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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Crapo addresses losing campaign funds

BOISE – Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is defending his former campaign manager who lost $250,000 in campaign funds in a risky investment, while also calling the incident “discouraging” and “distressing.”

Crapo’s then-campaign manager, Jake Ball, loaned $250,000 in campaign funds in 2008 to a longtime friend’s now-defunct investment company, Blueberry Guru LLC, which invested it into real estate ventures in Nevada and California that promised a quick profit. Instead, the money disappeared.

Crapo said he wasn’t informed about the bad loan until late 2010; he worked with the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office to try to pursue the matter, but to no avail. Now, he’s filed amended campaign finance reports for 2008 and 2009 to reflect the loss.

In his quarterly telephone town hall meeting with Idahoans this past week, Crapo addressed the issue before taking questions on other matters.

Among his revelations: Crapo said 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador was informed about the investment loss when Ball left Crapo’s staff to become Labrador’s district manager in Idaho in December 2010. “At that time, my staff informed me that he had informed Representative Labrador about the circumstance,” Crapo said.

When the news of the investment loss surfaced two weeks ago, Ball quit his job with Labrador, saying he wanted to pursue a business opportunity.

“Jake had been working for me in different capacities since about 2002, starting as an intern and holding positions in Washington, D.C., and in Idaho, in my Senate office before moving to my campaign, and he had always exhibited good judgment in those positions,” Crapo said. “In fact, during his tenure as campaign manager, through traditional investments which are government-backed CDs, he had brought in over $300,000 in interest payments. But this one bad loan was made and it was very discouraging.”

Crapo said he’s “taken steps to ensure nothing like this ever occurs again on my campaign.” Now, he said, “At least two separate individuals review and approve any expenditure.” Plus, an accounting firm, Professional Data Services, has been hired to oversee all campaign expenditures and reports.

“This is a very discouraging circumstance,” Crapo said. “I deeply appreciate those who have contributed to my campaign over the years. And it’s distressing to have to report this matter not only to those donors, but to all Idahoans.”

Crapo’s quarterly tele-town halls are posted as audio on his Senate website, but you won’t find these comments there; they’ve been edited out. The reason: “It’s because we can’t post on the Senate’s official website anything of a campaign nature,” Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern said. “We had a big discussion about that, because we wanted to put (up) the whole thing, but we checked with the Ethics Committee,” and it wasn’t permitted.

Otter defends Idaho exchange

Gov. Butch Otter is defending Idaho’s work toward a state-based health insurance exchange, after a Wall Street Journal article pointed to decisions by Idaho and New Mexico to use the federal government’s computer platform for an initial launch as a sign that the two states are no longer committed to state, rather than federal, exchanges.

At its May 9 meeting, the Idaho exchange board voted to move on “parallel tracks” toward setting up its own IT platform for its health insurance exchange, and exploring the benefits of using the federal government’s platform temporarily, until Idaho’s is ready to go.

On Thursday, the board voted to take the same step for the “SHOP” portion of the exchange, which stands for Small Business Health Options Program and is the portion of the exchange that will serve small businesses, while the rest is for individuals purchasing insurance plans.

Asked by other board members to clarify the step, board Chairman Stephen Weeg said, “We’ve made a decision to use the federal government’s contractor that operates the platform to be our contractor for our platform for a short period of time, while we can get our platform fully developed.” He and other board members stressed that only Idaho insurance products would be sold under Idaho rules on the state exchange, regardless of whether it uses the federal IT platform.

Otter and Weeg issued a statement decrying “misleading headlines” and saying, “Our efforts will not result in a partnership or a federal exchange. Idaho is building and will have a consumer-friendly state-based exchange run by Idahoans for Idahoans.”

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