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More last-minute campaign money; PAC targets 2 county commission primaries

More last-minute campaign contributions, funneling of money between interconnected PACs and independent campaign expenditures are being reported today, the day before the primary election, with most coming from the same players. Here's today's roundup, updated as of 5 p.m.:

The Free Enterprise PAC reported spending $5,301 on an independent-expenditure campaign against Republican Lee Staker, who's running for re-election to the Bonneville County commission (Idaho Falls); and in favor of Brian Farnsworth, who's running in a three-way GOP primary for the Jefferson County commission (Rigby). The Free Enterprise PAC also reported receiving, on Thursday, $2,500 from the Idaho Land PAC, $4,500 from the Greater Education Movement, and $1,500 from GunPAC. All are among interconnected PACs operated by GOP consultant Lou Esposito. "We haven't restricted ourselves just to legislative races, but we're looking at races at all levels, and these were two that we thought made sense to get involved in," Esposito said. "We'll be working more in some of the other local races in the future."

Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government reported spending $2,626 on an independent campaign mailer Thursday for Scott Workman, the GOP primary challenger to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington. Idaho Chooses Life reported spending $2,021 since Saturday on ads in the Bonner Daily Bee targeting Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and favoring her challenger Danielle Ahrens; and $1,556 on ads in the Idaho Press Tribune targeting Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and favoring her challenger, Maurice Clements.

IACI's Idaho Prosperity Fund has reported spending another $11,400 on independent mailers and ads for Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; $2,500 to support Rep. Marv Hagedorn's bid for the Senate; $2,875 for a mailing and ads supporting Sen. Brent Hill, Rep. Dell Raybould and House hopeful Douglas Hancey Jr.; $2,225 on mailings and ads supporting Lodge and Reps. Gayle Batt and Christy Perry; and $3,500 supporting Tippets. Then it filed more reports at 4:55 p.m. today covering more spending on Saturday: Another $13,500 for Brackett; $1,350 in favor of James Holtzclaw, a House 20B hopeful; $4,750 in mailings and ads favoring Lodge and opposing Clements; another $2,000 backing Lodge; and $2,375 in favor of Lodge, Batt and Perry.

The Idaho Realtors PAC reported spending another $4,600 on mailings and ads backing Robert Anderst for the open District 12A House seat; the Idaho State Pharmacy Association PAC spent $1,113 on Saturday for a mailer supporting Lodge; and the Grassroots Liberty Coalition of Post Falls spent another $1,343 on ads and mailings supporting a list of candidates including Sen. Steve Vick, Reps. Phil Hart and Vito Barbieri, and House hopefuls Ron Mendive and Jack Schroeder, who is running against Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.

Conservation Voters for Idaho Action reported late this afternoon that it spent $449 each for promotional items, like yard signs or buttons, for Boise Democratic House hopefuls Mat Erpelding and Holli High Woodings. Meanwhile, Idahoans for a Strong Economy, which shares an address and phone number with Conservation Voters for Idaho Action, reported spending $7,060 each for literature supporting Keough and Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, and $10,000 for surveys, with a third of that to benefit Keough and Corder, and the rest on behalf of candidates Matthew Faulks, Sen. Monty Pearce's GOP primary challenger; and Merrill Beyeler, one of five GOP primary challengers to Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis.

Meanwhile, Workman reported loaning his own campaign $3,378; the Nampa Firefighters PAC gave $1,000 to firefighter and District 2 House candidate Fritz Wiedenhoff; House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts collected $2,000 in donations from the Northwest Grocery Association and MIEC PAC, which advocates for tort reform in medical malpractice claims; Ridgeline Energy gave $1,000 each to Reps. George Eskridge and Christy Perry; and House 31A hopeful Robert Butler loaned his campaign $1,400.

Bumper crop of last-minute campaign contributions, independent expenditures

There's been a bumper crop this afternoon of reports of last-minute campaign contributions and independent expenditures filed with the Idaho Secretary of State's office. Among them: IACI's Idaho Prosperity Fund reported spending another $18,000 on independent mailings and ads supporting Reps. Joe Palmer, Mike Moyle, Reed DeMordaunt, Sens. John Tippets and Patti Anne Lodge, Senate hopeful Rep. Marv Hagedorn, and House hopefuls Robert Anderst and James Holtzclaw, who are seeking open seats.

Meanwhile, the Free Enterprise PAC reported $4,044 in independent expenditures for ads in the Bonner Bee against Sen. Shawn Keough and Rep. George Eskridge, on top of $2,022 it reported for the same thing yesterday; so far, Free Enterprise PAC hasn't disclosed the independent expenditures it made for mailers against the two candidates, which PAC coordinator Lou Esposito said are among the expenditures in its earlier PAC report, which doesn't indicate which candidate the mailers are supporting or opposing, as Idaho law requires. Today, a letter went out from the Idaho Secretary of State's office to all PACs warning them that all independent expenditures must be reported, including amounts and names of candidates supported or opposed; you can read that letter here.

Other independent expenditures reported today: Doyle Beck, brother of GOP activist Rod Beck, reported spending $4,505 on a campaign in regard to Idaho Falls House hopefuls Ron Lechelt and Greg Crockett, claiming his campaign is just to "educate" people about the two and not to support or oppose them. North Idaho PAC reported spending $3,487 for literature and postage in support of Ed Morse, one of three GOP primary challengers to Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Idaho Realtors PAC reported spending another $6,050 for mailings on behalf of Anderst, Holtzclaw, Senate hopeful Todd Lakey and House hopeful Rick Youngblood. And Grass Roots Liberty Coalition of Post Falls reported spending $8,830 on ads, mailings and an event in support of Reps. Hart and Vito Barbieri, Sen. Steve Vick, and House hopefuls Ron Mendive and Jack Schroeder.

There were also a slew of last-minute campaign contribution 48-hour reports; among them: Free Enterprise PAC got $3,500 from Idaho Land PAC, and GunPAC got $5,000 from Lorna Finman of Rathdrum. All three PACs are run by Esposito. Candidates also filed a raft of 48-hour notices, from Sen. Patti Anne Lodge picking up another $5,000 from PACs and a local dairy to Rep. Bob Schaefer getting $1,000 from Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC for his Senate run. Monsanto Corp. sent $1,000 to Rep. George Eskridge; Ridgeline Energy sent the same to Reps. Eric Anderson and Dell Raybould; and A.J. and Susie Balukoff donated $1,000 apiece to Senate hopeful Betty Richardson, while Susie Balukoff gave $1,000 to House hopeful Janie Ward Engelking.

Idaho's primary election is on Tuesday.

GOP lawmakers decry funneling of attack money between interconnected PACs as ‘money laundering,’ call for reforms

The thousands of dollars funneling between a web of affiliated PACs to target certain Republican incumbents has prompted some lawmakers to call for campaign finance reforms, the Twin Falls Times-News reports today. Times-News reporter Melissa Davlin reports that Magic Valley lawmakers like Reps. Fred Wood, Maxine Bell, Jim Patrick and House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke are decrying the transfer of money from the House Victory Fund, traditionally used to help incumbent Republicans, to GunPAC, which is targeting their colleagues, including House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly.

"That’s not the only finance issue making some Republicans uncomfortable," Davlin writes. "GunPAC is one of four political action committees controlled by Lou Esposito, a Boise-based Republican consultant. According to campaign finance documents, thousands of dollars transferred between Esposito’s four PACs in the last month. Two of the PACs have the same treasurer, and three are located at 202 N. Ninth St. in Boise." There's nothing illegal about any of that, the Idaho Secretary of State's office told Davlin, but some lawmakers think there should be. “In some cases, it looks like money is being laundered,” Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told the Times-News. “It’s been shifted from one PAC to the next PAC to the next PAC. I think that should be illegal. It certainly is, in my opinion, unethical.” You can read Davlin's full report here.

Challengers outraise two incumbents, including Hart, in North Idaho’s District 2

In the hard-fought GOP primary races in North Idaho's legislative District 2, campaign finance reports show that challengers have out-raised two of the three incumbents, including tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart. Hart has raised $6,738 for his campaign, while challenger Ed Morse has raised more than twice as much - $16,479 - and challenger Fritz Wiedenhoff has raised $7,748. That GOP primary also includes Ron Vieselmeyer, who trails with $3,791. Hart also reports a $31,827 outstanding debt to himself.

Meanwhile, GOP challenger Mark Fisher has outspent Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, a Hart ally, while former Sen. Mike Jorgenson has raised slightly less but spent more than Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, in their rematch race. Vick, a former Montana state representative, was recruited to run by Hart two years ago, and defeated Jorgensen, then a third-term incumbent.

The campaign finance reports filed this week are Idaho voters' only chance to see who's funding  the various campaigns before next Tuesday's primary election. Click here to read my full story at spokesman.com on the reports in contested races in districts 2, 3 and 4.

Avista ‘disappointed,’ S-R stands by story

Avista Corp. issued a statement today saying it was "disappointed" in my article in today's Spokesman-Review on how the utility is spending thousands to target two North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat in Tuesday's primary, suggesting the article was misleading because it lacked greater examination of the entire scope of the utility’s political activities, including its activities in the state of Washington. The statement makes no claim that the article was inaccurate; you can read the full statement here.

Meanwhile, S-R City Editor Addy Hatch sent out a tweet noting that a link to Avista's statement has been posted with the story, and adding, "As far as setting the record straight, we believe the story is factual and fair and we stand by it." And among the 25 comments (so far) on the online version of the story on the S-R website was this one, posted late this afternoon by commenter PerryE:

"I’m George Eskridge’s son, and a lobbyist myself. I agree with Avista that the article wasn’t quite clear enough on the fact that Avista warned my father several months ago, during Idaho’s legislative session, that if he didn’t vote Avista’s way that Avista would be sure that Rep. Eskridge wouldn’t be re-elected.

Growing up, during 'family summer trips' visiting the various Bonneville customers my father so diligently served, I watched my father advocate for cheaper power for utilities and their customers. Now he’s working very hard to ensure that the families in his legislative district have access to cheaper power to keep the lights and heat on as they also work to stay in their homes and put food on their tables.

Now, as Avista has been caught trying to make good on Colwell’s threats, at least Avista could have the decency to owe up to Avista’s political efforts. Their customers, and my dad’s constituents, deserve at least that much!"

Campaign finance reports show Avista Corp. is targeting two longtime North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat

Avista Corp. is spending thousands of dollars trying to unseat two longtime North Idaho legislators, throwing its support behind tea party backed challengers in next week’s Republican primary. Being targeted is state Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who supported unsuccessful efforts to establish a consumer advocate to review utility rate requests, and state Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who advocates greater diversity in Idaho’s energy supply. Avista opposed both proposals.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Idaho Secretary of State shows that Avista has given each incumbent’s challenger $1,000, and has given $15,000 to three political action committees that are funneling money back to the challengers, Danielle Ahrens and Pam Stout, as well as sponsoring independent mailers and advertisements critical of Keough and Eskridge.

Neil Colwell, Idaho lobbyist for Avista, acknowledged that while the utility has supported Keough and Eskridge in the past it now would like to see them replaced, but cautioned against assuming all of the PAC contributions are being used exclusively to try unseating them. “We don’t totally control those PACs or anything,” Colwell said. But one of the three, the Greater Education Movement, reported spending money to support only one candidate since Jan. 1: Ahrens.

"We support candidates that are aligned with the interests of our customers and our company goals,” Colwell said. “And we just think we’re more in alignment with these challengers than the incumbents.” The three PACs are run by Lou Esposito, a highly connected GOP political consultant in Boise who was House Speaker Lawerence Denney’s pick to serve on Idaho’s legislative redistricting commission last year; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Tracing web of PACs funneling money in House leadership fight…

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey traces the web of interconnecting PACs headed by GOP consultant Lou Esposito in his report today, "Idaho House Leaders Attempt Fratricide," on the leadership rift laid bare by yesterday's pre-primary campaign finance reports. You can read Popkey's report here (turn off your computer volume first if you don't want the loud video ad blaring out before you read the story). His story highlights an unprecedented open feud in the House GOP leadership, with Majority Leader Mike Moyle on a tear to take down Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, while House Speaker Lawerence Denney claims no knowledge and Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke tells Popkey, “I cannot condone any of these tactics."

Reports Popkey, "Groundwork is being done by at least four interconnected PACs led by Lou Esposito, Denney’s appointee to the first 2011 redistricting commission. Esposito operates Spartac, a political consulting firm. He also is coordinating with a fifth PAC, Idaho Chooses Life, led by his friend David Ripley. Idaho Chooses Life is targeting some of the same candidates as Esposito’s PACs. The PACs are sending direct mail, identifying voters and turning out the vote."

Idaho Republicans turn on one another

With Idaho's first closed GOP primary just a week away, Idaho Republicans are turning on each other with a ferocity unseen in decades. Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday revealed everything from House Republican leadership money being funneled into efforts to defeat a member of House Republican leadership, to a Coeur d'Alene representative targeting two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat. Endorsements are being given and withdrawn, two Kootenai County GOP groups are clawing at each other's right to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, and independent groups are mounting their own campaigns, either boosting or bashing various GOP incumbents under names like Free Enterprise PAC and Idaho Prosperity Fund.

"It is a divided party," said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and a longtime watcher of Idaho politics. "Primary battles are always tough. I think it's worse now, though, when the legitimacy of being a Republican is questioned, or one's assertion of being a conservative is questioned." Steve Shaw, a political scientist at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, said with Idaho's one-party GOP dominance, "There's nothing else to do so they're really going after each other." Plus, he said, "They've gotten a lot more bitter or nasty." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Rep. Nonini targets two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat, finance reports show

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, is targeting two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat, campaign finance reports filed today reveal. Nonini's PAC, the Idaho Association for Good Government, donated $1,000 each to the campaigns of Danielle Ahrens, tea party adherent and the GOP primary challenger to Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Pam Stout, the GOP primary challenger to Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who also is head of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots. Nonini's PAC also donated $8,000 to the "Free Enterprise PAC," which then sent out fliers in North Idaho targeting Keough, vice-chairwoman of the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, as "the No. 1 big spender in Boise" and touting Ahrens as "an actual Republican."

Nonini's PAC also donated $1,000 to R. Scott Workman of Preston, the eastern Idaho primary challenger to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington; and last week gave $1,000 to the primary challenger of 11-term Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the Senate Finance chairman.

It also backed two other House members who are running for the Senate, Reps. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, with $1,000 donations (Nonini also gave Thayn another $500 from his own Senate campaign fund), and gave $1,000 to freshman Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens; while giving $500 each to House incumbents Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Joe Palmer, R-Meridian; and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.

‘GunPAC’ taps House leadership $$ to target gun shop owner, vets’ advocate, and House leader

Here's the weirdest thing about the now-unfolding House Leadership Victory Fund/GunPAC story: Campaign finance reports show that all the House Leadership Victory Fund's fundraising and spending this year has gone to GunPAC - $10,000, 100 percent of its spending during the period (the leadership fund raised $9,000 during the reporting period). GunPAC has released a list of 40 endorsements in legislative primary races, including the challengers of six incumbents, three in the Senate and three in the House. The three House incumbents: Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts R-Donnelly.

GunPAC, headed by GOP activist Lou Esposito, claims to be all about promoting gun rights. But of the three House incumbents it's targeting, one, Perry, owns a gun store; and another, Eskridge, is a military veteran who's championed military and gun issues. The third, Roberts, is the treasurer of the very Victory Fund whose money GunPAC is using to try to defeat the three.  

Esposito said, "Basically GunPAC's all about 2nd Amendment and 2nd Amendment rights, but there's also the other parts of it at play. You can't look at that just in a vacuum and say, well, are they just right on the gun issue and wrong on other things where we're losing either personal liberties or we're getting taxed to the point where it's hard to put food on the table and other things." Esposito said the group's chairman is Stu Carty, and the only other one of its four board members he would name was Gerry Sweet; he also said Sweet wanted to make it clear that he dissented from the decision to target Perry.

Denney, Moyle use House leadership PAC to try to defeat Roberts

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Top House Republicans Lawerence Denney and Mike Moyle are trying to oust their own Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts from the Legislature by directing thousands to a political action committee that supports Roberts' opponent in Tuesday's primary. GUNPAC, a pro-2nd Amendment PAC, endorsed Roberts' District 8 foe, John Blattler. Denney, the House speaker, gave GUNPAC $10,000 via a House GOP leadership political action committee he controls. Moyle, the majority leader, chipped in another $5,000. Moyle said Tuesday that Roberts opposes him in leadership, so he's trying to get him ousted. Roberts, who is listed as treasurer of the GOP leadership PAC that Denney is using to unseat him, says he's disappointed, adding he thought House PAC money was to help incumbents in general elections, not knock them off in primaries. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

90% of Sen. Pearce’s campaign spending went for defense attorney for ethics complaint

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, the Senate Resources chairman, spent $4,400 in campaign funds to pay a prominent Boise defense lawyer to defend him against an ethics complaint that ultimately was dismissed, according to Pearce's latest campaign finance report; you can read the report here. Pearce's payments to Peterson Law Offices made up 90 percent of his campaign spending for the reporting period, which ran from Jan. 1 to April 29; campaign funds generally can be spent for legal defense if it's related to legislative service. Another lawmaker who took advantage of that clause in the previous reporting period was Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, who also tapped campaign funds to pay a lawyer to defend him against ethics complaints in the House.

Pearce, who faces Republican challenger Matthew Faulks of Payette in Tuesday's GOP primary, raised $10,010 in contributions during the period, with his biggest donations including $1,000 each from Idaho Power, Idaho Land PAC and Avista Corp.

Pro-business groups back incumbents with Libertarian-leaning rivals

Since last week, pro-business groups like the Idaho Association of Realtors have pumped some $30,000 into campaigns of Republican incumbents facing libertarian-leaning rivals in the May 15 primary, the Associated Press reports. In northern Idaho, Sen. Shawn Keough, of Sandpoint, and Rep. George Eskridge, of Dover, each banked at least $5,000 from donors including grocers, hospitals, insurers and real estate agents. Others to benefit were Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, of Huston, who faces Maurice Clements, a former Idaho GOP legislator in the 1970s who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian in 1988.

Keough told the AP that pro-business groups have aligned themselves with incumbents like her because they're concerned their rivals might have run as Libertarian or even Constitution Party candidates in the past. "The folks that are challenging the incumbents aren't necessarily reflective of Main Street Republican values," Keough said. "It's indicative of what you've been seeing in terms of the split in the party the last four years."

John Eaton, the Idaho Association of Realtors top lobbyist, told the AP's John Miller that his group gave Lodge $1,000 last week, on grounds she offers the most consistency for businesses than Clements. "He's the perfect example," Eaton said. "He wants to legalize pot. That's the kind of stuff that the business community would never support." Click below for Miller's full report.

The latest campaign finance reports…

Here's why reports are required within 48 hours of last-minute contributions for the final week or so before the election: Because it's after the last campaign finance reporting period, and otherwise, no one would know about any of it until after the election. The pre-primary campaign finance report for Idaho legislative races in the May 15 primary is due on Tuesday, covering the period from Jan. 1 through April 29. Contributions of $1,000 or more after that reporting period, from April 30 to May 13, must be reported with 48-hour reports.

Some candidates already have begun filing their pre-primary reports; you can see them here. Among those whose reports are in: Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, whose nearly $13,000 in contributions included $1,000 from Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC, $500 from Lorna Finman and $250 from former state Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake; and Vick's challenger, former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, whose $12,000 in contributions included $1,000 from the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, $1,000 from Avondale Dental Center in Hayden, and $300 from Lake City Ford.

Among today's 48-hour reports, the Northwest Grocery Association PAC donated $1,000 apiece to eight Idaho incumbents: Sens. Keough and Winder; and Reps. Anderson, Eskridge, Moyle, Perry, Rusche and VanderWoude. Four incumbents and one newcomer got $1,000 donations from MIEC PAC, which advocates for tort reform in malpractice claims against doctors: Sens. Keough and Cameron,  Reps. Hagedorn and Thompson, and Ronald Lechelt, a Republican seeking an open House seat in District 33. Micron handed out seven $1,000 donations to Reps. Denney, Hagedorn, and Raybould and Sens. Brackett, Tippets, Davis, and Hill.

Today's latest reports also show that the Idaho Prosperity Fund, affiliated with the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry business lobbying group, has mounted two more independent expenditure campaigns in legislative races: It spent $1,900 on a mailing and advertising in support of District 1 GOP incumbents Anderson, Keough and Eskridge; and $3,500 on a mailing and advertising on behalf of Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, who faces a primary challenge from R. Scott Workman of Preston. That's in addition to the group's earlier expenditures on behalf of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, who's facing off with fellow GOP Sen. Tim Corder of Mountain Home.

The latest last-minute campaign contributions…

Here are today's 48-hour notices of last-minute campaign contributions of $1,000 or more for the May 15 primary in legislative races:  Blue Cross of Idaho gave $1,000 each to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, and Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Micron Technology gave $1,000 to appointed Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell; Simplot Corp. donated $1,000 to House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; and Tom LeClaire, a candidate in a three-way GOP primary for an open House seat in District 20, reported putting $1,000 of his own money into his campaign.

In addition, The Idaho Realtors PAC reported an independent expenditure of $1,350 on a campaign mailing in support of Robert Anderst of Nampa, who's in a three-way race for an open House seat in District 12; that's on top of the $1,550 the group reported spending in support of the same candidate a day earlier.

Otter Raises $125K, Pays Self Back

Gov. Butch Otter has accelerated his campaign fundraising and used $50,000 of the cash to pay down $206,000 in loans he made to his 2010 re-election effort. Otter, who said at a December fundraiser that he will seek a third term in 2014, garnered about 70 percent of the money from corporate contributors who do business with the state or lobby state officials. Otter filed his Sunshine Report for July to December shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Otter raised $124,941, well above his pace in the first six months of 2011, when he raised $48,103. His campaign still owes the governor $156,000 and has $56,177 in cash. That's up from a cash balance of $10,044 in June/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: What do you think? Did Otter announce he'll run again in two years to raise campaign cash to pay himself back? Or is he really going to run in two years?

Read more here: http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/01/idahopolitics/idaho_gov_otter_raises_125k_second_half_2011_repays_himself_50k#storylink=cpy

Labrador puts wife on campaign payroll, says move saves money for ‘frugal’ campaign

Freshman Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador has put his wife, Becca, on his campaign payroll with a monthly salary - a practice that, while legal, has drawn much criticism since a 2006 congressional scandal. Labrador defends it, saying he has "the most frugal campaign in the state."

In 2007, the House voted to ban campaign payments to congressional spouses other than reimbursement for travel expenses, but the bill died in the Senate. The issue came under scrutiny in 2006 after then-Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., was discovered to be paying his wife Julie, a professional fundraiser, a 15 percent commission on all contributions to his leadership PAC and additional commissions on fundraising for his campaign, adding up to close to $140,000 between 2003 and 2006. He abandoned the practice the next year, and after being investigated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, left office in 2010.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo was among those who subsequently came under scrutiny from the press and watchdog groups for paying his wife, Susan, $78,514 between 2000 and 2006, for everything from organizing campaign events to driving the senator to them. Crapo still pays his wife for campaign work for both his leadership PAC, the Freedom Fund, and his campaign, spokesman Lindsay Nothern said. However, his campaign finance reports for the past year show no payments to Susan Crapo; his PAC reports show she was paid $4,677 from Jan. 1 to July 31 this year, mostly for expense reimbursements and gift bags she prepared for donors.

Labrador has paid his wife a $2,050 monthly salary since May to keep the campaign's books and submit FEC reports; under FEC rules, members of Congress can pay spouses through their campaigns or PACs - though not through their congressional offices - as long as they provide "bona fide services" and the payments reflect the fair market value of the services.

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a watchdog group that focuses on campaign finance and consumer issues, said the practice long has been common, but said, "It still raises ethical concerns, because that means some of the campaign money is going directly into the family pockets." Those funds include money from PACS and lobbyists pushing for the members' attention on pending issues.

The other two members of Idaho's congressional delegation, 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Jim Risch, don't pay their spouses for campaign work. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

PACs, Business Fund Idaho Warchests

The Idaho AARP has issued a new report on campaign contributions in Idaho, concluding that corporations, businesses and PACS spent $2.7 million on Idaho's winning 2010 campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and state Legislature; that 35 percent of those contributions came from outside Idaho; and that 34 legislators received 90 percent or more of their campaign contributions from those groups - including seven for whom it was 100 percent. The report also showed that nearly 90 percent of lawmakers got the majority of their campaign funds from corporations, businesses and PACs/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. And: George Prentice/Boise Weekly here. And: Dan Popkey's Idaho Statesman story here.

Question: What do you make of this AARP study that shows outside PACs & corporate interests provide majority of funding for many Idaho politicians?

AARP: Lawmakers ignore voices of older voters, campaign finance reforms needed

The Idaho AARP has issued a new report on campaign contributions in Idaho, concluding that corporations, businesses and PACS spent $2.7 million on Idaho's winning 2010 campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and state Legislature; that 35 percent of those contributions came from outside Idaho; and that 34 legislators received 90 percent or more of their campaign contributions from those groups - including seven for whom it was 100 percent. The report also showed that nearly 90 percent of lawmakers got the majority of their campaign funds from corporations, businesses and PACs.

Idaho AARP State Director Jim Wordelman said the group was disappointed with the Legislature's lack of response to AARP members' concerns, including finding new revenues to address the state budget shortfall, such as closing business tax loopholes, rather than cutting programs; and protecting the wishes of dying patients from being overridden by the conscience concerns of medical providers. "The outcomes of this past legislative session left many AARP members believing that Idaho has a golden rule, and that is, those who have the gold make the rules," Wordelman said. "When the most powerful voting group in Idaho, voters aged 50 and older, feels that their voices and issues are ignored by state lawmakers, we've got an issue of public confidence in the system."

The seniors group is calling for requiring Idaho candidates to raise the majority of their campaign funds from individuals living in their districts; limiting contributions to and by PACs; and limiting contributions to state political parties. You can see the AARP's full report here, and its statement here.

Allred amending campaign disclosure

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred is amending his campaign’s disclosures to include an in-kind contribution worth $3,000 to $4,000 for work done by the Boise-based business consulting firm he joined this week as a partner. Employees at HB Ventures conducted an analysis around March to examine how far Idaho’s economy had fallen behind neighboring states — and why it had slipped in the rankings. But Allred, who lost to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, didn’t report the contribution. Allred said Wednesday he was filing new paperwork, to correctly account for the in-kind contribution. Allred wasn’t the only candidate to make a disclosure mistake in the 2010 Idaho elections, with 1st Congressional District candidates Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward both forced to amend filings, too. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Democrats want probe of AFPWA spending

Washington state Democrats want the Public Disclosure Commission to go after a group that spent money against some of their legislative candidates but hasn’t revealed where the money comes from.

They filed a complaint today against Americans For Prosperity Washington, an offshoot of the national Americans For Prosperity, for campaign ads against Sens. Tracie Eide, Rodney Tom, Eric Oemig and Randy Gordon. The group has yet to file any contribution or spending reports or registration forms with the Public Disclosure Commission.

“This organization is purposely concealing who they are and who their funders are,” state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said. “In effect, these efforts amount to creating a secret political organization spending hudreds of thousands of dollars attempting to influence our elections and mislead the voting public.”

The state is currently investigation possible sanctions against Democratic consultants for filing misleading reports that hid the source of funding for candidates in a primary that helped knock out a Democratic incumbent that labor unions opposed, Pelz said. It also should go after a group like AFPWA for filing no reports.

How about a little honesty in PAC naming?

Here’s a modest proposal on campaign finance reform that might meet constitutional muster with the U.S. Supreme Court: Let’s have a truth-in-labeling law that requires political committees to say what they really are up to.

Democrats got in trouble last week – potentially big enough trouble to void an election – while playing the old “hide the hit money behind nice-sounding PACs” game in a Snohomish County legislative race. They’re facing sanctions for deliberately not reporting the money and hiding the donors to a conservative state Senate candidate, all part of an effort to whipsaw a moderate incumbent Democrat the unions didn’t like.

Not reporting the donors on time could result in big fines. But the part of their scheme that’s annoying but perfectly legal is the regular practice of giving money to one nice-sounding PAC, then moving it into a second nice-sounding PAC, and concealing for a short time whom the money is coming from. Thus the commercials say this ad paid for by Very Concerned Citizens for Great Communities, funded by Concerned Citizens for Very Great Communities.

Or something like that. There are dozens of these shadow PACs, set up by Democrats and Republicans, every year. How about a law that says they must say what they really are, like Unions Trying to Defeat Sen. Schmoe or Businesses Against Rep. Snerd.

It would be so much easier for the voters to tell who’s spending the big bucks to sway their vote, and let them judge for themselves if those unions or businesses are really concerned citizens interested in great communities. And yes, I know that hiding things from the voters is the whole point of these PACs, but does freedom of speech include the right to be sneaky?

Minnick, Labrador pile up campaign cash for final stretch

Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick had nearly half a million dollars cash left in his campaign warchest heading into the final stretch of the campaign, more than three times as much as GOP rival Raul Labrador. In campaign finance reports filed today, Labrador reported raising $255,832 in campaign contributions in the last quarter, spending $178,253 and ending the period on Sept. 30 with $134,323. He also reported $2,000 in new contributions on Friday, $1,000 from a civil engineer in Puerto Rico and $1,000 from the Ada County Republicans. To date, he’s raised a total of $544,725 for his campaign, including $100,000 in loans of his own funds.

Minnick reported raising $524,958 in the last quarter, spending $1.18 million, and ending the period with $482,083. He also reported $13,600 in new contributions Friday, $3,000 of that from political action committees and the rest from individuals in Washington, D.C., New York and Massachusetts. To date, Minnick has raised nearly $2.5 million, and has $250,000 in loans of his own funds outstanding from his 2008 campaign but no new debt. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

EOB: No fine for Hart on PAC campaign filing irregularities

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office says Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has supplied the missing information from his campaign finance filings for a PAC he formed this year called “North Idahoans for Liberty,” and it’s closed the case without fining Hart. “Our main goal is disclosure, and we’ve been working with him to get it,” said Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state. “We use a penalty as more of a last resort than the first attention-getting device.” More here at Eye on Boise

No fine for Hart on PAC filing discrepancy

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office says Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has supplied the missing information from his campaign finance filings for a PAC he formed this year called “North Idahoans for Liberty,” and it’s closed the case without fining Hart. “Our main goal is disclosure, and we’ve been working with him to get it,” said Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state. “We use a penalty as more of a last resort than the first attention-getting device.”

Hart’s write-in challenger, Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, filed a complaint earlier this month over the ongoing discrepancies in the report, which was due two and a half months ago; he questioned how the PAC could have spent more than it raised. Griffiths said Thursday that he was surprised at the outcome. “I don’t know why it takes this long to find something like this,” he said. “There’s definitely some arrogance there, I guess.”

Hart, who didn’t return a reporter’s calls for comment, put on a “fundraising event” for the PAC, a dinner in May at the Coeur d’Alene Resort featuring Dick Heller, the plaintiff in a landmark court case over gun rights in the District of Columbia. He charged $50 per person and also held a fundraising auction. According to the amended report, the PAC actually raised more than $7,500, but spent all but $237 of that. The list of cash donors swelled from just six to 20; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Hart hit with campaign finance complaint

Idaho Rep. Phil Hart’s write-in challenger, Howard Griffiths, 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.” Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state, said the office has not yet received the complaint, but Hart’s report for the PAC has been under review by staffers in the office since it was filed for errors and discrepancies, including possible missing pages. “They’ve asked him repeatedly to get those in, he hasn’t done so,” Hurst said today. “I just called him to tell him, and he wasn’t in, but I left him a message that we need that report in and we need it in now.”

Political candidates or committees that fail to file reports or that falsify the data can face fines and even misdemeanor criminal prosecution; for a PAC, the fine can be up to $2,500. Late filings can bring fines of $50 per day. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and read the complaint here.

Minnick Attracts More Out-of-State $$$

According to OpenSecrets.org, a website dedicated tracking dollars and donation for federal elections, Democrat Walt Minnick is relying more heavily on campaign funding from outside the state of Idaho than is his challenger, Republican Raul Labrador.  The website does note, however, that Minnick’s out-of-state advantage is likely due to his status as an incumbent, which allows him to mingle in wider circles than lesser-known challengers.  The website says that 54 percent of his campaign dollars taken in this election cycle are from out of state, while Labrador has only 24 percent of his money coming from outside the borders of Idaho/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: How much do you really think it matters to the average voter re: how much campaign money a candidate gets from out of state?

Brannon May Not Disclose Donations

RE: GOP mulls $2500 Brannon donation

A new, sticky question could emerge Jan. 30, 2011, if seat 2 challenger Jim Brannon doesn’t disclose the financial contributions he’s rounded up since the election went from the campaign trail to the courtroom. Brannon, challenging his five-vote loss to City Council incumbent Mike Kennedy, dodged answering questions about whether he intends to file that annual report or not last night before the Kootenai County Republican Party’s central committee meeting. “One never knows,” he said when asked. Brannon went on to say he didn’t think he had to disclose the sunshine report that tracks all the donors who’ve contributed $100 to $1,000 to his campaign because the money’s no longer going toward an election but rather to a court battle, so the sunshine laws don’t apply/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d’Alene Press. More here.

Question: Do you think Brannon has to disclose the names of individuals who have contributed $100 to $1000 to his legal defense?

Anti-Bradbury Group Hit w/Record Fine

Item: Idaho group receives highest-ever fine for campaign finance disclosure violation/Katy Moeller, Idaho Statesman

More Info: Two eastern Idaho groups who opposed the election of Idaho Supreme Court candidate John Bradbury and put out last-minute newspaper ads and mailers blasting the judge have been fined for failure to meet campaign finance disclosure requirements. One received a $1,300 fine, the largest fine ever imposed in Idaho for violation of so-called Sunshine Laws, which aim to shed light on where candidates are receiving their financial backing. The maximum fine is $2,500.

Question: Do you think a $1300 fine — or lesser ones — is a deterrent to a group that wants to circulate a last-minute attack ad or mailing against a candidate? Should the fines be increased?

Gridley: It’s a state law

Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley says the campaign finance law that Sen. Mike Jorgenson may have violated when he ran a $1,090 ad for Coeur d’Alene city council challenger Jim Brannon is a state law, not a city ordinance. Idaho Code 67-6610A limits contributions by an individual, corporation or political committee to $1,000 each for the primary and general elections; that limit applies to legislative, city, county or district judge races. A violation can bring a civil fine of up to $250, and potentially criminal penalties if it was a knowing violation. “It sounds like he is claiming that he didn’t know,” Gridley said. “All we’re doing is enforcing Idaho Code that our fine Legislature has passed, and that’s applicable to all elections.” However, the limit may not apply if Jorgenson’s ad is considered an independent expenditure; if that’s the case, the disclosure reports he’s arranging to file with the city may clear up the violation.

“We won’t know until we get his filing,” Gridley said. “If it’s an independent expenditure, he’s not limited by the thousand dollar amount. If he coordinates it with a campaign, then it is a contribution to that campaign, and it would violate the $1,000 and would need to be reflected on the candidate’s sunshine report, too.” Jorgenson said he did the ad on his own; he told Eye on Boise he got the list of roughly 50 campaign supporters to list in the ad from Brannon’s campaign. “I got it through his campaign headquarters - it’s available to anybody that walks in there,” Jorgenson said. “I just called them.”