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Posts tagged: John Bujak

Idaho guv debate most heated yet

Idaho's final gubernatorial debate showcased the most heated exchanges yet between the candidates seeking the seat, the AP reports. GOP Gov. Butch Otter faced off against Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian candidate John Bujak. The three agreed on little, writes AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, and often interrupted the moderator and debate panel to respond to zingers thrown out by their opponents, while discussing education, the economy and same-sex marriage. Click below for the AP's full report.

Also, the Twin Falls Times-News has a full report here on the debate, headlined, “Otter on defensive on CCA in last debate.” Reporter Nathan Brown writes that both Balukoff and Bujak slammed Otter's handling of the private prison matter, including a $1 million settlement with Corrections Corp. of America releasing the company from civil liability for understaffing the state's largest prison and overbilling the state, and his handling of the state's current troubled contract for the Idaho Education Network, a broadband network linking the state's high schools. Otter said he doesn't know if the CCA settlement was fair. “I'll know when the FBI is done investigating,” he said.

A night of lively political debates in Idaho…

Here’s a link to my full story at on tonight’s lieutenant governor debate, the only debate in the race between GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley. In the polite but pointed televised debate, Little and Marley outlined sharply differing views of how Idaho’s faring as it works to recover from a big economic downturn.

The lieutenant governor debate, which ran 30 minutes, followed a heated debate in the governor’s race, in which GOP incumbent Butch Otter, Libertarian John Bujak and Democrat A.J. Balukoff clashed on everything from Idaho’s private prison debacle to education to jobs. Among the interesting moments: Otter referred at one point to his opponents by a combined name: “Balujak.” After Bujak was asked about his legal woes in Canyon County – which resulted in multiple acquittals – he said, “I’m surprised that I get the questions about scandal, with Gov. Otter standing next to me.” Balukoff called for scrapping the troubled contract for the Idaho Education Network: “Undo that contract, rebid it,” he said.

Otter said Idaho’s never been able to meet its constitutional mandate to adequately fund schools because of the state’s rural nature, and only now with initiatives like the IEN is it beginning to bring more uniformity to education. Balukoff and Bujak both disagreed; Balukoff said Idaho did a pretty good job funding school operations before the 2006 law that shifted funding from property taxes to the sales tax.

Otter said he’d sign a bill to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act, if lawmakers send it to his desk, but said he’s “not ready to surrender” on same-sex marriage. Bujak said, “At this point the ship has sailed. … You’re just throwing good money after bad.”  Balukoff asked, “Friends, is our state better off under Gov. Otter? The answer is no.”

Meanwhile, the two candidates for state superintendent of schools, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, met for their final debate – this one organized and run by high school students in Idaho Falls. Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin has a full report here.


Libertarian candidate for governor says if elected, he’d likely seek a 2nd term as a Republican

John Bujak, the Libertarian candidate for governor, told the Spokesman-Review’s editorial board today that if he’s elected and then runs for a second term, “I will likely run for a second term as a Republican, and I think it will heal the Republican Party.” Bujak said, “My whole life I’ve been a Republican. And I think if you were to ask me where are you on the scale, I’m a Liberty Caucus Republican, I’m a libertarian Republican. I’m running as a Libertarian this time, and I do believe in the platform of the Libertarian Party. I don’t go so far down the road that I think we need to demolish all regulation. I think there are limits that need to be imposed.”

Bujak was elected Canyon County prosecutor as a Republican, before he resigned amid legal issues and charges that led to multiple acquittals. He’s been campaigning against the “good old boy system” that he says he found infected Idaho Republican Party politics. “I understand that Republicans tend to come out and check the ‘R,’” Bujak said. “I’m going to ask them to vote on their principles, because without those principles, there can be no Republican Party in Idaho.”

Three candidates for governor to debate tonight in Nampa: Otter, Balukoff and Pankey…

Three candidates for governor of Idaho will face off in a live debate tonight at 8 on Boise TV station KTVB, broadcast from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa. The three: GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, and Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey.

Libertarian candidate John Bujak, who debated Otter and Balukoff in an Oct. 3 debate in Coeur d’Alene, along with independent candidate “Pro-Life,” and who is also scheduled to debate Otter and Balukoff on Idaho Public TV on Oct. 30, is crying foul at his exclusion from the Nampa matchup. But KTVB told Bujak he didn’t meet its criteria for participation in the debate, the AP reports, including $10,000 in outside donations. Pankey also didn’t meet that, but qualified under a separate criteria for candidates who had received at least 10 percent of the vote in a previous statewide race; Pankey ran in the GOP primary election for lieutenant governor in 2010 and received 13.5 percent of the vote.

UPDATE: Bujak has been providing additional information to KTVB, and just sent out this tweet: “I believe that KTVB is going to allow me to participate in tonight's debate. I should have confirmation before noon. Stay tuned!”

At the first debate in the governor’s race in Twin Falls on Sept. 24, just Balukoff and Bujak faced off, after Otter declined to participate. The Oct. 9 Idaho Falls City Club debate featured just Otter and Balukoff. Click below for more from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi.

Otter rivals object to continuing court fight over same-sex marriage

Two candidates challenging GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s bid for a third term reacted today to Otter’s pledge to continue to fight same-sex marriage in Idaho in court. Here are their statements:

John Bujak, Libertarian: “I was disappointed that Gov. Otter decided to continue to waste more Idaho taxpayer money fighting this issue.  Nevada’s Republican governor, in the companion case, saw the wisdom in ending the fight because it is a fight that cannot be won in the federal courts.  At this point, Idaho is best served by saving its limited resources and putting them to a more practical use such as improving education or reclaiming control over Idaho’s lands.”

A.J. Balukoff, Democrat: “Idaho should be spending its previous few taxpayer dollars on higher priorities, like education and growing our economy. As I've said many times, Gov. Otter's misguided priorities have devastated our schools and led Idaho's economy to the bottom nationally.” He added, “This ruling recognizes that, in America, we do not have the right to impose our beliefs and practices on other people, and discrimination is wrong. We must treat all people equally, with kindness and respect. I'm proud of the courage shown by these people who challenged a law that violates the United States Constitution.”

Idaho Supreme Court rules Bujak violated legal ethics, but penalties satisfied

The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak - the current Libertarian candidate for governor - violated four of the Idaho State Bar's ethics rules between 2004 and 2011, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported today. The high court ordered a one-year suspension of Bujak's law license for the violations, but since he already had a 19-month interim suspension when the complaint was filed three years ago, the terms of that penalty already are satisfied and Bujak can continue to practice law.

Bujak told the newspaper the ruling was the “last chapter” in a long-running legal case in which he was charged with grand theft by unauthorized control; he gave up his law license pending the resolution of that case, and got it back after his acquittal. “It's been sitting at the Supreme Court since March, presumably under review — I don't know what took them so long review it,” Bujak told Press-Tribune reporter John Funk. “It's just the case finally winding through the other leg of the process.”

The original bar complaint was filed against Bujak in October of 2011, charging that he'd failed to properly deposit checks intended for a client's estate in 2008; and that he'd convinced an elderly client to name himself and his assistant as the beneficiaries to the client's will. Funk reported that another attorney later voided the will, and the client said Bujak convinced her that he and his assistant should be listed as beneficiaries for her protection, but that that could be changed later; he was acquitted of criminal charges in the case in January of 2013. The Press-Tribune's full report is online here; click below for an AP version.

Balukoff, Bujak both rip Otter at first debate in Twin Falls; Otter didn’t attend

The first debate of this year's race for Idaho governor featured Democrat A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian John Bujak, the AP reports, but not incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter. At the debate sponsored by the Twin Falls Times-News, both Balukoff and Bujak criticized Otter's record on education and the economy, and vowed to remove the “good old boys” system they said Otter has created. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi. Though Otter declined to participate in the Twin Falls matchup, all three candidates have accepted debates together in other events throughout the state in the upcoming weeks.

Bujak, who termed Otter a “liberal,” said, “You could choose Gov. Otter, you could lock yourself into four more years of cronyism, but Idaho will dig deeper into a pit. I am the only conservative candidate on the ballot.” Balukoff said, “The one thing Bujak and I do agree on is that we need a change. If you're satisfied with spiraling down to the bottom, then vote for Otter.”

‘Otter fatigue’ a factor as two-term GOP governor seeks a third term

An Idaho Statesman story over the weekend explored how “Otter fatigue” – a phrase I’ve been hearing increasingly this year from those who watch Idaho politics – could give Democrat A.J. Balukoff a lift in his challenge to two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter. The story, by reporter Rocky Barker, is online here. “Some Idahoans’ disappointment with Otter, a divided GOP and a spirited campaign by Libertarian John Bujak give the Boise businessman a chance to pull off an upset,” Barker reports.

Early polls still show Otter with a big lead, Barker notes. A poll released Saturday by YouGov, the New York Times and CBS News showed Otter with 51 percent, Balukoff with 33 percent, 13 percent undecided and 3 percent saying “other.” That poll, with a sample size of 844, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

But another look at Idaho’s electorate – though two years old, a much larger one – showed roughly 400,000 Idaho voters rejecting the “Students Come First” education reforms that Otter and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna had pushed through and voters overturned in 2012. Balukoff was a prominent backer of the referendum that overturned the laws. In the last general election for governor in 2010, Otter’s margin of victory in his big win over Democratic challenger Keith Allred was 118,803 votes.

Jerry Brady, the Democratic candidate who lost by just 40,000 votes to Otter in 2006, told Barker, “If all those who voted against the Luna laws vote for A.J., he would win.”

The third-party candidate who could throw a big wrench into Idaho’s governor’s race…

A disillusioned former Republican with an unusual story could throw a big wrench into the Idaho governor’s race this year. If Libertarian candidate John Bujak succeeds in his bid to appeal to disaffected Republicans who voted against Gov. Butch Otter in the GOP primary, he still might not win – but he could pull enough votes from Otter to swing the race to Democrat A.J. Balukoff. You can read my full story here at

Bujak, the former GOP Canyon County prosecutor, has mostly made headlines in recent years for his legal troubles: He represented himself in five criminal trials in the past three years, and was acquitted in every one. He’s says he’s getting traction now with tea party supporters and those who backed Russ Fulcher over Otter in the primary, among others. “Once people understood a little bit more about what happened to me, they started viewing me less like a slick attorney that maybe got away with something, and more like a champion for the people,” he said.

Bujak has a law degree from Gonzaga, he’s a Navy veteran, and he’s been a deputy attorney general for the state Human Rights Commission and a lawyer in private practice. He’s come out swinging in the race, and says he’s in it to win. Here’s his take on how the race will go:

“Butch is going to hide under his desk until the 11th hour and not engage any more than he has to, and trust that because he has the ‘R’ by his name the zombies are going to come out and elect him. Balukoff’s going to fight like crazy to try to look conservative enough even though he’s on the ‘D’ side, and to try to present some kind of viable alternative. And then there’s me who is running around talking to the grass roots folks who used to be Fulcher supporters, and hearing them say, ‘Y’know, we don’t want to vote for Butch, we won’t vote for a Democrat, but we need some kind of other alternative.’ … I think we’re going to surprise a lot of folks.”

Bujak puts up ‘’ website to target Otter, as IACI has targeted Balukoff

John Bujak, Libertarian candidate for governor of Idaho, has posted his own anti-Butch Otter website entitled – echoing the attack website put up earlier by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry to go after Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff, as part of the business lobbying group’s independent campaign against Balukoff. Both sites accuse their targeted candidates of being liberals.

Bujak’s site is headed, “Otter: TOO LIBERAL for IDAHO,” and faults the second-term GOP governor on everything from supporting Common Core to being a “Good Old Boy.” An item at the top of the page features Otter’s face morphing into Balukoff’s and back again, repeatedly, under the heading, “Otter & AJ: Both Too Liberal For Idaho.”

“Idaho can’t afford four more years of liberal leadership,” the site concludes, above a link that says, “Don’t like Otter? Want a conservative alternative? CLICK HERE.” The link takes people to Bujak’s campaign website. “I looked at the LiberalAJ website put up by IACI,” Bujak said. “It seemed to be a little bit of the pot calling the kettle black, since Butch isn’t really that much off the mark when you compare their positions on the main issues, so it seemed like the right thing to do.”

In addition to Otter, Balukoff and Bujak, the ballot for governor this year also includes Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey and independents Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” who formerly was known as Marvin Richardson. Otter is seeking a third term.

Two write-in candidates also have filed to run for governor, both little-known independents from southwestern Idaho: Larry Allen White of Nampa and Kurt M. Wertzbaugher of Payette.

Could Bujak’s Libertarian bid draw enough votes to tip gov’s race from Otter to Balukoff?

Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak says he thinks he can win his Libertarian bid for governor of Idaho, and told Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey today, “I represented myself through five criminal trials in the last three years. The establishment didn’t expect me to win, but I did thanks to the voice of the people who served on my juries. The establishment doesn’t expect me to win the governor’s race either. Come November, I guess we will see what the people of Idaho have to say about that.”

Bujak, formerly a Republican, was charged with fraud and theft, but was acquitted three times and juries were unable to reach a verdict two other times. Popkey suggested if Bujak runs strong as a third-party candidate, his run could tip a close race to Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff over two-term incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter.

Bujak responded that he’s not in it as a “spoiler,” but listed factors he said will help him draw votes, including that nearly 60 percent of Idaho voters aren’t affiliated with either party; the “large number of disenfranchised Millennials and Gen X’ers who have not traditionally registered to vote because they have no hope that their vote will make a difference based upon the choices at the polls;” and “the fact that the Republican party in Idaho is currently imploding. How can the Republicans lead Idaho if they cannot even organize and lead their own political party?” You can read Popkey’s full post here.

Prosecutors want Bujak filings kept sealed

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking to keep the public from viewing some of their legal filings in a bankruptcy fraud case against a former Idaho prosecutor and current candidate for governor. The U.S. attorney has filed five sealed motions in the past week in the case against John Bujak. Bujak opposes sealing the motions. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge has not ruled on whether the filings can be kept from the public. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson tells The Idaho Statesman ( ) she can't discuss the reasoning behind sealing the filings. She says in general, it prevents evidence from being made public before being introduced at trial and protects individuals' privacy. Bujak has denied charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, making a false statement under oath, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

Former prosecutor denies bankruptcy fraud

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former southwestern Idaho prosecutor has denied charges that he tried to hide assets from a bankruptcy court. John Bujak pleaded not guilty Thursday to bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, making a false statement under oath, money laundering and obstruction of justice during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Ronald Bush in Boise. Bujak, a former Canyon County prosecutor, requested a public defender. Bush granted one for Thursday's arraignment but didn't decide whether to continue the appointment. Bujak's trial is set for March 25. The U.S. attorney's office alleges Bujak did not disclose to the bankruptcy court that he and his then-wife owned a $25,000 Rolex watch and that it and a ring were sold to an out-of-state jeweler. Prosecutors say Bujak cashed the check at a payday loan store rather than putting it in his bank account.

Bujak indicted by federal grand jury for bankruptcy fraud, money laundering

Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak was indicted by a federal grand jury today on charges of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, making a false statement under oath, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. The charges center around a $25,000 Rolex watch that Bujak allegedly concealed from a bankruptcy trustee and creditors, then sold and cashed the check at a MoneyTree store in Caldwell. The indictment charges that Bujak then made false statements about the watch and tried to persuade his then wife to do the same. An initial court date has not been set; you can read the full announcement here from U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson, and the full indictment here. Bujak had been exploring a possible run for governor as an independent.

Click below for a full report from the Associated Press.

Bujak gets law license reinstated

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak can practice law again after his license was re-instated by the Idaho Supreme Court. Bujak's license was suspended in 2012 as he was fighting prosecution for misusing hundreds of thousands in taxpayer funds. He's since fended off nearly all the charges and now is considering a run for governor as an independent in 2014. Bujak quit as prosecutor in September 2010 after being accused of diverting money from a $734,000 contract he'd struck for the Canyon County prosecutor's office to handle misdemeanors for Nampa. Bujak maintains it was a legal contract that saved taxpayers money, earned Canyon County lawyers raises and bolstered his personal pay. A jury in 2012 found him not guilty, though he pleaded guilty to a charge of contempt of court.

Bujak to run for governor?

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former southwestern Idaho county prosecutor who successfully fought off criminal charges including misuse of public funds now says he may run for governor as an independent. Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak filed paperwork with the Idaho secretary of state's office indicating he's raising money to challenge for the chief executive post in 2014. He also built a web site announcing an exploratory campaign. Bujak quit as prosecutor in September 2010 after being accused of diverting public funds. A jury ultimately found him not guilty of the main charge, however, though last month he pleaded not guilty to a lesser charge of contempt of court. In an Associated Press interview, Bujak contends he was a victim of politics and pledged to take on what he calls Idaho's “good-old-boy system.”

Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Jury deadlocks in Bujak case

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) ― Members of a southwestern Idaho jury decided they couldn't come to a unanimous decision on whether former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak misused public funds. Jurors on Thursday told 3rd District Court Judge G.D. Carey that they were sharply divided over a verdict. Prosecutors say Bujak mishandled money from a contract to prosecute misdemeanors in Nampa. Bujak, who acted as his own attorney, countered during his trial that money exceeding the amount necessary to pay his county staff to cover Nampa cases belonged to him. With this deadlock, prosecutors must decide whether to abandon the case ― or try for a new trial. Bujak faces 14 years in prison, if convicted. He's facing other felony charges including grand theft at separate trials set for later this year.

PressTrib: Bujak accused of embezzling $236,000 from city of Nampa

The Idaho Press-Tribune is now reporting that former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak is accused of embezzling $236,000 from funds the city of Nampa paid the county for prosecution services; you can read their full story here. Reporter Mike Butts reports that Bujak was arrested on charges of deception and felony grand theft by embezzlement, and that today's arrest concluded a 13-month investigation by the Idaho State Police. Bujak posted $5,000 bond and was released from jail about two hours after his arrest.

Former Canyon prosecutor Bujak arrested for felony grand theft

Former Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak was arrested today on two felony charges of grand theft, the Idaho Press-Tribune reports; the paper says Bujak was arrested during a divorce court hearing, during which others were asked to leave, and then Bujak was arrested and take out the back of the courtroom. You can read more at the Press-Tribune here.

Bar complaint charges Bujak with fraud, embezzlement from clients

Beleagured former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak had a complaint filed against him by the Idaho State Bar today for professional misconduct including embezzlement and fraud, asking to suspend him from the practice of law and order him to pay restitution for two cases: One in which he allegedly embezzled more than a year's worth of monthly payments in a property dispute in which he was representing a buyer, cashing the checks himself and keeping the funds; and another in which he persuaded an elderly woman client to sign over all her assets, including her home and vehicle, to an irrevocable trust benefiting himself and his assistant; five years later, after the woman contacted another lawyer and said she'd been misled, Bujak agreed in court proceedings to relinquish his claims against her estate. You can read the full bar complaint here.

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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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