One-Stop Shopping

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He'll handle it all
GOP races: One-stop shopping
Shurtleff, others turn over funds, and job, to manager Jason Powers
By Cathy McKitrick 
Article Last Updated:07/19/2008 01:10:53 AM MDT
 

During the first five months of 2008, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff raised close to a quarter-million dollars to fuel his re-election campaign - and paid out even more. Of the $263,183 in reported expenditures, $110,199 went to Guidant Strategies, a one-stop campaign shop headed by Jason Powers, Shurtleff's campaign manager.

"You've got to be able to raise the money and spend the money to do it right," Shurtleff said of his high-profile statewide race. A former Salt Lake County Commissioner, Shurtleff knows what it's like to run a lower-budget campaign. "You've got your whole family stuffing envelopes and you're staying out 'til 1 a.m. pounding signs," he said. As the state's top lawyer, however, Shurtleff said he is grateful to have Powers and company orchestrating his current effort.

"I wish I was getting rich off it, but that's not the case," Powers said of the hefty payouts. "We're a full-service campaign company - we do it all." That "all" includes strategy, direct mail, TV and radio ads, T-shirts, signs, bumper stickers, speech and news-release writing, Web site design, fundraising event management, voter surveys, autodial phone messages, mass e-mails, vote-by-mail, poll-watching and more.

And the 36-year-old Powers, who first discovered his personal passion for politics in the sixth grade, confines his client list to conservative Republicans who share his ideology. "You have to pick a side or you don't do very well," Powers said. "If you try to do both, people start to get concerned."

In 2002 - before forming his consulting company in 2006 - Powers managed John Swallow's failed congressional bid against Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. Then he successfully helped usher Sandy's Wayne Niederhauser and Ogden's Jon Greiner into the state Senate in 2006. He also had a hand in propelling Ogden's Mayor Matthew Godfrey to a narrow third-term win in 2007.

"That's what we specialize in, winning the tight races, the tough ones," Powers said, At present, though, polls show Shurtleff with a crushing lead over Democratic challenger Jean Welch Hill.

Utah's Democratic candidates lack a counterpart to Powers, with his smorgasbord of single-provider services. "There are several companies that Democrats can utilize but I don't know of one company that focuses on Democratic races," said Rob Miller, who serves as vice-chairman of the state Democratic Party and campaign manager for Hill in her bid to unseat Shurtleff.

Besides, few Democrats could afford to tap such a resource. "We don't have control of the lobbyists to get that kind of money," Miller said. "Most of our candidates, especially for the Legislature, get more of their money from registered Democrats in Utah." Any statewide campaign depends on broad-based volunteer power, according to Miller.

Maura Carabello, a Democrat who partnered with Republican LaVarr Webb to form the Exoro Group, said their bipartisan firm does consulting work for Democratic candidates, but offers nothing like one-stop shopping.