The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee is suing Coeur d’Alene Councilman Dan Gookin, alleging he defamed the organization by saying the political group has “rigged” its candidate “rating and vetting” process and violated campaign finance laws.
Gookin is a member of the KCRCC.
“Gookin has a long history of being critical of the KCRCC, which is his First Amendment right, but when he makes the claims that the KCRCC committed criminal acts he crossed the line into defamation,” the KCRCC said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “The KCRCC has every right to defend itself against these false accusations.”
KCRCC chairman Brent Regan did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Gookin brushed aside the lawsuit as political theater.
“My opinion is, this is an election ploy,” he said. “They did it to distract me from my campaign. Their opponents in the campaigns are very weak and unqualified.”
The KCRCC has endorsed a slate of candidates in the upcoming election, including those running against Gookin and two other city council incumbents.
Gookin said the group even tried to turn serving the lawsuit against him into political theater. He was made aware before the Oct. 17 city council meeting that a process server was there with instructions to serve him during the public comment portion of the meeting, Gookin said. He said she looked nervous, so he approached her before the meeting began. He said she confirmed her instructions, but said she felt uncomfortable doing that, so he accepted being served with the lawsuit before the meeting began.
Gookin said quite a few members of the KCRCC were in the audience for that night’s meeting and several had cameras ready to go, apparently in anticipation of the lawsuit being served during the council meeting.
“They missed their big moment,” he said.
Though the process server and others told him the lawsuit was to be served on him during the meeting, Gookin said he doesn’t know who ordered it.
“I can only assume it was the KCRCC or some specific member,” he said.
Gookin said the lawsuit specifically mentions several tweets that he made.
“Basically, I did a bunch of mean tweets,” he said.
On September 14, 2023 Gookin tweeted: “Tomorrow I finally get to see who the white-supremacist loving KCRCC selected to run against me for city council. Even if my opponent isn’t rated and vetted, they’ll stick him on the endorsement card anyway – which they’ve done before. Rules don’t mean anything to Brent.”
The next day Gookin tweeted: “My ‘rated and vetted’ criminal opponent just loaned his campaign $5,000. Where do you think this money came from? A) Money he saved up specifically to run for CDA City Council? B) Dark money provided by Brent from the secret KCRCC account they don’t tell anyone about? #laundering.”
Gookin said his tweets are factual and he has witnesses willing to testify in court.
“What I said in the tweets is what happened,” he said. “I have proof.”
The lawsuit also states the organization was damaged because it had to spend nearly $2,000 to send out 15,000 letters to “correct the lies Gookin spread.”
The organization also accused Gookin of running a parody Facebook group called “Kootenai County GOP,” which Gookin denies.
“I run my campaign page, that’s it,” he said.
Gookin has retained an attorney, but said he’s not worried. He said he expects the lawsuit to be withdrawn by the KCRCC after election day so the group can avoid the discovery process, including releasing their financial data.