New group formed to fight the SB54 compromise

A new group has been formed by opponents of SB54, with the broader goal of educating Utahns on the value of the party caucus/convention process in picking elected officials.

In fact, says former GOP legislator Morgan Philpot, the group’s attorney, GrassRoots Republic’s ultimate goal is even greater: Advocating and educating for the traditional political brilliance of a true citizen republic form of government.

“This is bigger long term” than just fighting SB54, said Philpot, although the group may end up raising money which, in turn, could be used to pay part of his legal fees in the continued appeal of the Utah Republican Party’s 10th Circuit Court lawsuit.

As you may recall, the state party’s Central Committee first voted earlier this year to end their federal appeal, after losing two court fights over SB54.

Then the CC reversed itself, in a special vote deciding the appeal could go forward, but no state party money would go toward it.

Philpot was part of the new CC decision, saying he would take on the appeal for free. Well, not exactly, since Thursday Philpot said he would like to get paid for his legal work, just like any other attorney would.

Maybe GrassRoots Republic will raise some money for his fees, perhaps not. That is yet to be decided.

In any case, the GR is, for now, a corporation, with the idea to turn it into a 501c(3) non-profit at some point down the road.

“We will not be a PIC or a PAC,” said Philpot, who has run for several offices as a conservative Republican – including the governorship five years ago, barely losing to GOP Gov. Gary Herbert in the 2012 state convention.

For now, all the members of GR are conservative Republicans, said Philpot. Its main leaders are Paul Cozzens and Layne Beck, but there are other backers, some of whom are members of the state or county parties’ central committees.

It is hoped that the group could be bi-partisan since its goals are to educate folks about the “last real vestige” of a fundamental republic — citizens organizing into groups, who in turn elect like-minded people to represent them at various levels of a republican form of government.

“We would like to have Democrats, Libertarians, and independents” in GR, as well, says Philpot.

Regardless of the goals, for the immediate future, it may well be GR who takes the public stand (outside of the Utah Republican Party) of repealing SB54 or opposing any future attempt like Count My Vote.

And that may help in the state GOP’s fundraising, which has been harmed by its virulent opposition to SB54.

CMV was well on its way to get a petition on the 2014 ballot that would have ended a political party’s caucus/convention process in picking primary candidates.

All candidates would gather voter signatures to get on the party’s primary ballot.

SB54 was the comprise law that got CMV to drop their petition drive – with the new law allowing signature gathering, caucus/convention candidate advancement, or both routes at the same time.

The state GOP sued over SB54 – which damaged the party with internal splits, led to a $300,000 legal bill (only partly paid), and then Philpot et al.’s offer to continue the federal appeals without the state party incurring any more legal fees.

Philpot said the signature-gathering route – now the only option in many states – has become a disaster.

That system is more expensive for candidates, caters to the rich and famous who are already well known and financed, and provides ballot access only to candidates who can pay for it, says Philpot.

But too few Utahns know or realize the dangers of SB54, nor the advantages of the party caucus process it damages, he adds.

Ultimately, in its most pure form, there could be non-party caucus/convention processes that would nominate principled candidates for office, said Philpot.

“There are bigger problems” ahead for the U.S. republic, warned Philpot. “Bigger than this lawsuit.”

That broader education, and gathering of like minds, is the goal of GrassRoots Republic – not to be confused with the long-time Utah Grass Roots, an archconservative organization that for years has rated Utah legislators and governors on their votes on a variety of government reform measures after each general session.

But for now, GrassRoots Republic will raise money to continue the SB54 federal appeals, and perhaps publicly oppose any new CMV signature-only petitions or movements.

This way there can be organized opposition outside of the Utah Republican Party structure – and perhaps allow for healing of intra-party wounds over SB54 and the caucus/convention fight.