SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch has spent what appears to be a Utah-record $12.1 million on his bid for a seventh term in office.
Meantime, fundraising in the heated 4th Congressional District race between Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson and Republican Mia Love continues to escalate. Love took in considerably more than Matheson in the first half of October.
Hatch's eight-figure total dates back to the beginning of his current term in 2007, but much of it was spent after he started campaigning for re-election in earnest about 18 months ago.
"I feel like it's by far the most (ever) spent on any race in Utah," said Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
In effect, Hatch has had to run four times this year, said campaign manager Dave Hansen, listing the neighborhood caucus meetings, state Republican Party convention, primary runoff and general election.
"We knew at the beginning that this was going to be a tough battle and an expensive battle to do what he wanted to get done," Hansen said. "Fortunately, we've been able to raise the money in the campaign to meet the needs that we had."
Conservative delegates ousting Sen. Bob Bennett at the 2010 state GOP convention had a lot do with Hatch's re-election spending spree. Early on, he poured money into finding more moderate voters to support him at the caucuses and the convention.
"He probably had to spend whatever he had to make sure he didn't meet the same fate as Bennett," Jowers said.
Hatch still has about $1 million in the bank, according to the Federal Election Commission. Democratic challenger Scott Howell had raised about $243,000 as of Sept. 30, his FEC report shows.
According to opensecrets.com, 91 percent of the $4.5 million Hatch raised in 2011-2012 came from out-of-state sources, while only 9 percent came from Utah. His PAC money totaled $3.4 million.
"Clearly, he's trying to buy votes," Howell said of Hatch's spending. "That means when the phone rings and it's you or a big PAC calling, who's Sen. Hatch going to answer? That's the scary thing about this election. It's being bought by people who want the status quo in Washington."
Hansen said people around the country want to see the senator stay in office and contributed to the campaign.
The Utah Democratic Party took aim at Hatch on Monday, posting on its website that Hatch received donations from 12 of the 13 corporations that brainz.org lists as the world's deadliest. The party also asserts Hatch has voted favorably for most of them.
"First, they were talking about Sen. Hatch was going to die in office," Hansen said, referring to Howell's comment earlier that the 78-year-old senator might not live through a seventh term. "They realized he's not going to die in office so he's going to kill everyone else."
Howell said the claim about the deadliest companies came from the Democratic Party, not his campaign. But, he said, voters should know who "bought and paid for" Hatch.
The companies listed on the Democratic Party's website are Monsanto, Chevron, DeBeers, Tyson, Phillip Morris, Halliburton, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, Caterpillar, British Petroleum and Dyncorp. Hatch has received at least $282,000 from those corporations and their subsidiaries since 1994, according to the party.
Hansen said the Democrats are "grasping at straws," adding he thought they'd have better things to talk about a week before the election. "To me, it's a non-issue," he said.
In the 4th District race, Love pulled in more than three times that of Matheson from Oct. 1-17, the final reporting period prior to the Nov. 6 election. Love raised $463,000 compared with Matheson's $137,000, according to reports filed with Federal Election Commission.
Overall, Matheson has raised $2.2 million in his bid for a seventh term, while Love has raised $1.8 million. Love has another potential big-money fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday with House Speaker John Boehner.