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D.C. Notebook: Eyeing a bigger role, Chaffetz hits early primary states

Published December 15, 2013 5:18 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington •

First, Rep. Jason Chaffetz went to South Carolina and no one cared. Then he went to Iowa and raised a few eyebrows. Now he's planning a trip to New Hampshire and people are starting to take notice. He also has plans for events in Colorado and Florida.

The ambitious congressman admits he's raising money for other Republicans because he wants a promotion, but it's not to the big white mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue... at least not yet.

"It doesn't mean I'm running for president," he said. "I've made no bones of the idea that I want to become the chairman of the Oversight Committee."

He's already a top lieutenant to Chairman Darrell Issa, the Republican pitbull constantly barking at the Obama administration. Issa's chairmanship ends in 2014 and Chaffetz is among a small group of contenders vying to replace him. What he lacks in seniority, he is trying to make up for in effort.

He's a vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and he's trying to be a "team player" by attending fundraisers for his colleagues.

That's what's happening on Feb. 19 when he travels to New Hampshire for an event on behalf of former Rep. Frank Guinta, who is trying to make a comeback.

That still doesn't answer why his events happen to coincide with early presidential primary states. Chaffetz suggests it has to do with his close ties to a former GOP presidential candidate.

"I spent a lot of time with Mitt Romney on the road, nearly 100 days," he said, not that he did the math. "Consequently, I met a lot of people who preside in presidential primary states."

Gift suggestions • The Senate may be mired in dysfunction given the recently applied nuclear option on executive and judicial nominees but that doesn't mean Republicans and Democrats can't come together around the holiday season to play nice.

Both Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee are participating in the Senate's Secret Santa program. Hatch drew Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Lee picked up newly minted Sen. Cory Booker. The gift exchange takes place next week but we thought we'd suggest a few ideas for the Utah guys:

Hatch for Warren • A signed copy of "Courage: Orrin Hatch Leading the Fight for Constitutional Rights," and a collection of Hatch's best songs, including, for the heck of it, "Eight Days of Hanukkah." If you haven't seen the video for Jewish tribute, do yourself a favor and look it up.

Lee for Booker • A copy of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and a heaping supply of Jell-O for Booker and all of his staff.

For both • Perhaps a set of window coverings since Warren and Booker are both reportedly measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.

Gamer • Chaffetz may be a busy man, angling to be a chairman, doing what seems like 40 TV hits a day. But he still finds time to play online games.

Perhaps it's because of his easy daily commute — five steps from his office cot to his office desk — but we learned recently that Chaffetz is now on level 74 of Candy Crush, the popular game that he plays on his Samsung smartphone (that, for the record, seems the size of an iPad).

It reminds us of an e-card we saw recently that suggests spamming members of Congress with invitations to play Candy Crush as a way to get back at their dismal record of actually doing their jobs.

"That'll teach them to mess with the American people," the card says.

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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.