There is still no public record proving Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth actually sold Clearwater County property to underwrite her final push to the 1994 GOP congressional nomination.
Idaho Democrats continue to question whether the $60,000 was generated from a legitimate sale or was an illegal campaign contribution.
She faced questions about the land sale during the campaign two years ago. Critics claimed the deal was devised to skirt federal election laws that limit individuals to giving a candidate $2,000 per campaign.
If everything was aboveboard, Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bill Mauk argued, the land sale should be recorded in public records.
“She’s making one set of public declarations that can’t be substantiated,” Mauk said.
Democrats have already asked for Federal Election Commission investigations into other aspects of Chenoweth’s campaign finances that have been marked by a $40,000 West One Bank loan that was not identified for months and questionable transactions with the private business in which Chenoweth was a partner.
Chenoweth has denied wrongdoing in any of the transactions. Her campaign staff recently maintained that at least some of the irregularities are inexplicable mistakes.
Allen Ball, the founder of Melaleuca Inc. who had expressed some interest at one time in mining in central Idaho’s Boulder Mountain area, was the businessman Chenoweth identified as the purchaser of the land. The tract overlooking Orofino is assessed at $34,238. Chenoweth indicated during her campaign her support for expanded mining opportunities.
Chenoweth and ex-husband, Nick, co-owned about 53 acres. She said she sold half of her half-interest to Ball and retains ownership of a quarter of the tract.
Chenoweth reported spending more than $64,000 on advertising in the last five weeks of the May 24 primary campaign - the last-minute infusion needed to win the nomination and set up her ouster of incumbent Democrat Larry LaRocco.
Ball’s other political involvement in 1994 crossed party lines. He was on a campaign committee in eastern Idaho for unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial nominee Larry EchoHawk, contributing $500 to his campaign personally. And Melaleuca contributed $10,000 to EchoHawk, $1,000 to Republican Attorney General Alan Lance and $1,100 to GOP state Sen. Evan Frasure of Pocatello.
At the time of the 1994 land deal, The Spokesman-Review reported Ball first was approached by a Chenoweth campaign volunteer. But, according to news reports, his interest in the property was not political. He intended to develop it.
But two years later, records at the Clearwater County Courthouse still show the land in Nick Chenoweth’s name. The 1994-1995 property taxes are past due on the undeveloped tract.
Nick Chenoweth said Ball “stuck the deed in his desk somewhere and it’s never been recorded. Once you tender a deed, it’s up to a buyer to record it and he didn’t tend to it.”
Idaho law does not require real-estate transactions to be recorded with the county, but it is common practice.
“The thing that stumps people up here is that no one can find the records showing exactly what went on with this transaction,” said John Tait, the Lewiston lawyer who served as LaRocco’s campaign treasurer until he became LaRocco’s ill-fated choice for a federal judgeship in 1993.
Nick Chenoweth said on Wednesday that he intends to record the paperwork at the Clearwater County Courthouse. And, he said, he would probably pay $1,549 to cover the 1994 and 1995 property taxes even though he does not own all the land - just to get “people like you off my back.”
Chenoweth said he received the documents from Ball last month with the understanding that he would file them. He did not record them sooner, he said, because he has been searching for the legal description of the property that he conceded was at the courthouse across the street from his law office.
The following fields overflowed: KEYWORD = FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE, CONGRESSIONAL
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