BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff have each spent more than a half-million dollars on broadcast advertising in October alone, according to campaign finance reports.
And that’s not counting independent ad campaigns against Balukoff from groups including the Republican Governors Association, which has poured $720,000 into an ad campaign trying to tie the Boise businessman to President Barack Obama.
In the final week before the election, Balukoff is responding with an unusual ad that has more skating and hockey-playing than political images. He dons an Idaho Steelheads hockey uniform and says, “Skating around Idaho’s problems with cheap shots won’t get results. … It’s time Idaho families get a fair shot.”
The new commercial, which is airing statewide and in the Spokane market, takes aim at negative ads both from outside groups and from Otter’s campaign, whose latest ad accuses Balukoff of “falsely smearing” Otter over a private prison scandal.
“I think it’s a clever ad, and it addresses the negative advertising that he’s been a recipient of,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics. “It might attract some voters who have tuned out to all the negative ads that are so prominently displayed right now.”
The ad emphasizes that Balukoff has run a positive campaign, Weatherby said, “which may or may not be to his benefit, in the overall scheme of things.”
The Republican Governors Association has targeted Balukoff in three TV ads in the past month. Another group, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, has been running a campaign trying to brand Balukoff as “Liberal A.J.” Others have weighed in with radio ads, mailings and more, touting Otter and bashing Balukoff.
“I have stayed true to a promise I made to myself and to my family that I would run a clean campaign that we could be proud of when all is said and done,” Balukoff said in a statement. “I have not attempted to distort Butch Otter’s record or tie him to unpopular politicians. I have only held him accountable for his record.”
He called his final ad “creative and fun” and said it “shows my fellow Idahoans that I won’t dive into the mud of politics as usual.”
Balukoff objected Wednesday to new radio ads airing in eastern Idaho as part of an independent campaign that are portrayed as being from Balukoff’s campaign and say, among other claims, that he wants to “repeal the balanced budget amendment.” Those ads, placed by Idaho Falls resident Michael Batt at a cost of more than $10,000, are “completely untrue,” Balukoff said.
According to campaign finance reports, the ads were placed on a group of Idaho Falls radio stations owned by eastern Idaho businessman and prominent GOP activist Frank VanderSloot. Batt is the former registered agent for VanderSloot Farms and VanderSloot Legacy Properties LLC.
Tim Hurst, chief deputy Idaho secretary of state, said political ads are required by state law to identify who funded them. The radio ads say at the end that they’re funded by “Bantt LLC.” That’s a limited liability company that Batt incorporated in 2011; the inclusion of that line meets the requirement of the state law, Hurst said.
“It may violate something, but it doesn’t violate the Sunshine Law,” he said.
A wealthy Boise businessman and longtime president of the Boise school board, Balukoff has self-funded much of his campaign, putting in more than $3.2 million of his own money. Otter, a multimillionaire, hasn’t put any of his own funds into his campaign, but he has raised more than $2 million in campaign donations and benefited from the independent expenditures.
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.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.