IDAHO FALLS — In response to complaints from some Idaho Republican primary candidates, followed by a reprimand from the Idaho Republican Party — the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee has removed a bylaw that disallowed donations to candidates in primary races.
They also ratified the donations that broke that bylaw.
According to BCRCC Chairman Mark Fuller, the committee voted at its most recent meeting to remove a bylaw that stated that it was the committee’s policy to: “Take no position in favor of any Republican candidate engaged in a primary election contest.”
“We can now make donations in any race, from dog catcher to President of the United States,” Fuller said.
Complaints arose after the BCRCC donated to a handful of candidates for state offices in March, ahead of the upcoming primary election. Those candidates included:
- 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
“We felt that it was very important for us as a central committee to support who we considered to be the most conservative candidates,” Fuller said, noting that the committee’s vote to donate to the candidates was nearly unanimous.
He said that in a majority Republican state like Idaho, the primary election is so consequential that the committee felt justified in making the donations.
“Almost every (successful Republican primary) candidate is going to win the general election,” Fuller said.
Official complaints about the donations were registered with the state GOP from the campaigns of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who is running for reelection, and Art Macomber, who is also running for the office of Idaho Attorney General.
In a letter to Idaho Republican Party Chairman Tom Luna, dated March 17, Macomber states, “There is no endorsement allowed by Bonneville County GOP for this contested State Office Attorney General primary race, and certainly giving a financial contribution to either of my competitors, violates Bonneville County’s bylaws as a ‘position in favor of any Republican candidate.’”
Luna gave the committee three options to remedy the situation in a March 29 letter. They could request the return of each donation, donate to every Idaho Republican Primary candidate equally, or they could come up with their own solution to correct the violation.
Fuller said the first two options were impossible. They couldn’t ask for the money back, because in some cases it had already been spent, and they couldn’t donate equally because they couldn’t afford it.
“If we complied with that, it would drain every penny that we have,” Fuller said.
Fuller said Luna overstepped in seeking to enforce the local bylaws, which Fuller referred to as “house rules.” A bylaw, by definition, is “a rule adopted by an organization chiefly for the government of its members and the regulation of its affairs.”
“I’ve got rules in my house, but my neighbor doesn’t enforce my rules,” Fuller said.
But, acknowledging that others believed the donations to be out of bounds, Fuller said the committee decided to address the ambiguity by removing the bylaw.
“We decided if Chairman Luna interprets the rules that way, and if others perceive them that way, it would be best to amend the bylaws,” he said. “So, we went back and amended our own bylaws. They’re our rules, so we can change them.”
Following the vote to amend the bylaws, Fuller said the committee voted to ratify the donations in question.
“We went back and we considered all of the donations that we made, and we ratified them all,” he said.
Fuller said the decisions were not unanimous, but had the needed two-thirds majority to pass. As of this writing, the state party had not responded to the BCRCC’s appeal. Fuller said a hearing on this issue was required by June 27.