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Former Bennett staffer tied to religious flier

Former Bennett staffer tied to religious flier



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A political flier that appeared to attack Sen. Bob Bennett's religion was created, in part, by a former staffer.

Tim Stewart spent seven years working as a legislative aide for Sen. Bennett. But the Salt Lake Tribune reports a group Stewart founded coordinated a mailer that caused a lot of buzz before the state GOP convention.

The mailer showed a picture of Bennett above the U.S. Capitol and contender Mike Lee above the Salt Lake LDS temple. The mailer then asked, "Which candidate really has Utah values?

Stewart told the Tribune he was merely a go-between for a group he didn't want to identify.

In a recent interview, Stewart said, "I sincerely wish that I could take credit for what may be the most brilliant and possibly the biggest single game-changing political play in Utah politics in the last 20 years. But I can't. I am not that diabolical nor creative."

Lee's campaign manager says a complaint will be filed with the Federal Election Commission because the mailer may have influenced the outcome of the state GOP convention and listed an unidentifiable organization in the paid-for disclaimer.

Lee has also asked his opponent, Tim Bridgewater, and Sen. Bennett to join him in demanding Stewart name his accomplices.

"Federal law was clearly broken," Lee said in a press release. "The people deserve to know who is lying in the shadows trying to affect their vote in this Senate election with misleading mailers."

Some Republican delegates said they were offended by the mailer. Lee believes the mailer hurt his chances of victory at the convention.

Both Lee and Bridgewater have spoken out against the flier, saying they had nothing to do with it.

Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, harshly criticized Stewart for his involvement.

"I don't know Tim Stewart and I don't ever want to know him. The guy is an idiot [who] deserves to have his butt kicked all the way out of Utah politics for two reason. First, that he would be a part of this kind of cheap political trick and, second, because he actually thinks it was a 'brilliant... game-changing political play.'

"Mr. Stewart -- it was neither. I am sure neither the Bennett nor the Bridgewater nor the Lee campaign knew anything about this. It was the childish product of Tim Stewart and his childish friends. Now stay out of Utah politics."

The ad claimed to be sent from an unregistered group called Utah Defenders of Constitutional Integrity.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and the Associated Press.

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