Olympia Hills Developer Doug Young’s political contributions called into question
Aug 06, 2019 12:17PM
By Jennifer J Johnson
By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]
“It is my God-given right!”
Doug Young is not referring to property owners’ rights to develop their land.
The hot button is developers’ — and, specifically, his — right to donate to political campaigns and to do so within legal limits.
No. 1 contributor on Wilson’s failed campaign spells concern in Southwest Quadrant
“Hey, we live in America—not North Korea.”
That’s Young’s message to those critiquing his being the No. 1 contributor to current Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson’s failed 2018 United States Senate race against current Sen. Mitt Romney — and the notion that it may influence his success with developing the high-density Olympia Hills planned community.
To perhaps emphasize what he sees as a divine right to contribute, in conversations with the City Journals, Young altered his normal depiction of what he considers his “life’s work” — the proposed high-density Southwest Quadrant Olympia Hills community.
Instead of just being a live-work-play community, the 931-acre community proposed for the Valley’s Southwest Quadrant community now has the vaunted “live-work-play-worship” description.
Utah for Responsible Growth lighting the fire, leadership quelling concerns about political contributions
The past few weeks, the Facebook page of the citizen group Utah for Responsible Growth has been afire about Young’s $27,000 contribution to Wilson.
Young is the land developer who first filed for a zoning change for his proposed Southwest Quadrant development in 2018. Doused by a veto from then-Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, Young re-applied for zoning changes in early July of this year.
“Nothing that alarms me" is URG Spokesman Justin Swain’s comment about Young’s contributions to Wilson. “It is good information for the public to be aware of, but I would hope no one would start throwing out serious ‘quid pro quo’ accusations.”
Wilson will not have a first-round vote on Young’s application.
If Young’s development proposal advances through a slightly-reconstituted county council, McAdams’s precedent-shattering veto ratchets up the eyes on Wilson for the ultimate call.
The long arm of Doug C. Young’s dollars
Young also donated to Salt Lake County Councilman Michael Jensen, up for re-election in 2020.
Young contributed $3,000 to Jensen — less than three months before the summer 2018 first-round Olympia Hills proposal vote. Young was the third-largest donor to Jensen’s 2018 campaign collections. The donation represents 10.8% of the councilman’s overall contributions for that year.
Doug Young’s money in Riverton and Herriman
Young, through familial ties, said he has facilitated campaign contributions to other players in the Olympia Hills saga, namely, two of the project’s loudest critics — Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs and Herriman City Councilman/Mayor Protempore Jared Henderson.
Young said he paid for and instructed Banner Mania USA to fulfill campaign-marketing project materials for both candidates, which was confirmed by Steven Young, registered agent for Salt Lake-based Banner Mania Banners and Signs.
The last name “Young” is not a coincidence: Steven Young confirmed to the City Journals that Doug Young is his brother.
“Politicians always hit these guys up, and, fortunately, Doug has a brother in the signage industry,” said Steven Young.
“They sent me their designs, and I printed them, and Doug paid the bill,” he said.
The candidates — now municipal servants — speak their piece
In the instance of Riverton’s Staggs, the official campaign contributions report credits Banner Mania as donating $775 of “in-kind” or non-monetary contributions—about 3% of the total reported as having been spent for the campaign.
While acknowledging the donation, Staggs shares a different take: “My records show that Banner Mania reached out to me and offered an in-kind donation.”
Herriman’s Henderson also has a different take. While Banner Mania is credited with donating $500 in cash to his campaign, Henderson invoked the “categorical no” response to his having solicited a donation from Doug Young.
“At no point, did I request a donation,” Henderson emphasized. “The notion that I was somehow reaching out to him for a donation is ridiculous.”
The councilman is so concerned about even the appearance of influence, he said, that he did not even accept donations from family members or other organizations and associations, limiting donations only to friends and neighbors.
Henderson’s campaign-finance records show his having spent $2,315.85 with Banner Mania. He “paid more than the average rate” because of Banner Mania’s “higher quality.” However, he said there was an error where his slogan was omitted from signage and stickers had to be manually added on more than 200 signs.
When he said he re-approached Banner to order more signage, it was only then that Steve Young offered a $500 contribution—the second largest of Henderson’s campaign— at the request of Doug Young, Henderson said, to compensate for the company’s errors. Up until that point, Henderson said he was unaware of any connection of Doug Young to Banner Mania.
“At that point, I gratefully accepted,” Henderson said.
Doug Young’s influence reaching Washington?
Young, who says he voted for Obama, picked Wilson over Romney and endorsed McAdams over Mia Love, also supported two of the area’s most conservative municipal leaders.
“I am a Republicrat,” Young said, describing his pastiche of political patterns.
Whereas Wilson failed with her attempt at federal political office, McAdams succeeded with his and did so with the support of Doug Young Land and Livestock.
The $10,800 contribution was the 15th-largest donation to McAdams’ campaign, but is still somewhat miniscule to McAdams’ total 2018 campaign expenditure—just .03%.
When asked why he contributed two-and-a-half times as much to Wilson as he did to McAdams, Young shrugged, “She needed it.”
Young cites his contribution to McAdams, who vetoed Olympia Hills 1.0 in 2018, and to both Henderson and Staggs, who he says, “are now fighting against me” as evidence of his point of view on political contributions.
And while Young and Staggs disagree on not just the matter of who-approached-whom for the campaign-signage donation, and the larger matter of Olympia Hills, both seem to agree that honest, earnest public servants are not unduly swayed by political contributions.
“This is a great example of my not being beholden to a donor/developer,” Staggs told the City Journals. “I have been—and continue to be—one of the strongest critics of a project that lacks critical infrastructure and could create such unnecessary, negative impacts to our community.”
And then there’s Young.
“Can you buy a candidate? No, I don’t believe you can. People think you can, but you really can’t.”