John Foster, a former executive director of the Idaho Democratic party and former Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick's 2010 campaign manager, said Monday that he has ended his volunteer affiliation with the campaign by GOP Gov. Butch Otter and GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna to preserve their 2011 education reforms.
Foster said he told aides to Otter and Luna “about 10 days ago” that he needs to focus on building a new business with his partner, Kate Haas, Minnick’s former chief of staff. Foster and Haas were fired by Seattle-based Strategies 360 on Feb. 3 after Foster attempted to make the campaign a client for the company. Strategies 360 fired the pair in February and sued them. Foster and Haas counter-sued. Their new company is called Kestrel West.
“I told them that I had to step away from my volunteer efforts on the education campaign so that I could put all my energy into helping Kate get our business off the ground,” Foster said in an email. “The campaign was taking a long time to get started and I finally decided that I could not wait and had to step away. So for the time being I am not involved.”
Foster said he hopes to return to the campaign as Election Day approaches.
In March, Strategies 360 sued Foster and Haas, alleging breach of contract, violation of the Idaho Trade Secrets Act, breach of the duty of loyalty, and breach of the duty confidentiality. Foster and Haas counter-sued, alleging breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, defamation, invasion of privacy and violation of Idaho wage law.
According to court records, Foster was being paid a $100,000 annual base salary and was eligible for profit sharing and client referral bonuses. Haas was making $90,000, plus client referral bonuses. The bonuses were to equal 10 percent of gross revenue from new client business for the life of the client relationship.
Meanwhile, as they work to build their lobbying and consulting business, Foster and Haas are asking that they not be referred to as Democrats.
In a column Sunday, I wrote about the hiring of Democratic Rep. Brian Cronin of Boise to revive the Strategies 360 office. Without naming them, I called Foster and Haas Democrats.
In an email, Foster wrote, “Both Kate and I ask that you reconsider your descriptor of us as 'Democrats.' Our work is non-partisan and our party affiliation has nothing to do with the work we do. Moreover, on a personal level our party affiliation has evolved. We have not only both been shunned by the Idaho Democratic Party, we are visibly supporting some Republicans and have worked hard to show that we are independent and centrist rather than aligned with any particular political party. You can confirm that with legislators and elected officials across the spectrum.”
Asked how he would describe himself now, Foster wrote, “The best way to describe me right now is Reagan Democrat. Which is to say I would like the Democratic Party to come back to its conservative roots. In the meantime I'm calling myself an aggressive, centrist pragmatist.”
Wrote Haas, “I am a classic Idaho independent. I vote the person not the party. My personal philosophy is based in what I believe, which includes elements of what the Democrats are vocal about and elements of what the Republicans are vocal about. I don't believe in orthodoxy, and I am not going to change my core beliefs to fit a political party.
“Leadership from both parties is guilty of talking to and acting on behalf of the extremes and ignoring the center. I blame that tendency, in part, for the toxic political environment that exists. That very much leaves me in line with the majority of our country - in the center searching for the people who want to roll up their sleeves and work together to solve problems. Whether you think they are center-right or center-left, most of the country doesn't have the patience for rhetoric while they are busy worrying about covering a mortgage or putting food on the table. There are a whole host of factors that have led us to this point, but attitudes of party leaders caused us to lose a bunch of the men and women in both parties who were willing to work together. And I think that is a shame.
“I am waiting it out to see how the parties shift in the coming years. If one party or another steps up in a meaningful way, then I may choose to engage in party politics. In the mean time, I will continue to consult on campaigns for candidates or issues a case-by-case basis, as it always has been for me.”
Haas said she registered last year as a Republican because she wants to vote for GOP Rep. Mike Simpson in the May 15 primary.
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