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Paquin Says He Won’t Take Special Interest Money

North Idaho businessman Tony Paquin, challenging Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth in next year’s primary election, said Friday he will not accept contributions from special interest groups.

“Idaho voters are fed up with out-of-state special interests groups spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain influence over Congresswoman Chenoweth,” Paquin said.

He said political action committees have gained too much influence over politicians. Individual voters can give no more than $1,000 per election, while special interest groups can give five times as much.

The incumbent’s campaign issued a statement saying she will continue to “rely on Idaho small donors” for her campaign finances Chenoweth, the first candidate to spend more than $1 million for a congressional seat in Idaho, has taken out full-page advertisements in the nationally distributed edition of the Washington Times, urging people across the country to contribute.

Chenoweth has declared she will run only for three terms, so the 1998 election will be her last. There’s little risk for Paquin, since as a challenger he’s not likely to get much special interest money anyway.

Chenoweth’s appeal for nationwide funding began at the end of June, so the fund-raising impact will not be known until early next year. But Graham Paterson said the appeal to donors, especially the small ones Chenoweth has been criticized for not identifying, is exceeding expectations.

Based on her campaign finance reports, out-of-state contributors have accounted for nearly 53 percent of the $1.35 million she has raised since mid-October 1994 when chances intensified that she would defeat Democratic incumbent Larry LaRocco.

From that point, Chenoweth has received $488,691 from special interest groups. She received nothing from that source before she won the 1994 GOP primary.

Since Chenoweth has refused to identify her unusually huge corps of small contributors before this year, that total assumes the out-of-state percentage of small contributors donating $404,000 from mid-October 1994 through 1996 equals the 32 percent she identified for the first six months of this year.

Democrats have criticized Chenoweth’s new push for out-of-state contributions in light of her criticism of the non-Idaho support 1996 Democratic opponent Dan Williams received.

Paquin was critical Friday of who has given her money. He said her special interest donations included tobacco, beer and liquor associations and “a variety of Washington, D.C., law/lobbying firms.”

“It is outrageous that she voted for subsidy payments to tobacco and alcohol companies after accepting money from their PACs,” he said.

Paterson said Chenoweth “received a higher percentage of contributions from small donors than any other candidate during this reporting cycle.”

“I am surprised that an undeclared candidate who has not even filed an official declaration of candidacy with the secretary of state’s office, and who has not even raised the minimum amount to file Federal Elections Commission reports, $5,000, would make promises about money he hasn’t even been offered,” Paterson said.

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