June 14, 2012 in Idaho

Idaho senator repays state for letter to GOP voters

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE - Campaign finance reports show that Idaho state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, has reimbursed the Senate for the cost of an end-of-session letter she sent out to Republican voters that touted her record and thanked supporters as she seeks re-election.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he initially thought the letter only skated close to the line between campaign material and mere information, but after learning that it was sent only to Republicans, he called Nuxoll to discuss it.

“We just visited about it, and I said I thought it would be best if she reimbursed for all of it,” Hill said this week. “It was a mutual agreement. If I hadn’t suggested it, she would have by the end of our conversation.”

Nuxoll’s post-primary election campaign finance report shows that she paid $890.09 to the Idaho State Senate on May 5 for a category of expenditures that takes in literature, brochures and printing. Nuxoll said, “I wasn’t legally liable, but you see the records.”

Idaho senators are permitted to spend up to $2,000 per legislative session on taxpayer-funded mailings, and about a third send out an end-of-session letter to constituents about the events and outcome of the legislative session.

Nuxoll said last month that she sent the letter as an “informational” piece that went out both to residents of her current district, District 8, and the new, redistricting-created district in which she’s seeking re-election, District 7. The current district includes Clearwater, Idaho, Lewis and Valley counties; the new one stretches much farther north, taking in all of Shoshone County and part of southeastern Bonner County.

Nuxoll said then that she sent the letter only to Republicans “because I am a Republican and I had to limit the number of letters going out to keep under my limit by the state.”

Hill said he had his chief of staff, Mary Sue Jones, go through the records and calculate the full costs of the mailing, including postage and printing, and Nuxoll paid it with campaign funds.

Hill said he’d talked with senators about rules for taxpayer-funded mailings, including avoiding political pitches like asking for votes or campaign contributions. But he said he plans more to offer more guidance in the future.

“You can be sure we’ll address them in the future, so that no one is embarrassed in any way,” he said.

Members of the Idaho House, which has twice as many members as the Senate, can send only 10 pieces of mail per week at taxpayer expense each legislative session; if they want to send out end-of-session letters, they have to pay for them themselves.

Nuxoll won the GOP primary last month in her bid for a second term in the Senate; she faces independent Jon Cantamessa of Wallace in November.


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