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Robert Foster Bennett

Bob Bennett
United States Senator
from Utah
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Jake Garn
Succeeded by Mike Lee
Personal details
Born Robert Foster Bennett
(1933-09-18) September 18, 1933 (age 80)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Joyce McKay
Children Julie Bennett
Robert Bennett
James Bennett
Wendy Bennett
Heather Bennett
Heidi Bennett
Residence Salt Lake City, Utah
Alma mater University of Utah
Occupation Public relations consultant
Technology Executive
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
Military service
Service/branch Utah Army National Guard
Years of service 1957-1969
Unit Chaplain Corps

Robert Foster "Bob" Bennett (born September 18, 1933) a former United States Senator from Utah, and a member of the Republican Party. Bennett held chairmanships and senior positions on a number of 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 National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and American Conservative Union.[1][2] 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.[3]

Following his exit from the Senate, Bennett joined the law firm Arent Fox as senior policy advisor.[4] 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.[5] He serves as a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he focuses on budget, energy, and health issues,[6] Bennett is a part-time teacher, researcher and lecturer at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and has been a fellow at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.[7] He is a member of the Board of the German Marshall Fund as well as Strategic Advisor to FIPRA, an international Public Affairs firm headquartered in Brussels.

Early life, education, and business career

Born on September 18, 1933 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bob Bennett is the son of Frances Marion (née Grant) and the U.S. Senator Wallace Foster Bennett,[8] 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.

After graduation in 1957, Bennett joined the Utah 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. In 1963 he went to Washington as Press Secretary to a Utah Congressman, Sherman P. Lloyd, (R-Utah) 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, where future Watergate felon E. Howard Hunt.[9] was working. Bennett's principal client was Summa Corporation, the holding company of billionaire Howard Hughes. In 1974, he closed the Mullen 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. He subsequently became chairman of American Computer Corporation, and then president of the Microsonics Corporation, a public firm listed on NASDQ. 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.

U.S. Senate


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 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%.

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.[10][11][12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

During part of his tenure in the Senate, Bennett sat at the Candy desk.


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".[15]


Bennett has been a strong opponent of abortion, and has supported measures to restrict it. These include 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. However, he has shown some support for embryonic stem cell research.[16]

LGBT Issues

On March 25, 2010, during the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 debate, the U.S. Senate defeated an attempt by Bennett[17] 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".[18]

Civil Rights

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


Bennett has been a supporter of a flat tax and has been a leading voice for the repeal of the inheritance tax, Alternative Minimum Tax, and "marriage penalty". He has publicly stated that he sees it as unfair for the tax burden to fall on the wealthiest one percent of the population. Bennett has also voted against minimum wage increases and bills that would increase the ease in which workers could organize.[16]

A free trade advocate, Bennett has voted in favor of CAFTA, presidential fast-tracking for normalizing trade relations, and removing common goods from national security export controls. He has favored recent trade deals with countries such as Chile, Singapore, and Oman.[16]

Health care

Bennett has been an opponent of public health care and has blamed government policies for the high cost of insurance. He has 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 most recent Senate campaign, he stated that high taxes were causing insurers to pass the costs off to customers. He also believed that new drugs were not being properly developed because pharmaceutical companies feared lawsuits if unexpected side effects occurred.[16]

Bennett was the lead Republican sponsor of the Healthy Americans Act, championed by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden.


Bennett had a mixed record on immigration control. He voted in favor of the fence along the US-Mexico border, making English the nation's official language, and denying citizenship rights to guest workers. However, he voted for the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, which would have allowed long-time illegal immigrants to gain legal status.

National security

Bennett has been a supporter of the PATRIOT Act. He also voted no on limiting the tours of duty for soldiers in Iraq and on granting habeas corpus rights to detainees in Guantanamo Bay.[16]


Bennett has voted against energy standards proposals. He is 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 supports 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.[16]

Committee assignments

Personal life

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.

Electoral history

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[19]
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) [20]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
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%
Totals 3,416 100.00%
2010 Republican State Convention results (Second Round) [21]
Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Republican Tim Bridgewater 1,274 37.42%
Republican Mike Lee 1,225 35.99%
Republican Bob Bennett 905 26.99%
Totals 3,404 100.00%

See also

Biography portal


External links

  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Project Vote Smart
  • GovTrack
  • OpenCongress
  • Federal Election Commission
  • On the Issues
  • The Washington Post
  • C-SPAN programs
  • The New York Times
Preceded by
Jake Garn
United States Senator (Class 3) from Utah
Served alongside: Orrin Hatch
Succeeded by
Mike Lee

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