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Unregistered group launches campaign attack in Idaho Supreme Court race

A group calling itself “Idaho Citizens for Justice” sent out full-color mailings and placed large newspaper advertisements over the weekend touting Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick and criticizing his challenger, 2nd District Judge John Bradbury, but the group hasn’t registered with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office as a political committee or independent campaign, nor has it reported its sources of funding; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. The group’s ads list a Misty Cooper as its treasurer and its mailings list a post office box in Idaho Falls as its headquarters; but at the bottom of its ads, which reproduce a portion of an Idaho State Bar member survey in which members ranked the two high court candidates, the ads say, “For more information contact Dan Black,” and list Black’s phone number and email address at the Idaho State Bar; Black is the communications director for the Idaho State Bar.

“I was surprised to see my name on an ad this weekend in the Idaho Statesman,” Black said this morning. “Of course I gave no permission and no permission was requested to utilize my name.” He noted, “The Idaho State Bar does not make endorsements.” Black noted that an Idaho State Bar press release on the member survey several weeks ago included his contact information; he guessed that the “Citizens for Justice” group just lifted his information along with the survey results. “I am a little concerned,” Black said. “I don’t think it was probably on purpose or nefarious or malicious. I think it was maybe a little lazy, you know, basically to just read their copy a little more carefully.”

The full-color mailer sent out by the group doesn’t include Black’s name or contact information, though it includes the same section from the bar survey results. The group also has new website and a Facebook page, established on May 12, which criticizes Bradbury for comments about abortion in a 1992 legislative campaign and says he has a “troublesome record on law and order issues,” while touting Burdick as a “supporter of open government and a free press;” it lists descriptions of cases and legal citations, including six cases in which Bradbury’s district court rulings were overturned on appeal.

The mailer and newspaper ad both call Bradbury “a very wealthy liberal judge” and note that he funded his own campaign for the high court two years ago. However, this time around, both candidates are accepting campaign contributions, and Burdick has a substantial fundraising edge. Bradbury has raised $59,789, according to his campaign finance report, including $32,600 of his own money, with the rest coming mostly from individuals. Burdick has raised $80,378, according to his report, including contributions from individuals, law firms and PACs.

Burdick said this morning he was unaware of the “Citizens for Justice” group. “I have no idea who or what is going on, absolutely none,” he said. “And nobody in my campaign has worked with that group, I can guarantee you.”

Bradbury said, “Those ads are disgusting. … Not only are they untrue personal attacks, but they’re illegal personal attacks, and if that’s the kind of justice they want on the Supreme Court, they oughta vote for Burdick.”  Bradbury said, “It’s exactly what I expected - I expected personal attacks instead of discussion of the issues. … That’s exactly the kind of campaign they ran against (then-Justice) Cathy Silak when (current Chief Justice Dan) Eismann won.”

He also disputed the claims in the ads. “I’ve been reversed six times, that’s true - but out of how many?” he said. “I think my appellate rate is probably about 90 percent. … I have a lot of trials, judges have trials and have appeals. … I’m proud of what I’ve done. In four of those six cases I was probably right, it’s a matter of opinion - they have the last say.”

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office was scrambling this morning to find out who’s behind the group, which could face fines of up to $50 per day plus civil penalties. “If they’re specifically designated to support or oppose a candidate or measure, then they’re required to become a political committee,” said Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst, if they receive contributions and make expenditures exceeding $500. State law also requires notice to be filed within 48 hours of an independent campaign expenditure. “We’re trying to find out who and what they are,” Hurst said.” Bradbury said he’s heard radio ads sponsored by the group airing in eastern Idaho for the past several weeks.
 


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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