While most statewide and legislative races haven’t changed much in terms of fundraising since early September, the ads and materials funded by political action committees and other individuals are flooding Idahoans’ mailboxes and social media feeds.
According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Sunshine database, 169 political action committees across Idaho have raised $3.6 million since the primary election on May 17 and have spent more than $2.37 million in the months since.
Many of those dollars have been dedicated to the same races across the state that both parties seem to think are up for grabs, and the expenditures have largely taken place in the past two months as the general election on Nov. 8 draws near.
Idaho business PAC opposes ballot question about Legislature
Most political action committees have focused on candidates, but one has devoted nearly $70,000 to advertise against the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 102, a ballot question about whether the constitution should be amended to allow the Idaho Legislature to call itself back into session with the approval of 60% of the legislative body. Under current Idaho law, only the governor has the power to call the Legislature back into session to address a specific issue.
The PAC is the Idaho Prosperity Fund, which is affiliated with the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the largest business organization in the state. Donors to the PAC include Idaho Power, the J.R. Simplot Company and the Idaho Medical Association.
Idaho Liberty PAC, which is largely funded by the Idaho Falls-based Melaleuca company and various businesses across Idaho, reported it spent $48,000 to oppose SJR 102 as well.
PACs supporting Democrats target Idaho candidates over abortion
Two PACs supporting Democrats across Idaho include Accountable Idaho and Idaho Liberty Defense, both of which list former Idaho Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick’s wife, A.K., as the treasurer.
Accountable Idaho spent $76,191 in October on advertisements and other materials to support Democratic candidates in eastern Idaho and North 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 opposing the Republicans in those races — David Worley and former Moscow Sen. Dan Foreman, respectively.
Idaho Liberty Defense is a PAC focused on abortion rights that raised $91,328 since May and spent nearly $62,000 of that amount to oppose Worley and five legislators:
- Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome
- Rep. 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 Sept. 16 and Oct. 24.
Advertisements from Idaho Liberty Defense direct voters to a website called herlifeidaho.com, which features a video with women talking about Idaho’s abortion bans and singling out the politicians the group opposes.
Outside groups send mailers targeting Idaho legislators over critical race theory, drag performances
Two outside PACs have continued to pour monetary resources into Idaho elections as well. A group called Make Liberty Win, which is a Virginia organization affiliated with the libertarian Young Americans for Liberty, spent more than $41,000 in September and October to support Republican candidates and oppose Democrats. A list of the group’s endorsed candidates in Idaho appear on its website.
Some mailers sent by Make Liberty Win have 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 legislators have not said they want a drag queen in every classroom.
A national organization called the American Federation for Children, which advocates for school choice and has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council and the billionaire family of former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, gave $125,000 to the Idaho chapter of the PAC between September and October. The Idaho PAC spent $74,000 of that to support Manwaring, Galloway, Mitchell and Dori Healey and opposing their Democratic challengers.
The same organization spent $200,000 in Idaho’s Republican primary to support eight candidates.
More donations may be known at national level in coming months
Tuesday was the deadline to report October independent expenditures for the general election, but other donations and expenditures are expected to 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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