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Sali lags in fundraising race

Incumbent also beset with filing problems

BOISE – Freshman Idaho U.S. Rep. Bill Sali is being out-fundraised by his Democratic challenger and is having such serious problems with the federal campaign finance reporting system that he hasn’t filed his July 15 report and has filed nine amendments to earlier reports since June 1.

“Our campaign manager has been on the phone with the FEC all morning working on this,” Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman said Friday.

He noted that Sali’s challenger, former timber products firm CEO Walt Minnick, has donated $160,191 to his own campaign since he entered the race last fall. “Like a lot of other Idahoans, Bill Sali is not a multimillionaire and he doesn’t have $150,000 to give to his own campaign,” Hoffman said. “He’s having to work hard to raise money and he’s doing that.”

Minnick’s campaign spokesman, John Foster, said, “Walt’s contributions to his own campaign are just a small part of a much larger base of support we have from around Idaho. He’s been pleased with the fundraising so far, but it’s still going to be a very tough election.”

In the latest reporting period, Minnick raised $286,184 in campaign funds, including $50,000 of his own money. At the close of the period, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Minnick’s campaign had $444,134 in cash on hand and no debt.

Sali’s campaign released estimates showing it raised $155,000 in the same reporting period, and had about $250,000 in cash on hand and $126,000 in debt at the close of the period.

Hoffman noted that the debt has been steadily reduced since the end of the 2006 campaign, when FEC reports show it stood at $234,900. But if the estimates are correct, Sali paid off less than $10,000 of that campaign debt in the last reporting period; it stood at $135,574 as of his last official report shortly before the May primary election.

“Every reporting cycle, Congressman Sali has gained support,” Hoffman said. “He continues to gain support. And frankly, he’s gaining support among Idahoans who actually cast ballots in the November election.”

According to FEC spokesman Bob Biersack, Sali appears to be one of only two congressmen who haven’t yet filed their required July 15 quarterly campaign finance reports.

“There are problems with some data that Congressman Sali has been trying to submit, and we’re still working with the committee to determine what caused those problems and how they might be handled,” Biersack said.

Said Hoffman: “What the FEC is telling us is … when we uploaded our report two years ago, it was uploaded out of order. That’s been causing the software to fail as we’ve tried to upload other filings since then.”

Hoffman said that’s a factor in why the campaign has had to file so many amended versions of its campaign finance reports – it has filed 41 amendments since 2005. Others were to make mostly small changes in reported numbers and add additional information requested by the FEC.

Biersack said, “It’s not at all uncommon for committees to submit amendment reports.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or

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