Idaho GOP member secretly films chairman over ‘secret society’

A Republican central committeeman covertly filmed the head of Idaho’s GOP in an effort to bolster his claims that a secret society had been formed to oust certain members from party positions. The video didn’t reveal direct evidence of a secret society, but it did show the top GOP official criticizing prominent Republicans.

Bonneville GOP Chairman Doyle Beck released the video of party Chairman Steve Yates on Thursday, The Post Register reported.

Earlier this month, a judge quashed a petition — filed by Beck and fellow central committeeman Bryan Smith — that would have forced Yates and others to give depositions about involvement in a possible secret society, known as the Idaho Prosperity Project.

Beck said an undated campaign plan, which was attached in the petition, lays out a yearlong strategy that involves recruiting and training walkers to be deployed in Bonneville and Madison counties.

The plan suggests walkers, who would be recruited among students at Brigham Young University-Idaho, would go door-to-door multiple times a week for four months before the May primary election with the intent of identifying voters who will support their endorsed candidates.

Beck said the video proves the secret society exists and it’s time for Yates to “come clean or resign.”

In the recording, Yates is shown criticizing Gov. Butch Otter, the state’s top business lobbying arm and other GOP members. “I’ve seen basically (Otter) that has put it into a slow gear, let a staff that is not the greatest in the world do more than they’re capable of doing,” Yates told Beck.

The video goes on to show Yates and Beck discussing the Prosperity Project. Yates denies any involvement, but he said that he knew that several GOP members had been meeting and “talk about folks.”

Yates now says he was intentionally playing head games with Beck about the Prosperity Project. Yates said he knew about the Prosperity Project as a hoax, but he declined to comment on how he learned of the hoax.

“I wanted him to believe that this is real,” he said.

Highlights from the video

The video by Bonneville County GOP Chairman Doyle Beck shows more than a conversation about control of the local central committee and a purported “secret society.” The video also contains candid takes on a number of political players, journalists and elected officials in the state.

Beck says he was reluctant to release the video because “there are things on here that are probably not appropriate.” But he felt he had to rebut state Chairman Steve Yates’ accusation that his memory of the meeting was “creative” and “inaccurate.”

Yates called Beck’s decision to covertly film the private conversation “creepy.”

In the video, both Beck and Yates portray Gov. Butch Otter as a governor asleep at the wheel. Other people discussed include:

▪  Alex LaBeau, the executive director of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, who Yates says had “humiliated” himself.

That’s a reference to a leaked email in which LaBeau said that Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, could perform a sex act and “hug a teacher.” Siddoway had pledged to block any tax cuts until the state made significant hikes in teacher pay.

“I would have thought (LaBeau would) have self-respect enough to just leave,” Yates said, suggesting LaBeau could “go to Florida and live out his days.”

▪  Instant-racing advocates, who Yates said are livid that their political contributions didn’t pay off.

“You want to meet a mad man, go talk to Harry Bettis,” he said. “He had the biggest business stake in that decision. He gave tons of money to Butch’s campaign and a number of other lawmakers.” Campaign finance records show that Bettis, a rancher and part owner of the Les Bois Park racetrack, has donated $10,000 to Otter since 2012, along with $8,500 to Little and $5,000 to lawmakers.

▪  Legislative leaders. Yates says Bettis is particularly peeved at Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.

“(He’s) furious, furious, furious at two things: All Republican politicians, but especially the Mormons,” Yates said. “So sick and tired of Mormon leaders from the east coming in and getting on their high horse about this or that.

Bryan Clark, Idaho Falls Post Register