George Pyle: For another $2 million, will Hatch stay bought?

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senator Orrin G. Hatch and The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation announced Wednesday, May 2, 2018 of a formal partnership with the University of Utah to erect a new facility to house Senator Hatch's archives from his 42 years in the Senate as well as offer forums to help train future leaders and discussions of policy. The new facility will be located across the street from the Thomas S. Monson Center at 411 E. South Temple and will honor the legacy of Utah's long-serving senator who is retiring early next year.

(Feb. 18, 2019 - 6 a.m.)

“An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”

Simon Cameron

Simon Cameron was a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania in the 19th century and, briefly, Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war.

That makes him old enough that Orrin Hatch might, in kidding about how long he served in Washington, claim to have known him. (They are both really from Pennsylvania, after all.)

They might have discussed the finer points of staying bought.

Nobody will say it out loud. (No, George. Only you.) But it is logical to assume that leading Utahns and top Republicans (redundancy alert) thought that, after 42 years in the Senate, Hatch should give someone else a chance. Someone who would be reliably Republican but not so far in the tank for the Embarrassment at 1600.

[Sen. Orrin Hatch calls Donald Trump ‘one of the best’ presidents he’s seen in office]

Carpetbaggers welcome, of course.

[Mitt Romney outlines policies to cap his first day of campaigning for Utah’s soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat]

And it makes sense to assume that, in order to ease Hatch out without a fight, they sweetened the deal with offers that included naming the new Salt Lake City federal courthouse after him and setting up an educational institute named for him at the University of Utah.

Nothing wrong with any of that. Long-time senators might deservedly feel slighted if they didn’t get such perks. Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole, for example, have centers named for them in Boston, Mass., and Lawrence, Kan., (aka “Harvard on the Kaw”), respectively.

But after the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation kicked off its drive to raise $40 million from private donors, it last week approached the Utah Legislature with a request that the taxpayers kick in $2 million toward the project’s development.

The request further complicates the Legislature’s year of ping-ponging back and forth between having too much money (Cut taxes!) and too little (Medicaid expansion? Can’t afford it.).

Is $2 million chump change or an extravagance?

Well, if it’s a one-time ask, it’s about 65 cents per Utah resident. There’s no cause to think that if they don’t give that money to Hatch’s monument -- which actually stands to be a nice thing to have -- lawmakers would do something truly humane with it instead.

If it is part of what we have to pay to buy Hatch out of office, away from more opportunities to sickeningly suck up to His Royal Orangeness, it’s worth it.