While most statewide and legislative races haven’t changed much in terms of fundraising since early September, ads and materials funded by political action committees and other individuals are flooding the mailboxes and social media feeds of Idahoans.
According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Sunshine Database, 169 political action committees across Idaho have raised $3.6 million since the May 17 primary election and spent more than $2.37 million dollars in the months that followed.
Much of those dollars have been spent on the same races across the state that both sides seem to think are up for grabs, and much of the spending has taken place in the past two months in the run-up to the US general election. November 8.
Idaho business PAC opposes ballot question on legislature
Most political action committees focused on candidates, but one spent nearly $70,000 on publicity against the passage of Joint Senate Resolution 102, a ballot question on whether the constitution must be amended to allow the Idaho Legislature to be recalled in session with the approval of 60% of the legislature. Under current Idaho law, only the governor has the authority to recall the Legislature in session to deal with a specific matter.
The PAC is the Idaho Prosperity Fund, which is affiliated with the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the state’s largest business organization. PAC donors include Idaho Power, the JR Simplot Company, and the Idaho Medical Association.
Idaho Liberty PAC, which is largely funded by Idaho Falls-based Melaleuca and various Idaho companies, said it also spent $48,000 to oppose SJR 102.
PACs supporting Democrats target Idaho candidates for abortion
Two PACs supporting Idaho Democrats include Accountable Idaho and Idaho Liberty Defense, both of which nominate the wife of former Idaho Democratic U.S. Representative Walt Minnick, AK, as treasurer.
Accountable Idaho spent $76,191 in October on ads and other materials to support Democratic candidates in eastern Idaho and northern Idaho, including Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello and Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow. Ruchti is running for a Senate seat and Nelson is running for re-election to the Senate. The PAC also spent money to oppose Republicans in those races – David Worley and former Moscow senator Dan Foreman, respectively.
Idaho Liberty Defense is an abortion rights-focused PAC that has raised $91,328 since May and spent nearly $62,000 of that amount to oppose Worley and five lawmakers:
- Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome
- Representative Codi Galloway, R-Boise
- Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow
- Rep. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello
- Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston
Planned Parenthood Votes Idaho PAC donated $22,000 to Idaho Liberty Defense between September 16 and October 24.
Idaho Liberty Defense ads direct voters to a website called herlifeidaho.comwhich features a video with women talking about Idaho’s abortion bans and pointing out the politicians the group opposes.
Outside groups send mail targeting Idaho lawmakers on critical race theory, drag performance
Two outside PACs also continued to pour monetary resources into Idaho’s elections. A group called Make Liberty Win, which is a Virginia organization affiliated with the Libertarian Party Young Americans for Freedom, spent more than $41,000 in September and October supporting Republican candidates and opposing Democrats. A list of groups approved candidates in Idaho appear on its website.
Some mailings from Make Liberty Win targeted Reps. Colin Nash and Steve Berch, both D-Boise, and focused on drag queens and critical race theory. To date, there is no evidence that critical race theory is taught in Idaho’s K-12 public schools, and Idaho’s Democratic lawmakers haven’t said they want a drag queen in every class.
A national organization called American Federation for Childrenwhich advocates school choice and has links with the The American Legislative Exchange Council and the billionaire family of former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos donated $125,000 to the Idaho chapter of the PAC between September and October. The Idaho PAC spent $74,000 of it supporting Manwaring, Galloway, Mitchell and Dori Healey and opposing their Democratic challengers.
The same organization spent $200,000 in the Idaho Republican primary to support eight candidates.
More donations could be known nationally in the coming months
Tuesday was the deadline for reporting independent October expenses for the general election, but other donations and expenses should be reported by Nov. 10, two days after Election Day. Some donations made by national PACs or in congressional races may not be known until 2023, as the Federal Election Commission has quarterly deadlines.
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