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If Rep. Jason Chaffetz takes the plunge and formally challenges Sen. Orrin Hatch in Utah's 2012 Senate race, he will likely do so with a severe financial disadvantage.
The latest campaign finance reports show that Hatch ended 2010 with more than $2.5 million in the bank, while Chaffetz has about $140,000.
When Chaffetz won his first House term in 2008, he acknowledged that he had no paid staff and said his small-dollar campaign showed fiscal conservatism. But there are benefits to having a deep campaign account.
Hatch has already begun to beef up his campaign team, hiring political consultant Jason Powers, who advised Utah Attorney General Mark Shurt-leff and then candidate Mike Lee on their 2010 Senate campaigns.
Shurtleff bowed out of the race early because of a family situation, Lee bested Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, in convention. Powers joined Lee's team in the primary, where he defeated Tim Bridgewater en route to claiming the Senate seat in November.
Hatch's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, says Powers is the first of many new hires and he acknowledges the campaign is aggressively raising money now, preparing for a potential challenger backed by tea party groups.
"We want to be ready for anything," said Hansen. "This is going to be a very extensive campaign operation."
Hatch raised $400,000 from Oct. 1 to the end of the year, with a sizable portion coming from the financial sector in New York. Hatch is the ranking member of the Finance Committee.
Chaffetz's report only spans from Nov. 23 to the end of the year because he was up for re-election in 2010. The two-term congressman raised about $5,000 in those waning weeks, with $3,000 coming from a vice president at Nu Skin, where he once worked.
He also raised $16,500 through his new political action committee, Budget-Hawks.com, almost all of which came from the dietary supplement community, including $13,000 from executives of Nu Skin.
Lee enters office with a cash deficit. He owed vendors almost $64,000 that includes a $54,450 bill from Powers and he had only $54,200 at the end of 2010. That's after he spent $1.5 million on his election.
Of note, Lee gave state Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, $500 for a congressional exploratory campaign.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, spent $2.45 million on his most recent campaign , which he won by just 4 percentage points. Now, he's trying to rebuild his campaign account. At year's end, he had a little less than $41,000 in his account and that's after he raised $15,000 in the last month and a half of the year.
That means Matheson, an aggressive fundraiser, finds himself with less available cash than Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who tends to raise the least amount of campaign funds among Utah's members of Congress.
Bishop ended the year with a little more than $64,000 in the bank.
Lee's campaign has yet to release his year-end report.
email@example.com Campaign costs
The average U.S. House candidate spent $557,000 in the last election
The average for a winning House candidate was $1.6 million
The average U.S. Senate candidate spent $2.34 million
The average for a winning Senate candidate was $3 million
Source: Center for responsive politics, opensecrets.org