Jason Chaffetz: Mormon Politician

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Jason Chaffetz Mormon Politician

Jason E. Chaffetz was the United States Representative for Utah’s third congressional district. Although once pegged for House Majority Leader[1], he announced on April 19, 2017, that he would not seek reelection in 2018 and would return to the private sector. On April 27, 2017, Chaffetz announced that he would be taking a monthlong leave of absence from Congress after doctors had recommended immediate surgery to remove the risk of infection posed by orthopedic hardware installed in his foot following a ladder-related accident eleven years earlier. On May 18, 2017, he announced that he would leave his office on June 30, 2017. He became a contributor for the Fox News network on July 1, 2017. In August 2017, it was announced that Chaffetz would be visiting the Institute of Politics (IOP) at the Harvard Kennedy School as a fall fellow.

He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Chaffetz was born on March 26, 1967, in Los Gatos, California, and raised in Arizona and Colorado. His father was Jewish and his mother was Christian Scientist. Chaffetz attended Brigham Young University on an athletic scholarship and was starting placekicker on the BYU football team in 1988 and 1989. He made, and continues to hold, two school records. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was a senior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Chaffetz, a Republican, was first elected in 2008. During his college years he was a Democrat. His father had been married previously to Katherine Dukakis, the wife of Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis. While a student at BYU, Chaffetz was a Utah co-chairman for Michael Dukakis’s 1988 campaign for president of the United States. Chaffetz had been drifting more toward the Republican right even while working for Dukakis, and he became a Republican after meeting Ronald Reagan in 1990, when Reagan visited Nu Skin International where Chaffetz was employed as a spokesman.

In 2004, Chaffetz managed Jon Huntsman’s Utah gubernatorial campaign. After Huntsman won, Chaffetz became his chief of staff. Eleven months later Chaffetz left the governor’s office to manage his own company, Maxtera Utah, a communications and marketing company. In 2007, Governor Huntsman appointed Chaffetz as a Trustee for Utah Valley University.

On January 1, 2007, Chaffetz announced he was exploring the possibility for a Congressional run for the Republican nomination against six-term incumbent, Chris Cannon. On October 1, 2007, Chaffetz formally entered the race for the Republican nomination. David Leavitt, a brother to popular three-term Utah Governor and Bush Administration cabinet member Mike Leavitt, also joined the race.

Although a poll showed Chaffetz trailing Cannon and Leavitt, Chaffetz consistently called for a return to the core conservative principles of fiscal discipline, limited government, accountability and a strong national defense. He campaigned on stronger measures to fix legal immigration and remove the incentives for illegal immigration.

At the May 10, 2008 Utah Republican State Convention Chaffetz won 59 percent of the third district's delegates to Cannon's 41 percent. On June 24, 2008, Chaffetz defeated Cannon by a vote of 60 percent to 40 percent. The win was considered an upset victory because George W. Bush, Orrin Hatch, and Bob Bennett endorsed Cannon.

Chaffetz won the seat in the 2008 general election with 66 percent of the vote; not suprising given that the third district is one of the most Republican districts in the nation. Chaffetz kept his seat in the 2010 election with 72 percent of the vote.

Throughout his tenure, Chaffetz has been outspoken. For example, in a January 2010 meeting of the GOP Conference, Chaffetz applauded Obama for some of the promises made during the campaign, but asked why promises to broadcast healthcare debates on CSPAN, keep lobbyists out of senior positions, go line-by-line through the health care bill and end earmarks had not been kept. Video of the Q&A went viral and received extensive media coverage. Upon hearing that U.S. President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 9, 2009, Chaffetz said he had “lost all respect for the award,” saying “it used to be one of distinction, but [now] it is hard to give it any credibility.” [2]

At the start of the Congressional term in 2009, he announced that he would be sleeping on a cot in his office rather than renting a Washington, D.C. apartment. Chaffetz said, “I'm trying to live the example that it doesn’t take big dollars in order to get where we want to go. I can save my family $1,500 a month by sleeping on a cot in my office as opposed to getting a fancy place that's maybe a little bit more comfortable.” His family will continue to live in Alpine. “We are now $10 trillion in debt. $10 trillion. Those are expenses that have to be paid at some point,” he said. If he can tighten his belt in these tough economic times, Chaffetz said, Congress should be able to as well.[3]

Chaffetz pledged to vote against what he calls “trivial resolutions,” including those dealing with sports, such as congratulating the winning team of the Super Bowl. Chaffetz feels that the House could be taking up more important legislation.[4]

In November 2014, Chaffetz won a four-way race to become the chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. He was the fifth member of Congress in 89 years to become a full chairman after serving only three terms. He committed himself to bringing a new level of bipartisan cooperation to the committee. He has built a strong relationship with his Democrat counterpart on the committee, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Both Chaffetz and Cummings have been united in their calls for reform. Cummings told “The Hill” in April 2015, “The chairman’s leadership has been a sea change from the way the committee was run in the past, primarily because he has been willing to work with Democrats and because, for the most part, he has avoided overreaching.”[5]

Chaffetz married Julie Marie Johnson in 1991. They have three children.