- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Democratic Party filed a complaint Friday with the Secretary of State’s office claiming that an official inside the Idaho Republican Party violated the state’s campaign laws.

According to the complaint submitted, Idaho Republican Party Executive Director David Johnston coordinated with GOP candidate Mike Kingsley’s campaign in creating a political attack ad against House Minority Leader John Rusche using funds from an independent expenditure.

The complaint is based on an email exchange obtained by Rusche’s campaign manager Trae Turner, which is included in the complaint. Party spokesman Dean Ferguson said he quizzed Turner on the veracity of the emails and trusts they are not fabricated.

Idaho law defines independent expenditures as an expense not made in consultation with a candidate or campaign. There is no limit how much can be spent on an independent expenditure, unlike a direct candidate contribution which caps out at $2,000.

However, Kingsley said in a telephone interview Friday that people identified in the complaint as campaign staffers are not staffers because they receive no pay. Instead, Kingsley says Clinton Daniel and Nick Wren are volunteers who help a variety of Republican candidates in northern Idaho, including his own.

Kingsley said the Idaho Democratic Party has become desperate in trying to win the legislative seat and that the complaint is an example that “they’re just trying to stir something up.”

The complaint claims that the Idaho Republican Party sent $789 on Sept. 8 to Jeda Media for an independent expenditure supporting Kingsley. Campaign finance reports show that Jeda Media is also being compensated by Kinglsey’s campaign for production and distribution of campaign material.

“The independent expenditure paid for by the Idaho Republican party was created in cooperation with, or in consultation with, or at the consent of two agents of the Kingsley campaign, the expenditure is not independent,” the complaint reads.

In the emails, Johnston goes back and forth with Jeda Media owner Jeff Boyer, Daniel and Wren working out the details involving a television ad funded by the Idaho Republican Party. The complaint says that Turner worked with Daniel and Wren while planning campaign events.

Johnston did not have an immediate comment, but said he planned to issue one later Friday.

“Let’s go scalp this guy,” Johnston wrote to Boyer on Oct. 19, talking about how much money would be needed to “carpet bomb” Rusche, according to one email cited in the complaint. Other emails show Johnston promising to work on providing Boyer $5,000 for additional TV ad buys while looping in Wren and Daniel.

The fight over District 6 has become one of the most competitive races in the state as the general election approaches. Rusche, a six-term lawmaker, barely beat Kingsley in 2014. This year, supporters from both sides of the aisle have spent thousands of dollars buying ads, sending mailers and setting up field offices to attract voters.

“It is unfortunate that Kingsley and the Republican staff feel the need to try to cheat to win this election,” Rusche said in a statement. “It appears that they are conspiring to break the law by violating the State Sunshine campaign laws.”

The Secretary of State’s office received the complaint as of Friday afternoon and was still reviewing it, said state elections director Betsie Kimbrough. The office is planning on reaching out to the Idaho GOP for a response.

___

This story corrects that Wren’s first name is Nick, not Nicole.


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