Bonneville County Republicans accused of improper candidate donationsPublished at | Updated at
IDAHO FALLS — The Bonneville County Republican Central Committee has received a reprimand from the Idaho Republican Party for donating to specific candidates ahead of the upcoming primary election.
A March 29 letter from Idaho Republican Party Chairman Tom Luna states that the BCRCC may have violated local party bylaws by making the donations.
The letter cites donations made in March in the amounts of $1,000 and $5,000, sent to a handful of conservative candidates for state offices.
The donations were sent to:
- Rep. Ron Nate, who is running for re-election to the Idaho House as a representative for District 34
- Raul Labrador, who is hoping to replace Lawrence Wasden as Idaho Attorney General
- Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who is running for Idaho Lieutenant Governor
- Rep. Dorothy Moon, who is running for Secretary of State
- Douglas Toomer, who is vying to represent District 35 in the Idaho Senate
- Rep. Barbara Ehardt, who is hoping to maintain her seat in the Idaho House, representing District 33
BCRCC Chairman Mark Fuller says that each county central committee has been authorized to adopt its own bylaws, or “house rules,” as he calls them.
“Until recently, those have been up to the county to decide how to apply those bylaws and how to use them,” Fuller says.
He says the issue of bylaws was brought up at a state gathering about six months ago, along with concerns that some of the committees from smaller counties didn’t have their own bylaws. Fuller says that, in an effort to help those smaller counties out, the committees that did have bylaws filed them with the state committee so the smaller committees would have sources to pull from in creating their own.
“Until then, the state (committee) had taken no interest in enforcing the (local) bylaws,” Fuller says. “But in providing them to the state party, the state has taken the position that they have the ability to enforce the house rules.”
READ THE LETTER TO THE BONNEVILLE COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY HERE
The BCRCC bylaws state that the committee will “take no position in favor of any Republican candidate engaged in a primary election contest.”
Fuller argues that donations do not indicate official endorsements, but that the Bonneville County committee nearly unanimously felt it necessary to boost a few conservative candidates leading up to the primary election.
“The Bonneville County Republican Party is very conservative,” he says. “We decided that this primary election is so important in Idaho that we needed to take positions in supporting conservative candidates.”
Luna’s letter says the state committee had received multiple complaints about the local committee’s donations. Fuller says he is only aware of official complaints filed by Tracy Wasden, wife of Idaho Attorney General (and incumbent) Lawrence Wasden, and from the campaign for Art Macomber, who is also running for Idaho Attorney General.
The BCRCC was given three options in the letter to “immediately” correct the violation. The first was to request refunds from each candidate who received a donation. The second option was to donate equally to all Republican candidates in the contested primary races, and the third option was for the local committee to provide their own solution that corrects the violation.
Fuller says the BCRCC will not have a decision on how to proceed until after their April 14 committee meeting. As the chairman of the committee, Fuller doesn’t get a vote unless he’s breaking a tie, but he doesn’t expect that the committee will choose the first or second options, most likely choosing to formulate their own solution.
Fuller says one option could be to “suspend the rules and ratify the donations,” and hopefully come up with a solution that will “be viewed by the public as reasonable under these circumstances.”
Fuller notes that Luna is in a hard position as the chair of a heavily divided Idaho Republican Party. Fuller says he fully supports Luna and hopes to come to a positive resolution.
“He’s in a tough spot,” Fuller says. “He probably came up with a good ‘divide-the-baby’ argument, and I’m glad he left option three open for us.”
The issue will be discussed at the next BCRCC meeting, at 7 p.m. on April 14 at the Paramount Triplex Theatre, 2085 Niagara Street, Idaho Falls. The meeting is open to the public, but only precinct committee officers are allowed to vote.