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‘96 Campaign Leaves Craig Deep In Red Ink Report Raises Questions About Possible Illegal Contributions

Bob Fick Associated Press

Republican Sen. Larry Craig, who has based his 16-year congressional career on pursuing a balanced federal budget, ended his successful 1996 re-election campaign more than $181,000 in the red.

Year-end campaign finance disclosure statements filed with the state Friday also showed discrepancies from previous filings on Craig’s political debt. The report drops business creditors without any record they were paid, raising the possibility of illegal contributions from businesses.

There was no immediate response from the Craig campaign to questions about those discrepancies.

In the second-most expensive campaign in Idaho history, Craig spent $2.7 million to roll up 57 percent of the vote against Republican-turned-Democrat Walt Minnick, the former wood products executive who spent $2.1 million to get just 40 percent of the vote. Minnick spent nearly $1 million of his own money on the losing campaign, most of it in loans, and ended the year with a campaign cash balance of just $55,000.

Last year’s contest was eclipsed only by the 1986 U.S. Senate race between Republican Steve Symms and Democratic Gov. John Evans. They combined to spend $6 million.

Craig’s disclosure statement for the final month of 1996 reported that his campaign debt had been reduced by nearly $15,000 from the post-election level of $196,000. It showed debt payments of $20,000 to nine creditors.

But the campaign ran up another $2,600 in debt with a Salt Lake City credit card company, and without explanation added a $2,500 debt to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The disclosure conceded that debt was incurred prior to the latest reporting period but was not recorded on the post-election financial statement.

That post-election report also said the campaign owed $1,700 to Initial Response, a Boise company that provided the campaign with shirts in late October or November. The new report included no reference to Initial Response still being a creditor, but neither did it list the debt being paid.

The same circumstances applied to a $611 debt to Fisher’s Office Equipment in Boise for supplies. Fisher’s also was dropped as a creditor on the new report, even though the campaign reported making only $285 in supply payments in December.

Craig reported raising just over $54,000 during the last five weeks of 1996 and spending nearly $57,000. He had $5,300 in cash at year’s end.

Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth, who spent most of her first two years in Congress in debt, reported a year-end balance of $5,500. That was enough to cover $3,000 in outstanding bills leaving only the $55,500 personal loan she made to her 1994 campaign her only debt.

GOP Congressman Michael Crapo was the flushest of the delegation. He reported a balance of $185,000 at the end of December with no debts.

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