Big money in the CWI races, and more news from the sunshine reports

A PAC supporting incumbent College of Western Idaho trustees has raised at least $88,000 since Oct. 21.

The donations represent a large and late infusion of cash into the four CWI trustee races — nonpartisan elections that have taken on a partisan flavor. The candidates themselves have reported modest donations and spending heading into Tuesday’s election.

Idaho’s Future PAC is supporting incumbents Molly Lenty, Jim Reames and Annie Hightower and Nicole Bradshaw, a fourth candidate on the slate, running for an open seat.

The PAC’s donations include $25,000 from the Idaho Land Fund; $10,000 from Larry Williams, a prominent Boise donor; $5,000 from Ahlquist Development, headed by former gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist; and $5,000 from Scoggin Capital Investment of Boise, headed by former State Board of Education member Andrew Scoggin.

These large-dollar donations don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Under state law, candidates and PACs don’t have to file their October fundraising reports until Nov. 10, two days after the election. But they must report all contributions of at least $1,000 within 48 hours.

Several of the donors also have strong GOP ties. The Land Fund generally supports Republican candidates, but not exclusively. Williams and his family generally supports Republicans. Ahlquist ran in 2018 on the GOP ticket.

The donations come as four challengers — Alisha Hickman, Ryan Spoon, Jan Zarr and Thad Butterworth — are running for trustee as a Republican slate. (A fifth challenger, Gordon Simpson, is not aligned with this slate.)

By comparison, here’s a look at candidate fundraising reports, as of Monday:

  • Zone 1: Hickman has raised $2,382 and spent $923. Bradshaw has reported no fundraising activity.
  • Zone 2: Spoon has raised $6,921 and spent $2,894. Lenty has raised $4,000 — including donations from the Idaho Land Fund and Boise school trustees David Wagers and Beth Oppenheimer — and has spent $45. Simpson has filed no report.
  • Zone 3: Zarr has raised $2,947, including in-kind support from Spoon, and has spent $896. Reames has filed no report.
  • Zone 4: Hightower has raised $2,650 and spent $855. Butterworth has raised $1,000.

(Click here for an in-depth look at the CWI races.)

Here are a few other last-minute campaign finance thumbnails:

Attorney general. Neither Republican Raúl Labrador nor Democrat Tom Arkoosh have filed their October reports, but both have reported some large donations in the waning days of the campaign. Labrador has reported $12,102.54 in donations since Nov. 1, including $2,500 from Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman and acting chief of staff under President Trump. Arkoosh has reported $6,500 in donations since Nov. 1.

School choice PAC. The Idaho Federation for Children PAC has raised $332,600 and spent $287,260 this election cycle. All of their money comes from the American Federation for Children Action Fund, a Dallas-based school choice PAC, and this includes $72,500 in donations since Oct. 24. (More on this PAC from Kelcie Moseley-Morris of the Idaho Capital Sun.)

Pro-Democratic PACs. A pair of PACs with similar-sounding names has received large, late cash infusions.

Since Sept. 19, Accountable Idaho has received $208,000 from its sole donor, the Idaho Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. On social media, Accountable Idaho has targeted Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow.

Stronger Idaho has received $91,000 and spent $57,324. Its recent donations include $25,000 from the Idaho Education Association’s PAC for Education, and $12,000 from Accountable Idaho. The group is supporting Democratic legislative candidates James Ruchti and Nate Roberts in a Pocatello-area swing district, while campaigning against Republican swing district legislative candidates Dan Foreman of Viola, Codi Galloway of Boise, and David Worley and Jake Stevens of Pocatello.

Both PACs are chaired by A.K.  Leinhart-Minnick of Boise, the wife of Democratic former U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick.

Jason Monks’ money. Legislative leaders often funnel their money into other candidates’ campaigns. This year is no exception, and House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks has been one of the more active donors.

On Oct. 23, the Nampa Republican contributed to 16 other House GOP candidates, accounting for the bulk of his October spending.

Monks himself has an opponent Tuesday, Boise Democrat Dawn Pierce. Meanwhile, Monks has said he plans to run for House speaker — a post that will be filled in a House GOP caucus vote after Thanksgiving.

DisclosureJ.B. Scott — the founding chairman of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, which funds Idaho Education News — is affiliated with the Idaho Land Fund.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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