Pete Ashdown

The way to a donor's heart is apparently through other people's stomachs.

Instead of trying to boost his own campaign fund, Pete Ashdown, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, spent Tuesday evening raising money for charitable organizations who help the homeless and impoverished. The fund-raiser, attended by more than 150 people, was held at the Alta Club in downtown Salt Lake.

"I'm trying to help those who need our help the most," Ashdown said. "This is the richest country on earth, and I don't think anyone should be living below the poverty line."

The dinner, which Ashdown paid for out of his own pocket, was a stark contrast to Thursday's luncheon being hosted by his opponent, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. For the Hatch luncheon, which will feature a speech by President Bush at the Grand America, about 200 people will shell out $500 apiece, amounting to a $100,000 boost to the senator's $2.5 million campaign war chest.

Ashdown's event, meanwhile, raised $8,370, all of which will go to charity. The dinner was ostensibly free, with a donation of at least $50 encouraged.

Hosting the charitable dinner was not meant as a criticism of Bush's visit, Ashdown said, but simply to draw attention to the plight of those struggling to feed themselves or, more importantly, their children.

"We hear about No Child Left Behind," Ashdown said, referencing Bush's education policy. "But a child can't move forward if they don't have the energy to make it through the day."

While he was happy to have Bush visiting because it will help the president understand the issues facing the western United States and hopefully lead "to a more balanced country," he expressed disappointment that the focus was the war in Iraq.

"Every time he comes, he beats the drums of war," Ashdown said. "I would like to see him play the piper of peace."

He was joined at the dinner by other Democratic candidates for Congress, with the exception of Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and some elected county officials.

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