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Rolly: Utah County Republicans asking, ‘Where did that $5,000 go?’

First Published      Last Updated May 15 2017 10:57 pm

The Utah County Republican Party is about to explode over a mysterious $5,000 fund approved last month by a handful of party officials without knowledge of the governing Central Committee and funneled apparently to one person.

According to multiple sources, a Central Committee member was preparing a complaint Monday demanding an accounting of that money, which on the order of party leadership was given to a recently formed limited liability company.

The organization, Grassroots Republic, is an LLC with only one name listed, Jay Philpot, who is better known as former state legislator and one-time congressional candidate Morgan Philpot.




Jay is Morgan Philpot's first name and the name he uses in his law practice.

In a conversation last week, Philpot told me that he didn't control Grassroots Republic but was acting as a consultant. He said the actual managers are Republican activists Paul Cozzens from Iron County and Lane Beck from Cache County, although their names don't appear on the LLC's filing with the Utah Division of Corporations and Commercial Code.

The money purportedly is for expenses incurred by attorneys appealing a federal court's dismissal of the party's lawsuit against SB54, which was the Legislature's compromise with the Count My Vote organization that had been gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to change the way parties pick their nominees.

Count My Vote wanted direct primaries, but the compromise allows for two paths to the primary ballot — signature gathering or the traditional caucus-convention system, which the party is trying to preserve with the lawsuit.

According to the complaint being filed, Central Committee members were not privy to the allocation to Grassroots Republic, and nobody knows what has happened to those funds. The GOP's attorney of record in the lawsuit, Marcus Mumford, has not seen any of that money.

Philpot told me last week that he planned to assist in the appeals. But he is not officially part of the legal team.

The issue is further clouded by the fact that the party's treasurer, Rob Craig, was not allowed to present his budget report containing that allocation to Grassroots Republic, at the April Central Committee meeting. Craig then defeated Party Chairman Craig Frank at the county convention, held on the same day as that Central Committee meeting.

With the new leadership, Central Committee members hope for more transparency, according to Diane Christiansen, a precinct chairwoman and delegate who formerly led the party's Constitution and Bylaws Committee.

Christiansen, who was assisting in the complaint, said Central Committee members were concerned about the $5,000 — a substantial expense, given the party's limited budget — being allocated with no accounting of how it has been spent.

Cozzens and Beck, who Philpot said manage Grassroots Republic, have actively campaigned for state GOP Vice Chairman Phill Wright in his bid become head of the Utah Republican Party. That race, to be decided at Saturday's state convention, includes two other candidates: incumbent James Evans and outgoing Davis County Chairman Robert Anderson.

Wright, the former Davis County GOP chairman, has been one of the most stringent defenders of the caucus-convention system and the lawsuit to preserve it. When he was Davis County chairman, the party contributed about $20,000 to the lawsuit.

He said recently that he favors forming a private group to raise funds for the appeal.

Good for the goose? • Some state GOP delegates have proposed a resolution for Saturday's state convention calling on Congress to address out-of-control spending and refraining from increasing the debt ceiling without identifying immediate cuts in the current fiscal year.

These are the same folks who voted to approve more than $300,000 in legal fees for the SB54 lawsuit that the party has yet to pay.

prolly@sltrib.com

 

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