Washington • Utahns who have attended Republican caucuses in recent years should expect to find a glossy booklet in the mail that attacks Sen. Orrin Hatch on everything from his vote to create the Education Department in 1979 to his support for the 2008 Wall Street bailout.
FreedomWorks for America produced the 44-page document and has mailed 36,000 copies that should hit homes on Friday or Saturday.
It is by far the most detailed and costly attack the tea party group has leveled against Hatch. FreedomWorks’ super political-action committee reported spending $67,000 putting it together.
“We want people to understand Orrin Hatch’s voting record,” said Russ Walker, the super PAC director. “He has created entitlements that expand the size and scope of government.”
Hatch campaign spokeswoman Evelyn Call called into question the report’s accuracy.
“This new tactic is just more proof of how they will do and say anything, factual or not, to force their influence on Utahns,” she said. “Much of what they say is riddled with half truths and outright lies.”
She points, for example, to a 2008 vote that forced more government control of the failing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The FreedomWorks book said Hatch supported that, but he was one of 13 senators who opposed it.
The FreedomWorks attack comes just six weeks from the caucuses, in which Utahns will select delegates for the state Republican Convention. Those delegates will winnow the field of candidates and, if enough of them oppose Hatch, they could bounce him from office before he even faces voters.
That’s what happened to former Sen. Bob Bennett, who came in third in convention balloting in 2010. The top two moved on to a GOP primary, and Sen. Mike Lee, a FreedomWorks favorite, eventually prevailed in that contest and the general election.
Just like in that campaign, FreedomWorks and Hatch’s Republican challengers question the six-term incumbent’s conservativism and longevity. The booklet quotes a number of Utah’s tea party activists, including Robert Stott of Davis County.
“At one time, I believe that Sen. Hatch went to Washington to make a difference, but more than three decades later, unfortunately he’s become part of the problem,” Stott said. “He has a long history of supporting programs and voting for spending bills that we simply cannot afford.”
Hatch defends his Republican roots by noting his powerful spot on the Senate Finance Committee and touting endorsements from Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity, among others.
“The fact of the matter is that Senator Hatch is and always has been a staunch conservative,” Call said, “and has served the state of Utah well.”
Hatch is being challenged by Republicans Dan Liljenquist and Chris Herrod, both of whom have experience in the Utah Legislature.
See what FreedomWorks is sending out