Secretary of State Ben Ysursa plans to go to 4th District Court Monday afternoon and ask a judge to order Education Voters of Idaho (EVI) to disclose where it got at least $200,000 for advertising to support Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Ysursa has said failure to disclose before the Nov. 6 election would "eviscerate" Idaho's Sunshine law.
In a letter Monday, Ysursa's lawyer, deputy attorney general Mike Gilmore, replies to a Friday letter from EVI lawyer Christ Troupis, who argues the group's federal tax status and the First Amendment trump Idaho's Sunshine law, which requires disclosure of annual contributions over $50 by individuals and corporations.
"The positions set forth in your letter of Oct. 19, 2012, are not acceptable," Gilmore writes.
Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said a draft complaint has been prepared against EVI. "We're meeting this afternoon to finalize the complaint. Ben's plan is to file it today."
EVI formed in August, raised $200,000 by Sept. 30 and shifted the money to its affiliate, Parents for Education Reform, which spent the money on broadcast ads.
Gilmore also wrote the Idaho Education Association, National Education Association and League of Conservation Voters today. Troupis' letter said the two teacher unions should face the same scrutiny and Gilmore agrees, writing, "That is why similar demands are also being directed to them."
Gilmore's letters to the three groups said, "...(T)he Secretary of State's Office has come to the conclusion that organizations that 'bundle' donations for contributions to other political committees are themselves political committees," Gilmore wrote. He adds that "recent inquiries" have brought the practice "to the forefront" and that the groups must file finance reports and asks that they do so promptly.
The "no" on Props 1, 2 & 3 campaign reported receiving $280,000 from IEA and about $1.06 million from NEA. The Washington, D.C.-based LCV gave $15,000 to Conservation Voters of Idaho.
Said IEA Executive Director Robin Nettinga: "The $280,000 came from the IEA’s general treasury, which consists of the dues paid by our members. These dues payments are not contributions' from our members to IEA for purposes of reporting under the Sunshine Law because they are not made for the purpose of supporting opposing ballot measures or candidates."
Meanwhile, EVI has reversed itself and says is will revive its efforts in the campaign's final two weeks, despite Troupis' writing Friday that the group had "ceased it's lawful participation in constitutionally-protected political activity" based on Ysursa's threat to sue.
In an op-ed and news release Monday, EVI's Debbie Field and John Foster write that the group will "undertake a new effort to talk to voters about education reform."
"Although efforts by the Secretary of State, the union and its allies have temporarily chilled our ability to fulfill our mission, we won't back down," write Field and Foster. Field is Gov. Butch Otter's two-time campaign manager; Foster is a lobbyist and former aide to former Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick.
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