Big GOP donor accuses state senator of attempted extortion; senator says he tried to aid sexual harassment victim of his accuser

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, speaks on SB138 in the Senate Chamber, Salt Lake City, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018.

The man bankrolling efforts by GOP ultraconservatives to fight a new Utah election law says Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, tried to bribe a woman with $1 million to bring sexual-harassment charges to smear him and his political efforts.

Weiler says he offered no bribe, and feels the woman indeed was sexually harassed by his accuser, Dave Bateman, CEO of the Entrata software company. Weiler says a lawyer friend figured the woman could win up to $1 million if she pursued a lawsuit.

Weiler adds that Bateman “is trying to use me to generate publicity” to attract more right wingers to Tuesday’s GOP caucus meetings seeking to give them more power against party moderates. Bateman says that is false, and that he plans to sue Weiler for slander and has filed a criminal complaint.

Bateman made his allegations public with a Facebook video on Sunday in which he says, “Todd Weiler tried to offer [Bateman’s girlfriend, who is also an employee] $1 million to make sexual-harassment allegations against me.”

To back that up, he released a voicemail that Weiler sent to a friend of Bateman’s girlfriend. Both are employees at Entrata.

The voicemail says, “Lisa, it’s Todd Weiler. At the Jazz game, you were talking to some of my very well-connected friends. And now I have another friend who is a lawyer, who thinks he could get your friend $1 million if she doesn’t go to Europe. I think you know what I mean. Give me a call so we can talk.”

Weiler said the voicemail was sent to a close friend of his family, who had told him and others that “her co-worker from Entrata had just ended a sexual relationship with Mr. Bateman,” who was recently divorced.

“When the relationship ended, her job hours and job duties were changed,” Weiler said.

“My family friend told me that her co-worker was looking for an attorney to file a sexual-harassment claim,” he said. “I was calling my family friend back saying I found an attorney.”

Weiler, an attorney himself, adds that the attorney figured the case “could be worth $1 million because it’s the CEO of a large company, and this is clearly sexual harassment.”

Also, Weiler said his friend had said “her co-worker had just been invited on an international trip with Mr. Bateman and was conflicted as to whether she should go. I was saying she needs to decide if she’s going to be his girlfriend or if she’s going to be a plaintiff. … Well, she did go on the trip, and she’s his girlfriend again.”

Weiler said Bateman obtained the voicemail by showing up at the home of his family friend at 2 a.m. on Friday, and demanded her cellphone — which is owned by Entrata.

“That’s a lie, just like the other things he’s saying publicly about me,” Bateman said. “What’s he saying is misconstrued, including saying I had an affair. He’s trying to change the subject away from his extortion.”

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dave Bateman, Entrata CEO, speaks in the opening session to more than 14,000 people at the 2018 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Lake Convention Center Thursday, Jan. 18.

Bateman adds that he met his girlfriend last Memorial Day, two months after he was divorced. He said they broke up in December, a month before Weiler’s voicemail, but were still on good terms and are in a romantic relationship again now.

Weiler’s version “is all distortion,” Bateman said. “He reached out and urged her to bring these allegations. She didn’t even respond. We were on good terms.”

Bateman said he offered to take the woman on a trip to Belize, not Europe. “I didn’t have anyone to go on the trip with me, so I asked her if she wanted to come with me as friends. She agreed. … We were on good terms because I had not sexually harassed her.”

He said he filed a complaint with Lehi Police alleging attempted extortion and plans a slander suit against Weiler. Lehi Police Lt. Toby Peterson confirmed that Bateman had filed a complaint. He said his department is in the initial stage of investigating the allegations and is not yet releasing the complaint.

The state senator meanwhile said, “I’ve never offered to bribe anybody. I don’t have $1 million. I think sexual harassment is despicable and disgusting and I have zero tolerance for it.”

Bateman says he believes Weiler and others are attacking him because “because I paid off the [$410,000] debt of the Republican Party and have been fighting for First Amendment rights so the party can choose the way it chooses its nominees.”

The debt came from a party lawsuit seeking to overturn a state election law, SB54, that allows candidates to qualify for the ballot through the caucus-convention system and/or by gathering signatures. Bateman also vowed to cover future costs of the lawsuit, now on appeal with a ruling pending from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Delegates, who tend to be more conservative than most voters, view candidate signature gathering as diminishing the party’s power to choose nominees and delegates’ role in the selection. Moderates say the caucus-convention system tends to nominate people far to the right of the political mainstream. Bateman is also an organizer of the Keep My Voice petition seeking to overturn SB54.

Weiler says he believes Bateman launched his attack “trying to get people angry to sign his Keep My Voice petitions at caucuses tomorrow. So I think he’s trying to use me to generate publicity, and I think that’s sad and pathetic.”

Bateman also alleges a conspiracy by what he calls the “Buckshot Caucus” of powerful legislators and others seeking to attack him. “They’ll just throw crap out, make these crazy allegations to try to undermine and destroy people and that’s how they’ll operate.”

Bateman’s video by name attacked people including GOP Chairman Rob Anderson, Sen. Curt Bramble, Rep. Mike McKell and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. He said the Buckshot Caucus had a suite at the Jazz game where they talked, as mentioned in Weiler’s voicemail.

Weiler said the Buckshot Caucus is the name of a private Facebook group. “The whole reason it was created is the unofficial Republican page got so insane that people who started Buckshot wanted a safe place where people could go and have political conversations and not be attacked by crazy people.”

He said the Jazz game was one of the events the Buckshot Caucus holds occasionally “because a lot of us only know each other through Facebook.” He said the name comes from an inside joke because many of the members like “guns, diet Coke and bacon.”