Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2008, 4th term.

Born: March 26, 1967, Los Gatos, CA

Home: Alpine

Education: Brigham Young U., B.A. 1989

Professional Career: Spokesman & public relations, Nu Skin Intl.; Chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman, 2005-08.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Mormon

Family: married (Julie) , 3 children

Republican Jason Chaffetz, a media-savvy young conservative, was elected in 2008, and is in close ideological kinship with the tea party-backed Republicans who arrived two years later. He has used his position on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to be an outspoken critic of the Obama administration, and ascended to the chairmanship of the panel in 2015.

Born in Los Gatos, Calif., Chaffetz (CHAY-fits) grew up in Arizona and attended his senior year of high school in Colorado. His family’s politics were Democratic, and they boasted one notable tie to the party: His father’s first wife, Katharine Dickson, would later enter the national consciousness as “Kitty” while she stumped for votes with her second husband, Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee. During college, Chaffetz was named an honorary co-chairman of the Dukakis campaign in Utah in 1988. Growing up, Chaffetz had a passion for soccer, but he switched to football when his high school discovered that he made a decent placekicker.

He won an athletic scholarship to Brigham Young University, where he converted to Mormonism and began what he views in hindsight as a natural gravitation toward the political right. After college, Chaffetz worked in public relations, first as an executive for Nu Skin Enterprises, a company that sells skin care products, and then at a firm he started with his brother. In 2003, he took a brief hiatus from work to volunteer for Republican Jon Huntsman Jr.’s gubernatorial campaign. When his campaign manager abruptly resigned, Huntsman asked Chaffetz to replace him. After the election, Chaffetz served for one year as the new governor’s chief of staff.

Chaffetz sensed an opportunity in early 2007 as perennial discontent with incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Cannon simmered in conservative circles. Chaffetz entered the race in October, at a steep disadvantage in both cash and name recognition. He criticized Cannon’s support of President George W. Bush’s proposal for a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, both deeply unpopular in the conservative district. He called for immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants and the construction of tent cities, ringed by barbed-wire fences, to detain those who had committed crimes while in the United States. His staunchly conservative platform played well at the state Republican convention in May, where he came 10 votes short of the 60% needed to win the GOP nomination outright.

Bush and most of the state’s Republican establishment endorsed Cannon, although Huntsman stayed neutral. Cannon attacked Chaffetz as an opportunist and raised more than $840,000. Chaffetz, by contrast, spent less than $200,000. In the low-turnout June contest, he stacked up big margins in the district’s population centers in Salt Lake and Utah counties to win by a whopping 20 percentage points. Although Chaffetz came under fire nationally from some Japanese-American interest groups for his advocacy of tent cities, the outcome of the general election in this crimson district was never truly in doubt after the primary. Chaffetz won with 66%.

In the House, Chaffetz typically votes the conservative line in accordance with his district’s wishes. During the acrimonious debate over raising the cap on the nation’s debt in the summer of 2011, Chaffetz became a chief sponsor of the “cut, cap, and balance” proposal favored by deficit hawks that passed the House. The plan, which was ultimately tabled by the Senate, included a spending cap and a proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. But he is occasionally unpredictable. He was one of 36 House Republicans who refused to back the December 2010 deal extending the Bush-era tax cuts, contending the move would only contribute to the national debt. An amendment he introduced in 2011 to slash funding for various federal research programs while zeroing out the Food for Peace program proved too much for most Republicans and was resoundingly defeated. And he incensed conservative activists in 2012 with his bill to reduce the royalty rates to musicians for online radio to the same levels paid by satellite and cable companies; they said that the government had no business setting rates for music.

Chaffetz quickly developed a reputation for his media accessibility and quotability, appearing in a CNN video project highlighting his freshman year and giving numerous interviews to publications, TV stations, and websites. He also regularly posted videos on YouTube and collected thousands of followers on Twitter. In a 2015 interview with National Journal, he extolled candidly on everything from his daily exercise routine to the time he "barfed my brains out" in the back of an F-16. "He's impossible not to like on a personal level," said South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, another favorite of Hill journalists.

His high media profile undoubtedly was a factor in helping Chaffetz to beat out three other conservatives -- Florida's John Mica and Ohio's Jim Jordan and Michael Turner -- who challenged him for the Oversight and Government Reform chairmanship in late 2014. "We as a party often make the mistake of just talking to the same people that agree with us," he said. "We talk a lot about being a big tent, but we tend not to talk to other audiences." Chaffetz brought in dozens of new staffers and reshuffled subcommittees, creating a new panel devoted to information technology. He also promised to give Jordan, a well-regarded figure among conservatives, an enhanced role in scrutinizing the Obama administration's rules.

The committee's Democrats expressed hope that he could take the panel in a new direction after the bruising and intense partisanship of California's Darrell Issa, who was term-limited at the helm under House GOP rules. But as with so much on the highly polarized committee, the good feelings didn't last long. At the first hearing in January, Chaffetz pushed through a rules package that Maryland's Elijah Cummings, the panel's top Democrat, complained was "worse than the rules we had under Chairman Issa." Cummings and other Democrats tried and failed to roll back the chairman's ability to subpoena witnesses or documents without obtaining the prior consent of the ranking member, or putting the subpoena request to a vote of the full committee.

In his previous work on Oversight and Government Reform, Chaffetz got a bill through the House in 2009 to bar primary scanning at airports using whole body imaging machines, which he considered unnecessarily intrusive. He later was involved in a confrontation at Salt Lake’s airport after trying to avoid an image scanner. He also was an outspoken opponent of the District of Columbia’s 2009 legalization of same sex marriage. In 2011, Chaffetz took over the chairmanship of the panel’s subcommittee on national security and introduced bills that would allow for the firing of federal workers who are delinquent paying taxes and bar them from receiving government contracts or grants.

He later became a leading critic of the administration’s response to the deadly September 2012 terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. When his committee publicly released unclassified but sensitive documents a month later that included the names of Libyan human rights activists who had worked with the U.S. government, prompting criticism from the State Department, Chaffetz was unapologetic. “That’s right out of the Democrat playbook: Attack the messenger,” he told The Huffington Post. And when asked on CNN whether he had voted to cut funding for embassy security, he responded, “Absolutely. Look, we have to make priorities and choices in this country.”

Chaffetz has cruised to reelection. The more interesting question has been his future political plans. In early 2011, with strong tea party backing, Chaffetz began testing the waters for a possible primary challenge to six-term Sen. Orrin Hatch. But in late August, Chaffetz decided against a run, saying that a primary battle with Hatch would be a “multi-million dollar bloodbath.” According to Robert Draper’s 2012 book Do Not Ask What Good We Do, House Speaker John Boehner told him that he would enjoy life more in the House, with its greater turnover and more frequent opportunities to advance. Chaffetz does have leadership aspirations in the House and said that they were a factor in his decision to forego a Senate bid.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-7751

(202) 225-5629

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2236
Washington, DC 20515-4403

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-7751

(202) 225-5629

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2236
Washington, DC 20515-4403

DISTRICT OFFICE

(801) 851-2500

(801) 851-2509

51 South University Avenue Suite 318
Provo, UT 84601-4491

DISTRICT OFFICE

(801) 851-2500

(801) 851-2509

51 South University Avenue Suite 318
Provo, UT 84601-4491

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(801) 701-8918

315 Westfield Clrcle
Alpine, UT 84004

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

315 Westfield Clrcle
Alpine, UT 84004

Staff

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Abortion

Kendahl Melvin
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Amber Talley
Legislative Director

Education

Kendahl Melvin
Legislative Correspondent

Family

Kendahl Melvin
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Jennifer Andelin
Immigration and International Outreach Specialist

Govt Ops

Clay White
Legislative Assistant

clay.white@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-7751

Gun Issues

Clay White
Legislative Assistant

clay.white@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-7751

Health

Clay White
Legislative Assistant

clay.white@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-7751

Homeland Security

Chris Esparza
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Chris Esparza
Legislative Assistant

Jennifer Andelin
Immigration and International Outreach Specialist

Judiciary

Chris Esparza
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Chris Esparza
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Chris Esparza
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Amber Talley
Legislative Director

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Jason Chaffetz
Votes: 198,828
Percent: 76.61%
Soren Simonsen
Votes: 60,719
Percent: 23.39%
2012 PRIMARY
Jason Chaffetz
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Jason Chaffetz
Votes: 139,721
Percent: 72.32%
Karen Hyer
Votes: 44,320
Percent: 22.94%
2010 PRIMARY
Jason Chaffetz
Unopposed
2008 GENERAL
Jason Chaffetz
Votes: 187,035
Percent: 65.61%
Bennion Spencer
Votes: 80,626
Percent: 28.28%
Jim Noorlander
Votes: 17,408
Percent: 6.11%
2008 PRIMARY
Jason Chaffetz
Votes: 28,618
Percent: 59.78%
Chris Cannon
Votes: 19,255
Percent: 40.22%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (72%), 2008 (66%)

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