It pays to have someone else criticize your political opponent, but it's also wise to make sure that person is above criticism.
GOP U.S. Senate candidate Bob Bennett is finding that out this week. Last Friday, Bennett started running TV commercials that show Rep. Bill Dannemeyer, R-Calif., slamming Bennett's Democratic opponent, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, for his House voting record and for different approaches taken in separate fund-raising brochures.The Bennett ad seems effective. But what the ad doesn't say is that Dannemeyer is no friend of Utah.
Dannemeyer has personally cost Utah its long-awaited swap of state lands for better-located federal lands, according to previous reports by Deseret News Washington correspondent Lee Davidson. Dannemeyer has also voted against the Central Utah Project.
Utah schoolchildren could lose $50 million to $200 million because of the House's failure to pass the land-swap bill, state officials said at the time.
For years, Utah officials have been trying to swap scattered state lands - which are dedicated to support of public education - that are located within federal holdings, like national parks, monuments and Indian reservations for other federal lands from which Utah might make some money. Utah has not generated great revenues from its state lands, and Utah schools need the money.
As Congress earlier this month rushed to adjourn, the Senate passed such a land-swap bill, a slightly different version than one that had already passed the House. But House members had already informally adjourned, gone home to campaign. House rules allow for passage of bills when it is not in full session as long as each of the 435 members agree to the bill. Such a process is called unanimous consent.
Dannemeyer, who is not coming back to the House because of his defeat in the California Senate GOP primary election last June, announced that he wouldn't allow any bills to become law through that unanimous consent procedure - thus personally killing the Utah land swap bill as well as several other bills that passed the Senate after House members had left town.
Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter was especially bitter in his criticism of the House's action in not passing the swap bill, although Bangerter didn't personally criticize Dannemeyer.
Several members of the House tried to change Dannemeyer's mind and persuade him to allow a number of unanimous consent votes to be taken in the final hours before Congress officially adjourned Oct. 9, but they reported that Dannemeyer told them: "I hate this process. The place (the U.S. House) is miserable. I only have an hour and a half left (before adjournment), and I'm going to cause as much damage as I can."
Bennett spokesman Gregg Hopkins said the campaign was unaware of Dannemeyer's in-volve-ment in the land-swap bill but added that Dannemeyer asked to speak about Owens "because he (Dannemeyer) is a strong conservative who knows how Owens votes back there." Dannemeyer has long been for reform in the House, in equity in how the House does its business, and Dannemeyer's stoppage of the consent votes likely reflects that concern, said Hopkins.
In his ad for Bennett, Dannemeyer says that Owens is pro-lesbian, pro-abortion, pro-gun control and anti-defense.
Owens says such comments are inaccurate and don't reflect his voting record in Congress at all. In turn, Owens started running a TV advertisement Saturday that asks why Bennett is running a negative ad featuring a man who has personally caused Utah so much grief.
Says Kay Christensen, Owens' chief aide: "Wayne beat Dannemeyer on CUP funding, and Dannemeyer has never forgiven him. He doesn't like Wayne. But here is a guy (Dannemeyer) who voted against the Clean Air Act, a guy who was criticized for reading pornography from the House floor."