The Bonneville County Republican Central Committee violated its bylaws by donating money to various GOP primary candidates, according to a letter Idaho Republican Party Chairman Tom Luna sent to the committee and its chairman, Mark Fuller, last week.
The committee’s bylaws prohibit its support of “positions in favor of any candidate engaged in the primary elections process,” Luna’s March 29 letter reads, offering three solutions for correcting the matter “immediately”:
- Request refunds from candidates who received the cash contributions.
- Donate an equal amount to all GOP candidates in the contested primary race.
- Provide a “solution that corrects” the violation of the committee’s own policy.
The Idaho Secretary of State’s website shows the committee donated the maximum $5,000 to each of the following candidates running in contested state races in the upcoming May 17 Republican primary:
- State superintendent candidate Branden Durst.
- State attorney general candidate Raul Labrador.
- Lt. Gov. candidate and state Rep. Priscilla Gidding, R-White Bird.
- Idaho Secretary of State candidate Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley.
The committee also donated $1,000 to District 35 Senate candidate Douglas Toomer and Republican Reps. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, and Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, the state website shows.
Fuller said the committee hasn’t made a formal decision yet, and it doesn’t believe donating money to a candidate shows favoritism and that he anticipates committee members will likely appeal Luna’s letter, Jakob Thorington of the Idaho Press reported Friday. Committee members will consider a path forward on April 14 at the Paramount Theater in Idaho Falls, Thorington reported.
The donations and Luna’s response accompany division within the party ahead of next month’s heated primary, with several of the candidates, including Durst, casting themselves as the more conservative choice in the races.
Durst, a former Democratic lawmaker, has for months courted Idaho’s hardline conservatives in his run against two-time incumbent schools chief Sherri Ybarra and fellow Republican Debbie Critchfield, who served on the State Board of Education for seven years.