You have a right to know who’s paying the bill for all those campaign ads you’re being inundated with which promote or impugn Propositions 1, 2 and 3 — Schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s Students Come First education overhaul laws. That’s the whole point behind Idaho’s Sunshine Laws, which require public disclosure of any donations over $50 by corporations or individuals.
Education Voters of Idaho is a group that has raised some $200,000 to promote Props 1, 2 and 3. That’s fine. They have every right to do so.
But they also have an obligation to simply identify themselves. That’s all. But the group refuses. And when Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa threatened legal action to make it happen, EVI first said they’d give the money back and stop advertising. Now they’ve rescinded that offer and are taking Ysursa head-on.
Why would this group blatantly flaunt public disclosure law? Because they claim to be a nonprofit exempt from federal disclosure law.
Ysursa isn’t buying it, calling EVI’s position “unacceptable.” In a letter, his office responded that “EVI’s status as a (nonprofit) corporation has no bearing on the issue of its status as a political committee or not. Any corporation that receives donations that are in turn spent in support or opposition to ballot measures is a political committee … without regard to whether promoting or opposing ballot measures is the corporation’s principal mission or only part of a larger mission.”
Bingo. Score one for the secretary of state.
EVI claims “We were not founded to represent a specific set of political interests.”
Why they were founded is irrelevant. The point is, they are promoting political interests now. Therefore they’re obligated to shed the veil of secrecy.
The same goes for the two teachers’ unions which have combined for some $1.2 million in contributions to the Vote No campaign — the Idaho Education Association and the National Education Association. Ysursa is no union patsy. His office also fired off a letter to them telling them they are similar to the EVI in many ways in regard to receiving contributions and forwarding them to other political committees, and they will face the same disclosure standard. The Idaho Attorney General’s office has correctly concluded as much, saying “these contributions make the Idaho Education Association itself a political committee under Idaho law.”
Nobody is stripping anyone of their First Amendment rights here. We just want to know the names behind the money.
It’s also ironic, not to mention hypocritical, that the very group promoting Proposition 1, which requires that teacher union negotiations to be out in the open (not behind closed doors) is trying to keep its donors secret.
Ysursa, a Republican, is one of the state’s most respected officials — so much so that Democrats haven’t fielded opposition candidates in the past out in admiration of his nonpartisan job performance. He doesn’t get involved in many controversies, but when he does, he’s usually right.
He’s right again this time. Hold their feet to the fire and stand your ground, Mr. Secretary. We stand with you.
* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Kim Keller, Carlos Soriano, Timothy Brown and Ken Pieksma.