Recall campaigns: a Sunshine Law loophole

Organizers say the recall campaign against four West Ada School District trustees is a volunteer effort.

West Ada Board Meeting
Four West Ada school trustees face a possible recall on May 17 — prompting questions about whether the recall campaign has been funded by special interest groups.

Critics of the recall don’t buy it. They allege that the campaign is being fueled by “dark money” from special interests.

Trouble is, there’s no way of telling who is telling the truth. Idaho’s campaign disclosure law covers candidates and most political committees — and starting this year, it will cover many school board candidates as well. However, the state’s Sunshine Law does not cover local recall campaigns.

When the Sunshine Law was rewritten in 2015 to include school board candidates, the change did not cover trustee recall elections, chief deputy secretary of state Tim Hurst told Idaho Education News Tuesday.

Under the Sunshine Law — passed by voter initiative in 1974 — “political committees” are required to file financial disclosure reports. Political committees, by definition, include “any person specifically designated to support or oppose any candidate or measure.”

But not all measures, actually. The Sunshine Law defines a “measure” as a statewide ballot issue. Local recall campaigns don’t count.