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Extortion accusations fly in ugly Utah GOP fight over controversial election law

SALT LAKE CITY — A business executive who bailed the Utah Republican Party out of debt is accusing a GOP state senator of trying to extort him as part of plot to discredit his efforts to overturn a controversial election law.

Dave Bateman, founder and CEO of Lehi-based Entrata, claims Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Wood Cross, offered a woman “a million dollars” to make a false sexual harassment claim against him.

As evidence, Bateman played on Facebook a voicemail he obtained from a co-worker of a woman he is dating, both of whom work for his property management software company.

“It’s Todd Weiler. Hey, at the Jazz game you were talking to some of my well-connected friends and now we have another friend who’s a lawyer who thinks he could get your friend a million dollars if she doesn’t go to Europe. I think you know what I mean. Give me a call,” Weiler says on the voicemail.

But Weiler, a lawyer, said he was only trying to help someone he was told was being sexually harassed at work.

“I have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace,” he said Monday.

Weiler said he was approached by a friend of the woman who was seeking a lawyer after her hours and responsibilities were cut at Entrata. He said he was conveying from the lawyer she shouldn’t go on a trip with Bateman if she intended to pursue legal action. The voicemail was the last of several conversations he had with the friend of the woman.

“There was no bribery. There was not extortion,” he said. “I’m not a stupid guy. If I’m going to do something illegal or unethical, I’m not going to leave a voicemail.”

Bateman said he dated the woman from May to December last year before breaking up, but they have since gotten back together. The trip was actually to Belize, not Europe.

“She never even replied to his offer,” he said in a Facebook post Sunday.

Bateman said he filed a report with Lehi police over the alleged extortion.

The accusations are the lasted example of GOP infighting over SB54, a law the Utah Legislature passed four years ago creating an alternative path to Utah’s long-standing caucus/convention system for securing a party’s nomination for elected office. Under the law, candidates may also collect voter signatures to get on the primary election ballot.

Bateman agreed to pay off the Utah GOP debt incurred fighting the law in court. The case is currently before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

“Everybody watching this video needs to know that all of us who are out here dealing with what the Legislature does and what these power players do, that we actually have more power than we think we do,” Bateman said.

Bateman said Weiler is among several powerful lawmakers seeking retribution against him for trying to undo the SB54 compromise.

Weiler called Bateman’s Facebook post a “publicity stunt” to generate interest for the Keep My Voice initiative to repeal the law and to get voters to attend Tuesday’s caucus meetings.