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D.C. Notebook: For backers of Orrin Hatch, a picture is worth … an undisclosed amount

Published March 10, 2012 11:20 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Freedom Path, an outside group supporting Sen. Orrin Hatch, likes to use a particularly unflattering photo of former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist in its attack ads.

It's the same one every time, showing Liljenquist, one of Hatch's Republican election opponents, in mid-speech with a dead stare.

Where did Freedom Path get it? Actually, the group bought it from a big Liljenquist supporter.

Michael Jolley snapped the picture during a town hall in Draper and the campaign added it to its Flickr account, making it accessible to Freedom Path.

Jolley saw his image in one of the group's mailers and sent off an email warning of legal action. He got a call from a Texas attorney who offered him "a sizable" amount of money.

He took the cash and signed a nondisclosure agreement. Days later, another mailer with the same image appeared in the mailboxes of past caucus attendees.

Now Jolley wishes he would have just said no.

Outside influence • Freedom Path isn't the only outside group helping Hatch. The American Action Network, a politically active nonprofit, recently launched a TV ad that slams Liljenquist for supporting a Utah bill to exempt state lawmakers' emails from public record, an effort he later opposed.

The spot will run until Thursday, when Utah Republicans will attend their caucus meetings to elect delegates to the state convention.

"What do we really know about state Sen. Dan Liljenquist? It's tough to say, considering his brief time in public office, propensity to skip votes when he was there and his opposition to government transparency," said Brian Walsh, president of the American Action Network, which is led by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman.

On the other side is FreedomWorks, the tea party group that also just launched its first anti-Hatch TV ad, which tries to tie him to the massive national debt.

FreedomWorks' Russ Walker dismissed Hatch's backers.

"Orrin's got a lot of friends. That's what 36 years in Congress will get you," he said. "It's no wonder they come to his aid when he is desperate."

Still on the ballot • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman may have left the presidential race nearly two months ago, but it appears some voters want him back.

Huntsman collected 41,964 votes in his third-place finish in New Hampshire primary but pulled out of the race days later. But Huntsman has remained on the ballot in several states holding primaries and has nabbed more than 23,000 more votes.

Overall, Huntsman has won 66,548 votes for president, none of which matters, of course, now that he's ended his campaign.

The ex-governor appears to be racking up support from people who either a) think he's still in the race or b) are protesting the candidates who still are.

Fred Hurley, of Massachusetts, tweeted this week that he voted for Huntsman.

"Oh, what might have been," he said.

Of course, Huntsman's total pales in comparison to those Republican contenders who are still active in the race. Mitt Romney, for example, grabbed 456,513 votes from Ohio on Tuesday.

Huntsman's haul? 6,428.

Hockey jobs • Rep. Rob Bishop took to the House floor last week to again complain about illegal border crossings along public lands on the U.S.-Mexico border and noted that there doesn't seem to be a similar problem with the nation's northern neighbor, Canada.

Only 56 people were apprehended trying to cross into Maine, according to the latest figures, Bishop said, "which has to tell you that there's not a whole lot of people from Nova Scotia coming over here and taking hockey jobs."

"In fact," he added, "I think they actually looked at them as tourists."

Bishop also noted that while public land managers are halting border patrols out of concern about sensitive areas, immigrants crossing illegally into the United States don't care about endangered species "unless it can be eaten."

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or@mattcanham.