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Russ Fulcher

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Congressman Russ Fulcher's Republican primary challenger for Idaho's 1st Congressional District seat filed an ethics complaint against Fulcher Thursday over taxpayer-funded ads running on KBOI Radio, reports Idaho Press reporter Thomas Plank, but Fulcher says he got the official OK for the coronavirus-themed ads and his press secretary termed the complaint a "desperate political stunt."

Nicholas Jones, Fulcher's opponent in the primary, filed an ethics complaint with the U.S. House of Representatives' Ethics Committee alleging that the ads were improper within 90 days of the primary election.

Alexah Jones, Fulcher's press secretary, noted new Ethics Committee guidance for the coronavirus pandemic granting a specific exemption from the 90-day pre-election blackout for taxpayer-funded messages "regarding threats to life safety."

Fulcher defended himself on KBOI's Thursday afternoon show, saying that that in a "situation of disaster" like the one caused by the pandemic, it was his duty to reach out to his constituents and inform them. The 60-second ads, voiced by Fulcher, begin with him saying, "Hi, this is Congressman Russ Fulcher," before outlining how his office is offering information on resources under the CARES Act. "I've been working closely with federal and state health officials to ensure that Idahoans have the tools to remain healthy and safe," he says in the ads, which include a notice that they were paid for with official House funds.

Jones' campaign maintained that even if congressional authorities created a "loophole" that covers the ads, they were an improper use of public funds during an election campaign. You can read Plank's full report here at idahopress.com, or pick up todays edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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