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Jorgenson: ‘I made a boo-boo’

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, says he didn't mean to violate campaign finance laws when he placed an ad for Coeur d'Alene City Council challenger Jim Brannon, and he's working with Coeur d'Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers to clear the matter up. "I was just on the phone with Susan," Jorgenson told Eye on Boise in a conversation at a Boise coffee shop. The North Idaho senator is in town working on business related to the Idaho Indian Affairs Council, which he chairs.

Jorgenson spent $1,090.80 to run a flier in the Coeur d'Alene Press touting Brannon and including a list of Brannon's supporters. But the limit for campaign contributions is $1,000, and he filed no independent expenditure report and no 48-hour report of a last-minute campaign expenditure over $1,000, as required. "So help me, if I had of known, I would've not spent $1,090 - I would've spent $995," Jorgenson told Eye on Boise. "Had I known that I was doing anything that even approached a violation, I would've done it differently and I wouldn't have spent as much money." He added, "If I was trying to be secretive about it, I wouldn't have put my name on the ad, the name of my business. So if I made a boo-boo, it was inadvertent." Click below to read more.

Here's how he said it all came about: Brannon is challenging Coeur d'Alene City Councilman Mike Kennedy. It's a nonpartisan office, but Jorgenson said, "I was asked, 'Why aren't you coming out and supporting a good Republican?" He called Kennedy "perhaps one of the finest young Democrats" and said he likes the councilman. "Really my issue isn't with him being a Democrat. ... It has to do with LCDC and city government." Jorgenson has been critical of the city's redevelopment agency and has sponsored legislation to change rules for such agencies.

As a resident of Hayden Lake, Jorgenson said, "I really don't have a dog in this fight, I don't live in Coeur d'Alene." But he said a "high-ranking official in the North Idaho Republican Party" was advocating that Republicans back Brannon over Kennedy. "What I was saying to that individual was, 'Look, you shouldn't be spending your political capital as a party official in these city races,'" Jorgenson said. "My comment was viewed as being something disloyal to the party." So, he said, "I just thought, OK, I'm just going to go down there and do this." That's why he placed the ad on his own. "I don't think the party should be involved in city elections - people have to run on their own merits," he said. "Quite frankly, things are already divisive enough without bringing in that additional element."

Twice today, Jorgenson tried to fax Weathers the missing disclosure report, but she said her fax machine malfunctioned and she didn't receive it. "What we agreed is he's just going to hand-carry it to me tomorrow," Weathers said, when Jorgenson's back up north. "He's trying to rectify the situation. ... As long as people are willing to come in and try to comply with the law, I give them the benefit of the doubt. It's when they ignore or just refuse to comply that I send them to our legal department to deal with." Weathers said though the ad ran on Saturday, she's calling the delivery of the report tomorrow as good enough to meet the 48-hour requirement. The exceedance of the $1,000 limit, however, isn't resolved by the report; Weathers said she'd refer that issue to city attorney Mike Gridley.

Jorgenson apologized for his mistake. "The fact that I'm not cognizant of the city local laws I don't think is commentary on my knowledge about the state level," the third-term state senator said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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