Campaign Spending

This episode of Reader's Corner was originally broadcast in June of 2017.

The re-election of Barack Obama in November of 2012 dealt a stunning defeat to the Republican Party. As the GOP reeled from the loss and began laying plans to win in 2016, a small group of shadowy and wealthy figures gathered at the request of Charles and David Koch, otherwise known as the Koch brothers. Their secret agenda: To map out plans to systematically and inequitably influence our political system.


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.

State lawmakers are considering a measure that would ask voters in 2016 to approve limits on a campaign contributions.

Kaje / Flickr

The Idaho House has passed a plan requiring school board candidates in roughly half of Idaho's school districts to file campaign finance reports.

The House voted 50-19 on Tuesday to require candidates in districts with at least 500 students to file the same campaign disclosure reports as other elected officials.

Republican Rep. Patrick McDonald from Boise says that companies or citizens may try to influence elections for local school boards, which often control multi-million dollar budgets.

A House committee has voted unanimously to introduce a bill closing a loophole that allows political action committees to receive money without having to reveal the source until after Election Day.

Republican Rep. Greg Chaney of Caldwell told the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday that current Idaho law allows for roughly two weeks in which political action committees can receive and spend large campaign contributions without revealing who gave them until a month after the election.

U.S. Senate

Former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig is appealing a ruling ordering him to pay nearly $242,000 to the U.S. Treasury for improperly using campaign funds to pay for legal expenses following his 2007 airport bathroom sex sting arrest.

Craig filed the one-page appeal Monday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C.

A federal judge ruled in September that Craig illegally converted campaign money for personal expenses while trying to withdraw his guilty plea to one count of disorderly conduct.

New campaign finance reports show a national Republican group has spent more than $500,000 trying to re-elect Gov. Butch Otter in Idaho.

Otter Leads Balukoff By 24 Points In Latest Poll For Idaho Governor

Oct 10, 2014

The latest poll on Idaho's gubernatorial race shows two-term incumbent Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter leading Democrat A.J. Balukoff by 24 percentage points.

The CBS/New York Times/YouGov poll released Oct. 1 shows 57 percent of respondents said they favor Otter.

The poll surveyed 594 Idahoans between Sept. 20-Oct. 1. In each demographic breakdown available, Otter had a sizeable lead.

Larry Craig
Joe Jaszewski / The Idaho Statesman

Former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig has been ordered to pay nearly $242,000 to the U.S. Treasury for improperly using campaign funds to cover legal expenses after his arrest in a 2007 airport bathroom sex sting.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Tuesday that Craig illegally converted campaign money for personal expenses while attempting to withdraw his guilty plea to one count of disorderly conduct.

Jackson found that Craig's effort was not connected to his duties representing Idahoans in Congress.

Idaho democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff is outspending Republican opponent Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on political television advertisements.

According to data reviewed by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, Balukoff has spent more than $500,000 on political television advertisements. Otter, meanwhile, has spent nearly $121,000 on television ads in the same time period.

The data also found that Balukoff's ads have run nearly 2,800 times and Otter's ads have run little more than 500.

DonkeyHotey / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said he has more than $700,000 in cash to wage a campaign against his Republican primary challenger, state Sen. Russ Fulcher.

Otter filed his latest campaign report Tuesday, outlining his 2013 fundraising when he brought in $901,000, largely from business groups.

Fulcher hasn't filed his report.

Meanwhile, Otter hasn't formally announced he's running for a third term.

Among Otter's biggest supporters were trucking lobbyists, cigarette maker Altria, retailer Wal-Mart and wealthy Emmett rancher Harry Bettis, who gave $7,500.

U.S. Senate

Idaho's former U.S. Senator Larry Craig is back in court this week in a case related to his 2007 arrest for disorderly conduct in an airport men's room. This time, the question is over Craig's use of $200,000 in campaign funds to pay his legal bills. A federal judge hears the case on Wednesday. 

The Federal Election Commission says campaign contributions are only supposed to be used on ordinary expenses incurred on the job. And Craig's arrest by an undercover cop who accused the senator of soliciting sex in a bathroom? The FEC says that counts as personal.

Idaho’s Republican Party is not pleased with a group known as Idaho Republicans for Our Schools. It’s a political committee created to campaign for no votes on ballot Propositions 1, 2, and 3. Those ask voters if they want to keep the state’s Students Come First education laws which restrict collective bargaining for teachers, institute a pay for performance system and increase technology use in schools.

Pro-Proposition 1, 2, 3 Group Must Reveal Donors

Oct 29, 2012
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

A judge has ordered a group campaigning for Idaho’s Propositions 1, 2 and 3 to reveal its donors. But  that doesn’t mean the list of names will be public any time soon.

JenCarole / Flickr Creative Commons

If you had hoped to find out this week who donated money to an organization campaigning for Idaho’s Propositions 1, 2, and 3: you’re out of luck. An Idaho district judge had been scheduled to hear arguments from Idaho’s Secretary of State and Education Voters of Idaho today. Ed Voters want people to keep the state’s Students Come First education laws which are up for voter repeal. But the group doesn’t want to say where it got its funding.

Anthony Johnstone
University of Montana

Idaho’s Secretary of State wants a court to order a group campaigning for Idaho’s ballot referenda to reveal its donors.

toddwendy / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s Secretary of State has asked a judge to order an organization that is campaigning for Propositions 1, 2, and 3 to reveal its donors. Ben Ysursa went to Idaho’s Fouth District Court Monday seeking the order against Education Voters of Idaho.

A group campaigning for Idaho’s Propositions 1, 2, and 3 refuses to divulge the names of individual donors. Lawyer Christ Troupis represents Education Voters of Idaho. Troupis delivered a letter Friday to Idaho’s Secretary of State saying his client did not have to accede to the secretary’s demand for names.

Ben Ysursa
Courtesy of Idaho Secretary of State's office

Friday is the deadline Idaho’s Secretary of State has given a nonprofit to reveal its donors. The group Education Voters of Idaho gave more than $200,000 to a second group to campaign for Idaho’s Students Come First education laws. Voters will decide if they want to repeal those through Propositions 1, 2, and 3 on the November ballot.

You've likely seen ads or signs encouraging you to vote no or yes on propositions 1, 2 and 3. Each proposition addresses an aspect of Idaho's education laws known as Students Come First. These laws limit collective bargaining, institute a pay for performance plan, and increase technology use in schools. Finance reports were due Wednesday for groups involved and show there's a lot of money being raised to support and fight the laws. 

Idaho’s Second District Candidates Take In Big Money

Jul 17, 2012

New numbers are out for campaign fundraising in Idaho’s congressional races. The candidates have reported what they’ve taken in as of the end of June.

In the First District, incumbent Republican Raul Labrador has raised almost 15 times as much as his Democratic challenger Jimmy Farris. That’s $551,568 compared to $37,388.

Supreme Court Rejects Idaho By Association

Jun 25, 2012

The United States Supreme Court Monday rejected Montana’s challenge to Citizen’s United, the decision that removed limits on corporate spending in political campaigns. Montana argued its state laws gave it the right to limit political spending. Idaho was one of several states that filed friend of the court briefs to support its neighbor’s position. Bob Cooper with the Idaho Attorney General’s office says the AG was not speaking against Citizen’s United, simply supporting states’ rights.

Franz Jantzen / U.S. Supreme Court Website

The state of Idaho is now supporting Montana’s effort to keep the U.S. Supreme Court from changing that state's campaign finance laws.  In all, 22 states and the District of Columbia have joined Montana's cause.

The case centers on a state’s ability to ban direct corporate spending on campaigns.  Montana wants to keep that right.  But the U.S. Supreme Court is mulling whether doing so would conflict with a ruling that allows unlimited corporate spending in federal campaigns.