Sen. Orrin Hatch eyes legacy with archive, think tank plans

SALT LAKE CITY — Signed boxing gloves from Muhammad Ali, documents from the Bill Clinton impeachment and 3,000 boxes of other papers and memorabilia from a 42-year career in Washington, D.C., will be part of a library and think tank being named for retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch on Wednesday.

After helping pass a sweeping overhaul of the tax code and persuading President Donald Trump to downsize two national monuments, the Republican Hatch announced in January he will be leaving office at the end of the year.

"Presidents normally open entire libraries to house their papers, and those normally cover a period of just four or eight years," Hatch said. "With 42 years of service, I have quite a bit of history that I'd like to share with my fellow Utahns and those who come here from out of state."

The Orrin G. Hatch Center is partnering with the University of Utah with the goal of "leading a movement" toward bipartisanship and civility in politics.

The center that's envisioned as a columned granite building will also house a full-sized replica of Hatch's Senate office for him to write his memoirs and meet with students.

Groundbreaking for the structure located along a row of stately Salt Lake City buildings like the governor's mansion could be as soon as this summer.

"The only thing wrong with it is, it may not be big enough," joked Utah real-estate developer Kem Gardner, who sits on the Hatch Foundation board and also has a policy institute named for him at the University of Utah.

Hatch, 83, is a staunch conservative who worked with the late liberal lion Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children's Health Insurance Program and also authored landmark bipartisan legislation, increasing access to generic-drugs.

Hatch also clashed with opponents in recent years. During a tax-cut debate with liberal firebrand Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio last year, Hatch said he was tired of the Democrat's "bull crap." Earlier this year, Hatch used an expletive during a speech to describe supporters of former President Barack Obama's health care law, though he later apologized.

Overall, Hatch's body of work reflects the center's bipartisan mission, foundation director Trent Christensen said.

"The beauty of the concept of civility is that it allows people to be people, it allows for humans to be humans," he said.

Tax filings show Hatch's foundation raised nearly $6 million by 2016, the most recent year documents are available. Donations have come from places like Visa, the NFL, the tobacco manufacturer Altria and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, according to federal disclosure forms.

Because Hatch is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, the fundraising has raised questions about possible conflict of interest. The foundation has said donations have been handled properly and it retained an ethics-expert attorney.

Organizers declined to say Wednesday how much the Hatch Center project might cost.

It will host speakers and public debates, as well as use his contacts to study the legislative process. Researchers and others will have access to his extensive papers, including drafts of legislation and letters from people like Nancy Reagan.

Similar centers include the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston and the McCain Institute at Arizona State University.

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