Bob Bernick’s notebook: Top Utah Republicans have had it with the never-ending SB54 ‘goon show’

In the story that never ends, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert has taken a hands-on interest in the plight of the state Republican Party – and the infighting that has wracked the top party echelons for upwards of four years.

Sources with knowledge of a recent state party Executive Committee meeting tell that Herbert attended and was surprised, and a bit dismayed, to learn that should the party’s Central Committee – the controlling body of Utah’s majority political party – decide to stop the seemingly-forever lawsuit against the state over SB54, Dave Bateman, who is bankrolling the appeals, could call in the party’s legal debt.

On top of that, it seems the traditional big hitters of the Utah GOP, the Elephant Club, have had it with the SB54 goon show.

I’m told that Herbert sent out 400 personal letters to current and previous Elephant Club members. (You give $1,000 to the party and you get Elephant Club status for one year, which includes special political briefings and meetings with GOP bigwigs.)

Out of 400 invitations, only two signed up.

And at a recent meeting of the Elephant Club, only two members showed up.

So, the once prestigious group of top Utah Republicans could actually meet in a phone booth.

Last year the SB54-haters had top party bosses sign a contract with Bateman, head of Entrata, over his pledge to pay off the party’s legal bills on SB54 lawsuits – where the party has lost every court case.

A special party “Constitutional Defense Committee” was set up to handle the continued litigation. The CDC – the anti-SB54 group on the Central Committee, among others – CAN NOT on its own end the lawsuit – now headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Only the state Central Committee can do that.

And I’m told it is likely in the regular August meeting of the CC a motion will be made to officially end the lawsuit – not appeal to the Supreme Court, which most likely will refuse to hear it anyway.

Whether that motion passes or not likely depends on how many of the 180 CC members show up – and whether most stay to the end after the shenanigans of the anti-SB54 folks attempt to delay any CC action (their usual tactic).

But even if that motion passes, and the lawsuit is finally dead, that may not be the end of troubles. is told that Bateman et al. have failed to provide accurate attorney billing costs to the state party – which by federal law has to put them in the party’s financial disclosures.

The Federal Election Commission is aware, I’m told, of the party’s financial disclosure filing shortcomings – and fines could be coming if the proper filings are not made.

The cash-strapped state party has already had to pay an attorney $4,000 to update some previous party FEC filings that were inadequate, I’m told.

With the whole panel of justices at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refusing to rehear the party SB54 decision (which upheld the dual-pathway law), any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court must come within 90 days.

The August CC meeting falls before that deadline.

So, in theory, the party’s governing body could end the lawsuit in two months.

But the CC has refused to take up the matter before.

And even with Herbert’s new attempts to personally intervene, there is no guarantee the anti-SB54 folks on the CC won’t have their way again.

In the meantime, the backers of Count My Vote citizen initiative petition may soon file their own lawsuit attempting to get on the November 2018 ballot with their proposal to basically enshrine SB54 into state law.

A recent Dan Jones & Associates polls show hefty support for CMV, even among Utah Republicans.

But the anti-SB54 group has shown little interest in abiding by what rank-and-file Republicans want.

Like I said, the never-ending SB54 story continues.