Lodge Senate floor Capsun don't use again

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021.

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge went through 11 election cycles as an Idaho legislator, and over the past six years, she has seen more organizations and individuals contributing large sums to candidates for every office, writes Idaho Capital Sun reporter Kelcie Moseley-Morris. That has never been truer than during the 2022 primary, she said.

Lodge, R-Huston, attempted to pass a bill during the legislative session that she said would have brought more transparency to Idaho’s campaign finance laws. SB 1367 would have amended Idaho Code to lower the threshold for timely campaign contribution or expenditure reporting from $1,000 to $500. It also would have added a section in code clarifying any entity registered with the Federal Election Commission would be considered a political committee in Idaho.

It was meant to address what Lodge sees as holes in Idaho’s campaign finance reporting system, particularly after the 2020 election cycle. For example, she said a national political action committee called Conservatives Of spent thousands of dollars on Idaho races but reported the funding through the Federal Election Commission, where it didn’t appear as a public record until after Idaho’s election day because the filing deadlines are quarterly.

The bill easily passed the Senate with 25 votes in favor and four against, but it never received a hearing in House State Affairs. Lodge said the bill became a bargaining chip to get her to hold hearings for House Bill 666, the controversial library materials bill, and House Bill 675, the bill making it a felony to provide gender care to a minor, which she said she wasn’t going to do. Since she decided to retire at the end of her 2022 term instead of run for re-election, it was a disappointing end for the bill.

“That transparency is so needed, and was so needed for this election, because this is such an important election,” Lodge said.

Since Jan. 1, 2021, individuals and organizations have contributed more than $22.5 million to 763 candidates and 197 political action committees across Idaho.

By this same point in the 2018 midterm election, that number stood at about $14.8 million for races statewide, according to itemized contribution reports.

While some high-dollar donors have remained the same over many election cycles, such as Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot and real estate companies like Ball Ventures and Brighton Corporation, other new political action committees have appeared with large sums of money to donate, sometimes with difficult-to-trace origins. Most of the donation activity in the 2022 primary involves Republican candidates, because most of the races with opposing candidates are Republicans.

The individual maximum contribution for a single election in Idaho legislative races is $1,000. The individual maximum for statewide offices is $5,000.

With less than a week to go before Idaho’s primary election on May 17, the Capital Sun examined some of the highest-dollar contributors in this year’s race; you can read Moseley-Morris' full story here at idahocapitalsun.com.

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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