November 16, 1995 in Nation/World

Chenoweth Funds Again In Question Ex-Aide Wants Bonus; Demos Want Blood

By The Spokesman-Review

Idaho Congressman Helen Chenoweth is going to mediation next week with her former campaign director over a $20,000 bonus he claims he is owed.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Democratic Party says it likely will ask the Federal Elections Commission to investigate whether $28,000 in payments from Chenoweth’s campaign to her consulting firm were proper.

These developments come on the heels of a string of questions about financial foul-ups in the Chenoweth camp.

Mike Duff, who managed Chenoweth’s successful 1994 bid for Idaho’s 1st District seat, says the freshman Republican backed out on a promise to pay him the $20,000 bonus, a Washington, D.C., newspaper reported Wednesday.

Chenoweth said she never agreed to pay Duff that much money, but reported the matter to the FEC “in the spirit of full disclosure.”

She said she paid Duff $3,000 “on a bonus I did agree to in the primary.” But she wouldn’t divulge anything further about her deal with Duff, saying her attorneys “would kill me.”

“I’m not supposed to talk about specifics, but believe me I want to,” she said.

Duff couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Idaho Democratic Party is raising other questions about Chenoweth’s finances. It points to FEC reports that show Chenoweth’s campaign paid Consulting Associates approximately $28,000 during 1994 and early 1995. She drew a $33,150 salary from the consulting firm in 1994, according to FEC documents.

Chenoweth and Vern Ravenscroft owned the firm for several years. There are payments ranging from $1,000 to $3,600 for everything from consulting to rental, phone expenses and travel.

“That all raises questions about whether the payments to Consulting Associates are nothing more than payments to the candidate herself,” said Bill Mauk, chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party.

“If in fact it was demonstrated that she was paying the money to herself and has simply used the name of this corporation as a pretense for what might appear to be legitimate expenses, then I think it is an FEC violation at the very least,” Mauk said.

His party expects to file an FEC complaint early next week.

Chenoweth is adamant that she did not mix campaign funds and personal funds. “I suggest Mr. Mauk concentrate on the issues - when he doesn’t have issues, he goes to these scurrilous personal attacks,” Chenoweth said.

She referred questions about the payments to her campaign treasurer, Wayne Crow. Crow said some of the payments were made to Consulting Associates to cover use of its offices and telephones by campaign volunteers, “when they ran out of room at headquarters.”

Payments for consulting covered Ravenscroft’s “considerable amount of time in (doing) research for the campaign,” Crow said. He could not remember why there was a $2,500 payment for travel.

Chenoweth has spent a fair amount of time this year explaining a string of mistakes, missteps and alleged improprieties with her campaign accounting. A $40,000 loan from West One Bank was incorrectly reported as a personal loan from Chenoweth to the campaign.

Eight months later, federal disclosure reports were corrected. Then it was discovered the loan was made without collateral, which may be a violation of federal election law. Chenoweth contends her reputation served as collateral and that the bank could easily seize her assets if she didn’t pay the loan, which was due on Thanksgiving.

But to silence critics, she took a second mortgage on her Boise home to cover the debt. It will be paid off in the near future, she said.

Overall, she says her books have withstood intense scrutiny quite well. Her critics are operating “on the pile-on theory - pile on enough speculation and people will believe something is wrong,” she said.

“But I believe our voters are far more sophisticated and I believe they get very weary of this political bickering,” Chenoweth said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition

Cut in the Spokane edition

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