A new group, Idaho Republicans for Our Schools, filed its independent expenditure report on Election Day, May 15, and I've only now tumbled to what was up.
Idaho Education Association Vice President Rick Jones is the group's treasurer, and the $9,320 it spent on the five races was entirely paid by the Political Action Committee for Education, or PACE, the IEA's campaign fund.
Jones, of Rathdrum, said Tuesday that he's a Republican. "There are many Idaho educators who are Republicans. What we're saying is let's vote for Republicans who support public education, they're not mutually exclusive."
Campaign finance reports filed last month establish the link between IEA and Idaho Republicans for Our Schools. PACE contributed $9,320 to the new PAC on May 13, representing two-thirds of what PACE spent in the reporting period of April 30 to May 25.
Idaho Republicans for Our Schools, in turn, paid a Washington, D.C., phone bank to campaign for five Republican Senate candidates: incumbent GOP Sens. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint, Tim Corder of Mountain Home and Dean Cameron of Rupert; and two candidates for open seats, Stan Bastian of Eagle and Alan Ward of Emmett. Keough, Corder and Cameron were among eight Senate Republicans who opposed 2011's "Students Come First" laws that are subject to voter approval in November.
Keough and Cameron won their primaries, which featured substantial independent expenditures opposing them. Corder, who also faced heavy independent opposition spending, lost a head-to-head with Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. Bastian lost to Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Ward lost to Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett. Both Hagedorn and Thayn supported "Students Come First," which the IEA is vigorously opposing.
Jones said the timing of the spending wasn't designed to avoid embarrassing the GOP candidates benefiting from the union. "That had nothing to do with it," he said. "We need to make sure we get the right people elected."
Despite the new group's "Republican" title, the money supporting the GOP candidates went to Zata|3, a Washington, D.C., campaign firm that works for Democrats. According to Zata|3's website, "Democrats from the Courthouse to the White House turn to Zeta|3 for phone banks, robo calls and text messaging to ensure victory. Our innovative approach makes us America's top award-winning direct voter contact firm for progressive causes."
Asked why a Republican group supporting Republican candidates hired a Democratic firm, Jones said he'd have to discuss that with others and get back to me.
He said the group will be active in the general election campaign and will raise money from other sources besides IEA. "This is a full-on campaign," Jones said.
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