After 18 years of serving in Washington, Bob Bennett's career expands beyond a summary list of his accomplishments, but here are some highlights of his work, including some of Bennett's personal favorites.
Bennett joined the University of Utah's Hinckley Center for Politics as a part-time teacher, researcher and orator. His reputation and connections with powerful political figures brought an asset to the center and Utah's continued prestige.
For six years, Bennett worked with local and federal leaders to address longstanding concerns of how to conserve land and meet the growth needs of Washington County. "That is a dispute that continues to be troublesome for the Western states," said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. "The (Washington County lands) bill solved the problem and set aside significant parts of public Utah as wilderness but allowed the rest of the area around to be in multiple use. It is a masterful piece of legislating and diplomacy." The bill was enacted last year.
According to Frank Pignanelli, a political analyst and lobbyist for industrial banks in Utah, Bennett's work promoting that industry while in office has impacted every Utahn in a positive way. In 2007-2008, when government agencies were critical of the banks, Bennett defended them as sustainable economic institutions that could help the country recover economically, Pignanelli says. "We'll always be grateful that at our darkest moments when everyone was trying to attack us that Bob Bennett was there to protect us," he said.
As the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee and a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Bennett played a key role in the inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. He participated in all of the major events of the day, including a review of the troops with Obama and Biden.
In preparation for the arrival of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Bennett garnered millions of dollars for the state. He orchestrated a land swap of 4,100 acres of private land and 1,300 acres of federal land near Snowbasin to provide a prime Olympic venue, and authored legislative language to permit the Department of Defense to aid in providing security during the games.
Bennett paid substantial attention to Utah Transit Authority's efforts to improve public transportation in the state. With repeated requests for funding through the appropriations committee beginning in 1999, he helped bring more than $1.3 billion to the state's light and commuter rail projects.
In 1997, as a member of the Senate Financial Services and Technology Subcommittee, Bennett began to call attention to the looming problem that could occur in computers not programmed to transition to the year 2000. Bennett is given credit for being a major part of averting a potential "Y2K" disaster.
In 1996, Bennett traveled and advised Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, in his run for president. Dole lost against Bill Clinton, with only 40 percent of the vote, but Bennett considers that time as a highlight of his career.
Shortly after Bennett lost his public relations business in Washington, billionaire recluse Howard Hughes hired him to be vice president of Hughes Air West. Bennett never met Hughes personally, but he handled a flurry of media attention from the national press when a fake biography of Hughes surfaced after his death. Bennett also helped disprove a fake Hughes' will that would have cost the company millions.
Bennett's experience in Washington began decades before he was elected senator. For years he was suspected of being the storied "Deep Throat" of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate investigation. Bennett owned a public relations company - rumored to be a front for the CIA - that employed E. Howard Hunt, who planned the Watergate break-in while working at Bennett's office. The liaison prompted deep suspicion of Bennett, who testified at the Watergate trial. He later lost his business because of the scandal.