Something is rotten in the state of Utah. It seems that we can't go a week without some new controversy embroiling the Utah Republican Party. At the heart of it all is a political machine that would make Boss Tweed proud, a system of selection setup to allow the party faithful to anoint their leaders while brushing aside anyone who "isn't a real Republican". It appears that this is a systemic problem that won't go away any time soon.
Some of the most egregious offenses come from party leadership who try and participate in the anointing process and maintain that they are still neutral. Remember that "fabulous" mailer that praised five Republican lawmakers, four of whom face primary challenges? It was an obvious violation of appropriate neutrality requirements placed on state party leaders, yet GOP State Chairman Stan Lockhart can only fumble out a lame apology and an offer to do similar mailings for the primary opponents. Sorry, Stan, but it just isn't that easy. You've already made your preference and endorsement known and no amount of stumping for the other candidates can undo that.
It seems other leadership has similar issues. Vice-Chairman Todd Weiler finds himself in a similar bind after donating $500 to one of the eight Republican candidates looking to replace Dan Eastman in SD-23. His excuse? The neutrality language "is open for interpretation". Well isn't that convenient for Mr. Weiler.
Breaking party laws goes far beyond these kinds of endorsements. The Republican Party kept playing games with the delegate numbers, making changes to allocations all over the place just days before the caucuses. Stan Lockhart's daughter got elected as a delegate for a precinct she doesn't live in. The party refused to provide a list of e-mail addresses for party delegates so that candidates can make their pitches. It seems that following rules and proper decorum don't fit into the machine of the party GOP.
I've already seen the apologist statements attempting to explain away these improprieties. Even if they were true, the problem is that the party has acted in such a way as to have the appearance of evil if not the act. Had their own bylaws been appropriately scrutinized and followed, the controversies wouldn't even exist. Even the possibility of an action violating the bylaws should be enough for the party's highest officers to take pause and reconsider their actions. That it didn't shows their arrogance that they could get away with it scot-free.
Kip Meacham is one of the few brave souls to stick with his party and call them out on this behavior. Some people will call Mike Ridgway crazy, but he also seems to be one of the few Republicans disgusted enough with it to do something other than go unaffiliated. Can men like this fix the corruption coming from the top? I hope so, but when the party does things like bar them from conventions and get restraining orders, I have my doubts. This is why I remain proudly unaffiliated.