Bob Bennett (politician)

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Bob Bennett
Official portrait, 2005
United States Senator
from Utah
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byJake Garn
Succeeded byMike Lee
Personal details
Robert Foster Bennett

(1933-09-18)September 18, 1933
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
DiedMay 4, 2016(2016-05-04) (aged 82)
Arlington, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeSalt Lake City Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Joyce McKay
(m. 1962)
EducationUniversity of Utah (BS)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1957–1969
UnitUtah Army National Guard
Army Chaplain Corps

Robert Foster Bennett (September 18, 1933 – May 4, 2016) was an American politician and businessman who served as a United States Senator from Utah from 1993 to 2011. A member of the Republican Party, Bennett held chairmanships and senior positions on various key Senate committees, including the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; Appropriations Committee; Rules and Administration Committee; Energy and Natural Resources Committee; and Joint Economic Committee.

Bennett was a popular and reliably conservative senator for most of his tenure, earning high ratings from conservative activist groups such as the NRA Political Victory Fund,[1] the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Conservative Union.[2][3] However, in 2010, Bennett became one of the most prominent targets of the Tea Party Movement, which criticized his support of the Bush Administration's bank bailout and argued that Bennett was insufficiently conservative. Despite an enthusiastic endorsement from Mitt Romney, Bennett was denied a place on the primary ballot by the 2010 Utah State Republican Convention, placing third behind two Tea-Party-backed candidates.[4]

Following his exit from the Senate, Bennett joined the law firm Arent Fox as senior policy advisor.[5] He also became Chairman of Bennett Group, a consulting firm with offices in Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., and announced his intention to become a registered lobbyist in early 2013, after being out of office for the legally required two years.[6] He served as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he focused on budget, energy, and health issues.[7] Bennett was also a part-time teacher, researcher, and lecturer at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and was a fellow at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.[8] He was a member of the board of the German Marshall Fund.

Early life, education, and business career[edit]

Born on September 18, 1933, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bennett was the son of Frances Marion (née Grant) and the U.S. Senator Wallace Foster Bennett,[9] as well as a grandson of Heber J. Grant, the seventh president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and a great-grandson of Jedediah M. Grant (Heber J. Grant's father) and Daniel H. Wells (through Heber J. Grant's wife Emily H. Wells), early mayors of Salt Lake City and counselors in the First Presidency of the LDS Church.

Bennett attended high school at East High, and he earned his B.S. from the University of Utah in 1957 majoring in Political Science. He also served as the Student Body President at the University of Utah and was initiated into Owl and Key. After graduation in 1957, Bennett joined the Utah Army National Guard and spent six months on active duty. Upon his return, he was commissioned a Chaplain in the Guard and served until 1960. He was employed at Bennett's, a family paint and glass business, until 1962, when he left to work full-time on his father's re-election campaign.[citation needed]

In 1963 he went to Washington as press secretary to a Utah Congressman, Sherman P. Lloyd, and later as administrative assistant to his father. He became the head of the Governmental Affairs office of the J. C. Penney Company in 1965 but resigned from Penney's to accept an appointment in the Nixon Administration, as Director of Congressional Affairs in the United States Department of Transportation. He held this position through 1969 and 1970, leaving in 1971 to purchase the Robert Mullen Company, a Washington, D.C., public-relations company.[citation needed] While at Mullen, Bennett was chair of several dummy committees that funneled corporate donations into Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign[10]

Bennett's principal client was the CIA-aligned Summa Corporation, the holding company of billionaire Howard Hughes. In 1974, after his CIA ties and those of the Mullen Company had been revealed by the Watergate scandal,[11][a] he closed the Company and joined Summa full-time as the public relations director for the parent firm and Vice President for Public Affairs for Hughes Airwest, the airline. After Hughes' death, Bennett left Summa Corporation to become president of Osmond Communications.[citation needed]

He subsequently became chairman of American Computer Corporation, and then president of the Microsonics Corporation, a public firm listed on NASDAQ. In 1984, Bennett was named as the CEO of the Franklin International Institute, a startup that produced Franklin Day Planners and grew into Franklin Quest, which was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1992. After being named Entrepreneur of the Year for the Rocky Mountain Region by Inc. Magazine, he stepped down as CEO in 1991, prior to his run for the Senate.[citation needed]

U.S. Senate (1993–2011)[edit]


A Senate seat opened up in 1992, when Jake Garn declined to enter the race for a fourth term. Bennett narrowly won the heavily contested Republican Party primary election (with 51% of the votes cast) in 1992, his primary opponent being Joseph A. Cannon, another millionaire with prominent LDS forebears. Bennett then went on to defeat his Democratic opponent, Congressman Wayne Owens, in the general election. He was re-elected in 1998 and 2004. His Democratic opponent in 2004 was the former state Attorney General Paul Van Dam, and Bennett won by a vote total of 68% to 29%.[citation needed]

Bennett was challenged by seven other Republicans and two Democrats in his bid for re-election in 2010, including Mike Lee, Cherilyn Eagar, Tim Bridgewater, and Democrats Sam Granato and Christopher Stout. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff dropped out of the race, citing family concerns.[12][13][14]

Despite a strong approval rating among statewide voters, Bennett was defeated on May 8, 2010, at the Utah Republican Convention after finishing third in the second round of balloting, to Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater.[15]

After the convention, Senator Bennett was widely encouraged by his constituents and colleagues to pursue a write-in bid to retain his U.S. Senate seat, but ultimately declined, citing the toxic atmosphere such a bid would bring to the state's political environment.[16]


During the 106th Congress, Bennett was tapped by then Majority Leader, Bill Frist, to serve as the Chief Deputy Republican Party "Whip". Later, as Counsel to Mitch McConnell, Senator Bennett was an influential member of the Republican Leadership Team and advised the Minority Leader on "legislative strategy and policy priorities".[17]


Bennett was a strong opponent of abortion and supported measures to restrict it. These included requirements of parental notification for one to take place and bans on allowing minors to cross state lines to obtain the procedure and late-term abortions. He showed some support, however, for embryonic stem cell research.[18]

LGBT issues[edit]

On March 25, 2010, during the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 debate, the U.S. Senate defeated an attempt by Bennett[19] to "suspend the issuance of marriage licenses to any couple of the same sex until the people of the District of Columbia have the opportunity to hold a referendum or initiative on the question".[20]

Civil Liberties[edit]

Bennett supported Bush Administration wiretapping proposals. He was one of only three Republican senators to vote against a proposed constitutional ban on flag burning.[21]


Bennett was a supporter of a flat tax and also was a leading voice for the repeal of the inheritance tax, Alternative Minimum Tax and "marriage penalty". He stated that it was unfair for the tax burden to fall on the wealthiest one percent of the population. Bennett voted against minimum wage increases and bills that would increase the ease in which workers could organize.[18]

A free trade advocate, Bennett voted in favor of CAFTA, presidential fast-tracking for normalizing trade relations, and removing common goods from national security export controls. He favored recent trade deals with countries such as Chile, Singapore, and Oman.[18]

Health care[edit]

Bennett was an opponent of public health care and blamed government policies for the high cost of insurance. He voted against proposals to expand government health care, such as those that would let Medicare negotiate in bulk with drug companies or those that would enroll more children in federally provided insurance. He also voted against the State Children's Health Insurance Program. During his final Senate campaign, he stated that high taxes were causing insurers to pass the costs off to customers. He believed that new drugs were not being properly developed because pharmaceutical companies feared lawsuits if unexpected side effects occurred.[18]

Bennett was the lead Republican sponsor of the Healthy Americans Act, championed by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.[22][citation needed]


Bennett had a mixed record on immigration control. He voted in favor of the fence along the Mexico–United States border, making English the nation's official language and denying citizenship rights to guest workers. He voted for the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which would have granted legalization of status to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

National security[edit]

Bennett was a supporter of the PATRIOT Act. He voted no on limiting the tours of duty for soldiers in Iraq and on granting habeas corpus rights to detainees in Guantanamo Bay.[18]


Bennett earned a lifetime score of 6% from the League of Conservation Voters.[23] He was against Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, defining goals for a 40 percent reduction in oil use by 2025 and factoring global warming into government planning. Bennett supported Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling and using nuclear power as an energy solution. He also voted against providing emergency energy funding to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.[18]

Committee assignments[edit]

Personal life[edit]

In 1962, Bennett married Joyce McKay, a granddaughter of David O. McKay, the ninth president of the LDS Church. This couple has six children: Julie, Robert, James, Wendy, Heather, and Heidi. Bob and Joyce together have 20 grandchildren.

Bennett died on May 4, 2016, aged 82, at his home in Arlington, Virginia, after suffering from pancreatic cancer and a stroke.[24][25]

Bennett spent the last days of his life apologizing to the Muslim community for controversial rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates, including the eventual nominee and overall victor, Donald Trump.[26]

Electoral history[edit]

1992 U.S. Senate election – Republican Primary
Candidate Pct Candidate Pct
Robert F. Bennett 51% Joseph A. Cannon 49%
Utah Senator (Class III) results: 1992–2004[27]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1992 Wayne Owens 301,228 40% Robert F. Bennett 420,069 55% Anita R. Morrow Populist 17,549 2% Maury Modine Libertarian 14,341 2% Patricia Grogan Socialist Workers 5,292 1%
1998 Scott Leckman 163,172 33% Robert F. Bennett 316,652 64% Gary R. Van Horn Independent American 15,073 3% *
2004 Paul Van Dam 258,955 28% Robert F. Bennett 626,640 69% Gary R. Van Horn Constitution 17,289 2% Joe LaBonte Personal Choice 8,824 1% *

* Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1998, write-ins received 12 votes. In 2004, write-ins received 18 votes.

2010 Republican State Convention results (first round) [28]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Mike Lee 982 28.75
Republican Tim Bridgewater 917 26.84
Republican Bob Bennett 885 25.91
Republican Cherilyn Eagar 541 15.84
Republican Merrill Cook 49 1.43
Republican Leonard Fabiano 22 0.64
Republican Jeremy Friedbaum 16 0.47
Republican David Chiu 4 0.12
Total votes 3,416 100.00
2010 Republican State Convention results (second round) [29]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Tim Bridgewater 1,274 37.42
Republican Mike Lee 1,225 35.99
Republican Bob Bennett 905 26.99
Total votes 3,404 100.00


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chris W. Cox (October 19, 2004). "Elect A Second Amendment Safe Senate". NRA-PVF. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. his two terms in the U.S. Senate, Bennett has cast 45 votes in defense of our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and has an "A" rating from NRA-PVF.
  2. ^ Gardner, Amy (May 9, 2010). "Tea party wins victory in Utah as incumbent GOP senator loses bid for nomination". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  3. ^ Zeleny, Jeff (March 25, 2010). "Political Tide Could Wash Away Utah Senator". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  4. ^ Johnson, Kirk (May 8, 2010). "Utah Delegates Oust Three-Term G.O.P. Senator From Race". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  5. ^ Kamen, Al (February 23, 2012). "John Ensign, Bob Bennett, dogs, cats and K Street". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2012.
  6. ^ Canham, Matt (December 24, 2012). "Former Utah senator Bob Bennett will return to Capitol as lobbyist". Salt Lake Tribune.
  7. ^ "The Bipartisan Policy Center Welcomes Former Senator Bob Bennett".
  8. ^ "Former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, Arun Chaudhary and P.J. Crowley Become Fellows". Archived from the original on September 23, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  9. ^ Profile,; accessed May 5, 2016.
  10. ^ Rick Perlstein. Nixonland. p. 681.
  11. ^ "A Harlot High and Low: Reconnoitering through the Secret Government", Norman Mailer, New York Magazine, August 16, 1976
  12. ^ "Eagar officially announces Senate candidacy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
  13. ^ Davidson, Lee (2009-11-05). "Shurtleff drops out of U.S. Senate race". Deseret News. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  14. ^ "Another Democratic Challenger to Bennett". January 2010.
  15. ^ "Sen. Bob Bennett ousted by Utah GOP". Washington Times. May 8, 2010. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  16. ^ Raymond, Arthur (May 21, 2010). "Sen. Bob Bennett says he will not attempt write-in campaign". Deseret News. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  17. ^ "Official Biography of Senator Bob Bennett". The Office of Senator Bennett. Archived from the original on 2011-01-06. Retrieved June 24, 2009.
  18. ^ a b c d e f "Robert Bennett profile at". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  19. ^ "DC Marriage Amendment to Health Insurance Reform Bill Defeated in Senate". HRC Back Story. March 25, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  20. ^ TEXT OF AMENDMENTS – (Senate), March 23, 2010.
  21. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress - 2nd Session".
  22. ^ Congressional Record. United States Government Printing Office, Washington: United States of America. 2007. p. 11596.
  23. ^ "Bob Bennett | League of Conservation Voters Scorecard". 2016-07-14. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  24. ^ "Ex-Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, Ousted in Tea Party Wave, Has Died". NBC News. Associated Press. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  25. ^ Burr, Thomas (May 4, 2016). "Bob Bennett, longtime Utah senator, dies at 82". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  26. ^ Stevens, Scott (May 19, 2016). "Former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett's apology to Muslims receiving attention from news outlets worldwide". Deseret News. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  27. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-08-08.
  28. ^ Senate Race: 1st Round Results Archived 2010-10-10 at the Wayback Machine Accessed May 10, 2010
  29. ^ Senate Race: 2nd Round Results Archived 2011-03-13 at the Wayback Machine Accessed May 10, 2010

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Utah
(Class 3)

1992, 1998, 2004
Succeeded by
New office Senate Republican Chief Deputy Whip
Succeeded by
Preceded by Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by United States Senator (Class 3) from Utah
Served alongside: Orrin Hatch
Succeeded by