Several of the businesses that donated thousands of dollars to the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry PAC, which is pushing hard for repeal legislation, are the top personal property taxpayers in their respective counties.
The IACI claims that the donations are unrelated to the policymaking goals of the organization.
Though contributions and membership fees paid to IACI aren't public, donations to its PAC are. Of the businesses that donated, eight paid the most in personal property tax in one or more counties in 2011, according to data published by StateImpact. Those are Micron, Potlatch, Idahoan, Hecla Mining, Idaho Forest Group, Basic American Foods, Clearwater Paper and Simplot.
Each contributed at least $3,500 to the Idaho Prosperity Fund in 2012. Micron contributed the most, paying a total of $20,500 last year.
The money in the fund pays for mailers on behalf of candidates and community teleconferences with voters. During the 2012 primary election, the fund sent out fliers on behalf of 18 candidates, all of whom won.
Alex LaBeau, IACI executive director and political treasurer for the Idaho Prosperity Fund, said that although there is a correlation between the donors and the top personal property taxpayers, that doesn't necessarily equal causation.
The repeal has been something IACI studied for years, LaBeau pointed out, and this isn't the first time the Legislature considered it. In 2008, lawmakers enacted a personal property tax repeal on assessments less than $100,000. That repeal would go into effect only if the state's budget grows 5 percent in one year - something that hasn't happened since the law passed.
Besides, the 2008 repeal wouldn't benefit the state's largest companies, who need a total repeal to see savings. Still, some companies are hesitant to voice support, and most declined to comment.
Bob Boeh, vice president of government affairs for Idaho Forest Group, said the group is waiting for an actual bill to come up before taking a position.
"We want to make sure that the counties and cities are made whole by any provision before we would support it," Boeh said.
Boeh added that the Prosperity Fund donation is an annual contribution for the company.
Idaho Forest Group is the top payer of the tax in Boundary, Kootenai and Idaho counties.
There is widespread support for repeal among IACI members, LaBeau said, but not all companies are approaching it the same way.
"I think it's businesses want to make sure that the services that are provided in their communities are going to be OK, and are taking a very responsible approach to eliminating the tax over the long haul," LaBeau said.
Though most of the donors to the fund are large companies, LaBeau said, smaller companies contribute to and become members of IACI.
"Whether you're big and storied or small and starting out, it's a tax that everyone hates," he said.