A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, in essence, money is equivalent to free speech. Under the First Amendment to the Constitution, individuals and corporations can exercise that “right to speak” through campaign contributions. By this logic, those who wish to speak the loudest need only donate more money.
Who is speaking the loudest for Mayor Ralph Becker’s reelection?
According to the City of Salt Lake Campaign Finance Reporting System for 2015, two-term Mayor Becker has received $188,154 in campaign contributions. He is gearing up for this year’s race, running for a third term as the city’s head honcho.
Between them, Becker’s opponents Jackie Biskupski and Luke Garrott have raised $33,291.51, with Biskupski at $25,700 and Garrott at $7,591.51, respectively. A third candidate, Jim Dabakis, dropped out of the race just 10 days after announcing his run.
Utah is one of only four states that do not cap campaign contributions; this despite efforts by Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, to introduce legislation that would impose a $10,000 limit. And while many of Mayor Becker’s contributions are from individuals giving $20, $50 or $100, he does have contributors who have donated much more.
Utah Stories looked at Mayor Becker’s campaign contributions of $2,500 and up to uncover his biggest supporters. Zions Bank’s A. Scott Anderson threw in $5,000. Wyoming residents Ian and Annette Cumming contributed $7,500. Ian Cumming was the former head of the Utah Board of Regents, while Annette Cumming served on the SLC Airport Board and national Democratic committees.
Developers and businesses that have benefited from Becker’s administration and who donated to his campaign include Dan Lofgren of Cowboy Partners and Stephen Swisher of Swisher Architecture LLC. Swisher is closely associated with the Utah Performing Arts Center project, and also donated $3,500.
Becker and Governor Herbert awarded over $47 million in tax rebates to Goldman Sachs to encourage them to locate in downtown Salt Lake City. Not exactly in-kind, but to return the favor, Goldman Sachs Managing Director David Lang kicked in $2,500 to support Becker’s campaign.
Mayor Becker and Salt Lake City awarded the contract to build Salt Lake City’s light rail to Stacy and Witbeck, Inc. Stacy and Witbeck CEO John Boller greased Becker’s campaign skids to the tune of $5,000.
Other donors contributing $2,500 or more include Mark Miller of Mark Miller Auto Group, Nicole Mouskondis and Peter Mouskondis of Nicholas and Company, Steven Boulay of MagicSpace Entertainment, Bruce W. Bastian, co-founder of WordPerfect, Arthur D. Lipson of Western Investors, David Ibarra, founder of eLeader Tech, Inc., Michael Moffitt, President of Gold Cross Ambulance, Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough Law Firm, Garbett Homes, Comcast and USANA Health Sciences, Inc.
Some local business owners would like to see a change in downtown leadership that will support local businesses rather than big corporations. Their names do not appear on the list of Becker’s big money campaign contributors. It seems that issues with parking, the 300 South bike lanes and local business support, among other concerns, do not get the same attention from the Mayor’s office as do the big projects and big business owners who are financing Becker’s campaign.