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(Tribune file photo) Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is calling for the resignation of Steve Miller, acting IRS commissioner, over the targeting of tea party group seeking tax-exempt status.
Hatch’s Senate pals come to his aid with cash — lots of it
Politics » But tea party lawmakers, including Utah’s Lee, are standoffish.
First Published Jun 22 2012 10:49 am • Last Updated Sep 11 2012 11:37 pm

Washington • As tea party conservatives took aim at Sen. Orrin Hatch, his Republican colleagues sent reinforcements in the form of campaign contributions that have added up to more than $370,000.

That hefty sum matches the amount Hatch’s GOP challenger has been able to raise from all sources combined.

At a glance

GOP establishment gives big to Hatch

Hatch has collected contributions from many prominent Republicans in Washington, D.C.

$327,500 from sitting Republican senators

$43,100 from the National Republican Senatorial Committee

$10,000 from House Speaker John Boehner

$5,000 from presidential candidate Mitt Romney

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In his bid for a seventh and final term in office, Hatch has received financial help from 35 of his 46 Republican colleagues, including $80,000 in checks sent since the Utah state convention narrowed the field, pitting Hatch against former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. The primary election will take place Tuesday.

Hatch takes the contributions of his colleagues personally.

"I’ve been moved by every one of them who has supported me," he said. "I think it is just a matter of really dear friendships."

He also hinted that fellow incumbents likely share some sympathy for those running in a time where most are dissatisfied with the performance of Congress.

"It’s a tough time to run," Hatch said.

Noticeably absent from the list is Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and his tea party allies Sens. Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, and Rand Paul, of Kentucky.

While none of them has spoken out against Hatch, they have closely aligned themselves with FreedomWorks, a national group that has spent heavily to oust Utah’s longest serving senator.

Lee has said he plans to sit out the Utah race and let voters pick the nominee, though he has endorsed Republican challengers in other Senate races. Senators commonly support home-state colleagues and Lee’s recalcitrance has irritated Hatch.

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Special interests • Meanwhile, the big money Hatch has raised from Senate Republicans irritates Liljenquist, though he doesn’t find it surprising.

He derides the practice as a way for special interests to send even more money to those who support their policy goals, by giving a maximum contribution to Hatch and then money to his colleagues, who in turn funnel it back to Hatch.

"It allows them to get around contribution limits," Liljenquist said.

That’s an easy accusation to make but a hard one to prove, says Jennifer Duffy with the Cook Political Report, which handicaps Senate races. The so-called "leadership PACs" run by senators take contributions from a wide range of business interests and individuals making it difficult to argue that one donation was earmarked to help a specific senator.

Duffy looks at this giving between senators as a way to protect their own and Hatch is well liked among his colleagues.

"I just think it is one of the spokes of an incumbent’s fundraising advantage," she said. " I actually think he’s probably doing a little bit better on this front than most."

Ten senators gave Hatch the maximum contribution of $15,000, which equates to $5,000 each for Utah’s convention, primary and general election.

Among them is Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who said Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, will play a key role in the debate over reforming the tax code and reducing the national debt.

"We’ve got to get this USA cruise ship turned around and headed in the right direction. He’ll be one of the captains. We don’t need another private," Roberts told The Tribune just off the Senate floor this week.

The assistance of Senate Republicans has gone beyond contributions. On back-to-back days in late May, Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., came to Utah to campaign for Hatch, heaping praise on their colleague.

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