Rob Bishop is safe.
He can and will run for a second, two-year term as Utah Republican Party chairman in Saturday's state GOP convention without worries about legal action by gun-control advocates. His election is all but ensured.Salt Lake County Attorney Dave Yocom said that an investigation by his office came up with the same findings as a similar query by the Attorney General's Office: Bishop is not breaking state law by being state party chairman and a lobbyist at the same time.
Utahns Against Gun Violence complained during the 1999 Legislature that Bishop was guilty of a third-degree felony under a law that prohibits public servants, party officials or voters from accepting money in an effort to influence their action, opinion, recommendation or vote.
As a paid lobbyist for the Utah Shooting Sports Council -- a pro-gun rights group -- Bishop was effectively fighting anti-gun legislation before the conserva- tive Utah Legislature.
Bill Nash of Utahns Against Gun Violence told the Deseret News in January that his group sees Bishop as a major obstacle in what his group considers reasonable and rational measures to fight gun violence.
Fearing that his route to a second term could be hampered by the anti-gun group, Bishop and other GOP leaders asked former state GOP Sen. Dave Buhler to file for state party chairman. Buhler admits he was a "backup" to run and serve if for some reason Bishop couldn't. Buhler said if Bishop is in Saturday's chairmanship race, he'll withdraw.
Buhler's backup role serves another purpose: To oppose Gerard Arthus, who has filed for state GOP party chairman. Arthus has been a Libertarian Party officer and candidate in the recent past. If Bishop was disqualified or had to step aside, party rules say Arthus would have been elected if unopposed.
Bishop, unhappy with Libertarians coming into the Republican Party to run for office, party positions and as delegates, set up a special committee in 1998 to find a way to keep such interlopers out.
But Bishop said Wednesday that the committee hasn't finished its work and there won't be a proposal before Saturday's convention aimed at that problem. Thus Arthus' chairmanship candidacy doesn't violate any current or proposed party rules.
"We do want to deal with this (interloper) problem. But we have to do it very carefully. We don't want to hinder people from returning to the Republican Party if they really want to -- the Merrill Cooks and Matthew Throckmortons," Bishop said.
U.S. Rep. Merrill Cook jumped from the party in 1988. He ran several races against GOP candidates as an independent before rejoining the party several years ago and winning the 2nd Congressional District seat.
State Rep. Matthew Throckmorton, R-Springville, ran for the state Senate as an Independent American Party candidate several years ago. In 1998, he ousted an incumbent GOP House member in the Utah County Convention and went on to win the seat.
While Bishop sees no problems with re-election to his chairmanship, he wonders if a proposed resolution in Saturday's convention is aimed at him.
Longtime GOP activist Arnold Gaunt suggests a bylaw change that would require party officers to disclose a variety of conflicts of interests, including being a registered lobbyist with the state and federal governments.
The bylaw change says that for Saturday's convention, people running for state party office who have such conflicts must make them verbally before balloting takes place for the offices.
Registered lobbyists like Bishop must, by law, list their clients with the Lieutenant Governor's Office.