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Gather, a firm formed by entrepreneur Tanner Leatham to collect petition signatures for candidates to qualify for their party's primary ballot, has received its share of scornful comments and formal complaints from the Republican hierarchy.

And now, this bane of the GOP — which threw mud at the sacred caucus-convention tradition by helping candidates bypass that nominating system and go directly to the ballot through petition — is about to save Saturday's state convention.

Gather has qualified nearly 30 Republicans for the primary through signature gathering. Those candidates include Sen. Mike Lee and Gov. Gary Herbert and more than two dozen legislative hopefuls.

All the while, Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans has railed against the legislation —­ SB54 —­­ that made that path to the ballot possible. Gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Johnson has filed complaints with the lieutenant governor's office questioning Gather's process.

The GOP sued the state, dubbing SB54 unconstitutional, and threatened to disqualify any candidate who collected signatures without going through the convention and snagging at least 40 percent of the delegate tally.

The party failed in those efforts. Signature gatherers will be on the primary ballot.

But a funny thing has happened.

The party did not have enough money to pay for the time-saving and more efficient electronic clicking devices to record the votes of the approximately 4,000 convention delegates. So it planned to use more-burdensome and less-efficient paper ballots.

Gather, labeled as the enemy of the convention way of nominating candidates, offered to pay for the e-clickers — costing about $8,000.

Evans graciously accepted and will give his thanks to the former party pariah during his remarks Saturday.

More GOP purity tests • Syracuse City Councilwoman Karianne Lisonbee is the likely Republican nominee for House District 14 in northern Davis County, thanks to some maneuvering by outgoing incumbent Curt Oda, who filed to run for re-election, scaring off potential GOP hopefuls, then withdrawing after his handpicked successor, Lisonbee, filed for the seat just before the deadline.

If Lisonbee's actions in the Davis County GOP are any indication, she might be as entertaining in the Legislature as Oda, who once made national headlines by introducing a bill that would have allowed the mass murder of feral cats.

Lisonbee heads the county GOP's ethics committee, which attorney David Irvine recently threatened with legal action over the panel's investigation of so-called ethics violations by Davis County Republican Chairman Rob Anderson.

It seems Anderson is the subject of vague allegations, although they have not been spelled out, nor has his accuser been revealed to him.

Irvine wrote to the committee questioning its process and pointing out that GOP bylaws limit ethics probes of party officers to two types of offenses: supporting a non-Republican in an election or violating neutrality rules when Republicans are running against one another.

Neither of those offenses seems to be among the grievances against Anderson.

Some observers wonder if the harassment of Anderson has something to do with the fact that he defeated former Davis County Republican Chairman Phill Wright, a tea party purist who committed thousands of dollars of GOP funds to the fight against Count My Vote — the group advocating for the signature-gathering process for party nods.

It's ironic that when he was chairman, Wright launched an ethics probe against Anderson's wife, former Davis County Party Secretary Kathleen Anderson, because she had signed the Count My Vote petition.

After Irvine's letter to the ethics panel, a motion was presented at the county GOP convention last week to indemnify committee members against potential lawsuits.

The motion failed, leaving the ethics storm troopers on their own and prompting Lisonbee to inform the committee that the Anderson investigation will be temporarily shelved.