BOISE – Got an old television collecting dust, unused power tools in the garage or trash bags stuffed with pants, shirts and coats that no longer fit? Fret not, U.S. Rep. Bill Sali has a solution.
In a recent campaign memo, the conservative Republican encourages supporters to host a “Yard Sale for Sali,” along with a gentle nudge to consider Sali’s re-election bid when figuring out how to spend the proceeds.
“Through ‘Yard Sales for Sali,’ families across the district can hold a yard sale and donate some or all of the proceeds to the campaign,” the campaign letter states. “This will provide for every supporter to make an important and immensely valuable contribution to the campaign.”
Sali, elected in 2006, is locked in a tight contest with Democrat Walt Minnick in the race to represent Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.
Based on the most recent fundraising reports showing Minnick with a significant cash advantage, it’s clear Sali can use every dollar he can get heading into the final weeks of the election season.
In reports filed June 30, Minnick reported $440,000 in the bank compared with $250,000 socked away for Sali, who also reported about $125,000 in debt from his election.
But campaign officials insist the yard sale gimmick is about more than fattening Sali’s campaign checkbook. The campaign promises to provide yard sale hosts with Sali literature, yard signs and bumper stickers. And if the schedule allows, Sali even says he will try to stop by to chat with shoppers.
“We have a lot of people that are very excited about participating in a campaign when they have never participated before,” Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman said. “It’s one of those things that goes along with putting up signs in the yard, stuffing envelopes or stuffing literature in packets. We’ve had a lot of response and it’s turning out to be very exciting.”
Still, there are federal election laws to consider, even if the money is earned in a folksy autumn rummage sale.
Bob Biersack, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission, said two basic rules could come into play for such events. One is the $2,300 limit an individual can donate to any campaign; the other prohibits a donor from making a contribution in the name of another person.
“Contributions to the campaign have to be accounted for,” Biersack said.
Hoffman said the campaign will make finance rules and reporting obligations clear to anyone donating yard sale proceeds.
So depending on the buyer’s contribution history or transaction amount, yard sale hosts could be obligated to get the name, address and other personal data of customers to comply with federal rules.
“I think given Congressman Sali’s clear difficulties over the last several months with campaign finance compliance, I would have thought they would try and avoid any possible appearance of impropriety,” said Minnick spokesman John Foster.
This summer, the FEC looked into reasons why the Sali campaign failed to file its finance report on the July 15 deadline. The commission determined that it was a glitch in its own software data file used by the campaign that led to the 10-day delay.
It’s still not clear whether the campaign will be fined by the FEC for the delay.
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