BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter likes to say he doesn’t go negative – all his TV campaign ads are positive and are about him, not his opponent.
But there have been plenty of negative ads targeting Otter’s Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, thanks to a $400,000 infusion this month from the Republican Governors Association to the Idaho Republican Party.
Both GOP ads are different versions of the same message: That by saying all options are on the table for reviewing “special interest” tax exemptions, Allred’s really said he’s going to tax everything from child care to church bake sales, a contention he rejects.
“Republicans aren’t used to running against a more fiscally conservative candidate,” Allred said Friday. “The only thing they can do is distort the record, and try to scare people. I intend to cut tax rates for Idaho families.”
Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Jonathan Parker said the amount of money the party received from the Republican Governors Association this year was unprecedented. The RGA is flush this year, with close to $60 million in the bank in September, due to fundraising efforts of its chairman, Haley Barbour.
“They were just looking for places to spend it,” Parker said.
According to the Idaho GOP’s latest campaign finance report, the RGA gave $200,000 on Oct. 4 and another $200,000 on Oct. 8. So far, the party’s spent $349,530 on independent expenditures in support of Otter, all paid to companies in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, apparently for the TV ad campaign. On Friday, the party reported spending another $60,000 for printing.
Allred sees significance in the outside expenditures.
“Does anybody think the RGA would be spending that kind of money if they thought this race wasn’t competitive?” he said.
“Haley Barbour may become a candidate for president of the United States,” said Jim Weatherby, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University. “I’m sure he’s wanting to make his mark in various states by helping out Republican candidates.”
Ryan Panitz, spokesman for Otter’s campaign, said with independent expenditures, the campaign doesn’t know about an ad until it hits the airwaves.
“What other people do out there, we can’t control that,” Panitz said. “So if that’s the route they chose to take they obviously had their reasons. … We have no comment on whether they (the ads) are good or bad.”