BOISE -;U.S. Rep. Bill Sali, R-Idaho, is angry over a campaign flier mailed by the Idaho Democratic Party throughout the 1st Congressional District that shows his and his wife's Social Security numbers on documents from their past struggles to pay debts.
Sali is running against Democratic challenger Walt Minnick to represent western and northern Idaho.
The fliers highlight state and federal tax liens filed against Sali, and his continuing campaign debt of more than $130,000. Sali has said he ran up the bills following law school in the early 1980s and as a result of four separate automobile accidents in eight years that left him with bills he was unable to repay on time.
One lien was issued by the state for unpaid state income taxes of $801, filed in 1988 and released in 1991. Another, from the Internal Revenue Service for the 1986 tax year, was released in 1995, for $5,618. Ada County records also show a series of medical liens filed against Sali, and then released, from 1998 to 2003.
Sali said he's since paid all the debts. He maintains it was unfair to "splash" personal financial information and Social Security numbers "all over people's mailboxes."
"The stunt that the Democrats have pulled on Bill and Terry Sali is the most despicable thing I've ever seen," Wayne Hoffman, Sali's campaign spokesman, told the Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane, Wash. "I think the party bears a certain responsibility if Mr. or Mrs. Sali's identities are stolen following this."
The Idaho Republican Party called on state Democratic leaders to apologize for putting Sali's family at risk of identity theft.
"This mailer shows a thoughtless and reckless disregard for Bill and Terry Sali's privacy," state GOP Chairman Norm Semanko said.
Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Hansen said the debt records are part of public documents available to anybody.
"He's a public figure," Hansen said. "If he was going to be upset, he probably should have paid off his bills and his taxes."
However, KTVB-TV reported that Hansen later issued this statement: "Our staffers did not notice the Tax Commission failed to black out some numbers. We agree it would have been better to black out parts of the document even though the tax commission did not. They are not relevant to the public's evaluation of this issue."
The news report also indicated Tax Commission staff said the copies of the liens in the flier were obtained from the Ada County Recorder's Office -; not from the state commission.
John Foster, a spokesman for Minnick, said Sali was responsible for the records.
"The liens have been public for awhile now," Foster told The Associated Press. "They're public documents. I agree with what Jim said: If Sali didn't want this information public, he should have paid his taxes."
The campaign flier also criticizes Sali for filing a late and inaccurate federal campaign finance report in July. Sali's campaign has now filed 48 amended campaign finance reports in two years. Minnick has filed seven since he entered the race a year ago.