Elections

Candidate says election payments to family don’t violate campaign platform

Idaho Republican candidate for governor Tommy Ahlquist.
Idaho Republican candidate for governor Tommy Ahlquist. Idaho Statesman file

An Idaho candidate for governor, who would ban political candidates from paying campaign funds to family members, gave his son-in-law $20,000 last month for campaign-related services.

A campaign finance report this week for Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist listed the payment as an official campaign expense. Thursday, after questions from the Statesman, Ahlquist’s campaign said the payment was miscategorized and that Ahlquist paid his relative out of his own pocket.

Ahlquist is competing for the Republican nomination. His website says politicians “should not be able to accept money from special interests and then turn around and use that money to enrich their family members.”

He paid his son-in-law, Matthew Rabe, $20,000 on Dec. 29, according to 2017 campaign finance reports filed Wednesday with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. Rabe manages social media for the campaign, and has been involved since it began last year. He married Ahlquist’s daughter in August.

“Tommy paid Matthew for his work out of his personal bank account. Out of an abundance of caution and transparency, the campaign reported Tommy’s personal payment to Matthew as a contribution which should have been reported as an in-kind contribution,” said campaign manager David Johnston. “The campaign will promptly file an amended report to reflect this as an in-kind donation from Tommy, not an expenditure by the campaign.”

Nothing prevents candidates from paying spouses or family members to work on their campaigns, but it can be contentious.

Another GOP gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, has been open about having his family work on his campaign. Labrador paid his son nearly $20,000 last year, according to the newly released finance reports. And from May 2011 through December 2016, Labrador paid his wife, Becca, $2,022 a month to keep his congressional campaign’s books.

Labrador has long defended the practice. He once told the Spokesman-Review that his wife was “the first one I trust the most in the world,” and mentioned being careful with his hires because an employee once stole from his law practice.

The other leading gubernatorial candidates — GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democrats A.J. Balukoff and Rep. Paulette Jordan — do not appear to have any family members recently on their campaign payrolls.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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