By Seth Ogilvie
Last week, voters across the state received The Idahoan in their mailboxes, with thousands of words penned by editors Lou Esposito and Patrick Malloy. The mailer kept the Idaho political community talking for days. Was it electioneering? Was it a newspaper?
There’s another question hidden within the pages of The Idahoan: Did it contain a threat?
“She likes to say ‘remember the gal with guns,’’ Esposito wrote about congressional candidate Rep. Christy Perry. “We say if she has her vote on other issues WE WILL HAVE TO EVENTUALLY USE OURS.”
The poor sentence structure raises questions. What does Esposito want to use? Votes, or guns?
Perry took the statement as a threat. “The nasty and seemingly threatening comments made about me and other candidates put forth by that libertarian rag are perfect examples of what is wrong with Congress right now- lack of truthfulness, leadership, and civility,” said Perry, who is running for Congressional District 1. “It is insulting to the public-they deserve better.”
The comments came in an editorial titled “We Endorse Russ Fulcher for U.S. Representative, District 1.” The column said the usual nice things about Fulcher, and negative things about the other male candidates in the race, but reserved the “seemingly threatening comments,” as Perry said, for the only woman in the race.
Idaho Reports has reached out to Esposito and the Idahoan for clarification on the endorsement, but has not received comment.
But ambiguous writing and poor usage isn’t the only trouble The Idahoan has seen since landing in mailboxes last week.
The Idaho Democratic Party has asked for an investigation by the Secretary of State’s office into the legal legitimacy of the newspaper. The question: Is it a newspaper protected by the First Amendment, or an electioneering pamphlet made to look like a newspaper?
The Democratic Party has also asked Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to recuse himself due to his relationship with Esposito. In 2011, Denney, then speaker of the house, appointed Esposito to the state redistricting commission. He also donated $10,000 of House Leadership fund money to Esposito’s Gun PAC in 2012.
Then there is the Idaho Freedom Foundation involvement. Freedom Index ratings are displayed throughout The Idahoan, and advertisements for the Freedom Foundation appear multiple times.
“I saw the newspaper and the ads after it hit mailboxes,” said Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “They didn’t need my permission. All our stuff is public domain anyhow.”
That would mean your blog, newspaper, skateboard or any other object could also proudly display the Idaho Freedom Foundation logo without legal repercussions.
Then there’s the name. In 2007 Hoffman started a business called The Idahoan. Here is the filing:
You might notice Hoffman lists himself as editor and publisher, roles that Malloy and Esposito fill for the current incarnation of the paper.
But as of today, “I didn’t have any involvement in The Idahoan, its production, endorsements, funding or any other aspect of the publication,” Hoffman said.
Finding out if The Idahoan is a newspaper or a political expenditure could take some time. As for the “nasty” comment, you be the judge.