Sorry State of Local Idaho Journalism on Display in GBAD Election


This weekend, Idaho news outlets were busy congratulating themselves about their self serving awards ceremony, in which everyone seemed to get a prize, while potential corruption brewed under their very noses without so much as a question. After I posted a detailed report on Friday regarding what appeared to be deceptive electioneering practices in the GBAD election, only two local media outlets chose to raise questions regarding the election financial disclosures, and both dropped the ball after getting what they apparently thought was a plausible explanation. Sven Berg's report in the Idaho Statesman buried the lede when it stated:

Tway, Berch and Walker recently questioned reports showing incumbents Peter Oliver, Rob Perez and Stephanie Astorquia had received no contributions and spent no money on their campaigns. That seemed impossible, since the candidates published a joint brochure in early May promoting their candidacies.

But the reports in question, which were due May 14, covered contributions and expenditures between Jan. 1 and May 5. Contributions hadn't started coming in by then, and the candidates hadn't received the bill for the brochure, said Jason Lehosit, who helped the incumbents' campaigns.

"How are you supposed to report something when you don't know what the cost is because you haven't got a bill from the printer yet?" Lehosit said.

Perhaps Mr. Berg is unfamiliar with Mr. Lehosit's checkered past in running Republican campaigns.

In Idaho's inner Republican Party, the name Jason Lehosit is as familiar as any in the past 10 years. A consultant, fundraiser and campaign manager for several high profile Idaho politicians including Gov. Butch Otter in his 2005 campaign and now, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, is in jail after allegations of violating his DUI probation. Court records show that 33-year-old Jason Lehosit's possible probation violation was for his fourth DUI. Attorney David Leroy says, if Lehosit did in fact violate his probation, a judge won't take his sentence lightly.

Lehosit doesn't work for free, so how he can order up a several thousand dollar print job unless he's on the clock. Lehosit's cost to the campaign surely should have shown up in a sunshine disclosure if he's working for them in early May. More importantly, how would Lehosit persuade a printing business to extend him credit for a job costing several thousand dollars, particularly when he had zero in the way of contributions. The fact that Jason Lehosit is involved in this campaign at all is worthy of investigation and reporting.

Maybe he's new to the area, but Mr. Berg seems to lack any institutional knowledge of the players in this campaign. As I noted in an update in the underlying post, the Idaho Secretary of State, Republican Ben Ysursa, said any complaints regarding election financial disclosures had to fielded by GBAD itself, an inherent conflict of interest, since its the GBAD incumbents filing the misleading disclosures. Moreover the law firm of Givens, Pursley is currently counsel for GBAD, and yet has also been operating on behalf of the incumbent campaigns in filing their own grievances. Perhaps Mr. Berg is also unaware of Givens Pursley's checkered past on conflicts of interest in the University Place scandal.

But the biggest omission in Berg's report is regarding John Foster's involvement, who, like Givens Pursley, has a financial incentive for getting incumbents re-elected so their respective contracts with GBAD can be extended. Foster's fingerprints are all over these campaigns due to the striking similarity between this quest for secrecy, and the deception he endeavored to accomplish in the Referendum election regarding the Luna Laws. Foster and his group, Education Voters for Idaho, who Foster represented as "a group of motivated parents", refused to disclose their donor list prompting Secretary of State Ysursa to sue them under Idaho's Sunshine Act on the eve of election day. The Court ordered disclosure holding:

“The interest in free, fair and honest elections free of fraud and deception and the right of the people to know who seeks their vote for a candidate or an issue is at the heart of the electoral process.”

The judge noted that “Idaho’s Sunshine Law applies to all individuals, corporations, associations or other entities of any type.”

And the subsequent disclosure revealed that the donors were not motivated Idaho parents, but were instead big money interests who stood to gain financially from the Luna laws and privatizing education in Idaho. "Fraud and deception" indeed.

Recognizing that these issues stray slightly from the substance of the GBAD election and the individual platforms of each of the candidates. But consider this, GBAD Board members sole responsibility is to administer the tax revenue received for the best interests of the District. Yet incumbents have chosen to surround themselves with, and to take the advice of, individuals and entities with a demonstrated track record of secrecy and deception instead of open honest disclosure pursuant to Idaho public policy. That's ultimately what is at stake in this election and why your vote is crucial.

The Sunshine Act is very broad in defining expenditures which:

...includes a contract, promise, or agreement, whether or not legally enforceable, to make an expenditure. The term "expenditure" also includes a promise to pay, a payment or a transfer of anything of value in exchange for goods, services, property, facilities or anything of value for the purpose of assisting, benefiting or honoring any public official or candidate, or assisting in furthering or opposing any election campaign.

I.C. 67-6603(h). It is customary to prepay the postage. If people received the mailer on May 4, then there was an expenditure prior to the time of the disclosure deadline on May 5. How does one prepay postage without money in the bank? So there had to be contributions as well.

This was a stealth campaign that succeeded in defeating Tway.

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I voted, but...

I'm not sure it's going to fix what's rotten here in the state of Denmark.

But what about Firth?

Voting is always the way to go.