Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth opened the 1998 campaign season again relying heavily on small donors for financial support in her bid for a third term.
But after nearly three years of intense criticism of her refusal to identify those contributors, Chenoweth’s latest campaign financial disclosure statement identifies for the first time the 705 people she says ponied up nearly a third of the money she raised during the first six months of this year.
The disclosure report filed on Thursday with the secretary of state showed Chenoweth raising just under $88,000 from all sources with $27,200 in individual contributions of less than $200 each. That equals 31 percent of the cash going into the campaign.
Chenoweth faces at least one Republican primary challenger, North Idaho businessman Tony Paquin, who has said he may spend up to $400,000 in his bid to defeat the incumbent.
In comparison, Republican Rep. Michael Crapo, who is seeking a fourth term, got less than $5,000, or 6.8 percent, of the $71,500 he raised from January through June from small donors.
And GOP Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, who is seeking a second six-year term, received only $25,500, or 8.6 percent of his $295,000 in support, from small contributors.
Among the numerous questionable campaign finance transactions plaguing Chenoweth’s last two campaigns was the high percentage of contributions under $200 she claimed to have received. Although other Idaho candidates in both political parties generally have identified those donors, that is not legally required and Chenoweth steadfastly refused to do so during both her 1994 and 1996 campaigns.
In 1994, when she ousted Democrat Larry LaRocco, Chenoweth reported getting 42 percent of her contributions from small donors she declined to identify. Last year, the figure was 27 percent.
Her critics claimed she would have had to have had some 3,700 different people contributing an average of $75 each to raise the amount of anonymous cash she did in 1994 - a number they argued was excessive.
Chenoweth, who became the first to spend more than $1 million in an Idaho congressional race, paid off the last of her third-party debts from the 1996 campaign and has spent another $73,000 on her political operations so far this year. That left her a balance of less than $18,000 on July 1. She still owes herself $55,500 from the 1994 race.
Crapo and Kempthorne, who have no opponents on the horizon, both have extremely healthy campaign balances with no debts. Crapo had more than $193,000 in the bank on July 1, while Kempthorne’s war chest was bursting at more than $300,000.