Message Feb 2015
Dear Friends of Liberty,
Most people in the state are familiar with the Count My Vote initiative. In the spring of 2014 there was a petition drive afoot in an effort to get a measure on the ballot that would, if passed, have eliminated the caucus system in Utah altogether. Though I don’t have personal knowledge of the situation, there were rumors about that the petition drive was in trouble, and having difficulty coming up with the requisite number of signatures. Moreover, some claims were made that signatures on the petitions were not valid because they were collected by people unqualified under Utah law to collect petition signatures.
I am always suspicious when a cause receives too much financial support too fast. In the past, this has been a very bad sign and a reason to give serious scrutiny to the source of the money and the motives of the people behind the movement. In the case of Count My Vote, it appears to me that they received around $1,500,000 in 2013 and 2014. Roughly 45% of that came from less than 25 donors in amounts not smaller than $25,000. Another dozen donors gave amounts exceeding $10,000. There were many other substantial donations of less than $10,000, as well. The names of the people and the amounts of their donations can be found at: http://www.disclosures.utah.gov/Search/PublicSearch/FolderDetails/1411317
(Count My Vote is registered as a Utah Political Issues Committee Alliance for Good Government).
Count My Vote never came to fruition, but SB54 did. Also known as the Bramble
Bill, and characterized as a compromise with the Count My Vote backers, it may or may not be as onerous as the initiative it replaced. It most certainly provides for a way to make an end run around the caucus and the convention system, and as such vastly increases the likelihood that it won’t be the best candidates which win, but simply those with the greatest financial backing.
Remember the GOP convention of 2010, when then-Senator Bob Bennett was turned out to pasture…an incumbent who didn’t make it through the convention? Why might that have been? Could it be that people at the grassroots level (the ones who go to the caucus and become delegates) were fed up and wanted a change? Isn’t that the way it is supposed to work?
What happens, then, when anybody with enough money to have the requisite signatures gathered can get on the primary ballot purporting to represent this party or that party, when in fact he may be vehemently opposed by the members of that party?
SB54 allows for just that very thing. Anyone with enough money can find another path to the primary ballot, rather than the present caucus and convention system. Further, a candidate with sufficient financial resources could gain a position on the ballot without the endorsement and against the wishes of the party he purports to represent.
There was a similar situation in the Idaho governor’s race this past election. And we all know than once candidates are on the ballot, it is usually the richest candidate who wins. In practical terms, it reduces to a dim and slim possibility the chances that an incumbent candidate with the money of the political establishment behind him could ever be defeated. One wonders that the bill was not called the Incumbent Protection Act.
From a civil rights point of view, this legislation passed as SB54 is poised to violate the right of free association, which all persons and private organizations have guaranteed to them by the first amendment. Just as each one of us has a right to pick and choose our own friends and companions, so also a political party, being a private organization, has a right to select and vet the candidates it chooses to endorse and to reject those whom it will.
Further, this legislation also stands to violate the use of a party’s trademark. That is, the party’s logo may appear on the ballot beside the names of candidates to whom that party may be vehemently opposed.
While the Constitution Party wholly and heartily endorses the GOP’s efforts against this SB54, we realize that the concerns of smaller parties, and particularly the Constitution Party, will on some points differ from the concerns of the GOP.
Consider also the possibility of the “raiding” of one party by another. During the early stages of the campaign leading up to the 2012 elections, when Orrin Hatch was again seeking his nomination for the Senate, there were many in the GOP who were seriously opposed to him, and who wanted desperately to muster the candidates to defeat him in the convention, just as had happened to Senator Bennett. We in the leadership of the Constitution Party were approached on multiple occasions asking us to have our party members change party affiliation to Republican long enough to attend caucuses and elect delegates who would not vote for Senator Hatch at the convention. Though we as a party were quite opposed to his reelection, we thought this an unwise course and did not recommend it to our party members. Nevertheless, this is one example of what can happen. Other instances could be shown where this sort of thing actually has happened in other states.
Further, a smaller party such as ours stands to suffer greater damage from this “raiding” than either the Democratic or Republican parties. Consider that the primaries are or may be closed, so that only members of a particular party may vote for the candidates of that party who appear on the ballot that time. Given our small numbers, it would only take a minor organized and temporary defection to the CP, and our bona fide long-time members would be totally overwhelmed at the polls. Thus it would not be possible to defeat at the primary election a candidate which the party members have endorsed. We have, in fact, in at least one county, seen a surge in CP affiliated voters during the primary election, only to see our numbers dwindle before the general election.
Consider also that it would be much easier to gather up the requisite number of signatures (a designated percentage of the voters registered as affiliated with the particular party in question) to get a name on the ballot should one choose.
Ultimately, in November of 2014, the Utah GOP filed suit in Federal Court to challenge SB54. We were aware that at the convention and among the members of the GOP central committee there was great support for this challenge. But there were also indications that the top leadership did not share that view, and apparently in consequence, no concrete action was taken until GOP Chairman Evans’ letter (to just whom I am not certain) dated September 20, 2014, in which was stated the Party’s intent to challenge SB54 in Federal Court. Even then, it took another two months to get a suit filed.
Meanwhile, the CP of Utah was in the process of preparing to file that same suit. Even before the grand “compromise” between certain in the legislature and the backers of Count My Vote, in the early part of March 2014, party leaders had met with the originators of the legal research on which we believe the GOP complaint to be based, and had become convinced that this initiative, and the legislation which replaced it, were at once unconstitutional, unjust and unwise. Had funding not been an issue, our challenge could very well have been a done deal as early as last June.
Since the GOP’s filing of the challenge to SB54, we having recognized the additional dangers to which SB54 exposes the Constitution Party, and a motion to intervene in the suit was filed just before Christmas. Since that time, the CP of Utah has been granted leave to intervene, so that we might protect our own interests (and the interests of all of the smaller parties) where they differ or diverge from the interests of the GOP.
All of this has cost us a substantial (for us) sum of money. Following so hard upon the heels of last fall’s election, it comes at a time when the party coffers are low. An initial $2,000 was paid, followed by another $2,508. Partially defraying these costs, we have been fortunate to have two or three regular working stiffs willing to help out by bearing a disproportionate amount of the costs. But that well is dry for a time, at least, having been previously tapped to a similar extent during the recent election. However, we have received two more donations of $1000, as well as another $500, which, when combined with what the party already had on hand, allowed us to pay what was owed as of the first of January. There will be another bill in an amount yet unknown which will come due at the first of February. For that, we are going to have to rely on the generosity of our members and supporters.
The Constitution Party of Utah desperately needs your help in carrying on this fight to keep our caucus system. We are on the front lines. Won’t you please join us? Won’t you please click here and help us out with a donation of $500, $50, or even $5?
Few other states have a caucus and convention system like ours here in Utah. We are the envy of many in this regard. Let us fight to keep a local voice and individual influence in choosing who will represent us on all the levels of government – Federal, State and Local.
Chairman, Constitution Party of Utah