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WAR CHESTS AREN'T FILLING UP TOO FAST

Since elected, multimillionaire Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, lent more money to his campaign committee ($440,000) than he made in his Senate salary (about $350,000).

And during an off-election year when incumbents normally try to raise so much money early that it scares away potential opponents, Utah's five congressional incumbents are netting only paltry sums or are going into the hole.That is according to midyear campaign disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Maybe the most surprising finding is how financially draining Bennett's Senate service appears to be.

He lent his campaign another $100,000 during the first six months of this year - for a total of $440,000 since he was elected and $1.83 million overall. Meanwhile, he's made about $350,000 in salary during his 2.6 years of Senate service.

"While the campaign technically owes him that $1.83 million, I don't think he ever expects to be paid back," said Greg Hopkins, former top aide to Bennett who left to form a political consulting company that now handles Bennett's campaign.

Hopkins said the campaign is no longer doing much fund raising to help retire debt from his 1992 race, and the last $100,000 Bennett lent helped pay off most remaining outside expenses. He said fund raising will be geared now for Bennett's 1998 race.

Hopkins said he knows of no tax or other advantages in Bennett declaring the money as repayable loans instead of donations. "That's just how he and our accountant preferred to do it," Hopkins said.

Some of the campaign expenses paid off in the first six months this year include an old $40,000 bill to Westwood Media for advertising. It paid $29,828 to Hopkins' Public Strategies consulting for devising political strategy this year.

It also paid $19,695 in legal fees - and owed $7,968 more - which Hopkins said went largely to combat an FEC audit that alleges the Franklin Quest time planner company that Bennett once headed illegally funneled money to his campaign by paying Bennett for work he did not do, which he then gave the campaign.

Bennett has said all money he received from Franklin Quest was legitimate payment for work andhas denied all allegations of wrongdoing. The FEC has not yet ruled on the allegations made by its staff auditors and lawyers.

Bennett has said he is personally worth about $30 million - which means he can likely afford not to be repaid by his campaign. FEC auditors who allege illegal payments by Franklin Quest said, however, that most of his assets were tied up during his race in stocks he could not easily sell.

The bottom line for Bennett is his campaign now has $32,974 in cash on hand - a small sum from which to launch an eventual Senate campaign, which in Utah has cost more than $4 million.

Other incumbents didn't do well in trying to boost their campaign war chests either during the first six months of an off-election year, when they normally try to come up with enough to scare off potential opponents.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - who doesn't face re-election until 2000 - spent $46,995 more than he raised during the first six months of the year for everything from paying for cable TV at home (to watch Congress) to continuing rent and salary for perennial campaign staff.

Hatch still has $355,364 in cash on hand, however.

Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, spent $1,999 more than he raised during the first six months of the year but still had $66,453 in cash on hand at the end of the period.

Rep. Enid Waldholtz, R-Utah, raised a small $6,155 more than she spent. She had $230,405 in cash on hand - most of which was left over from the $1.8 million she personally donated to her campaign last year.

Rep. Bill Orton raised $17,160 more than he spent in the period. He had $42,437 in cash on hand. But his campaign still owes him $25,825 in loans. It has slowly been paying him off money that he lent it for his first run for Congress in 1990.