent of delegates, the candidate wins the nomination outright. Secure fewer, however, and a primary election is scheduled.

That a challenger to an incumbent Republican Governor was able to secure a majority of Republican delegates indicates broad opposition to Herbert within the activist base of the Republican party.

Johnson, who is a board member of Overstocked.com, has personal wealth he can tap for the primary race against Herbert. Facing a strong primary challenge, Herbert has jettisoned subtlety in his quest for campaign dollars.

Herbert did caution that, in spite of the appearance of “speed dating” meetings with lobbyists, “there’s no quid pro quo.”

Herbert did add, though, that even if he disagrees with the lobbyists on their issues, “we’ll give you the results that you want.”