September 3, 2014 in City, Idaho

Idaho business group lashes Otter challenger in ad

By The Spokesman-Review
Ad Watch

WHAT IT SAYS: “A.J. Balukoff wants to be governor of Idaho. He says we need change. … We’ve heard that before. A.J. stands proudly with Obama and the liberal politics of the Democrats. He said, quote, ‘I am a Democrat because the values of the Democratic Party most closely align with my own.’ Washington, D.C., locking up Idaho land? Increased taxes? Obamacare? Those aren’t Idaho values. A.J., you’re a liberal, and that’s change we just can’t afford for Idaho.” The ad includes video of Obama with a “Change” sign and a floating image of Obama in a bowtie. It also includes a red “LIBERAL” stamp being smacked across Balukoff’s forehead.

THE CLAIMS: The quotes are accurate, but the ad includes exaggerations. Balukoff was actually a Mitt Romney supporter and has not been affiliated with either party during his 17 years as Boise School Board chairman. The reference to “locking up land” refers to Balukoff’s support for a national monument in the Boulder-White Clouds, an issue currently under debate in Idaho. The “increased taxes” refers to an unsuccessful 2006 voter initiative to increase school funding. The “Obamacare” reference cites Balukoff’s statements that he’d prefer to fix the national health care reform law rather than try to repeal it.

THE REACH: The ad is running on cable in North Idaho, but not on broadcast TV in the Spokane market.

BOISE – The harshest political ad on the air in Idaho’s governor’s race goes after Democratic candidate A.J. Balukoff, branding him a “liberal” and attempting to tie him to President Barack Obama.

Balukoff, a Boise businessman and longtime chairman of the Boise School Board who is challenging Republican Gov. Butch Otter, says the ad is full of “lies and distortions,” particularly for tying him to Obama – when he was a supporter of Mitt Romney for president.

The ad is from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, as part of its independent campaign against Balukoff. The group maintains each of its claims is backed up by a news article or other source.

“It’s a critical part of our mission to inform voters about the true positions of someone running for our highest office,” Alex LaBeau, IACI president, said in a statement. The ad is part of a multipronged campaign the group is running that also includes a website,, and mailers.

IACI cites Balukoff’s support for an unsuccessful voter initiative in 2006 to increase school funding in Idaho by raising the sales tax to 6 percent as support for its “increased taxes” claim. But the Legislature that year, in a special session, raised the tax to 6 percent to fund property tax relief three months before the election; the initiative then failed. Idaho’s sales tax remains at 6 percent.

“To use that as validation for the absurd claim that A.J. Balukoff intends to raise taxes is quite a stretch,” said Balukoff’s campaign spokesman, Mike Lanza.

Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus, said he’s not surprised that Otter is letting the business group run the attack ad, rather than dirtying his own hands.

“Is it over the top? Sure. But a lot of negative advertising is,” Weatherby said. “Are there exaggerations? Yes. I mean, it’s a real stretch to tie a school board president to the president of the United States.”

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