Updated 1:10 pm June 29 with comments from Bistline.
By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
The campaign manager for a Democratic statewide candidate advised fringe Republican gubernatorial contender Harley Brown during Idaho’s primary election, offering tips on how to respond to reports that Brown threatened a radio host.
Anthony Shallat is the campaign manager for Democratic attorney general hopeful Bruce Bistline.
In a February email forwarded to media outlets, Shallat encouraged Brown to run, writing “I truly believe that the next step is for your presidential race is to put your name in the hat for governor this time around,” saying the move would generate media attention. Shallat then encouraged Brown in April to attack the media as “biased” and “unfair,” invoking President Donald Trump, in response to a police report filed by KBOI 670 host Nate Shelman.
Shallat, an attorney, said he offered advice to Brown as a friend, and had no official role or connection with the Brown campaign. He previously represented Brown during his 2016 presidential campaign, helping Brown with FEC compliance, he said.
Brown, a disabled veteran and perennial candidate in Idaho Republican primaries, is known for his biker persona, outlandish statements, and a viral 2014 Idaho Public Television gubernatorial debate (which, full disclosure, was moderated by this reporter).
But coverage of Brown took a more serious turn during the 2018 primary election after an on-air verbal altercation with Shelman. Upon finding out he wouldn’t be invited to KBOI 670’s governor debate, Brown cursed at Shelman, then left the studio. He then wrote “die motherf—–” in an email to Shelman.
Shelman filed a police report, as did Idaho Public Television after Brown sent a similarly threatening email regarding its debates.
In an April 3rd email to Brown, Shallat said a Statesman article covering the Shelman incident “could have been worse.”
“I suggest emphasizing two points,” Shallat wrote. “1. You are a peaceful man but the biased King Maker, Nate Shelman, made you upset because he is not letting the people decide who is the best candidate.”
“2. The media’s treatment of you is the same as what happened to Donald Trump. The media is picking and choosing who should be given a platform in politics. Its unfair and unamerican. The media tried shutting Donald Trump down but the people got him elected. You want to take your message to the people.”
“I also think you should call Nate Shelman ‘fake news,’” Shallat continued. “Do not resort to any threats, but expose his biased conduct.”
Brown forwarded the April email to Idaho Public Television in an attempt to prove he was running an active campaign and receiving media attention, one of the criteria for participation in IPTV’s debate. (Brown did not qualify for the debate, prompting another threatening email.)
In a Thursday interview with Idaho Reports, Shallat disputed Brown’s previous characterization that he volunteered for the campaign.
“The advice I gave Harley was essentially as a friend,” Shallat said. “I was never affiliated with him in any official capacity.”
Shallat said he did not stand by his earlier comments about Shelman and the media, but declined to say why he made them in the first place.
“I’ve given legal advice to Harley Brown on and off since 2014,” Shallat wrote in an email to Idaho Reports. “Although Harley and I disagree on most political views, I believe he is not only entitled to legal representation but also should be allowed to participate in the political process. In 2018, Harley sought my advice as someone who has helped him navigate the political and legal process before. At the time I corresponded with him in 2018, I was not serving as his attorney or in any official or unofficial capacity with his campaign for governor. Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate.”
Shallat said he had informed some people at the Idaho Democratic Party about his association with the Republican candidate, but couldn’t say who knew.
Lindsey Snider, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party, said Thursday IDP didn’t know about Shallat’s association with Brown. She declined further comment.
Bistline responded in a Friday e-mail to Idaho Reports:
“Sorry for the delay in responding. Not surprisingly this went into my Trash file which I rarely check. I am wondering why, with the many real problems effecting our community, you choose to spend your news budget on this.”
“From what I understand, Tony offered passing and casual advice to help Mr. Brown better convey his views about the treatment he was receiving from a a member of the media. I belief that our system benefits when any candidate, even one I strongly disagree with and consider to be a fringe candidate, effectively conveys his message. Consequently, I am not troubled that Tony offered Mr. Brown some nominal assistance with his message. Fake news generation and biased media power brokering are huge problems for our electoral system and need to be named and confronted every time they surface no matter who the candidate is or what their views may be. Hopefully you already understand this.”