After flooding his office phone lines with complaints and mocking him on social media, District activists are starting a political action committee to target a Utah congressman who has sought to use his powerful House post to overturn D.C. laws.
A photograph of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is the first image that appears on the web site begun by the Americans for Self-Rule PAC, along with the words, “This guy doesn’t represent D.C.”
Chaffetz is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which reviews legislation enacted by the D.C. Council.In mid-February, the committee voted to overturn the District’s assisted-suicide law, an effort that stalled on the House floor.
Lynette Craig, a Brookland resident active in the statehood movement, said she and other activists started the fundraising PAC to target Chaffetz after growing frustrated that protests and lobbying have not halted Republican interference in District affairs.
“People are begging me — ‘Where do I throw my money?’ ” Craig said, adding that her initial goal is to raise at least $100,000. The funds would be used to oppose Chaffetz, who in November won reelection by a landslide in his overwhelmingly Republican district.
“I have big hopes, big dreams, but out-of-the-gate six figures would feel like a win,” said Craig, who described Chaffetz as a “would-be despot” who is “trying to nullify the laws that we have democratically passed.”
“The potential feels huge,” Craig said, adding that she has received informal pledges amounting to “10 grand” in the past couple of weeks since word has spread of the new PAC.
A Chaffetz spokesperson said the congressman was unavailable to comment.
No prominent Republican has stepped forward to challenge Chaffetz, now in his fourth term representing a district that extends south of the Salt Lake City suburbs to the Arizona border.
But Evan McMullin, a Utah native who ran as an independent in the presidential race, has said he is considering a challenge. On Twitter, McMullin has been critical of Chaffetz for not using his committee to investigate President Trump.
Damian Kidd, 41, a Utah lawyer who has never run for office, said he will run against Chaffetz in the Republican primary in 2018. Kidd said he will seek support among Utah Republicans who are unhappy that Chaffetz is not staking out a more adversarial position against Trump.
“You have a lot of ‘Never Trumpers’ here, and they are frustrated with Chaffetz being partisan with the oversight committee,” he said. “It’s a tough road to hoe, but he’s vulnerable.”
While Trump won Chaffetz’s district, McMullin captured nearly 30 percent of the vote.
Kidd said he is eager to forge ties with District residents angry with Chaffetz. He is planning a mid-March trip to Washington, when he will meet with statehood activists. “If they want to donate, we’d be appreciative,” he said.
Since Trump’s election, District residents have grown increasingly irate towards Chaffetz and his Republican colleagues, fearful that they will use their control of the White House and Congress to overturn District initiatives.
On the day Chaffetz’s committee voted to oppose the assisted-suicide law, upwards of a thousand District residents attended a “Hands off DC” rally and then a town hall meeting organized by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6).
In addition to assisted suicide, Chaffetz has recently expressed opposition to the District using tax dollars to help undocumented immigrants fight deportation. He also opposed D.C. Council legislation that legalized marijuana.
Craig, 40, a medical-contracts salesperson who is now a stay-at-home mother, helped start “DC Families for Gun Safety,” a group of parents advocating for gun-control laws. She has joined in D.C. statehood advocacy, although she questions whether protests, phone calls and letter-writing campaigns are effective.
“We’ve asked nicely, and I’m tired of asking nicely,” she said.
Craig said the fundraising committee was incorporated in the past two weeks and has not yet accepted any contributions. She said it will be structured as a hybrid of a super PAC, which is able to raise unlimited funds to be spent independently of any candidate, and a regular PAC, which can make limited contributions to individual campaigns.
Craig said the PAC has been contacted by several people representing potential Chaffetz challengers. But Craig said she has “declined all contact” with those representatives until the committee decides on “a road map.”
All that is resolved at the moment, she said, is that “Chaffetz is our No. 1 priority.”