Luna-backing group fights donor disclosure
Attorney says Ysursa inquiry harms clients
BOISE – A group promoting Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education overhaul refused Friday to disclose its donors, instead suggesting it be allowed to take back its money.
Education Voters of Idaho’s new lawyer, Christ Troupis, told Secretary of State Ben Ysursa that his client is a nonprofit organization that’s exempt from campaign disclosure under federal law.
Still, Troupis said the group – created Aug. 16 amid the battle over Luna’s overhaul – would take back its $200,000 contribution that went for TV commercials touting the education changes.
Troupis also said Ysursa’s efforts to secure the identities of Education Voters of Idaho’s financiers were having a chilling effect on the group’s free-speech rights.
“My client has ceased its lawful participation in constitutionally protected political activity based on those threats, and thus has already suffered irreparable and immediate harm,” Troupis wrote.
Luna’s education reforms, passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature to limit union bargaining power, promote teacher merit pay and require online classes and student laptop computers, are the subject of a heated Nov. 6 repeal effort.
The repeal is being pushed by the Idaho Education Association teachers union.
To help save the overhaul, Education Voters of Idaho gave just over $200,000 to a related political action committee, Parents for Education Reform, for broadcast advertising. The groups share leaders and addresses.
Now, Troupis suggests Parents for Education Reform should be allowed to refund the contribution; after that, “all contributions and expenditures by Parents for Education Reform would be accounted for” in future campaign reports, he told Ysursa.
Ysursa had given Education Voters of Idaho until Friday to explain why it didn’t have to reveal its backers’ identities.
On Friday, Ysursa was still reviewing Troupis’ letter but said his goal remains winning disclosure of campaign contributions made during the most recent reporting period.
Brian Cronin, a Democratic state representative leading the effort to repeal Luna’s overhaul, said he’s concerned that allowing its contribution to be returned – after the TV commercials have already been paid for – would deny the public its legal right to learn who is bankrolling the effort to save Luna’s overhaul.
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