This week the state’s highest elections office wrote letters to the most powerful political players alleging they had broken the law. The recipients may face fines for supposed campaign finance violations, but those letters could be going to innocent groups and people.
It’s 13 days after a critical campaign finance deadline. That number will be unlucky for 12 PACs and three people who face allegations by the state that they didn’t properly disclose the money they spent.
It’s not clear, however, whose at fault.
Several high-profile PACs, as late as June 27, appeared to be in violation of Idaho campaign finance laws, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The Idaho Realtors PAC who raised $651,518 and spent $259,611 in this year’s primary is the highest profile group that has been accused of violating state law by the elections office.
The Idaho Realtors PAC was one of the biggest spenders in the primary election. Cutting large checks for independent expenditures in favor of Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who was running as a gubernatorial candidate.
The filing deadline was June 14.
PACs and individuals could face a $50-a-day fine for their tardiness. Yet, “our goal is to get disclosure rather than to balance the budget on fine money,” said Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst to Idaho Reports Tuesday. “So we may coddle the candidates and PACs more than we should.”
The Idaho Realtors were not the only pro-Brad Little PAC who missed the June 14 deadline. The Agriculture & Natural Resources Industry PAC who raised $22,060 and spent $16,623, which included donations to Little, will also be receiving a fine letter.
Many of the letter recipients may be confused when they open their mailbox.
Idaho Reports reached out to the Secretary of State’s office at 11:30 am on Tuesday with a list of PACs whose reports did not appear on the state’s website. Hurst responded in an email by saying “The PAC’s listed below have (y)et to file their post-primary reports. It has not yet been determined if a fine will be imposed.”
Idaho Reports then reached out to the six PACs Hurst said had not reported. Several did not respond. Others disputed the idea that they had not reported.
Sue Wigdorski, the treasurer for the Political Action Committee for Education, told Idaho Reports “I think you may not have the correct report. We did file on time.”
“The issue will be resolved by tomorrow at the latest,” wrote Max Pond of the Idaho Realtors to Idaho Reports in an email on Tuesday. The realtors have “a history of always accurately reporting and, in some cases, over-reporting. We will continue to do so.”
Around 3:30 pm, Hurst started to change the story. Idaho Reports had earlier asked about the Senate Democratic Caucus report. “Lisa told me the Senate Democratic Caucus has filed,” Hurst responded to Idaho Reports inquiry. “She is checking to see why it wasn’t posted and will get it there.”
At that same time, the secretary of state’s office began posting reports on the website which was 12 days after the deadline. Every sunshine disclosure pointed out by Idaho Reports had been posted by 4:00 pm except the Idaho Realtors PAC and the Senate Democratic caucus.
Idaho Reports asked Hurst if his previous statement that the PACs had yet to file was still accurate. Hurst said “the statement is no longer accurate. I just checked again with our campaign finance people who told me the reports for PACE (Political Action Committee for Education), Agriculture & Natural Resources Industry PAC, Idaho Wheat and Barley PAC, and IAFF Local I-83 Political Action Committee were received today.”
The reports are time stamped by the Secretary of State’s office. Two of the filings are in fact time stamped June 26, the day Hurst claimed. Two are not. Take a look:
A little after 4:00 pm on Tuesday, Idaho Reports received an email from Dorothy Canary of the Secretary of State’s office.
“We have received all of the reports that you listed except for Realtors PAC,” Canary said, “The fine letter went out in today’s mail so the fine will begin on June 28th of $50.00 dollars a day until the report is received in our office per Idaho Code 67-6625A.”
The realtors were not the only people to receive this letter. Several PACs that had already filed the 30-day report will also be receiving the message. Here is the list and status of all recipients as of Wednesday morning:
AIA Idaho Political Action Committee (No 30-day Report), Idaho Democratic Latino Caucus (No 30-day Report), Idaho Social List (Reported), Meridian Firefighters IAFF Local 4627 (Nothing reported this cycle), Opportunity Idaho Committee (Reported), Realtors PAC (No 30-day Report), Agriculture & Natural Resources Industry PAC (Reported), Idaho Wheat & Barley PAC (Reported), Fair Share Idaho (No 30-day Report), Keep Idaho Elections Accountable, Liberty Shoot (Nothing reported this cycle), Local 5005 Worley Firefighters PAC (No 30-day Report).
Three individuals who ran for elected office should also be checking their mail; Dalton B Cannady (No 30-day Report), LeeJoe Lay (Reported), Jay Waters III (Nothing reported this cycle).
“Prior to send(ing) out fine letters to those who missed the filing deadline,” Hurst said. “Our office calls and e-mails the various treasurers who have not filed reminding them to get their reports in.”
Despite the calls and emails there still appears to be some significant miscommunication in the process. Multiple people on the above list will receive a letter despite having already filed their 30-day report, and almost two weeks after the deadline there is still a slim chance of fines.
“This is a total miscommunication on my behalf,” Pond told Idaho Reports. “We will be in compliance today. I have successfully uploaded the documents.”
Shortly before this story published The Idaho Realtors PAC 30-day report appeared on the Secretary of States website.