“My son, Scott, does not lobby me or anyone in my office. He is a very moral and ethical person,” Mr. Hatch said. “As for the Utah Families Foundations, my limited involvement consists mainly of attending their events. As with most service opportunities, I find even these small gestures are very gratifying ways to volunteer my time and give to those less fortunate in our community.
“Giving charitable contributions of time or money to good causes is something I believe every individual and organization should try to do,” he said. “Organizations choosing to donate to the Utah Families Foundation are giving resources to help Utah’s families in need from all corners of our state and that is very admirable.”
Mr. Hatch has sought to distance himself from the foundation’s day-to-day operations, with his staff noting that the charity is run by an independent board. However, Mr. Hatch serves as an “honorary host” for the charity’s annual fundraising golf tournament, and he touted the charity on the Senate floor in June 2005.
The senator “does not benefit in any way” from the donations, and “there is an independent board who makes the decisions as to which charities receive donations and for what specific projects,” Hatch spokeswoman Heather Barney said.
Scott Hatch also has denied any wrongdoing, steadfastly maintaining that he doesn’t lobby his father, even when paid to lobby on legislation with which the senator is involved.
Hatch ‘seal of approval’
The drugmakers said that they’ve been donating to the charity for years, well before the 2007 tax form mistakenly got released, and that they make no secret that Mr. Hatch’s connection to the charity influenced their decision to support what they said was a worthwhile cause.
Any charitable cause backed by Mr. Hatch “automatically carries the gold seal of approval,” said Ken Johnson, senior vice president at PhRMA, which began donating to the group in 2000.
“There’s not a more honorable person than Senator Hatch,” Mr. Johnson said, downplaying any suggestion of ties between the company’s donations to the foundation and PhRMA’s business in Congress.
Joe Kelley, vice president of government and public affairs at drug manufacturer Eli Lilly, which has been donating to the charity for about a decade, said the company gives to the Utah Families Foundation because of its help for abused women and other worthwhile causes.
“I personally believe that if someone has a profile and is in a position to help people out, then that’s a positive thing,” Mr. Kelley said.
The drugmakers’ donations to Utah Families Foundation were part of the $1.1 million that the charity raised in 2007. About $726,000 of that was donated to community groups, hospitals, wellness centers, youth and family support groups, and food banks. The remaining $375,000 went for salaries and operating expenses, according to the IRS report.
The foundation’s officers include prominent Utah political figures and Hatch supporters, such as former Govs. Norman Bangerter and Olene Walker, and former Republican Sen. Jake Garn, according to tax records.
Pharmaceutical and health-product companies already rank at the top of Mr. Hatch’s political supporters, donating more than $1.25 million to his campaigns since 1998. Those donations are disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.