Robert Foster Bennett was born September 18, 1933, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the the son of Frances Grant Bennett and four-term U.S. Senator Wallace Foster Bennett. He was the grandson of Heber J. Grant, former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He attended Utah public schools and received a B.S. degree from the University of Utah in 1957. Bennett married Joyce McKay in 1962; the couple had six children: Julie, Robert, James, Wendy, Heather, and Heidi. He was a chaplain in the Army National Guard from 1957 to 1969.
Bennett earned distinction in entrepreneurial and government activities. For his success as chief executive officer of the Franklin International Institute, Bennett was named Inc. Magazine's "Entrepreneur of the Year" for the Rocky Mountain region. His Washington, D.C., experience included service as chief congressional liaison at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Bob Bennett was chosen as the chairman of the special committee "responsible for the relatively glitch-free Year 2000 computer switch." He continued to be at the forefront of issues relating to technology. He was especially concerned about and active in fixing vulnerabilities in America's technological infrastructure. He worked to ensure that the infrastructure can be protected as United States' security is enhanced.
Reelected to a third term in the United States Senate in 2004, the Republican Utah senator was a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, and a member of the Joint Economic Committee.
- From his seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, where he was the ranking member for the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Bennett worked to balance fiscal discipline in government while also representing the needs of Utah in the distribution of federal funds. The Utah Republican also served as the ranking Republican member on the Senate Rules Committee. Named an "Emerging Leader in a Post-September 11 Senate" by Congressional Quarterly Magazine, Bennett has received numerous awards for his contributions in the U.S. Senate.
In 2010, Bob Bennett failed to be chosen as one of two primary candidates for the Senate, thus ending his political career in Congress. The mood in the nation was increasingly anti-government, putting all incumbents in danger of losing elections in their states. The feeling among Republicans in Utah was that Bennett was not conservative enough. Some saw him as part of the Washingtion, D.C. establishment, and others were miffed that he voted for the TARP plan (the government bailout of big banks in order to save the economy). Bennett considered running as a write-in candidate, but then decided otherwise, citing the monetary cost it would burden his family and friends with, and also the possible divisiveness it would introduce in the Republican camp, possibly dividing votes and giving the seat to the Democrats. Bennett said, "There are more important things in your life, ultimately, than being a U.S. senator and one of them, obviously, is your sense of doing the right thing, feeling comfortable to have made the right decision."
At age 76, Bennett expressed surprise that he was beginning to receive overtures from the private sector upon his decision not to run. (Read more about Senator Bennett's decision not to run.)
Bennett set up the Bennett Consulting Group, a consulting firm with offices in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Washington, D.C. He also joined the law firm Arent Fox as senior policy advisor, advising clients in the areas of tax, transportation, and energy. He also became a registered lobbyist in early 2013, after the legally required two-year ban expired.
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 as well as Strategic Advisor to FIPRA, an international Public Affairs firm headquartered in Brussels, Belgium.
He died on May 4, 2016, at his home in Arlington, Virginia. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and a stroke. Utah Governor Gary Herbert authorized lowering flags in the state to half-staff until Bennett's funeral.