Does the Utah Republican Party have a runaway central committee problem?

by John Mulholland

On February 24, a small group of members from the Utah Republican Party’s governing body, the State Central Committee (SCC), called an emergency meeting at a time when many members of the body were unable to attend. During the meeting, they made some drastic changes to the Utah GOP’s bylaws, including rules that would disqualify candidates who take the state-supplied signature path to the ballot instead of seeking the party’s nomination through the Republican Party’s state convention.

What is the State Central Committee?

The State Central Committee is the governing body of the Republican Party. They make the rules which govern the party and the process. They are made up of Republicans from across the state who are elected at the end of county conventions by county delegates. There usually aren’t a lot of people running and people don’t pay as much attention to these races.

What changes were made?

That is hard to say. I have asked the party secretary for the changes but she has not given them to me despite multiple requests. I did get some of the changes from other people.

The big change was removing candidates from the party if they take the signature path. This is only for Congressional Districts 1 and 2 this year and would be the entire state in two years. But this change could disqualify the Utah GOP from having any candidates on the ballot this year.

What could happen?

At worst this could disqualify all of the Republican candidates from the ballot this year by removing the party’s right to the ballot.

This could also push a court case forward. If successful this could mean that candidates have to go through the caucus system, even the majority of Republicans don’t want that.

Talking with Brandon Beckham, director of Keep My Voice and an employee of Entrata, he said that he expects the state legislature to change the law so the party isn’t disqualified from the ballot because almost all of them are Republicans. Keep My Voice has been a proponent of the change.

I have a number of concerns about the meeting:

  • Three counties, including Salt Lake, had GOP fundraisers already scheduled that day.
  • A previous emergency SCC meeting on December 16, 2017, was ruled invalid by the party chair.
  • Because the Utah Legislature is currently in session, at least one lawmaker on the SCC expressed concerns about this being the time they are meeting with constituents.
  • The emergency meeting circumvents elected party leaders.
  • The chair of the caucus committee was not consulted despite claims that the meeting was about caucuses.
  • has information on caucus night. Counties have been given far more control and don’t depend on the state for running the caucuses, obviating the need for an emergency planning meeting, which wasn’t done in any case.
  • Four bylaw changes were scheduled by those that called the meeting, none of them dealing with caucus night.
  • Only 2 of the 4 bylaw changes were reviewed by the Constitution and Bylaws Committee prior to the meeting.
  • The location was donated by David Bateman, the CEO of Entrata.
  • The attendees were a group stacked with SCC members who wanted the change and who likely coordinated to find a date that worked for them, but not the full body.
  • The votes were taken in executive session, preventing them from being observed or recorded.
  • Many changes were added to the bylaw change at the meeting and members were confused as to what actually passed. None of the SCC members who were unable to attend received notice of these changes and no opportunity to be heard as a result. 
  • A motion to consider the change and vote on it at a future date at a regularly scheduled SCC meeting was voted down.
  • Members were not allowed to ask anyone who wasn’t in the executive session questions or even fact check claims made during the debate.
  • The party’s lawyer clearly and repeatedly told SCC members they were breaking state law.
  • Many SCC members didn’t even consider asking those that they are supposed to represent what their opinions were on the issue.
  • Delegates were given very little time to review the changes.
  • A motion to record the vote, which would allow people to know how their representative SCC member voted, was voted down twice.
  • One of the ringleaders, Phill Wright, tried to intimidate me to leave, claiming I couldn’t talk to SCC members without being a member.

How did this happen? Do we have a rogue SCC?

We don’t have a rogue SCC. We have part of the SCC that knows how to manipulate the rules and mislead people to get what they want. After speaking to many who called the meeting, some said or heavily implied that they were misled that it was supposed to be about caucuses, but that was just a ploy to get people to join in the call.

So what they did was give people the minimum notice, just one week. So, if people saw the email come in, they had to immediately cancel their plans for the next Saturday. Some did not see the email immediately though. One SCC member said they learned about the meeting through a news organization. Those pushing it would have had much more time to plan and coordinate.

The event was held at Entrata. David Bateman, the CEO of Entrata, is a strong caucus-only advocate and wanted this change to go through. He funds and helps run Keep My Voice, and has donated money to help pay the legal costs from the SB54 lawsuit. Bateman has tried to control the SB54 lawsuit with his donations including accusing Rob Anderson, the chair of the party, of breaching the contract by issuing a press release regarding how legal counsel was given about them clearly breaking the law. This had nothing to do with the SB54 lawsuit.

So, with the stacking of the delegates, they were barely able to pass the change with the needed ⅔ margin.

Who are they?

Just as money can give you a multiplier to your influence in politics, the caucus system gives a multiplier for time spent. These people are willing to spend more time.

There are a wide variety of motivations as to why people support the caucus only path. Some point to them trying to keep big money out of politics in Utah. Others point to the freedom of association through a political party. Many also point to how uneducated the masses are so they have to have others vote for them. They even point to how they want to keep the party pure based on their view of the party platform.

Some claim it is similar to what the founding fathers gave us and even point to a divine mission that they are on.

But when it comes down to it, they want to control the process in which candidates are chosen. And they want the process to benefit their ideology and chosen candidates.

Why make the change?

Some have said it is to force the court case. I have seen that many of the supporters believe that it is caucus or bust. If they can’t have a caucus only system then they don’t care about bankrupting or destroying the party because the party is a useless tool to get their candidates through.

Who voted for it?

That is hard to tell. They refused to take a roll call vote and were in executive session so outsiders couldn’t see. I have been working on compiling a list. I hope others will contact their SCC representatives and put if they voted for it or not. At least some of the SCC representatives have listed numbers that no longer work and many won’t answer calls or call back. List that as well.

Did this group really fire the lawyer after they were told they were breaking the law?

Yes. Some said they had concerns about how much he was being paid.

Was this worse than how Obamacare was passed?

Many would say yes. It was done by a small group in a closed portion of the meeting. They didn’t even record who voted for it nor did they allow anybody to see what it was they voted on until long after it passed. It took me three days of asking multiple people.

Is the party chair at fault?

The party chair has limited power to stop things like this. So far he has done a great job at representing the broader party.

What can you do?

Call the SCC members in your county

Ask about their attendance and how they voted. Make sure to take time to listen. Let them know how you feel. Make sure to ask specifically if they voted to change the bylaw to remove candidates who take the signature path from the party. Also ask them if they were for or against the recording the vote through a roll call vote. The list is here,

Find the ones in your county and call them and ask if they went and how they voted.

Go to your caucus meeting

Support those who want transparency and representation over favoring a specific candidate. Make sure they are committed to attending the county convention both years and vote for people who will be transparent and represent. Consider supporting resolutions to strengthen the change, get rid of it, or even recalling members of the SCC that pushed the change through.

Consider running yourself as a county delegate

There is a barrier of needing to spend time to be a county delegate but then you are in a better position to represent and hold people accountable.

Consider supporting Count My Vote or Keep My Voice

They both have citizen initiatives that need signatures. Count My Vote wants both the signature route and the caucus route. Keep My Voice only wants the caucus path.

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