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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Former Gov. Mike Leavitt distributed funds from his political action committee to give employees bonuses, pay for a lavish going away party and to ensure his legacy is chronicled.
Elected to the state's top office three times, Leavitt resigned last November to become head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A year-end report details how he spent $283,084 that remained in his PAC, the "Governor's Special Projects" fund, in the weeks leading up to and just after his resignation as governor.
Leavitt gave out $23,400 in bonuses to aides who accompanied him to Washington, D.C.; reimbursed himself $12,500 for dues, and paid thousands of dollars for a huge going-away party with caterers, flowers, photographers and music, the Deseret Morning News reported Wednesday.
The lion's share of the PAC money -- $190,000 he raised by hosting annual "galas" and golf tournaments -- was shifted to Leavitt's new Keeper of the Flame Foundation.
According to Leavitt's EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman, all the PAC money in the special projects account "will be liquidated with the funds going to a nonprofit that will undertake a series of projects to document Utah history under Gov. Leavitt's administration."
Leavitt told the Morning News he will announce later this month the creation and purpose of the nonprofit foundation, which will also continue former first lady Jacalyn Leavitt's charitable initiatives.
Not on the list of expenditures were any donations to the Oquirrh Institute, the Leavitt-created think tank that he promised to fund when he left office.
Leavitt said he initially wanted to give the political funds to the institute to write the history, but attorneys advised that would go beyond the legal scope of the think-tank's mission.
The new foundation will continue to raise additional money, but Leavitt promised he would have no involvement.
Leavitt said the $23,400 he paid in bonuses went to staffers "for a lot of political work they have done over the years. They were not compensated out of state funds, nor should they have been."
Leavitt also emptied out most of a second PAC, called the Western Republican PAC, that he used to fund GOP gubernatorial bids around the West in years he was not seeking re-election.
More than a month after Leavitt left office, the Western Republican PAC wrote out a check to Leavitt's special projects PAC for $38,190.
A third PAC, called Citizens for Emery County's Future, also gave Leavitt's special projects PAC $644. This PAC was used by Leavitt and local commissioners to generate public support for a proposal to designate a national monument in the San Rafael Swell in central Utah. That proposal failed when Emery County residents voted against it.
And the Mike Leavitt Exploratory Committee quietly had been raising money last year for a possible campaign for a fourth term as governor in 2004. After Leavitt's resignation, he closed the account by writing a check to the special projects PAC for $14,738.
Leavitt's special projects PAC now has only $5,458 remaining, a new report shows.
His Western Republican PAC still has $25,000 -- money that could be donated to political candidates this coming election year or, under Utah's liberal political donation laws, used for just about any other legal purpose.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)