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Labrador’s hefty re-election warchest suggests he won’t leave House to run for guv

Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador is sitting on the second-biggest wad of campaign cash he’s stockpiled since he’s been in office, with more than $277,000 in the bank. That suggests that Labrador is gearing up for a re-election bid for a third term, not for a long-shot primary challenge against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter in 2014.

Labrador’s being coy; neither he nor his staffers have returned calls from reporters today, and he’s been hinting for months that he might run for governor or might not and hadn’t yet decided. “Politicians enjoy the attention of people speculating about what office they’re going to run for next,” said BSU professor emeritus and longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby. “He’s certainly benefited from a lot of that kind of speculation, and why wouldn’t he want to continue it for as long as he could?”

Labrador’s latest campaign finance report, filed late last night, shows he ended the year’s second quarter with $277,271 cash on hand. That’s nearly triple the amount he had at this time two years ago, and an amount he’s exceeded only once before, in October of 2012, at the height of the campaign season just weeks before he was re-elected. He raised $65,680 this quarter, an unremarkable amount but for the fact that two-thirds of it came from PACs, a departure for Labrador, who typically has raised more of his campaign funds from individuals than from PACs.

According to FEC records, in 2009-10, Labrador raised more than three times as much for his campaign from individuals as from PACs. In 2011-12, the split was 60 percent from individuals, 40 percent from PACs.

Among the PACs handing over the money now: Microsoft, Google, eBay, Northrup Grumman Employees, Alliant Techsystems, Darigold, Arizona Dairymen, Michigan Milk Producers, the National Roofing Contractors, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and more. Those groups, Weatherby noted, certainly don’t “have a big stake in who’s the next governor of Idaho.”

The only way to transfer federal campaign funds to a state campaign is to do what Secretary of State Ben Ysursa terms “reattributing” them – getting a written statement from each original donor, saying they want their money transferred from the congressional campaign to the state gubernatorial campaign. “That’s the only way,” Ysursa said. “There’s not just a direct transfer of money. There has to be reattribution of the individual amounts.” Then, the amounts count against the state’s contribution limits for each donor.

“It’s convoluted, but it can be done,” Ysursa said, most notably by Dirk Kempthorne when he decided to run for governor in 1998 rather than seek another term in the Senate. Kempthorne’s 1998 federal campaign finance report shows he refunded nearly $50,000 in contributions that year, including $38,000 to PACs and $11,600 to individuals; that’s what a candidate would have to do to reattribute the funds and redirect them to a state campaign. A Federal Election Commission spokeswoman said federal laws don’t restrict transfers, but they’re governed by state law and state limits.

Labrador’s July quarterly campaign finance report also shows he received $10,000 in contributions from Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo’s Freedom Fund PAC, with two $5,000 checks, one tabbed for the primary and one for the general election, both coming in June 3.

Said Weatherby, “It certainly looks like he’s not going to take a run at governor.”


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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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