The Utah GOP is dropping their expensive lawsuit against the SB54 compromise.
Party Chair Rob Anderson confirmed the decision to UtahPolicy.com on Wednesday.
"It's time for the party to operate under the fiscal responsibility claim we like to champion," he said during a brief phone call.
On Wednesday night, the party officers and budget committee voted to end the lawsuit, which has put the party in severe financial debt. The Utah GOP still owes more than $300,000 on the lawsuit which challenges the compromise forged between the organizers of "Count My Vote" and the Utah Legislature which provided for a dual track system for candidates to get on the ballot.
The party leaders cited a bylaw for the budget committee that prohibits the party from having a retained deficit.
Anderson told UtahPolicy.com that they'd carried the $300,000 debt because of the lawsuit for too long.
"For three years we've had that retained deficit," said Anderson following the Wednesday night meeting. "It's time to end that lawsuit."
The party had appealed a decision against their suit to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which was still pending until Wednesday's resolution.
Once before the party had decided to stop the suit against SB54, but the State Central Committee voted revived the legal fight.
The bylaw officers are using directs the party to take cost-cutting measures to eliminate any deficit within six months. Anderson says the plan is to fundraise on the fact that they've ended the lawsuit to try and retire the debt.
"We plan to meet in 30 days to see how we're moving along. If we don't have it in 30 days, then we'll meet in 60 days to assess and see where we are," said Anderson.
The Utah GOP Central Committee has a meeting planned for Saturday where Anderson says he will inform that group of the decision to drop the lawsuit. He stresses the plan to end the legal fight will not be put up to a vote on Saturday.
Anderson told UtahPolicy.com several weeks ago that he is not personally worried about a letter sent to him in September that – in his opinion – threatened to call for a Central Committee vote to remove him as chairman if he decided alone to end the SB54 lawsuit.
UtahPolicy.com ran a story about the letter.
Anderson said he didn’t intend to order the lawsuit dropped by himself, although he believes he has that authority as chairman.
Clearly, by the actions taken by the state Executive Committee and the party’s Budget Committee (which hadn’t even been operating until Anderson took over last May) to drop the lawsuit, Anderson is not acting on his own – but with the support of other state party leaders.
In any case, Anderson told UtahPolicy that it would take a two-thirds vote by the Central Committee to remove him.
There are around 180 members of the CC, and only 53 committee members signed the letter threatening action against him.
Two-thirds of 180 is 119 – and Anderson said he doesn’t believe that many of the Central Committee would take action against him.
He added that about a dozen of the 53 letter-signees have since called him to say they would never vote for his ouster, even if he did act alone to end the SB54 lawsuit.
They just wanted to put him on record that they don’t believe he had the authority to end the lawsuit unilaterally.
In a recent video sent to thousands of rank-and-file Republicans as part of his chairmanship outreach, Anderson said he expected a Nov. 4 meeting of the CC to take up, again, the SB54 lawsuit issue.
And he hoped that the CC at that meeting would vote to end the costly lawsuit.
Anderson told UtahPolicy that if the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals even did rule against SB54, it could cost the state party upwards of $2 million in additional legal fees should Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, or some other entity with standing, appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
That would certainly bankrupt the party.
And with Count My Vote now back in the field gathering signatures to end the caucus/convention nominating process with a new citizen initiative petition aimed at the 2018 ballot, it would make no sense to continue the old SB54 appeal, in any case.
Count My Vote recently re-launched their ballot initiative to end the caucus/convention system in favor of direct primary elections. They aim to get that initiative on the ballot in 2018. Polling shows most Utahns support ending the use of party caucuses to nominate candidates.
Anderson, who inherited about $450,000 in debt from the previous party leaders when he took office says he's been able to whittle their operational deficit down to about $61,000. However, the $300,000 in debt resulting from the lawsuit has made retiring the full amount difficult.