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Eye On Boise

Brody campaign disputes Sunshine law interpretation, but sets aside $17K, points finger at Strong campaign

A spokesman for Robyn Brody’s campaign for the Idaho Supreme Court says the campaign is disputing the Idaho Secretary of State’s office’s finding that four donations, totaling $27,000, that it received from four farm-related firms exceeded the state Sunshine Law’s limits because the firms are related by a single owner. “We think they’re misinterpreting the statute,” said James Ruchti, a Pocatello attorney and spokesman for Brody’s campaign fundraising committee. “There are multiple owners, varied owners. We got checks that were signed by different people.”

However, he said the campaign will set aside $17,000 for now, while it works on an appeal letter to submit to the state; it’ll abide by whatever final decision the Secretary of State and Idaho Attorney General’s office reach, Ruchti said. He blamed rival Clive Strong, who also is running for the Supreme Court post, charging, “Clive Strong called the Secretary of State’s office when he saw Robyn’s filing, probably upset because she outraised him 3-1, and he told ‘em, hey, there’s these donations and I want you to check it out.”

Actually, the Secretary of State’s office was contacted by Bruce Newcomb, former Idaho speaker of the House, not by Strong. Newcomb is Strong’s campaign chairman.

Ruchti said, “I think this is really all about Clive Strong’s campaign thinking that Robyn Brody was not somebody he had to worry about in this campaign because she was from a small town in Idaho, and what he’s finding out is that the Bar has tremendous respect for her, her friends and family and former clients have tremendous respect for her and her abilities, and that’s what the $175,000 that we’ve raised so far reflects.”

Newcomb said, “I would just say, as somebody who supports Clive Strong, I want to make sure things are on the up-and-up, and I expect that from Clive and I expect it from anybody else. And when I saw all those entities from Shillington, I thought that was an anomaly.” Robert Shillington is a common owner, at least in part, of all four firms.

Newcomb added, “I know the Shillingtons. … So I see all those corporations that I’m familiar with over the years, and I say, there’s an anomaly there – is that the same thing that’s been going on with Doyle  Beck?”

The Secretary of State’s office has been investigating numerous contributions from firms owned by Beck, an Idaho Falls businessman, to at least three different legislative campaigns, to see if they violated Sunshine Law limits. The limits are $1,000 per primary or general election for a legislative candidate, and $5,000 per primary or general election for a statewide candidate, including an Idaho Supreme Court candidate.

“Why be defensive of the fact that somebody pointed it out?” Newcomb asked. “It’s not like this is my first rodeo. I’ve looked at Sunshine reports for a long time, and I look for the anomalies, and this one just jumped out at me.”

Newcomb said he’s fine with letting the state decide after reviewing the Brody campaign’s appeal. “Whatever they decide is fine with me,” he said. “That’s where the powers that be decide, if that’s appropriate.”

There are four candidates facing off for an opening on the Idaho Supreme Court: Brody, Strong, Idaho Court of Appeals Judge Sergio Gutierrez, and state Sen. Curt McKenzie. Under the Idaho Code of Judicial Conduct, judicial candidates are not supposed to know who contributed to their campaigns – even though it’s public record. That is instead handled by a campaign committee.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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