Vail Resorts puts money into Statehouse campaigns |

Vail Resorts puts money into Statehouse campaigns

by Jay Hamburger, THE PARK RECORD

Vail Resorts by the last two weeks of the 2014 election season had made $6,250 in campaign contributions to candidates running in Statehouse contests, including contributions to two incumbents whose districts include portions of Summit County, campaign finance filings show.

The contributions were made through the Vail Resorts Management Company, according to the filings. They started in January, continued into the spring and then into midsummer. The 2014 campaign is the first Statehouse election cycle since Vail Resorts entered into a long-term agreement in 2013 to lease and operate Canyons Resort. The Colorado firm in September acquired Park City Mountain Resort and intends to link the two resorts.

The contributions included $500 to Sen. Kevin Van Tassell’s re-election committee on July 11. Van Tassell is a Republican from Vernal whose District 26 of the state Senate stretches from the Uinta Basin to Park City. Vail Resorts on May 7 contributed $500 to the re-election committee of Rep. Mel Brown, a Coalville Republican whose House of Representatives District 53 includes the East Side of Summit County. Van Tassell and Brown are expected to win by wide margins on Election Day in the heavily Republican districts.

Van Tassell said in an interview the contribution from Vail Resorts was not solicited. He said the Colorado firm did not request assistance at the Capitol.

"They’ve talked to me several times, confirming with me they plan on being a good citizen," Van Tassell said.

Brown said in an interview he did not seek the contribution. He said he has not discussed issues with Vail Resorts, but he would be open to doing so later.

"I’ll be glad to talk to them, like I do everybody," he said.

The two competitors in District 54 of the House of Representatives, the district that includes Park City, said they did not receive contributions from Vail Resorts.

The incumbent, Republican Rep. Kraig Powell, does not accept contributions from corporate interests. He said he could not recall receiving a contribution from Vail Resorts that he would have subsequently returned based on his policy of not accepting corporate contributions. The Democratic challenger, Glenn Wright, said he does not solicit contributions from corporate interests and Vail Resorts did not contact him about making one.

A Vail Resorts spokesperson said in a prepared statement the firm is interested in the state’s tourism industry as it considers campaign contributions.

"Vail Resorts appreciates the work our elected representatives undertake and we are happy to provide modest non-partisan support for candidates who represent resort communities and support promoting greater Utah tourism, and we view that as part of being a part of the local communities in which we operate," the spokesperson, Kelly Ladyga, said. "In addition to contributing to campaigns, we strive to keep in good communication with our elected representatives on company news and topics of interest to us and the ski industry."

It is not clear what sort of legislative agenda Vail Resorts will promote at the Capitol other than the broad ideals of boosting tourism. It seems likely Vail Resorts will eventually be involved in discussions at the Capitol about topics like tourism funding and transportation.

Other financial involvement by Vail Resorts in Statehouse campaigns included:

  • $750 on Jan. 21 to the re-election campaign of Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, a Salt Lake Republican who is the president of the Senate. The campaign finance filing indicates the purpose was event attendance.
  • $750 on Jan. 21 to the SenDemPAC, which is a political-action committee that supports Democratic Senate campaigns. The purpose was event sponsorship, the filing says. Sen. Gene Davis, a Democrat from Salt Lake who is the minority leader in the Legislature’s upper chamber, said Vail Resorts contributed to a fundraising breakfast by SenDemPAC.
  • $1,500 on Jan. 21 to the Utah House Republican Campaign Committee, logged as event sponsorship, according to the filing.
  • $1,500 on Jan. 21 to the Senate Republican PAC, a political-action committee, described in the filing as event sponsorship.
  • $750 on May 21 to the Committee to Elect Brad Dee, a Republican who is the majority leader of the House of Representatives.

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