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Eye On Boise

Idaho Dems file complaint alleging GOP broke campaign laws in minority leader’s race

Here’s a news item from the AP:

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Democratic Party filed a complaint Friday with the Secretary of State's office claiming that an official inside the Idaho Republican Party violated the state's campaign laws.

According to the complaint, Idaho Republican Party Executive Director David Johnston coordinated with GOP candidate Mike Kingsley's campaign in creating a political attack ad against House Minority Leader John Rusche using funds from an independent expenditure.

The complaint is based on an email exchange obtained by Rusche's campaign manager Trae Turner, which is included in the complaint. Party spokesman Dean Ferguson said he quizzed Turner on the veracity of the emails and trusts they are not fabricated.

Idaho law defines independent expenditures as those not made in consultation with a candidate or campaign. There is no limit how much can be spent on an independent expenditure, unlike a direct candidate contribution which caps out at $2,000.

"The independent expenditure paid for by the Idaho Republican Party was created in cooperation with, or in consultation with, or at the consent of two agents of the Kingsley campaign, the expenditure is not independent," the complaint reads.

Johnston did not have an immediate comment, but said he planned to issue one later Friday.

The complaint claims that the Idaho Republican Party sent $789 on Sept. 8 to Jeda Media for an independent expenditure supporting Kingsley. Campaign finance reports show that Jeda Media is also being compensated by Kinglsey's campaign for production and distribution of campaign material.

In the emails, Johnston goes back and forth with Jeda Media owner Jeff Boyer, as well as alleged campaign staffers Clinton Daniel and Nicole Wren, working out the details involving a television ad funded by the Idaho Republican Party.

The complaint describes Daniel and Wren as Kingsley campaign staffers who have interacted with Rusche's staffers while out on the campaign trail. Kingsley did not immediately return a telephone message asking whether the two are working on his campaign.

"Let's go scalp this guy," Johnston wrote to Boyer on Oct. 19, talking about how much money would be needed to "carpet bomb" Rusche, according to one email cited in the complaint. Other emails show Johnston promising to work on providing Boyer $5,000 for additional TV ad buys while looping in Wren and Daniel.

The fight over District 6 has become one of the most competitive races in the state as the general election approaches. Rusche, a six-term lawmaker, barely beat Kingsley in 2014. This year, supporters from both sides of the aisle have spent thousands of dollars buying ads, sending mailers and setting up field offices to attract voters.

The Secretary of State's office received the complaint Friday afternoon and was still reviewing it, said state elections director Betsie Kimbrough. The office is planning on reaching out to the Idaho GOP for a response.

Rusche called the matter “disturbing,” and said, “Idahoans want leaders who can respect each other and work together, which I have always done. My endorsement by prominent local Republicans and my long record of collaboration speak volumes. This sort of destructive campaigning is part of what my constituents hate most about politics, and none of us should support it.”

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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