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Posts tagged: Idaho Republican Party

Charges fly, then fizzle in governor’s race

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how charges flew – then fizzled – over the weekend as the Idaho Republican Party claimed that the Idaho Democratic Party and Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff were doing something “shady” involving passing money back and forth that might violate campaign finance laws. The Democrats responded that Balukoff had contracted out his campaign payroll services to the state party, and it was all reported, legal and on the up-and-up.

On Monday morning, the Idaho Secretary of State’s office looked into it and found no violation at all, instead concluding it's just “that time of year.” The state GOP now says it won’t pursue any complaint. Dean Ferguson, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, said, “I’m guessing they feel a little silly about it.”

Balukoff, a CPA and millionaire Boise businessman, is challenging Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter, a multimillionaire rancher, as he seeks a third term. The race also includes Libertarian candidate John Bujak, Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey, and two independent candidates, Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” who legally changed his name from Marvin Richardson.

Idaho GOP backs off from complaint over Balukoff and Dems’ campaign finances

The Idaho Republican Party now says it won’t pursue any campaign finance complaint against A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, or the Idaho Democratic Party over a payroll services contract. “If they can satisfy the Secretary of State and make that clear to them that everything is fine and dandy, then that’s good, and that’s ultimately what the purpose of our press release was about,” said Dave Johnston, Idaho GOP executive director. “We had received this complaint from several concerned people who brought this to our attention.”

He said the questions focused on the post-primary election campaign finance reports filed both by the Idaho Democratic Party and by Balukoff’s campaign, in which payments were shown but the GOP thought it wasn’t clear “what is what, and if it’s a donation or whether it’s a service that is being rendered.” He added, “If the Secretary of State is satisfied, we’re not going to go forward with it.”

Idaho Secretary of State says no violation in Balukoff payroll contract

Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst says there’s no campaign finance violation in the way Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff has set up his payroll services contract with the Idaho Democratic Party. “We talked to the Democratic Party,” Hurst told Eye on Boise this morning. “The way it’s working is Mr. Balukoff’s campaign actually prepays for the services. So he’s always ahead. There’s no violation of limits.”

Balukoff provides the money up-front, and then the party disburses it for his payroll. “It’s part of the contract that he has with the party,” Hurst said. “I don’t see a violation there.” He added, “It’s just that time of year.”

Of parties, payroll, and politics…

The Idaho Republican Party charged in a press release sent out late Friday night that Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff may be violating campaign finance laws by the way he handles his campaign payroll. The Idaho Democratic Party responded on Saturday with its own press release, saying the party has a contract with Balukoff’s campaign to manage payroll services and there’s nothing in the deal that violates campaign finance laws. “IDP’s contract has been carefully vetted by CPAs as well as compliance experts. We are fully confident in its legality,” party spokesman Dean Ferguson said in his release.

The GOP release suggests that “Balukoff isn’t paying for his staff,” and instead they are being paid by the party while Balukoff donates funds to the party to cover the costs. Jason Risch, attorney for the Idaho GOP, termed this an “abnormal shuffling of funds” and said he thought it could mean the Democratic Party was exceeding the $10,000 limit on contributions to a candidate, “including in-kind contributions such as paying for a candidate’s staff.”

“The purpose of campaign finance disclosure law is to bring greater transparency in campaign finances so Idahoans may see what candidates and political organizations are doing,” GOP executive director Dave Johnston said in the release. “Engaging in confusing money shuffling schemes that appears to violate campaign finance law also violates the spirit of the law – which is to provide greater transparency.”

Ferguson maintained the payroll contract actually provides greater transparency, is fully reported, and that Republican candidates also have contracted out payroll services for their campaigns.

Both sides also took the opportunity to fire a few shots at each other. The Democrats’ release said, “The statement from the IRP seems to be part of an orchestrated smear campaign launched by Republican career politicians, and their lobbyist infrastructure, because they cannot defend Idaho’s rank as last in income, last in education investment, and 2nd in minimum wage jobs.”

The GOP release said, “Balukoff, being a certified public accountant, should know better. However, he is the same candidate who presided over a school board election in Boise that was riddled with shady practices. Finding shady schemes in his finances reports is not a surprise.”

You can read the Dems’ full release here, and the GOP’s full release here. I’ve contacted both parties for more information this morning and haven’t heard back from either. And yes, ‘tis the season…

New Idaho GOP chairman seeks to heal party

Here’s a link to my Sunday story on how new Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates says his party has work to do to recover from its big split midway through an election campaign. After the party’s state convention in June failed to elect leaders amid a bitter intra-party divide, former Chairman Barry Peterson sued, claiming he still was chairman. A judge said no, prompting the election of Yates Aug. 2.

Yates, a former aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney who moved to Idaho Falls in 2011, said, “I have a reasonable amount of experience dealing with things that can be hashed out in the situation room in the West Wing, or in territorial disputes abroad. I have to believe that whatever our disagreements may be within the party, less is at stake … and that we ought to be able to work out our differences.”

Idaho’s Republican Party currently dominates elective offices in the state, holding every statewide office, all four seats in the congressional delegation and more than 80 percent of the state Legislature. But the party’s disarray has created a potential opening for minority Democrats and third party candidates, who are campaigning hard this year in races including the one for governor.

Also from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review, here’s a link to my Sunday column on the politics surrounding the stalled wildfire disaster funding act in Congress and new demographic projections about Idaho’s school students.

Yates names new Idaho GOP exec director, David Johnston

David Johnston has been named the new executive director of the Idaho Republican Party, Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates announced today. Johnston most recently worked as an energy specialist for the governor’s Office of Energy Resources; he’s worked on campaigns and for the Legislature, has a degree in political science from BSU, and served four years on active duty in the Marine Corps. Johnson grew up in Lava Hot Springs.

“I am thrilled to have someone of David’s caliber fill this critical role,” Yates said in a statement. “He has a record of hard work, service, and attention to detail that will be a major asset to the party and all of its members.”

New GOP Chair Yates: ‘We ought to be able to work out our differences’

New Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates has been starting from scratch at the Idaho GOP office, where the last remaining employee when he took over – recently hired party Executive Director Judy Gowen, who was brought in by former Chairman Barry Peterson – left shortly after the Aug. 2 meeting at which Yates was elected chairman.

“She seemed to be a very qualified and good person,” Yates said of Gowen, former political director for Sen. Russ Fulcher’s unsuccessful primary challenge to GOP Gov. Butch Otter. “I had a conversation with her very soon after the Aug. 2 meeting, and she let me know that she preferred to go back to school. She did not seek to be a candidate for executive director going forward.” Yates said he’s made a selection for a new executive director and is just awaiting executive committee approval. “We’re also now anxiously working through a process to identify a finance chairman that can help field a team that works on trying to breathe some oxygen into the effort that we have for the November (election) cycle,” he said.

After the party’s state convention failed to elect leaders over the summer amid a bitter intra-party divide, Peterson sued, claiming he still was chairman. A judge said no, prompting the election of Yates Aug. 2. “I have a reasonable amount of experience dealing with things that can be hashed out in the situation room in the West Wing, or in territorial disputes abroad,” said Yates, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney who moved to Idaho Falls in 2011. “I have to believe that whatever our disagreements may be within the party, less is at stake … and that we ought to be able to work out our differences.”

He said, “First priority is to build up a capacity and execute a plan that supports all our nominees through the November cycle with the things the party usually does – absentee ballots, get-out-the-vote efforts, field offices and things they can do to help all the candidates. We’re beginning the efforts to liaise with all the campaigns.” Yates said after the party gets through the November election, “We’ve got longer-term issues to deal with by way of rules and processes that led to where we ended up this year.” He said he’s heard from lots of Republicans who felt that party rules weren’t fairly applied; new rules and processes can address that before 2016, he said. But for now, “In the closing months of the election cycle, people need to be focused on the work.”

Later, he said, “perhaps they’ll have … time to decide how much they like the person standing next to them.”

“We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us,” he said, “in the sense that we’re amping up as a state party midway through an election.” I spoke with Yates yesterday; the Idaho Statesman also published a profile of Yates in today’s paper by reporter Sven Berg. It’s online here.

Labrador on this summer’s GOP convention: ‘At least I tried to fix the problem’

Looking back on this summer’s tumultuous Idaho Republican Party convention, which he chaired, 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador says he’s not sorry he stepped in, even though the confab ended in chaos, without any votes on leaders, resolutions or the party platform as two wings of the party fiercely opposed each other. “I think what I keep reminding people is that at least I tried to fix the problem that we had,” Labrador said. “One of my favorite quotes is from Teddy Roosevelt about the man in the arena. I think sometimes politicians are afraid of getting right in the middle of something because they’re so worried about what happens to them politically. I actually wanted to solve the divide that existed in the party.”

Labrador noted that he spent five hours the night before the convention reached its climax trying to bring both sides to a compromise. “It was rejected, and I still don’t understand why it was rejected, but there’s nothing I could do about that,” he said. “The easy thing for me would have been to say, ‘Hey, I’m running for majority leader of the House, I should walk away from this so I don’t have anything fall on me.’ I think that would be the chicken way out, and I don’t do that.”

Now that the party, after a failed lawsuit from the former party chairman, has chosen a new chairman in newcomer Steve Yates, Labrador said, “I’m very impressed with him. Maybe he’s exactly what we needed – somebody who wasn’t really part of either camp so he can try to unify. I know that’s been his message, and I’m wholly supportive of him. And I want to help him in any way I can. But I would’ve been supportive of anybody who came out of that process.”

Here’s the quote Labrador referenced, from a speech Roosevelt gave at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

New Idaho GOP Chairman Yates faces plenty of challenges

New Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates has his work cut out for him. He told reporters today that his next major challenge will be getting the state party office open; he’s also asking county GOP chairmen to contact him with any outstanding bills that need to be paid.

Idaho Public TV’s Melissa Davlin reports that she’s spoken with several central committee members who said they’re optimistic his election will help move the party forward, even if they didn’t vote for him; Yates won a three-way contact, defeating Douglas Pickett and Mike Duff.

The party he’s now heading has been in disarray since its June state party convention in Moscow, at which deeply divided delegates squabbled over seating several counties’ delegations and never got to votes on leadership, resolutions or a party platform. Republicans currently hold every statewide office in Idaho. Click below for a full report from the AP.

Idaho GOP central committee chooses Yates as new party chairman

Idaho’s GOP state central committee has voted in Steve Yates as the next state party chairman; he defeated Mike Duff of Blackfoot and Douglas Pickett of Oakley. Yates is a former aide to Dick Cheney and recent arrival to the state who unsuccessfully challenged GOP Rep. Jeff Thompson in the primary.

Yates acknowledged his newcomer status in his stump speech to the committee, in which he emphasized that he moved here because he loves the state, Idaho Public TV’s Melissa Davlin reports. He talked about finding common ground and resolving conflicts quickly and quietly. “I have my own point of views,” Yates said, but said it's not the chairman's job to impose his opinions on others.

In Duff's speech, he asked for unity in the party. “Our enemy is not in the Republican Party. Our enemy is in the Progressive Socialist Party, formerly known as the Democratic Party.” He also blasted candidates Richard Stallings and AJ Balukoff, calling the latter a “limousine liberal.”

Pickett's speech started with an extended metaphor comparing the party to an energetic colt. He also appealed for unity. “We are all Republicans after all,” he said.

Today's selection was required because the June state Republican Party convention ended in disarray and division - without any votes on party leaders, resolutions or a platform. Former Chairman Barry Peterson maintained he was still in charge after that, changing the locks on the state party office and filing suit against other party officers, but lost in court, leading to today's meeting.

GOP meeting’s start neither quick nor painless…

As this morning’s Idaho Republican Party central committee meeting got started, Idaho Public TV’s Melissa Davlin reported that a fair number of delegates are using proxies, and there is some confusion as eligibility.

Damond Watkins, National Committeeman, gave the invocation and asked for respect during the prayer. Then Bryan Smith claimed “mass meeting rules” are in order, and parliamentarian Jesse Binnall concurred. Smith challenged the meeting chairman named on the agenda, Chuck Winder, and proposed Damond Watkins run the meeting. The delegates voted for Watkins, and the meeting started.

Reports Davlin, “People showed up this morning hoping the meeting would be quick and painless. Not sure this start to the day will foster that.”

Reaction to GOP ruling: ‘He changed the locks, discarded documents, and fired staff’

In more of the reaction to yesterday’s court ruling on leadership of the Idaho Republican Party, the two party officials whom Barry Peterson unsuccessfully sued, Mike Mathews and Cindy Siddoway, have issued a statement on the results. “I am happy that the August 2nd meeting called by the grassroots of the party will go forward.  I look forward to holding elections to end any confusion in party leadership,” Mathews said. He was the party’s first vice-chairman, but according to the judge’s ruling, there are now no state officers, though the locally chosen central committee members remain in place.

Siddoway, the party’s national committeewoman, serves a four-year term rather than a two-year one like the officers, so she’s still in office as a state party official. She, national committeeman Damond Watkins, and whomever is elected chairman at the Aug. 2 meeting will attend an upcoming Republican National Committee meeting as Idaho’s representatives. “I am pleased to see that Idaho will have full representation at the upcoming RNC meeting in Chicago,” Siddoway said. “It is now critically important that all the loyal party members come to Boise to cast their vote for officers.”

Mathews and Siddoway said in their statement: “Since the GOP convention adjourned in June, Peterson has attempted to hold on to the chairmanship.  He changed locks on the office, discarded documents, and fired staff.  Even when the National Republican Committee said that it would not recognize Peterson as Idaho’s chairman, he persisted.” Click below for their full statement. 

Jason Risch, counsel to the Idaho Republican Party, shown above leaving the Twin Falls county courthouse with attorney Timothy Hopkins, who represented Mathews and Siddoway in court yesterday, said, “I appreciate the judge’s thoughtful consideration of this issue. It was very clear that he had done his homework and read the rules and come to an appropriate decision.”

Troupis: Party needs to unify

Christ Troupis, attorney for Barry Peterson in his unsuccessful lawsuit to remain Idaho Republican Party chairman, said Peterson pursued it in order to address concerns from some in the party that party rules weren’t being followed.  “We don’t want to preserve a conflict,” he said, noting that no appeals were contemplated. Troupis, who unsuccessfully challenged GOP Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in the primary this year, said the party needs to unify.

Peterson accepts ruling, says he won’t run again on Aug. 2

Barry Peterson had this to say after 5th District Judge Randy Stoker ruled he’s no longer chairman of the Idaho Republican Party: “The judge made a ruling, and I’m comfortable with what the judge did.” As for what the party does next, he said, “I’m not the chairman, so it’s not up to me.” Peterson said he won’t appeal and never intended to.

He also said he won’t run for state party chairman on Aug. 2, when the state party Central Committee chooses the new leaders. He said he’s heard of three candidates: Steve Yates, Doug Pickett and Mike Duff. “I’m happy for all of them,” he said.

Christ Troupis, Peterson’s attorney, said Peterson met with Gov. Butch Otter yesterday and offered to resign as party chairman, “And the governor said you can’t resign because you’re no longer chairman,” Troupis said. “Barry wanted the process for the integrity of the party.”

Peterson declined to discuss his meeting with Otter. “We visited on Saturday, on Sunday, and on Monday,” he said. “On each day, I got a different reflection of the governor. … It was clear to me that the lobbyists and his staff had significant influence on his position.”

Judge: Peterson is no longer Idaho GOP chairman

Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker today rejected a bid from embattled former Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson to hold onto the chairmanship by blocking a scheduled Aug. 2 state central committee meeting to choose new leaders. “His term has expired,” Stoker told the court.

The judge’s ruling came after extensive arguments that lasted for more than two hours in court this morning in Twin Falls. “This is not a question of this court taking any position with regard to what the Republican Party should do in this state,” Stoker said. “I have no dog in this fight, so to speak.”

The Aug. 2 party central committee to choose new leaders will go forward, the judge ruled. “It is your business what you do there,” he told the party members from both sides. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Some of the back-and-forth in court: ‘The party is in trouble’

Christ Troupis, attorney for embattled GOP Chairman Barry Peterson and six supporters, told the court this morning, “We believe the chairman was re-elected at the convention by the delegates.” Judge Randy Stoker asked him, “Let’s go back to what happened at the convention. You agree, it’s undisputed, that the parliamentarian of the Republican Party has publicly said, ‘I made a mistake.’” Parliamentarian Cornel Rasor said after the convention that he erred in advising that adjourning the convention would have the effect of extending current officers’ terms for another two years. “Why is that not the end of this dispute?” the judge asked Troupis. “Isn’t that a political determination?”

“I agree,” Troupis said. “All of those were political actions. The delegates acted in reliance upon the statement, if you adjourn like this, these officers remain in place. The subsequent statement ‘I made a mistake’? Well, there’s a lot of politicians who make those kinds of statements. … Maybe he didn’t make a mistake. … I happen to disagree with him.” Troupis said, “What he said that was relied upon by the convention delegates at the convention, he can’t recant after the convention and say, ‘Oops, my foul.’ The point is the vote was taken based upon what he said.” He added, “I wish the parliamentarian had been more careful at the time, but the fact that he wasn’t doesn’t un-ring the bell.”

That prompted this question from the judge: “I know what your clients think they voted on. … What did the other 521 people think? How am I supposed to know?” Troupis responded, “You can’t.” When the judge suggested the only way to know was to call in all 521 to testify, Troupis said he didn’t think that was necessary. “They were told this is the effect of your vote, and they voted in accord with that,” he said.

Troupis said, “There’s an entire side of the party that is very disgruntled and upset right now and the party is in trouble.” To that, the judge said, “That may be, but that’s not something that I can fix, is it.”

Judge denies motion to dismiss, will hear full Idaho GOP case this morning on merits…

Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker has denied the motion to dismiss Barry Peterson’s lawsuit over chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, saying he’ll instead move to hear the full merits of the case this morning, after a 10-minute break. The judge said he believes state statute cites party rules, so they can be enforced by the court. “I think that this case involves both political questions and questions of whether there has been a statutory and therefore a rule violation,” Stoker said. “It’s a mixed issue.” A 1908 Idaho Supreme Court case involving a fight between competing delegations in the Idaho Democratic Party set the precedent on that, he said.

“The court has no stake in who is elected chairman or vice chairman or secretary or treasurer of this party or any other party,” Stoker said. “The issue that I have is are you following the rules, it’s just that simple.” He said his decision to deny the motion to dismiss shouldn’t be taken as a sign he’s leaning either way on the case as a whole. Peterson is seeking an injunction to block the Idaho Republican Party from holding an Aug. 2 state central committee meeting to select new leaders.

Role of First Amendment in Idaho Republican Party case…

Christ Troupis, attorney for Barry Peterson, argued that the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees are implicated in the Idaho Republican Party lawsuit Peterson’s brought in an attempt to keep the chairmanship. “All political activity is First Amendment protected,” Troupis told the court. “Any loss of First Amendment rights is an irreparable injury.”

Tim Hopkins, attorney for the two party officials Peterson sued, told the court, “My God, nobody’s short on freedom of speech in these instances. … I don’t think there’s been any limitation or restriction on anybody’s freedom to speak.” Hopkins said, “The efforts here to create  legal question out of what is clearly a political feud, if you will … It has no sound basis in law for the court’s consideration.”

Judge tells court he’ll decide Idaho GOP case today

Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker told the court his morning that he will rule today in the Idaho Republican Party lawsuit, in which two wings of the party are fighting over the chairmanship. “‘This is a very unique proceeding,” Stoker said. “I’m going to give you a ruling at the end of the day.”

More than two dozen people are in the audience. The judge told the court he’s studied all the briefing and affidavits, pored over Idaho Republican Party rules and watched video of the state GOP convention and a rules committee meeting.

Among the arguments: Timothy Hopkins, attorney for party Vice Chairman Mike Mathews and National Committeewoman Cindy Siddoway, told the court: “There are winners and losers inevitably in a political setting like this one, but there is not irreparable injury.” Therefore, he argued, no injunction is warranted.

Christ Troupis, attorney for embattled Chairman Barry Peterson, cited Bush vs. Gore and the Idaho closed GOP primary case. “The courts involve themselves in the affairs of political parties every day,” he said.

The audience is quiet and attentive. A sign in the corridor outside warns that a ringing cell phone in court can bring a $100 fine.

Embattled GOP chairman contends he’s facing ‘hostile takeover’ by ‘rogue members’

Lots of interesting stuff in the court filings in the Idaho Republican Party case, including a link to a YouTube video of the final four minutes of the Idaho GOP convention; you can watch it here. In it, convention Chairman Raul Labrador calls for adjourning the convention, and a motion is made to suspend the rules to allow the convention to continue past its scheduled ending point. Asked by Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, what happens if the convention adjourns without any votes on leadership, Labrador confers with parliamentarian Cornel Rasor and then says, “Platform stays the same, the officers stay the same.” A voice vote is taken, with the “no” votes much louder, and Labrador says, “The nays have it and we are adjourned.”

However, Rasor later told the Lewiston Tribune he “inadvertently misread the rules.” “It was my fault, not Raul’s,” Rasor told Tribune reporter Bill Spence in a June 25 article that’s among the documents filed in court. State party rules specifically say there “shall be no automatic succession to the office of state chairman.”

Christ Troupis, attorney for embattled Chairman Barry Peterson and six of his supporters, contends it doesn’t matter – the 527 delegates at the convention thought that was the result of adjourning. Any other interpretation, he wrote in court documents, “threaten(s) to nullify the votes of 527 convention delegates.”

Timothy Hopkins, attorney for party Vice Chairman Mike Mathews and National Committeewoman Cindy Siddoway, whom Peterson has sued in an attempt to halt an Aug. 2 party central committee meeting to choose new leaders, wrote, “No vote for chairman was held. No vote for any officer was held.”

“The entirety of plaintiff’s claim for relief is based on a significant mistake and misreading of the rules at the end of the convention,” Hopkins wrote. “No constitution or statute permits a group of individuals to conjure a right to use mistaken information in order to lay claim to party leadership positions.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

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About this blog

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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