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PACs, Groups Spent $1.5M on Utah Senate Race

PACs, Groups Spent $1.5M on Utah Senate Race

By Associated Press - March 26, 2012


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Political action committees and nonprofit groups spent more than $1.5 million on the U.S. Senate race in Utah in the weeks prior to neighborhood caucus meetings that were held earlier this month.

Five groups supporting Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spent about $900,000 on ads supporting the incumbent senator and attacking his opponents, according to a story in The Salt Lake Tribune. More than $570,000 came from Freedom Path, which supported Hatch with television and radio ads.

Ads were also paid for by Freedom Path attacking the two strongest challengers to Hatch, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and state Rep. Chris Herrod. There are more than a dozen Republican candidates who filed for the seat.

Other outside groups supporting Hatch include the American Action Network, the National Rifle Association, the American College of Radiology Association and Strong Utah, a small super PAC run by a Salt Lake advertising agency.

The largest spending from any one group came from FreedomWorks, which is opposing Hatch. The group spent nearly $650,000 on mailers, advertising and delegate recruitment.

That money, however, may have hurt as much as helped efforts to deny Hatch a seventh term in the Senate. Some attendees at the March 15 caucus meetings were critical of the tea party-affiliated group, and the indications are that Hatch's supporters turned out in force.

"I think FreedomWorks' effort out here failed miserably," said Hatch's campaign manager Dave Hansen. "And I think they basically offended a lot of people."

Still, Russ Walker, the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based FreedomWorks, said they will continue to criticize Hatch's voting record and urge the 4,000 state delegates to vote against the senator at the April 21 convention. Despite the reportedly strong turnout, Walker is convinced many delegates are not firmly committed to any candidate.

"They voted what they knew, which was Orrin Hatch," Walker said. "These delegates are soft, influenceable and they want to learn. We will be educating them."

Attendance at the caucuses was record-setting, at least in part because of the spending on the race — the Hatch campaign alone has spent more than $3 million — but also because of a significant push from Republican Party officials and urging from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Liljenquist said the amount of money spent on the campaign so far is surprising. While he "appreciates the intentions" of FreedomWorks, he said he would rather see all of the groups get out of the race.

"My preference is that both FreedomWorks and Freedom Path get out of the way," Liljenquist said. "This is a stage where we can make the case to 4,000 people directly and we think it should be a positive case."

The race could be decided at the state convention, where a candidate will become the party nominee by winning 60 percent of the vote or more. Otherwise, the top two finishers in delegate voting will go to a June primary.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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