The Utah GOP Civil War: dual path or duel path?

I insist on accuracy. I have opened this up for both sides to review and offer corrections before publishing. With that said, some of this is my own personal experience and opinion.


by John Mulholland

There is often some level of drama in politics. You have those in power and those who want to be in power and usually, they aren’t that different.

When I lived in Cache County there was a lot less animosity. There has been a lot more since I moved south though, perhaps from the added diversity.

Because Republicans win most elections, the tolerance is probably much higher for it though. Some of these back and forths have been going on for years. Something has changed recently though, making it the worst I have ever witnessed.


SB54 – The dual path

A key component of the conflict is the changes to the caucus system. It is no longer a monopoly in the political process. This is a big change with an uncertain future.

With an uncertain future, some have nightmare scenarios in mind of big money controlling elections and Utah becoming like California. This could happen but it’s probably a big stretch.

This was probably made much worse when Phill Wright lost to Rob Anderson, which was made worse by previous conflicts. Add on Chris Herrod losing to John Curtis, only receiving 31% of the vote, and there can be a cause for alarm by those who want control over who wins.

Will the caucus system be able to compete with the signature path?

Another key component is something that Dale Carnegie mentioned in his book, How To Win Friends and Influence People. People want to feel important. And the caucus system does just that. It is great to feel like you know a politician; people who are running for office are much more successful when they make you feel important. I am speaking from my own experience.

Now take people who have spent a huge amount of time in politics and don’t have much else going on. This is what makes people feel special.

The Standard Stuff

Let’s add to the standard stuff. Somebody won the chair position through an election with thousands of state delegates voting at the organizing convention. And the candidate who lost is on the governing group with many supporters. The opposition continually attacks the chair.

Does that sound familiar? It is pretty standard in politics.

Why is it worse?

Several reasons, desperation, paranoia, low blows, the debt, and a more rigid chair.

1. Desperation

Because many caucus only supporters believe that the GOP, without the caucus-system, is just another party, they have taken an all-or-nothing approach. They aren’t trying to promote the party as much as the caucus system.

Because of the desperation in their minds, they have abused a system built on some level of trust similar to how spammers took advantage of the trusting nature of email.

This group started calling “special” meetings with the minimum amount of notice, one week. They circumvented party leadership to do so. The first meeting was ruled as invalid. But at the next regularly scheduled SCC meeting, a member held the microphone hostage until a “compromise” was worked out, basically redoing everything done previously at the meeting ruled as invalid.

The second “special” meeting, which people were led to believe was a hurry because of pending caucus night, only spent 30 minutes talking about the caucus. Remember, people have one week, if they see the email immediately, to drop everything they are doing the next Saturday and attend a meeting from all over the state. And these were only called by just above the absolute minimum. Even some of those who called the meeting reported feeling misled by those calling it.

Some told me that it wasn’t about the caucus. I asked why the short notice and they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me. For more, please refer to https://www.utahpoliticohub.com/utah-republican-party-runaway-central-committee-problem/

If you read the bylaws on calling a meeting there is some strong evidence that neither were valid calls as the required days between the call and the meeting don’t count weekends or holidays.

2. Paranoia

Why don’t they just talk things out? Because of paranoia. Rob, the party chair, is part of a group called the Buckshot Caucus. This group is supposedly trying to destroy the caucus system despite having very strong caucus-only supporters like Clair Ellis.

There was an awful article written attacking party leadership and stating that busloads of new delegates were sent to the state convention last year. Didn’t happen. There was a rumor that the party secretary, Lisa Shepherd, helped write the article. She didn’t.  There was a story that Drew Chamberlain’s son tried to attack electronic voting. It seems to have been greatly exaggerated. Did Todd Weiler try to extort $1 million from David Bateman? Lehi police said no.

Has there been a lot of frustration? Sure. Has there been a lot of mistrust? Sure. Has there been bad behavior? Sure. But a fair amount is made up or greatly exaggerated.

3. Low Blows

Politics, especially at a higher level, is full of impulsive and passionate people. Why else would they participate at that level? People are a package deal though. And given enough pressure people will do some very hurtful things.

This started with David Bateman, a new donor and CEO of Entrata, spreading something Acumen’s ill mother wrote about him marrying a Mormon. Then Acumen accessed and initially spread Bateman’s divorce records. Both are irrelevant to the political situation and very personal. It hurts though when people share this stuff. My junior high kids know better than to participate in this type of bullying.

Then Bateman decided to start accusing people of trying to extort him for $1 million dollars, including the Lt. Governor. His list was very long at first until Senator Weiler came forward to explain what had happened. Apparently, Bateman’s girlfriend/employee and her friend, another employee, had sought legal advice due to some sexual harassment retribution. Her work hours had been changed when the relationship ended. Senator Weiler told the friend that the case was valid and could be worth a million dollars, after finding an attorney for her. The police looked into it and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The friend no longer works for Bateman.

More can be found at https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2018/04/05/lehi-police-side-with-sen-todd-weiler-in-dispute-with-top-gop-donor-reject-extortion-plot-allegations/. After the police found nothing, Bateman started blaming the police, implying they did something illegal or unethical.

Bateman continues to blame the Buckshot Caucus, a secret Facebook group, for trying to destroy the caucus. The irony is that there are some caucus only advocates that are part of Buckshot. The paranoia among many of the caucus only supporters continues to make this problem worse.

4. The Debt

Under the previous chair and due to the SB54 lawsuit, the party found itself in a huge amount of debt, about $600k. Members of the SCC seemed to overlook and downplay the debt until Rob Anderson became the chair. The hope was to drop the lawsuit and have donors return to the party. It seems they didn’t like being told big money was bad.

Bateman initially offered to pay for any future litigation cost. He eventually agreed to acquire the party debt, initially demanding control over the lawsuit. The party chair said no so the SCC formed a Constitutional Defense Committee to override it. This committee eventually got the chair to sign an agreement where Bateman could require the money to be paid back if the lawsuit is dropped by the SCC.

As the lawsuit continues to yet another appeal, the amount of party debt that Bateman owns continues to climb. This makes it sound much more like buying control rather than a donation.

Understandably, many party members object to this arrangement.

5. A More Rigid Chair

It is unclear to me how he compares with previous chairs but Rob Anderson insists that the party follows their own rules. He insists that proper notice should be given for meetings and that don’t clearly violate Robert’s Rules, the party bylaws and Constitution, and state law.

Because of the emotional appeal of some of those trying to attack him is strong, they are able to convince more members to oppose the chair. There has been some evidence of an organized effort to do this, involving Phill Wright, who lost in the race of chair.

As the party has had to finally deal with the reality that the lawsuit costs a lot of money, there has been some particular tension as Rob did mention the possibility of bankruptcy. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, control of lawsuit has pretty much been sold to Bateman as he can demand repayment of the debt is the lawsuit is ever dropped.

The chair’s insistence that the rules be followed became an even bigger issue after the February “special” SCC meeting. This small group that attended the meeting passed a bylaw change which broke state law, even after being told what they were doing was illegal. Even though it is the job of the chair, several other members of the SCC, including the secretary, tried to submit the bylaw change to the Lt Governor’s office. The Chair ultimately said that because the bylaw broke the law and under Robert’s Rules and the state party constitution, that meant it was null and void.


Going Forward

I believe in personal responsibility and I hope you do as well. That is something I love about being a Republican. You can only change yourself. You can choose to stop spreading false rumors or even negative things that aren’t relative to this discussion. Look at your own self and see where you are being a hypocrite. Stop going around telling everybody how you have been wronged. Look inside at how you may have wronged others.

For some people, this is their identity. This is where they get most of the value and meaning in their lives. But it is a changing world. If all you do is politics, that change can be extremely disruptive to your life. Step away and go and do something else with your time. Learn an instrument or train for a marathon. Maybe do some mindfulness and meditation to help deal with the anxiety from the changes.

Accountability, Representation, and Transparency

  1. Answer the phone or emails when people that you represent contact you. Make sure that the number and email you gave are correct.
  2. Talk to those you are supposed to represent to see how they feel. It can be hard with the short notice but be willing to listen to others. If 2/3 of the party want’s a dual path, then why fight against it so much?
  3. Record your votes. As a county delegate, I told m,y precinct, how I voted on all the candidates at the county convention. The party secretary needs to not be telling people they can’t say how they voted and she needs to release the unapproved minutes and bylaw changes. There are no rules against it and it is typical for unapproved minutes to be released.

Support reform

Unfortunately the rule,s have been abused. Perhaps changes need to be made that make it much more difficult to hold meetings with a weeks notice. Maybe 40 of about 180 is too low of a requirement for a quorum (enough people to conduct business). Perhaps people need to be able to send proxies to SCC meetings or participate remotely. Definitely, don’t give the SCC more power. Term limits would also be a great idea.

Strengthen the caucus

Instead of trying to force the caucus on the party, strengthen it. Hopefully, it isn’t too late. The biggest complaint on caucus night was that Keep My Voice, a caucus only group founded and funded by Bateman, was able to force participants to watch a video and gather signatures for their ballot initiative. Even after that, they still failed to get enough signatures to be on the ballot.

Quit running caucus like it is the 1970s. And quit running convention the same way. What if all of these resources were put into making caucus a better experience? How many come to caucus night only once, never to return? How many people only serve as delegates once, never to return? The monopoly status has made us complacent and we must do better if we are going to compete with the signature path.

The party members are our customers and need to be treated as such. Don’t call them uninformed or stupid or lazy. Improve the experience. Remember, personal responsibility.

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