GOP activist charged with rape claimed close ties with Mitt Romney, Utah politicians
Peterson billed this past May's conference as "the CPAC of the West," a reference to the national Conservative Political Action Committee that draws thousands of activists to Washington, D.C., each year. The agenda included GOP attorney general candidates John Swallow and Sean Reyes in a Lincoln/Douglas-style debate at Wasatch High School. A barbecue featuring wild elk and a golf-into-the-lake contest followed at the cabin.
Wimmer didn't attend this year because he said he did not want to associate with Peterson after hearing rumblings within the Republican Party regarding possible criminal charges against Peterson. Also, he said his wife told him she felt uncomfortable around Peterson.
Hatch didn't go to the barbecue this year, either. Hansen said it turned into an anti-Hatch event starting in 2011 with a straw poll pitting the senator against Chaffetz, who was considering a run at Hatch. Chaffetz won the straw poll. This year, the conference featured a leader from the national tea party organization FreedomWorks, which campaigned heavily against Hatch.
Utah officeholders Thursday were distancing themselves from Peterson. Some of them appear in photos with him that are posted on various websites.
Herbert campaign spokesman Marty Carpenter said the governor has his picture taken with thousands of people at hundreds of events every year.
"Mr. Peterson has no formal affiliation with the governor's campaign, nor has he ever. In fact, the governor declined Mr. Peterson's invitation (to the event) this past spring," he said.
Lee attended the 2011 conference because of other people who were there, not because of Peterson, said his spokesman Brian Phillips.
"The notion that he was a Mike Lee guy is inaccurate," he said. "My boss certainly didn't have a personal relationship with him at all."
Hansen said Hatch wouldn't know Peterson if he walked by him.
Love's campaign declined to comment.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said he hopes Republicans would denounce the alleged sexual assaults and ban Peterson from future GOP activities.
In addition to Romney, Peterson posted on Facebook pictures of himself with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.
Besides hosting his own events, Peterson showed up at other political gatherings but apparently didn't work on anyone's campaign, Kirkham said.
"He was here and he was there," he said. "He was kind of off in his own world."
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