Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 32° Partly Cloudy
News >  Idaho

Taxpayer donations favor Dems over Repubs

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – Here’s a surprising development: The Idaho Election Campaign Fund, for which Idahoans have checked boxes on their state tax returns since 1975 if they want to donate a dollar to a political party of their choice or to a general political campaign fund, this year is giving more money to the Democrats than the Republicans.

The checks, which were handed over to the parties in a ceremony this week, total $35,540 for the Democrats and $30,891 for the Republicans. The Libertarian Party collected $2,854 and the Constitution Party $2,144.

The way the checkoff works, taxpayers check a box to donate the $1 (spouses filing joint returns can make separate choices for their dollars), and the donation doesn’t increase their tax or decrease their refund. Not everyone donates; this year’s two-year distribution of $71,429 from the checkoff is way down from the 1982 record distribution of $154,600.

But of those who donated this time, clearly the majority favored the Democrats, who hold only a small minority of elective offices in Idaho. More than 30,000 taxpayers – 30,668 to be exact – designated their dollars to the Idaho Democratic Party. Another 25,438 designated theirs to the Idaho Republican Party.

Another 10,373 Idaho taxpayers sent their dollars to the general campaign fund. By law, 90 percent of that general fund is divided among the parties in proportion to their votes received for governor in the last gubernatorial election, though no party can get more than 50 percent of that pot. The remaining 10 percent, plus any not distributed because of the 50 percent cutoff, then gets divided equally among all parties with qualified candidates for elective state office in the next general election.

That meant the Republicans, because of their 52.7 percent showing in the 2006 gubernatorial race, got $5,453 from the general campaign fund, while the Democrats got $4,852. But the Dems were still ahead in the totals.

It was the first time since 1994 that the Democrats have collected more than the Republicans from the checkoff fund. Interestingly, the Democrats routinely collected more than the Republicans in the early years of the fund, but that turned around in 1982. The Democrats regained a slight edge in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the Republicans took the lead from 1996 on, and in 2000 hit their widest margin when they collected $58,691 to the Democrats’ $43,068.

Whistleblower unhappy with Tax Commission reviews

Longtime state tax auditor Stan Howland, whose whistleblower report in late May alleged that the state Tax Commission is cutting secret tax deals to excuse large multistate corporations from paying millions in Idaho taxes, has fired off a strongly worded letter to Gov. Butch Otter and state lawmakers criticizing the various reviews that have been done thus far of the allegations, including a finding that no laws have been broken.

“To date we have had three completed superficial reviews,” Howland wrote to Otter. “These reviews have totally failed to investigate my claims. We currently have a fourth review in process that is also only superficial. … The citizens in this state are being ill-served. The secret illegal practices occurring at the Tax Commission are being covered up by those who have motives inconsistent with finding the truth.”

Sali files another FEC correction

Idaho Congressman Bill Sali has filed yet another amended Federal Election Commission campaign finance report, this time amending his April quarterly report to show he both started and ended that reporting period with about $15,000 less cash on hand in his campaign fund than previously reported.

That, then, creates a conflict with the next report from the campaign, the pre-primary election report, which showed cash on hand of $125,008.84 at the start of the period, compared to the new revision’s $109,647.86 at the close of the previous period. But perhaps it helps explain the discrepancy between the pre-primary report’s $157,694 cash-on-hand figure for the close of the period and the lower figure, $143,533, that the campaign said it started with in the July quarterly reporting period, in a report that’s already been amended once. That difference is $14,161. Clear as mud?

Sali, a first-term GOP congressman, has now filed 11 amended reports with the FEC since June 1, and 43 amendments since 2005.

The campaign’s July quarterly report was filed on July 25, 10 days past the July 15 deadline, and then was amended three days later on July 28. Sali was one of just two incumbents to wait so long to file the July report, citing problems his campaign has had with FEC reporting software. It’s still not clear if the campaign will be fined for its tardiness on that filing; if it were, Federal Election Commission fine guidelines set the potential administrative fine at $3,250.

Dems’ poll shows 10-point Risch lead

A recent poll commissioned by Democratic blogger Markos Moulitsas’ Daily Kos shows Republican Jim Risch with a 10-point lead over Democrat Larry LaRocco in the Idaho Senate race, with independent Rex Rammell trailing at 5 percent. Moulitsas wrote that he commissioned the poll “on a whim” after meeting LaRocco. The poll of 500 likely Idaho voters, conducted July 28 through 30, has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Dean Ferguson, spokesman for the LaRocco campaign, said the poll was taken before LaRocco launched his first TV campaign ads this week, and noted that it shows LaRocco pulling five points closer to Risch than in LaRocco’s own poll from May. “We’re real happy to hear about that,” Ferguson said.

The poll also found John McCain leading Barack Obama for president in Idaho 53-37, and found 56 percent disapproval of “the job George W. Bush is doing as president.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or For more news from Boise go to boise
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.