Challenger calls for investigation into financing
BOISE – Idaho Rep. Phil Hart’s write-in challenger has filed a complaint with the Idaho secretary of state’s office over Hart’s campaign finance filings for a PAC he formed this year called North Idahoans for Liberty.
The political action committee filed reports with the secretary of state’s office showing that it received $6,776.30 in contributions this year, spent $5,846.21, and had $930.09 left as of June 4. But the itemized schedules filed with those summary figures showed far less in contributions – just $3,468.09, including both cash and in-kind donations – although the expenditure figures match up.
“How can NIFL spend more cash than it received?” Howard Griffiths asked in a complaint sent to the secretary of state’s office and Idaho news media outlets on Friday. And, he asked, “Since NIFL spent more than it received in contributions, how can it have $930.09 of cash on hand?”
Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, said Friday that the office had not yet received the complaint, but Hart’s report for the PAC has been under review for errors and discrepancies, including possible missing pages, since it was filed.
“They’ve asked him repeatedly to get those in; he hasn’t done so,” Hurst told The Spokesman-Review.
Political candidates or committees that fail to file reports or that falsify the data face fines and misdemeanor criminal prosecution; for a PAC, the fine can be up to $2,500. Late filings can bring fines of $50 per day.
Griffiths said of Hart’s PAC report, “It’s not adding up. … I don’t know if he’s trying to hide something or what.”
In response to inquiries from the secretary of state’s office, Hurst said Hart already has made some corrections to the report, but there appear to be at least one and possibly two pages of itemized contributions still missing. “So we’re working with him to get that report filed correctly,” he said.
Griffiths, in his complaint, cites Hart’s ongoing tax woes, in which public records show the three-term GOP state representative and tax protester owes nearly $700,000 in back federal and state income taxes, penalties and interest. “An investigation into Representative Hart’s financial dealings should be initiated,” Griffiths wrote. “An investigation would determine if Representative Hart received unreported income.”
Hart didn’t return a reporter’s calls for comment.
Hart, R-Athol, was unopposed for re-election to a fourth term in the state Legislature until Griffiths, who also is a Republican, filed to challenge him as a write-in candidate out of concern over Hart’s tax issues.
Hart still faces a House Ethics Committee inquiry into whether he abused the legislative privilege against arrest or civil process during sessions, by repeatedly citing the privilege to get delays in his state and federal tax cases.