Eye On Boise

Idaho Secretary of State says he'll likely demand disclosure of donors

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says he's likely to demand that a group helping finance the campaign to save Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's education reforms reveal the names of its contributors, the AP reports. Education Voters of Idaho collected at least $200,000 to promote Luna's reforms ahead of the Nov. 6 referendum, but says it doesn't have to disclose donors because it's a nonprofit organization under federal tax law. On Monday, Ysursa said the group has yet to provide a legal explanation for why it's not a political action committee required by Idaho's 1974 "Sunshine laws" to disclose donors ahead of the election. "It eviscerates the law if we don't get disclosure," Ysursa told the Associated Press. "We personally do not believe there's a doubt here."

Absent a response from the group, Ysursa said he'll seek "legal remedies" that could include a request for a court order for it to reveal its donors. He expects to act this week. Susan Buxton, Education Voters of Idaho's attorney, didn't return a call seeking comment Monday. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Ysursa likely to demand donor names ahead of vote
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says he's likely to demand that a group helping finance the campaign to save Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's education reforms reveal the names of its contributors.

Education Voters of Idaho collected at least $200,000 to promote Luna's reforms ahead of the Nov. 6 referendum, but says it doesn't have to disclose donors because it's a nonprofit organization under federal tax law.

On Monday, Ysursa said the group has yet to provide a legal explanation for why it's not a political action committee required by Idaho's 1974 "Sunshine laws" to disclose donors ahead of the election.

He said it appears to violate what he calls his office's "11th Commandment:" that political groups need to tell the public where they get their money from.

"It eviscerates the law if we don't get disclosure," Ysursa said in an interview inside his 2nd floor Capitol offices. "We personally do not believe there's a doubt here."

Absent a response from the group, Ysursa said he'll seek "legal remedies" that could include a request for a court order for it to reveal its donors. He expects to act this week.

Susan Buxton, Education Voters of Idaho's attorney, didn't return a call seeking comment Monday.

John Foster, a lobbyist who founded the group, declined to comment.

Education Voters of Idaho was incorporated as a nonprofit, 501(c)(4) group under federal Internal Revenue Service laws. As such, Foster has said its contributors are shielded from disclosure, to protect their free-speech rights.

Its involvement in the campaign came to light when it gave at least $200,000 to a related political action committee, Parents for Education Reform, to finance broadcast ads touting the reforms. Parents for Education Reform disclosed the contribution in its state filings last week.

Despite any federal tax status of Education Voters of Idaho, Ysursa said he's convinced it's still got a duty to disclosure its financiers under state law.

"I haven't seen any IRS provision that would supersede state law on disclosure," he said.

The education reforms, passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature to limit union bargaining power, promote teacher merit pay and require online classes and student laptop computers, are subject of a heated Nov. 6 repeal effort pushed by the Idaho Education Association teachers union.

The union has chipped in the bulk of some $1.3 million collected so far to kill the reforms.

Reform proponents have the moral support of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter but trail in fundraising, having collected about $500,000 that's been disclosed.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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