Deep pocketed donor agrees to pay off Utah GOP’s legal debt

The Utah GOP has struck a deal with a big donor to pay off the party’s legal debt from their challenge to the SB54 law.

Party Chair Rob Anderson announced the deal with Dave Bateman, the chairman of the Entrada company, to pay off the more than $400,000 in legal bills from the lawsuits over the law that gives candidates a secondary path to the primary ballot outside the traditional convention system.

“I think the legal monkey is off our back,” said Anderson.

The party had been hampered by that legal debt as many big-pocketed donors did not want their donations to pay for a lawsuit they did not agree with as they supported the SB54 law. But, the right wing of the party kept the suit alive despite the mounting debt.

Bateman has also agreed to fund the lawsuit going forward. The party has lost in state and federal court but is waiting to hear the outcome of an appeal from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Anderson defeated former party chair James Evans last year by vowing to drop the lawsuit, but hardliners on the Republican State Central Committee fought that decision.

Now that the legal battle is funded into the future, Anderson says nothing is stopping the SCC from taking their fight against SB54 all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Now that we’ve taken the financial burden off the State Central Committee and they have an unlimited bucket of money for litigation, why not take this all the way to the Supreme Court if they continue to get an answer they don’t like from the courts?” said Anderson.

Anderson says he warned Bateman that giving a blank check to the SCC for the lawsuit could be an expensive undertaking.

“Mr. Bateman is looking at attorneys who charge $900 per hour in D.C. to petition the Supreme Court,” says Anderson. “I think you’re looking at that along with our attorneys to file the briefs who charge around $350 per hour. So, he could be paying $1,200 per hour to take it that route, and that’s even before you are accepted.”

With the burden of the legal bills off his back, Anderson says he is free to focus on paying off the operational debt of the party which was left over from his predecessor. Anderson tells that they’ve been able to pay off nearly $120,000 of that debt, which leaves them with about $50,000 to go. He hopes to have that retired before the state convention in April. 

But, just because the party will be debt free for the first time in years doesn’t mean Anderson is ready to start spending freely again. He says he hopes to tap party faithful as volunteers to fill crucial roles, an idea he’s taking from Rep. John Curtis’s successful run for Congress last year.

“I saw what he was able to do with mostly volunteers and I was impressed. I told him I wanted to model the party after his organization because they were very successful.”

Anderson also is taking a creative approach to staffing the GOP offices. They’ve cut a deal with the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah for some interns who are working at party HQ for educational credit.

“I’d love to add some more paid staff, but we still have some huge budgetary constraints here. If that opportunity presents itself and we secure some good fundraising sources, then I’ll think about it,” says Anderson.