Days after her May Republican primary victory, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra dipped into her campaign account to pay herself $2,400. Then her campaign retroactively changed campaign finance reports so the payment would comply with state law.
Until last week, Ybarra’s public campaign finance reports indicated she contributed $2,400 to her campaign in 2017. Loans and contributions are different under the law; loans are eligible for repayment, but contributions are not.
Idaho Education News began asking about the discrepancy on June 27. Starting the next day, multiple campaign finance reports were changed (or amended) to label the $2,400 as debt. Some reports are new. Others were turned in before June 27, but were lost in the shuffle, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said.
“Part of the reason for the amendment was our fault,” Hurst told Idaho Education News. “I just don’t want to put all of the blame on them. I also don’t want to take all of the blame either.”
Hurst said on July 2 that Ybarra’s campaign finance reports are now in compliance.
The issue began in 2017 when Ybarra made two transactions to her campaign totaling $2,400. Both were labeled as contributions. Multiple campaign finance disclosure reports in 2017 and 2018 did not show campaign debt or credit card debt, which would be eligible for repayment.
But in her most recent report, days after her May primary victory over GOP challenger Jeff Dillon, Ybarra reported paying herself $2,400 for a credit card payment or debt.
Hurst told EdNews on Monday morning it is common for elections office staff to go back and forth with campaigns and candidates to correct campaign finance reports and post amended filings.
“Our goal is to get disclosure,” Hurst said, speaking generally. “It is sometimes difficult to get disclosure.”
Many Idaho candidates filed amended campaign finance reports over the same recent time period, including Lt. Gov. Brad Little, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee; Allen Humble, a former Democratic state superintendent’s candidate; and former GOP lieutenant governor candidates Bob Nonini and Kelley Packer.
Boise resident Timothy R. McMurtrey serves as Ybarra’s campaign treasurer and is the person responsible for filing Ybarra’s reports. He did not return a message left last week by Idaho EdNews. Ybarra is on vacation through July 6, and could not be reached for comment.
Here’s a timeline of the reports, amendments and postings, according to Hurst and a review of public campaign finance databases:
- July 25, 2017: McMurtrey turned in Ybarra’s 2017 semiannual report, listing no debt or loans.
- Jan. 5: McMurtrey turned in Ybarra’s 2017 annual report, listing no debt or loans.
- May 15: Ybarra defeated Jeff Dillon in the Republican primary election.
- May 23: Ybarra paid herself $2,400 from her campaign account for “credit cards and debt.”
- May 31: McMurtrey filed an amended 2017 annual report for Ybarra, listing $2,400 in debt. It does not appear that this amendment was posted publicly, or at least posted in the proper spot on the state’s website, until last week.
- June 27: Idaho EdNews first contacted Hurst with questions about Ybarra’s contributions and the debt repayment.
- June 28: The secretary of state’s office posted the amended 2017 annual report, the document that changed Ybarra’s transactions from contributions to loans.
- June 29: The secretary of state’s office posted a new 2018 amended seven-day pre-primary report from Ybarra that reported $2,400 in previous “loan, credit cards and debt” on page two of the filing. Ybarra’s original preprimary report — available to voters and the news media in the days before the primary election — listed $0.00 in “loans, credit cards and debt” on a table on page two. Hurst said McMurtrey filed that latest amended report after someone from the secretary of state’s office contacted McMurtrey after Idaho EdNews began asking about the contributions and debt.
Last month, in a separate incident, McMurtrey filed Ybarra’s postprimary campaign finance disclosure report four days after it was due.
“A total election miscommunication.” On June 27, Idaho Reports posted a blog about confusion and errors regarding the timeliness of other campaign finance reports and the accuracy of violations letters sent by the secretary of state’s office.