This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Republican Party activist Jeremy Roberts had a little fun with a prank a decade ago.
Noticing that the Utah Republican Party had failed to renew rights to its name with the state, he decided to register it for himself. He held on to the name until his friend Stan Lockhart was elected GOP state chairman in 2007, then he returned it to the party.
That little shenanigan is relevant today because Roberts' name can be found in past state records as being associated with the Utah GOP. And thus he recently received a call from a collection agency asking him to pay off a delinquent debt incurred by the party.
Roberts isn't the only one.
An officer in Gov. Gary Herbert's campaign received a similar call seeking payment for a GOP debt. The agency felt that since Herbert is the top Republican in the state, his campaign could assume the responsibility.
The collectors were wrong.
The campaign's position was that Herbert is not responsible for the party's bills and not obligated to cover them.
The reason an obviously frustrated bill collector was contacting the guv's campaign and a guy who just happened to own the GOP's name as a hoax 10 years ago is that the party itself is not returning the agency's calls.
It's the latest indication of the GOP's strained finances in a state where it dominates the political landscape.
The latest reports show the Republican Party began the period with a balance of $3,916 and ended with $1,028. For the year, the party has received $178,270 in contributions and spent $187,780.
By contrast, the Utah Democratic Party, whose highest elected official is Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, started out with a balance of $33,215, received $375,517 in contributions and spent $336,033, leaving a balance of $72,748.
Year to date, the Democrats have received $604,299 in contributions and spent $624,402.
So the Utah Democratic Party, which holds 12 seats in the 75-member House and five in the 29-member Senate, has outperformed the GOP by nearly four times in contributions and has a balance that is almost 72 times the amount of the Republicans' war chest.
The source of the debt is the party's failure to pay the rent for its 2015 state convention at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, and its 2016 convention at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.
Both facilities are owned by Salt Lake County and are operated by SMG.
When the Republican Party didn't pay for the 2015 convention, it moved its 2016 show to the Salt Palace. But SMG and the county threatened to lock the party out of that venue until it covered its 2015 debt, which it finally did.
The GOP still owes $1,737 for services provided by the Salt Palace at its April convention.
The party's financial woes can be pegged to its dogged pursuit of a lawsuit against the Legislature's SB54, which provided alternative paths to primary ballots a compromise with the Count My Vote movement.
The party lost most of the motions and has spent thousands on appeals.
Former donors who have recently kept their wallets in their pockets have complained that the party should be spending its money to elect Republicans instead of chasing wasteful lawsuits.
The party also has alienated many of its own elected officials by suing the GOP-dominated Legislature.
State GOP Chairman James Evans said when the party has outstanding bills, it pays them, but "there is a lot going on this election cycle" so distractions might have led to an oversight.
He said he will check with his staff and make sure, basically, that the check's in the mail.
As for the paltry balance in party coffers, Evans said he has made enemies because of his stand against Count My Vote, causing some to withhold contributions.
"This is another example of why I keep telling our grass roots that it is time for them to step up and pay half our obligations."