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Bob Bennett
Bob Bennett official portrait, 2009.jpg
United States Senator
from Utah
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Jake Garn
Succeeded by Mike Lee
Personal details
Robert Foster Bennett

(1933-09-18)September 18, 1933
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Died May 4, 2016(2016-05-04) (aged 82)
Arlington, Virginia, U.S.
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
Political party Republican
Joyce McKay
(m. 1962)
Children 6
  • Wallace F. Bennett (father)
Education University of Utah (BS)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service 1957–1969
Unit Utah Army National Guard
Army Chaplain Corps

Robert Foster Bennett (September 18, 1933 – May 4, 2016) was an American politician and businessman. He was a United States Senator from Utah as a member of the Republican Party from 1993 to 2011. 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. 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.

Following his exit from the Senate, Bennett joined the law firm Arent Fox as senior policy advisor. 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. He served as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he focused on budget, energy, and health issues. Bennett was also a part-time teacher, researcher, and lecturer at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and was a fellow at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. He was a member of the board of the German Marshall Fund.

Early life, education, and business career

Born on September 18, 1933 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Bennett was the son of Frances Marion (née Grant) and the U.S. Senator Wallace Foster Bennett, 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 and was initiated into Owl and Key. After graduation in 1957, Bennett joined the Utah Army 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, 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.

Bennett's principal client was the CIA-aligned Summa Corporation, the holding company of billionaire Howard Hughes. In 1974, after his CIA ties and those of the Mullen Company had been revealed by the Watergate scandal, he closed the 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 NASDAQ. 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 (1993–2011)


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 Joseph A. Cannon, 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.

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.

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.


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".

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Defense
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development (Ranking Member)
    • Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
  • Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Financial Institutions
    • Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment
    • Subcommittee on Security and International Trade and Finance
  • Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
  • Committee on Rules and Administration (Ranking Member)
  • Joint Committee on the Library
  • Joint Committee on Printing
  • Joint Economic Committee

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. Bob and Joyce together have 20 grandchildren.

Bennett died on May 4, 2016, aged 82, at his home in Arlington, Virginia, after suffering from pancreatic cancer and a stroke.

Bennett spent the last days of his life apologizing to the Muslim community for controversial rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates, including the eventual nominee and overall victor, Donald Trump.

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
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)
Party Candidate Votes %
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
Total votes 3,416 100.00
2010 Republican State Convention results (second round)
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Tim Bridgewater 1,274 37.42
Republican Mike Lee 1,225 35.99
Republican Bob Bennett 905 26.99
Total votes 3,404 100.00

See also

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