After operating in the red for several years, the Utah Republican Party is now out of debt, according to party Chairman Derek Brown, who announced the improved financial standing Saturday to members of the State Central Committee.
Brown said Monday that the party owed roughly $137,000 at the time of his election in early May. And during Saturday’s Central Committee meeting, he presented a $26,000 check for long-overdue reimbursements to the Washington County Republican Party, extinguishing the last outstanding payment on the party’s books.
“There have been some hard feelings in Washington County over that,” Brown said. “I committed when I was running that we would take care of that issue and resolve it once and for all.”
Brown’s predecessor, former Chairman Rob Anderson, was vocal about the party’s debts during his tenure. Utah Republican Party fundraising stagnated starting in 2014, in part because some major donor were turned off by the divisive fight over SB54 — a state law allowing partisan election candidates to bypass party delegates and qualify for the primary ballot by collecting signatures from voters.
The Republican Party initiated a series of costly, and largely unsuccessful, legal challenges aimed at preserving the traditional caucus-convention nominating process.
Those legal costs were such that a wealthy businessman, Entrata CEO Dave Bateman, stepped in to absorb the party’s attorney fees and continue to fund the litigation, with Bateman extinguishing the debt owed to him only when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Utah Republican Party’s appeal challenging SB54.
Anderson clashed with members of the party’s State Central Committee, and the party governing body ultimately censured the chairman near the end of his term. But Brown said the difference between Saturday’s meeting and past Central Committee meetings “could not be more stark," describing it as having a feeling of unity, optimism and excitement.
“We’ve had a lot of different donors that have stepped up and have been willing to help out,” Brown said.
State disclosure forms show the Utah Republican Party with a balance of $181 at the end of 2018, while documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show the party with $46,709 on hand on May 31 with $4,000 in outstanding debts.
Brown said the party’s financial picture began to turn around in May, but that his election was followed by a series of new invoices from creditors who were unknown to him and “came out of the woodwork," as well as lingering bills from the 2019 organizing convention.
“If there’s anything out there I’m not aware of,” Brown said, “it’s something small that we have the resources to cover.”
And in another sign of the party’s improved financial status, the listed phone number for the Utah Republican Party headquarters — which had been disconnected for several months at the time of Brown’s election — was successfully operating Monday morning.