A political action committee in support of the lodging tax raised $116,640, while a PAC opposed to the tax raised $35,979, campaign contribution filings due Tuesday show.
The lodging tax is a 2 percent tax on hotel stays in Teton County. Sixty percent of the tax’s revenues must be spent on promotion, while 40 percent is reserved for mitigating visitor impacts. Voters will decide Tuesday whether to renew the tax for another four years.
Proponents say the funds are needed to offset visitor impacts. Critics counter that the tax’s promotion fuels excessive tourism. Wrangling over the tax has been one of the most heated debates this election cycle. PACs that formed to fight for and against the tax rang up some of the biggest donations compared with other local races.
Top donors to the PAC urging voters to support the lodging tax include Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ($20,000), Snake River Lodge Hotel Investors ($10,000), Rendezvous Rentals ($10,000), Four Seasons Resort ($10,000), Town Square Inns ($10,000) and Bank of Jackson Hole ($10,000).
While hospitality and tourism entities tended to be the biggest supporters of Residents for a Sustainable Community, the pro-lodging tax PAC, supporters of Enough is Enough, the PAC formed in opposition to the tax, were individuals.
Justin Adams topped the list of donors to Enough is Enough with a contribution of $10,000. Steven and Roberta Denning contributed another $10,000. Other donors included Bill Phelps, Mercedes Huff, Louis Wang, Rodman Moorhead III and Horton Spitzer.
Another PAC, Healthy Hospital, Healthy Community raised $28,000 before the election. The PAC is urging voters to choose incumbents Joe Albright, Liz Masek and Mike Tennican along with board advisor Linda Aurelio for the four open seats on St. John’s Medical Center’s Board of Trustees. With 10 candidates, it’s a crowded race, and a contentious one.
Sixteen donors contributed to the PAC, with Bill Newton and Community Foundation of Jackson Hole board member Don Opatrny tied for the largest donation ($5,000). The donor list is full of leaders in the nonprofit community, including Karen Terra ($1,000), the president of the Teton County Library Foundation, and a heavy presence from Community Foundation of Jackson Hole’s team, including William Hoglund ($3,000), a board officer, Jon Dawson ($2,500), a member of the board of directors, and Richard Collister ($1,000), also a board officer.
Donors with ties to the hospital include Ross Hartley, director of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees and Jim Eden, a community member who sits on the hospital’s Facilities Committee. Eden was also formerly a community member on the hospital’s Finance, Audit and IT Committee.
A significant amount of money was raised in the county sheriff’s race. Democratic candidate Matt Carr raised $32,480, which includes contributions for both the primary and general elections. Republican candidate Michelle Weber raised $20,115, according to reports. Independent candidate Slade Ross said he raised $29,745.
Former Sheriff Bob Zimmer and incumbent Sheriff Jim Whalen both contributed to Carr’s campaign. Zimmer also donated to Weber’s campaign, as did the Teton County Republican Party.
In the race for the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, Democrat Luther Propst topped the list of fundraisers. Propst reported raising $36,111 ahead of the primary and another $21,911 ahead of the general, for a total of $58,022 since day one. Propst also reported spending $29,169 prior to the Aug. 21 primary election.
In his general election contributions report, Propst's biggest donors included Kirk and Peggy Davenport ($1,500 each), Randolph Luskey ($1,500), Thomss Sturgess ($1,500), Ralph and Louise Haberfeld ($1,500 each) and Ted and Noa Stayrk ($1,500 each). He also received $250 from a firefighters political action committee.
Republicans Mary Martin and Mark Barron reported raising $28,106 and $25,200 total raised since the race began, respectively, filings showed.
Martin’s top donors included $2,500 from Tom Botts and $1,500 from Shelley Botts, $1,000 from Liz and Kelly Lockhart, $1,500 from Dan Heist, $3,000 from Gloria Polis, and $1,000 from Mary Kay and John Turner. Also, $10,216 of Martin’s donations were listed as “in-kind.” Barron’s top contributions included $1,500 from Ted and Noa Staryk and $1,000 each from John and Katy Resor, Robert Grady, Randolph and Deborah Barker, Thomas Kalishman and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort president Mary Kate Buckley.
Democrat Seadar Rose Davis raised $16,154, Republican Andrew Byron reported $13,624, and the only incumbent, Democrat Mark Newcomb, received $12,295. Independent Wes Gardner was entirely self-funded, reporting $11,000 total. Barron contributed $250 toward Davis’ and Byron’s campaigns.
Independent county commission candidate Sandy Ress reported $0 in contributions.
In the race for Jackson Town Council, candidate Jonathan Schechter topped the list of candidates in fundraising with $26,156 raised throughout the race. Don Frank reported raising $21,786 and Arne Jorgensen, $18,955. Jessica Sell Chambers reported a total of $4,474.
The Teton County assessor’s race, which has been unusually heated, drew substantial donations as well. Incumbent Democrat Melissa Shinkle raised $5,441. Her challenger, Republican Maurine Karabatsos, raised nearly double that, bringing in $10,496.
Alan Brumsted and Keith Gingery were the only Teton County School District board candidates to file a contributions report. Brumsted reported $1,157 in his own personal funds, while Gingery reported raising $0. Candidate Janine Teske reported $1,189 in her own funds.
Erin Weisman, uncontested Democratic candidate for Teton County attorney, reported raising $17,084, including $150 of her own funds and a $1,400 loan.
“My fundraising efforts began in 2017 when I decided to run,” Weisman said. “I did a heavy push. I didn’t know if I would have an opponent. I stopped seeking funds actively after the filing deadline.”
Candidates and PACs are required to file the reports before and after elections, even if they didn’t raise any funds.
The law does not require candidates for St. John’s Medical Center Board of Trustees to file campaign contribution reports.
Expenditures reports will be available after the election.
— Kylie Mohr and Emily Mieure contributed to this report
— This story has been updated to correct information about how much Erin Weisman personally contributed to her campaign, correct totals for Michelle Weber and Matt Carr's fundraising and correct information about filing requirements for hospital board candidates. It has also been updated to include candidates' fundraising totals who filed after the deadline. — Eds.