Hatch Center launches $40M fundraising push for next chapter

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Orrin Hatch is stepping down, but he’s not planning on fading away.

The long-serving Republican senator spoke Monday at an event kicking off a $40 million fundraising campaign to build the Hatch Center library and think tank in Salt Lake City.

“I may be leaving the Senate, but I am in no way leaving public life. I am simply taking the fight to another arena,” he said.

Hatch said he’s more comfortable retiring knowing he recruited Mitt Romney to run as his replacement. The former presidential candidate, who also spoke at the luxury ski resort Deer Valley on Monday, is the heavy favorite to win the seat in November.

“Senator Hatch just has a way of getting along with people, personal relationships,” he said. “People, whether they agree with him at first blush or not, they’ll go along and make a difference.”

The Hatch Foundation is aiming to raise about $40 million over the next two and a half years to build the stately Hatch Center in Salt Lake City, which will house a replica of his Senate office, voluminous papers and a think tank partnering with the University of Utah. It will also have a presence in Washington.

One primary aim is promoting bipartisanship and civility in politics, an area where Hatch himself has hit highs and lows over his long career.

Hatch has reached across the aisle over the decades, famously through his friendship with the late liberal lion Ted Kennedy, He has also thrown verbal punches, including a recent expletive to describe Democrats’ conduct during the battle over President Donald Trump’s second nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

“He expresses his mind pretty openly. I think people respect him for that, and they would expect nothing less,” Romney said, adding that he agrees the confirmation battle wouldn’t be his choice: “If I were a Democrat, I’d pick a battle I have a chance of winning.”

Hatch announced his retirement in January after helping to pass a sweeping tax-code overhaul and persuading President Donald Trump to downsize two national monuments. The Hatch Foundation has retained an ethics-expert attorney to consult on donations after gifts from companies that also lobby the Senate raised questions.

Other high-profile senators, like Kennedy and John McCain, have similar institutes.

Hatch said he hopes his post-Senate career will educate the next generation of lawmakers. “I am determined my influence will be far greater felt by imparting to them the virtues of comity, cooperation and comprise so key to my own success,” he said.

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