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Matheson’s gig as lobbyist changed path of his life, career

Politics » The son of a governor wanted to make his own path — not following family tradition into law.

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He was not implicated in the scandal, but it did touch Salt Lake City’s mayor at that time, Deedee Corradini, who was ordered to pay back more than $800,000.

Matheson, who remains quick to point out he was never approached by prosecutors, took some political lessons from the fallout.

At a glance

Jim Matheson bio

Age » 52

Family » Wife, Amy Herbener, and their two boys, William and Harris

Education » Harvard, bachelor’s degree, and UCLA, MBA

Birthplace » Salt Lake City

Occupation » Consultant for energy companies

Hobbies » Couples bridge; fantasy football; sports fan

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"You hope you learn a greater ability to judge people and size them up," he said.

Matheson found work at Energy Strategies, a consulting firm that helped businesses operate in a newly deregulated world.

Scott Gutting, who once worked for the Utah Energy Office under Gov. Matheson, owns the company and hired Matheson to work primarily with Chevron to negotiate a better rate for natural gas at its facilities in Texas and elsewhere. Gutting said Matheson was a dedicated employee, but Gutting wasn’t surprised when he decided to leave in 1998.

"I knew he had politics in the blood," Gutting said, "and was going to run for office."

An informed decision » Matheson had seriously considered running against Rep. Merrill Cook in 1998, but decided he didn’t want to force a primary with Lily Eskelsen, who eventually became the Democratic nominee.

Instead, he created a short-lived consulting firm of his own, renting space from his good friend Eric Leavitt, who also had worked for Bonneville Pacific. Matheson represented county governments in tax disputes with utility companies.

By February 1999, only two months after launching his one-man business, Matheson decided he would run for Congress. He closed The Matheson Group in December and began laying the groundwork.

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"I knew how the Hill worked, and I think I was intrigued by being on the other side of the desk from when I was lobbying," Matheson said. "It made it a more informed decision."

As his mother recalls: "He had some knowledge of how the system worked there. He didn’t have to start from scratch."

Dunlap, Browder and many of those who worked at the Environmental Policy Center, which has since morphed into Friends of the Earth, continue to lobby on environmental issues. Bob Roach works for the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

"Jim is our only alum who is a member of Congress," Dunlap said. "We are very proud of that."

Matheson has represented Utah since 2000, when he won in a landslide after Republicans beat each other up during a bruising primary, which ousted Cook and replaced him with political novice Derek Smith. But Matheson barely survived the next election after the Republican-controlled Legislature so contorted the district that it bore no resemblance to its previous outline.

He is a veteran member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, allowing him to influence national policy on many of the topics he worked on in the private sector.

Matheson is now seeking a seventh term, this time against Republican Mia Love. The race in the newly formed 4th District is expected to be close. He and his wife, Amy, a pediatrician, have two boys and live four doors away from his childhood home in east Salt Lake City.

"It just kind of shows you how fate takes you in different paths," Matheson said, looking back on the big impact his short lobbying career has had on his life. "I was a kid out of college looking for a job. This is the place that hired me and this is the slot they had."

mcanham@sltrib.comTwitter: @mattcanham

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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