Governor Forms Personal PAC To Influence Idaho Elections Large And Small

Dec 18, 2015

Political action committees (PACs) have come to dominate American politics with their ability to donate to candidates and spend independently to support candidates. But a new PAC in Idaho may be unique in the state.

Otter Pac registered with Idaho’s Secretary of State last month. That’s Otter as in Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Most PACs in Idaho are created by corporations or unions or organizations dedicated to a particular cause. Otter Pac seems to be the only one in the state tied to a single individual, or technically two. The PAC’s website says it was created by the Governor and First Lady Lori Otter.

Political scientist James Weatherby thinks he knows why the governor wanted a PAC.

“I suspect it is an attempt to regain control of the Republican Party, which the governor and his supporters lost in 2008,” Weatherby says.

2008 was when Otter’s choice for state party chair was ousted. Weatherby says Otter has been trying to get the party back under his control ever since.

He says Otter wants more people elected all over the state who are loyal to him. He says Otter Pac’s stated purpose is telling: “to help local, county and state races including the election of precinct committeemen.” Weatherby says precinct races never get any attention but they’re important.

“Precinct committee people … go on to the county and legislative district level to determine - ultimately - the leadership of the Republican Party.”   

Weatherby says Otter may have had another reason for creating a PAC about a year into his third term.

“I think it’s about the governor asserting himself, saying ‘I’m not a lame duck. I’m still relevant. And I’m going to be a major player,’” Weatherby says.

PACs can influence elections in ways individuals can’t. For example, they don’t have limits on how much money they can take in, so they have near unlimited fundraising capabilities.

Otter Pac is currently selling tickets to a dinner with Otter. Prices range from $500 to $10,000 for 10 people to go to the dinner and then get extra time with the governor.

The governor and the Otter Pac treasurer did not respond to requests for comment. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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