Sen. Dirk Kempthorne spent nearly $30,000 on consulting and polling last fall during the month he was deciding whether to become the heir apparent to retiring Republican Gov. Phil Batt, a new campaign finance disclosure statement shows.
Within five days of making that decision, Kempthorne spent another $50,000 from his Senate war chest to hire a Virginia political consultant.
The year-end report from Kempthorne’s federal campaign committee also showed the senator refunded $187,000 in contributions from individuals and special interest political committees who had donated to his re-election before he announced he would return to Idaho.
But even after the refunds, special expenses and $40,000 in normal campaign office operating costs for the last half of 1997, the federal committee still had more than $168,000 in the bank when 1998 opened.
That is on top of the more than $200,000 Kempthorne’s new gubernatorial campaign committee reported having in the bank on Jan. 1.
Kempthorne faces no serious GOP challenger in the May primary, and there has been no indication that a viable Democratic challenger will emerge.
When Batt surprised many within his party on Sept. 17 by announcing that he would not seek a second four-year term, Kempthorne was a shoo-in for a second six-year Senate term with a more than $430,000 in his war chest and over a year to raise even more cash.
Twenty days later and well into the speculation that he was considering a return to Idaho, Kempthorne paid $25,000 to his usual consultant, Tony Payton and Associates in Arlington, Va. Two days after that, he spent $4,400 for polling by Moore Information in Portland, Ore. It was his first payment to Payton since he wrapped up his 1992 campaign.
On Oct. 15, Kempthorne ended the speculation by announcing his intentions to run for governor, and five days later he hired a new consultant, Murphy, Pintak, Gautier of McLean, Va., paying the firm $50,000.
Campaign spokesman J. Kirk Sullivan could not be reached for comment on what Kempthorne or the campaign intended to do with the $168,000 balance.
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