Who Owns the Utah GOP?

Who Owns the Utah GOP?

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By Ed Wallace / Oct 30, 2015 / 11:21 amSpeculation has been running rampant about private individuals buying and registering domain names with the Department of Commerce and then representing themselves in emails as official GOP communications.

Fox 13 reported April 10th, that Count My Vote Executive Director, Taylor Morgan, had recently registered the “Republican Party of Utah” with the state commerce department. Utah State Party Chair, James Evans, has suggested that there were ulterior motives behind the SB54 compromise, claiming “Since this name can only be used in the event that the Utah Republican Party ceases to be a registered political party in Utah, it appears this filing was made in anticipation of that event”.

This is not the GOP’s only problem with misrepresentation.

The Utah State Republican Party official email domain is “utgop.org”.  All official state party emails come from this address. But a private individual, Daryl Acumen, registered “utahgop.org” while serving as the Vice Chair of the Utah County Republican Party. Acumen claimed this was for the party’s official use. But when he resigned from office, Acumen kept the domain name and used it for his private, for-profit campaign consulting business and attached the official looking County Party logo and info at the bottom. During his tenure as vice-chair, Acumen had access to the GOP’s Utah County delegate list and 145,255 (as of 6/23/2015) county GOP members, including their phone numbers, email and home addresses. Acumen’s services were recently retained by Jason Chaffetz in his re-election effort

So, why would a private individual or an organization want to represent themselves as the official party if not to imply a deceptive support from the majority? Why is this a big deal?

As Utah County Republican Party races were taking place in April, Party Chairman Casey Voeks was using utahgop.org (owned by Daryl Acumen) to send official party emails to delegates and Central Committee members. At the same time, some candidate hopefuls had engaged Mr. Acumen to run their campaigns and send out emails. Acumen was known to be proficient with technology, had a domain (utahgop.org,) and had valuable access to registered party member emails and other personal information lists. A few of those candidates have reported that Acumen waived his fees to help them get elected.

The day before party leadership elections, Chairman Voeks approved of an email that asked the Central Committee members to take a poll on who they would vote for in elections the next day, the “Official UCRP Survey”. When the respondent clicked on the survey, it redirected to Acumen’s site, the paid campaign consultant, and a disclaimer appeared that read:

“This is an Official Utah County Republican Party survey provided by an independent analytic consultancy.  It is being provided to you at the request of Utah Republican Party Chairman Casey Voeks and with the support of members of the UCRP Steering Committee, including Technology Officer Michael Jolley.”

Some concerned citizen activists, who were aware of the situation, sent delegates an email that exposed this connection. All of those running for party leadership positions that had retained Acumen’s services lost election, except those running for State Central Committee positions.

Shortly thereafter, other candidates in races in Salt Lake County and Davis County were endorsed by the UT GOP after receiving emails from utahgop.org. This resulted in big wins for Acumen’s candidates.

And, this doesn’t stop there. Recently, a paid strategist, Sherrie Everett Hall, used Mr. Acumen’s email services to push the idea that the Utah County GOP supported Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) even though the Central Committee voted by 2/3 majority to oppose the BRT tax project. Everett is a former Provo municipal Council member and former Transportation and Mobility Committee chairwoman. She remains a member of that committee.

With political ethics in short supply these days, and the public’s perception of UT politics and policy becoming increasingly corrupted, the UTGOP and UT County GOP leadership have an opportunity to take measures to protect the unsuspecting public as well as foiling the hijacking of their own party. Will they?

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